Chapter 5

She was not one to ask for a handout. How she knew that about herself was unclear, but it was a feeling, a work-ethic, that she felt deep in her bones. She sensed that she’d always worked hard for life’s necessities and that nothing had come easily or been handed to her on a silver platter. The impression and non-physical proof of menial labor supposed that, while she had not exactly been pauper material, neither did she come from wealth.

The lack of concerned relatives looking for her, or even non-relatives for that matter, reinforced the perception that not one single person was particularly troubled by her unknown whereabouts, or moreover, questioned whether she still persisted on this plane of reality. Whoa! Existential much, she ruminated? Sigmund would have a field day with her jumbled self-contemplation. Ironically, the physical manifestation of this chaos was a mental coupling of thoughts and unanswered questions, superimposed by glaringly nonexistent memories.

Is this what one would call a Freudian slip, she ventured? Maybe she was a Psychologist; Seattle’s very own Sigmund Freud. Analysis required, no gender bias permitted!

On the other hand, maybe she was a Philosopher? This latter argument cemented an extremely valid hypothesis. Who was to say that she wasn’t a modern-day Nietzsche or Kierkegaard, or going back further, a contemporary equivalent Socrates or Plato? Why just yesterday her metro transit yielded a pertinent life lesson, which exhibited as an amalgamation of two Grand Masters, one Philosopher and one elder Graffiti Artist Extraordinaire.

This evolution became her new mantra and read as follows: The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new – Socrates, inked by Zephyr Tease. Wait…how did her psyche blend Meditative Buddhism with Ancient Greek Philosophy? Apparently illicit subway art was its own wisdom and she took to heart another of its astute observations, a three-parter as it were: Don’t allow your past to define your present. Acknowledge your past, don’t be your past. Not that she knew her past. This insight did, nonetheless, render a measure of peace at her forced clean slate.

She wondered how the heck some of the world’s major religions as well as pompous-ass Philosophers drifted as topics through her mind, while prodding recollections of people she might have known and happenings she may have experienced appeared to never reach fruition, but mysteriously teetered on the fringes of her awareness? Aside from being a woman, continuously balancing all aspects of life and leaving very little room for philosophical contemplation, and with tongue firmly in cheek, she surmised that she could pass for a Dalai Lama follower or a Hare Krishna Philosopher. With emphasis on her present circumstances though, just call her Confucius…

Maybe she was a Stand-up Comedian?

In addition to the absence of familiar loved ones in her life, she experienced another shortage. The glaring deficiency of familial remembrances obfuscated what would otherwise have been a clear cut case of the successful reanimation of a missing person. While the nonappearance of kinfolk and memory were bitter pills to swallow, she resolved to not become a martyr to circumstance; she would soldier on. Maybe she was a Combatant in the United States Army?

The fact that she did not have a criminal record was a double-edged sword. Advantageous in that she didn’t have a criminal record, but inopportune information wise. On her mental Pro and Con List however, the conspicuous dearth of self-knowledge weighed heavily against perhaps having run afoul of the Law. In a very maverick-like manner, the absence of a police record actually denoted an argument against enlightenment instead of for it. So, no rap sheet for her.

Was she a goody-two shoes, she wondered? Maybe she was a Law Enforcement Official – Police, PoPo, Fuzz, Pig or Cop in lay-person terminology?

She was not in the system and therefore unidentifiable. Fortunately, whatever burns she’d experienced had not obscured or removed her fingerprints but tragically this made not an iota of difference in detecting her on any government archives. She’d not yet attempted driving a vehicle (I mean get real, who would be allowing her the use of their car and anyway where did she have to drive to?!) but the mechanics were present to her subconscious mind and the workings of a manual transmission to boot. She felt that she could be quite at ease on the throne of a stick-shift Four-Wheel Drive Truck or Monster Tractor.

She knew all about gear levers and their concurrent use with the clutch. Maybe she was a Formula One Racecar Driver? NASCAR Driver? Nah, she answered negatively to the latter. Stock Car Auto Racing looked way too red-neck to be her passion, almost on par with a Donald Trump Rally.

With Donald on the brain, this brought up another interesting supposition. Maybe she was a Hairstylist? All she felt like doing upon seeing that bigoted, racist, sexist, misogynist of a Presidential Candidate on a passing television screen or newspaper was to reach out and yank the screeching toupée off his head! If that was physically possible, of course. Since a Bald Eagle had attempted the same, she considered that perhaps her career was in the Veterinary field, specializing in the training and care of The American Bald Eagle?

Although Trump’s photo op with the National Bird of the US was simply a bullshit PR tactic engineered to curry favor with unthinking, racist, patriotic to white establishment citizens, she considered it kinda apropos that this mascot had ‘Bald’ as a name descriptor. An apt comparison only in that regard. Donald Trump was the antithesis of strength, courage and wisdom. These were qualities that the Eagle represented and any association to the Trumpster would only besmirch the reputation of this proud animal. Fortunately, the eagle itself had lodged its own protest at the attempted appropriation of its reputation and symbolism. Bald Eagle – 1, Bald Trump – 0. Perhaps her lost career was the art of Advertising or Public Relations?

Contemplating the earlier hair-pulling desire she had, maybe she was a Wrestler? A WWE Contender? Maybe even WWE SmackDown?! Replacement Undertaker had a nice ring to it. Maybe she was an Undertaker? Or one of those make-up artists that saw dead people – Morticians Assistant? Realizing that she was drifting into the realm of spoof occult fictional movies with hilarious outcomes, her mind meld continued in the same vein, with similar sarcasm.

Maybe seeing dead people was her profession or Sixth Sense? Or maybe, like Bruce Willis’s character, she was dead and didn’t know it? Either way, what was needed was a Ghost Duster…maybe she was a Ghost Buster?

It was apparent that she’d never obtained a license in this state. If she had, her prints would have flagged her identity, stemming from the DMV and linking to all Government subdirectories, including Homeland and IRS. No driver’s license or state ID card meant that her true age too was a mystery. There was an advantage to not knowing though; she could embody the adage ‘be as young as you feel.’ Was it a disingenuous postulation that at this particular moment in time she felt like an old woman?

While Dr. Gibson may be able to estimate her age or more likely hazard a guess from her physicality, the good doctor’s methods lacked accuracy. Well, she wasn’t a tree that could be cut horizontally, revealing the number of rings indicating its age! That was clearly a super bad unit of age measurement. Firstly, she would be dead and well a second argument after ‘dead’ was not needed. But…she seemed to be very opinionated on every subject, hence additional reasoning was mandatory. So, in furtherance to her point, simple logic (and eyesight!) demonstrated that human physiology differed substantially to plant biology. Hence, an equivalent metric measurement system for humans that didn’t entail them being chopped up, was required.

Maybe she was a Botanist? An Environmentalist? A Magicians Assistant, sawn in half every night for entertainment? But then, where was her Illusionist? Maybe she was the Conjurer? With no memory of herself, she did not anticipate any recollections of parlor tricks, illusions or sleight of hand to make an immediate appearance. Whatever her profession she knew one thing, she was extremely well read regarding non-essential, nonsensical information.

She matched no description of any reported disappearance. Added to that, the uncommon name she currently went by, April, which had triggered a wisp of familiarity in her brain but which she couldn’t confidently claim was her own, wasn’t to be found on any missing person database. Law enforcement was no help whatsoever and neither did they display any interest in assisting her. They were too busy dealing with their own internal prejudices and the resultant revelation of corruption and cover-ups within their ranks. These abuses were clearly highlighted by public perception and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.

The fact that she represented no crime committed by or against her meant that her situation did not merit precedence on their priority list. Neither, it seemed, did its simple presence have enough import to appear on any significant list. Those marginally interested desk-jockey cops were simply amazed that in these times of technological advancements and Big Brother or Uncle Sam constantly watching, that a lone individual could be so off the grid as to be a literal non-entity. Gender bias as well as personal disgust at the racist mentality and concurrent apathy of police notwithstanding, perhaps even the masculine domination of these nouns clearly displayed a watcher versus doer mentality in the male/female dynamic, right?

Somehow, she was the glitch in The Matrix.

Once again she was confounded by the ease and acquaintanceship she possessed regarding varied popular culture references. Maybe she was a Movie Critic? A Social Blogger? An Actor? Something she was sure of; she was a Feminist! Hence, in her thinking too, she refused to genderize (was that even a word?!) professions. She was a social being though. At no point since she’d regained consciousness, her mental rebirth as it were, did she “vant to be alone.” No Greta Garbo here, thank you very much!

Being a smallish built female would not have restricted her from attempting anything she set her mind to. So here was something new she learnt about herself; she possessed a “Never Say Die” mentality, an iron will paired with a physical well of strength. An April thunderstorm maybe, but definitely not a May flower. She was no shrinking violet!

From her varied injuries, her expectant condition and the contention of Dr. G, who surmised that she’d been either a victim of crime or poor lifestyle choices, April was pleasantly surprised at the willingness to render assistance that she encountered, particularly amongst the disenfranchised. These were people rich in everything but money. Discounting these helpful strangers was one she couldn’t pigeonhole; she was on the fence about Dr. Gibson herself. While the doctor had been there, of course, her assistance had accompanied a supersized ego and major condescending manner. It was passive aggressiveness with an underlying judgmental attitude.

Despite what Dr. G initially claimed, that possibly her occupation was ‘The Oldest Profession’ or a sister branch of the sex industry, like stripping or erotic pole dancing, she felt that the behavior inherent in these trades was not part of her makeup. She couldn’t conceive of the idea of removing her clothing, with a view to titillation, in private, let alone public, or of having random hookups with strangers. Not to mention bedazzling her vajayjay! Now why did her brain insist on these absurdities? She had no difficulty in the clinical terminology or even saying it out loud. Vagina. Penis. No problemo. She also wondered now if Prostitutes adorned their vaginas? Perhaps with a Brazilian? The depilatory, not the person! Despite the knowledge of the lingo, she was mostly sure that she was not an Aesthetician or Beautician. Nonetheless, the validity of either presumption, hypercriticism or detached theory, here she was, pregnant and alone. Absent baby daddy, aloneness.

Moral ambiguity aside she discovered that what fashion sense she possessed ran more to the conservative. Luckily, window shopping didn’t require Tubmans (the, to be, new issue twenty-dollar bill replacing the old, defunct Jacksons) or even Franklins. Any value currency really. She could, however, cross-off Clothing or Fashion Designer from her mental career repertoire. The interest just didn’t exist. Ruminating on the possibilities she felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. This was obviously not her niche.

While lifting herself by her bootstraps with hard work and no handouts, she did Blance Du Bois it when and where absolutely necessary, by relying on the kindness of strangers. She was obviously a connoisseur of old-time classic movies. How else would her thoughts emulate that of character dialogue from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ right? Unlike the analogy of the purely decorative Southern Belle though, the support she required was minimal and only towards the furtherance of her own livelihood. After all she was all about an honest living, ’bout that living, no trouble. Perhaps she was a Singer? Substitute bass and treble and Lip Sync Battle was a go!

Standing on the precipice, metaphorically staring into the abyss of nothingness that was her memory, meant that the knowledge of her Social Security Number had also disappeared into this living black void of no recollection. Now while the SSN was not a de facto identification tool, as the social security card contains no biometric identifiers or primary identification norms like photograph, physical description or birth date, it had become an identity requirement and treated as an authenticator for legitimate financial activities. Which meant that for her to find a job, this was a necessity.

She wanted to be legally compliant without having to go into detail about her present circumstances. Many prospective employers would regard the short story of her life as suspicious and who could blame them really? Her actuality actually felt like a never-ending loop in a daytime television drama. Essentially, the entire plot of a soap opera.

So it came to pass that Max, of the mononymously named, entertainment-industry baptized variety, kinda like Cher or Madonna, became the stranger whose kindness she depended on. He ran Max’s Diner (hence the default to this name reversion and association) and offered her a waitressing gig, payment under the table. She was perhaps an anal compulsive, law-abiding citizen for she abhorred these circumstances of having to earn a living without being compliant with the laws of her country. And yet, what alternative did she have? To transact financially the requirement was a SSN and to apply for a SSN required time which equaled finances lost. The bureaucratic red tape that she would need to rip off regarding her unknown identity alone would require copious amounts of hours. She needed the very thing she did not have to acquire the very thing she needed. A catch-22. Nevertheless, she promised herself that as soon as circumstances and finances allowed, the situation would be rectified.

Max’s Diner was conveniently located, allowed her to earn an honest living and was in close proximity to Dr. G and the OBC Clinic. The propinquity to the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic was not for herself but for her ‘adopted’ son, Andre, or Dre as the angelic faced, previously named Anton preferred to be called. Who adopted whom? She was not sure. And the name change? Well, the explanations for that were better left for later, when she got into it with the doctors that were going to repair his cleft palette and lip. Hopefully, the fact that she seized custodianship as his guardian (in everyday life and name, but unfortunately not yet from a social and legal, child protective standpoint) would not cause his eligibility for pro-bono surgery to be rescinded.

She was stepping up for him and he’d become her protector. Being two lone wolves with no-one to call their own, they’d clung to each other. He’d become her life line and she the maternal bosom that he’d never had. Also, he’d captured her heart. She was his mother in every way…well except for her body not having borne him and oh yeah, the legal aspect. She’d come to love him as if he were her own and she vowed to nurture and protect him till her dying breath. A pledge that she undertook to fulfill with no obfuscation. So, returning memory, or not.

“Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings,” he lectured. “Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should,” Max continued, impressing her with his wisdom. Astounded by the verbosity from someone who embodied the opposite of gregariousness, both in speech and stature (but not girth! – to be fair, before today he’d reminded her of a quiet Santa Claus), the eloquence and perception he exhibited in this moment made him seem both. He was a reverse Mad Max, in that he never got angry. The moniker, however, became his. Kinda like a big dude was ‘Tiny’, so extremely chill Max was ‘Mad Max’ or double M ‘MM’ and sometimes even ‘MMx’.

This closed door meeting was actually a request by him for her to take over, temporarily, as the cook. The diner’s regular chef had succumbed to an unfortunate gastronomic mishap. What that meant in lay-person terminology, she did not have the faintest clue and before she could ask, M2 (sounded good, she would have to pass this one by the board for approval!) segued into his motivating speech. She’d discovered that she possessed some culinary knowledge, but not of the MasterChef variety. So the motivation was welcome.

She agreed to the opportunity because of its temporary nature. Besides, she owed Max and she’d clarified with him the necessity for a once-off secondary temporary replacement for her after the morning shift today. She needed to be at the clinic with Dre when the Plastic Surgeon arrived for his re-scheduled consult with Dr. G. She just knew this day was going to be life altering.

Having reached consensus on all points, including a welcome bump in salary, she stood up from the visitor’s chair in front of the desk Max was seated behind intending to take her leave of him, when a picture frame close to the door caught her eye. No picture, yet familiar somehow. Words leapt out at her. Not literally of course, as her life was not an animated cartoon. Nevertheless, it did cause her to stop and take a moment to read the artfully printed scroll in its entirety. Despite the seriousness and thought-provoking life lessons it encompassed, she had to laugh. It was a poem; Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Recognized, because a few verses therefrom were just moments before quoted to her…by another Max.

She glanced back at him over her shoulder, with some serious side eye action, only to convulse with amusement once more at his response. His gleeful smile accompanied by a wink and shoulder shrug showed her yet another side to him. He’d morphed into this jovial and playful grandfatherly figure with a twinkle in his eye and jolly laughter that emanated from his belly. If she didn’t know better she would think she was in the presence of her mischievous Fairy Godmother! She was an equal opportunity believer, pleased that the combined Pixar-Disney merger were doing away with gender stereotypes. Since Mickey Mouse and Nemo were now corporate cousins, she did not believe that other taboos couldn’t be broken and so gender neutrality was not outside of the purview of fairy godparenting.

Maybe she was an Animator or Cartoonist? The eye-rolling this time was for herself. The best that she could come up with were anemic stick figure drawings. Maybe she was a Writer? If that was the case, then her memoirs would make for a very short read.

Stepping out of the Interceptor, aka MMx’s office, she still sported a grin at his delightful antics. The guy truly had hidden depths. Who knew that beneath that quiet exterior lurked such understated humor? He seemed to be one of those types who only let his true nature out once he’d had time to assess the genuineness of a person and so obtaining a comfort zone which allowed the reveal of his own realness.

What amazed her about MM was that he never deferred kindness and helpfulness. He considered all destitute folk, including those whose pride would not allow them to ask, as being worthy of whatever assistance he could provide. Not a hand out mind you, but aid where required. He hoped to inculcate a ‘Pay it Forward’ culture. And people were catching on. This was evidenced by the never empty ‘Reserved Wall’ the diner sported – the catchphrase or buzzword for it being ‘Suspended Coffee’. What it entailed: patrons paying for an additional (or more) coffee, soup or even meal. How the system worked at Max’s was that tickets representing these paid for meals or warm beverages were placed on the reserved wall and any homeless or needy individual could simply redeem the receipt from off the wall. If ever a situation arose of no available tickets, humble Mad Max replenished the wall immediately, and at his own cost.

Considering people of character like Max and the Plastic Surgeon she had yet to meet, as opposed to the Trumps and Clintons of the world, gave her a measure of hope. About herself, her tiny but growing family and also her country as a whole. That is if its citizens woke enough to #FeeltheBern instead of supporting hateful racism or rich white elitism.

En route to the kitchen, just as she passed the diner entrance the door opened to admit some customers. She automatically glanced up, spying an adorable father/son duo obviously there for breakfast. She smiled at the young boy while wondering at the reason behind his stupefied expression. He had actually stopped dead in his tracks and stood there with mouth agape. If this was Hogwarts she would guess that he’d been petrified.

A quick glance at the dad didn’t reveal much as he had turned to shut the door, so he was facing away from her while also speaking on his phone. His side profile was arresting and the quick glimpse she got was of tallness and authority. With clinical detachment, she noted, that his ass was fine. Being that she was on a tight schedule, she had no time to dismantle the little guy’s shocked look or to wait and see if fine-ass dad looked as good from the front. Time was of the essence and she needed to complete this quick breakfast shift in the kitchen before hot footing it to the Clinic.

She had no idea that playing in the big leagues could be so enjoyable. Heavy duty kitchen equipment and Chef’s knives were a breeze for her. To the extent that she sliced and diced like a pro. Maybe she was a Chef? Like the Amnesiac Chef the Geena Davis character thought she was in ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’? She had the speed and dexterity down and she knew exactly where the pointy end went! Maybe she was an Assassin…like the Geena Davis character actually was, in the same movie?

“Excuse me sir, you can’t be back here! Is there anything I can help you with?” she asked the diner patron who had pushed his way through the kitchen’s swing saloon doors.

“Oh, I’m sorry…I thought, that is my son was sure you were…never mind,” she heard, in an utterly dejected tone of voice. The retreating footsteps stopped and another question was posed. “Is there anyone else in here?”

How did mistaken identity and an innocent enquiry develop into this flirting session she was privy to from behind the pantry door? Because it was Krystal with a K. The Kween of ONSs and a drawcard to any grown-ass Penis she came across. Although she didn’t seem to be having much luck with engaging this one. Returning from the pantry with the items she’d sought she gaped at the newly refurbished Krystal standing there buffing her nails. Diner guy had obviously had a legitimate query and hadn’t deliberately sought out the previously blonde, newly red-headed waitress. Shaking her head at Krystal she appropriated her nail buffer and sent her on her way with a complete order.

“So, hot dad and kid both want waffles,” Krystal announced as she re-entered the kitchen with another order.

April efficiently multitasked. She listened with one ear to the Chatty Cathy for she had to admit the waffle-hungry pair had captured her attention and interest too, while simultaneously she worked up their order.

“You should see this dad, April, his eyes…” Krystal continued while she shimmied and feigned a shiver, for theatrical effect.

April didn’t doubt that Krystal was smitten but she didn’t believe for a second that his eyes were all that. Not that she doubted Krystal’s veracity, but well, she was known to overdramatize and she fell into lust multiple times a day.

“Funny though, he’s black or light-skinned black and the kid looks just like him! If the dad had to grow his hair out it would look exactly like his son's. But here’s the kicker, the guy’s accent is total American but the little boy sounds Middle Eastern. Weird huh? I wonder where’s the mother? You should have seen him when I approached the table to take their order, the little kid I mean. I don’t think he likes my hair. He looked so disappointed. You think I should go back to blonde, huh April?”

While her mouth tendered to run on, at times outdistancing her brain, and while her lifestyle was that of a 70’s era love child, Krystal was not mean-spirited at all. She was simply a Kurious Krystal and a smidge self-involved. With a non-committal hum in response to the hair equation, April handed the waffles over for delivery and hurried to finish her other orders before she left. Dre was already at the clinic, waiting.

She rushed to complete the breakfast shift before handing over to the temporary Sous Chef for the early lunch crowd. On the brink of leaving, in walked Krystal once more with yet more commentary on her newest crush.

“The kid loved what you did with his waffle, April. The pieces of fruit in the shape of a happy face and looks like hot dad was glad you made it a healthy substitute. The dad didn’t look too pleased with his own waffle, though. He barely touched it.”

“He didn’t like it?” April replied, questioningly. Although the cook position was temporary and late as she already was for the doctor, she still felt somewhat responsible for the unsatisfactory dining experience the father had endured. A part of her felt unappreciated and a little hurt, she had put a lot into the waffles, and the other part needed to make restitution. “Let me make it up to him. I’ll whip up a quick omelette, with the works,” she decided. This was do-able.

“No need, they’ve left. Guy left a substantial tip and he replenished the wall. Maybe he just wasn’t hungry. Probably missing the wife,” Krystal concluded, justifying to herself the blatant disregard of her attractiveness to him.

With nothing else holding her back April left for Dre’s consult at the OBC Clinic, within walking distance of the diner, thank God. Wait…was she a believer? Based on that automatic response she assumed so but this loaded question required way more introspection and time. So she shelved it for the moment. Intent on her own path, physical and mental, she was surprised to come upon Dre. He was walking towards her and away from where he needed to be…the clinic!

“What’s happening? Why aren’t you with the doctors? Did you leave because I wasn’t there? See, I’m here. Let’s go!” April questioned and instructed in one long exhale.

“He didn’t show up,” Dre succinctly replied.

She started fuming at that statement, but held it all internally. Dre needed to see her calm, cool and collected. But Dr. G would be the recipient of her rage.

“Why didn’t he show up Dr. Gibson? Was it an emergency? Do Plastic Surgeons have those? Why didn’t he keep his word? Is Dre not a viable candidate? Does he want payment? I’ll make a plan for that, all you have to do is tell me!” Running out of steam, this gave the good doctor time to answer her.

“Calm down, April! Getting worked up is not good for the baby, right?” Dr. G soothed. “This turned out to be quite a roller-coaster day for our Plastic Surgeon. Dr. Avery’s personal business at the King County Courthouse had him running late. He called to say he would be by and then about an hour later he called back to cancel. I told Anton…”

“Andre…or Dre,” April interrupted the doctor, fascinated at the height Dr. Gibson’s eyebrows were able to lift to, almost disappearing into her hairline.

“Yes, well Ant…Andre just left and who shows up but Dr. Avery. They probably passed each other in the hall. Dr. Avery was nearby and he dropped in to personally apologize. He took Anton’s…sorry Andre’s scans and he promised to reschedule. He had his little boy with him, so while he didn’t mention it, I think his personal business was his son. We can cut him some slack, right April? In fact, I think you just missed him too. You stepped in just after he left,” Daniela Gibson concluded.

Realizing that she’d misdiagnosed the situation, read too much into what she considered was the Plastic Surgeon’s non-appearance, caused an immediate calmness to come upon her. She had overreacted and yes, perhaps she had been overly sensitive. But Anton…damn, she meant Andre (Dr. G’s supercilious attitude certainly was catching!) was her child too and she would flat out kick the ass of anyone that messed with her babies.

Due to proximity and how they’d just missed crossing paths with each other, she’d figured out that Dr. Avery was the customer from the diner. It seemed that the sliding doors analogy (similar to the movie of the same name) was their experience today, one on either side of the glass doors, missing each other. She was, however, resolute that a physical meeting would happen and a melding of thought and action regarding her Dre. Soon.

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