Over the last two years, my wife and I have noticed a brown car driving through our neighborhood several times a day. A man drives the car slowly, ever so slowly, through the entire length and width of the neighborhood, looking at houses, stopping occasionally, then continuing his casual drive.
Of course, my first thought was that the driver was casing the neighborhood and I considered calling the police. But before I could do so my wife, Melanie, told me she knew the identity of the mystery driver.
"He used to live in the neighborhood," she said. "His wife left him, remember."
I remembered. He had lived just up the street for a short time after his divorce, then moved away. I wondered why he would drive so regularly through a place that had given him so much pain.
Several weeks later, I knew the answer. Melanie was walking through the neighborhood, saw the brown car and waved at the driver. He stopped and they talked.
She told me that he did not remember her and when she asked about his mother, he pulled a sticky note from the dashboard and told her that his mother had died. "I'm not able to remember things any more,"he said with a smile.
So, now when I see him driving through our neighborhood, or driving through the streets of our small town, I see him in a different light.
He is not a thief. He is the victim of a thief; a disease that is robbing him of his memories. His endless driving is an attempt to look for places that are familiar; to reclaim the people and the places and events that were once his but are now slowly fading away.
One day, maybe one day soon, we will not see him any more. He will have forgotten his old neighborhood. The brown car will be forever parked. The robbery will be complete and he will stare blankly at the people in front of him and he will not remember to look at his sticky notes.