Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Mario V. Farina
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I woke up in a hospital bed. It was obvious that something had gone badly awry, but the problem didn’t focus immediately. At my age, I hadn’t had much experience with hospitals.
I became aware of several persons who had gathered around the bed. I recognize the doctor and nurse from their clothing. A third person, a rotund gentleman with a ruddy complexion, wore a dark, blue striped business suit. He was speaking.
“Mr. Allen, can you hear me?”
Why the formal language? I wondered. If he had said, “Bobby” or “Robert,” that would have been more appropriate for addressing a child. “Yes,” I responded.
The timbre of my voice startled me. I raised my left hand to shade my eyes and received another shock. Why was my hand gnarled and old-looking? And why the gold band? I had never worn a ring.
“I’m Detective Jenkins,” the man said. “You were found wandering in Times Square. You seemed disoriented and in need of help. We found your driver’s license in the billfold you were carrying. The answers you gave to our questions were confusing. That’s why we brought you here. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes,” I said. The sound of my voice continued to puzzle me. “Times Square?” I thought. I had never been there. It was then I realized that my sense of awareness felt different from what it had yesterday. It was as if a level of intelligence had been infused into my being, and that I was able to perceive reality in a new and more vibrant manner. I was conscious of ideas and concepts that I had never before been exposed to. I was a child but my mind was functioning in a way that I did not understand.
A thought infiltrated my mind, “When I was a child, I spake as a child. I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” This was from the Bible. I knew the verse and it seemed to describe the newfound lucidity of my thoughts.
The slender, blonde nurse propped up my pillow. There was a mirror on the opposite wall. I gazed at its contents and, horrified, gasped. My sensibilities were flooded with the images of a face with a large white mustache, bald head, and wisps of gray over the ears. Living in the mirror was an incredibly old man with a wrinkled face! That person must be me. I knew this instinctively. But this couldn’t be! How could it be? I was only twelve.
“Is there something wrong, Mr. Allen?” It was the voice of the somber-looking, white-clad doctor.
Nodding yes, I hastened to explain to the people around me that I was a child! My name was Robert Allen, I said. I lived on Main Street in Rotterdam Junction. My parents were James and Louise. I went to Rosedale Country School and my teacher was Mr. Bryant. I marveled at how clearly and succinctly I had given this information. Where had I attained this facility?
It was clear that despite the elegance of my eloquence, there had been no persuasive effect on the individuals. Detective Jenkins spoke for the group when he said they’d be back. The trio filed out of the room, the nurse, last in line, taking a backward puzzled glance as she did so.
I dared not look into the mirror again for fear I would see the same atrocious image as before. Nevertheless, I knew it was there. With a heavy cloud of depression and confusion, I fell asleep. “For now, I see through a glass darkly,” was my fading thought.
The sound of the door opening brought me to instant wakefulness. Another doctor had entered the room. She was middle-aged and smallish a frame. Her countenance was as solemn as had been that of the first doctor. She wore a short white coat over a blue dress.
“Mr. Allen,” she said, “I’m Dr. Abrams, a psychiatrist. The police checked with Judge Wilkins in Rotterdam Junction. He reported that he knows you. You say you’re twelve years old. The judge said that you are probably in your nineties.”
“There has to be something wrong!” I protested. “I don’t know Judge Wilkins. Doctor, I find myself in what must be your psychiatric ward, an old man. Yesterday, I was a child, and behaved with the mentality of a child. Today, my thought processes are that of an adult, but I have no recollection of what has happened in the intervening years. I feel I’m living a nightmare and can’t wake up. What’s happening to me, doctor?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Allen,” she said. “I have a little more information, but don’t know whether it will help. It’s possible you have a form of Transient Global Amnesia or TGA. Without your being aware of it, you have lived a long life. You remember your childhood but have completely lost all memory of the years since then. It is unclear whether this memory can be recaptured. In what year were you born, Mr. Allen?”
“I was born on June 11, 1923. What is today’s date?”
“It’s May 2, 2016.”
Frozen with confusion, I was not able to utter a sound.
“I know how hard it must affect you to simulate what I’m saying,” she continued. In all my years of practice, I have seen only one other case like yours. That person’s life had become so meaningless that, for him, there wasn’t anything left worth remembering. He willed himself to forget. We need to do a few more tests to learn more about your situation.”
I felt that further tests would yield nothing, but agreed to them. In the span of a single day, the entire life of a child, my life, had been lived and virtually finished. A boy had changed into an old man as if with the wave of a magician’s wand. Yesterday’s childish dreams and aspirations had vanished like wisps of smoke after a candle’s flame has been extinguished. There was nothing left, not even remembrances of achievements well accomplished.
Tests were conducted but they were mere formalities. The outcomes could have been predicted I was asked about what had happened in 1941, 1946, 1969, 2001,and other years. I had no knowledge. I learned there had been a World War in the forties, men landing on the moon in 1969, airplanes crashing into tall buildings in 2001. I had lived through these events but knew nothing of them. I had memories only of my mom and dad, and school days and a bedroom with the blue puppies painted on the walls.
On the following day, Dr. Abrams closed the door quietly behind her as she entered my room. I was seated in a bedside chair browsing issues of recent Time Magazines.
“Mr. Allen, she said. “Detective Jenkins did some investigation and found that you retired from Harvard College in 1992 after having taught English literature at this school for many years. You’re a widower and have lived in Bridgeport for several years. Your wife’s name was Elizabeth; she died a year ago. You and she had three children. We have not been able to find out why you were in Manhattan yesterday. Does any of what I’m saying mean anything to you?”
“No,” I said. “What you are telling me are just words.”
“What do you remember about your wife?” She asked. “Nothing at all,” I responded.
“I’m consulting with other specialists to see whether there is anything that can be done to restore your memory,” Dr. Abrams said.”
“That’s all very fine,” I replied, “but I don’t see the point. Restoring my memory won’t bring back the years that were lost.”
“I know that,” she said sorrowfully. “I’m sorry.” She handed me the brown, leather billfold that had been found on me and that had been used to help reestablish a portion of my life. I glanced in it and saw unfamiliar bills and a card that I recognized as being a drivers license. A photograph on the card showed the picture of a person who looked like the frightful one I had seen in the mirror. I laid the billfold on the table next to the bed.
The room began to dissolve like a cube of ice on a hot burner. There was a sudden flash of recollection. “Beth?” I uttered.
My mother was shaking me. “Wake up Bobby, you’ll be late for the game.”
I opened my eyes and leapt out of bed. “Saturday!” I yelled. “No school today! Hooray! No school today!” I began throwing on some clothes.
Mom lifted a finger to her lips. “Shush, Bobby, you’ll wake up your dad.”
Then it came back! “Mom,” I cried out. “I had the most dreadful nightmare. I dreamed that was the future. I had become an old man. I saw and was told about incredible things like television, jet planes, rocket ships, computers, and atom bombs! It was frightful. I’m so glad I woke up!”
Mom stared at me. “Bobby, where did all those words come from? Why are you talking like Mr. Bryant?”
“It must’ve been something in the dream, Mom,” I said.
“Put it out of your mind, Bobby,” she said. “What happens in dreams is not real. What happens while you’re awake is what’s important. She spied a brown, leather billfold on the dresser, picked it up, and opened it. “Look,” here is a card that has a picture of your grandfather in it!”
“That’s a drivers license, Mom,” I said. “People will be using them in the future.” Ignoring her puzzled expression, I slipped the billfold into my pants pocket. I knew I would not be without it for the rest of my life. My future had suddenly been restored to my custody, and I needed to treasure every precious moment of it in order to deserve it. I had learned an important lesson. The future is a priceless gift. It is not something that one simply stumbles into; rather it is something that one needs to live through!