“Memory, Or Lack Thereof” By Lucy Goldberg

A blinding white light hits my eyes. Within a few blinks I can see a plain white room, with a girl standing over me. I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know how old I am. I don’t know my name. How is this possible? Who is this girl? I clench my fist and prepare to get her away from me by any means possible. I can’t move my arm. A clear IV has been inserted into it. My heart begins racing. Why am I here? Who brought me here? Who is this girl? Whoever she is, she seems thrilled to see me. But why? I suppose that’s the least of my problems. But she’s staring at me so intently.

“Hey Dev, Karen’s awake!” she shouts in a clear, high-pitched voice. Karen must be me, so at least I know my name. But who’s Dev? And why would he be with this girl? Is he here to kill me? He looks so happy for a killer. Probably a sociopath. I bolt on 3…2…

“Karen!” he envelops me in a bear hug. “You’ve been out for three weeks! A rock hit you on the head when we were escaping. They didn’t know if or when you’d wake up!” How does he know my name? Up until very recently, I didn’t know my name. It should go without saying that I don’t know him. At this point, any answer to any question is a good answer.

“I’m sorry, but who are you? And why were we escaping?” Dev exchanges shocked glances with the pigtail girl.

The girl asks in a quiet voice, “Karen, you really don’t remember me? Annabelle, your best friend? What about Dev, your boyfriend?” My boyfriend? I have no memory about the seemingly muscular, red-haired person in front of me, and now he’s my boyfriend?

“My what?” I ask, trying to wrap my head around how these two people I’ve just met seem to know me. Annabelle starts crying and Dev just stares at me.

“You really don’t remember? You’ve known Annabelle since you were kids. And we kissed the night before we stole the treasure.” He’s trying very hard to keep his composure. “What about Melissa? You don’t remember her? How she died?”

I stare blankly at Dev.

“Your family was broke. You remember that, right?” Dev asks. Why can’t he just accept that I have no clue! And that brings an important point. Who are my parents? “You don’t,” Dev deadpans.

Dev grips my arm and shakes me.

“The old Karen is in there!” he cries, “I can tell.” I wrestle out of his grip. Okay, I need to analyze information. My name is Karen, these Annabelle and Dev people seem to be the closest to me. Why aren’t my parents here, when it seems to be a hospital? I will extract every detail from these people I can, and it’s time to start.

“What happened? I want every detail you can give me.”

Dev takes a deep breath, “We met at school. Annabelle introduced you to me. I introduced you two to Melissa, my sister. She was about my height, with long curly hair. You two had the same sense of humor,” his eyes cloud over in memory. “Anyway, your parents were broke, and my dad lost his job, so we were kinda desperate. One day, Annabelle stumbled upon this old looking map at some sort of fair that she went to every year. She bought it for a few dollars and told us about it. Later that night, we went in search of the treasure it promised. But there were these other people hunting it too, more experienced people. They sent others to kill us when we got too close. One of them…” he pauses and shakes himself, “one got Melissa. It wasn’t pretty either, she might have been still alive when we had to leave. Anyway, you stabbed that guy with a pocket knife and his friend started shooting the rocks above a cave where we were sleeping. We had to leave Melissa there, and one of the falling rocks hit you in the head. We rushed you to the hospital of the nearest town, and here we are.” So there were people following us? Are they still following us? Should I be even more terrified than I am?

“Are they following us?” I ask.

“No. We got them. I think most of them were trapped with Melissa. Weren’t very smart, them.” I do my best to imagine running out of a blood-filled cave scared out of my mind, and I’m a bit relieved I can’t.

“Did that really happen?” I ask, searching for any liar signs.

“It did, don’t you believe me?”

“It’s a bit hard to believe, I’m supposed to believe I’m an adventurer now. I don’t know who I can trust. I don’t know if you’re my friends, I just know you’re the first people I’ve encountered since waking up.”

“Old Karen would have trusted us,” he says under his breath. “Old Karen was tougher than this.”

“I’m sick of hearing what ‘old Karen’ would have done,” I hiss, making air quotations with my fingers. “I appreciate your sob story and everything, but it sounds like ‘old Karen’ was an idiot. I just woke up, and even I have the basic instinct not to go in search of some treasure from an antique map!” We hold eye contact and he smiles, a warm smile. What now?

“I love you,” he says quietly, reaching to touch my face. He loves me? For all he knows, I’m a completely different person! Any urge to please him vanishes. I want to hurt him, to get revenge for something.

“Let’s not forget, I don’t know you,” I remind him. He freezes, and pulls his hand back.

“Oh right, I just figured…  never mind.” He walks towards the door, and looks back at me to see if I do anything. I don’t. I’m not sure if I’m physically capable of it. Seeing my reaction, or lack of one, he crosses his arms and sits down in an uncomfortable looking chair by the door.

“Don’t mind him, he’s sweet, if you get to know him,” I had nearly forgotten Annabelle was there. She seems like a decent person, what is she doing with Dev?

“Yeah but’s let’s not forget-” I begin, before she cuts me off.

“You don’t. We get it. I know this is hard for you. But trust me when I say it hasn’t been all fun and games for us either. With you in a coma and Melissa dead, it’s been a living nightmare,” she pauses, “Do you know the truth? I’m beginning to think it would be easier if you were dead.” It’s the way she says this that’s so unnerving. She’s not angry or hateful, she’s just being honest. The fear as dulled into confusion now. I can sort of see these people as my friends. Close friends, even.  I pause to think, what would it be like for them if I was dead? What is our course of action forward? ‘Cause whether I like it or not, I’m stuck with these people. If I was dead, they would mourn, but they’d move on. Maybe date, maybe get married. But now, they have to put up with me. Explain all the current events, and historical events for that matter, to me. No matter what I did or wanted, I would become the center of their lives. What is my future now? Do I go live in some clinic? Would Annabelle and Dev have to pay for it? I understand Dev’s anger now, and Annabelle’s words. It might not be better for me to have died, but it would have been easier. When I look at Dev and Annabelle, I begin to understand why ‘old Karen’ liked them. Some people would have just put me in some institution and pretended like I had never existed. Suddenly I feel I’ve known them for as long as they say I have. I want them to have a good life. I look at Dev, and we make eye contact. He walks over.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, looking at his feet.

“I am too,” I whisper. Whispering seems appropriate, though I don’t know why.

“I love you Karen, and we’ll be here for you. Through your problems with memory. Through anything. Just, know that. Okay?”

“Thanks Dev, and I’ll be there for you, since it sounds like a mess. Tell Annabelle that too.” He leans down to kiss me, but stops as a mechanical noise fills the room.

Attention, visiting hours are over. May all of the visitors please exit, so the doctors may tend to the patients.” Dev and I exchange a glance, and he exits, Annabelle waves to me as she follows him. I smile back. Perhaps old Karen wasn’t such an idiot after all.

 

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