My brother was hit by a moped three years ago. It ran right over his face and took his nose with it. He has a hole for a mouth and a tire track running from the left side of his forehead to the right side of his chin. And then there’s this:
Yesterday, I asked my brother if he’d ever seen Sons of the Desert, a Laurel and Hardy movie.
“No,” he said. And then he paused. “Wait, are you talking about me or Arnold Schwarzenegger?”
“You”, I said.
“Oh, okay. No, I haven’t.”
“Have you seen any Laurel and Hardy movies?”
“I think so…wait, me or Arnold Schwarzenegger?”
And so on.
Every time I ask him a question about his personal history, his favorite ice cream flavor, his shoe size, anything, he always has to clarify whether I’m asking him or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Which is not to say he thinks he IS Arnold Schwarzenegger. He still signs his rent checks with his given name. And he still introduces himself as Auggie to new acquaintances, as long as his name isn’t solicited. If it is, well:
“And you are?”
I’ve asked him numerous times if he was aware of his own peculiarity. And in each instance, he’d ask me if I meant him or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I mean you,” I said, the first time we had this conversation, about a week after he returned from the hospital, “I always mean you when I ask a question about you.”
“So why do you have to ask if I’m talking to you or Arnold Schwarzenegger? He’s not here. He’s never been here, nor will he ever be here. Neither of us know him, and no one we know knows him. He’s a former movie star and the former governor of California.”
“I know who he is, Bob.”
And he stormed out of the room.
We spoke again at breakfast the next morning. I waited for him to sit down and pour milk into his bowl of Mini-Wheats. Then I asked him to pass the carton.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger,” I said.
“Yes” he said.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that.