Calling Me To Stay
"They call it some kind of partial amnesia caused by a shock. They have no clue why it happened like that," Carmen said. Leo was standing in the long hallway, leaning against the wall. His body felt so terribly heavy. He had to go outside, just to get the impression of what it was like to breathe again.
"Does he remember anything?" Roger asked, not taking his eyes away from Leo.
Carmen shook his head. "They don't know for sure what exactly got deleted in his memory... Fact is, he doesn't recognize any of us. They're not sure either,how long it will take to regain his memory completely... It could take a day, a week...even years.."
Roger looked at him in concern. "...Or never?"...
Carmen nodded once. "Or never," he added.
Leo turned his gaze down again and folded his arms. He still felt cold. His thoughts were fighting each other. His mind was struggling with everything his inner logic was telling him. His head hurt. He felt like having been wounded in a fight and trying to move on without really knowing where to go. He hadn't been able to say anything back with Max. Still, he felt shocked. Carmen and Roger urged him to leave the room as soon as they noticed what had happened. Carmen had been talking to the doctor while Roger had spent his time comforting Leo, whom he feared would have collapsed any moment. He'd been looking pale; a state that hadn't changed much until now. He hadn't been able to speak until they had him leaned against that wall and made him breathe slowly.
"Leo?" Roger spoke in a soft voice and very quietly, while putting one arm around his back. Leo turned his head only to look at him with red swollen eyes.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Leo felt his eyes filling with tears again. And he knew both of them were staring at him; worrying about him, although he could see them only blurred. "Although," he thought. "...There's so much more important than me right now..."
"How can he forget everything just like that?" he asked.
"Leo,come on," Carmen was talking to a closed door. "You can't stay inside there forever!"
With his ear pressed against the door he waited. Any sign of reaction would be nice. Who was this kid trying to fool? He was in there and everyone knew it.
"Oh, don't act silly...You knew this day would come," Carmen said and pouted his mouth. He waited a few more seconds and then decided this had to be the end of his patience.
"I'm coming in now," he said. He took the doorknob and opened the gate into Leo's hideaway. He stepped inside, carefully closing it behind him again to find Leo basing himself on the bed with his arms. A little bewildered Carmen stepped closer. Leo didn't look up.
"Is..is everything alright?" Carmen asked a little surprised. "Honey, why didn't you open?"
Leo gave neither an answer nor did he really move from his position. He stood there petrified.
Carmen really began to worry about him. "I thought he had recovered the first shock," he thought.
Their living together for the past month had worked out better than he had expected. Sure, Leo was quieter than usual, but he began to talk again. He joined the crowd in this house and now and then he even dared to laugh about funny situations. The impression was given, he did win over the demons in his head and began to accept the situation. At some point Carmen even thought he picked up on his old life; pretending there never happened any change. But now...
"I can't...," he heard a whisper from next to him. Carmen looked at him in astonishment.
"You can't...what?" he said, though he could fore-feel the answer.
Leo turned away from him, not letting him see his face. His voice sounded shaky and ...Carmen would have to call it weak to a certain point.
"I can't go there," Leo said.
He'd expected it. He got cold feet at the last moment. But actually, he couldn't be blamed for it. Leo was facing a long time with someone he knew once, but who was pretty much a stranger to him now. He had been agreeing on living in the office again, just so someone would be there to watch over Max. The doctor had suggested him, because he was the closest to a family there was. And Roger's suggestion of letting both of them stay in their house was rejected. Too many people might cause more trouble than they did any good.
"Listen," Carmen said, patting Leo's back. "I know it's hard for you. But it's for the best for both of you, actually."
He could tell Leo was shaking his head slightly. "I can't endure to see him like this..."
He was merely whispering. Carmen grabbed his shoulders and softly made him turn around. He looked at him compassionately. Leo didn't open his eyes.
"Yes, you can. Just take a look on the sunny side. He's alive. And he'll be back for good. And you can help him remember," he said softly.
He thought Leo did take this in a good way, for he opened his eyes for a second and his body seemed to relax in Carmen's grip, when all of a sudden he pushed away his arms. Leo took two steps away and sank to his knees, leaving a startled Carmen in the middle of what now seemed like a huge room.
He stared at the picture of misery in front of him. Was that sobbing?
"I CANNOT DO THIS," Leo screamed desperately. "How on earth am I supposed to see him again after this? It's my fault it happened... I..I cannot make it up to him just like that... And he doesn't remember me... " Tears were dripping on the wooden floor. Then, Leo lifted his head, looking at Carmen as if through other eyes.
"You cannot expect this from me...," Leo cried. Never did Carmen think someone could look both desperately down and angry at the same time. But Leo did.
Carmen bit his lips. It would be highly unfair of him to scream back now. Instead, he knelt down as well, taking Leo's head in both of his hands and looking straight into his eyes.
He spoke in a quiet voice: "I am not expecting anything. All I want is the both of you to be okay with a situation no one can be blamed for. You don't have to make it up to him..or to us..or to yourself, for it's not your responsibility. The only thing you have to do is to be there for a friend when he needs you.."
"How can I look him into the eyes again? He doesn't remember a bit. It's not Max... It's someone else. I..." Leo started to cry again. "..I... don't even know what I should say to him... It's not him...IT'S NOT HIM..."
Thus Carmen did something he'd never expected to do. He grabbed Leo abruptly and pulled him close to his chest in a bear hug. He could feel Leo stiffing at the sudden movement and he could hear his sobbing. "I want him back...," Leo said muffled.
Carmen simply sat there, stroking his back. Although he was well aware of Leo's doubts and the emotional pain he was going through right now, he couldn't help but grin slightly. Unless he was very much mistaken, Leo cared a lot more for his friend than he realized now. Or maybe it was the shock still speaking out of him. He couldn't tell, but he could sense it helped him right now. None of them said a word.
"I'm being selfish," Leo thought leaning on the shoulder of a man he would never have described as very compassionate. "Or am I really?" His head was fighting his heart right now. He didn't know what to do. He was scared. How should he handle a stranger who looked like someone he worshiped once? Worshiped? Yes, the longer he thought about this he was sure he could call it that. He had always admired Max for being who he was. For knowing what to do in every life situation. For speaking up for what he wanted. Always. Even though he was uncomfortable to many people and had his flaws as everyone had them. Leo remembered a time, when he was much younger. He had always dreamed of being like him. When he got to know him personally, he couldn't believe, he was standing there. In front of him. And he had always been proud somehow to call him his friend and business-partner. Was it really such a bad thing to be scared of him now? But he changed. Even though he didn't want to. Maybe he wasn't like the Max he knew anymore. Leo had managed to stay away from him for a month now and he'd been thinking a lot about that. After all, chances were given his memory returned to him. Maybe even quickly. So, what was the big deal?
Leo knew, just for once he had to be strong. He'd always been cowardly, weak even. He'd let himself carry through life by others. Just this once, he knew he had to be someone else, instead of 'leo-ing' around, as Max had put it once. No, he knew this was sort of switching roles now. He wasn't sure, if he could do it. All he knew was, he simply had to give it a try. Even if only for Max.
He slowly moved away from Carmen, who was looking at him with big eyes; nigh expecting. Leo wiped away his tears with his hand and nodded. "Okay," he said. "I will try."
The cold air made the white city seem even more icy. Leo sat on the backseat of the cab that carried him, Roger and Carmen back to the place he had been avoiding. As it turned the corner to the entrance of the hospital, it whirled up the snow that had been swept up to make the streets passable again. Like a waterfall of icy satin the snow splashed on the windows. Leo liked it somehow. It blocked out the outer world with its gray skies, which foreshadowed the inconvenient duty he was heading to on this gloomy day.
Leo felt safe somehow, being shut out. Just sitting inside the cab not able to see the ugly grimace of the world at least for another five minutes.
"We're there," he heard Roger's voice from before him. He didn't look at him, nor did he say a a word. An icy chill ran through his body when he opened the door and got out. Whether it was because of the snow or the situation he couldn't tell.
He followed Carmen and Roger into the hospital again...
There he was. Leo stood behind the stained window that parted patients from visitors, just starring.
Carmen and Roger were inside with him, getting last advices from the doctor. Leo didn't dare to go inside. He didn't know what he felt exactly. He had signed some papers and now he was more or less useless. All he did was staring at his friend, who looked as always. Just his usual self. Leo tried to tell himself he was just the way he had memorized him. But every time, reason told him he was wrong.
"Be strong," he heard a voice inside of his head.
Roger shook hands with that devil in white. Leo saw it clearly. How he loathed those doctors for not being able to help. He hated them just as much as he still hated himself. He was so pointless, so not helpful. He couldn't stand the pure thought of it. He saw Carmen and Roger turning towards the door. Which meant, they were coming. He took a deep breath, steadying himself. Then Carmen appeared in front of him. He only looked at Leo once, whispering: "Stay calm." Roger followed with Max beside him.
"Mr. Bloom," Roger said like introducing two strangers, pointing his hand at him. Leo felt more than uncomfortable. It was just like his heartbeat stopped for a moment and he felt his hands getting sweaty.
"Leo, please," he added hastily. His gaze wandered from Roger to Max and back. Gosh, he sure was nervous. He felt the sudden urge to feel his blanket in his hands. Just for a second.
"Haven't you been here before?" Max asked. Leo looked at him again. He still looked pale and rather damaged, his arm bandaged in plaster and the cuts in his face could still be seen. Leo held his breath and as in a trance he pulled out his blanket from his pocket and let it slip through his fingers several times. He must look pretty weird, for he earned puzzled looks from Max and Roger, while Carmen giggled silently.
Max gently leaned over to Roger without letting Leo out of his sight.
"He's a bit crazy, isn't he?!" he asked, even though this should sound more like a statement.
Roger laughed out loud and patted Max lightly on the shoulder with one hand.
"Oh, you bet," he said. "You're going to get used to this, believe me... He's your partner in business."
Max looked at him as if not believing. "Business-partner? Him?" he asked.
"You'll see." Roger nodded. He held out his arm in exit's direction, finally leading the way out.
"Great," Leo thought. "That went more than wrong." He let his shoulders sink and followed them outside.
They didn't talk much on the way back. Once or twice Carmen or Roger would ask something, but Leo remained silent on the backseat, next to Max. He didn't dare to look at him, so he just stared straight ahead.
Max didn't seem to be interested in talking much either. He simply sat there, staring at the wintery city.
His thoughts drifted away. This huge city. So many people; so many buildings. He couldn't recall one place at all. They had told him what had happened, of course. He just couldn't remember anything about it. Nor did he remember anything before it happened. It was like awaking from a long sleep, not knowing in where you had been or where you were now. Everything seemed strange. He didn't know what to think. Those three who picked him up were somehow connected to him. At least that's what people had been telling him. But he found them more strange than anything else. A gay couple, obviously... He tried to figure out why on earth he would have any connections to people like that... He couldn't imagine... It simply drove him nuts. There was a black carpet which lay over his memory and as hard as he tried he just felt like a stranger among people he'd never seen before. The weirdest one was this Mr. Bloom, for sure. Gee, what kind of issues did he have? Max didn't know why he would do business of any kind with someone like that. He didn't even know what he was doing exactly. And as for this Mr. Bloom... He seemed way too cowardly; too mousy and too... strange to Max to have something to do with. Yet,he was sure he'd seen him before in that hospital. Had he been sitting there by his side, crying? He wasn't sure. And this whole city didn't look familiar in any ways. He felt lost somehow. If only he could remember one single detail. But nothing.
He watched the crowds of people pushing themselves through the snow; across the streets and inside these unfamiliar buildings. And all of a sudden he felt a wave of sadness coming over him. If they all had a plan in life, a way to go or a destination in front of them... they all must know what they wanted to change. Whatever went wrong in their pasts, they knew their ways.
He didn't even know his past. He could recall the last four weeks, being inside this damn clinic. But nothing else. They even had to tell him his own name...
"What the hell am I doing here," he caught himself thinking. "...with these strange people... Who am I to be in such company?" He sighed deeply... "Who am I?"
~to be continued~