I look at my face in the mirror.
I can’t recognize myself.
One half of my face is still me, while the other half is a mangled, red, raw mess of me.
But I’m still me.
“My name isn’t Brian, it’s Nathaniel.”
“No sir, your name is Brian, Brian Mathews.”
“But I like the name Nathaniel more, so from this very moment, my name is Nathaniel.”
The nurse isn’t happy. She’s shaking her head.
The medical staff these days.
“Is Brian here? Brian Mathews?”
“Yes sir, and who are you?”
“I’m his part-friend.”
“Sir, your name?”
“I told you that I like Nathaniel more than Brian, Brian is such a boring name.”
Then a man enters the room, half of his face covered with bandages.
I feel a shiver run up my spine, even though I’ve never seen him before.
As he walks over and kisses me, I decide to humour him.
So, I kiss him back.
He’s …a good kisser.
“Oh, thank every god in the world, Brian! Are you okay?”
He hugs me, and I say once again for the benefit of my audience, “My name is Nathaniel.”
“Why does he keep saying that his name is Nathaniel? I’m Nathaniel.”
The doctor purses his lips, running a hand over his greyish beard.
“I’m afraid Brian has retrograde amnesia.”
“This happened due to the massive blow on the head he faced during the accident. He doesn’t remember the accident at all. There is a chance that he has also lost memories from hours, days, weeks or even years ago.”
“So, you’re-you’re saying that he doesn’t remember me?”
“He might not at the moment, but he certainly remembers your name. That’s why he insists on us calling him Nathaniel, it’s the only thing that he can remember.”
“Do you have any siblings?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you seeing someone right now?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are your parents’ names?”
“I-I don’t know!”
I feel like crying.
These mean people keep asking me questions, but I can’t answer any of them.
Why don’t I know anything?
“My head – it hurts. It hurts too much.”
I walk home, head spinning.
Brian doesn’t remember me.
All his memories are gone, vanished into thin air.
Rather, smoke-filled air.
He doesn’t remember the first time we met and instantly connected.
He doesn’t remember the first night.
He doesn’t remember the first morning.
He doesn’t remember going to Sistine Chapel.
He doesn’t remember our love, the special kind which no one else would understand.
He doesn’t even love me anymore.
“Who was that guy?”
“Which guy, sir?”
“The guy who came in and kissed me? The bandaged guy.”
“That is your boyfriend.”
“Boyfriend? I have a boyfriend! What’s his name?”
“Oh, my dear, you should really get your head checked. I’ve told you not less than a thousand times now, that my name is Nathaniel. I would never date someone with the same name as me. I am a man of dignity.”
I am being difficult.
I invited my parents to the wedding.
But they aren't coming.
They would never accept us.
“Maybe-maybe we should just call off the wedding, Brian. It’s not worth it if our family isn’t going to be there.”
“But Nate, it’s our wedding. Shouldn’t it be about us? Who cares about what other people say?”
“I care, Brian. Family means the world to me. I guess it doesn’t mean as much to you.”
“You know that’s not true. But if our families are not willing to support us, we should just move forward without them.”
“Easy for you to say, your family is much more open-minded than mine. My family will never accept us, even if they love me.”
“Exactly! So, let’s get married, and then when they see how happy we are, they’ll regret not supporting us.”
“I don’t know Brian.”
He looks at me, and that is all it takes.
For a truck to crash against the side of the car.
As the car flips over, again and again, I am struck by a calm feeling.
I’m going to die today.
My life starts to flash before my eyes.
Playing marbles with my sister, my father slapping me when I told him I was gay, meeting Brian, all our long conversations, our first kiss, his proposal, everything.
Then it all goes black.
I wake up, drenched in sweat.
It doesn’t take long before I empty my stomach of all its contents, wiping off pieces of vomit from my face.
The accident was never going to leave my memory.
But Brian was never going to get any of his memories back.
So, who’s the unlucky one?
“When is that guy coming back?”
This nurse is adamant.
“Yeah, that guy who you said is apparently also named Nathaniel.”
“He’ll be here in a few minutes.”
I sigh in relief.
He seems to be a nice guy.
And I feel weirdly nervous and jittery around him.
He’s my boyfriend.
I could never get a guy like that.
But I apparently did.
And I can’t remember when.
Whenever he visits, he looks at me with tears in his eyes.
I ask him about his bandages, and he changes the topic.
He asks me whether I remember anything, and I change the topic.
Brian doesn’t remember anything.
I know I’m torturing him by asking him if he remembers, I know that his head hurts and I shouldn’t work him up, I know that asking him about his memories can cause more harm than good, but I can’t help it.
I can’t stop myself from clinging on to him.
He is my love, my best friend, my rock, my fiancé, my everything.
And I was his everything.
But now I’m nothing to him.
I’m just a creepy guy who he doesn’t recognize, who keeps visiting him and interrogating him every day.
This time, the car just keeps flipping.
It doesn’t slow down or speed up; it just keeps flipping.
The fire rains down on us, melting my face away.
“I want to know why you have bandages all over your face, Nathaniel.”
“I asked you to call me Nate, Brian.”
“Why do you keep avoiding this, Natha-Nate?”
“I- I can’t Brian. I can’t do it.”
At this point, I put my hand on his and squeeze.
The gesture feels natural, and I’m almost as comforted by it as Nathaniel is.
“You remember I told you about the car accident? Well, after the car stopped flipping, it- it caught on fire. I pushed you out, but I couldn’t get out in time.”
As he says this, he slowly begins to unravel his bandages.
I stare at the right side of his face.
His right eyebrow has been burned off, and the skin is reddish and scarred.
I reach out my hand and touch his face.
He’s looking at me, unsure of how I’m going to react.
I pull him close and hug him.
“Thank you, Nate. Thank you for saving my life. I’m sorry I can’t remember anything about us. I really do try to, but I fail every time.”
I feel the sleeve of my shirt going damp.
Then I realise I’m crying too.
“I want to make new memories with you Nate.”
“What do you mean Brian?”
“I may not remember everything, but I do remember that I love you. Isn’t that enough?”
“That’s all that matters.”
As soon as he’s discharged from the hospital, I take him to our apartment.
I give him a tour, realizing the irony of it all.
And then we have our first date.
On Brian’s request, I tell him everything about myself.
And I tell him everything that I know about him too.
He listens raptly, taking in all the details and stories with great concentration.
We call our respective parents and tell them about the accident.
They give the expected response.
Brian’s parents blame me, and my parents, well, they blame me too.
“I knew that this boy was going to be trouble the moment he said he was gay, look at what he’s gone and done to his face!”
“We were always supportive of you both and look what happened! You are the reason Brian doesn’t even remember us anymore!”
Brian doesn’t let go of me that night as I cry my eyes out.
We enter the chapel, and I involuntarily gasp.
With Nate’s hand in mine, we walk around and gaze at the paintings and crane our necks to look at the expertly designed ceiling.
Nathaniel looks at me and smiles.
“I knew that coming here was going to be compulsory for the complete restoration of your memories.”
“You are never wrong Nate. Especially when it comes to me.”
He squeezes my hand, and I can tell that he needed that.
“What do you mean you’re still going to marry him?”
“I love him Dad. I don’t know why that’s so hard for you to wrap your head around.”
“Did you think it would be easy? People are not wired to love someone of the same gender, that just goes again everything we are made for.”
“And love? Are we not made for love either?”
“Listen to me, Nate. I am telling you this because I don’t want you to suffer in the future. That day will come when you will want a child, and then you will realize that marrying a man is the worst decision you could have ever made.”
“Of course, it does. But it will never compare to having a child of your own.”
“To control for the rest of their life? I’m sure that’s a thrilling experience.”
Before Dad manages to push every button I have, I cut the call.
I’m going to get married, with or without his blessing.
Brian’s waiting at the end of the aisle.
That gives me enough motivation to walk forward.
Brian’s dad gives me a grateful smile, thankful for sticking with his son through everything.
I smile back, grateful that he brought the best human being into this world.
As we walk side to side, my hand in his elbow, I miss my dad more than ever.
I stop, Brian’s dad stops next to me, slyly smiling.
I turn around, and Dad and Mom are standing there.
Running towards him, we hug each other, fights and disagreements forgotten for a pure second.
“I couldn’t miss walking you down the aisle Nate. I may not agree with everything you do, but I can understand love. I love you, I love your mother, and you love Brian. That I can understand.”
Mom rubs my back, comforting me.
Tears roll down my face at my father’s words, the words that I’ve waited for, the words that finally complete my happiest day.
“Nate! I can’t wait here all day!”
The church echoes with laughter at Brian’s mock impatience.
I feel giddy with happiness as Dad walks me down the aisle.
As my father places my hand in Brian’s, the day finally became perfect.
The minister asks me if I take him to be my husband.
“I do, obviously.”
The guests laugh once again, and we laugh too, thrilled at finally having reached this point.
Then the minister asks Brian.
I look at him, expecting something sassy.
He just looks into my eyes.
“I do. I always have.”