Light filtered in from just above the fall-colored canopy of leaves, striking the grass and highlighting the landscape as it streamed through the chilled autumn air. The burnt orange, dull yellow, and somber red of the autumn leaves glistened mutely as they swayed back and forth while falling from their nurturing perches, twirling down in a rhythmic, hypnotic pattern.
It’s strangely comforting to me. Perhaps it’s the way the solitary leaves drifted down, cradled by the soft ground underneath as they found their final resting spot. I’m suddenly immersed in the imagery, wondering whether trees miss their multitude of lost children, the leaves. Strange, I don’t normally get sentimental but it’s suddenly hard to choke back a tear as the thought crossed my mind.
I laughed at myself and turned away, uncomfortable with the mixture of feelings these thoughts brought and found myself seated on a white painted bench, on some broad porch that I’ve no recollection walking to. How did I get here anyways? Random pictures from chaotic memories stream into my head as I strained to recall how I got here and where this place is. A dark tint starts to seep into the corners of my vision, darkening the world as it tilted sharply, forcing me to brace myself in my seat. In my confusion I found my wife, Denise, seated next to me and watching with the enduring love that she’s always had.
“How are you feeling Tom?”
The world brightened and slowly cleared as my thoughts become centered on her. I gaze upon her and the vaguest notion strikes me that something’s different about her, but I can’t place a finger on it. Filled with the relief of her presence, I shrugged it off thinking that I must be tired or something. “Not bad, just a bit off.” I chuckled softly, slightly embarrassed at what I was about to confess. I turned in my seat and looked at her auburn hair, letting my gaze stray before peering into the green eyes I love so much. “I feel foolish, but I actually got sentimental just now, looking at the leaves and how the trees might miss them once they’re gone.”
She smiled at me, regarding me with an odd patience.
“Say, not to change the subject, but how did we get here? The last thing I remember was riding on I-90 heading home. Was I really that tired I don’t remember stopping here?”
Her brow creased, betraying a hint of sadness as she gazed into my eyes and placed her hand in mine. “We’ve been here for a while now, honey. In fact, it’s almost time to go. We should leave soon.”
“Oh? Where are we going?” Confusion swept my thoughts away, the jarring memories flushed to the forefront once more. I tried desperately to keep my mind focused on my one anchor; my wife. I looked purposefully into her eyes, the image that calmed me. My mind eventually stilled and the cacophony of memories simmered down to a manageable level.
“The procedure is scheduled for this afternoon. If all goes well, you’ll remember everything. Check your shirt pocket, your notes are there.”
I looked into the pocket she mentioned, and sure enough there was a small spiral notepad resting there with a capped pen leaning next to it. I pulled the pad out of my pocket, drawn in by its vague familiarity and looked at the cover.
Read the first page first
I gazed upon the creased cover and slowly thumbed the pad open to the first page. The notepad is covered in my handwriting, yet I don’t recall writing this. Unable to pull my eyes away, I started to read.
Tom, you wrote this notebook to keep track of the important things that have happened since the accident. This notepad is your lifeline. Read it if you can’t remember someone or something. Above all else, trust your wife. She still loves you.
I turned to look upon my wife, concern spreading across my face from the shock of the discovery.
She stroked my hand reassuringly, nodding softly. “We’ll be leaving soon. The doctor is sure that this should help you to start remembering things again.”
Fear and uncertainty rolled through me. “How long have I been like this?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to hear the answer.
Rehearsed patience laced every word. “Three years now my love. We’ve gone to numerous specialists, and have had many months trying experimental treatments, various memory recall programs and seen a plethora of psychologists and psychiatrists. This time the doctors are trying a new drug treatment. Are you ready to go?”
Overwhelmed by the revelation, I nodded mutely and stood from the bench. I looked out from the porch we stood upon, distracted by my thoughts. “Hey, honey. Have you ever seen such lovely trees? Since when did fall come so early?”
The intermittent beeping of the heart monitor echoed softly in the background of the plain, beige hospital room. The patient rested in his bed, unconscious as the nurse came in to check his vitals. She stepped over to the heart monitor and took some notes on her pad, jotting down his latest vital signs for the record. She then moved to the bed and looked over the dressings on both sides of the patient’s head. Satisfied that all was well, she turned to leave the room and continue to her next patient.
A slight raspy groan escaped the patient’s dry lips as she stepped out of the doorway. She paused and turned around to find his eyes flickering open as he began to regain consciousness. Urgency filled the nurse’s actions as she turned again to jog toward the nursing station. Once there, she picked up the phone and paged Doctor Samuels, alerting him that his patient had regained consciousness.
The nurse hurried back to the patient’s room and stood by his side, watching.
The bed-ridden figure’s eyes gradually opened as confusion settled in while the haze of a drugged sleep began to subside.
She gently placed her hand on his, reassuring him. “Don’t fight it, just relax. The fog will clear on its own as you wake.” She paused until he focused on her. “Hi, my name is April and I’m the on-duty nurse. Your doctor will be in shortly to answer any questions you have. Do you understand?”
The patient looked at his caretaker and nodded.
April smiled and squeezed his hand gently. “Good. Now, do you remember your name?”
Uncertainty filled him for a moment as he collected his thoughts. Slowly a name emerged. “Tom.”
Again, she smiled at him and released his hand, taking down notes on the chart that sat on the bed stand next to her.
Within minutes, a doctor knocked on the door, and entered the room. “And how is our patient doing?” He asked as he stepped toward Tom’s bed.
Nurse April brought the doctor up to speed as he checked the patient’s vitals. “Excellent, it looks like you are recovering quite nicely. My name is Doctor Samuels. Now, the nurse has been telling me that you seem to be doing quite well. How do you feel?”
Tom nodded in April’s direction. “Nurse April has been very helpful. I feel much better. How soon can I see my wife? Is she here?”
Doctor Samuels exchanged a meaningful glance with the nurse and turned back to Tom. “Yes, she is here. I’d like to make sure you are alright first before she comes in, is that OK?”
The patient nodded. “Of course.”
“Good, now go ahead and try to think back, what is the first thing you recall? Don’t push yourself, just the first thing that comes to mind.”
His heartbeat picked up as he strained to think. “I remember waking up here, and looking around, thinking to myself how thirsty I was.” Something flickered in the back of his mind. “I can see-” Sweat started to bead on his forehead. “Something else. Something from before. A truck. A large truck.” Exhausted from the effort, Tom leaned back in his bed.
“That is remarkable progress Tom. Especially for being so soon after the procedure. It seems like the neural connections are starting to realign themselves much quicker than I had anticipated.” Doctor Samuels turned to the nurse. “Let his wife know that he is awake and ready to see her now.”
Within moments, Diane stood in the doorway, hope filling her eyes as she gazed expectantly at Tom.
His eyes beamed the moment he met her gaze. “Diane, thank god you’re here.” Relief and the need to have her near filled him. “I feel like I’ve been walking through fog forever now. You can’t believe how glad I am to see you.” He grasped her hands in his when she drew close. Disbelief threatened to overwhelm him as he shook his head, recalling what the doctor told him earlier. “I’m still in shock that I haven’t been myself for so long. It’s hard to wrap my head over the years I’ve lost.”
Diane squeezed his hand, tears running down her face as she stood by her husband’s side. “What all do you remember?”
He grinned up at his wife, feeling a sense of euphoric joviality wash over him. “Well, I recall everything since I woke earlier. Which apparently is a feat in and of itself from what the doctor’s been saying.” He paused as he tried to think back. “I remember a truck. And someone with-” The strain of trying to recall the flickering remnant of memories began to take its toll. “me.” Tom’s heart sunk as vague recollections filled him. “Oh god, something’s missing.”
Pain seared through his head as the realization of a vital loss ripped through him. He gripped his bandages, pressing them to his head as spots filled his vision, drowning the room from view. Despite the pain, he forced himself to think back and recall what swam along the edge of his consciousness. The one item that caused him such significant grief loomed, like a shadow teasing his thoughts as they strayed just out of reach. The brightness of the spots intensified with the pain, and with it the shadow drew closer. An image slowly began to coalesce, revealing a familiar profile that turned in his direction. Ragged tears streamed down his face while he became oblivious of everything but a set of panicked green eyes before him. His lips pursed to form a name, a name cut short by the finality of darkness before it could be spoken.