The day started like any other. With a startled jump at the persistent, vengeful alarm clock, piercing her ears. The sunlight charged through the window, attacking her as if she were sitting under lights in an interrogation room in the presence of witty, brutal detectives. Why won’t you wake up it screamed at her, while she took revenge by reaching for the clock and vehemently turned the nagging little pest off until its next assault tomorrow morning.
The dream! Again the dream had crawled into her thoughts, snaking through the cobwebs that hung in each cornered, closed room and locked door of her abyssal mind. Yet, awakening from the same relentless, reoccurring dream, inside her soul, she had felt differently today.
Forcing herself out of her foggy state of mind, she washed, brushed her teeth and ate the stubbornly routine breakfast. Nothing was unusual with her healthy round of eggs, oatmeal and orange juice. He had liked his eggs over easy, his toast slightly toasted, his coffee light and sweet, she thought. There she was again! Thinking about what James had eaten for breakfast all those years ago, while she ate her own. Between dreams of him and thoughts throughout the endless days, weeks, months and years, she could never rid herself of him. Countless psychologists and psychiatric appointments, weekend retreats with gurus and Reiki Masters, prayers to the gods to wipe him from her memory; nothing had worked. James was in her living and breathing through her heart, mind and soul, accusing her of letting him go so long ago. She was sentenced to a life of regret, never to see him again. Never to see his piercing blue eyes or hear his hypnotic beckoning voice.
Snap out of it! Time to get out and about with her lackluster, very routine life in the middle lane. Not too fast, not too slow, avoiding all the pot holes and roundabouts thrown her way. Sort of like a hamster, in a vicious circle, she coaxed her life around the wheel, stuck in a labyrinth of unchanging rut, but safe in the cage she had selected for herself, what seemed to be eons ago. Was it that long ago?
They had been young and hopelessly in love. James had always been a determined and proud young man. He would never settle for routine, apathy or this lackluster sense of being. And long ago, Heather was like minded and shared the same dreams and plans for their life and the world. Or so she thought. Today as she headed to her meetings, with whom she described as her captors, she didn’t think it would be any different for her. Yet her soul felt something. Nevertheless, she’d smile her captivating smile, throw a glance or two at a potential client and sharp tongue her way into the closing deal. Heather would never imagine that today her past would come to stare back at her face to face.
Running down the street to make the 10:00 am appointment, she swerved in and out of the pedestrian crowd of nine to fivers. At half a gallop, purse and briefcase in hand, she was almost at the appointed meeting site, when she collided with another person who had bent over to pick up something off the ground. As he had stood up, she rammed into him, making her drop everything and lose her balance completely. Angry, at herself, embarrassed and slightly bruised, she heard a voice offering to help her up and apologizing for his clumsiness.
Grabbing his hand, she looked up and was pulled out of her quagmire and straight into the endless depth of his penetrating blue eyes. She was no longer on the sidewalk, or even in the city. She was swimming in a sea of azure waves, and drowning in his forceful gaze. Soon his mouth formed that querulous smile, and his voice echoed her name. “Heather?” Say it again she thought. Say my name or wake me up before I collapse inside that voice and am lost in this insane thought that it could be you!
“Heather, Heather, Heather!” Was it really him? No, it was the torturous dream again now occurring in broad day light in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. “Where’s that damned alarm clock?!” “Heather, are you alright?” She looked around. People were beginning to glance and stare at the crazy girl disheveled in the middle of the crowd. “Answer him you dam fool, before he disappears forever again!”
“James?” she croaked. “James?” she whispered. “James, James, James!” she screamed. She was shaking, her body wrapped in roots of a large carnivorous tree, the branches holding her back, while she fought to escape! She felt dizzy, lightheaded, as he wrapped his arms around her to steady her. The embrace was indeed real. The scent of him filled her nostrils like a smelling salt, bringing her out of her trancelike state and pivoting her into the center of reality. James was alive!
“Let’s get you seated somewhere and get you something to drink.” Her mouth was exceptionally dry. She didn’t want to leave his embrace, but everything sane and reasonable told her she must. James. She thought he had been gone forever. Dead after our vicious argument that evening, the police at the scene saying he had been thrown from the car after speeding through that deadly curve over the coastline. The car was found perched above the ocean. His body was never found. She had always hoped but eventually a memorial service was held as remnants of his belongings had been found; but never James. He was gone forever and she had caused it.
They had been engaged a few months and had their first quarrel when he announced that he wanted to serve in Doctors Without Borders after he completed his residency. Both their dreams had been to help people, she in the research field and he in the medical. But now that they had settled she had seen an opportunity in pharmaceuticals. He still persisted in his dream as a doctor. She never thought he’d want to go away and work in remote areas. Why couldn’t he just become a doctor in a local hospital like everyone else in their graduation class? When the reality of his determination and heroism hit her, she had felt threatened by a sense of loss, guilt and selfishness. He left that evening to cool off. He never returned.
The phone call had come hours later and the police took her to the scene of the accident. Bright lights shined in her eyes, twirling blue and red, and flashes of whiteness penetrated her sight. Dizziness enveloped her as the search went on. Days went by and she entered a fog that she could never escape. It was her Twilight Zone of memory, guilt and grief.
But now he was here. Staring into her eyes she saw a gentleness that she had known years ago. But she wasn’t on a sidewalk. He wasn’t picking up her briefcase or purse. In fact he was taking her pulse. The white jacket he wore identified him as Dr. James Brandon. Where was she? Why was she in these clothes as if she were a patient in a hospital. The intercom called out names of different staff, and orders to attend to meetings or patients. The office she was in was small yet comfortable and welcoming. Another man came in with a nurse. “Well I see our patient has made a breakthrough Dr. Brandon” “She has indeed doctor", James responded. “She woke up this morning during therapy with Dr. Everest and after some acknowledgement, he called me in. She’s come out of her trauma induced state and recognized me”.
What were they talking about? Induced state? Trauma? Hospital? “Do you remember now Heather?” It was James' voice again. “It wasn’t me that left that night who had the accident. You stormed out and crashed the car. You had been angry and irrational. The police arrived at the scene of the accident and called me. When I arrived, you were in a coma. After what seemed forever, you awakened. We decided that you should get treatment for your amnesia and traumatic head injury. I continued with my residency, checking on you every day. I always had hope Heather. It’s taken months, but you’re back with us again. And I’m not leaving you.”
Now she understood everything. The lights, the daily alarm, the hospital breakfast, the everlasting maze of fog and running away from and towards. The tree that had held her must have been her restraints in the beginning when she would panic at the thought of him being gone forever. The constant therapy sessions, and attempts to bring her back again, her fight to return through her guilt; it all came together for her. It wasn’t James who had been lost. It was she, herself, inside her mist filled mind.
And now James was back. “I almost forgot”, he said. “You threw this back at me the night of the argument. I’ve been carrying it every day waiting to put it back on your finger. I dropped it this morning when I came in to see you and that’s when you recognized me”. She remembered. Her head had felt like she collided with someone, her trance dissipated. And she had indeed collided. She collided with reality and with the wonderful news that James had never been gone. He had remained by her side. He put the ring back on her finger, as she gazed into the intensity of his deep blue eyes. His voice whispered her name and he embraced her. This time she knew he was real. It would take a little more time, but soon they’d be together again. Away from memories of loss and making new memories of their life together. He wasn’t gone forever and she was back. They truly were together again.