“Your friend is here to take you home,” one of the nurses says. She points over to a man with sandy-blond hair wearing tan slacks and a white button-up shirt. He definitely works out and has a confident air to him. I can tell he gets his shoes polished as they reflect the fluorescent lights from above.
I thank the nurse and walk towards him.
“Hey there, Brad,” he says.
My name still sounds odd when spoken aloud.
“You’re Charles?” I ask. I say his name in an unfamiliar way. As if he is an Uber driver who just arrived to pick me up at the airport.
“Yeah, buddy. It’s me,” he answers.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I really am, but it’s just not registering.”
“It will.” He gives me a look that is a mix of sympathy and reassurance.
“They tell me we’ve been friends for years?” I ask. I have many more questions but I know I won’t get them all at once.
“Ever since elementary school,” he says. “Practically grew up on the same street.”
“As far back as being little kids?” I wish he would just give me a piece of paper with all the bullet points of my life on it. Instead, he is delineating info slowly.
“Yep, we used to build forts together. Ran around all summer sun up to sun down. We even had a treehouse. We were practically inseparable.”
“Wow,” I’m somewhat taken aback by this vision of our youth. “Ok. Well, I believe you. Wait, we had a treehouse?”
“It was pretty sweet,” he starts to explain. He pulls his glasses from his face and thoughtfully chews the ear piece. It seems like a common gesture of his; one I should remember, but I don’t. “You climbed a ladder up and entered from a cut out hole in the bottom. We even had a top-level look-out post. No way they would let kids build something like that today. Lightning hit the tree though and we had to tear it down.”
“That’s a shame,” I lament.
Charles produces his phone, swipes to bring a photo up on the screen, and shows it to me. It’s a tall oak tree in a backyard. It must be over a hundred years old. From the base a wooden ladder is nailed into the trunk and runs up to a sturdily constructed treehouse made out of plywood 2x4s. And up in the look-out post the two of us, just young boys back then, are waving down.
“I had my mom find pictures of us hanging out as kids and she scanned them in. Supposed to help with…” He pauses for a moment. “Well, you know. Help you get back on track.”
“Well, hopefully I’ll be able to remember everything one day,” I mumble.
He looks a bit sad for a moment. This has to be hard on him, seeing me this way. If we’ve been friends forever, and he’s the one who showed up to pick me up from the hospital, then surely we have a powerful bond.
“It will come back to you,” he reassures me, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder.
The nurse at the desk waves Charles over.
“Just a sec, Brad,” he says.
Again, my name. I’ll have to keep repeating it to myself so it eventually sticks: “Brad.” It makes me wonder, we’re never really given a choice as to what our name is going to be when we’re born. In a way I’ve sort of been born again.
So can I choose a different name now? Do I get that right, having amnesia? Maybe Brock, or Alex, or Samson, or Logan. You might say it seems like I have an affinity for these monikers, but really, I’m only listing them because they were on some name generator app I downloaded to my phone. You can get rather bored sitting in a hospital bed for days. You watch medical dramas and play with your phone.
So, as for names, I guess Brad will do ok.
Charles walks over and meets a doctor in front of the desk. The nurse goes back to looking at her computer. The doctor shakes Charles’ hand and starts talking. It all seems very routine. Just a medical practitioner explaining to a guy’s best childhood friend that he has some memory issues. I step forward a little bit and I can hear some of what the doctor is telling him. How it is going to take time for me to regain that memory. How I need to slowly acclimate again to my daily routine. And then, after a very dramatic pause, this one exactly like the ones used in tv shows, a scary phrase is spoken: “He might not be the same ever again.”
What does that mean? If I don’t know who I am, if I can’t inhabit in my own head with who I was before, and I might not remember who that was anyways, does it really matter? It might sound confusing, but it makes sense to me. I have to be someone; might as well be the person I am here and now.