Steve Ligeikis has forgotten what happened to the cat.
“Alek!” The ex-military man scans each corner of the living room, looking for the familiar figure of the orange tabby to appear, purring against his legs.
His voice rises with anxiety on this rainy Sunday afternoon. “Alek!”
Steve’s wife, Emma, flinches by the front door of their two-bedroom apartment in suburban Fort Lauderdale.
The instant Steve called out for the cat — his favorite — she realized he had forgotten again, his short-term memory resetting in an uncommon form of amnesia that has plagued him for five years.
She rushes to him, sure of what comes next. Grief, fresh and raw. Emma leans in close and whispers the truth: Alek died 10 months ago of intestinal cancer.
“What happened to him?” he asks, head bowed as he sat on the edge of their bed.
“He died. He was very sick. He had cancer,” Emma says softly. “Remember when he started to lose so much weight?”
Emma cradles Steve, stroking his face.
He begins to sob. He doesn’t remember the cat’s death. He never does. He has mourned Alek, deeply, at least four times now — losing his bearings, forgetting that he has already felt this particular pain.
This is life for Steve Edward Ligeikis, 47, whose memory of the present exists for only as long as he is awake.