Life's Like This
Part 2 - Amnesia - Accidents Happen
By Curtis Grace
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Chris glowed as he collected food for Andrea. He even dropped and extra ten dollars to buy her a stuffed bear in the gift shop before riding the elevator back up to her room.
When he stepped in the room, she was sitting up in the bed, staring at the surroundings.
"You're in the hospital. Do you remember the accident?" asked Chris, taking a seat by the bed. Andrea had a dazed look on her face, then shook her head.
"You've been in a coma for about two months-" began Chris.
"And you are?" she said. He froze.
She had no idea where she was, and she barely knew who she was. In fact all she could remember was her childhood all the way up to Middle School. After that, her memories ceased.
"Andrea, not funny. It's me, Chris. Your boyfriend," he said quietly.
"I have a boyfriend? And you're my boyfriend?" she asked. Hot tears stained his eyes. He sat in the chair and cried. Two months of pain and suffering only to realize the source of his emotional pain had died, was gone to him.
She didn't understand. He was crying because she asked if he was her boyfriend. He didn't even say yes. She looked on her tray table. A 5' by 7' photograph was facing her. It showed the boy and her together, happy and laughing. She looked at him now. He was covering his face with his hands.
Janet Williams heard the sobbing from her daughter's room. She pushed the door open to see Chris hunched over crying. She looked at the bed and saw her daughter conscious and awake. Andrea looked over at her mother and immediately cried out "Mom!". This was too much for Chris to handle. He got up and left the room. He couldn't even stand outside her room. He ran for the elevator and pressed the call button. When the elevator didn't come fast enough, he pushed open the stairway access door and ran down the steps. His parent's car was parked on the lot, and he had a key just in case. With his arm's condition he couldn't legally or physically drive. But he opened the trunk and removed a duffel bag full of running clothes and shoes. While his doctor had advised against it, he was determined to resume running soon. His ankles were long since healed; they were only minor rips and a single millimeter hairline fracture. He had already run on a treadmill. He changed in the car and pocketed the key and took off. He had not direction, he just ran where he thought he could find his way back. By the time he stopped he was two and a half miles away and gasping for breath. He took off to return to the hospital.
This time he wore a t-shirt and running shorts, noticed Andrea. He was obviously distressed and tired.
Janet stood up and walked over to Chris. "Maybe you shouldn't be here Chris. It's kind of soon," said Mrs. Williams.
"No, ma'am. I'm sorry. I can't do that. I need to be with her, whether she remembers me or not," said Chris.
Janet began to protest but Andrea spoke out and said, "Let him stay. Maybe he can help me remember." Janet Williams backed down and allowed Chris to sit in the seat closest to the bed.
"You said I was in a coma for seven weeks? How?" she asked. Chris swallowed and began to tell the story.
"We were on a date and we were driving down a highway when one of our tires exploded, sending us into oncoming traffic. We had two impacts before we tumbled into a river and were rescued by EMT's," explained Chris. Her face was blank and she said a matter of factly: "You're not telling me everything. You did something that you don't want to take credit for. I can tell. What did you do?" she asked.
"He saved your life five times," said the doctor as he entered the room.
"Five?" she asked.
"First by protecting your head with his arm. Second by cutting you out of the car. Third by keeping your head above water. Fourth by protecting your body with his in the rapids. And finally by resuscitating you on shore before he himself passed out from severe blood loss himself," explained the doctor. Chris was sick of hearing the story. Everybody wanted to hear it, and everyone was amazed that he performed CPR with his broken arm. News and Magazine journalists interviewed him and friends and family pestered him for details.
"Hey, doc. I need to see you in the hall really quick," said Chris, heading for the door. The doctor met him outside.
"She doesn't know who I am, she acts like shes never seen me before," said Chris.
"You mean amnesia?" asked the doctor.
"Maybe, I guess. But, I mean, she knows who she is, and her family, but she doesn't remember me or the accident. It seems like everything from the last year was erased in an instant. Will she remember me again?" he asked the doctor.
"It's hard to say. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes it takes days, weeks, months even years. That's if she ever remembers again," said the doctor.
"Is there anything we can do?" asked Chris.
"We'll get her into therapy sessions, and try to stimulate the memories back into he mind. You can help as well. Anything you two did together before, do it again. If you went to see a movie recently. Go to the same movie theater and watch the same movie, and things like that. Sometimes just spending time with the person brings back the memories. Now, I have other calls to make before I visit Andrea again, but when I do, only family will be allowed in the room. But, until then, spend as much time as possible with her," said the doctor, walking off.
Janet Williams stepped out of her daughter's room and saw Chris sitting in chair, face in hands. She sat down next to him.
"It's not your fault, Chris," she calmly stated.
Chris about did a double take. The same person who had given him the cold shoulder and refused to accept his apology was now comforting him.
"But you said--" he began.
"I know what I said before. But she's really OK. I've just been frustrated that she's been like this. I really don't blame you. I just needed someone to blame except some poor beggar and some scraps of tin. I'm sorry. And it's all right if you come in and talk to her," she said.
It was hard for her to say, but when he had walked out after she recognized her mother, she realized that while she was overjoyed by her daughter's return to the conscious world, she had not returned to his world yet.
He sat by her bed and talked to her about school and friends, and he realized that she didn't remember anything past elementary school. She kept naming off names and faces and he tried his best to tell her all about her old friends. She asked him what had happened to her in the last four years of her life. He tried his best to tell her everything he knew, from Soccer tournaments to deaths in her family. Her face was still a vacant stare.
"And you're my boyfriend?" she asked him.
"Yeah, for about a year," he replied. She was thinking he noticed.
"And you saved my life?" she asked him.
"Well, sort of. There were other people around," he said, kind of sick of the story.
"My mom said you saved my life five times, and that we were in a creek and nobody knew it because another car blew up. That we were lucky cause an ex-military guy thought that he saw us go down and ran down there in time to carry the both of us out after you resuscitated me," she said plainly.
"Something like that," he replied with a smile.
"Why would you risk your life to save mine? You would have made it out of the hospital overnight if you hadn't tried to save me, at least that's what my mom told me," she said.
He tried to speak, but the words didn't come out. He wanted to say he saved her because he loved her, but the words wouldn't come out of his open mouth. He tried to say it, and as his mouth opened, the door opened and the doctor walked in. Chris took the hint and left the room. He sat down in the waiting room and pulled out his cell phone. He dialed his friend's phone number to tell him the good news. He also called her friends to announce she was conscious. When they asked how she was, he said 'Good, but she doesn't remember anything.' When they asked how much she remembered, he merely said 'elementary school.'
After about half an hour, the doctor emerged from the room and walked over to Chris.
"Her physical and mental health is pristine, except that her memory is shot going back about three and a half years. Her brain is healed as far as we can tell. We'll do a CAT scan tonight to check it out. I think the trauma of the injury and the surgery just forced the memories into a vault in he mind. You've got the numbers in the combination, you just need the order," said the doctor.
Chris quickly returned to the room to resume their conversation. And she picked it up right where they left off after asking to be left alone. Janet Williams left the room.
"Why did you save me five times?" she asked again.
"Well, you know, I couldn't just leave you there to die. I couldn't let anything happen to you," he replied.
"Yeah, but after getting me out of the car, when you slipped. You didn't have to take the rocks in the rapids for me. You didn't have to perform CPR with a shattered arm. Why?" she asked again, “Did you love me?" she asked, emphasizing the word love.
Now she was throwing him off. He never really thought of anything when he saved her, he just knew he couldn't let her die. Did he love her? What did you tell an amnesiac that doesn't remember you at all?
"Chris, be honest with me. Did you-do you- love me? I'm not asking for some emotional movie line, I just want to know if you love or loved me," she asked.
He couldn’t say it just yet, but he looked into her eyes and nodded.
It was the most sincere nod she had ever seen. She couldn't imagine what he was going through. He was in love with a girl who didn't remember him. It was all she could do not to cry herself.
She went to psychiatrists to try and find her memory. And after each session, the doctors told Chris to try it himself.
He finally found the strength to ask her out to a movie. She was now out of the hospital, but still she couldn't go to school. She answered yes. And he took the risk of driving her to the movies in his brand new Toyota Celica, which had been purchased by his grandparents.
As she rode in his car, bits and pieces of images shot into her head. The images were various, but they all had to do with his car. A trip to a store. A dark, spinning image that she assumed was the accident. And then there was an image of her singing to a song and screwing up the lyrics. She decided to keep this to herself for now.
They saw the movie they had watched that night in the theater they had watched it in before looking for a restaurant. They hadn't eaten a dinner that night, nor would they this night. Chris would try and make the night identical.
She could feel his emotions as they watched the movie, his hand in hers. Sometimes a memorable line triggered deja vu, but beyond that she still remembered nothing.
Chris desperately tried to remember the scene in the movie. At one point in the movie, which was a romantic comedy she had picked out, was an emotional scene where an actor told a girl he loved her. At that point he had kissed Andrea.
She wondered why he hadn't tried to kiss her or touch her any more than her hand. Even a shoulder.
The scene approached, and as it progressed, he said her name and she turned towards him. He placed a kiss on her lips and sat back into his seat.
Images flashed through her mind extremely fast as mere deja vu turned into distinct memories. She now remembered the entire movie. She was no longer paying attention to the movie. Her short-term memory began to return. She now remembered him coming to her house to pick her up. She remembered soccer games he had come to in freezing temperatures; the outlandish trips her family took and let him go on. She said something and he turned towards her. She returned the kiss, making it last longer than his, and then pulled back. Her next image was loud.
Rain and roaring water filled the scene. She only saw Chris checking her pulse and breathing and when he realized she was alive, he looked at her. His right are was gushing blood and was hanging limp. Pieces of bone stuck out from his skin. Blood was rushing down his face. He then passed out. She felt somebody pick her up and take her to an ambulance. She then remembered nothing else from the conscious world. She now had a type of out of body experience. She saw Chris sitting in her hospital room day after day, reading and watching TV, sometimes even talking to her unconscious body.
She now remembered everything one month prior to the accident, the part after he saved her, but she didn't remember the actual accident.
In the car, she asked him a question. "Right before the accident, was the radio on, and was I singing to a song? And I messed up the lyrics, and you laughed, right?" she asked.
He turned to her. He never told anyone that, it was a small but distinct detail that she must have remembered.
"Yeah, how did you know that?" he asked her.
"I remember it. The oldest memory I have before the gap is you getting your driver's license, that was about a month before the accident, right?" she asked.
He was too astounded to say yes. He just looked at her with a huge smile on his face.
After about a week of constant questions from family and doctors, the gap between elementary school and the accident was filled in.
She was now even closer to Chris than before. She now knew how authentic his feelings for her were. His arm didn't heal completely until his sophomore year in college, and he wore the cast until his senior year. They both returned to school in their senior year and did summer school to gain a year of lost credits so they could graduate with their class.