It surrounded me as my mind swam towards consciousness. I tried and tried to see anything except for the darkness surrounding me, but if my eyes were in fact open, uncertainty clouded my judgment like a blindfold.
My body wouldn’t move, ignoring my mental commands, with my mind using up every bit of energy I possessed swimming through an unrelenting riptide with me caught in the undertow. I struggled with everything I had until I finally succumbed and just when I allowed it to pull me back under I could’ve sworn I heard the sounds of a whale’s song.
It was a dark and murky abyss, but I’d already learned struggling would get me nowhere so I allowed myself to just float freely through it. The whale was still there singing a melodic tune nearby and I floated on a cloud of fog hoping it would swim by and help me out of the riptide that still held me within its grasp. We stayed there awhile, my whale friend and I, until eventually his songs lulled me back to sleep.
I was floating again, with my ever present whale friend, only now there was an aroma of something sweet floating through the fog with us, a floral bouquet wafting through the void, an unlikely presence just like the whale and I. I would think it was strange for this fog to smell so heavenly, but if the whale didn’t mind, I wouldn’t either. It enveloped us, blanketing us in a gentle embrace, and as I drifted back to sleep I thought I really could feel it; tangible arms holding me close. I wondered if the whale could feel it too.
It must have been because I could clearly hear the voice of an angel. Her whispered words of love would’ve left me basking in the glow of her adoration if it weren’t for the sadness I could hear marring her proclamation. When she asked me to fight, pleaded with me to come back to her, I couldn’t ignore the pull I felt straight to my core to obey her command. I struggled, wrestling against the riptide, no longer content to float with my whale friend when there was an angel waiting on me. I ripped and pulled, clawing my way through the abyss only to have it collapse back down on me with every fissure I managed to cleave open filling back up with the nothingness that surrounded me. Undaunted at first, I attacked it with everything I had, engaging in battle with an invisible foe until my energy waned and I could no longer fight. ‘I’m sorry my angel,’ I called out into the abyss as the riptide pulled me back down. I would rest and then I would wage war again, but as I drifted back into oblivion, worried I’d disappointed my angel, I knew I would rest easily having heard her affirmation as clearly as I heard my whale friend; she loved me.
The flavor of cherries exploded inside of me with an ice cold sensation literally on the tip of my tongue. I could feel it trickle down inside of my lips, just enough to slide across my taste buds and linger long enough to make a memory dance just out of reach, but it wouldn’t take form. It reminded me of sunshine and made me feel warm, despite the icy numbness on my lips; it comforted me in the chasm I couldn’t break free from and when it disappeared I wanted to cry out ‘No!’ because I wanted it back. I wanted the warmth and comfort to stay there with me, but when it was replaced with something else, something petal soft, the warmth flickered into a fire. Not the kind of burning hot that would scorch my skin, the kind I would pull away from if I could, but an inferno flaming white hot along the thread my angel had pulled from deep inside of me and I grabbed onto it, holding on for dear life, hoping she would pull me free. I was puzzled as I sank back into the blackness of the abyss feeling the drops of moisture on my face, wondering how it could be raining in the wake of the warmth of my sunshine.
A dull throbbing sensation pulsated along my lower body. My whale friend was gone having been replaced by an annoying beep reverberating next to my head. A rushing static in my ears cleared the way for the voices nearby to break through the fog when an unexpected jabbing swipe had my reflexes pulling my leg away in surprise and as the darkness gave way to light with my opening eyes, a familiar voice spoke up bringing me out of my perpetual dream state where whales and angels no longer existed.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the brightness of the room and I slowly turned my head towards her, looking passed the man in the white lab coat standing at the foot of my bed, shocked at the surprise and fear on her face as I acknowledged, “Pam.”
My shock increased as she launched herself at me saying, “Oh my God! You’re awake!” and wrapped her arms around me. It wasn’t until she pulled away that I noticed the wires attached to my body and I looked down seeing I was in some sort of hospital bed. The room was filled flowers; lilies and an iPod docking station sat next to the bed.
“Where am I?” I asked.
“You’re in the hospital Mr. Northman. I’m Dr. Maxwell Lee, your attending physician,” the man in the white lab coat spoke up, but I could barely hear him over Pam practically shouting into her cell phone, “He’s awake!”
“Why?” I asked, looking down my body and seeing my right leg was surrounded in a cast and elevated by some sort of pulley hanging above the bed. “What happened?”
“You were in a car accident. Your leg was broken along with two of your ribs and you had some bleeding in your brain. We had to drill into your skull to relieve the pressure,” he answered.
“I don’t remember,” I admitted, my hand reach up and feeling the bandages along my head while noticing Pam had gone to stand by the door with her head looking down the hallway.
“That can happen sometimes when the brain experiences a trauma like yours did. You’ve been out for two weeks,” he explained while he shined his penlight into my eyes. He had me perform a series of physical tests, wiggling fingers and toes, and moving various body parts while he examined every motion I made. I answered asinine questions about who I was, who the president was, and seemingly satisfied by my progress he said, “We’ll probably keep you here for another couple of days to keep an eye on you and then you’ll be released. You’ll have to wear the cast for another six weeks and take it easy for a while to give your ribs a chance to heal, so make sure you make a follow up appointment with your primary doctor. I’ll be back in a little while to see how you’re fairing,” he said before he left the room.
I was out for two weeks? I’d be wearing this cast for another six weeks? What the fuck was I going to do about the show? I supposed they would have to write it into the storyline somehow and I turned towards Pam, about to ask her what was going on, when I watched her step aside as the doorway was filled with a beautiful blond woman. I barely had the chance to register the dark circles under her red rimmed eyes when a smile lit up on her face seeing me, as tears began to flow freely from them, when she too launched herself at me, kissing me all over my face and saying, “You had me so worried. I’m so glad you’re awake. I knew you’d come back to me.”
When she finally pulled away far enough to look down into my eyes, I could see the fading bruises on her face and along her chest, peeking out where her tank top didn’t cover her skin, and I said the first thing that came to mind. “I’m sorry,” but before I could say anything else she put her red stained lips back to mine.
They were gentle, petal soft and tasted of cherries when my tongue darted out against them, and a memory was stirred, but I couldn’t place it. I almost pulled her back when she pulled away again as she said, “No, I’m sorry. It’s all my fault that you’re here.”
Her tears continued to flow and I found I didn’t like seeing them, so I brushed them away with my hand while asking the only logical question I could think of. “Why? Are you the one that hit me?”
“No, but it’s still my fault,” she sobbed out, laying her head on my chest as she continued to cry. I automatically ran my hand through her ponytail and rubbed my other hand down her back while feeling confused; both at my actions and her confession.
I raised my left hand to give her ponytail a slight tug so she’d sit up and I could ask her the question I was dying to know, but I stopped short seeing the ink on my finger and held it up in front of my face, examining it from all sides, before it made me ask a different question instead.
“What the fuck is a Sookie?”
She snorted against my chest before lifting her head and playfully smacking my shoulder saying, “Ha ha, very funny.”
I rubbed my thumb across my finger, but it wasn’t rubbing off and I could feel the slight ridges of the ink underneath my skin. I started getting angry wondering why the fuck they would tattoo something on my hand when I was out of it. Looking to Pam for answers, and noticing for the first time Alcide was by her side, I asked them, “What the fuck is this? Some kind of joke?”
Their jaws dropped open simultaneously, perfectly played as if they’d rehearsed the move, and I heard a gasp above me drawing my eyes back to hers. “Stop it Eric,” she whispered. “It’s not funny anymore.”
“It’s not fucking funny,” I barked, my anger getting the better of me. Turning back to Pam and Alcide, I bellowed, “Why the fuck would you let someone tattoo fucking hearts on my hand when I was unconscious? Pranks are one thing, but this is going too fucking far!”
Pam looked at Alcide saying, “Go get Dr. Lee,” and looked back at me, staring me down, as he rushed out the door. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, suspicious of God knows what, and asked, “What’s the last thing you remember?”
What the fuck was the last thing I remembered? I thought about it for a minute before saying, “I was in the car.” She looked relieved until I continued, “Alcide and I were just entering the strip in Las Vegas. Are we in Vegas or did you have me taken back to LA?” I asked, looking around as if the room would give me a hint.
The sound of another sob above me had me looking back to the beautiful blonde and I wondered what her problem was. Admittedly, I didn’t like seeing her tears, but I didn’t know why, nor did I know her, so I wondered why she was so upset. The sound of Pam’s voice brought my attention back to her.
“That was five weeks ago Eric.”
“Five weeks? The doctor said I was only out for two weeks!” If this was some sort of joke I was going to burn her entire collection of Chanel as payback.
“You were only out for two weeks, but you went to Vegas five weeks ago. It’s where you met Sookie,” she motioned at the crying blonde next to me.
Hearing her name and realizing it was the same as the monstrosity adorning my skin had my anger rearing up again as I spat out, “Are YOU the one that had this shit tattooed on my hand?” I waved the evidence in her face and she shrank back from me, sliding off of the bed from where she sat. She buried her face into her hands sobbing and my anger ebbed seeing her so distraught while Pam, surprisingly, ran over and wrapped her arms around her trying to comfort her.
Pam’s not a comforter.
She turned her steely gaze back to me and said, “Just keep your fucking mouth shut! We’ll find out what’s going on when the doctor gets here and then I’ll explain everything.”
Before I could protest, the doctor strode through the door with Alcide behind him and asked, “Is there a problem?”
Yeah. There’s a fucking problem, but I couldn’t figure out which one needed to be said first.
Pam spoke up before I did saying, “His last memory took place five weeks ago. He doesn’t remember anything after that.”
We listened as the doctor explained something called retrograde amnesia. It sometimes occurs after a traumatic brain injury where the victim loses some of their memories prior to the event. In some patients they might lose just a few minutes or even hours, like what happened right before the accident, but with others, they might lose more. It depended on the level of trauma. He had one patient lose an entire year of his life and apparently there was no treatment or cure. He said for most, memories would return in random pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, but ultimately there was no way of knowing if I’d ever get them back. Some people did, some didn’t, but all I could do was wait and see.
Once he left the blonde still wrapped in Pam’s arms had stopped crying, but her breaths were still hitched in her throat as she breathed in. Seeing her that way hit me in my chest, but I was still too angry and confused over why to hide my irritation as I said, “Explain.”
Pam motioned for Alcide to shut my door as Pam told me the most outrageous story I’d ever heard. I may have been knocked around hard enough to put me in the hospital, but there was no way I’d be willing to believe I’d met this Sookie woman and married her that very night, no matter how drunk I was at the time. It was because of that staunch belief that made my mouth gape open when Alcide produced a laptop and I got to see the video of it. When the train wreck was done playing out on the screen, I looked up at them asking, “Why didn’t we get it annulled?”
Sookie’s mouth opened, but when she didn’t say anything Pam spoke instead explaining, “At first it was so you wouldn’t look like the asshole you’re acting like right now and so Sookie wouldn’t lose her job teaching.”
“Why?” I spat out. “Did she need more time to get me drunk enough to agree to supporting her?”
Pam’s eyes flashed in anger, but before she could unleash whatever fury awaited me Sookie put her hand on Pam’s arm halting her and said, “It’s alright Pam. He doesn’t remember. He doesn’t know.”
“But Sookie,” she started to say as Sookie shook her head and took a deep breath while placing her hands on her stomach.
“We’ll figure it out,” she told her before turning her eyes towards mine and locking me in her gaze. “He’ll remember…” she trailed off in a whisper. She closed her eyes for a long minute before looking back at Pam and asking, “Would you please stay with him and try to explain it all?” Her voice broke again while she tried to hold her emotions in check as she admitted, “It’s just too much for me right now. I can’t…I just…” Looking at Alcide she asked, “Would you please take me home now?”
He nodded in response and I was surprised seeing Pam hug Sookie tightly while whispering something in her ear before releasing her grasp. As she walked by me on her way out the door, Sookie reached down and patted my good leg saying, “I’ll answer your questions when you’re ready,” and walked out of my room with Alcide behind her.
My heart ached seeing her go, but I didn’t know why.