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"We have to talk," Katie's eyes are hard and her brow's all creased up.

I nod and I try to look agreeable, but I don't say a word and I keep on brushing Daniel's hair. And I focus on the sweet floral scent of his shampoo and how soft his hair feels and the way it slides like black silk through my fingers. Katie wanted to cut it last year when all of this started, but I wouldn't let her. It's his pride and joy, or at least it was.

He won't be able to keep it up, Katie said, and you'll have your hands full anyway.

But my hands don't feel full, not with all I've lost.

"It's about Daniel," she continues, and her voice's so cold.

He doesn't react to the sound of his name, but I do. Because I don't want to talk about Daniel--not now with him here and not later, either. I know what Katie's gonna say, and I don't want to hear it. My hands won't stay steady and I almost drop the brush and it snags in Daniel's hair. And he turns to me with a small, hurt noise, and he's too pale and his eyes are big and shadowed and scared. But he's every bit as beautiful to me as he's always been, and for a second I swear he's there, really there--

And he blinks and the moment passes, and my heart breaks all over again.

"Sorry I scared you, dude," I whisper, and I lay a hand on his back. I can feel his ribs through his T-shirt and the too-fast beating of his heart. His whole body tenses under my touch, and I've gotta stay still 'til he relaxes. But then he leans in and rests his head on my shoulder, and I hold him close and breathe him in and remember how he used to be. How we used to be. And I remember those first awful weeks last year--how lost he looked and his endless questions.

What happened? Was I dead? Am I alive now?

One year and who knows how many tests and treatments later, and we still know so little.

Every thirty seconds and sometimes sooner, his memory resets and for him there's nothing in between. And he's quieter now with all the meds they've got him on, but those questions are still there and I can see them in his eyes whenever he looks at me.

Where'd I go? How long was I asleep?

But there's never any answers to give him, because even the doctors're stumped. It's a brain injury, they say, but they're not clear on the cause and I can't help because I wasn't around when it happened. They tell us it's a rare case and they look at Daniel like he's a puzzle for them to put together. But they can't find all the pieces, and they can't say for sure if he'll get better or how long it'll take if he does. It could happen tomorrow or in a year or not at all. And that's the worst part, that nobody really knows anything.

All I know is Daniel's gone, maybe forever, and I wasn't there when he needed me most.

"Jess?" Katie's voice is softer now, but she's not gonna let me ignore her.

"What is it?" I ask, and I'm so tired, all worn out from fighting so hard to hold onto what's left.

And I feel selfish saying that when Daniel's the one who's lost everything. It's not so much work taking care of him, really. Because it turns out he can take care of his hair and his showers and all those things just fine on his own as long as you remind him every day. The doctors call that procedural memory, and it means his body remembers how to do things even though his brain doesn't. So he can still tinker with his circuits and wires and stuff, and it makes him so happy and it's the only time he's almost him.

But you've gotta watch him so he doesn't get distracted and burn the house down... like he almost did the other day.

Katie twists a lock of her own black hair around one finger. "I think we need to consider... other options for his care."

My eyes well up and my stomach's in my shoes and I think I might choke on this lump in my throat. But I knew this was coming and I've gotta stay calm, so I wait to speak 'til my voice won't shake. "There are no other options."

"Jess." All the steel's gone from her now, and her voice's flat and kinda robotic. "He's not getting any better."

My arm tightens around him of its own volition and he lets out a soft little sigh. And there's no way I'm gonna abandon him again, not now and not ever. "He's--" My words come out all squeaky and I swallow and start over. "He's calmer, isn't he?"

Katie snorts. "More like catatonic." She shakes her head, and her dark eyes flash. "How long do you think you can keep this up? You're only nineteen, Jess. You're supposed to be going out to parties and... doing whatever normal people our age do."

"You don't understand--" I start, but Katie cuts me off.

"Understand what?" she demands, and her face might as well be made of metal except for the flush rising on her brown skin. "That you blame yourself for a breakup that wasn't your fault? Or that you're wasting your life playing nursemaid to make up for it?"

Her face's too close to mine and her breath's hot on my cheeks. Daniel squirms away and he huddles in the corner and makes himself small and I want to tell him it's all gonna be okay. But it isn't okay, and I don't know if it ever will be. And I want to tell Katie it is my fault, because I knew he didn't mean all those things he said to me, the last time I saw him before. I knew it was just a fight and I walked out on him anyway, and he never takes care of himself when I'm not around, and--

"Snap out of it, Jess," she growls, and she lunges toward me and I think she's gonna slap me. But she grasps me by the tops of my arms instead and lifts me onto my feet. She shakes me like a ragdoll and her long nails dig into my skin.

"H- he belongs with me, K--"

"Yeah, right," she snaps. "That's why you were on that six-week 'vacation' at your parents' house when all this started."

And she might as well have slapped me right across the face, the way that stings.

"You didn't break him, you idiot." Her arms fall to her sides and she stares at the floor, and I've never seen her look so sad. "I heard him yelling at you clear across the house, and I heard the front door slam when he left. He walked out on you first, and you were right to leave him when you did. He was broken from the start--"

"He's. Not. Broken," I hiss through gritted teeth, and that low, icy voice's coming from my mouth but it doesn't sound like mine. My blood's pounding in my ears and there's this crazy strength surging through me. And I'm shaking but it's not because I'm scared, and all of a sudden I don't feel like sweet, harmless little Jess anymore. I march right up to Katie and I stare her down and I swear I could throw her across the room. Daniel shrinks away from me, and he mutters something I can't make out.

But Katie doesn't back down one bit. "Well, he's not coming back, is he? Look at him."

He's cowering against the wall, and his eyes are bright with fear.

"Is this the man you love?" Katie won't let up, not for one minute.

And all my rage drains away in an instant, because that's a question I can actually answer. "Yes."

She hollers something back, but I don't hear what it is because my eyes are on Daniel. And he blinks back at me with this light in his eyes and I want so much to believe it means something. That this time it's him, it's really him and he's back for good. But I've been hoping so hard for way too long, so I swallow and I brace myself for the moment the light flickers out again.

But it doesn't come.

Daniel's perfect brows knit together and he clears his throat. "Don't fight," he croaks. "Please."

His voice's like a thousand rusty hinges but it's the most wonderful sound I've ever heard.

I throw my arms around him and I snuffle into his shirt and he holds me like he's never gonna let go. My hands tangle in his hair and now I'm the one with all the questions but I'm too busy clinging to him for dear life to ask them.

"She's right, y'know." His words're soft puffs against my ear and they make me shiver. "Did this to myself."

I'm drenched in tears and my head's spinning and I don't want to pull away, but I do. "What d'you mean, dude?"

"Might not want anything to do with me once I tell you," Daniel mutters.

He leans forward and he lets his hair fall over his face like he always does when he's ashamed. And it's so him it makes me ache, and there's nothing he can say that'll change the way I feel, and--

"You left, and I--" He pauses and picks at the carpet, and he takes a deep breath. And he leans his head back against the wall and closes his eyes. "Look, I fucked up, okay? Knew this guy..." He trails off, and he looks straight at me with his big wet eyes and shakes his head. "I don't deserve you, Jess. I wanted this."

And I can't think straight, because nothing makes sense. "You wanted this? To lose all your memories?"

"Not all of them." He sighs. "Guy wasn't supposed to take everything. Just--" His voice cracks, and my heart does, too.

Because I already know what he's gonna say, but knowing doesn't make it hurt any less. He cups my chin in one gentle hand and he plants a soft kiss on my forehead. And he whispers the words against my skin.

"Just... you."



Author's Note:
This story and its characters are fictional, but the idea was inspired by a real person. They did not teach me about Clive Wearing when I got my psych degree, and I feel a little cheated (especially since I'm still paying back my student loans).


Date: 2014-06-10 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tatdatcm.livejournal.com
This was tragically heartbreaking. You really feel that hope that his memories have returned, but also know that it isn't going to happen.

Very interesting about Clive Wearing. I'd never heard about him before. It reminds me a lot of that movie "50 First Dates".

(So glad you're back in!)
Edited Date: 2014-06-10 03:57 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-06-10 09:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you... I'm personally wondering whether Jess will stay with him or not, knowing what happened. And also realizing that writing fiction is a lot more work than I remember it being.

I had never heard of Clive Wearing before this topic, either. And I have a psych degree! What the heck is that about?!! Finding out about him was a result of my desperate Googling so I wouldn't have to write about all the other things people were saying this topic was about, ha.

And thanks! I'm glad to be back... except scared of getting voted out the first week back in. :)

Date: 2014-06-10 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bleodswean.livejournal.com
*thunk* This is fantabulous! Creepy and sad and hopeful and hopeless and metaphorical and symbolic. You have it ALL going on here and yes, I think you should keep going.

Date: 2014-06-10 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you so much. I've had a hard time making fiction happen for a while now. When I came up with this idea, I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to execute it well (or maybe at all). But I had to, because this is the kind of thing I live to write.

I'm really, really glad it worked for you. :D

Date: 2014-06-10 04:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] karmasoup.livejournal.com
Okay. First off, loved this piece. Beautiful story, fabulously written, and touching. But, then, I read your reference link. Holy cow. I've never so completely devoured a footnote. I couldn't stop inhaling the entirety of this amazing case. It encompasses multiple elements which are very particularly of interest to me, personally. I am a brain damaged musician with a strong sense of love being the energy that overcomes all obstacles, and a strong desire (albeit general failure) to focus on living in the present moment. I had seriously considered writing about my TBIs this week, and their impact on my life, since it fit so perfectly with the prompt (I am not an amnesiac as a result of not one but TWO major head injuries... I simply struggle with remembering words at times in conversation, and occasionally have problems retaining short term memories... this has resulted in a coping mechanism whereby I have naturally developed a tendency to commit a lot of ridiculous minutiae to my long term memory), but could not figure out how to do so with any semblance of elegance that didn't seem pretentious. (I am certainly not the virtuoso that Clive Wearing was, though, I have lost some of the luster of my formal mental abilities, and it's sometimes frustrating to live in a world where no one cares about that but me.)

Thank you so much for turning me on to this fascinating history... I now have items to add to my reading and viewing list, and will do both with great gusto.

Date: 2014-06-10 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you so much. <3

I felt the same way when I found that article (about 15 minutes into Googling "recency bias" and "recency effect" along with other assorted words (I think this came up after I added "pathology") after the topic post went up). I was like, "holy crap, this is so amazing and awful and beautiful and how in the world do I use this for my post because omg." *flail*

FWIW, I would have loved to read about your TBI and how it has affected you. Brains and how they work (or in some cases, don't work) are completely fascinating to me. But I also understand how hard it is to write about something deeply personal and make it interesting--or at least I have a hard time doing it.

I have a lot of focus/memory issues due to psychological trauma and I remember all kinds of stupid things, too. And never the important things, of course. Another coping skill I have developed is an amazing ability to find things because I'm forever forgetting and misplacing. XD

Date: 2014-06-10 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lrig-rorrim.livejournal.com
I was super happy to see your name on the poll list and click through to a story of yours. You're back! And OH BOY are you back with a vengeance. This is great - perfectly paced, really emotional, all the right kind of details in all the right places. Loved it. :)

Date: 2014-06-10 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you so much. This gives me the warm fuzzies. Fiction has been really, really hard for me to do lately and I was so afraid the emotion wouldn't come through or I'd fail at context or something. <3

Date: 2014-06-11 12:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catwomon.livejournal.com
I like this piece.

Date: 2014-06-11 12:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you. :)

Date: 2014-06-11 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ohelectricshock.livejournal.com
On, wow. This was so gripping and heartbreaking. Loved this.

Date: 2014-06-11 12:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you so much. <3

Date: 2014-06-11 10:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jem0000000.livejournal.com
Poor Jess and Daniel -- and what an awkward and dangerous way to try to forget someone!

That's a really compelling story; I can definitely see where it captured your attention. :)

Date: 2014-06-11 11:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Huh, I just realized I was pretty hand-wavy in this piece about how exactly the taking of memories worked. I had an idea of how it worked, in my head, but since Daniel was the only one in the story who knew about it...

I wonder if I should have had him allude more to the process involved. Bah, hindsight. XD

And yeah, holy crap at the real-life story, and all of that happening to a real person. I can't even imagine what that was like for him and his poor wife.

Date: 2014-06-14 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jem0000000.livejournal.com
Mmm, it would have been a little weird if he tried to forget and remembered how to forget, but nothing else. Ironic, but weird.

It sounds amazingly awkward. Poor couple.

Date: 2014-06-11 01:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theun4givables.livejournal.com
I feel a little cheated by my psych degree, too.

Also I love how easy it is to tell who Jess, Daniel, and Katie are even though you were trying to make them not them. ;)

Also, also you know I was all "I hate you," about this piece because you seriously need to stop thinking everything you write sucks and that it's awful. Seriously, stop that. =p

Date: 2014-06-11 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Hahaha, it's obvious to me who they are, because they refused to morph into anyone else as I was writing them. You and I might be the only people who recognize them, though. Jess hasn't had a lot of play in Idol and Daniel didn't really talk (although he still managed to drop an f-bomb in there, ha). And I flat-out couldn't deal with Katie's accent. XD

Thank you... and thanks for making me write it and helping me with the editing and stuff. Blargh, I'm working on it. <3

Date: 2014-06-12 02:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kajel.livejournal.com
Oh my goodness, I shall hug you and squeeze you and call you george... ;) This was fabulous! A little creepy and heartbreaking. The end, just Wow.

Date: 2014-06-12 07:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
*giggles at the reference and hugs back*

Thank you so much. I'm trying really hard to get my fiction engines fired up again. They've been malfunctioning for quite some time.

Date: 2014-06-12 05:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roina-arwen.livejournal.com
This was brilliant and heartbreaking. Glad you're back in the thick of things!

Date: 2014-06-12 07:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you very much! I'm glad to be back, and even gladder I managed to actually finish my entry in time. :D

Date: 2014-06-12 05:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mistearyusdiva2.livejournal.com
Its good to see you back and what a come back .... this is a truly wonderful and compelling piece .... Well Done.

And Clive Wearing goes up on my google search as soon as the reading and voting is over :)

Date: 2014-06-12 07:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I put a lot into it and was worried I wouldn't manage to execute it well in time for the deadline.

His story is fascinating and touching... I highly recommend Googling him. And shame on my psych degree program for not teaching about him!

Date: 2014-06-12 08:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] favoritebean.livejournal.com
This piece brought on quite a few feels for me. Great job, and glad you're back in the game.

Date: 2014-06-12 10:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you... I have somehow convinced myself that I no longer know how to write emotion (as part of my whole writer crisis thing I've been going through), so that means a lot. I'm glad to be back in the game. <3

Date: 2014-06-12 12:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eternal-ot.livejournal.com
WOW!..this is what they call BACK WITH A BANG....Kudos!!! really well done...excellent work here..you almost ate my heart out...too Good!
And yeah..thanks for that link on Clive Wearing..an interesting read that one.

Date: 2014-06-12 12:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
*blush*

Thank you very much. I haven't been doing much fiction for a while, because I struggle with it a lot lately. But this week's prompt begged for it, to me. I was worried I wouldn't make it work, but Idol is all about taking risks, right? :)

I'm kind of shocked Clive Wearing isn't more widely known (I mean, I have a psych degree and never heard of him). Why wouldn't everyone need to know about him?!!

Date: 2014-06-12 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whipchick.livejournal.com
Really interesting - I liked getting to read about Clive Wearing and I liked your fictionalization of it.

Glad you're back!

Date: 2014-06-12 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks so much... I am glad to be back! :)

Date: 2014-06-12 01:41 pm (UTC)
ext_224364: (Default)
From: [identity profile] x-disturbed-x.livejournal.com
I have never heard about Clive Wearing but after reading this I googled him and I am glad I did because it's really fascinating.

Also, glad to see you back too. :)

Date: 2014-06-12 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks. <3

And yeah, when I found that link about Clive Wearing I was like I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING RELATED TO THIS OMG.

Date: 2014-06-12 01:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mamas-minion.livejournal.com
This was well written and the ending while tragic, fits this piece very well. I enjoyed the reading this great job.

Date: 2014-06-12 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

Date: 2014-06-12 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] solstice-singer.livejournal.com
Welcome back to Idol! This was really well-done. I felt so bad for Jess, and for Daniel, in a way, but it was Jess I felt for the most. Great job!

Date: 2014-06-12 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I'm happy to be back, and even happier that you like this piece. :)

I definitely feel for Jess the most.

I know a lot of the circumstances surrounding the breakup (they just didn't seem to fit into the story), so I do feel for Daniel as well, but. He's the kind of guy who'd go have brain surgery done to forget an ex, so there ya go.

Date: 2014-06-12 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
oooooooooooohhhhh.... you get the biggest ooh this week, that tugged my heartstrings, and also that article about Clive Wearing is heartbreaking.

Date: 2014-06-12 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
The biggest ooh of the week is a pretty awesome compliment. Thank you!! And I was so sucked in by Clive Wearing's story. I want to buy his wife's memoir now.

Date: 2014-06-16 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnamongirl.livejournal.com
I'm not sure I could read more about it without breaking down sobbing, but it'd be reallllly interesting to read about. Dilemma :)

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