Delivered supine on a gurney via ambulance, I know not name nor emergency contact. My entire lot in life is a mystery. Both the nurse named Robin and the doctor named Wang have dubbed me Lucky. Lucky that I am alive despite my lack of memorable understandings. Lucky that I am not dead along with all those other people I'm not sure I should remember. I was found unconscious, thrown from a vehicle during an accident, the only survivor. Nurse Robin tells me I'm in shock and supplies a nerve tonic. Doctor Wang tells me to close my eyes and think happy thoughts as he sets the bone. I can think of nothing happy, can't even imagine what happy feels like. I try to picture a place in this world where people know my real name, thinking that might be a happy thought about a happy place. All I can picture is here, and here, in this brightly lit antiseptic bottle, my name is Lucky.
Officer Warren calls me Lucky when he interviews me. Lucky, he asks, which vehicle were you traveling in? Where did all that money come from? Whose gun? Officer Warren has an easy smile and a perfectly sculpted mustache. His teeth are painfully white and he seems unaware of their jarring luminosity. Lucky, he asks, how did the truck strike the glacier, exactly? Did the glacier jump out in front of the vehicle? I tell him I can't remember any of it, not even the glacier. I tell him if there is anything I would have remembered it was a glacier. He asks if I'm sure. I ask if he can remove the handcuffs. We ask these things of each other despite already knowing the answer.
Doctor Wang wants to perform letter tests. X-ray, CT scan, MRI. A man in a suit and tie comes in to explain the costs and circumstances. The costs are higher than my entire gross national product. The circumstances include death or worse. The man in the suit says that my identity might have insurance, and if my identity has insurance the costs of the letter tests might be covered. Otherwise, he says. He shakes his head and just leaves it at that. I have to sign the consent form to proceed. I sign despite concerns over my identity's shortcomings. We will proceed with the letter tests regardless of their potential financial and/or worse than death consequences. The tests involve large machinery positioned in the far corners of the expansive facility. I traverse the great distances between machines handcuffed to my gurney.
Doctor Wang tells me amnesia is a sticky wicket. It can be physical or psychological, sometimes both. Sometimes memories come back all by themselves and sometimes not so much. The brain is a complicated tangle of engineering, he tells me. We must proceed with caution and get a full diagnostic. I like that Doctor Wang is so mindful of cautious proceedings and full diagnostics. I like that he speaks with a British accent and uses words like sticky wicket.
I try to remember a place where there are people that know my real name, people that don't know me as Lucky. I want to believe that somewhere someone will miss me. They will file a missing person's report. They will verify that I have a name and hopefully medical insurance. They will find me at the hospital and help me remember, not only the things that I want to remember but also the things I want to forget. Then maybe they can help me forget those things.
I feel sorry for the people I imagine sitting at home missing me. It must be frightening losing track of a loved one. Missing but not forgotten. It is sad but not as sad as the alternative. Forgotten but not missing, waiting in the hospital, hoping anyone cares about you enough to find you and take you home.
Officer Warren comes in for a follow-up. He tells me that as the only survivor I might be financially responsible for damages, which are still being calculated. A piece broke off the glacier and slid down the mountain. It took out a treehouse and a couple of mopeds. Some goats were killed. An old lady fainted. Lawyers were filing papers as we spoke and I might be on the hook for all of it. Plus, the National Park Service wanted to levy a fine for damaging the last glacier in the tri-state area, and those federal fines were no joke. He uses the words total clusterfuck and makes a face. Then Officer Warren looks up and asks the ceiling tiles what the hell a herd of goats was doing up there anyways? He asks if I've remembered anything at all, anything that may help illuminate the passing of events. The whole debacle sounded so Hollywood fantastic I wish I could remember any of it.
But then again, sometimes it's good to forget. I like the idea of a clean slate. I have an uneasy feeling like the me I can't remember needed a fresh start, but it's never so simple as just hitting a reset button. Even if we can't remember our past our past remembers us. Our past hunts us down no matter which hospital the ambulance drops us off at.
While waiting for the results of my full diagnostics, the nurse announces that my brother has arrived for a visit. What luck, I think. Someone has missed my presence and searched me down. I feel loved, blessed. My beloved family has arrived.
A stranger enters my room and asks if I remember him. I am your brother, he says, Victor. You know me, he says with a grin. Victor is a large man with a scar on his forehead. He speaks with an accent so heavy that I can barely understand him. I wonder if I look as scary as Victor or if my speech is so thusly accented. His eyes do not line up as they should, and his face makes me think that someone did a poor job of putting Humpty Dumpty back together. Seeing him does not instill recognition or comfort or feelings of familial sentiment. Instead, his presence instills a nasty pain in my gut, mostly from the gun he sticks in my ribs.
My dear brother, he says, what happened to all the money? He stands over me like a mountain, probing my kidney with his firearm.
I wish I knew, I tell him. I've already been through all this with the cops. I have amnesia. I can't remember squat.
Our dear father will want to hear all about this, he says. He begins to roll the gurney out of the room, down the hall.
But I can't remember, I tell him. I don't know anything about money or a glacier or what the hell happened.
You are funny brother, Victor says. He smiles in a way that shows he doesn't think I'm funny at all. Don't worry, Victor says. We have ways of helping you remember.
So much for diagnostics and careful procedure. But amnesia is a sticky wicket, I tell him.
Forgetting is easy, Victor says. Forgetting is never so hard as remembering. Or as painful.
Someone asks us what we are doing. Victor doesn't answer but instead begins running with the gurney, using me and my hospital sled like a battering ram. Nurses and patients and health care administrators are swept asunder. We crash through the door, into the night, on our quest to uncover all these painful pieces of me that would have been way better off just forgotten. Victor will help me remember all those things I want to remember and all those things I wish I could forget. My dear brother Victor.
How lucky am I?
This story was originally published at Spank the Carp.
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Brontosaurus and Other StoriesShort Story
This is a collection of eleven short stories, each published previously in literary magazines or short story anthologies. The story Droning won the Bookshop Santa Cruz Short Story Contest in 2005. The story Brontosaurus was nominated for a Pushcart...