The cop asked, "Why'd you quit going into work--forget you had a job?"

I said, "Ha ha."

To say I forgot--this cop was using my old joke back on me, the thing I said when students didn't show up for scheduled interviews, days I had my own flagging interest in the memory study. The whole job is studying long- and short-term memory, the effects of the adrenal system and adrenocorticotrophic hormones, stress really, on how humans process and retain information.

He said, "So, what happened?" He sat on the edge of the table across from me. He said, "You don't show up for work, you don't call in, you close your bank account and avoid this room you've got rented; you don't think this looks like something's going on?"

One study would be to tell kids something complicated, then scare the piss out of the kids and make them take a test on the information you gave out ahead of time. I haven't proposed it, but that'd be the sort of thing we look for. Other labs teach rats to run mazes and remove portions of rat brains, cutting through nerve pathways, proving again and again that memory can be impaired but not necessarily removed. Once a man trained flatworms to stay away from a light, then cut up his trained troupe and fed them to the next generation. The next batch, he said, learned twice as fast. No one raised the question of motivation, which would mean to anthropomorphize, but perhaps with the scent of dead relatives in the air, dead flatworms served as dinner, the new batch intuitively aimed to please.

I only said, "I planned to reschedule the interviews. It's a 20-year memory study--there's time." A more true answer would be to claim an overactivated limbic system, my own rational thought overrun with chemical combinations, norepinephrine and adrenocorticotrophic hormones. The limbic system connects reason and emotion, ideally operating with a balance I'd long since lost.

Sometimes under pressure, a fear response--full adrenal system, fight or flight, the hypothalamus triggering pituitary--memory becomes indelible. Other times, pressure blocks memory entirely. But the cops were looking for more than raw data in their collection of details. The cops needed a narrative, with no room to forget.

Over the cop's shoulder, out the high- up row of double-paned, pressurized windows, I watched a flock of geese become specks as they flew in their fine, instinctive V-formation. Each bird in the line benefits from the one ahead. It's a communal effort for mutual gain, a team sport, the original cheerleading arrangement. And my brain spun back on its short loop, the same thought I have every time I see a V of geese. I think: That's the job I want, and all I want, to find my place in a line and to stay there, anonymous and flying.