Hula Hoop Heaven
Sometimes you’ve got to go up to a very high floor to see what the past has done to the present. –Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
She opens her eyes. She closes them briefly. She looks out a small window right next to the bed onto a tall tree, with a white morning sun looking at her between the tree’s thick branches, not yet in full leaf. She keeps her head on the pillow and remains motionless. Something doesn’t feel right. She doesn’t know where she is. She looks at the small table next to the bed. It is painted blue, sky blue, and has a crystal water pitcher and a tumbler on it. She turns on her back and touches the quilt that covers her. Five-pointed stars of pale yellow repeat across the quilt, bordered by a midnight blue. It is soft and smells like, what? She can’t identify the smell. There is no word for the smell. But she smells it. She holds an edge to her nose and inhales deeply, while she scans the room: two dressers, one white and brown, an ornate wall mirror, framed in gold, an arm chair with a green throw blanket draped on its back, two matching bedside tables. The other table doesn’t have a water pitcher but only a lamp like the one that is on the table next to her: white shaded, with a long glass base. The headrest on the large bed is a simple curved dark wood frame. She slips her arm from out of the covers to run her hand along the curve. Her eyes close. The door opens.
“Well, you slept in. I thought you had an important meeting this morning.” The man goes to the brown dresser and opens the top drawer. She looks over at the space next to her on the bed. It doesn’t look like anyone slept there.
“Want a cup of coffee?” He asks without looking at her, shutting the top drawer and opening the next one down, looking for something.
She glances around the room and down at the quilt to avoid looking at the man standing a few feet from where she is lying, feeling immobilized. She tries to speak but can’t find her voice. Has she been drugged?
Mia, she thinks. Who is Mia?
The man looks tall as he stands next to the brown dresser. Maybe the dresser is small; maybe from her perspective, horizontal on the bed, he looks like a giant. Maybe she, what did he call her, Mia, doesn’t know tall from not-tall. She pulls the quilt up to her chin and looks out the window.
“Mia? Are you sick?” He turns and looks at her. Again, she tries to speak but nothing happens. She coughs, a small cough and a voice comes to her.
“I…” she whispers, still looking out the window, “I don’t know who you are.”
The man laughs. She looks at him. She really, really doesn’t know who he is. His short black hair means nothing to her. His stooped shoulders are just stooped shoulders. His laugh, a kind of barked ha, is unfamiliar.
“Well, I didn’t sleep well and don’t actually feel like myself this morning but when I looked in the mirror, I thought I looked the same.” He smiles at her. She looks at his wide grin, the accompanying wrinkles at his eyes, his palm opening gesture and feels nothing.
“I…” still whispering, “I don’t know who Mia is.”
“Are you still asleep? Are you talking in your sleep?”
The man’s name is Emmett. He walks over to his wife and shakes her shoulder.
“Wake up, sleepy head.”
She stares at him and shakes her head, once. She sits up in the bed, still holding the quilt to her chin.
“No really,” she says, with a straight forward confidence. The man, the room, the morning, her lack of self does not frighten her. “I have no memory of you. Or this room. I don’t know who I am. Should I?”
Emmett’s grin down turns into a frown of puzzlement.
“Is this a joke?”
She doesn’t say anything.
“I am really not in the mood for practical jokes. I didn’t sleep well.”
She doesn’t say anything.
“I’m calling an ambulance unless you tell me you are just messing with me. And tell me right now.”
She doesn’t say anything.
“I don’t know why you would call an ambulance. I don’t feel sick. I don’t feel anything.”
“My God,” Emmett shouts, panic mode escalating. “You’ve had a stroke, Mia. You’ve had a stroke! Can you walk? Can you talk? Can you see me? Can you move your arms? Is your heart beating? Do you have a fever?”
Mia laughs at all the questions. She feels no sense of panic or confusion or discomfort. She places her feet on the floor, stretches and smiles at the feel of the soft flannel of the nightgown. She stands. And shrugs.
“So, this is a joke,” demands Emmett.
She shakes her head. She shrugs again.
Emmett grabs his phone off the dresser and punches in 911.
He screams: “My wife. My wife has had a stroke. There is something very wrong with her. Send an ambulance. She doesn’t know who I am. She doesn’t know who she is. She is standing here, smiling, almost, and she…No, she is alive! She is standing right here! Send an ambulance! You want to talk to her? They want to talk to you, Mia. Can you talk to them?”
“Hello,” she says. “Well, I don’t know my name. I don’t know my address. I don’t know the man.”
She hands the phone back to Emmett. He presses the red phone icon; the phone disconnects. It rings.
“2116 Carpenter Road, Olympia, Maine, 70378, near Portland. Are you on your way?” he shouts and presses the red phone icon again.
“Mia, sit down. The ambulance is coming.”
“I need to…”
He points to the bathroom, like she should know where it is. Mia notices the gleaming white surfaces, the blue shower curtain (somebody likes the color blue, she thinks), the wood floor, painted a creamy yellow, spotless. She walks back into the bedroom and observes all the surfaces. No dust. Who lives here?
“Sit,” says Emmett, and guides her to the edge of the bed. Their silence is broken by a distant sound of the ambulance’s siren.
“Thank God,” says Emmett.
They listen to the ascending noise as it come closer to Carpenter Road. And then silence again. The ambulance has turned into their driveway. What will the neighbors think? He can’t figure out if he should run out to the ambulance and leave his wife or stay by her side and wait. He hears their dog, an old, gregarious mix with a lot of lab in him, bark. He rushes down the hallway, down the sixteen stairs to the front door, opens it to a boy, who couldn’t be more than 16, and a woman, who looks like his mother. The boy, who is really 27 years old, wears his jet black hair pulled up into a bun; the woman, who will soon turn 45, wears her gray hair in a bowl cut. They wear matching maroon collared t-shirts with EMS stitched across the breast pockets. The woman is carrying a black briefcase.
He says: “You called an ambulance. Your wife needs help?”
Emmett leads them up the stairs to Mia.
“Hurry,” he says. And: “I don’t know what is wrong,” a few times.
Mia sits on the edge of the bed and smiles at the odd couple.
Emmett stays in the threshold of the door.
“We are the medical team that you called. How are you feeling?”
“Fine. I’m fine. It is just that I don’t know where I am.” Mia laughs softly. “Or for that matter who I am. Or who he is.” She points to Emmett.
“What is your name?” she asks.
There is silence. Mia. Should I say my name is Mia?
“He called me Mia.”
“Is that your name?”
“I don’t know.”
“What is your last name?”
The two emergency workers look at each other. This is a new one for them.
“We need to check your vital signs,” he says.
He takes her temperature: normal.
She takes her blood pressure: 120/80.
She asks for her date of birth. Silence. They look toward Emmett. Silence.
The woman wonders what kind of husband doesn’t know his wife’s birthday.
Finally: “It’s in July…July 28th. No, 29th. 1962.”
“So, you are 56 years old. Is that right?” The woman asks her as she puts away the blood pressure cuff. She pulls out a pen light and shines the light in Mia’s, if that is her name, eyes. She asks Mia to follow her finger with her eyes, without moving her head. First to the right, then to the left.
He asks her to stand up and walk across the room. She asks her to touch her toes.
Neither one sees any signs of a drooping eyelid or mouth.
“Did you sleep well last night?” The woman asks. “Any dreams?”
She feels around Mia’s head for lumps or bumps. Perhaps she fell out of bed during the night.
“Are you on any prescription medicine?” he asks. “Do you drink alcohol? Any illegal drugs? Do you smoke?
The questions come at her. She shakes her head, not with a ‘no’, but with a lack of comprehension that they don’t understand. A sentence comes into her head: She could find no logic to account for her presence nor for that of the people around her. Having no idea who said that or wrote that or how it bounced into her head, she repeated it to them:
“I can find no logic to account for my presence.”
Emmett’s throat squeezes; he feels the tear on the corner of his eye.
“What is happening?” he asks the experts because of course they are the experts; somebody in the room has to be.
“Does Mia have a driver’s license or some form of identification?” the pony-tailed expert asks Emmett, without taking his eyes off Mia.
“I’ll get her purse. Is it okay that I leave…just to go downstairs? To get her purse. I think she leaves it on a hook in the hallway, by the kitchen door.”
“Of course,” says the expert with the gray hair.
Mia sits on the bed while the EMS team consults in front of her, as if she isn’t there.
“Alzheimer’s? Acute onslaught?”
“Amnesia. Never read or heard about someone waking up in their bedroom with amnesia.”
“She doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger.”
“Should I get the stretcher? Carry her down to the ambulance?”
“Let’s walk her down and then strap her in.”
“What if she has a blot clot? We wouldn’t want to disturb it.”
“Okay, I’ll get the stretcher. Wish we had another technician. Those stairs…”
“Let’s give her Lovenox and walk her down.”
“The man should follow us. He shouldn’t ride with us. Maybe she will say something different without his presence.”
The driver’s license in the wallet of the purse identifies her as Mia Sinclair Bailey, 2116 Carpenter Road. The woman sitting in front of them looks like her picture. They show it to her. Mia looks at the photograph and walks to the gold-framed mirror. She nods.
“I guess it looks like me. But it doesn’t ring any bells.”
“Let’s get you to the hospital for some testing, then, and figure out what is going on here. I think maybe you hit your head and have something temporary happening,” says the young man.
“Oh, thank goodness,” says Emmett. “Temporary.”
“We have injected an anticoagulant, in case she has a blood clot.”
“You’ve given her an antibiotic? Good.”
“No, sir, a blood thinner. You did tell us she wasn’t on any medication, right. Is that right?”
Emmett nods. He’s feeling a bit discombobulated. The day isn’t going how he planned.
“We are going to take her to Portland Memorial.”
“I’ll get my coat.”
“Could you also get a coat for her? We’ll just slip it over her nightgown. I see some shoes here. We suggest you follow us in your car. She will most likely be spending the night.”
“I thought you said it was temporary.”
“Do you feel all right to drive? This must feel strange.”
“Yes, of course I am all right to drive.”
With an EMT on each side, Mia walks, with a little skip in her step, out the bedroom door and down the stairs. She runs a finger along each piece of furniture she passes, inspired by the lack of dust. The group reaches the front door when the phone rings.
The young EMT is startled. He hasn’t heard a land line ring tone in a long time.
“I better get that,” says Emmett. “You don’t have to wait for me. Take Mia and I’ll follow.”
It is Mia’s secretary, Robin. Mia is late, Mia is never late, and she thought she ought to check. She hopes she isn’t intruding.
“Oh Robin. It has been the strangest morning. Mia woke up and she didn’t know where she was or who she was. No, really. I thought she was teasing me but then I could tell, something about her expression, that she was telling the truth. I called an ambulance. They just left. They think it’s temporary. They have given her an antibiotic. I’m on my way to the hospital. No, she says she feels fine, just doesn’t know who she is. She didn’t know who I was! No, the children don’t know yet. I haven’t had time to call anyone – or my work. You would do that? You would call the children? That would be great. Tell them not to worry and I will be in touch as soon as I know more. I’ll call them on my cell phone later. Yes, of course, I’ll keep you posted. I’m sure she will be fine.”
It does not occur to Emmett that Mia might not have wanted him to say anything to her place of employment, quite yet. It does not occur to Emmett that their children might be upset.
Robin calls Amy, their daughter, who teaches at the high school one town over. Amy calls her brother, Steven, who is in his junior year of college, about to begin finals. His phone is busy. Amy calls her mother’s cell phone, which rings and rings and rings as it sits plugged in on the low white dresser of the recently vacated bedroom, before it goes to voice mail. Amy calls her brother back. He is on his way. He will be there this afternoon and he will figure out something about his finals. (Never mind that Steve was ready to drop-out of school, skip his finals, change his major, find another path: he is on his way home now.)
Amy arrives at the hospital before her father and is urging the emergency room nurse to let her in to see her mother, who is just down the hall, secreted by a curtain, not yet in a real room when Emmett walks in.
“How did you get here so fast?” he says.
“What is going on, Dad?”
“I don’t know.”
“Robin called me. Steve is on his way.”
“I know who Steve is. Where’s Mia? I had to talk with Robin and then I had to call the store.”
Emmett owns a woman’s lingerie store, a fact that embarrassed Amy when she was a child and embarrasses her more now that she is an adult. It is a store that caters to non-sexy women (read, old), although Emmett’s staff has convinced him to stock some sweet, soft nightgowns (like the one Mia is wearing) and colorful, modern socks to supplement the large white panties, the brassieres that look like pointed breast armor, and the old fashioned girdles that would be hard to find these days. Lovely Ladies Lingerie is an anachronism in this day of online shopping and Victoria’s Secret and Emmett is proud of what he offers. Ethically proud. No spandex or cheap material. His garments last. Son Steve and his friends thought it was hysterical, and loved to visit the store after school, especially when they were middle school students. Steve even worked for his father for a bit, shelving inventory.
Steven Sinclair Bailey
Steve walks into his mother’s hospital room, feeling brave. At least braver than yesterday. He chickened out yesterday after witnessing his sister’s face and behavior. She was only in the room for five minutes, it seemed, when she rushed out, tears streaming down her face. Steve reached out to touch her arm but Amy shook him off. She told him she would wait for him in the parking lot. He didn’t know where his father was. He waited and then decided that no one would know if he had gone into see his mother and decided not to. He was tired; he had a lot on his mind. He wasn’t feeling very well. He was hungry. There was always tomorrow. Which is today.
“Hey mom,” he says.
Mia smiles at the boy. Young man, she corrects her thinking. She wonders how old he is. 19? 20?
“Sorry I didn’t stop in yesterday. It was a long drive from school and I just finished finals.” Steve lies. A little white lie, he thinks, to explain his absence yesterday.
“That’s okay,” says Mia. She smiles again.
“It’s good to see you,” says Steve. Man, this is awkward. Why haven’t I greeted her with a kiss? A hug?
“Do you know who I am?” he asks shyly.
“Not really. You called me mom. Are you my son?”
Steve decides he will not succumb to fear or anger – not like his sister.
“For twenty years now, you have been my one and only mom.” He smiles.
“What is your name?” she asks.
Fuck. That hurts.
“Steven. Steven Sinclair Bailey. Everyone, including you, calls me Steve.” He forgets to smile.
“A very nice name, Steve.” Mia smiles.
“Sinclair – that is your last name. Before you were married.”
“Oh! Thank you for telling me. No one else has told me that.”
“What have you been told?”
“Well. Nothing really, I guess. Lots of probing and poking with machines that roll right up to this bed. They do tell me that all my systems are running fine. Except my memory, of course.”
“It is going to be okay, mom. I just know it is. Your memory will return. It is just a temporary thing. Some little glitch. Maybe you hit your head. You are gonna be fine. We will take care of you. You don’t need to worry about anything. We love you. This is just temporary. Everything is going to be fine. I will come visit you every day. We will do a bit of remembering every day. Then you will remember me. I know you will. I will be back tomorrow. I will bring my baby pictures. I will prove to you that you are my mother. We have lots of pictures. I am going to leave now to go get all the pictures of me and you and I will bring them back tomorrow. You rest now. You look fine, you know. Normal. Like mom. So that tells me this is just a temporary thing. Some weird medical thing. Maybe you’ll be famous someday. You know, famous in the medical books. Everything is going to be okay.”
That’s what sons do. Write to their mothers about the past.
Mia has no idea where that thought came from. She listens to the quiet hum in the room. She hears that she did not say what the young man wanted her to say. He didn’t want her to say anything more when she didn’t know his name. She wonders how she can help this family who want her to be their wife and mother. Can she pretend?
Amy walks toward her mother’s room. The one they moved her into yesterday – late afternoon, after a day of testing and talking. She has brought her mother’s phone. Amy felt wretched after leaving her mother yesterday. She couldn’t believe her mother didn’t recognize her. They talked for a few minutes only. Rather Amy talked; Mia listened. The only thing Mia said yesterday upset Amy just as much if not more than not being recognized. She said, “At least I didn’t wake up a cockroach.” A cockroach? Mia wasn’t certain what she was referring to but she thought it was funny. Amy didn’t.
She walked out of the emergency room bay, feeling…what? She wasn’t sure. Hurt. Betrayed. Angry. How could a mother not recognize her own daughter? Scared. What would today bring?
She hesitates outside her mother’s private room. They gave her a private room. She’s a special case.
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming forth to carry me home.
Someone is singing, softly. A woman.
No, thinks Amy. That could not be my mother. My mother doesn’t sing.
If you get there before I do, coming forth to carry me home.
Amy walks in.
“Hi mom. Were you singing?”
Amy looks up, hopeful.
“You remember me?”
“I remember your name. From yesterday. I remember yesterday. I don’t remember the day before yesterday.”
“You will, Mom. I know you will. You must. I brought your phone.”
“I have a feeling you have lots of messages on it. But we can’t retrieve them. It’s locked. It needs a passcode.”
Amy hands the phone to her mother. Mia looks at the number pad and her fingers tap: ping, ping, ping, ping, ping. The phone unlocks.
“Mom! You remember your passcode!”
“You just typed it in. This is a breakthrough! We must tell the doctors.”
“I don’t think I remembered it. My fingers remembered it. My brain didn’t.”
“That’s not possible.”
“Well, that is what it felt like. I couldn’t tell you the passcode.”
“I’m going to get a nurse. Why don’t you listen to your voice mail?”
Amy rushes to the nurses’ station with the exciting news. The nurse-on-duty, a woman, maybe in her early 50s, probably around Mia’s age, agrees with Amy that Mia’s memory of her passcode is a good sign but also cautions her that it probably doesn’t mean much.
She returns with Amy to the hospital room and watches Mia Bailey hand the phone back to her daughter.
Julie arrives. Mia sits in the chair next to the bed. She isn’t sick and she is allowed to dress herself, roam the halls, talk to other patients. The nurses love her; she gets coffee for them or treats from the cafeteria. Mia is their mystery patient; except that she is only a mystery to herself. The medical team, particularly Dr. Shepard, anticipates this sister reunion to be an important moment in Mia’s recovery. They are twins. Identical twins. Nothing is stronger than the twin bond, genetically and psychologically.
The team decides that Julie should be the only family member present (in other words, no Emmett, Amy, or Steve). Of course, the team needs to be present to observe and to be on hand in case something goes wrong. They have decided that Mia has been too steadfast and calm, that a normal person would be freaking out if they had no memory or didn’t recognize family members, and that she could explode at any moment.
“Mia!” Julie exclaims. “You look…fine, just fine!”
Mia smiles. She has been prepped for this meeting. She knows Julie is, according to what everyone says, her twin sister. Mia doesn’t see the resemblance. Julie is tall, with dark brown short hair, candy color glasses, and a double chin. That is not what Mia sees when she looks in the mirror.
“Do you remember me?” Julie takes Mia’s hands in hers and sits on the edge of the bed. “Of course you remember me!”
Dr. Shepard cringes. She advised Julie not to ask Mia that question.
“I’m afraid I don’t remember anything.”
“How about this: “Byong Bong to you!”
“Yes!” Julie smiles at the medical team. How about that? I’m going to fix my sister. “Bong gooey.”
Mia smiles, tentatively, at the tall woman speaking gibberish.
“I’m sorry,” she says, and she is. “I’m confused.”
“Oh, come on, Mia, you remember.”
Mia shakes her head.
“Well, East coast sister. I flew six hours to come see you. The least you can do is remember our language. Sip morel pak froosie?” Julie smiles. “Pak froosie. Remember?” Julie giggles. She giggles alone.
Julie frowns. “Is this some kind of a joke, Mia?”
Dr. Shepard is ready to intervene.
“Come on, sis, it’s me.”
Julie turns to the medical team.
“I think you should leave the room and let me talk with my sister in private.”
They leave because they don’t know what else to do. Emmett, Amy, and Steve are standing right outside the hospital door. Amy has a glass that she put up to the door in an attempt to eavesdrop. It doesn’t work and when the door flies open, the glass smashes to the floor.
“Oh dear,” Amy says. “I’ll get a broom. What is happening in there?” Amy feels like she has spent the last week responding to everything with “What is happening?”
“Julia asked for a few minutes alone with her sister. We will stay by the door,” says the neurologist.
Seven people – two competing neurologists, a social worker, Dr. Rose Shepard, MD, PhD (Psychology), and the three family members form a semi-circle around the closed door. All of them listen intently. The glass shards remain broken and sharp on the clean white floor. This is what they do not hear.
“Now, Mia, you can tell me. Is this one of your games? You always were one to demand attention. Is there something wrong with your marriage? You can just divorce the guy. You don’t need to pretend to not know him. You can come home with me. Come on, Mia, it’s me, tell me what you are doing here.”
“I just know I woke up one morning and didn’t know who I was or where I was or who the man was standing in the room.”
“Give me a break, Mia. Things like that don’t happen to people like us. We’re normal.”
Mia laughs. “I don’t feel abnormal. I feel normal. Happy, even. Is that normal for people like us?”
Julie decides to take Mia down memory lane. She begins with “Remember when…” and then tells a story from their childhood years, teenage years, child bearing years (although Julie doesn’t have any children – maybe she forgot that) that she is certain Mia would never forget.
“We have had a quite a time together,” says Mia.
“You remember!” shouts Julie.
Mia shakes her head. Julie wants to shake some sense into her sister, like she used to, and moves toward her as the hospital door opens.
Dr. Shepard leads the charge, all full of anticipation as they heard Julie’s cry of triumph: You remember!
“I am so sorry,” says Mia, looking at their hopeful expressions. “I remember nothing. I realize how difficult that is for you all.”
Mia looks at Emmett.
Emmett feels a gentle string pluck across his shoulders. There is a release of tension. He is aware that for the first time, in a long time, he feels the absence of stress. He cannot quite figure out why he feels, well, almost relieved. Shouldn’t he be feeling anxious about this situation? Mia remembers nothing. Wow.
His stress-free moment will feel like nirvana to him on the day Mia is released from the hospital. The doctor speaks to Emmett privately in the hospital room. Not really privately. Mia is present but they still all talk in front of her as if she isn’t there. Mia understands. She kind of isn’t there. The doctor warns Emmett not to put any pressure on Mia. She isn’t talking about the pressure to remember events. She is referring to the other kind of pressure. Sexual pressure.
Of course not, whispering and exclaiming at the same time, he would never do that. He looks over at Mia.
She winks at him. She has never winked at him before.
Hula Hoop Heaven
Before they send Mia home, they suggest hypnosis. There had been so many meetings regarding Mia Bailey. Meetings with neurologists: reflexes are fine, no nerve damage, no tumors, no plaque, no blood clots; social workers: a solid, loving family, a good neighborhood, a clean house; psychiatrists: no obvious childhood trauma or abuse, rational, no fear, expressive, genuine; her family doctor: a good woman and mother and wife; individually with her daughter, son, and husband, and with the family group. None of the meetings included Mia, well, because Mia isn’t Mia. She admits she has no self to make a decision. Mia thinks hypnosis sounds like a great idea. The family is supportive.
Dr. Rose Shepard, MD, PhD, is ready. In fact, she was just waiting for the right time to suggest the procedure. It didn’t take long for the case of Mia Bailey to be the talk of the medical community. Her story spread across state lines and hospitals like a folk tale. Dr. Rose Shepard, already on the case, is a well respected practicing hypnotist in the medical world and, the other doctors thought, why not? Dr. Shepard envisions another journal article to add to her impressive publishing career.
Their first session doesn’t go so well. It is easy enough to lead Mia into a sleep state. They agree that Dr. Shepard would try to bring up Mia’s memory of her wedding date, always a happy time for a young woman. But Mia doesn’t respond. She doesn’t say anything. She sits with a pleasant expression on her face for over a half hour before Dr. Shepard brings her back to the present (if she had ever left it). The second session doesn’t work either. She encourages her to visualize her daughter’s first birthday. Nada. It was the third session when something clicks, but not something Dr. Shepard could claim as a breakthrough moment in helping Mia find herself. She takes Mia back to being nine years old. No particular day. Just being nine.
Mia jumps up. She sways her hips round and round and begins to count. One, two, three, four, five…Her arms stretch above her head. She smiles and smiles and counts and counts. Twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. Neither Mia nor Dr. Shepard loses focus. Round and round go Mia’s hips. Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven. Mia counts out loud. Dr. Shepard is mesmerized. Mia brings her arms down to her shoulders, crossing them over her chest and relaxing them. Seventy, seventy-one, seventy-two. Mia becomes focused; she is determined. Ninety, ninety-one, ninety-two. She whispers the rest: ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine. Together they shout: One hundred!
The hula hoop swivels its way down to the floor. Mia exclaims, “A new record!” She jumps out of the hoop’s circle and throws it high into the air. She catches it (by this time Dr. Shepard can actually see the red and white stripes of the hoop, even though, rationally, she knows there is no hoop in the room) in one hand, throws it high again, and catches it in the other hand. She twirls it around her upper left arm and makes it walk down off her hand; her right hand catches the hoop and walks it up that rotating arm. She ducks her head into the hoop and twirls it around and around her neck. Dr. Shepard sits back, wide-eyed, watching loop after loop. Mia wiggles the hoop down to her chest, bringing her arms back up through it, and maneuvers it back to her stomach. She stops the hoop, pulls it over her head, and holds it, with both hands, high over her, like a trophy. She uses it like a jump rope and brings it down under her legs, skips over it, round her head, down to her feet, skips it, and misses! She is delighted and romps around the room, leaping and prancing like a gazelle. She plops down on the chair, beaming, across from Dr. Shepard, who looks exhausted. She stares at Mia for a full minute, at least, before she remembers to bring her back. “Come back,” she says, the command to end the hypnotic trance.
Mia looks bright eyed. “Something happened,” she says. “What happened?”
“You tell me,” says Dr. Shepard because she isn’t really sure what happened.
“I was happy. I am happy,” replies Mia.
“Did you hula hoop as a girl?” Dr. Shepard is embarrassed to even use the word, especially as a verb.
“Hula hoop? I have no idea!”
“You spent the whole 30 minutes hooping. Or pretending, I guess. It must be a memory.”
“I was a girl,” Mia leans forward. “But it wasn’t specific to me. It wasn’t a memory. It was a feeling. Powerful. Pure.”
Dr. Rose Shepard feels a bit uncomfortable. She was never encouraged to play or be a girl.
“It wasn’t me.”
“Interesting,” says Dr. Shepard.
“Do you think it is a break though? At least I did something while under your power!” Mia feels Dr. Shepard’s disappointment or confusion.
Dr. Shepard’s belief in the mind is based upon science and synapses. She allows for the psychology of repression, even though the theory is a soft science. She understands that the unconscious, where repressed feelings hide out, can be unearthed through chemistry (drugs), which, Dr. Shepard feels, is the same as hypnosis and the chemical reactions of being in a sleep state. As for archetypes emanating from the soul life, forget it, not her field of study.
She will need to decide if she wants to keep working with this case.
What is really freaking out Rose Shepard is how close she came to being hypnotized by Mia Bailey.
They arrive home. Emmett, Steve, and Amy on pins and needles. Mia humming softly. What is she humming? Amy recognizes the melody with horror. She wants to scream at her mother to stop. Instead, Mia sings as the car turns into the driveway.
Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you. Getting to like you. Getting to hope you like me.
Emmett smiles, secretly.
“You haven’t forgotten how to drive,” says Steve, sitting in the back seat. He pats Mia on her shoulder.
Mia insisted on driving home from the hospital. Emmett and Amy were outwardly hesitant, covertly aghast.
“I may not remember where I live,” Mia said. “But I know I can drive.”
Mia handled the car with ease, remembering to stop at signs and lights, using the blinker, checking her rear view mirror. She followed their directions, even when they disagreed on the best route.
“I always turn right on Willard,” said Amy. “To avoid that silly traffic circle.”
“Most direct route is using the circle,” said her father. “We should take the circle. Second turn on the right. I thought it was a waste of taxpayer’s money when they built it but I like it now. Smooth.”
“To circle or not?” said Mia.
“Take the circle, Mom,” replied Amy. They had passed Willard Rd.
And then Mia started humming and singing.
“Good job,” says Emmett, taking the keys.
They watch Mia walk around the house. Nobody knows what to do next.
Scenes from a Marriage
Oh, come ON. I didn’t say that.
Yes, you did.
No, I didn’t.
Then what did you say?
That is not what I meant.
Do you have to act like that?
Don’t be so critical.
That is not the way to do it.
I don’t care. Do what you want.
You shouldn’t feel that way.
Don’t tell me how I should feel.
The Anderson’s boy is so well-behaved.
He’s scared into behaving.
What’s wrong with that?
What wrong with that? You don’t know?
Nothing wrong with using fear to motivate.
Something very wrong with that in my book.
Oh, come ON. Give me break.
You just don’t like my family.
That’s not true. You are too defensive about them.
That’s not true.
That is not how it happened.
Why do you always question what I say?
I need help.
Who was here when I was away?
Did I just see Rick drive down on road?
I have no idea.
Are you having an affair with Rick?
Hurry up. Why does she take so long?
The business isn’t making it.
You aren’t contributing enough to the family.
I’m trying. What more do you want from me?
I don’t want to do that.
Oh, come ON. It will be fun.
You can go.
Quit following me around.
I’m a human being. I have feelings.
I’m not happy.
You look beautiful.
Flattery will get you nowhere.
Why do you always give in to her?
Yes, you do.
No, I don’t. I pick my battles. I use psychology.
How was work?
It was okay.
That’s it? That’s all?
You tell us to hurry up and then make us wait in the car for five minutes.
That’s not fair.
I hate the president. Can you believe the government did that? Bunch of crooks.
The fact is…
The truth is…
Close the window.
Open the window.
Don’t park there.
This is the wrong way.
I know where I’m going.
Don’t challenge me.
Mia looks in the refrigerator, checks the freezer, walks into the pantry, and opens cabinet doors.
“I will make us dinner,” she says. “I will make a shrimp scampi. Sound good?”
“You don’t have to cook for us,” says Amy.
“I want to. I love to cook.”
Emmett looks at Steve. Mia never liked to cook. Did she?
They watch as Mia defrosts the frozen shrimp under warm water, shells the shrimp, chops the garlic she finds hanging in a basket, unearths a bag of frozen spinach from the freezer, and throws it on top of the perfectly sautéed shrimp and garlic, just as the pasta is al dente. Mia sings the whole time she cooks. Some enchanted evening. You may find a lover. South Pacific.
Amy wonders how her mother knows these songs. If she sang them to Amy when she was a girl, she doesn’t remember.
The dinner is delicious and the conversation flows. At least the stories do. Mia listens as these people tell her story after wonderful story of their life together. They laugh! They are inspired. Emmett takes control: You kids wouldn’t remember our wedding ceremony. Best day of our lives. Most beautiful, most nervous bride ever. We were so young and in love. We danced the night away.
Amy looks at her dad. He hates to dance. She doesn’t say anything.
Steve was on an award-winning soccer team in high school. They almost went to the state champions.
Steve looks at his dad. That isn’t how he remembers his team. He doesn’t say anything.
Amy leaves. She teaches tomorrow. She’ll be back after school.
Steve retreats to his room. He is home for the summer, maybe longer. He has not spoken about his decision to withdraw from college. Up in his room, away from his mother, he wonders if perhaps she is not his mother. She looks like her but she doesn’t act like her. She cooks, she sings, she listens. Well, his mother always listened but she never sang. She seems happy downstairs; well, his mother was always happy. But she hasn’t asked him about school or girlfriends or anything. No questions. His mother always asked him questions. Maybe she has been abducted by an alien. Maybe she is a clone of his mother and his real mother is on Mars. What a great story that would make, he thinks. A great movie, too. But it wouldn’t be a story; it would be real, like a documentary. He should maybe start filming his mother – or the creature who claims to be his mother. He should write down everything that has happened. Something out of this world is happening to his family and somebody needs to keep a clear record of it. That somebody out to be me, he thinks. My mundane life, he thinks, has become the stuff of science fiction. Steve is very excited about his idea.ve was become the stuff of science fiction.appening to his family and somebody needs to kee Steve is 20 years old.
Emmett keeps talking.
“I was a boy,” he says, “who had a gift to entertain. I would make up stories and act them out for my playmates and for my family. They were stories about pirates and dragons. I would also take my friends on adventures around our property, telling them about secret hideouts, where gangsters still lived and about wild beasts that came out in the dead of night. My teachers thought I was a wonderful, imaginative child. I always thought I was destined to be an actor. All my creative energies went into acting in high school. I was in Shakespeare plays and musicals.”
Musicals, thought Mia. That is what I have been singing.
“Were you in The King and I?” she asks.
“What?” Emmett replies. “What?”
Mia laughs and shakes her head. Never mind. She enjoys hearing him talk and doesn’t want him to stop. He continues.
“Shakespeare,” he says. “I liked Shakespeare. The characters. I’m tall. I was always cast as the king.”
Emmett quotes a line from King Lear:
Does anyone here know who I am? I’m not Lear. Does Lear walk and talk like this? Where are his eyes? Either his mind is losing its grip or his judgment is screwy. Hey, am I awake? I don’t think so. Who can tell me who I am?
He stands up to deliver the line and it is out of his mouth before he thinks.
The fact is it is the only quote he remembers from the play (and, in historical truth, the only role he performed in high school).
It is what he says when he walks into his store and greets his employees: Does anyone here know who I am? They love it. They laugh.
Mia laughs. She sees the irony.
Emmett is a tall man, about 6’ 4”. He is beginning to stoop a bit in his mid-fifties but every now and then he will straighten himself up, only to hunch a bit lower after the stretch. He has a dark complexion and his black hair with silver tips is quite becoming. Tall, dark, and handsome, the women in the lingerie shop say. He isn’t that handsome. Kind of a big nose, that seems to be growing. Crooked front teeth. Dark bags under his eyes. But he is charming and kind to his female employees and his woman customers. He lives in a world of women, like a king. They will not let anyone say an unkind word about Mr. Bailey. They might share a criticism of his wife, wondering if she appreciates what she has and if she treats him well. But they don’t really know because Mr. Bailey never says a mean word about anyone, particularly his wife.
At the Grocery Story
Mia no longer needs to use the GPS to find her way to the grocery store. She used it every day for almost a year, just to be cautious and because Emmett insisted that if she was going to the grocery store on her own, she had to have someone tell her how to get there, just in case she forgot. He said to her that the doctors don’t understand her brain and why it forgot things and maybe it will forget again. Even though she has remembered every day since she woke up not remembering her self.
She takes her time at the grocery store, finding new items, looking at the ingredients, thinking about original combinations of food. She has become a cook, a chef, with Emmett as her sous-chef, taking advice quietly. How does she know how to do this? How does she remember what spice to use? Since when was she so bold in the kitchen? He thought and she thought. But she did know what she was doing and played in the kitchen as if she spent years as the head chef of the Cordon Blue and they enjoyed cooking, dining, and what came after, like newlyweds.
Now, not only does Mia cook, she sews, she plays the piano, she sings. She reads (well, she always read). She reads books that she has read before, not remembering the plot or characters or endings. She reads sentences that she realizes have come into her head without knowing where they came from. Like the one about sons writing to their mothers. Or this one that came to her as she drove to the grocery store: The over examined life. It’s not worth living. She read that this morning in a novel.
She is in the canned foods section. A place she rarely goes. For Mia, it is fresh vegetables and fish but she turns down the aisle by mistake. A woman bumps into her cart. Deliberately, but Mia doesn’t realize that. She looks up.
Mia instantly remembers the woman’s name.
“Hello, Virginia.” Mia smiles but feels confused.
“How are you?” Virginia drips. “I heard you have been sick. You look fine. What’s the matter with you?”
“How’s your family?” Virginia drips again. “We certainly lost touch with one another, haven’t we? I really don’t know why. We had such fun together. Oh, well, people change, you know. Really nice to see you. You look great. Say hello to Emmett.” Virginia touches Mia on her upper arm and sashays down the canned goods aisle, whips around the corner, and is gone.
Virginia Breadlove. Mia remembers her full name. The first person she remembers from before. Didn’t recognize the large woman, really. She’s not sure if it was the voice, the drip, that triggered the name. Mia imagines they had been friends. She plans to ask Emmett. She admits that for the first time in this year she feels unease, like maybe she is getting the flu. She has only felt happiness and joy and love as she has heard the wonderful stories of her idyllic, beautiful family life and history. She has felt blessed, yes, blessed to be living in a world of such generosity, kindness, goodness, and humor. Everyone is so nice. Her sister Julia sends her pictures through email of the two of them, dressed alike, laughing girls. She describes their wonderful childhood and their loving parents, who thought they couldn’t have children and then – two incredible daughters. When Julie wrote about their parents’ death, Mia swelled with love. First mom died, of natural causes, in her sleep. A week later, dad died, in his sleep, of a broken heart. They had a perfect love and died a perfect painless death. She has listened to Emmett’s stories about their life together and has been filled with an overabundance of gratitude toward him, his patience, and his loyalty.
She wants nothing more from life.
She remembers to ask Emmett about Virginia Breadlove during dessert, a key lime pie she had made earlier that day.
Emmett frowns as if he is not sure who Virginia Breadlove is and then says: “Steve and her son were in Little League together if I remember correctly. I think she was also a customer. A large woman, right? We weren’t really close. The boys might have played together.”
“Isn’t it funny that I would remember her name? I haven’t remembered any names.”
“It is a funny name,” deflects Emmett.
Mia nods in agreement, feeling satisfied with her (new/old) husband’s explanation.
Mia’s dream that night:
Social Services knocks on the Bailey door. A man and a woman: he with a briefcase, she with a file clipped on a clip board. Mia opens the door. Emmett is standing behind the workers, jumping up and down and slicing his finger across his neck in the iconic pantomime of ‘cut it’ or ‘you’re dead’.
“We are here to investigate the charges against your husband (and you, by neglect) of endangering the life of a child.”
“Sexual abuse. There are charges that Emmett Bailey might have sexually abused your daughter, Amy Bailey. He sells corsets, girdles, and bras, doesn’t he?”
“It is a very serious charge, so we have to follow-up and look into the corners of your house. Check to see if there is any pornography on the computer or under the bed.”
Emmett jumps up and down like a kangaroo. He has a message but Mia doesn’t understand it.
“We know it isn’t true,” the woman says. “The sexual abuse. We will probably find some pornography; we usually do.”
“There’s nothing we can do but follow-up. We know it is a case of unrequited love. Virginia Breadlove loves Emmett Bailey and has been spending a lot of money on girdles. He loves her body but he doesn’t love her. Unrequited love.”
Her dream morphs:
“I don’t remember Virginia Breadlove. That story isn’t true. It would not happen to a family like ours. Social Services would never come to our door and use the words sexual abuse at my front door. Never. Never happened.” Emmett smiles sheepishly. Mia thinks about how he was a kangaroo in the beginning and now he is a sheep. Would she rather be married to a kangaroo or a sheep? Or someone who makes up stories?
“Nothing wrong with making up stories,” someone says.
“Why not create the world as we want to see it? We know memory is limited and we remember what we want to,” someone else says.
“But the stories are not true,” says Mia in the dream.
“Virginia Breadlove can make up stories about my family and we just forget? Pretend it never happened?
“Sure. Let it go. Cut out all the negativity. Remember the positive. Why not?”
Mia wakes and looks out her window at the early light green of the leafing maple tree. She rolls over and sees Emmett lying next to her. She is surprised.
She gets up and walks to the bathroom.
“Good morning,” he says.
“Did you sleep there last night?” Mia asks.
“Yes, of course,” he says.
“All night long? My twitching didn’t keep you awake?”
Emmett sits up. Mia hasn’t twitched in her sleep since she hasn’t been Mia.
“Mia. What are you talking about?”
“I have to get going. I have an important meeting this morning.”
“Where?” Emmett asks. “Where’s the meeting?” He sounds angry.
“At work,” says Mia. “Where do you think it is?”
Mia looks at her husband.
“I know you think my job is easy but there is no reason to be so condescending.”
“What are you talking about, Emmett? Are you still asleep or something?”
Emmett jumps out of bed. Mia thinks he looks like a kangaroo with his little pouch belly.
He tells her about the last year. Mia thinks he had lost his mind. She remembers nothing of what he is saying. She doesn’t believe him. She calls Amy. Amy is on her way over. Mia is about to call Steve but Emmett tells her she could just go into his room. He is living at home and has been for a year. No. My son has been home for year and I don’t remember?
Amy embraces her mom. Steve embraces his mom.
“Thank goodness,” says Amy. “It is over.”
“What brought you back?” says Steve.
“I don’t know,” says Mia. “I didn’t know I was gone.”
Everyone is happy.
Emmett’s year of being unchallenged, loved, and free of guilt, his year of creating their idyllic life together and being in control of their story is over.
He doesn’t understand how a Virginia Breadlove, a vengeful, spurious story teller, who only brought darkness into their lives, could have the power of bringing Mia out of her year of forgetting everything and he couldn’t.