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Dreams. What dreams? Dreams. Again. Again. And again. Do not go to sleep. Do not. Don’t you dare. A walk? Take a walk. Sleep. No. No sleep. Take a walk. Another? Yes. Do it. What? Do it. Hello? Are you there? No, I am not. Go. Go away. Please? No stay.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“She says she doesn’t remember. Affected her brain, I heard.”
“Yeah, I’m no doctor, Halle.”
“Whatever. Let’s go.”
A last lingering look.
Bye Max…I love you. A whispered thought.
A window. A windowless room. Martians. Yes. No. No! Not Martians. Animals? Yes! Animals. Animals coming to visit me in my nest. My sleeping place. My cave. My cave in the white room. Them. Tiny ants all in a row. The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah…
“I feel so bad Steve. I really do. He…”
“I know what you’re going through—”
“Yes babe, I do. But Halle, you’ve gotta understand. We have a life…I just got a new job. I mean, you should be happy for what we have right now! It could’ve been a lot worse. I don’t think you want me to remind you of that. We’ve got a stable home, stable job, a future, Halle, a future. You can’t forget that.”
“You’re right.” A drifting look.
Why are you buzzing at me? Stop. No. Keep whispering. Yell? Do not yell. My ears are gone. No. Keep going. Stop. Go. Wait. Maybe drink some of my tea? Here I will prepare it for you. No tea? Water. I want some water. There you go, some tea. I love tea. I hate black things in hot brown water. I love tea. Water. Talk louder. Louder, I cannot hear. Louder still! Stop! Don’t yell. You are yelling too loud. Whisper? Do not whisper. Stop! Go! I do not hear you! Louder?
“Max…you look so…Max, I’m sorry I haven’t been by to see you.” A stop. A long stop.
“Steve told me not to come. I snuck out just to see you, honey. Are you happy?” She ruffles his hair.
“If he catches me, I’m screwed, okay? So don’t tell.” A light chuckle.
“As if you can understand what I’m saying. Max? Max…I know, I know. Steve. He…he’s hard sometimes. He doesn’t get it…whatever. I’ll deal with him later. The thing is…I love him but…I think I still…oh, Max. Okay…I’ll admit it…I still love y—”
A door opens. She whips her head around. A look of horror.
“Halle? What are you doing? Did I not tell you to stay away from this…this thing?” Tension. Anger.
She turns around, pleading.
“Steve…I can explain—”
A strike. The blond head tumbles to the floor. Red.
Talk. Talk some more. I do not want to see the color red. Love. A type of bird? A sea animal? No. Love is the tool that is used to put food in the mouth. Yes. That is it. No. No. No. Why are you sleeping? Do not sleep. Sheets of red? A mattress of red. A sea of red. Do not sleep. Take a walk. Wait. What? What is that?
A flash of steel. A muffled scream.
“Baby, I told you not to come visit this freak. This is your fault. Bye Halle.”
A black, shiny trash bag. Pounds of flesh and bones go in. Away! Away to the burial site.
A witness forgotten.
The name…so sweet and tender on my lips. Her name.
The day on the street. Our anniversary. What? Anniversa—
Who is Halle?
The flashes came in sudden bursts of remembrance. As if a camera flashed in a pair of eyes. The eyes blink, then close. The eyes remember. Flash.
Echoing. Laughter. Echo…echo…echo…the colors are somewhat distorted. Everything is in super sharp focus. I sway and clutch my head.
Images. Come. Rushing. Back.
“Come on Halle! I’ll be home in time for our anniversary.”
“Remember! Our two-month anniversary. Or do you not care enough to remember?”
“Of course I remember! And you know I care about you.”
Halle stopped and tapped her foot impatiently. She raised her eyebrows.
I nodded slightly exasperated.
“Yes, I do. You mean the world to me.”
“So…you’re not going to talk to that girl at the bookstore anymore?”
“You know about that?”
“I’m not blind, Max.”
“Really, Maxwell. You don’t even have to explain. I see it’s making you all sweaty. You wouldn’t want to walk into that meeting all soaked in sweat, would you? Imagine what your colleagues would think. You know, since they kinda know about me and you…”
“Oh god, Halle, please stop there. I need to focus on my meeting. Not our drunken nights on the couch.” I laughed. Halle reached up and fixed my tie. I grabbed my briefcase. Only twenty-five and I already felt so official.
I kissed my girlfriend lightly on the lips.
“Got to go before…” I looked down at my watch. Halle gave it to me on our one-month anniversary. I walked out the door and took a deep breath, trying to refocus.
Once I was outside and walking down the sidewalk, I heard Halle.
“Ooh! Wait! Max!”
Halle came running out, still in her flannel pajama bottoms and tank top. She was holding a blueberry muffin in one hand and the morning paper in the other.
“Max! You have to get a good breakfast! My mother told me that!” She stuffed the muffin in my mouth and shoved the paper in my hand. I reached a busy intersection. On the other side of the street was my bus.
“Halle…bus leaves…practically now!”
“Okay, okay. Wait…one sec…”
The light turned red. I started to walk across the wide street.
“Tell me right now. I want to hear it. Just once?” A smile played on the edge of her lips.
“I…” I looked at the bus. People were filing inside. The driver honked his horn impatiently. An old lady was making her way slowly up the steps. The old lady stops and catches my eyes. Her mouth opens and her eyes widen in shock. I try to make sense of her expression. She mouths a word. One word.
I shrugged off her look of horror.
“Okay, okay. Just once and then I really need to catch the bus.” I take a breath and smile.
“Halle Anne Keeler, I love—”
We both realize it a second too late. The light turned green.
A scream. Red. Red everywhere. Oh my god.
“No…No…I don’t want to remember…Halle…oh god…”
I do not even remember how I was hit. I’m flying. I’m flying higher than a trapeze artist. I am flying higher than a bird.
Pain. Pain. Pain. Fuzzy pain.
“No…it didn’t happen…nothing happened…Halle…help me…”
The call of the sirens. The flashing ambulance.
“That car. Did you see that?”
“That guy totally—“
“Dude…I wonder how they’re going to clean up that mess…”
“C’mon, sweetie. Don’t look at this, let’s go.”
Crying. Screaming. Yelling. Halle. Help me. Stay with me.
“Ma’am? Ma’am, you’re going to have to come with us. Ma’am! Ma’am! Hey Steve! Steve! Man, come over and help me with this woman. I think she just witnessed the whole thing. She’s a mess. Call Danny over and…never mind. I’ll go get him. Put her on a stretcher, calm her down. I’ll be right back.”
“Okay, John. I’ll take care of her.” A pause.
“Max…he…Max…how is Max…is he alive…”
“Your friend Max will be fine. We’ll get him all patched up at the hospital. Don’t worry.”
“Thanks…thank you Steve…Max…oh, god, Maxwell…”
The stretcher was wheeled away by Steve Tanner, a firefighter.
“He can’t be the same Steve…no…poor Halle…Halle I miss you…no…”
A flurry of activity.
“Doctor? Doctor! Room 160! The patient in room 160! He’s talking again. Someone…anyone! Report to room 160. Immediately!”
Doctors rush in.
“I remember…I remember…oh, sweet Halle…”
“This is CNN breaking news. Last night, authorities made the grisly discovery of thirty-year-old Halle Keeler. Her body was found in a ditch near the St. Michaels Facility for the Mentally Disabled. Witness Maxwell Lawrence, a patient at the facility, claims that he finally remembers what exactly happened…”