I stare at the woman before me, taking in her straight, black hair that shines in the fluorescent hospital lighting. Her unplucked eyebrows that hold a nice shape without the need for manicuring. Her naturally thick, long and dark lashes that frame sparkling bright blue eyes. Her pert little nose, plump red lips and high cheek bones. Her pale white skin that hasn’t seen the sun in a decade.
I look at the woman before me and try to find a hint of familiarity, some small bit of recognition in her features, but I find none. She is a stranger, not one feature sparking any type of memory or feeling as if I could know this person.
With a sigh, I drop the hand held mirror in my lap and collapse back into my pillows, closing my eyes in frustration.
“Still nothing?” I hear a voice say from the doorway, a voice that has become familiar and welcoming in the past few days that I’ve been here, well, that I’ve been awake. I flick my eyes open and see Nicole walk into the room, offering a kind smile that has me shaking my head in reply.
“I don’t get it.” I huff, “I know those walls are white, the sky is blue, I can read and understand everything that everyone has been saying, yet I can’t remember my own name? Recognize my own face? How can I remember some things and not who I am?”
I close my eyes again in frustration as Nicole takes a seat in the chair beside my bed.
“The brain is a tricky thing, there is still so much that we don’t know, that we are still learning. But I do know that your memories are in there, somewhere, you just can’t access them.”
I nod and open my eyes, meeting Nicoles warm brown ones.
“What if I never remember?” I whisper. Nicole squeezes my hand.
“Then you make a life with who you are now.”
I sigh and look up to the ceiling, noticing the small dots on the panels that line the roof, the fluorescent light bulbs that hang down slightly. This is my world. This is all I really know. This room, and the few visitors I get, which mostly consists of Nicole and Brad who visit me daily. I turn back to look at Nicole, taking in her long brown hair, tanned skin and dark brown eyes, noticing her hand resting on the small baby bump that peaks through her loose top.
“Why are you doing this?” I ask, curious to know why both her and Brad seem invested in me.
“Staying by my side, visiting me... you didn’t know me before I was in here.” I whisper.
Nicole leans forward, resting her elbows on the bed and cups her chin with her hands, a small smile on her face.
“When I first came here, I was on the run, hiding.” She says, peaking my curiosity.
“What do you mean?” I ask
“Well,” she moved back in her chair, getting ready to reveal her secrets. “I grew up in a cult, ran away when I was 15, by the time I got here, I had 3 other identities.”
I stare at her wide eyed, not quite believing that the sweet woman before me could have been on the run, Nicole continues, ignoring my look of shock.
“I met you the first day I worked here, I was alone and afraid, and when I saw you I felt like I met a kindred spirit, what happened to you, it could have so easily been me.”
My brows furrow at her words, she continues, answering my silent questions.
“No one outside of that cult knew who I was, I didn’t exist outside of it, there was no interaction with the outside world... had they kicked me out and left me for dead, there would have been no one who knew who I was. You became my first friend here, my sounding board, the keeper of my secrets. For that, I will forever be grateful.”
Silence descends upon us as I ponder her words, I know there’s more to the story, to her story, but the fact she was all alone in this world, no one knowing who she was, makes me feel not so alone.
“Do you think that’s what happened to me?” I ask after a while, “that I was in a cult?”
Nicole shrugs her shoulders and sighs. “I honestly don’t know, maybe? There’s so much in this world that we don’t know about, that’s hidden from us.” She states honestly, before leaning forward and squeezing my arm. “But no matter what, I’ll stick by you, I’ll help you figure out your place in this world.”
I smile and relax back into my bed, glad to have a friend, someone by my side.
“Thank you,” I whisper, “it’ll be a while before I’m out of here, it’ll be nice to have someone with me.”
Nicole smiles and squeezes my arm, she already knows how long my recovery will take. Her and Brad were here when I was told of all the tests and rehabilitation I’ll have to do before I can leave. I have to relearn how to walk again, my muscles so weak from a decade in bed, not to mention psychological assessments and the like. In the past few days that I’ve been awake, I’ve been poked and prodded in every way possible, and I know that’s just the beginning for me.
Nicole and I chat for a while, mostly about my physiotherapy appointment that afternoon and where I’m up to. Which isn’t much, I’m still not out of bed and on my feet, my muscles are too weak to hold myself up, though I know they are getting stronger. It’s frustrating to say the least. Not being able to move around freely, not remembering anything or anyone outside of this room. It’s only been a week since I woke up, I shouldn’t expect some miraculous recovery, But it’d be nice to just jump out of bed and take myself to the toilet. Not that I remember what that’s like.
“Anyway, my shift starts soon, so I better go.” Nicole says, pulling me from my thoughts. I look towards her and smile. Truly appreciative of having a friend like her. Nicole rummages in her bag that’s sitting on her lap as she continues to speak. “But, I wanted to give you something before I go.”
She pulls out a flat, rectangular item and sits it on my lap. Tapping the glass screen, it lights up, looking like a small television.
“It’s an iPad, I thought you could use some entertainment.” She says as she taps one of the pictures on the screen. She quickly types something into the screen that changes and shows it to me.
“Baby names?” I ask, confused as to what I’m looking at. Does she want me to name her baby?
“Yeah, I figured you could scan through them, see if one triggers a memory of your own name, or perhaps just feels right.” Nicole shrugs.
“Feels right?” I ask, unsure of what she means.
“I’ve done a bit of research on amnesia patients. Some don’t get their memories back, but things will feel familiar, like a sense of deja vu.” She explains. I nod in understanding.
“Like how your and brads voices sounded familiar but I didn’t know from where.”
Nicole smiles and nods. “Yeah, you most likely heard us during your coma. You probably won’t remember what was said, but that’s why we sounded familiar.”
I smile and look back down at the iPad, scanning the first few names on the list.
“Thank you.” I say, the smile not leaving my face. Nicole doesn’t reply, just leans over and changes the screen again.
“I’ve uploaded some music too, a mixture of mine and brads taste is on there. But play around, there are some games on there too.” She states.
I smile and nod as she stands up, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Jane.” Nicole calls out as she walks out the door. I wave goodbye and look back at the devise in my hand, a grateful smile playing on my lips.
I lay back on my pillows and bring up the baby names again, a small glimmer of hope now filling my measly existence.