Authors: Dewayne Haslett
I tried my best to resist asking him my next question, since I already had a feeling I knew the answer, but judging from my current state of mind, I didn’t want to go off misconceived. So I decided to ask.
"Where is she?"
So I was right. She was dead. I wanted to congratulate
myself for finally getting something right, but I didn't want to be happy for something as wrong as predicting a little girl’s death.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"It's okay," he said.
"If you don't mind me asking, how did it happen?"
His eyes pierced the bed, his face now full of emotion. He then closed them as he sighs, lifting his head toward the ceiling. He remains like this for a few seconds until finally he lowers his head, and begins to talk.
"She and my wife, Sara, were driving home one night from the store. I told them I would go, but they wouldn't listen. They always wore a seatbelt."
He laughed for a moment, and as his face returns to seriousness and he continues to speak, his voice now barely audible, I begin to notice his eyes turning red.
"They stopped at the light for a few minutes. It finally turned green and they went ahead. A man in
the other lane was driving home, just leaving from the bar. He thought that the light was green, then realized he was wrong, and tried to hit the brake at the last minute, but..."
Tears started to spring from his eyes. He put his hands to his face and started whimpering.
"Brad," I said, my voice calm with sympathy. "I don't have to sleep in here if you don’t want me to. I'll be just fine on the couch-"
"No," he said between his tears. "It’s fine. You can’t sleep on that thing. You can sleep here. I want you to. It’s fine. "
Brad sighed as he wiped away his tears. There were no words I could say to comfort him. Just looking at him like that almost made me want to cry. As a matter of fact, I was starting to feel them building up.
After he found his attempts to stop crying futile, he finally murmured a soft “I’m sorry,” and quickly exited the room, going into his, and shutting the door behind him.
Later on, he eventually tried to forget about what happened, completely ignoring the event, and to be honest, I was trying my best not to think about it either.
Other than Brad’s emotional breakdown, another big event had also occurred. I was beginning to regain more of my memory. I could read, I could write, I knew certain details and memories of the world.
But I didn't know the stuff I wanted to know. Like my birthday, my real name, my parents, my life. There was not one thing I could seem to remember about my past. Not one person I could remember or a single memory I could recall. Nothing.
So yes, the days with Brad have been pretty great and all, but who really knows how long all of this is going to last?
It was in a Sunday afternoon. I was in the living room, watching TV. Brad was gone for most of the morning because he had return to work at the dentist's office after using his sick days to stay at home with me. I wouldn’t see him until far later into the night because he said he would continue searching for clues with some guys from the neighborhood, using a picture he had just taken of me earlier before he left. Hopefully, he would find something. Just something…
As soon as the sun turns pitch black, and I change the channel to the reality show marathons, he enters the front door.
"How's it going?" he asks.
"Okay," I say, nodding my head with a smile as I turn down the volume. "Anything new, today?"
Brad shakes his head. "No. Nothing."
I sigh. "I'm never going home. I'm never going to get found!"
"It'll be fine, Troy. Just give me some time, okay. We’ll figure this out."
"This really sucks, you know that? I can't remember anything, and nobody knows who I am around here."
How could this be possible? How come nobody has a lead on me? Was it that Brad was giving people information using my so-called
? No, that couldn’t be it. Even if he did use my fake name, there were still the pictures he had. And then someone would at least recognize me. But they didn’t. So either way, I'm still stuck.
"Yeah, it’s pretty rough," he says. He comes over to the couch and sits next to me. "Listen, Troy. I know you’re having a hard time dealing with this, and believe me, I’m trying my best to help you. But there just doesn’t seem to be any trace of where you came from, or who you are, or where your family is. But you know what? I was thinking on the way home and well…, I’ve kind of got an idea."
"What is it?" I ask.
"What if you stay here with me?"
There was no other way to describe my feelings of this moment. Confused seemed like the obvious one.
"Aren't I already
Brad laughs. "Yeah, but I mean
stay here. I don't want to give up and I know you don't either, but until your memories come up or we get some more information, you can stay here with me for a little while longer. Kind of start over."
My mind is taken aback by his response. He really wants me to stick around? He doesn’t just want to throw me out and hand me over to the police? He really cares?
Kind of start over
, he said. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea. Since I don’t really have a clue as to what’s happened to me, it would be kind of nice to start anew for the time being. And why shouldn’t I? I’ve basically already started with the name.
I smile. "Really?"
As adrenaline rushes through my veins, I lean forward and hug Brad. "Thanks, Brad!"
"Well, anytime, kiddo," he says.
I let him go and he laughs as he notices my smile has not disappeared. I laughed, too, but not for the same reasons as Brad. I was laughing because I
couldn’t believe he would do such a thing. I mean, I knew he was nice, but not
I couldn’t sleep at all the rest of the night; my mind was going in too many directions for it to rest. All I could think about was me, and the new life I could possibly begin to live.
My relationship with Brad has been going pretty well over the past two weeks. During that time, he’s gotten some papers done for me confirming my fake identity, telling me how the authorities agreed that if my parents or anyone connected to me was found, they would let us know. This brought me some sort of relief. Maybe they'd just send out pictures instead of telling people my name.
Lately, Brad’s been asking me a lot of questions. Things involving gangs and whatnot. It kind of disturbed me a little, as I know—or think I know—little about them and intended to keep it that way. He also asks me a lot about fires, but I told him that I haven't experienced one of those at the moment either.
All of these questions got me to thinking that Brad might believe something is wrong. He doesn't tell me much about it, and as much as it killed me to know, it was probably best if I didn’t ask.
One night, after dinner, before I could even get up from the table, Brad drops a bombshell on me.
"Troy," he says, "remember that you have to get to bed early now. You have to get ready for school in the morning."
A shiver travels down my spine. I mask my disappointment by simply nodding my head, saying muttering a casual “okay”, and then exiting out of the room.
I spend an hour outside on the front porch, where I’ve spent a lot of my time these past few weeks, breathing in the cold, fresh air, gazing upon the beautiful neighborhood placed in front of me. After that, I went upstairs, brushed my teeth, and head off to bed.
But I couldn't sleep.
For some reason, I was afraid to go to school. I don't know why, but something inside me felt scared and nervous. Not about the lessons—I probably knew the stuff from the back of my hand. It was the kids I was worried about.
I'm not sure if I can remember what school I went to, but if I could, I would want to return there. I don't know who these kinds of kids are or what they’ll do when they see me, but I’ve recently watched a lot of TV shows to know better.
Anyway, the kids, who have probably already known each
other for years and have stayed in this city together for so long, will be confused when they ask "where did you come from?" and I say, "I don't know". Maybe some of them already know what happened. That I landed on Brad’s couch without the slightest memory of my past, or even how I got to this city. I mean, they could hear it from anyone. Brad, the police, the whole community?
Maybe I shouldn't care if they know, or don't know about me. Either way, they'll still view me like every other new kid: a freak.
The next morning, after breakfast, me and Brad exit the house and head towards his truck to drop me off at school. The truck itself was a metallic silver color, with smooth fenders and tiny tires beneath its enormous body. For some reason, I could see Brad crying into its steering wheel at the thought of his previous car and what happened to it. Then I clear my head of those thoughts, and enter the vehicle.
We pull up to the large building, the image of its two stories and faded maroon colored bricks grabbing the attention of my boggling mind as Brad finds an open spot on the curb, and stops the car.
"Okay," he says as I get out. "I'll be here to pick you up after school, all right?"
"Remember, just try to be yourself."
Like that was so easy for me. I barely even know who I am.
"Yeah, sure," I say.
He then hands me a piece of paper that has his phone number on it, telling me to call him in case of an emergency.
"Good luck, man
, and have a good day," he says.
I laugh, doubting that either of those things will revolve around me right now as he drives off, and I wave to him as he disappears off the distance.
I turn around and see a crowd full of people. Obviously, one thing they had right in TV were the cliques. The Goths, the cheerleaders, the football jocks; all together in little clusters, talking amongst themselves. The nerds weren't together from what I noticed. They operated around all the others, like cars avoiding traffic cones, trying their best not to disturb the peace, but at the same time, communicating with their own kind.
That was when I saw her.
She was leaning against the building, away from the other groups as she writes in a small notepad. She had long, straight, dark brown hair, with hazel eyes, fair skin and a slender figure. She was beautiful. Purely ninety-nine percent beautiful. Oh, what am I talking about? She was nine hundred and ninety-nine percent beautiful.
She looks up at me, and in a panic, I drop my head and stare at the ground. When I look back up a moment later, I see her returning back to her writing.