We run for it, our shoes slapping the concrete with urgency, as if someone is chasing us. And they might be. The car turns out to be an SUV. I know it’s impressive because it sits above the other cars, making them look small and insignificant. A Land Rover. Silas is either driving his dad’s car, or floating in his dad’s money. Maybe he doesn’t have a dad. He wouldn’t be able to tell me anyway. And how do I even know how much a car like this costs? I have memories of how things work: a car, the rules of the road, the presidents, but not of who I am.
He opens the door for me while looking over his shoulder toward the school, and I get the feeling I’m being pranked. He could be responsible for this. He could have given me something to cause me to lose my memory temporarily, and now he’s only pretending.
“Is this for real?” I ask, suspended above the front seat. “You don’t know who you are?”
“No,” he says. “I don’t.”
I believe him. Kind of. I sink into my seat.
He searches my eyes for a moment longer before slamming my door and running around to the driver’s side. I feel rough. Like after a night of drinking. Do I drink? My license said I was only seventeen. I chew on my thumb as he climbs in and starts the engine by pressing a button.
“How’d you know how to do that?” I ask.
“Start the car without a key.”
“I…I don’t know.”
I watch his face as we pull out of the spot. He blinks a lot, glances at me more, runs a tongue over his bottom lip. When we’re at a stoplight, he finds the HOME button on the GPS and hits it. I’m impressed that he thought to do that.
“Redirecting,” a woman’s voice says. I want to lose it, jump out of the moving car and run like a frightened deer. I am so afraid.
His home is large. There are no cars in the driveway as we linger on the curb, the engine purring quietly.
“Are you sure this is you?” I ask.
“Doesn’t look like anyone is home,” he says. “Should we?”
I nod. I shouldn’t be hungry, but I am. I want to go inside and have something to eat, maybe research our symptoms and see if we’ve come in contact with some brain-eating bacteria that’s stolen our memories. A house like this should have a couple of laptops lying around. Silas turns into the driveway and parks. We climb out timidly, looking around at the shrubs and trees like they’re going to come alive. He finds a key on his key ring that opens the front door. As I stand behind him and wait, I study him. In his clothes and hair he wears the cool look of a guy who doesn’t care, but he carries his shoulders like he cares too much. He also smells like the outside: grass, and pine, and rich black dirt. He’s about to turn the knob.
He turns around slowly, despite the urgency in my voice.
“What if there’s someone in there?”
He grins, or maybe it’s a grimace. “Maybe they can tell us what the hell is happening…”
Then we are inside. We stand immobile for a minute, looking around. I cower behind Silas like a wimp. It’s not cold but I’m shivering. Everything is heavy and impressive—the furniture, the air, my book bag, which hangs off my shoulder like dead weight. Silas moves forward. I grab onto the back of his shirt as we skirt through the foyer and into the family room. We move from room to room, stopping to examine the photos on the walls. Two smiling, sun-kissed parents with their arms around two smiling, dark-haired boys, the ocean in the background.
“You have a little brother,” I say. “Did you know you have a little brother?”
He shakes his head, no. The smiling in the photos becomes more scarce as Silas and his mini-me brother get older. There is plenty of acne and braces, photos of parents who are trying too hard to be cheerful as they pull stiff-shouldered boys toward them. We move to the bedrooms…the bathrooms. We pick up books, read the labels on brown prescription bottles we find in medicine cabinets. His mother keeps dried flowers all over the house; pressed into the books on her nightstand, in her makeup drawer, and lined up on the shelves in their bedroom. I touch each one, whispering their names under my breath. I remember all the names of the flowers. For some reason, this makes me giggle. Silas stops short when he walks into his parents’ bathroom and finds me bent over laughing.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “ I had a moment.”
“What kind of moment?”
“A moment where I realized that I’ve forgotten everything in the world about myself, but I know what a hyacinth is.”
He nods. “Yeah.” He looks down at his hands, creases forming on his forehead.
“Do you think we should tell someone? Go to a hospital, maybe?”
“Do you think they’d believe us?” I ask. We stare at each other then. And I hold back the urge once again to ask if I’m being pranked. This isn’t a prank. It’s too real.
We move to his father’s study next, scouring over papers and looking in drawers. There is nothing to tell us why we are like this, nothing out of the ordinary. I keep a close watch on him from the corner of my eye. If this is a prank, he’s a very good actor. Maybe this is an experiment, I think. I’m part of some psychological, government experiment and I’m going to wake up in a lab. Silas watches me too. I see his eyes darting over me, wondering…assessing. We don’t speak much. Just, Look at this. Or, Do you think this is something?
We are strangers and there are few words between us.
Silas’s room is last. He clutches my hand as we enter and I let him because I’m starting to feel light-headed again. The first thing I see is a photo of us on his desk. I am wearing a costume—a too-short leopard print tutu and black angel wings that spread elegantly behind me. My eyes are lined with thick, glittery lashes. Silas is dressed in all white, with white angel wings. He looks handsome. Good vs. evil, I think. Is that the sort of life game we played? He glances at me and raises his eyebrows.
“Poor costume choice,” I shrug. He cracks a smile and then we move to opposite sides of the room.
I lift my eyes to walls where there are framed photos of people: a homeless man slouched against a wall, holding a blanket around himself; a woman sitting on a bench, crying into her hands. A gypsy, her hand clamped around her own neck as she looks into the camera lens with empty eyes. The photos are morbid. They make me want to turn away, feel ashamed. I don’t understand why anyone would want to take a photo of such morbidly sad things, never mind hang them on their walls to look at everyday.