I've always prided myself on recognising faces. As for names, well, that's another matter entirely. I'm crap with names. But I'm good with faces. At least I thought so.
Recently, I've been reintroducing myself to people. That's what they tell me. God knows how many others have kept their mouths shut and let me make a fool of myself. This has made me more cautious when meeting people (seemingly, for the first time). Now, I use the phrase, "Nice to see you" - just in case.
At first, I thought this was an anomaly. But it's been happening more and more lately, and making me more self-conscious about it. Eventually, I couldn't ignore the truth. Something has happened with my facial comprehension.
As an experiment, I tried to remember people whom I've known in the past. I began with previous buddies. Girlfriends. Colleagues from work. Colleagues from different workplaces. Strangers I'd recently seen on the street.
It was no use. Everyonee melted into a collage of thoughts and feelings about them, which at times were fairly sharp - but not their faces. Their faces were a blur.
In trying to resurrect them from memory, I found that I made an amalgamation of other people's faces to fill in the blanks. I took a bit of chin from here, a nose from over there, and tried to put something together - like a forensic identikit, or a bad Mr Potato Head caricature. The truth is, a real person's face has subtle components, but we remember it in short-hand. We exaggerate the stronger accents, the harsh bits, in order to form a (hopefully) indelible memory.
The worst thing about it was my inability to remember people whom I'd really loved. People who were really close. Relatives who'd died. I could remember their smell, their touch, things that they had said to me... but their faces were gone. A watercolour in the rain. How shallow I must be that all of those years were rinsed away. Not everything, mind you, but - in some ways - the most important part of them. The part that I looked into every day of every year of every decade.
I worried that I was losing touch with aspects of myself. If I didn't look in the mirror everyday, would I even know what I looked like? I could probably pick myself out in a crowd, but could I draw my face? No, I could not.
Perhaps, I had never really looked at anything in detail. I had seen these faces hundreds, if not thousands of times, and, because of this, I thought it was no reason to memorise their every pore. But, then, when they were gone, I hankered for it. My memory was slack. It could not offer up even a momento - only a hairline, a lip, or an eyebrow.
I knew not to dwell on this too long, but the truth is I began to forget what I looked like, more and more, a little each day. I found myself trying to copy the looks of other people. I wanted to look more like something well-established in the public eye. Even looking like a celebrity would be good - because there were photographs that would act as a reference.
In the end, I don't know what I look like anymore or, indeed, what anyone looks like. I rely upon sounds, smells, and touch. My senses have shrunk.<br>I wonder how long I have, until those disappear. If so, i'll be left only with my memories. Until such day, as my brain expires.