Switching on

My first time locking up the office and I forgot to set the answering machine. I had a checklist in my head, and skipped that part – the pressing of a single button. It came to me in the pool (swimming backstroke, length seven) like a light being switched on. Absolute clarity, no dithering ‘did I forget?’. I knew I hadn’t done what I was supposed to.

It would be just my luck that someone needed to leave a message before the morning. In the next couple of lengths I thought about my two options.

  1. Leave it and take the consequences: further confirmation to colleagues of my absent mindedness. It’s possible that the boss has already checked – phoning in from home – and called in after hours to sort it out.
  2. Go in and press that button. It’s on the way home from the pool, and it’s unlikely that anyone would see me skulking around the building, even after nine o’clock.

I decided to go in and switch it on – it’s only one button, no need to put on the lights, won’t take a moment. I could see the journey in my mind, exactly where I’d park, how I’d light my path indoors with my mobile, the switch on the office phone.

Then, listening to a radio investigation into Alzheimer’s before bed, I realise I’m home and didn’t go anywhere near the office. The plan fell out of my head completely. Then it came back with – again – absolute clarity, hooked out the the mental abyss by association.

The man on the radio is talking about neural networks, dysfunctional neurons… genetic predisposition of amyloidal plaque leading to cognitive deficits, families losing someone beloved and never getting them back.

I am losing myself, losing the parts of me I want to keep, that make me me.


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