At the last second, I jumped. My body hit the hood of the car and I screamed. My bones, muscles, joints, and organs felt like they were being smashed and crumbled into tiny little boxes. My lungs contracted with such force that I was afraid they would fold into themselves.
My torso and head smashed up against the windshield while my arms and legs were flailing, searching for something to hold onto and stop my body from falling forwards.
The world must have kept flickering its light switch because my vision kept flashing from bitter darkness to blinding white light. The only sound that filled my ears was the crushing of glass mixed with the distinct crackles of my bones.
Then suddenly, everything became bright. I was flying through the air; my broken body almost limp from the impact that occurred nanoseconds ago.
I can barely open my eyes. It’s dark outside. Someone has left the radio on. I can hear voices. There is a distant rattle of a trolley, unclear conversations.
My eyes suddenly blink open and then shut again. Slowly, I try to open them one more time. I see a nurse standing across the ward. I try to speak but fail. Instead, I just blink. It takes her some minutes before she glances my way.
“Mercy!” she runs over and looks closely at me. “Can you hear me? Blink for yes.” I blink.
“Goodness, your wife will be here soon,” she says. Wait. But I don’t have a wife. I’ve never been married in my life. What did she just say?
After a few hours, a woman barges into the ward. She has pretty, black hair with dark boots and a brown coat, probably in her mid-40s. She gives me one of those looks you give to someone in a wheelchair—all pitying eyes.
“Oh, David,” she says. “I thought I’d lost you forever.” And she bends down and hugs me, with her tears soaking my hospital gown. Who on earth is she?
The woman comes in every day, always after the lunchtime. I’ve already told the doctors that I am unable to recognize her. They said due to the accident, I may have experienced some head injuries. But there’s no sign of it in the X-ray reports. I want to tell her that she must be mistaken, but no words come to me.
The nurse is also cross with me. “She’s been coming here every day for the past two months. Can’t you give her some sign that you are trying?” I want to tell her, I don’t have a wife.
A man with a long beard visits me daily to teach me how to move my hand. Today is the last day of the week; I can twitch a finger. Alice is jumping with joy. The nurse says her name is Alice.
“Honey,” she says, “you’ll be playing football again in no time.”
I have never played football. Does she really know me? Have they got me confused with someone else? I am totally out of my mind.
It’s surprising how communication can be done with just one finger. The woman keeps coming and feeds me too. Alice is beautiful. I can’t be this lucky! How could I have forgotten about her?
“I need the keys to our house, darling,” she says. “I can’t find my keys; maybe I lost them.” And she takes a bunch of keys from the bedside cupboard. Ah! The wooden keychain. I twitch a finger. Once for yes. How can I recognize my keys but not her?
The bearded man has got my right-hand moving.
“Your wife,” he says. “No. Don’t ignore. See, the human brain is very complex. It may take time, but your memory will come back.”
“Hello, darling!” she says, zooming in. “I’ve got your favourite burger. Remember? You loved it that time in –. ” How can I forget so much? Maybe it will come back. Maybe all it takes is will power.
Alice looks troubled. “There’s a problem with your tax return. It’s overdue. They won’t let me submit it.” I wave my hand to tell her not to worry. The bearded man has worked so hard. Now, I can walk a few paces with a stick.
The next day Alice comes with an envelope. “It’s the tax thing. It won’t go away. You need to sign this if you want me to sort everything out.” And she pulls out some papers from the envelope.
“So you kept your maiden name?” the nurse asks her.
“Yes, I had to. For my career.”
I am going home tomorrow. I can walk but still cannot talk well. The nurse is overjoyed. I am very anxious. I will be rebuilding my life with Alice. My wife.
Alice isn’t here to collect me. She must have gotten held up with some work. There’s some cash in my wallet and the address is written down on paper, so I take a cab.
When I reach my home, I don’t have my keys. Alice took them. I ring the bell. A man answers. He is in his night suit, with a cup of coffee in hand.
“Alice?” I mumble.
“They are gone,” he says. “We moved in a week ago. They sold the house to us.”
I look over his shoulder. The furniture isn’t mine. Nothing is mine. Everything – my furniture, my clothes, my paintings – is gone.
I look up and walk down the road. I don’t know what to do next.
I told them she is not my wife. I told them I wasn’t married.
Written by: Abhishikta Nayak