VALIDATION
by Ivanka Fear 

     I lost my identity today. Seriously, I woke up this morning and couldn’t for the life of me remember who I am. Maybe I’m still dreaming, I thought. I sat up in bed, rubbed my eyes, and looked around. Judging by the light coming in from the window, it was obviously early morning. Nothing in the room was familiar. Am I in a hotel room or staying over at somebody’s place? I wondered. Tossing aside the covers, I set my feet on the rug covering the hardwood floor. I was wearing a long short-sleeved nightgown and slipper socks. Making my way to the entrance of the bedroom, I flung open the door to find a hallway leading to a living area. “Mom? Dad?” I called out. No answer. Where are they? I asked myself. Walking back down the hall, I found the bathroom and after using the facilities, I took a good look in the mirror. “What? Who is that? I asked in horror, the mirror image staring blankly back at me.
     Obviously not what I expected to see. Okay, so the good news is I seem to be fairly able-bodied. The bad news is I can’t remember who I am, I thought, or even how old I am. Clearly, it wasn’t Mom or Dad I should be looking for. I was obviously an adult. An older one, at that. Maybe a husband or a partner, though? Kids? Maybe even grandkids? “Hello? Is anybody home? Hello?” I yelled, walking through the house checking every room and closet, then down to the basement. What a beautiful home I have. Nicely decorated, I thought as I strolled through. No one was in it, though.
     Maybe they already left for work. Or maybe I live alone. That’s more likely as it’s so neat and tidy, not cluttered, I considered. I sat down on the sofa in the living room and tried to think.
What is the last thing I remember? I asked myself. Nothing came to mind. I decided to have a
look in my purse to at least find out my name. That might jog my memory. I went back to the bedroom and looked on the dresser, on the chair by the bed, on the floor, in the closet, even under the bed. There were clothes and shoes neatly arranged in the closet and clothes folded away in the dresser. On the dresser was a vase of silk flowers and a jewelry box, but the box was empty. There were books on the night table by the bed. There was no purse anywhere.
     Starting to worry that I had lost it, I looked through the entire house. It was nowhere to be found. “That’s just great,” I said aloud. “No ID, no money, no phone.” In fact, I realized, there was no computer or laptop, not even an Ipad to be found. “I’ve been robbed!” I exclaimed, finally realizing what must have happened. It must have been the shock of the robbery that triggered my memory loss. Post-traumatic stress? Maybe I had been hit on the head? Knocked unconscious for a while? That would certainly explain why things were missing and why I couldn’t quite get my bearings. But wait, why is the TV still here? Nothing else seems to be disturbed either, I noticed. And there are lots of nice things here. Taking an inventory of the house, I was relieved to see nothing had been destroyed in the robbery. Okay, so it’s not so bad. It could have been worse. I guess they just took what they could grab and carry and got out as quickly as possible, I postulated.
     I decided my next move was to find out who I was and then file a report with the police. “There must be something here…” I said, “Something with my name on it…maybe a bill or a letter or some documents in a lock box.” Talking to myself must be something I’m used to doing, I realized,  I must live alone. Very methodically, I went through drawers and closets, cupboards and shelves, trying to find something that would indicate my identity. I must be one of those
obsessive compulsive people, who like everything perfect, I mused. I was shocked, however, to
find no bills waiting to be paid, no notes to remind myself of things I needed to do, no address
book, no lists of computer passwords, no calendar, no photographs, no insurance papers, nothing personal in fact. If there was a clue to my identity in this house, I couldn’t find it. I supposed I must be one of those people who is very careful about not leaving passwords sitting around. You couldn’t be too careful these days. Probably I paid all my bills online and kept my contacts and my daybook on my phone. Same with my photos. It’s what everyone did these days, wasn’t it? There was likely a reasonable explanation for why there was no paper trail of my existence in the house. Maybe I stored all my important documents in a lock box at the bank, for all I knew.
     “You need to stay calm,” I told myself. “Someone is going to miss you and come looking for you.” If not Mom and Dad, then surely a spouse or kids or a sibling. Someone would come by sooner or later. Wouldn’t I be missed at work? I must have friends out there somewhere. Someone must be expecting me to show up somewhere today. In fact, someone should be calling me to find out where I am. I went to the kitchen to check the phone in case there were phone numbers listed there. Oh, that’s right. I should have noticed that before. There is no home phone, I realized. Nor was there a phone book anywhere. I was starting to really panic.
     “Okay, this is ridiculous. I could wait all day here for someone to come check on me,” I decided. “I’m better off to head out and find someone who can help me. There must be neighbours close by who know me.” Opening the front door, I realized I would need to get dressed first. I headed back to the bedroom and took out a pair of pants and a top from the closet. The pants were a bit snug. Need to watch my diet, I thought. I grabbed a sweater to put
over my top and slipped into a pair of sandals, which didn’t seem to leave too much wiggle room. Widening waistline and swelling feet. I need to get more exercise, I vowed. I headed back to the front door, and decided I better leave it unlocked as there were no spare keys sitting on the entrance table. That’s when I noticed my car was gone. “Oh great! They’ve taken my car,” I moaned.
     I glanced to my right and left and saw there were homes on both sides of my place, but none directly across. There was a wide expanse of lawn across the street from our three houses and beyond that there was another road. I walked to the house on my left first and knocked on the door. There was no answer. Must be at work, I reasoned. I tried the other house and again, there was no response. That’s to be expected, I reassured myself. As it was a fairly warm morning, I decided it wouldn’t hurt me to keep walking until I found someone who knew me. There had to be someone who would recognize me.
     Walking across the grassy expanse, I ventured towards a group of homes on the next street. I got lucky this time. Someone answered. “Yes? Can I help you?” she asked me.
     “I’m hoping so,” I replied. “I wonder if you know me. I’m one of your neighbours.”
     She stared at me in an odd manner, and then said, “Oh, yes. I think I’ve seen you around town sometimes. Sorry, I can’t quite place you though. Was it Ginny or Jenny, Gina, maybe? In a town this size, I know most people know each other, but I feel like I haven’t seen you around recently. Have you been away?”
     “I don’t think so. The thing is I seem to have lost my memory today. I think I might have been
robbed or mugged,” I explained.
     “That’s awful! You poor thing! What can I do to help? Come inside and I’ll call the police for you,” she offered.
     “Thank you. That’s very nice of you,” I said, “But actually, I’m fine. I think some fresh air is just the thing to clear my head. I’ll just walk to the station and tell them in person what’s happened.”
     “Are you sure? Are you up for that?” she asked.
     “Yes, thank you again.” It was so nice to be recognized, even if not fully, and to have someone care about my well-being. I was feeling so much better already. Heading back to the street, I set towards the main section of town.
     I walked into the police station and began to explain my situation. The officer at the desk told me to have a seat and she would fill out a report. “Let’s start with your name and address,” she said.
     “Um, Ginny. It’s 44 Oriole Drive,” I told her, having memorized the street name and house number from when I exited my home earlier.
     “Last name?”
     “I’m not sure.”
     “Not sure?”
     “Well, I’ve had a bit of memory loss from the incident,” I explained.
     “What was taken?” she continued.
     “My purse, phone, jewelry, keys, my computer, my car…I’m not sure what else.”
     “Did you get a look at the thief?”
     “No, he was gone when I woke up.”
     “Was there any sign of forced entry?”
     “I don’t think so.”
     “Can you describe your vehicle? And tell me the licence plate number?”
     “I don’t remember.”
     The police officer then asked if I had any ID on me at all. Of course, I didn’t. She looked me over carefully, then said, “Wait here a minute. I’ll be right back.”
     Rather than reassure me, my visit to the police station brought on an anxiety attack. What if I had done something terrible and couldn’t remember? Maybe I had murdered someone and this amnesia was the result of my guilt? Could it be that the police might actually be looking for me? Is that why she left the room? Does she suspect something about me? I ran all kinds of scenarios through my mind. Maybe there was more to my memory loss than just a simple home robbery.
     Fearing I would be arrested for something I might have done and couldn’t remember, I exited the station and quickly headed further into town. There had to be some way for me to find out who I was. “The library! That’s it!” I shouted to no one in particular. Surely I could find out my name by checking online to find out who lived at 44 Oriole Drive. Excited by the prospect of finding out my last name, I entered the town library and asked to use a computer. “Do you have a library card?” asked the librarian. Of course, I didn’t.
     “Can I just use the computer for a few minutes?” I asked.
     “Sorry, we can only allow our patrons to use the library computers,” she told me.
     So much for that idea. Even after I explained that I had my wallet stolen, she reiterated, “Sorry, I know I’ve seen you here before, but it’s just policy. What we can do is get you a new card if you give me your information. Do you have some ID with your address on it?”
     After leaving the library, I decided there had to be other places in town where I could get some validation of my identity. People seemed to recognize that they had seen me before, so surely there had to be someone who knew me. I decided to check out the bank next door. The teller asked how she could help me. “Do I have an account here?” I asked her. She gave me one of those strange looks I should have been getting used to by now.
     “Do you have your bank card with you?” she asked me.
     “No. It’s been stolen,” I explained. “Do I bank here?”
     “Don’t you know?” she asked again, appearing puzzled.
     “Never mind,” I said as I went out the door.
     The next place I stopped at was the post office. I asked the clerk how I could get my mail.
     “Do you live in town?”
     “Yes, 44 Oriole Drive.”
     “You should have a key for your postal box, then.”
     “I’ve lost it. Can you get my mail for me?” I asked, hoping my name would appear on an envelope, bringing me a step closer to figuring out who I was.
     “Do you have some ID with your address on it?” she asked.
     “No, it was stolen. Look, do you know who I am?” I inquired, starting to get more than a little agitated by this point. How could I possibly have my ID when it was stolen?
     “Sorry, no, I’ve seen you around before, but I can’t hand mail over the counter. Post office policy. Can I have your name and post office box number? I can check and let you know whether there is any mail in your box. When you come back with your ID, I can help you get your mail,” she offered.
     As I left the post office, I tried to think where else I could turn to find validation of my identity. I needed to know who I was and find someone who knew me before I could begin to understand what had actually happened to me. I continued walking and saw the H sign for Hospital ahead. “That’s it! Someone there should be able to help me with this memory loss,” I figured.
     Excited now, I went straight to the main desk and told the receptionist, “I need to see a doctor. I need help. I don’t remember who I am.”
     “No problem, we’ll get someone to see you as soon as possible,” she said. “Can I have your health card?”
     “I don’t have it,” I told her.
     “Do you have some other ID? What about other health insurance?” she asked.
     “No, I don’t have anything,” I said, losing hope.
     “Why don’t you have a seat in the waiting area, and I’ll get someone to see you shortly,” she told me, with a sympathetic expression on her face.
     I sat down and waited, not knowing what else to do at this point. I felt like I had been there for hours, flipping through magazines, staring at the TV screen on the wall, watching people come and go. Finally, someone came towards me. There were two of them.
     “Mom!” they both shouted as they held out their arms towards me. “Thank goodness we found you! Are you okay?” asked the young lady with long brown hair. She looked familiar. I could have sworn I had seen her in the mirror this morning, except she was a lot younger looking. How odd!
     “Mom, we need to get you back home. The officer at the police station told us there was a woman fitting your description looking for her identity,” said the handsome young man with dark hair.
     I was so glad to finally be found I could hardly think straight. These people knew me and would help me. “I’ve been robbed,” I told them.
     “What?” they both exclaimed, shocked.
     “Someone stole my purse, my car, my phone, my computer, and I don’t know what else. I woke up this morning and my stuff was gone. I couldn’t remember who I was. I was so scared,” I cried. I started to let it all out now that I was finally safe.
     “It’s okay, Mom. We’re going to get you home and take care of everything,” said the young man. “You’re fine now. Let’s go.”
     As they escorted me to the back seat of their car, I heard them whispering. I started to get suspicious. What if these people are the ones who robbed me? I panicked, No, no, they seem nice enough.
I listened closely to what they were saying. “It’s a good thing that furnished model home was accidently left unlocked last night. Otherwise she might have spent the night outside like last time, poor thing,” said the woman.
     “This is the second time this month she’s gotten out. I’ve asked them to keep changing the access code, but she seems to always find out what it is,” answered the young man.
     “Access code? You mean 35478?” I spoke up.
     “How is it that she remembers that and yet can’t remember so much else?” asked the young man, shaking his head.
     “I’m right here, you know. I haven’t lost my senses, if that’s what you’re thinking,” I tried to tell them.
     “Maybe we need to find a place with more security. I hate to take her further away from the town where she’s lived for so many years, though,” I heard the woman say. “And besides, it would make it so much harder to visit her as often.”
     “Are you taking me home?” I asked to be sure.
     “Yes, Mom. We’ll get you settled back where you belong soon. It’s just a few minutes longer,” assured the dark haired man.
     “That’s good. Will you get my stuff back?”
     “Of course we will. Don’t worry about anything.”
     It was so good to have someone else in control, taking me home and getting my belongings back to me. But there was just one thing I still didn’t know.
     “Do you know my name?” I asked them.
     “Yes, Mom. It’s Gillian Roberts.”
     Finally, I knew who I was. Validation at last. Now if only I could remember who these two nice young people were.
     Wait? Why are they taking me in the opposite direction of home? Who are these people?
“Help, help me!” I shouted as I banged on the car window. “I’m being kidnapped!”

About the Author:

Ivanka Fear is a retired teacher from midwestern Ontario, Canada. Her poetry and short stories appear in Spadina Literary Review, Montreal Writes, Spillwords Press, Commuterlit, and Canadian Stories.

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