“You don’t remember anything?”
She asks like I’d been lying, like this was all an elaborate hoax. Does she think these questions will magically jump start my brain and all the memories will rush back in? I’ve tried to remember. I’ve tried to know who she is, who all these others are, but they hardly look familiar.
“Nothing at all?”
She’s worried about me. I can see it in her eyes, wide and glassy. It’s clear she’s been crying. The rims of her nostrils are red and raw from continuous swipes with tissue. The cotton fibers slowly deteriorating the flesh until it’s too painful to wipe. I remember this, these things about life, little things like the hurt from a tissue or the sensation of a paper cut, but I don’t remember her yet. I know she’s tired. Dark circles have formed around her eyes and all the wrinkles in her face seem to be exaggerated due to her pale complexion. I can only assume that the circles, pale face and greasy strands of long brown hair are due to her lack of sleep.
“I’m sorry" is the only answer or explanation I can give to her… my wife.
I know she’s my wife because she told me and the doctor told me right after the nurse told me. Underneath the sadness, the circles and the pale faced tiredness, I can see that she is quite beautiful with sharp features and a slender build. She looks a little too frail at this moment, but I guess she was perfect in her youth, which she may or may not have spent with me. I know we’re married, but I don’t remember the first date, our favorite song, or the flavor of our wedding cake.
“Do you know why you’re in here?” she quizzes.
She seems almost angry. It’s like she wants to hit me but is worried I’ll shatter like a vase of blue blown glass. I’m blue glass because everything around me is blue. My sheets and gown are blue, the curtain that separates me from the other coughing, crying and beeping people is blue, even the type on my plastic bracelet is in blue ink.
“I’ve been filled in.”
The doctor broke the news to me right after the nurse let me know. I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t anything. I just felt numb. Vomiting takes a lot out of you and I think my brain needed some sleep, but they hadn’t let me sleep yet and the only thing I kept thinking about was how bad charcoal tastes. I can remember the charcoal, the pain of a raw nose and the sting of a paper cut, but I can’t remember which side of the bed I sleep on. Will she fill me in when we get home?
“You didn’t leave a note.”
“I’m sorry," is the only answer or explanation I can give her.
“Why did you use my Restoril? You know I can’t sleep without it. Plus it’s really expensive. You could have used something… it’s just selfish Hank.
“I’m sorry,” is the only answer or explanation I can give her.
I’m Hank. I know this because she told me and the doctor told me right after the nurse told me. I didn’t know she couldn’t sleep without Restoril. I’m sure I did know, but I don’t know now.
“You know, Tim’s the one that found you. Of course he’s totally traumatized. Can’t sleep alone anymore.”
I don’t really know how to answer because I don’t know where I was or in what condition Tim found me. Most pressingly, I don’t know who Tim is and I think she knows this because she’s crying now.
“Your son, Hank! Tim? Timmy? Timothy? Nothing? You don’t remember your own son? This is ridiculous.”
“I’m sorry,” is the only answer or explanation I can give her.
“Well let me introduce you.”
She’s mad and tired and most recently, sarcastic. Now she’s pulled the curtain away and is walking toward the door. I know where she’s going. She’s going to get Tim, Timmy or Timothy. Now I’m feeling anxious, feverish. I have to face him and I don’t want to. With the curtain open I can see the bed across from me. An old man with liver spots and sagging neck skin is looking at me. we have exchanged these periodic glances over the last two days, when our curtains are open. I feel as though he is one of the people I know best now because I can remember him when we lock eyes. he is familiar to me. He seems confused. Maybe this is the amnesia ward and this guy thinks I’m his son or nephew. Maybe he thinks I’m his Tim, Timmy or Timothy, but I’m not or at least I don’t think I am. Now my wife’s coming in with the boy and I don’t want to scare him so I’m going to try and act normal. They’re approaching. I’ve gotta pick one.
“Hey there, Timmy”
He looks a little timid. I guess I’d be too under the circumstances. My wife wife guides him in with her knobby hands on his shoulders she stands behind him and stares at me as though she testing me, daring me to remember. He looks about six or seven. Maybe he looks young for his age, or maybe old, but I’m going to stick with seven. His dirty blonde hair is messy and it looks as if he’s most likely been sleeping on the bench outside. He looks a little disoriented, or maybe it’s my disorientation that is making him look disoriented. He’s kind of fat. Fatter then I’d expect my child to be, but apparently he’s mine. Maybe I’m the stepfather because he doesn’t really look like me. Even his fingers are chubby and it doesn’t help that he’s wearing that karate uniform. His yellow belt has one black stripe on the end which I assume is something good. Maybe he’s been recently promoted and I should congratulate him.
“So, were you at karate class today buddy?” I ask trying to make the kid a little more comfortable.
“He doesn’t take karate classes,” his mother quips with distain.
Now I’m confused,
“Then, what’s the outfit for?”
“He just likes wearing it,” my wife snaps.
“I just like wearing it,” Tim echos.
He looks at me with a mixture of wonderment and fear, like I’m some sort of rare and dangerous animal that is on special exhibition at the zoo.
“That’s like me and this gown. I could be wearing normal pajamas, but I just really love the ventilation”
Neither of them laugh and my faint attempt at comedy is quickly extinguished. I wonder who named Tim. It couldn’t have been me. I’m not sure if I’m even fond of the name. Tim… Timmy… Timothy. No. I don’t like it. He looks more like a Keith or a Trevor. I bet she named him.
“Okay honey, I’m going to get your dad his clothes and then we’re going to go to Swiss Chalet to have a nice meal. Sound good?”
She leaves the room and there’s an awkward silence as Timmy stares at me. I have nothing to say and I don’t have the energy to make small talk. So we just stare at each other. We’re almost at eye level because I’m lying down and his seven year old frame, as wide as it may be, is only about a foot below me.
“Can I have a Shirley Temple when we get there?”
We share another silence.
“And the rib special?”
“Whatever you like kid.”
I figure the poor boy’s been through enough because of me. He deserves whatever he wants tonight. Then I realize this is my chance.
“Hey buddy. Can I ask you something?”
“What’s your mother’s name?”
“Are you serious?”
I look at him sheepishly. I’m embarrassed and I can see what looks like pity come across Tim’s face. Luckily he doesn’t make me try to explain.
I put on a bit of a show in pretending that he jogged my memory and that I remembered it after all. But I don’t think he bought it. I hope I’m not a professional actor out there, because that was a sad performance.
“Mom says you can’t remember”
We stare at each other.
“Not so much.”
“Are you gonna remember that you promised me the rib special?”
I’m glad my son grasps the severity of my condition.
“That I will remember above all else.”
Nancy comes in with my clothes and hands them to me. It’s clear she wants to get out of here, but I’m not sure if I do. I’m not sure if I want to face all the things I’ve forgotten. The only things I really know I’ve learned in this room, apart from those I’ve always known, the pain of charcoal, tissues and paper cuts.
Nancy and Tim leave the room as I dress. I wear a lot of brown or, should I say, Hank wears a lot of brown. All I’ve worn so far is blue and the stains of charcoal. Once I’ve dressed in my browns, brown shoes, brown pants, black shirt and brown sweater, I go out into the hall to Nancy and Tim, Timmy, Timothy. I wear no blue though. Blue is for the new Hank and I’m going to stick to that.
We walk down the shiny hall that smells clean despite all the filth filling the rooms and lining the seats. The florescent lights are giving me a headache. My wife and I have to sign some forms at the desk. She signs first and passes the thing over to me. I don’t care to read it. I see something about therapy and risk assessment programs. I just skim down to where I sign. I print my name, thanking God my wife has already written our last name on the form. Hank Rigula. I don’t like it. Rigula? What nationality is that? Poor Tim Rigula has a horrible name. Keith Morningside is much better, more masculine. Tim Rigula is a sissy name. Poor fat Tim, Timmy or Timothy Rigula and his suicidal father. At least he gets the rib deal tonight.
On the way to Swedish Chalet we don’t talk much. Our car is large and red with leather seats that warm your ass. Tim Rigula has a little TV in the back with him so he can watch cartoons about loud noises, slide whistles and hitting people, the soundtrack to which makes me feel schizophrenic. I feel sick but I can't determine if it's the car heat, my lack of sleep or my disposition. We don't talk. we just drive our big red car and listen to cartoon noise. I keep watching the street lamps pass by. my eyes whip back and forth as I trail the towering lights. The heat from the vents is making my nose congested and my throat dry.
The chicken isn’t dry though, it’s quite good. This Swiss Cottage is better than I expected. Timmy smiles at me as rib juice falls from his sauce covered chin and onto his once clean karate costume. He is really enjoying the rib special. After dinner Nancy orders me a lemon meringue pie.
“Trust me it’s your favorite.”
I realize that I can’t do anything but trust her. If she says I like lemon meringue pie, then it must be true. If she says our son’s name is Timothy, it must be true. But what if she isn’t my wife? What if she and her chubby son go hospital to hospital and pick up amnesia patients, drain their bank accounts and ritualistically dismember their bodies. The pie is pretty good though, but it might be too sweet to be my favorite.
“Do you like the pie dad?”
“Yeah. Your mother was right, this is good pie.”
I hope one day I can have more stimulating conversation with poor Timmy Rigula. I guess even if these people aren’t my family I’ve got no choice but to go with them. If they didn’t pick me up I would have to grow old at the hospital and my neck skin would sag and my eyes would grow watery from the unblinking stares I would shoot at my steady chain of roommates.
All the houses on ‘our street’ look the same. They come in different shades, but structurally they’re the same house. I wonder if everyone on ‘our street’ has the same possessions, just in different shades? As the garage door opens I see another red car in there. This one is small and sexy and has a rather garish license plate that reads ‘Dr. Rigs’.
“Am I Dr. Rigs?” I ask, hoping not because ‘Dr. Rigs’ sounds like an asshole’s name.
“Yes, but something tells me you won’t be working for a little while honey.”
“I don’t like the license plate.”
“That is the least of your worries right now, Hank. Just go in the house and relax. We’ll discuss the car later.”
We get inside and Nancy asks Tim to show me to my office.
“Just wait in there and I’ll get you your pajamas. You must be exhausted.”
I look at her for a moment. She’s still red nosed and her eyes are glassy. She looks like she’s silently pleading with me. Begging me to come back, but ‘me’ left no address and I can’t find him anywhere. She’s waiting for me to say something encouraging.
“Do I have any blue pajamas?”
“Blue. Do I have any blue pajamas?”
She looks at me in utter confusion.
“I don’t think so but I’ll check.”
I’ve decided to tell her about my decision.
“Nancy. I’m going to start wearing more blue I think.”
She’s crying now and is about to shut the door but stops for a moment.
“You’re going to be okay Hank.”
Now I’m alone in my office. I know it’s mine because Nancy told me before Tim told me, and I know these are my books, but I’ve never read them, and I know I’m a doctor because the car told me. Lemon meringue pie is my favorite and Nancy can’t sleep without her pills and I’m going to be okay. I know this because Nancy told me and the doctor told me after the nurse told me. So I sit here, back from the dead, but I can’t remember why I visited in the first place. I still feel sad, I just can’t remember why.