“Excellent,” he said, and we drove on into the night.
In less than twenty minutes, we were seated at a white Formica table with a basket of chips and salsa, watching the waitress weave her way through the crowd to put our orders in. Nathan had ordered iced tea; I had ordered watermelon agua fresca, which I was intending to doctor liberally with Tabasco sauce. We’d discussed the relative merits of one another’s drinks a dozen times before—he thought mine was disgusting, I thought the same of his—and so we were able to skip that exchange in favor of a brief, companionable silence.
Nathan looked toward the window, watching someone walk past. I watched him. It was an activity I’d learned to like a lot since we met. I’d been surprised when I first realized that I found him attractive; that hadn’t happened to me before. The fact that he turned out to be handsome to other people was irrelevant.
He wasn’t tall as men went, only an inch or so taller than me, and having a Korean father and an English mother meant that he was always tanner than me, no matter how much time I spent in the sun. Both my parents were Irish, and the Irish word for “suntan” is “burn.” Of the two of us, he was still better about remembering to put on sunscreen, since he was much more aware of the dangers of cancer than I was. He wore wire-framed glasses in front of his dark brown eyes, citing a dislike of sticking things into his body as a reason to avoid either contacts or retinal implants.
That was another thing: Nathan was the best parasitologist I knew, and knew more about the SymboGen Intestinal Bodyguard than almost anyone who hadn’t helped to develop it, but he didn’t have one of his own. In a world where most people managed their medication automatically via tapeworm, he still took pills, because he said that it was less disturbing than the alternative.
The pause, and the introspection, couldn’t last. Nathan turned to look at me. I bit back a sigh. I knew that look. It was the “I’m about to ask you how therapy went” look, and it never ended well, for either of us.
“Did you tell him about the dreams?”
Yup: this was going to suck. “What about them?” I asked lightly. “The red part, the red part, or the red part?”
“Yes, I told him about the dreams. He thinks I’m dreaming about being in the womb. I think he’s wrong. He’s probably going to tell SymboGen I’m repressing, or regressing, or something, and I’m going to wind up with another year of therapy.” I stabbed a tortilla chip viciously into the salsa. “He’s the one who needs therapy.”
“Unfortunately, he’s not the one getting it. You are.”
“Nathan, I’m fine.” Sure, I woke up screaming three or four times a week, but that was normal for me. It was what I had been doing for all six years of my remembered life.
Nathan frowned, starting to say something. He was interrupted by the return of the waitress with our drinks. Once she was gone, he said, “You didn’t know who I was yesterday morning.”
I stopped in the middle of reaching for my agua fresca. “Excuse me?” My mouth was dry. I grabbed my drink and took a gulp, trying to rinse the dryness away. It didn’t work.
“Yesterday morning, you screamed and sat up in bed. I asked you what was wrong. You looked at me like you’d never seen me before. Then you looked at your hands and screamed again. I was honestly waiting for my neighbors to call the police and report that I was beating you, you screamed so much.”
My head was spinning. It felt like all the blood had drained out of it, heading for safer climes elsewhere in my body. “What happened after that?” I didn’t remember any of this, I didn’t remember any of it. Was Nathan lying to me? Worse, was Nathan telling me the truth?
The words were so simple that they didn’t quite make sense. I blinked at him. “What?”
“You stopped screaming. You didn’t wake up, you didn’t react when I touched you, you just collapsed back onto your pillow like you’d never moved at all. When you sat up again, about ten minutes later, you didn’t remember any of it.”
I did remember Nathan being oddly concerned about how I’d slept, and asking three times whether I was going to keep my appointment with Dr. Morrison. I bit my lip before asking, “Why didn’t you say anything? You know I don’t like it when people keep things from me.”
“You also don’t like it when I upset you right before you have to see Dr. Morrison, and I’m saying something now,” Nathan countered. “If it weren’t for your medical history, I’d think you were having night terrors—they’re rare in people in their twenties, but they’re not unheard of. But with your amnesia…”
“There goes my medical history, complicating everything again,” I said bitterly.
“I love you, medical history and all, but it scared me. It should scare you, too. That’s why I wanted you to tell Dr. Morrison about the dreams. I know you don’t like him, but you don’t have another psychiatrist you can discuss this stuff with, and it’s better if this is psychological.”
I caught his meaning immediately. If this was psychological, it meant I was still recovering from that first big knock to the head. If it was physical, it could mean almost anything—and very little that was good. “I know. I’ll tell you what: we’ll keep a record of how I’m sleeping for the next few weeks, okay? If it happens again, I’ll tell SymboGen.”