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The Day we Met Again (Revised)
It rained on the day that I first met Brent, or the first time I remember meeting him, anyway. Ever since the car crash last February, the car crash that sent me into a coma, I've had trouble remembering faces from my past, unfortunately Brent was no exception. It was towards the end of one of Lex's soccer games, I had dropped in for the last five or so minutes of the game because the two of us were going out for lunch afterwards. It was merely drizzling outside when I first took my seat on the bleachers, and I wasn't expecting to stay long, it hadn't occurred to me to bring an umbrella. But as with everything else in my life, the weather hadn't played out as planned.
Within a matter of minutes after I had taken my seat, the threatening clouds overhead decided to dump every drop of water contained in them at once, causing a complete downpour over the field. I don't remember if I ever liked the rain back before the car accident. I honestly can't recall if it ever bothered me that my hair got frizzy whenever the little water drops collided with it, or if I ever enjoyed the sound of the rain splashing against the ground. But one thing was for sure: whoever I was now was not a fan of the rain. The dirt under my feet turned into a soupy mess that coated the bottoms my used to be snow-white shoes. Cold water pelted me on top of the head, and lightening struck the ground occasionally, threatening to travel closer. But the worst of it was that somehow, the rainstorm reminded me of something, some horrible, terrifying memory that wasn't willing to reveal itself to me. That's what set me on edge the most.
The boy sitting next to me had somehow conjured up an umbrella, though I hadn’t noticed either him or the umbrella until he leaned towards me and whispered "Care to join me?" he tilted the umbrella and held it over both our heads, shielding us against the fierce downpour. I nodded at his request before he scooted closer, doing the best he could to cover us both under the black umbrella.
"Thanks," I replied as I brushed a stray lock damp auburn hair out of my face.
"No problem," he said, "I'm Brent, by the way.” The way he said it was casual, the message nonchalant, but there was something underlying the context about the way he introduced himself. Something was odd about the expression on his face; almost as if he was pleading with me to make some kind of connection. Something about him told me I should have recognized him.
"This isn't the first time we've met, isn't it?" I said it more as a statement than a question, feeling my heart drop to my stomach, praying that I could find it in me to hold back the tears as Brent hesitated, biting his lip before speaking again.
"Lex is really good isn't she?" Brent said without looking at me, running a hand through his sandy hair as he stared determinedly at one particular player on the soccer field. I followed his gaze to where Lex was standing, high five-ing a couple girls after she had scored her second goal of the game. I forced a slight smile..
"How did I know you before?" I pressed, taking my eyes off of the soccer game and to stare hard at Brent, partly to make him uncomfortable enough to actually look at me, partly because I was analyzing his face, hoping that somehow, something about him would trigger a memory.
"We used to be friends before the accident," he said nonchalantly, with a flick of the wrist, to brush off the topic, as if our friendship hadn’t mattered. As if this one missing piece to the puzzle—my puzzle, was nothing. But I’d been playing the same game with everyone around me for the past three months; I’d played the indifferent card so many times it was impossible to count. I knew how to look past the veil of the unconcerned face, I knew how to look into someone’s eyes see the pain that dulled a tiny fraction of the gleam in someone’s eyes. No one could fool me by using one of my own tricks against me, Brent was no exception.
"How good of friends?" I asked eagerly, Brent took his gaze off of the soccer game and looked me up and down, the unmoved expression finally giving way to something else, an emotion I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t grief, or sadness, but something similar, a kind of desperation almost. This expression lingered on his face for several moments before Brent looked deep into my eyes, and opened his mouth to reply.
"Mary, you really don't remember me?"
The way that Brent looked at me in that moment, the way his eyes fell, the way he seemed to be giving up on any kind of hope that I'd remember him, just about killed me inside. I desperately wracked all my brains, sifted through all my memories, the few that the coma had spared me; but Brent wasn't there. The boy staring at me in the rain, hazel eyes desperately searching my face, was completely unfamiliar.
"I—“ I started, I almost broke down when Brent took his eyes off of me "I want to! Believe me, I want to recognize you! I really do Brent, I just—can't right now."
"I should've known," was Brent's only response. I hated myself for not keeping it together, I hated myself with every particle of my being for looking down, gasping, and letting the tears well up in my eyes. I hated myself for letting the searing pain that had penetrated through my heart to interfere with my composure on the surface. He didn’t understand, I could stare at him all day, spend the rest of my life at his side, and try as I might, whether he had been part of my past or not, would remain forever a blank slate. As I looked up into his eyes, desperately trying to think of something to say, trying to fix what I had somehow made so broken, I couldn’t help but feel isolated beyond what I had ever felt before. Even though Brent was sitting there, right next to me, touching me, even, it felt as if he were somewhere galaxies away.
I should have thought about it more before I said it, should have evaluated the power to which my words might have before I threw them upon Brent, but I couldn’t help it. The second something came to mind, I blurted it out regardless of its effects that it might have in the aftermath.
"I didn't choose this, you know!" I retorted, "I didn't want this to happen anymore than anyone else did. I can’t control what I do and don't remember from anymore than I could've stopped that car from running through that red light!" My previous feelings of despair were beginning to give way a fury in which I had never felt before, my posture straightened as I spoke. I didn’t realize I was standing until the deed had already been done, I could feel my cheeks burning, turning crimson in my anger. But yet, I had no regrets as to what I said, what I was saying, as I continued in my rage. "It hasn't been easy piecing back together what I do remember and trying to live off of that! It's not easy getting up every day and not knowing where I came from, or who I was! It’s not fun trying to face someone you know you should remember, but you can’t, and keeping a straight face through it all.” The wide-eyed faces of everyone in the stands began to disappear as I went on, I took little notice of the rain, which was pouring down even heavier now, not caring how soaked I got, not letting it occur to me that my hair was frizzing to an afro on my head. All that mattered was letting everything out.
“It’s not like you’re the only person I don’t remember, Brent. How can you expect me to remember you, when I don’t even know who I am myself?” I sounded like I was on the verge of falling apart even to myself, but I had to go on. “How do you expect me recall us, when I can’t even recall Mary Emerson, whoever she is, and how she got here to be, me, whoever I am, today?”
Brent stared at me for a minute, his head drawn back, eyes flickering in every which direction, staring at the people in the stands, the soccer teams, hurrying to grab their bags after the game and get out of the storm, anywhere but up at me. No one said anything for several moments of a lingering silence before Brent stuttered a reply. "I—I don't know," he said softly, refusing to look up from the mud pooling around his tennis shoes.
"No, you don’t," I said tersely, "You don’t know, you don’t understand; and I guess all we can do is hope it stays that way."
Brent bit his lip and stared at the ground for a moment before finally finding it in himself to look into my eyes, the fury was finally beginning to ebb away, I could feel the heat and angry beginning to recede from my face. All that was left of my fury was the intense feeling of exhaustion washing over me, weighing down my eyelids, slowing my breathing as Brent replied.
"They're not gone, you know," he said, returning his gaze to the now vacant soccer field, and then looking up at the sky, the storm had finally been exhausted, and the clouds were giving way to the beautiful shade light blue they’d been masking. Both of us looked down from the clouds and into each other’s eyes before Brent elaborated "Your memories. They're not gone. I bet all you'd need is a reminder or something, something to trigger them out of hiding into coming back."
All I could do was blink at the preposterous idea. I couldn’t help but shake my head fervently, but before I did so, I saw something about him, something about the way he looked at me. Some kind of light in his eyes that forced me to bite back the harsh words I was preparing for him, and exchange them for something different, something more subtle.
"I've been given hundreds of reminders to my past, and not one of them has triggered a memory. Believe me, they're gone," I replied frankly, forcing myself to keep a straight face, to remain composure as I replied.
Brent's face momentarily fell; he took his eyes off of my face and locked them into position at his lap. I bit my lip as hard as I could to try to distract myself from the tears spearing at the back of my eyes, determinedly trying to break their way through the surface of my eyelids. I sank down next to Brent on the bleachers as I felt my breath begin to shorten, I closed my eyes tight as I knew I couldn’t hold them in anymore, I finally let the tears pour down my face without restraint.
“Hey,” Brent’s voice was soft, his eyebrows raised in concern as his hazel eyes stared into mine. He gently pulled a stray strand of auburn hair out of my face as he quietly raised his other hand to my mouth, letting his index finger touch my lips in attempt to subtly silence my cries. “Sh sh, you’re okay, I’ve got you,” he said softly, wrapping his arms around me and gently pulling me closer to him. I buried my face into his shoulder as I finally let go, I let my emotions wash over me like a tidal wave washes over a Japanese beach. In the past three months, Lex was the only one I’d let see me cry, I’d silently promised myself that no one else would get to see me cry. When people looked at me, I wanted them to think of me as that strong girl, the miraculous survivor of a fatal car crash, the girl who refused to fall apart. I had unofficially promised myself that no one would get to see the real girl behind the headlines, I didn’t want people to see that I wasn’t as strong as people made me out to be, and I wasn’t holding it together nearly as well as the WISN 12 news told everyone I was. I didn’t want people to see how the loss of ninety percent of my memories had literally broken me as a person. But now the cat was out of the bag, someone else saw me for what I was, what I’d become; and for the first time since the car crash, that was okay.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled between quiet sobs, I didn’t know why I said it, I knew I didn’t need to apologize, I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have apologized for letting go of the reins when I knew I couldn’t control myself any longer, but I did.
“No, I’m sorry,” Brent interjected, “I’m sorry this had to happen to you.”
I shook my head, “It’s not your fault,” I replied bluntly, wiping my tears from my face and sitting up straight again. I was done with letting myself cry.
“Are you sure your memories are gone?” Brent looked at me with a soft gleam in his eyes as he gently wiped a tear off of my cheek with his thumb.
I bit my lip and nodded, “Positive,” I replied. I almost fell apart again when I saw the look on Brent’s face, the way the light in his eyes flickered out as he bit his own lip and stared determinedly at his lap. But I couldn’t fall apart, at that moment it wasn’t an option, I had to be that strong girl. I had to be strong for Brent.
"But that doesn't mean we can't make new memories," I reasoned. I waited for a second before Brent raised his gaze and his chocolate colored eyes met mine once more. The gleam in his eyes had returned, like a spark burning brightly despite the dark of night. The spark of hope.
"How do you mean?" he said it quietly, hesitantly, his voice faltered but the light still burned brilliantly in his eyes as he awaited my reply.
"We start out fresh," I said as I held out my hand for him to take, "Hi my name is Mary Emerson, I don't believe we've met before."