I live in my car, and that could qualify me as homeless. I also have a memory problem: I can’t remember what my name is, with whom I once lived, or even where I came from. I have a wallet. It has my Driver’s License that calls me “John Doe.” It is a valid license so far as I can tell. But I am certain my name is not John, or Doe. I drive. Every day and night I drive. Why do I drive–you might ask? And I can’t tell you why. I wish I knew. Maybe I’m trying to find something familiar. Maybe I’m trying to remember. Maybe I’m looking for home. But would I know it if I was to drive past my home? No, I would not. And by now, someone else must be living there.
I have a debit card. It is unornamented except that it has a magnetic strip, and it has the copper contacts near the end on one side that allow it to function as a “chip card.” The debit card has no name on it. It has no print on it. I use it when I need to stop off for gas or get something to eat.
I don’t know for how long I’ve been doing this. My life consists of driving. I do not have a destination. I don’t know what city I am in. I drive among a sea of taillights, headlights, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and the occasional pedestrian brave enough to cross.
It is night. I wear special glasses that protect my vision and that make my vision have more acuity. I rarely need to urinate of defecate. I don’t smell any vehicle exhaust, yet I know it is prevalent. I sometimes play the radio. I hear Jazz or Classical. I don’t listen to anything produced in the past sixty years. At some point, I will need to give this up. But how am I to do that?
Every couple of days, I look for a motel room. I pay for it with the debit card; it works for that. It has never been declined. Why? When I’m at a motel I can shower and wash clothes. But most of the time, I’m filthy, filthy up and down and to the core. And speaking of filthy, I stopped into an X-rated theater one time–I remember that. Someone approached me and I did not want anything: I left quickly.
I am driving. It is night. There is a light rain. I spot a car by the side of the road, and I slow for it.
I see a young woman waving her hands, apparently needing help. My heart wins out. How is it that I still have one? I pull to the side even while this is an illegal move. I come to a stop, and I unlock the car doors. The woman gets in.
“Jeremy, it is you!”
Of course, I am Jeremy. Who is Jeremy?
I reply, “Madam, I think I need your help more than you need mine.”
“Shit, what happened to you?”
I reply, “I don’t know. I’ve been driving like this my entire life.”
“No. You have not. You live at 443 Rochester. You must have amnesia. You need to come home.”
“WHO- am I?”
“You are my brother, Jeremy Walford. You live at 443 Rochester. You are, or were, a sales executive. You are divorced and you have a daughter, Jamie Walford, who lives at 443 Rochester. I’ve been taking care of her.”
I said, “Why don’t I remember any of this?”
“Something is really wrong with you. You’ll need to see a doctor tomorrow.”
I said, “Good God!” I paused. I said, “Can you please drive? Because I’m damned tired of driving.”
My ‘sister’ nodded. I pulled into a Seven-Eleven. We switched drivers. My sister drove out to an area of condominiums and parked in a parking lot of one of them. She got out and walked around, then opened my door. I hesitated, then stepped out. She led me to a townhouse. We went inside.
A teenage girl looked up from a television. “Daddy! You’re back!” She ran up to me and put her arms around me. She wept and so did I. I was so glad that I had a home. I had no memory of any of this. Time would tell whether I’d get back my memory. But maybe I was done with endless driving, of having no home, and of not knowing who I was. I was so glad.
Jack Bragen is author of “Revising Behaviors that Don’t Work,” “Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia,” and “Jack Bragen’s 2021 Fiction Collection,” and lives in Martinez.