All eyes were fixated on me. All. It was intimidating. Not only I had nurses and doctor checking me up from tip to toe, but I also had four pairs of eyes staring at me from the window. It was really intimidating. Especially because I had no idea why did they stare at me like that. “What ... what happened to me?” I asked in a murmur, gaze fixated on them.
“Sit up.” The doctor ordered gruffly instead. The check-up began like, 10 minutes ago, and she’s been nothing but hateful. I wonder what the heck did I do to her to treat me like this. Unless she’s this unfriendly with all her patients.
Either way, confusion doesn’t cover it. For starters, I have no idea why does my brain speak Italian to me, yet every time I try to speak vocally, I hear English. Does that mean I’m bilingual? And why do I know what does bilingual mean yet I don’t know who are those people staring at me from the window? Heck, I couldn’t even tell what did I look like.
The doctor raised my arm roughly, and I sent her a dirty look. Seriously, did I do something to her? She can’t be this awful with all her patients. Heck, even nurses sent her weird glances.
“Do you know where you are?” The doctor asked sternly.
“Uh ... I ... in a ... hospital, I presume.”
She gave me a duh look. “Well, obviously ...” she said condescendingly, “I mean, city, State ... do you know where?”
I blinked my eyes, at this point more baffled as to why did she hold such a grudge against me than the rest. “Um ... I ...” I grimaced, my head starting to ache, “I think it’s ... it’s an English-speaking country.” I answered tentatively, obviously gaining another annoyed look from her.
“Can you tell which one?” A nurse asked gently, offering me a smile I gratefully mimicked. At least someone here knows manners.
“Uh ...” I raked my mind for any memory or knowledge I might have, “I ... if I focus on the accent, I would say United States.”
They all looked at me funny. Except the doctor. She just scowled at me, as if I’d wronged her in such a horrible, awful, unspeakable way I could never make up for. It makes me wonder. Did we ... I mean ... is it possible that she and I ... but I mean, even if we did, she can’t blame me for not remembering her. Heck, she should know better than I how complicated this is.
To be honest, had I been a more sensitive type, I’d have already freaked out. I mean, I woke up in a hospital, surrounded by strangers, some guy I’ve never seen in my entire life nearly squeezed my ribs to death as he hugged me, this other guy stared at me as if I were a ghost that’d just crawled out of her grave to haunt him, and all those other people crying and talking and staring ... was I any less sensible than I am, I would have already lost my marbles.
“So you don’t know you’re in America, you just ... presumed it. Correct?” The kind nurse, whose name, now I could read on the tag, was Jackie, asked, to which I nodded. She pursed her lips, ignoring the doctor’s dirty look. “So you would recognize different accents. Am I right?”
I nodded. “I know that English is spoken worldwide, but there are only three major varieties. I mean, there are many varieties, but the main ones, or rather, the better known ones, are three: United States, United Kingdom, Oceania. Of course, those three split into many different other varieties as well, like ... England’s English is one, Scotland’s English is another, Australia and New Zealand’s English bears differences, not to mention American States and all that. Then each country splits its own variety into other local ones ... it’s long to explain.” I answered surely, perfectly aware of what I was saying, which is a lot more than I can say for everything else that ran through my mind.
“So you know these things. Do you remember ... I don’t know, reading about them? Studying them?” Nurse Jackie asked. She was a nice old lady, probably quite close to retirement. It’s funny how she reminded me of someone else, but I’m not sure of whom. Maybe a grandma?
“Uh ... no, I just ... I know these things.” The question is, how?
“Can you tell me how many languages do you speak?”
“Uh ... English, that is a given.” Cue the doctor’s scoff. “But ... my mind also ... speaks Italian. I mean, my ... inner voice, yeah, my inner voice speaks Italian.”
“Ok ...” Nurse Jackie took notes, something I think the doctor should have done, but she probably has no idea how to do her job. Tsk. “Listen to me, me llamo Jackie, soy una enfermera.” She said. “Did you understand what I just said?”
“I ... think you said your name, and you probably said you’re a nurse.”
“So you know that language and understand it?”
“No ... I simply figured it out. Spanish is close to Italian.”
Nurse Jackie smiled, nodding, and took some other notes, then she turned to the doctor. I don’t know what she said, because she whispered in her ear. The doctor nodded, even if annoyed. It was weird to see that a nurse knew more than the doctor herself, but maybe Mrs. Grumpy Pants here is more skilled in scowling than medicine.
When I chuckled at my inner lame joke, the medical staff turned to look at me, mildly worried, while on the outside people cried happily. I wonder, is that ... I don’t know, my family? Maybe I know Italian because I’m Italian-American. Maybe this is New York and we live in Little Italy. That older couple there, they’re my parents; the blonde girl that was crying nonstop huddled to some other guy might be my sister, and the guy that nearly broke my ribs by hugging me is my brother.
While Nurse Jackie talked hush-hush with the doctor, I focused on the tall, dark-haired guy on the outside. I repeated myself that he could be my older brother, that’s why he was so happy to see me awake, but ... ew, the idea of him being my brother made me want to barf, I don’t know why. Maybe we’re just friends. Or maybe he’s my sister’s boyfriend. That would make him ... my brother-in-law, right? It wouldn’t explain his attachment, though.
Oh. Wait. Is it ...
“Alright, Silvia, we need to get you all checked up.” Nurse Jackie finally said once she was done speaking with the doctor. Definitely she’s been here for long, she carries on this ... authoritative halo, as if the doctor is a newbie while Nurse Jackie is the boss. I don’t even know why do I focus on these details, but I somehow know that I’ve always liked doing it.
“Didn’t you just check me up?” I asked, confused, as another nurse helped me sit up.
“Brain scan and all that.” The doctor answered gruffly, storming out of the room as if only the sight of me bothered her.
“We need to assess the brain damage.” Nurse Jackie kindly informed me as she came over to my left, to help me stand. My legs felt weak, I couldn’t even walk, in fact the other nurse took out a wheelchair I hadn’t even seen, and they sat me on it. “Slow steps, honey, slow steps. You’ve been in here for a long, long time, and even though your bones have healed, your muscles need exercise, so don’t fret. You’ll definitely need some physiotherapy sessions.” She addressed the other nurse. “Remind me to tell Joe about this.”
“Joe?” I asked, confused. Too much information altogether.
“Our physiotherapist. He’s really nice and good at his job.” Nurse Jackie smiled. “And you might get along, he’s Italian like you, well ... Italian-American.”
I frowned, freezing in my spot. “So ... I’m Italian-American?” I wondered. “And why do I know what’s Italy and what’s America, yet I don’t know where I come from?”
“Easy, easy, honey. These things take time.” She rubbed my back as we got out, being welcomed by a crowd of wails and gasps from the people that just wouldn’t quit staring at me. Nurse Jackie turned to them, and smiled. “Please, be patient, we need to conduct some tests first. You can wait here, we’ll be back within the hour.”
They all seemed too touched and ... happy to speak up. Confused, I stared at them as Nurse Jackie wheeled me away. Five people, four of which were overly emotional. Definitely people that are close to me. I mean, it’s how it works, right? One gets worked up about what happens to another human being when it’s someone they care about. I suppose that family does that. So maybe I am Italian-American, and that’s my family.
It doesn’t feel right, though. It just ... doesn’t click in my head. I looked away when a sharp ache erupted through my temples, as if willing to split my head in two, something like a migraine, which enhanced the more I kept my eyes open. Now that I think about it, all the faces and places around me were blurry. How couldn’t I notice that before? “Nurse Jackie, do I ... do I wear glasses?”
“Not that I’m aware of ...”
“She does.” The other nurse answered, her eyes on what I presume was my medical record. “It says here she suffers from myopia, but ...” she scrolled through the file, “oh, there it is. Her glasses weren’t on their place when she got here.”
“So how did they find out?” I asked, craving to know more.
“Oh, probably your parents or someone told the nurse that was on duty when you were brought here.” Nurse Jackie explained with a small smile. “Don’t fret, honey, don’t fret. There’s time to discover everything.”
There’s time. Maybe she’s right, I’ve got time ... but it feels like I’ve lost so much of it already. It feels like I’ve lost so, so much. It ... I feel like ... there’s something missing. Something ... that is essential to me. It’s not even about memories, it’s ... an abstract something. I mean, I ... I feel this ... this chord, tugging under my left rib, I feel it tugging and tugging, and ... it hurts, yet I know full well that’s it’s not possible, not scientifically possible. As far as my biological knowledge goes, there’s no chord beneath our ribs.
When the wheel finally came to a stop, I found myself staring into Nurse Jackie’s pale blue eyes. Stranger and stranger, I feel like I’ve seen those before. I mean, not exactly the very same pair of eyes, but ... something similar. She reminded me of someone, so, so much, but I’m not sure who. “Do you ... do you know me outside of here?” I asked as she and the other nurse helped me stand.
“No, honey. Sadly, I’ve only met you here.”
“How ... how long have I been in this hospital?”
“Silvia ... don’t fret. Take step by step.”
I pressed my lips. So it’s me. All those people earlier kept on calling Silvia, Silvia, Silvia ... it’s me then, I am Silvia. I suppose that confirms I might be Italian-American. But Silvia what? What’s my surname? How old am I? Where do I live? With whom? And why can’t I shake off the feeling that there’s something missing, and this loss makes me only half, and it hurts, like ... physically hurts. What ... what is wrong with me?
“You walked out on her.” She repeated for the ... I don’t know, billionth time?
“Serene ...” Colin called, to make her stop, the same as the other gazillion times, but, same as those, it never works. My sister’s like a fucking parrot.
“No, no Serene ...” She slipped her arm out of his grip, and came to stand beside me, while I stared outside the window, honestly not giving a single shit about what she had to say. “You, you freaking walked out on her!
“Do you know other words, kid? English has a shit ton of words, and you’re like ... 22, you should know more than those six words.” I scoffed, but to what aim? Why do I even bother answering? Hell, why do I even bother breathing, or still being here, for that matter.
“You ... ugh! I’m so disappointed in you, Jakey, so disappointed!” Serene yelled in my ear.
“Well, that’s a lesson learned for you, Pebbles. People disappoint you. You’re 22, you should have figured that shit out long ago.” I scoffed.
“With you as a brother, sure I should have.”
Ouch. That’s rough. I glanced at her for a moment, wondering what could have brought my lovely little sis to talk like that ... oh, wait a minute, she’s right. “Yeah, better now than never.”
“She doesn’t mean that.” Saint Colin came to correct, swift and holy as always. “She’s just upset.”
“Oh, she means that. She meant to say exactly that. Upset is a word shitty people use to justify their outbursts. But you know what, the moment you say it, you own it, because deep down you think it.” I turned to him, and leaned against the window. If the glass broke right now, and I fell through 27 floors, I wouldn’t really care. “See, all the shit I said to you over the years, I thought it. Each and every single line.”
He rolled his eyes, grabbing his girlfriend’s arm to pull her back. “30 years, Jake. 30 fucking years and you still think that mouth of yours is gonna chase me away.”
I shrugged, stuffing my hands in my pockets. “Not my fault if you’re a gutless doormat that likes it when I walk over him with my dirty feet.”
“Yeah, yeah, keep going, whatever you say, man, whatever you say.” Colin pulled Serene back, even though she still had things to spit out, despite the tears. I must have gone dead, because I’ve never felt as flatly indifferent to my sister’s tears as now.
Oh, no, wait, maybe it’s the heart I decided to carve out of my chest, to hide it deep, deep, somewhere in the ocean. I can pick it up only once every 10 years, that way it beats at the rhythm of its own death, slowly, leisurely, buy inevitably. I doubt I’ll even last 10 years in this life. Hell, it’s a miracle I got to turn 30. To be honest, I’d have seen myself in a body bag at least 5 years ago. But it’s alright, we can’t delay forever. Whether Tuesday or Thursday, Death is always there, waiting in Samarra. [a/n: reference to the novel “Appointment in Samarra”]
“I still don’t understand.” Serene restarted. “Why, Jakey, why?!”
“Because this way uncle Keith can finally quit bugging me.” I shrugged. “I’m taking more responsibilities, that means more money for the useless shit I usually buy you. Shouldn’t you be glad?” I turned around, tired of this whole game. “Oh, by the way, the State of Massachusetts forbids me to step one toe out of this fucking city, so ... be happy, I’m stuck in Boston for the next 2 years, you’re finally free of your guard dog, you can whatever you want in New York.”
“That’s enough!” Colin barked, holding Serene close. “Just because you’re bitter and hurt, doesn’t mean you gotta take it out on your sister.”
“Why? Better you?” I scoffed, uncaring. “Why are you still here anyways? Should I call security or are you two gonna walk out on your own legs? Until proven contrary, you’re in my house.”
He gnashed his teeth, but said nothing. Typical of traitors, they’re always such chickens. My sister was too busy crying to say anything more, so she let him drag her to the door. “You’re ruining your lives, Jake, you know that. Both yours, and hers. Maybe someday you’ll realize it. But for the time being, be a man, and don’t throw out of the window all of her efforts. You owe her at least that.”
“Blah, blah, blah ... whatever, bye.”
Idiot. Always thinks he knows best. I took a deep breath, and crawled to the floor when I heard the door being shut. I could get drunk, buy my parole officer is gonna swing by in two hours, and as part of the release I’m supposed to remain sober, get nowhere near a weapon, and of course, my favorite, part, see a shrink. I wonder what is it with the American judicial system and their obsession about shrinks. Oh, wait, no, that’s just a rich people thing. Actual criminals are entirely forgotten until they commit another crime.
Oh, well, que sera sera, right? Let’s imaginary toast to freedom. To amnesia, a sacred gift from some guy up there that finally made one thing right. Who would have thought it would be this easy to go back in time?