Sam had a nightmare he was at a bar along the famous Highway 61, searching for Eunice. He imagined her hanging around shady characters, who wanted to possess her. Zombie crack addicts chased him away. In the dream, he discovered that Terrence Battle was the zombie leader and Eunice had already been taken over.
He jerked awake in bed at home in the R.V. He often woke from nightmares, that left him filled with remorse and missing her. Instead of his usual pity party, he’d been using Dr. Lynch’s coping exercises. The wolf photo on his bedside table with a post-it that read, Leave these things to the wolf Sam,helped a little.
Maybe Frank used the dream as an allegory to test him. Sam, you haven’t learned yet. Let’s do another basketball drill. He remembered dribbling practice in coach Stan’s class. Terrence was the ultimate basketball test. If he got another chance and Eunice came back, he promised to listen to the drill.
“Come back and give me another shot Eunice!” Sam said, out loud.
If he passed the test, they would live happily ever after!
So why be afraid of her coming back?
The more confident he felt inside his mind, the more fearful he was it could be undone.
In all Sam’s attempts to fix the relationship and smooth things over he should’ve felt relief she was gone but he wasn’t. He never fathomed the emptiness in his life without her. It was like the cliché if only we had more time. If he had her back today, he wouldn’t be so maniacal about trying to fix the relationship.
You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
At his Dr. Lynch appointment, Sam was discussing the bargaining bubble, from the levels of grief model, “She must have forgotten me altogether,” Sam said.
He relayed the story of how he discovered, on a drive back from Atlanta she vaguely remembered him visiting her at Music Camp. They’d been hungry and decided to stop at Waffle House in LaGrange, on the way to Montgomery. He drove while Eunice lolled sleepy and quiet.
“Wow, I haven’t heard this song in ages,” Sam said. He turned up the volume trying to perk her up before they stopped for dinner, “Eunice do you remember this was our song?” he asked, referring to the first few months they dated.
“Huh, our song? I know this song, is this our song?” she looked at him, as if trying to figure out how, Space Between by Dave Matthews Band was their song. “I think Waffle House is just off the next exit. I don’t remember,” her response was slurred and childlike.
A ways through dinner with some subtle probing conversation, he confirmed she didn’t remember large chunks of their courtship. Intimate moments during the first weeks, where they discovered each other’s histories and bodies. Things he cherished like the first kiss, first intimate sexual activity and the intense philosophical conversations of budding love.
All along Sam had clung to those memories, hoping they would find them again. Many a night on his drives home from that camp, he’d thought their bond was too perfect to be real. Intuition is a powerful thing.
He wasn’t angry. He was baffled.
There’s nothing you can do about amnesia Sam.
He couldn’t decipher between his disappointment and his sadness. He felt like laughing at not knowing anything. How could she have forgotten what they shared?
He suspected Eunice disassociated him out of her life. If it was truly amnesia she couldn’t be blamed. She remembered so many other things in detail. He guessed it was selective.
Seeds of resentment were planted, on that ride from Atlanta. After that he couldn’t help notice every nuance backing up, her lack of interest in him.
“Dr. Lynch, it killed me that I was so used to picking on her, when I witnessed her self-centeredness. It caused us more problems,” Sam said.
Lynch did one of his listening nods, instead of providing answers.
“She banked on my weakness saying, ‘I just want someone who doesn’t have a microscope on me like you do,’” Sam said.
Another thought came to him. Often when they argued she could recite every curse word he had ever uttered but rarely could she remember speaking basely herself. She denied her participation in fights.
Men weren’t supposed to call women names, so Sam was ashamed. Yet she labeled him all kinds of psychological afflictions, Sam you are so insecure, needy, weak, dumb, violent or angry, Dr. Lynch what would you call those words? They hurt me much more than fucking asshole ever could,” Sam said.
Her defense mechanism during scuffles, was to play on his weakest link and bring up a taboo about his family, as if to imply she came from blue blooded lineage.
She might start in on his brother Rory, by asking provocative questions that could only have pitiful answers. “I know Eunice, Rory shouldn’t have swindled the family out of money like that,” he had said, with growing defensiveness.
“Sam don’t be silly, it must be one of your mood swings. I was only judging Rory, from afar. Don’t take it so personally. I guess I’m hungry and bitchy,” she said, proving she could push his buttons, with the wave of her finger.
“Did you ever ask where the defensiveness might have come from?” Lynch asked.
Sam remembered, Eunice told him about being ridiculed, in Mr. Osborne’s class but he hadn’t seen it as traumatic as her description.
“Yes. She told me about an episode in high school. The teacher called her out for being unprepared for the year end oral exam, after she bombed in front of everyone. She’s such a brainiac she was embarrassed. It was a huge source of shame for her,” Sam said.
“I don’t want to pry into her side of things but you could say it is a gift she shared with you right?” Lynch said.
“I felt close to her because she trusted me enough to share. I told her so. I didn’t think she’d resent me, for knowing something embarrassing about her. I got this feeling she regretted telling me. I could see it in her poker face afterward,” Sam said.
He hadn’t yet learned it was foolish to look for reasons behind someone’s sensitivity, even if it was well intentioned. “Can I ask you something personal? This is the part I find leads us into the woods,” he said.
“Us? You mean you!” she snapped back, defensively owning no part of it, instead turning the tables on him. She was crafty in her self-protection.
He never claimed to be innocent. He had slipped up many times, trying to resolve issues but now even his own words sounded like attacks. He failed miserably at letting sleeping dogs lie. Love is blind!
The morning of the school massacre and the last time he saw Eunice, he’d been infuriated by her admission she would rather give up instead of try. He was angry because it was ludicrous and inauthentic for a couple to live in a false state of agreeability. How would he ever know if she was being agreeable or it was a true opinion?
“Listen Sam I’ll agree to disagree to keep the peace,” she said.
He popped an anger vein in his head. God dammit!
“Gotta be honest Sam, my recollection of yesterday is a little different,” Eunice said, “I don’t want to get into the weeds now. I’m going to assume full responsibility for keeping the peace.”
With her newfound agreeability she took everything on as her fault like a martyr. He wondered why she would own something, she didn’t remember?
His mom suggested he needed a date with God, by taking some time to himself, “Let Him whisper the answers. If you keep still you will receive messages in your mind. It might be God speaking. Don’t ignore Him!” Sofia said.
She also advised him to pray for Eunice’s happiness, if not for his own. In her way Sofia was advising him to tell her good riddance. He was crushed thinking of that, Merle Haggard song; I thought I finally won a hand, then everything I planned fell through.
“It’s not like you are married anyway,” Sofia said.
Instead of listening to his mother, he kept to himself and moped. He surrendered to being unhappy ever after, like his father before him, “Shit trickles down hill, Son,” Harpo said.
Sitting all these months later in Lynch’s office, Sam couldn’t think of anything specific he’d done wrong. He hadn’t explained or over explained, or even upset her. His head swirled with bits of recent conversations. There was a big difference between sharing your knowledge and being an arrogant prick.
“Think of a time back at school, when you weren’t motivated to learn. Did you learn anything?” Lynch asked.
“Probably not. At least I don’t know or don’t remember learning anything,” Sam laughed.
“You probably didn’t. We need to be willing to learn, otherwise nothing sticks. When we are hell-bent on teaching our lessons, we aren’t listening to others or any of the signs around us,” Lynch said.
Why had he tried to educate her to the point of harassment and intimidation? Why had he called her a stuck-up white privileged bitch, selfish asshole, ingrate and so many other reviled adjectives? How could Sam, the abuser and victim co-exist?
There was no rest for the wicked. He was ashamed, broken hearted and resentful. She had been here and now she wasn’t. It was as if she had died. There was nothing left to ask or say; just an R.V. of her things and an echo of silence.