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  • The first time I remember it happening to me, I was in my Grade 2 classroom. The teacher had written one of the students' names on the board, and it was like I was seeing the name for the first time. My eyes traced all the letters, over and over again. Time stood still as I rolled the shapes of the vowels and consonants back and forth across my brain. Tracy. Tracy. Tracy.

    There was a stretching feeling inside my head, kind of like the feeling that I got whenever I had to solve a puzzle. There was an answer there, I was sure of it... but in the meantime, just the meaningless repetition of letters.

    What I know now about reading is that once we learn to read, we don't actually spell out words as they cross our vision - we recognize the shape of each word, and instantly comprehend its meaning. Back in Grade 2, I discovered a glitch in the software. I didn't recognize the shape. It had no meaning.

    About once a year or so I still experience jamais vu. Sometimes it's a familiar name that suddenly looks completely unfamiliar. Sometimes it's the feeling like I'm a stranger in my own body - a temporary interloper. Many times I've looked at myself in the mirror when I've been experiencing jamais vu, and I feel a detached compassion for the scared-looking woman who stares back at me. I know her name, I know everything that she's experienced - but she is not me, at least for a couple of heartbeats.

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