One hundred silent questions fill her eyes at once, and I immediately want to dodge them all. “I’m fine, Charlie.” I smile at her, because it feels like something I should do. “Just not feeling so hot. Go back to class.”
She doesn’t move.
She doesn’t smile.
She stays where she is, unaffected by my instruction. She reminds me of one of those animals on springs you’d ride on a playground. The kind you push, but they just bounce right back up. I feel like if someone were to shove her shoulders, she’d lean straight back, feet in place, and then bounce right back up again.
I don’t remember what those things are called, but I do make a mental note that I somehow remember them. I’ve made a lot of mental notes in the last three hours.
I’m a senior.
My name is Silas.
Nash might be my last name.
My girlfriend’s name is Charlie.
I play football.
I know what jellyfish look like.
Charlie tilts her head and the corner of her mouth twitches slightly. Her lips part, and for a moment, all I hear are nervous breaths. When she finally forms words, I want to hide from them. I want to tell her to close her eyes and count to twenty until I’m too far away to hear her question.
“What’s my last name, Silas?”
Her voice is like smoke. Soft and wispy and then gone.
I can’t tell if she’s extremely intuitive or if I’m doing a horrible job of covering up the fact that I know nothing. For a moment, I debate whether or not I should tell her. If I tell her and she believes me, she might be able to answer a lot of questions I have. But if I tell her and she doesn’t believe me…
“Babe,” I say with a dismissive laugh. Do I call her babe? “What kind of question is that?”
She lifts the foot I was positive was stuck to the floor, and she takes a step forward. She takes another. She continues toward me until she’s about a foot away; close enough that I can smell her.
She smells like lilies, and I don’t know how I can possibly remember what lilies smell like, but somehow not remember the actual person standing in front of me who smells like them.
Her eyes haven’t left mine, not even once.
“Silas,” she says. “What’s my last name?”
I work my jaw back and forth, and then turn around to face the sink again. I lean forward and grip it tightly with both hands. I slowly lift my eyes until they meet hers in the reflection.
“Your last name?” My mouth is dry again and my words come out scratchy.
I look away from her and back at the eyes of the unfamiliar guy in the mirror. “I…I can’t remember.”
She disappears from the reflection, followed immediately by a loud smack. It reminds me of the sound the fish make at Pikes Place Market, when they toss and catch them in the wax paper.
I spin around and she’s lying on the tile floor, eyes closed, arms splayed out. I immediately kneel down and lift her head, but as soon as I have her elevated several inches off the floor, her eyelids begin to flutter open.
She sucks in a rush of air and sits up. She pulls herself out of my arms and shoves me away, almost as if she’s afraid of me. I keep my hands positioned near her in case she attempts to stand, but she doesn’t. She remains seated on the floor with her palms pressed into the tile.
“You passed out,” I tell her.
She frowns at me. “I’m aware of that.”
I don’t speak again. I should probably know what all her expressions mean, but I don’t. I don’t know if she’s scared or angry or…
“I’m confused,” she says, shaking her head. “I…can you…” she pauses, and then makes an attempt to stand. I stand with her, but I can tell she doesn’t like this by the way she glares at my hands that are slightly lifted, waiting to catch her should she start to fall again.
She takes two steps away from me and crosses an arm over her chest. She brings her opposite hand up and begins chewing on the pad of her thumb again. She studies me quietly for a moment and then pulls her thumb from her mouth, making a fist. “You didn’t know we had class together after lunch.” Her words are spoken with a layer of accusation. “You don’t know my last name.”
I shake my head, admitting to the two things I can’t deny.
“What can you remember?” she asks.
She’s scared. Nervous. Suspicious. Our emotions are reflections of one another, and that’s when the clarity hits.
She may not feel familiar. I may not feel familiar. But our actions—our demeanor—they’re exactly the same.
“What do I remember?” I repeat her question in an attempt to buy myself a few more seconds to allow my suspicions to gain footing.
She waits for my answer.
“History,” I say, attempting to remember as far back as I can. “Books. I saw a girl drop her books.” I grab my neck again and squeeze.
“Oh, God.” She takes a quick step toward me. “That’s…that’s the first thing I remember.”
My heart jumps to my throat.
She begins to shake her head. “I don’t like this. It doesn’t make sense.” She appears calm—calmer than I feel. Her voice is steady. The only fear I see is in the stretched whites of her eyes. I pull her to me without thinking, but I think it’s more for my own relief rather than to put her at ease. She doesn’t pull away, and for a second, I wonder if this is normal for us. I wonder if we’re in love.
I tighten my hold until I feel her stiffen against me. “We need to figure this out,” she says, separating herself from me.
My first instinct is to tell her it’ll be okay, that I’ll figure it out. I’m flooded with an overwhelming need to protect her—only I have no idea how to do that when we’re both experiencing the same reality.
The bell rings, signaling the end of Spanish. Within seconds, the bathroom door will probably open. Lockers will be slamming shut. We’ll have to figure out what classes we’re supposed to be in next. I take her hand and pull her behind me as I push open the bathroom door.
“Where are we going?” she asks.
I look at her over my shoulder and shrug. “I have no idea. I just know I want to leave.”
This dude—this guy, Silas—he grabs my hand like he knows me and drags me behind him like I’m a little kid. And that’s what I feel like—a little kid in a big, big world. I don’t understand anything, and I most certainly don’t recognize anything. All I can think, as he pulls me through the understated halls of some anonymous high school, is that I fainted; keeled over like some damsel in distress. And on the boys’ bathroom floor. Filthy. I’m evaluating my priorities, wondering how my brain can fit germs into the equation when I clearly have a much larger problem, when we burst into the sunlight. I shield my eyes with my free hand as the Silas dude pulls keys from his backpack. He holds them above his head and makes a circle, clicking the alarm button on his key fob. From some far corner of the parking lot we hear the shriek of an alarm.