So with morning coffee I read chapter thirteen, about Julius stopping at a bank machine and freezing on his PIN, trying and thinking and just blanking some 20-odd times. My mom meanwhile is turning the house upside down looking for the soup packets she meant to send home with me — my favourite instant soup she'd set aside so it wouldn't be forgotten. Don't worry about it, I tell her. Like the kid's school pictures I spent the last 3 weeks looking for (and finding in a place I'd already checked twice), and disc 2 of season 3 of Doctor Who, the one with the Shakespeare episode, which inexpicably isn't in its DVD case — I'm still looking for it.
Chapter fourteen, Julius goes to visit the professor. But wait! Didn't he die? Julius had called, and a strange woman answered and told him he'd died. Did I imagine this? But if I don't know for sure whether I read this, I won't know for sure how to understand the next part of the story. Was it someone else who died? (I know the patient died, but the circumstances were different; I'm not mistaking that death for this one.) Why am I so sure it was the professor? Maybe it's not in this book at all, maybe it's some other book I was reading, but I haven't been reading anything else. Maybe I dreamt it. When I woke up with someone's name on my lips, maybe it's because I dreamt I phoned and learned he died, and for some reason I associated him with the professor.
I can't read forward until I know.
J-F ask for his mouse, knows I have the mouse, accuses me of hiding his mouse. He'd handed me the mouse and asked me to tuck into one of the bags. I don't remember this. I can describe the contents of my suitcase in detail, down to the kid's spare socks, the white ones with the blue and green flower shapes, in the back bottom left corner (when the suitcase is oriented as it's lying open in front of you) and the travel size body lotion and spare plastic bag tucked in the top outside pocket. J-F never remembers anything. J-F insists. I think he must be joking, but I can't be sure.
We pack the car. I find the GPS jammed under the seat. It's been "missing" since January. I assumed it had been stolen out of the car, since J-F often forgets to lock it. I spend the next several hours checking the book up to page 168. I skim backwards and forwards. It might've served my purpose better if I actually reread the book, carefully, starting at page one, but as a rule I don't read in the car, much as I would like to, because it's rude; not reading is a gesture of solidarity with the driver. But this isn't reading, it's looking for something. I don't dare turn past page 168.
No one died like I remember it.
I finally settle into bed, leave the day behind me. The kid left her necklace on my mom's dresser. Nothing to do but read forward. Let Julius visit the professor, who in my memory is already dead.
Chapter sixteen, Julius calls up the professor, and a woman, not Mary, tells him he died, and he hangs up, just like I remember it.
Why would I have read page 183 if I hadn't naturally arrived there? When did I do this? I never skip forward. When I test drive books at the store, I start at the beginning. It's not standard to excerpt pages from the latter portions of a book. Did I flip open to page 183 by accident? The contents registered themselves on my subconscious mind, while I consciously worked to erase them? My mind plays tricks on me.