I look around the circle of faces, but no one in the group was remotely familiar to me. The doctors tried to shove it all under the rug of amnesia after my accident, but somehow, I know better. This is more than just a bump on my head. A lot more.
And they won’t listen. Such gloriously educated and highly respected medical professionals, and they just won’t listen to me. Because I’m nobody.
I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody too?
Every now and then a whisper rings true, a faint tickle on my temporal lobe. It’s like the prophetic dark clouds hovering over me, eagerly awaiting the right moment to release their rain droplets. And then it’s gone, like nothing ever happened. Like the only things I’ve ever known are the things that I can remember now.
These precious few.
Sometimes when I close my eyes there’s a shack in the woods. I don’t know if I lived there or not, if I built it or not, if it’s real or not. Sometimes when I close my eyes it’s all darkness, and I have to open them again and turn on all the lights or else I’ll scream and scream and scream.
Silence. I forgot that I was in group therapy right now. They must be waiting for me to talk. I hate it when it’s my turn. I don’t have anything to say. I don’t remember if we’re still doing introductions. Did I already say my name today? Not that it matters anyway, not in a group for a bunch of people with brain damage.
I stand up.
“Kristy Patterson, 26, car accident.”
I sit down.
They’re still looking at me. We must be past the introductions and on to some topic or other.
“I don’t remember what we’re talking about.”
This is the only place I can say that and nobody makes me think about why I don’t remember. Nobody wants to know what I was doing with the few brain cells that still work instead of paying attention to whatever it is I’m supposed to be paying attention to. It’s the little things that comfort me. The few secrets I have left.
I guard them with my life.
Somebody’s talking, trying to catch me up on the conversation, but I’ve already tuned them out again, closed my eyes to explore the cabin. It’s there this time, not the darkness. I open the door and enter.
It’s like I’ve stepped onto a movie set. Bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Ancient plaid couch covered in handmade quilts. The smell of hot cocoa creeps softly into my nostrils, and I inhale deeply. I’m home.
Someone’s shaking me. I open my eyes to a stranger’s hand on my shoulder. I brush it off forcefully, and he stumbles back a bit, not expecting me to react as I have. What kind of a person just touches somebody else and shakes them when they’re obviously busy?
I stand up and make a fist. He starts to say something to me, so I punch him in the face. Serves him right, touching my shoulder without considering how I might react. I could be missing the part of my brain that’s in charge of impulse control.
It was a good hit, if I do say so myself. He staggers back a step and reaches up to wipe the blood from his mouth where I’ve split his lip on his row of straight white teeth. I don’t need teeth like that telling me what to do.
I sit down and close my eyes again. Just for a second, just to finish exploring the living room of that little house on the prairie. In the woods. But the door’s locked this time, so I open my eyes again.
I should know better by now. I really should. Every time, it’s the same damn thing. I do remember things since I woke up here just like everyone else does, you know. And here they are, just like every other time I hit somebody.
Two techs, a man and a woman, rush in the group room, the man holding a syringe. It feels like only seconds have passed since I punched that jerk in the mouth, but his shirt is a bloody Rorschach now. I could have sworn that he wasn’t bleeding badly enough for that. Maybe this time someone will press charges and I’ll finally have my ticket out of the hospital and into the world, even if it is jail.
But no dice. I pull my shirtsleeve up for the syringe and follow the woman to the same room I always go to. The man follows me, but they should know by now that I’m not going anywhere I’m not supposed to go.
I just wish people wouldn’t touch me. If he hadn’t touched me, his shirt would still be just fine and dandy. Swear.
I curl up on my side in my bed and pull the blanket up as the world begins to slow down and the colors begin to swirl together.
When I close my eyes, it’s the screaming darkness, but I’m too drugged to escape it.
The scream echoes in my head forever, and I can’t wake myself up.
I lay on my back in the sleeping bag, head pillowed on crossed arms, no tent between me and the sky. The meteor shower was supposed to peak around four in the morning, but I wasn’t so sure I could make it that late. Early? I never know how to talk about the time between midnight and sunrise.
I know how lucky I was to find that clearing. After a long day of hiking, it was a godsend to find somewhere tailor made for watching the night sky. The moon was the merest sliver of light; only a new moon would have made for better viewing.
I snuggled a little deeper into my bed under the stars, the soft rustle of nylon and polyester singing me a sweet lullaby of peaceful, warm comfort. I smiled to myself as I saw my third double meteor of the night. I don’t know why two shooting stars at the same time make me feel that way, but they do. Like it doesn’t really matter how much we’ve screwed up, that things will still be okay in the end.
I dozed off for a little while, but when I checked my watch upon waking, and it was a little after three. I felt rested enough to stay awake for a while, so I felt around to my right until my hand touched my water bottle. I took a slug and looked at the sky.
Tonight we went to see Taxi Driver for its fortieth anniversary. I had a $26 gift certificate that’s been waiting for the right movie for a few months now, and this was it.
I burst out laughing when we entered the theater, because the only other person in there was the man who bought a ticket ahead of us by asking for that Taxi Cab Driver movie that wasn’t on the marquee. Nobody else came in, so it was just the three of us.
I love when I have the opportunity to see a movie that I’ve known and loved for years on the big screen. And practically having the whole theater to ourselves made it even better.
When I looked in the mirror I was surprised to see how bloodshot my eyes were. I’m pretty sure I slept the night before. Pretty sure. But who really knows anything for sure in this world?
I washed my face and dried it on the faded blue towel that always hung on the circular shower curtain rod above my cracked tub. Six and a half months here, and I’d yet to take a bath in that footed monstrosity. I’d considered it half a dozen times, but whenever I reached to turn the taps on, an image flashed through my mind of the landlord finding me in a puddle of bloody shards when my downstairs neighbors called about their ceiling leaking.
So no baths for me here. I washed my hair in the kitchen sink, and if I really needed a hose down, I went over to a friend’s house with some excuse about the water pressure at home. Nobody cared; I didn’t stink at work or anything.
I took one last hard look at the tub before turning and heading out of the bathroom to get dressed for work. Something was off about it. I don’t know. Maybe something was off about me. I shrugged it off for the thousandth time.
I’d forgotten about the spaghetti sauce I spilled on my jeans last night at dinner. I work on the phone, though, so it doesn’t matter too much what my clothes look like as long as they cover all the parts that people like to be covered. I thought I smelled something off when I slipped the fresh polo over my head, but that could have been anything. I picked it up from the cleaners yesterday on my way home. It had to be fine.
I stuck my head in the bathroom to check on the tub once more before I left. I didn’t know why it was on my mind so much today. I still don’t. Probably never will. It was still the same, same gray cracks crazing the white porcelain coating, same clawed feline toes gripping the black and white tiles. I thought I might be losing it. Pretty close to the truth.
One of the homeless people I pass every morning turned her head to follow me with her eyes as I passed. I usually give her change, but I didn’t have any on me today. I could feel her eyes crawling on my skin, their burning intensity growing with each second her gaze stayed with me. I took the next corner to get out of her sight, not caring that I’d be making myself late to work.
“Do you want to sell that?” A woman in a secondhand shop’s doorway reached out to grab me by the arm. I was momentarily confused until she nodded down to the leather satchel I carried. I shook my head and pulled away from her before she could sink her claws any deeper. The day was getting stranger and stranger as it wore on, and I didn’t know what I could do about it.
I checked over my shoulder to make sure she hadn’t followed me, and the smell I’d caught the barest whiff of when dressing was back, and stronger now. It reminded me of raw meat, but I wouldn’t have put my shirt next to any. I didn’t even buy any yesterday, and I’m fairly certain that the dry cleaning lady is a vegan. I remember seeing her behind the wheel of a Prius with some vegan bumper stickers once.
I reached back to rub my shoulder where my bag was beginning to wear heavy and touched unexpected wetness. I pulled my hand back to have a look, and it was bloody. I stopped, and tried to lift my collar and twist my neck enough to have a look at my own shoulder blade. I didn’t feel any pain, but the blood had to be coming from somewhere.
Underneath my shirt, I didn’t appear to have any wounds at all. I looked up, searching for something, anything, that might have dripped this thick redness on me, but I didn’t see anything unusual. A blind man leaned out of his window on the second floor, but he had nothing in his hand. I supposed he could have dumped a cup of blood and then put the cup down, but what kind of blind man would be able to do such a thing with any kind of accuracy?
He paid no attention to me, anyway. The blind man’s clothes were dirty and disheveled. Maybe he was a squatter. But I was only distracting myself from the bigger question at hand. I reached around again, but my shirt was dry. For now, the smell was gone. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples in small circles, trying to ease the pounding that was beginning in my head. I turned around, giving up on work. My boss would understand.
I gave one more glance at the blind man, but he was gone, disappeared into the apartment to do who knows what, the delicate floral curtain left to flutter languidly in the faint breeze coming down the street.
The secondhand shop was closed when I passed it by for the secondhand time, oddly enough, the woman who accosted me nowhere to be found. The dust and dirt from the street had built up on the stoop so thickly that I doubt I had truly seen her at all.
I felt a sudden sharp pain in my left arm, and when I looked down, the blood was already dripping off my swinging fingertips, spattering into meaningless patterns on the sidewalk both fore and aft of me. I squeezed my eyes tight, then opened them again, and the blood was gone. Heading home may not have been the wisest decision I’ve ever made, but I didn’t want to commit myself to the loony bin just yet, thank you very much.
The homeless woman was missing as well. I didn’t question that; I don’t think I could have dealt with another second of her stare.
I ran up the three flights of stairs to my apartment, key in hand, but my door was ajar when I made it there. I pushed it open with one hand. The place felt empty, but who was I to trust my own instincts anymore? I went straight to the bathroom as if pulled by an invisible string.
I haven’t left the tub in days now, but I’m still afraid to turn the water on.
Friday night I roasted some baby carrots tossed in cayenne pepper infused olive oil and topped them with toasted chopped walnuts and green onion.
Last night I stir fried sliced carrots with celery, sesame seeds, and soy roasted pumpkin seeds. It went well over fried rice.
No poem this time. I’d just like to say I’m very proud of my wife. She is amazing in so many ways, that unfortunately for you, you’ll never know. Beyond being an amazing writer, makeup artist, and selfie taker, she’s just as amazing at so many more things. You all should seriously come meet her just for fresh baked cinnamon rolls. If you ever have the chance to have someone as special as her in your life, you should cherish every moment. I love every second we spend together and look forward to the next day with her. Ok enough sappy stuff. I’ll give y’all a sneak peek for tomorrow. I plan on taking her to lunch and then see if she feels like looking at Halloween stuff at the Spirit store. Then I have to take her mom to pick up a sewing machine. Then a date night with her, probably burritos and Pokémon Go. Now we are going to watch Predestination because 9Gag told me it’s a great movie.