8 • WHAT’S TRUE of Hiking is True of Life
She took the book from my hands, closed it, and placed it back in order among the others she had stacked. She briefly ran her finger down the stack over the spines, reading the titles to herself. I picked up my coffee cup and attempted a sip even though I already knew it was empty. It was a strange habit I had picked up from…somewhere. She sat down in the chair across from mine and looked around the old library.
“So, you stacked these in chronological order? Or, what you assume is chronological?”
“Yes. They follow each other pretty closely. It’s hard to categorize them. Some are labeled by dates, some by places, some by feelings. Others don’t seem to be labeled at all. I’ve found books that even deal with the same subject matter, but from different attitudes. There’s nothing straightforward about the way they’re organized. In fact, I don’t think they’re arranged on the shelves in any kind of order at all,” she answered in an apprehensive tone of voice.
“Hmmm. Let’s change modes here. Do you understand the meanings of these symbols?” I asked, opening my journal and handing it to her.
She perused the pages and cast a glance at the door. “I’m pretty sure these are Chinese characters. I saw them all over Japan.”
“Then, wouldn’t they be Japanese characters?”
“They’re the same. The Japanese just augment the Chinese characters with a phonetic alphabet,” she corrected, making me feel even more ignorant than I already did.
“Do you know what they mean?”
“What about the flowers?”
“Have you seen anything about them in any of the books?”
“Maybe. Let me have a look,” she said, standing up and walking to the shelves by the door to begin browsing the titles.
My knowledge of the library paled in comparison to hers, but I stood up and skimmed through the books on the shelves as well. I began to notice recognizable pieces of literature among the other more obscure volumes. Books that bore the names of authors as well as titles: A Farewell to Arms, On the Road, Cat’s Cradle, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Jurassic Park, Anna Karenina, Great Expectations, Dostoevsky, Balzac, Mishima, Poe, Grisham. The collection ran the gamut. I found them at random on the shelves. There seemed to be no order to their arrangement either. I also found books of a less narrative nature: a compendium of rare neurological disorders, a textbook about Roman architecture, a history on US mints, a pamphlet guide to navigating Chicago’s public transportation system, Plato’s Republic, a treatise on the morality of capital punishment, Tao Te Ching, a handbook on translating.
“Any theories about what happened at the front door?” I asked while still browsing.
“You mean why the outside world tried to suck the life out of you?” she replied with an air of sarcasm. Her voice was faint from across the room. The library was like an anechoic chamber.
“I’d say it has something to do with you opening the door.”
“Very astute. Anything else?”
“Yeah. I’ve got this itching, burning sensation on my scalp and…”
“Okay. Okay,” I said, interrupting her obvious attempt to point out how stupid my question was. “It’s just…that’s a pretty vague answer. You know?”
“Well, ask a silly question…”
“Yeah, yeah,” I cut her off before she could finish. In spite of their knack for frequently being true, or perhaps because of it, I despised all of those little sayings and idioms that people mistakenly passed off as wisdom. “Is the front door the only way out of the house?”
“It’s the only obvious one.”
“You’ve opened it before haven’t you?”
“Did you know what would happen?”
“You knew what would happen. Why did you let me open it?”
“I thought it would be different…” she paused and looked down, “for you. The clock stopped for you…or because of you…I thought you might be him.”
“Him? Him who?”
I responded with arched eyebrows and a slight shake of my head.
“The guy from the books,” she shouted, obviously frustrated that I couldn’t put two and two together.
“Oh. I don’t think I…wait…” My brain cut me off with an emerging question. “What do you mean ‘you thought I might be him?’ You’ve met him before. You know what he looks like, don’t you? And, anyway, wouldn’t I know if I were him?” Now, I was confusing myself.
“I don’t remember his face. I know he was attractive. I know he had brown hair. I know he was clean-shaven, but I can’t fill in the details. It’s like those big blurry mosaics they use to hide people’s faces on cop shows. And, you said you couldn’t remember things about yourself either. So, I thought…” she trailed off. “Actually, I don’t know what I thought. I guess it was stupid. I was just hoping.”
“Okay…” I responded in the ascending tone of a question. “Still, I’m assuming that the guy from the books…”
“…that Matthew was around your age. It seems unlikely that you would forget that. I’m at least…15 years your senior.”
“I know it doesn’t make sense, but nothing here really does.”
“Fair enough,” I huffed, giving up and returning to my book browsing. I needed a distraction.
I picked out a thick hardback about abnormal psychology and sat back down in the reading chair. I flipped through the pages idly, skimming some of the more interesting passages. Some of the pages were missing parts of illustrations and some of the text looked like it had faded beyond recognition. They were just as filled with omissions as the books that made up the majority of the library. Were they erased? Forgotten? Something connected the missing parts of the books. Perhaps, it was something that the architect of the library wanted to hide from intruders like us. Intruders? No. We were prisoners. As I was turning the pages, a pencil-written note in the margin caught my eye and I stopped. The handwriting was sloppy, but legible. It read, “if you lead a child by the hand, then they'll never find their own footing.” It was written in the right margin on the first page of a chapter dealing with amnesia. There was a short table on the first page listing the various manifestations of the condition. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of amnesia, all with specific causes and symptoms. I browsed the list of disorders and skimmed through their respective pages:
Post-traumatic Amnesia is most commonly the result of severe head injury. In the majority of cases, the amnesia is transient, often lasting only several hours. However, in some cases, the effects may become permanent in the form of anterograde, retrograde, or a mixed type amnesia. The extent of the condition is directly related to the location and degree of injury sustained. Prognosis is difficult, but with modern brain imaging techniques such as P.E.T. scans and M.R.I. technologies, neurologists are better equipped to determine probable outcomes and a correct course of treatment. In cases of mild trauma, in which the…
Retrograde Amnesia refers to the condition in which the patient is unable to consciously recall pre-existing memories, beyond a normal level of forgetfulness. These effects generally extend only to long-term declarative memory. However, in extreme cases, procedural memory can be affected. In common examples, the patient retains the ability to form and store new memories of events that occur after the onset of amnesia (ie. after a head injury in the case of post-traumatic amnesia, or after a psychological trauma in the case of dissociative amnesia). It should be noted that…
Dissociative Amnesia results from purely psychological causes instead of a physical trauma as in cases of post-traumatic (aka. organic) amnesia. There are several recognized forms of dissociative amnesia. One of the most documented forms is characterized by repressed memories. These are memories connected to traumatic events, such as physical or sexual abuse, that are stored in long-term memory, but cannot be accessed due to a mental block. The mental block is a psychological defense mechanism. Though not nearly as common as in acts of violence, in some cases, a shock or mental paradigm shift can also result in the repression of long-term memories.
Another documented form of dissociative amnesia is Dissociative Fugue, colloquially referred to as Fugue State. This state is also brought on by a psychological trauma and is usually temporary. However, in most cases, the trauma remains unresolved and the patient can suffer from relapse. Formerly called Psychogenic Fugue, dissociative fugue was so renamed because of the condition’s effect on individual identity. Patients suffering from fugue state are unable to recall some or all of their past, resulting in a detachment from the former identity or the formation of a new identity. Despite its popularity as a subject matter in the entertainment industry, dissociative fugue is extremely rare and the majority of documented patients never fully recover.
“Formation of a new identity?”
Transient Global Amnesia is a well-understood clinical…
“Charles,” she called, snapping my attention away from the psychology text. It was strange to hear someone call me by name. Somehow it made the name feel more obscure.
“Or is it Charlie?” she asked, obviously aware of the shock she had caused me.
“I’m not sure. Either is fine, really.”
“Charlie, then,” she confirmed with a bright smile, the second one I had seen her wear. This one was more genuine.
“Right. Charlie, “ I repeated, trying to see if it held the same certainty on my breath as it did on hers, but the result was unclear.
“Look what I found,” she said, shoving a large paperback over my psychology book. “Look familiar?”
Her finger was pressed on the page just above an illustration of a green lotus blossom with 12 petals. It was slightly different in design than the ones I had found in the house, but it was obviously the same kind of symbol. I hadn’t seen this one in the house. She opened my journal and set it next to the book on my lap. I flipped through my sketches, counting the petals and reading the colors I had written next to the flowers. An orange lotus with six petals, a white one with only two petals, and a purple blossom with so many petals that I had simply written a question mark under it. I closed the cover of the book in my lap to look at the title. Chakras: A Guide to Eastern Medicine.
“He was reading this when I ran in to him at the bookstore in Chicago. He told me he was self-diagnosing.” She hesitated for a moment, as if sorting things out, and then continued. “Then, I invited him to come with me to Japan. I’m not sure if those things came from my memory or these books. Do I remember doing them or did I just read about them? Ugh! It makes my head hurt.”
“Well, why don’t you just try to remember something about that experience that isn’t written in the books.”
“Like…how did you feel when you met again at the bookstore?” The question was a familiar recipe, one part concern, one part curiosity, and two parts gauging my chances with her. Genius. I felt like Emril Lagasse. BAM!
“How did I feel?” she repeated the question to herself, looking down. The bridge of her nose wrinkled in a sort of scowl as if trying to access her memories took enormous effort. “Excited…relieved…terrified…” she trailed off, leaving her thoughts unfinished.
“Okay. Start with ‘excited.’”
“Well…I knew that there was something unique about us from our brief encounter at the Museum. I was immediately interested…the way we talked about Nighthawks…the way we moved past convention and spoke honestly, passionately… Not to mention being pretty easy on the eyes.”
“I get the idea.” The cartoon sound of a bomb plummeting to the Earth and exploding echoed in my mind. I tried to remove the disappointment from my voice, “How about ‘relieved?’”
“I was relieved that we ran into each other again at the bookstore. We didn’t exchange information at the museum and I figured that was that. I thought we’d never see each other again. But, I knew I wanted to. The bookstore was a second chance. I wasn’t going to waste it.”
“I think maybe you overcompensated.”
“What do you mean by that?” there was a note of irritation in her question.
“Well, most people don’t extend invitations to travel abroad on a second encounter.”
“Did I do that?” She looked deep in thought for a moment and then giggled, “yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“And last, but certainly not least, ‘terrified.’”
She stifled her giggles and looked up at me, smiling, “I was terrified that we would do something crazy like go to a foreign country together after only our second meeting.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you don’t do crazy things like that,” I said with a smirk.
Her smile faded into a serious expression, “we affected each other that way. When we were together, rationality just flew out the window. That’s part of what made it so easy to see. You know…really see. I looked in and saw that emptiness inside. I saw how much was missing and had to do something.”
This guy was good-looking and he had the whole dark and brooding thing going for him. My jealousy was probably apparent in my voice, “you’re one of those girls that would adopt a three-legged dog aren’t you?”
“What would you do? Shoot it?”
“I would just walk away,” no sooner had the words left my mouth, than I realized just how honest they were. The truth of it became a knife and sank effortlessly into my chest. I clutched at my sternum as the pain swelled up sharply and sat back in the chair.
“Are you okay,” she asked, placing a soft hand on my shoulder.
I pressed my fingertips deep in to my skin as if I could get at the pain. Almost as soon as it came, it was gone again. My fingers eased their grip on my chest and fell to the journal on my lap. I pulled the small photograph from between the pages and held it up in front of my eyes. It was the same as before.
She was standing in the kitchen wearing jean shorts and a white tank top. Her bright blue bra shone through the thin material. The pockets of her jean shorts stuck out under the ragged edges from where she had cut them too short. I loved it when she dressed down. She was fiddling with breakfast and I watched her over the counter. Her hands moved clumsily like her mind was far away. She became still and her shoulders sank. Still looking down, she spoke in a broken voice, “Charlie, will you come in here?”
The fragmented image melted away, just a momentary flash of a memory. I tried to hold on to it, but it slipped away with the rest of my past. The house swallowed memories like a whale swallowing plankton; only the useless bits were filtered out and returned to the ocean. The rest turned to shit. My hand, still holding the ultrasound picture, fell lifelessly on top of the open books on my lap. I looked up at her, hovering over me with a look of concern.
“I’m okay,” I responded unconvincingly.
“What’s wrong? What is that?” she asked looking at the photograph.
“It’s an ultrasound film.”
“There’s nothing on it,” she said, raising an eyebrow and looking up at me. She could read the distress in my face that she had evoked and quickly changed gears, “where did you get it?”
“I don’t know. It was in my pocket.”
“With your name written on the back?”
“No. I did that,” I replied disinterestedly, my thoughts huddled around the dying flames of the memory like hobos around a trashcan fire. It seemed such an unimportant event. There had to be more to it. There was something to do with the photograph. I had to know, “I need to go to the clock room.”
Her mouth look poised to question me, but she hesitated and just said, “okay.”
I stood up, handing her the two books from my lap. I slipped the picture back into my journal and shoved it into my pocket. I patted my pockets to make sure I was still caring the pencil I had taken from the writing desk and said, “do me a favor. Leave the psychology book out with the others.”
“Charlie, what’s wr…”
My hand flew to the space between us and hovered, shaking. She stopped dead in the middle of her words. I anticipated a question, but as my hand trembled violently in the air before her, she closed her mouth. I spoke slowly, as if strained for breath, “please. I have to hold on to this memory until I can reach the clock room…and…I need to go alone…”
She said nothing. She gave me a sullen nod, as if I had rejected her somehow. I replayed the scene over and over in my mind as I made my way to the door. I stepped out into the hallway, taking one last look at my lovely companion. Her face was full of questions, full of uncertainty. I closed the door behind me and hurriedly made my way to the third level.
I pushed open the door to the clock room and, as before, my eyes were forced into a squint by the bright lights and white walls. They adjusted more quickly this time. I took my place in front of the giant clock, still stopped at 7:55, and sat down cross-legged. I took a deep breath and eased it out of my nose slowly. All expendable thoughts were pushed out of my head and I focused all of myself on the seemingly unimportant memory that had revealed itself to me in the library. The clock room had the same effect on me as before. My mind sharpened and obeyed my commands. Images became clearer and my past became more real. I was granted access to myself. No more brain farts. No more fractured thoughts.
I could see the interior of the kitchen vividly. The warm sunlight poured in through the window. It was obviously a late start. There was a fat manuscript on the kitchen table in front of me. It was opened and filled with notes and corrections in red ink. She hated it when I worked in the dining room. Less than half of my mind was focused on my proofreading. The majority of me was distracted by the beautiful woman on the other side of the counter. The white undershirt clung to her slim figure, displaying all the contours of her upper body. The cotton was so thin that I could make out the color of her skin and the dark spot of her belly button. Her bright purple bra was perfectly visible through the shirt. It was purple, not blue. The straps were hanging haphazardly on the cusp of her shoulders. Her ragged homemade jean shorts were dotted with various shades of paint, long dried. She was a painter. She had been quite talented. I loved listening to her talk about paintings, famous pieces and her own work alike. She had a real passion for it and a skill for artistic explanations. I always understood her critiques and interpretations. She never became frustrated when I couldn’t grasp a particular concept. She would quickly find another way to approach the topic that was within the very limited confines of my understanding. What a couple we made, an aspiring painter and a struggling writer. The manuscript on the table was mine. I gave up and became an editor at a publishing company, but I had once been a writer. I was Charlie, the failed writer. It sounded like the kind of opening confession you would hear at an A.A. meeting, or Failed Writers Anonymous. Something told me that most failed writers would probably be members of both groups. Nothing drove a man to drink like giving up on his dreams.
She looked down, focused on her hands, which were hidden by the counter. I could hear the sound of cheap silverware scrapping across slightly burnt toast. Her expression looked distant. Her hands were busy fumbling over breakfast, but her mind was miles away. I watched her awkward movements, overshadowed by the vacant look in her eyes. A sudden loud clanking noise rang out; the knife had obviously fallen from her fingers on to the hard countertop. She didn’t look up. She made a deep sigh, which sounded strained.
“Charlie, will you come in here?” she asked breathily.
I stood up, replacing the yellow sticky note on the open page of the manuscript and carefully stacking the unbound pages under a paperweight. I walked around the counter and into the kitchen area. There was blood on the countertop and the knife and the toast. She had cut herself. She had been using a steak knife to butter the bread.
“Shit! Are you okay?” I asked in a panicked voice.
“It’s not deep,” she answered, completely motionless and unconcerned.
“But, that’s a lot of blood. Wash it out in the sink. I’ll run and get some band-aids.”
“Stop!” she shouted. Her finger was still gushing blood, which dripped steadily on the countertop. Her eyes were still turned downward. She was so still that I wasn’t even sure if she was breathing. “Forget the cut. I have to tell you something.”
I knew those words well. My mind did what it always did. It immediately went to worst-case scenario. She cheated on me. It had to be that gallery owner down in Dogpatch. I had watched their interactions intently while feigning an interest in an exhibition of modern encaustic painters. She would laugh at his jokes with her whole body and that full-throated giggle that she tried to hide from everyone but me. That was my laugh. It was for me only. They spoke in art jargon and, consequently, I was always excluded from the discussions. I couldn’t understand a word of it. They might as well have been speaking in Korean. She connected with him in a way in which she couldn’t connect with me. He had taken a piece of her that was hidden from me and the infatuation had grown into something real. How many times had she gone to him? How long had it been going on?
“I’m pregnant,” she said suddenly, interrupting the stream of paranoia that was flooding my head. She finally looked up at me, waiting for my reaction.
I opened my mouth to speak, but my voice was held captive by shock. I felt weak, like trying to stand after having the wind knocked out of me. She had fashioned her words into a blunt weapon and beaten me repeatedly with it. I couldn’t breath. The paranoia rushed over me again and colored the content of my question, “is it mine?”
Her eyebrows gave me all the answer I needed as they arched in outrage. She followed the expression with, “That’s your response? How can you even ask me that?”
“Sorry. Sorry. I’m just a little shocked here.”
“A lot! I mean…how could you…we always…you know…” my mouth couldn’t keep up with my mind. I tried to filter out a complete thought. “We’re careful.”
“I know, but…”
“Maybe you peed on the stick wrong. Those things are impossible to read anyway. It’s probably just a mistake. You should check it again,” I spoke frantically without pause or intonation.
“Charlie! I went to the doctor,” she shouted over me, sobering my denial. “I’m really pregnant.”
My heart was pounding hard on the inside of my chest. I never wanted to be a father. I never wanted the responsibility. I felt my life slowly slipping away from me. My ambitions, my hobbies, my pleasures, and my freedom had suddenly and irrevocably become the distant memories of a life that could have been, a life that should have been. I was certain that if I looked over at my manuscript on the dining room table, it would spontaneously combust. I didn’t know what to do. Surely, she didn’t want a child either. She was an artist, after all, with her own ambitions. I wasn’t a religious person, but the idea of it still seemed foul to me, abortion.
“What should we do?” I managed to ask in a slightly calmer voice.
“I know that we talked about it and decided that we didn’t want to have kids,” she hesitated and I could feel the “but” coming, “but now that I’m…now that this has happened, I want to have the baby.”
I looked over the counter at the manuscript on the table, a thick grey smoke was already beginning to rise from the blackening pages. “What about my…your paining?”
“You can still write,” she responded, having obviously caught my Freudian slip. “And I can still paint. Our lives will change, but we don’t have to give up who we are.”
I wanted to believe her. I tried to imagine it. I would be writing late at night in the study and…
No, wait. The study would probably become the baby’s room. Great. Not even one complete thought into my vision of a future with children and already I’ve lost something. I would have to write in the bedroom or the living room, just down the hall. She would come in and tell me that she just put the baby down and the typewriter was too loud. I hated writing by hand and the typewriter was too heavy to take to a bar or coffee shop. How much did babies sleep anyway? If you were lucky, they slept through the night. Then, post-feeding naps, morning naps, afternoon naps. I had no idea what I was talking about, but I wrote best at night and I imagined a baby would mean at least two or three years of no writing after eight o’clock. That would set me back. I wouldn’t be able to just pick up after several years of writer’s atrophy. I would likely give up and resign myself to life as a resentful father. Then again, maybe she was right. Maybe we didn’t have to give up on our passions. Maybe we could cover for each other; we could rent a studio to work in so we wouldn’t disturb the baby. If we really made it a priority, we could maintain our artistic ambitions while raising a child. I decided not to question her devotion to me or her devotion to her work any further. If anyone could make it work, we could. After all, I loved her.
“Okay,” I said quietly.
My answer had obviously surprised her. Her mouth hung open slightly as she stared at me intently. Her tongue fumbled the first few syllables, but recovered with, “are you serious?”
“Yeah. If you really think we can do this, then we can do it.”
She leapt on to me with a crushing hug, the blood from her finger smearing on the collar and shoulder of my yellow polo shirt. “I love you! I love you! I love you!”
I hugged her with equal force, allowing myself to believe that things would be okay. “I love you too.”
I closed my eyes as we held each other for what seemed like hours. I could feel her heartbeat against my chest. It was rapid at first, but it steadily slowed until it matched my own. Her breathing was deep and her stomach expanded and contracted against mine. Her breath was hot and moist as it blew over the side of my neck. Again, I imagined our future. This time, it seemed brighter. It was full of hopes and unknown pleasures. We were artists. Creation is what we did. This was no different; except that it was something we created together, which made it all the more significant. I tightened my embrace and spoke softly.
“I love you, Sarah.”
She squeezed me and I could feel the muscles in her face form a smile. I returned the gesture. She couldn’t see it, but I was sure she could feel it. How quickly despair had turned into hope; death had become life. I was happy.
I opened my eyes and looked over her shoulder to the manuscript on the table. The grey smoke was pouring from the middle pages. Then, the entire stack of paper burst into flames, consuming years of my life with it. My smile faded in fear and my arms loosened around her body. I watched the fire burn, the bright orange reflected in my wide eyes. Something was wrong.
I opened my eyes and looked up at the giant Roman numerals protruding from the face of clock. The room was unsettlingly quiet. I hazarded a cough under the guise of clearing my throat. Though, I didn’t know who I was attempting to mislead. I was the only one in the room. Old habits and all that. Sitting cross-legged for such an extended period had caused a dull ache in my hips and knees and I quickly stretched my legs out in front of me. The action was accompanied by the loud cracking of joints.
I took the journal from my pocket and flipped it open to the back page. I read the single word written at the bottom, “Misa.” The whole book had been empty except for that name. At least, I assumed it was a name. It seemed like an attempt to bury someone away in the past; buy a journal, write the name of the person you want to forget at the bottom of the last page, and hide it on a shelf among a thousand other books. Someone was trying to forget this “Misa” and I was trying to remember my Sarah. I don’t know why, but decided to write “Sarah” on the top of the same page. It seemed somehow appropriate to write her name, which I had forgotten, on the same page as one that was intentionally misplaced. Perhaps one act would redeem the other. Or, maybe I just felt guilty about using someone else’s journal for my own purposes.
While my mind was sharp, I turned to the clock room page and wrote, “Sarah was pregnant = ultrasound film.” Underneath, I added, “my name is Charlie.” Those were the two memories I had recovered in the clock room. The journal was filled with random tidbits of information and symbols, but the connection was still unclear. Still, I felt it was important to keep writing things down. Especially since my memory was so weak in the rest of the house. I stood up and started to shove the journal back into my pocket, but stopped and opened it to the kitchen page. I pulled out the photo and examined it. There were more white and grey specks filling in the image, forming curves and shadows on the black film. I strained to make out recognizable shapes, but even the completed ultrasound pictures I had seen in the past had looked like sample cards from a Rorschach test to me. The happy couples always pointed to some random bits and said, “look! You can see the head. And, here’s the penis. It’s a boy! He’s sucking his thumb. Isn’t he beautiful?” I would always smile and respond appropriately, omitting the fact that their “beautiful” son looked like an amoeba. That was twice now that reclaiming a piece of my past had added form to the photograph. The connection was obvious. However, why the two things were connected was another matter.
I walked to the door and reached for the doorknob. Before my hand made contact, the door burst open, stubbing two of my fingers and crashing violently into my forehead.
“Charlie!” she shouted, looking up to the area in front of the clock before realizing that I was lying in a heap on the floor just below her. She looked down at me and made a slight gasp, covering her mouth with an open hand. “Oh my god. Are you okay?”
I answered with a mouth full of vowels, squinting.
She knelt down in front of me and placed a hand over the cracked skin of my forehead, which was already swelling.
“Ow! Fuck What are you doing? Don’t help,” I bellowed, swatting her hand away clumsily.
“Jesus! I’m sorry.”
I sat up on one elbow and dabbed my forehead with my fingers. I blinked erratically, trying to focus on the blood covered hand in front of my face. That’s a lot of blood, I thought in a whisper. For some reason, my thoughts turned to my hat. It seemed inappropriately important. I groped blindly at the floor behind me, looking for it. She looked momentarily confused by my complete lack of priorities, but nevertheless leaned forward and placed the hat in my hand. I pulled it to my side and looked down at it; a stream of blood poured from the bridge of my nose as I dipped my head.
“That’s a lot of blood,” she said, stating the obvious.
“Sarah? I want to…where did…” I spoke in broken sentences that seemed to fly in from all directions. My vision became blurry and narrow like the prelude to a rack-focus in a film. Everything looked far away from me. I looked up and saw the woman I had left behind in San Francisco. I couldn’t make out her face, but I was sure it was her. Why was she so far away? I reached out, desperate to touch her. My hand collided with the soft material of her jacket before my eyes had time to catch up. It was the tactile equivalent of a sonic boom. “Sarah? I think I hit my head.”
I saw her lips move, but all I could hear was my own heavy breathing echoing loudly inside my head. A sudden dizziness struck me and I lost my balance, falling from the support of my elbow. I collapsed onto my shoulder and rolled flat on my back. Facing up, I felt the blood spread out on my face. It was warm and heavy on my skin. All I could see was blinding white. There was no form and no context in my field of vision. The dizziness migrated from my head and sank deep into my stomach making it feel strangely stiff. I held a hand over my face, but the thin silhouette it produced looked like a toothpick held against a spot light. My arm was completely swallowed by the blast of white that filled the room. A bigger silhouette entered my view and blocked the heavy illumination overhead. I felt something warm and alive on my cheek. Her hand cupped my face softly, her fingers extending into my mop of hair. Her figure was slowly engulfed by white and she disappeared, though the touch of her hand remained. Soon, the overwhelming white became a vacant black and even the echo of my breathing faded. Everything was quiet.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish