JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Tales of Amnesia

Back in the 70s when I was working for Channel Home Center in Harrisburg one of my co-workers was Glenn.

Glenn was a family man, with a wife and two kids, and he was working his way into Channel’s management track. He was a few years older than I was, which would have made him early 30s, I guess. A nice guy, but a bit flaky, if you know what I mean.

One time when I wanted to leave work just a few minutes early, he offered to punch out my time card for me, but he forgot and didn’t punch it out until an hour later. That took some explaining to my boss.

Gregory Peck in Spellbound, a movie whose plot involves amnesia

Anyway, one day my friend Bert stopped by to visit. Bert was openly gay at a time and place where that really meant something. Like me, Bert wasn’t originally from Harrisburg, but had moved there perhaps ten years earlier.

I noticed that Bert had stopped to talk to Glenn, but I didn’t think anything of it, as Bert was a naturally gregarious type, but soon enough he came over to me and said, “You aren’t going to believe this. I knew your co-worker Glenn about fifteen years ago, but he doesn’t remember me now.”

As I pieced the story together, Glenn had lost an entire year of his memory, the year right after he graduated from high school. He didn’t remember anything from that year—what he did, where he went, or whom he met. If I recall correctly, the triggering incident that caused the memory loss was some sort of accident where he hit his head—hard.

Now that was incredible in itself, but in a plot twist worthy of Armistead Maupin, according to Bert, who knew him during that one year period, Glenn had been gay—openly, flamboyantly, promiscuously gay.

Laura Linney and Stanley DeSantis in a scene from Armistead Maupins's Tales of the City (1993)

The Glenn I now knew was most definitely straight.

“He was looking right at me as he told the story,” said Bert, “and there was no hint of recognition in his eyes. I think he’s telling the truth about the amnesia.”

According to Bert, one day Glenn had just stopped showing up and he was never seen again. Bert had always wondered what had happened to him.

Later on I spoke to Glenn, and he seemed totally sincere when he said he had no recollection of Bert or that one year of his life.

I had always believed that this type of amnesia (where one not only lost a block of memory but also had a personality (or in this case, sexuality) change) was the stuff of crime fiction and thrillers, that it didn’t happen to real people in real life. A few years ago I asked a psychologist about it, and without commenting directly on this situation, he described several other scenarios that led me to believe this isn’t all that implausible.

Note: the preceding is a true story, but I’ve changed the names and enough other details to protect the identities of the people involved, at least one of whom is still alive.