I smell antibacterial hand wash and hear the unmistakable ch-ch of crisp, recently-pressed linen as I stretch my legs out. I open one eye and peer furtively around me from underneath the covers. I see mint green walls and a standard public-issue chair to my left, flanked by a row of tiny windows.
I scrunch my shoulders tightly and arch my back. My bottom is numb. I move to rub some feeling back into it but am greeted by a tugging sensation to my lower right arm. I glance down to see a stream of tubes leading to a softly beeping monitor.
So, I’m in hospital.
I venture to pull myself into a sitting position, mindful not to disturb my bonds overly. From my elevated vantage point I can see a bunch of flowers in a glass vase sitting atop a small wheeled table to the right of me. A tiny white card peeks from behind slightly wilted leaves. I can just make out one word.
I am wondering who has left the flowers when the door squeaks open and a pudgy, middle-aged, balding man tiptoes in. On seeing me, his face immediately brightens and he scampers to my side. He pats my leg and cocks his head to one side, his eyes glistening.
“You’re awake!” he exclaims as if my open eyes might betray otherwise. I open my mouth to respond but only manage a croak.
“Here, here…” he shuffles purposefully to a nearby waiting plastic cup and fills it with water, “… drink some of this.” He hands me the drink carefully and I accept the offering with an unpractised hand. He notices my discomfort and steadies me. I take a small sip. It tastes slightly stale, as if it’s been left out for a while. The liquid goes down and I realise how dry my throat is. I take a few more sips and motion that I am satisfied.
“You gave us quite a scare, you know?” he continues, removing the cup. “The doctors say you’ll be alright but your noggin may take some time to heal.”
This new information prompts me to lift a hand to my head. A thick bandage is wound tightly around it and it’s only at this point that I notice that my hair has been shaved off. I breathe sharply and point to the small mirror I spy on a shelf. He winces slightly, which immediately increases my apprehension. He hands me the mirror and I slowly examine my face. I can hardly see any detail for the crowd of cuts and bruises. I gasp inwardly, trying to recall how I came to be in such poor disrepair.
All I manage to get out is, “How…?”
“Don’t you remember?” He looks concerned but quickly fills me in. “It was a van. You were knocked down at the crossing almost a week ago.”
“I… I don’t remember.” I stammer. Suddenly I realise that I really don’t remember. Anything. I grab for the mirror that I’d left by my side and stare at my face again, struggling for a glimmer of something to remind me of anything at all. The second viewing brings more clarity but only enough to establish that I am in fact a woman.
I can’t remember who I am!
My pulse begins to race as a storm of billowing grey clouds erupts in my mind. Over and over I wrack my brain for the tiniest instance of something that I can latch onto. I look to my visitor who could be a complete stranger for all I know, and that makes me fret even more.
“Alex! What’s the matter?” He cries, following my erratic movements with ever-growing trepidation.
“Can’t remember. Can’t remember!” I shout in desperation. I look at him again and again, straining against the very little I seemingly am at this very moment.
“Alex, it’s me, Dom, your brother!” He offers back, trying to calm me down. But I won’t be calmed. Who am I? What do I do? Do I have children? Am I married? The now-gale-force winds tear a gaping hole in the fabric of my consciousness that I can’t shield myself from. The whistling is deafening. The strength of the beast rages around me now and I start to flail uncontrollably.
I can’t breathe!
The soft beeping of the monitor is replaced by an explosive crescendo of concerto proportions and I momentarily wonder if the beeps can get any louder or faster. The drastic change in my condition alerts an army of white coats to burst into my room. Shoving Dom aside, who by now is ashen and could possibly do with sedating himself, they crowd around me, each brandishing their favourite specialist prodding tool.
Throughout the chaos, my heart is also threatening to break out of my chest and it is this fact that they all converge on. I realise then that I am having a heart attack.
As if forgetting everything isn’t bad enough!
Thump. Thump. Thump. My heart and my head seem to be dancing to the same beat and I can’t keep up any longer. I black out.
A warm breeze blows across my cheek and I catch the soft sweet scent of star jasmine. My children are hunting for Easter eggs in the garden and my husband, my beautiful Joe, chases them around the towering willow as they fall about, laughing their little bellies off. I smile as I make my way to the store for some well-earned ice cream. “Be back in 10!” I shout and wave back, though they don’t pay me any heed, so lost are they in their fun. I shake my head as I cross our road. And then I see a white van.