The noise of water rushing out of the shower head has always been a source of relaxation for me; the only other sound that was able to produce a similar response in me was the pitter patter of rain hitting the pavement or other hard surface. Though the noise produced by water and the sounds produced by musical instruments both brought me to an altered state of consciousness my natural responses to each were different. Music seemed to increase the tension or energy within my body and mind thus allowing me to tap into my inherited abilities while the sensations of water seemed to ease the tension and allow me to open my body and mind, encouraging a sense of tranquility in which my intellect could process information with clarity and speed.
I stood in the shower with my head tilted back and my eyes closed, allowing the warm water to hit my face and contemplated what had been revealed to me; five days had passed and I had no memory of what had transpired. Nothing. How was that possible? How did I lose all that time? What the fuck happened to me? Could it have been something so traumatic that I blocked it out so I wouldn’t have to deal with the memory of it? Was it a new mental health issue? Did I have Dissociative Identity Disorder? Could I have fragmented myself to such a degree that I created another personality that was in control of my body for the last five days and that’s why I didn’t remember anything? I tried to make some sense of it, but found that even the water brought no flash of insight or inspiration.
I shut off the faucet, dried myself off, and dressed in my favorite pair of black denim jeans and dark red Wonder Woman tee shirt then sat on my bed, hugging my knees. I considered that it might be possible that I was actually mentally ill and that the revelation I had days ago had been false. I rested my chin on my knees and closed my eyes, attempting to hold back the tears that I felt building inside of me. It was evident that I didn’t have a solid perception of what was real. I still existed and lived somewhere outside of the shared reality and maybe I never knew nor would I ever know the difference between truth and fantasy. When I thought something was real perhaps it really wasn’t and everything that was actually true and real my mind distorted and twisted so that I couldn’t recognize it as reality.
There was a soft knock on my bedroom door. I expected it to be my Mother, but realized I hadn’t heard the click of her shoes on the hardwood floor of the hallway.
I considered that my visitor was my Father. Mother probably sent him in to lecture me on the consequences of neglecting to take my Klonopin and Cymbalta as prescribed by Dr. Worth and I really didn’t want to hear it. I just wanted to be left alone, but knew that if I said as such to him the repercussions would be worse than what they were going to be for me. I had hoped that Daniel would be a distraction for them; the fact that he had been expelled from military school presented a huge problem for them to deal with, something other than me for a change and I was hoping it was a big enough issue to keep them occupied for a while so that I would have time to solve my current predicament, which I was convinced was something greater than just skipping a few doses of prescribed medications.
The door slowly opened.
“Can we talk?” my brother questioned, his hand still lingering on the glass doorknob.
I was surprised and slightly annoyed to see him, but I was sure as shit not going to dismiss a chance to question him about his own memories of the prior evening.
“Sure,” I said as I folded my legs, one under the other, and tapped the space next to me on the bed. “Come sit.”
Daniel seemed uneasy as he shut the door behind him and walk over to my desk chair without acknowledging the empty spot beside me on the bed. He wore the same tormented expression that he had earlier, though I was unable to determine whether it was because of me or what was on his mind. I studied his expression as he glanced around my room. It had been years since he had spent any length of time in my room and I wondered what he was thinking as he looked at the various items I had displayed on my walls and book shelf; a collection that held a few pieces some people might find morbid or disturbing, but he seemed unaffected by any of it and lingered his gaze only when he noticed the large heavy book that sat near him on my desk. He reached out and brushed the leather cover with his fingers before turning to me.
“Look, I know things between us have been …,” he gestured with his hands as he struggled to find the right word then shrugged. “Tense.”
“Personally I would’ve gone with ‘nonexistent’,” I offered.
I was curious about where the conversation was going. It almost sounded as if Daniel was building up to an apology, but I was skeptical about his sincerity. And why did his attitude towards me shift? All of a sudden he wanted us to be close again when in the not so recent past all he chose to do was ignore me? Well, I wasn’t ready to let go of my pain, the pain I blamed on his betrayal.
“Yeah, okay. You’re right,” he acquiesced with a nod and rested his elbows on the arms of the swivel chair. “And I accept responsibility for it.”
Huh. I honestly didn’t know what to say in response so I said nothing and sat on my bed in silence, watching him as he leaned back slightly and rubbed his crew cut with his left hand. With a loud sigh, he abruptly stood from the chair and walked over to my bedroom window, paused then returned back to the chair and sat before he spoke again.
“Look Angie, I don’t even know …,” he looked pointedly at me. The anguish that fluttered in his eyes made my stomach flip. I knew that look; I had seen it when I gazed in the mirror this morning. “… I don’t know … I don’t know what’s happening to me. I think I’m losing my mind.”
I repressed a snicker though I didn’t find the situation humorous. I knew Daniel was feeling overwhelmed, but I didn’t understand what lead him to believe that he was mentally unstable and I needed more information from him before I could offer my “expert” opinion or advice on how to deal with his newly found instability.
“Dan, I don’t believe you’re losing your mind,” I comforted.
“Yes I am!” he shouted, jumping from the seat and retracing his steps from the chair to the window and back again.
“Dan … Daniel,” I began, feeling compelled to ease his anxiety, but unsure of how to do so. Intuitively I stood and grabbed his hands with my own, holding them as I continued. “Why don’t you explain to me why you think you’re losing your mind?”
As my palms touched the flesh of his hands my mind sprang alive with a montage of shared childhood memories. Days at the beach, games of tag in the backyard, and forts made of bedding on snow days from school flashed in my head with a speed that prevented me from focusing on any one of them, but the joy associated with each flowed through me like warm caramel. I found the source, the fount from where this happiness sprang and wrapped my mind around it; I pulled the emotional energy into my center and spindled it before sending it through my chest, down my arms, and out my palms to Daniel. We stood together in silence for a few moments before he spoke. His voice was an octave deeper than it had been when he first spoke after entering my bedroom.
“Yeah, okay,” he agreed. I maneuvered him over to the bed so that we could sit side by side while still holding hands. “When I woke up this morning I didn’t feel right. I mean, I sort of felt like I was hung-over, but I know I didn’t drink anything last night. And I didn’t smoke anything either. But I felt … I don’t know … fuzzy? And then I went downstairs to get something to eat and Mom was there. Like what the fuck? I thought they weren’t coming home for five more days, but there she was back from their trip and she didn’t act surprised to see me, which freaked me the fuck out even more …,” he prattled. “I asked her, ‘When did you get home?’ and she said, ‘Last night while you were sleeping.’ and I thought, ‘Last night? No way they came home last night.’”
I ventured a guess as to what he was going to say next, “And then when I asked she said it was Saturday.”
“YES!” His eyes looked like they were going to pop out of their sockets. “What – the – fuck?!”
I squeezed his hands with mine. So I wasn’t the only one who was unsettled by the fact that it was Saturday when I was convinced it should have been Monday.
“Do you remember anything after having pizza with Chloe and me last night … or whatever night it was?” I asked hoping that maybe he had more memories than I did about what might have happened between then and now.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “But there isn’t anything weird. I mean I came upstairs and put my stuff away and then I called my friend Jacob. We talked for maybe an hour then I showered and went to bed.”
“That’s it? That’s all you remember?” I questioned.
He nodded. “Yeah. You?”
“Not much more than you,” I confessed. “Chloe left, you went upstairs, and I looked for Aunt Rachel. I found her sitting in the morning parlor, but after that my memories get weird. I remember feeling dizzy … but I can’t be sure of anything after that … I have images, but I think they’re from a dream I had.” I shrugged. “I don’t know. But I know that something’s very, very wrong and I think part of it has something to do with Aunt Rachel.”
“Aunt Rachel?” he paused. “Well, how are we gonna figure this shit out?”
I wasn’t used to him looking to me for leadership and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.
“Do you think we were drugged?” he asked.
I thought the idea was ridiculous, but I wasn’t about to humiliate my brother by dismissing his suggestion, at least he was attempting to solve the riddle of our shared missing time. I had no deeper insight to the puzzle than he did, but it was comforting to me on some level to know that I wasn’t the only one who was missing a large chunk of time from their life and that the chunk of time missing was the same for both of us. For the first time in years I wasn’t alone dealing with the dissonance of my chaotic life and I found solace in that.
“We need to talk to Aunt Rachel,” I suggested. “She would’ve been the only other person in the house with us that night. Maybe she knows what happened.”
Daniel agreed. “Call her.”
I grabbed my cellphone from its charger on the desk and called her. I allowed the phone to ring a number of times before the call was sent to voice mail. I frowned as I left a message informing her to call me back as soon as she received my message. I chose my words carefully and spoke with enough urgency to encourage her to call me, but not too much that I would cause her to be alarmed about my well-being. As I finished speaking there was a loud rapping on my bedroom door. I could tell by the force and cadence that it was probably my Dad and welcomed him into my sanctuary.
“Just checking in,” he smiled as he swung the door opened, but remained standing at the threshold.
“Welcome home, Dad,” I said as I placed my phone back on its charger. “How was the Bahamas?”
“I’m going for a run,” Daniel said, standing from the bed and walking towards the door. He paused as he turned to look at me. “Wanna come? It would do you some good.”
I intuitively understood that physical exercise did for Daniel what the sound of water provided for me; time for undisturbed contemplation, though I didn’t imagine he would describe it in such a way.
I raised an eyebrow. “Are you insinuating something about my weight, oh dearest brother of mine?”
“What?” He gestured to himself with feigned shock. “Would I do that?”
I threw one of my bed pillows at him, but it missed and fell to the floor with a flop as Dad chuckled at our playful exchange.
“Let me know when Aunt Rachel calls you back,” my brother said, picking up the pillow and tossing it back at me.
“Well, I wouldn’t expect a return call any time soon,” cautioned Dad as he patted Daniel on the shoulder. “She has a flight to catch early tomorrow morning and mentioned a list of things she had to get done before then.”
“A flight? She never mentioned a trip,” I frowned. This new information felt dissonant and strange. I looked over at Daniel. He was standing just inside my bedroom next to our Father, who still held the door knob with his left hand. By my brother’s expression I could clearly surmise that he was experiencing feelings of apprehension after hearing the news of Aunt Rachel’s trip as well; similar uneasiness to that which I felt.
“She goes to Europe every year to do her annual gallery visits,” stated Dad as he eyed me quizzically. “Don’t you remember?”
“I …,” I shrugged. “I guess.”
“You always beg her to take you,” continued Dad. “Frankly I’m surprised you didn’t ask this year because she probably would have. I think she’s been sort of lost lately and your company would have been welcomed.”
No. This wasn’t right … wasn’t right at all. Aunt Rachel wasn’t lost; maybe she was preoccupied and even sad, but not lost. Why was my Father lying to me? An image of my cousin standing beside me with his fingers gripping my forearm flashed in my brain as a profound feeling of grief weighed upon me.
“What about Christian?” I countered.
“He’s staying with his father while she’s gone just like he does every year,” he said before turning to my brother and nodding. “Enjoy your run.”
My brother and I stared at each other in disbelief.