Carefully he steps backwards, off the ledge and towards the roof-top door. Still confused and weary, he proceeds down the hall and calls the elevator. Once at the bottom, he exits the building, rounds the corner, and walks up Sixth Street. “Oh, thank God.” he hears a voice say from behind him. “I really thought you were going to do it this time.”
“Excuse me?” he says, spinning around to meet the gaze of the woman, now, in front of him. The features of her face were familiar; the way her brow lowered in concentration, the way her lips pressed tightly together, even, the way her hair blew in the wind. She had pale skin, short black hair, a thin figure. She was beautiful.
“Evan,” she says.
“Evan?” He repeated, a look of puzzlement crosses his face.
“That’s your name,” she says. She was looking at the ground, her mouth, slightly turned downward. It starts to rain. They step over to stand under the construction sidewalk cover. Evan never thought about it, but he does not recall what his name is. In fact, he does not recall much at all. Just that he is a gambler who owes a dangerous group of people a rather large amount of debt, that may or may not already be settled. The woman across from him runs her hands through her hair. ‘Is she nervous?’ he thinks to himself. A smile plays across her thin lips. “I was hoping you remembered me this time,” she said. Her eyes meet his, but she quickly averts them and stares, blankly in the distance. Confused, he struggles to find what to say next, he says nothing.
“Denna,” she says quickly continuing to avoid eye contact.
“I’m sorry,” he begins. “I don’t remember.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t expect you would.”
For what seemed an eternity, the only sound came from honks, sirens, and the multitude of unintelligible conversations around them.
“The debt is paid?” Evan asks, breaking the awkward silence between them. “I don’t understand.”
“The debt has been paid for a long time,” Denna says.
“But…,” he starts, but could not think of anything to say.
“Five years ago, you were in an accident,” she said. “This is the third time you have woken up and still believed you still owed the debt.”
“This is…,” he begins.
“Strange,” she finishes. “I know. The last two times I caught you right before you got to the top of the building.”
By this time, the rain had stopped, and the sun shone through a hole in the clouds, casting a beam on the street, beside them.
“Most days,” Denna says. “You wake up fine and remember almost everything. After one of these episodes, your memory slowly starts to come back.”
“What about help?” Asks Evan. “Psychologically, I mean.”
“We can talk more on the road,” she says, seemingly avoiding the question.
“On the road?” he asks.
“Yes. You no longer live in the city,” says Denna. “We thought getting you out would do you some good.”
He doesn’t know why he trusts her, but he does. Something about her exhales comfort, forcing him to inhale it in return.
According to the GPS, mounted to the dash, they are leaving for a town called Adderville in Ohio. ‘Adderville,’ he thinks. It sounds like home. Denna sits in the driver seat, beside Evan. A small hum emits from the speakers, but no song or voice comes through. The sun starts to disappear as dusk settles in, the sky ahead of them highlighted in pinks, oranges and reds mixed with dull grays and blues. The first few hours of riding were spent in a resting silence, almost soothing.
“I didn’t want to lose you,” Denna says, breaking the silence.
“We talked about trying to find you help,” Denna said, eyes toward the road. “They would have taken you away.”
On Denna’s left hand, a wedding band sat atop the knuckle of her ring finger, with a sliver diamond engagement ring on top of that. He hasn’t thought about it, but he looks down at his own finger, where a silver band sat, catching the pink of the setting sun.
“We’re married, aren’t we?” Evan pulls his eyes from the ring and towards Denna.
“Five years, almost,” she says. “We decided against getting you help and instead decided to move somewhere rural, away from the tall buildings. You agreed to always carry that notebook with you in case it was to happen again.”
Somewhere in Pennsylvania, Denna pulls into a rural gas station parking lot and goes into the store. Peeking out from under the arm rest is a newspaper dated five years earlier. Only the heading showed. ‘Local Man Falls 100 Ft and Lives to Tell the Tale’.
“What’s this?” He asks, holding up the newspaper, as Denna gets back into the car.
“Your accident,” she answers. “You were drunk, climbing up the fire escape. I suppose you were going to the top to jump. You made it a hundred feet and fell. We thought it was an accident.”
She pauses, allowing him to collect his thoughts.
“I was walking by the alley you fell into and sat with you until help arrived. The paramedic said that it was a miracle that you survived the fall and were conscious.”
Denna pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the highway.
“You broke two ribs, fractured an ankle, and bumped your head but other than that, the doctor said everything would be fine, and it was, until your first episode, eight months later.”
“I didn’t know you before the accident?” Evan asks her.
“No,” Denna said, “Your family was contacted. I wanted to stay until somebody came, but nobody ever did.”
The hum coming from the speakers, was annoying him now.
“I felt bad, so I stayed with you,” Denna continued. “When you were released, I brought you back to my apartment.”
“I left the hospital with you?” Evan asks.
“Well, somebody had to look after you while you recovered,” she said, a smile stretched her face. And in that moment, Evan knew why he fell in love with her. She radiates beauty in more ways than just looks. Her smile, the way she talks, the way her head rests on her hand while she drives, her elbow propped on the sill of the open window, the other hand gripping twelve o’ clock on the steering wheel. The way her hair blows in the wind. The way her chest moves up and down when she breathes.
“Although, the recovery wasn’t bad. You were able to take care of yourself, for the most part.”
“You paid my debt, also?”
“No, I didn’t,” said Denna. “You were in the shower one day and I heard a knock at the door. I opened it, but nobody was there. A duffle bag was on the floor. I brought the bag inside and opened it up. The bag was full of money, a letter sat on top. I opened the letter, as you were coming out of the bathroom.”
Denna reaches across him, opens the glovebox, and pulls out a yellow, stained, folded piece of paper and drops it into his lap. Evan fumble with the edges, unfolding the paper.
Somebody came looking for you yesterday. He wasn’t very shy with the reason for his visit. I didn’t think you wanted to see me, so I just dropped this at your door. The hospital gave me the address of where you are staying. Please know that I have not given up on you like the rest of the family has. This should be more than enough cash to pay your debt. I wish you the best.
“Mary. That’s my sister,” says Evan.
By now, the moon sat high in the sky, white and full. It illuminated everything around them with a soft white light.
“How did they know my family?”
“You’re a Tilson,” she answers. “Everybody in the city knows your family.”
Slowly the fog would dissipate, and his memories would return. Evan would go on to live happily with Denna and they would have two children and four grandchildren. Denna would go first, peaceful, in her sleep, and Evan would follow four months later. The image of the city he tried for so long to forget, would appear and he would know it was time. And as the city grew smaller, disappearing in the distance, so would his memory. An eerily familiar feeling.
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