A Student Out of Time by Su Yi, Changsha

My classmate shared the following experience with me. It occurred in 2016 when we were in eighth grade, shortly before we took our senior high school entrance examinations. We had just temporarily moved to a room in another building for class because our usual eighth-grade classroom was being used as a test site.

Our classrooms served multiple purposes. One of these purposes was as a study area at night. After one such night study session, just as everyone was getting ready to leave, a girl who was sitting a couple of rows in front of me started acting upset. I ignored her at first because I was so focused on studying and also because I did not want to be too nosy. But then she started crying, and I went over to see if I could help. Several other people got up to check on her too. When we asked her what was wrong, she pointed to her desk mate and said he had lost his memory.

At first, we thought this girl’s desk mate was playing a joke. But we all knew him well enough to know something was really wrong when we started talking to him. He had this weird lost expression on his face and asked us in this weird frightened way why he was in this room with us studying for high school exams and why everybody looked so different all of a sudden.

When we asked him what he meant, he said that he was a six grader, not the eighth grader we knew him to be. According to his memory, a few minutes before he put his head down to take a nap and when he woke up everything was different. Our room was different. The seating order was different. And everybody looked older.

After that, we asked him more questions. He correctly described how our seating in the classroom was like in sixth grade. We also asked him who his girlfriend was. He did have a girlfriend at this time, a girl named Tang. But he answered just as he would have in sixth grade. He did not have girlfriend, but if he did it should be Xue (the girl he had a crush on in sixth grade). Confused and scared, we walked him down to our home teacher’s office.

By the time we got to the home teacher’s office, which wasn’t very far away at all, he had completely stopped speaking in our dialect. This made sense given his claim since he was originally a transfer student from Guangdong, and hadn’t learned our dialect until seventh grade.

Needless to say, this incident was very shocking to us. But because the boy recovered  the next day, most people put it out of their mind after awhile. But I kept thinking about it. It is incredible to me that part of this boy’s memory disappeared for a brief time that night. Not only that, but it also seems that, based on his case, all the other selves we’ve ever been don’t disappear or just become old memories but are still around, just as alive as they were somewhere inside us.