The bed was cold when I woke up. I realized it was a twin bed instead of my queen-sized bed. That was puzzling. The room looked normal with two chairs and a dresser. I sat up on my elbow and slowly swung my legs over the side. My feet touched the cold tile floor that was meant to look like wood. It didn’t look anything like wood. I poked around with my toes until I found my terry cloth slippers.
My husband must have already got up. Sometimes he would do that if the dog needed to be let out. I stood and my thin blue night gown fell around my legs. The cheerful little flowers and lace trim always made me feel like a princess. A cup of steaming coffee with sugar and cream in my favorite red cup was filling my mind and propelling me to the door in search of it.
I grasped the cool heavy door handle and turned it thinking how it felt rather industrial.
“When did Joe change that?” I thought.
As the door swung open, my mind swam. I felt dizzy and grasped the door jamb to steady myself. Noise flooded my ears. People talking and walking past my door. I looked back into the bedroom and the stillness of the covers thrown over the bed was reassuring. That was my room. I turned back to look down the hall and conflicting thoughts crammed into my head. Strangers walked past me. Some smiled and others scowled.
A woman in a uniform stepped up, “Good morning Mrs. Huntington. Let’s get you some clothes.” She looped an arm through mine, turning my right around as she did, and I found myself waltzing beside her back into my room.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m Nicole. Now let’s see.” She started going through my dresser and pulled out a pair of pink pants and pink floral shirt. I had never seen them before. They weren’t mine. Then she opened another drawer and rummaged until she found a pair of white underpants which she lay on top. “Here you go, sweetie. Put these on.”
“Those aren’t my clothes.” I waited for her to realize her mistake.
“Yes, they are yours. You like this shirt.” She held them out further toward me.
She wasn’t going to be persuaded so I took them anyway. She smiled satisfied and turned around. I wondered if I was “doped up” with some anxiety medicine. This couldn’t be right. Why couldn’t I remember anything?
“You can leave. Why are you in my house? Where is Joe?”
“I think pancakes are being served for breakfast today. Let’s hurry so we can get you some.”
I shook my head. She wasn’t making any sense. I wondered if Joe had hired us a maid. We had always talked about that. Maybe that’s what maids do. They pick out your clothes for you. Maybe these were new clothes. I held the shirt up. It didn’t look new. There was a coffee stain on the front. This was all wrong. There was something going on. I could feel the rushing of my pulse now. My breathing got shallow and quick. I couldn’t take off my clothes with this stranger here.
“Look, you are going to have to leave. I don’t know who you are, but I need to have privacy. Go get Joe for me.”
The woman turned slowly and sighed, “Mrs. Huntington, I am Nicole. I help you. You live here at Star Point Villas. Mr. Huntington died three years ago. You forget things but its okay. You forget every morning. I’m here to help you.”
I didn’t move as I repeated what she said in my mind. “I live here? Don’t I have a house?”
“Yes, ma’am. You live here. You don’t have a house.”
“He is buried at Pine Hill Cemetery.”
No! This was wrong. He was fine. The last time I saw him he was strong and full of life. I could see him in my mind.
The more my mind tried to focus on the vision of him in my head, the more he would disappear. I closed my eyes trying not to panic. I couldn’t remember him. I couldn’t imagine his face.
“Oh God. I can’t remember him. How could I not remember my Joe? What’s wrong with me?” I opened my eyes, now misty with tears threatening to spill over. I stared at the woman named Nicole.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Huntington. You forget things, but you are okay. Look. Here is a picture of him.” She pointed to a small framed picture on my dresser. I picked it up. At first I nearly protested because that wasn’t him. That was an old man. Then I looked closer at his eyes. The man in the picture had Joe’s crinkle when he smiled. Same mouth that I had kissed a million times. He was standing next to an old woman. Was that his mother? My eyes drifted up to the mirror and that old woman in the picture looked back at me. She was wearing my blue night gown holding a framed picture.
I set the picture on the dresser and turned back toward the woman. Joe was dead. I couldn’t remember any of the details, but I knew he was dead. My face screwed up in a sad defeated scowl.
The woman turned around as she said, “Put your clothes on, Mrs. Huntington, so we can go to breakfast.”
I pulled off my night gown and replaced it with the pink floral shirt. I stepped out of my panties and replaced them with the pair on the bed. Then I pulled on the pants with an elastic waistband. The woman, apparently sensing I was finished, turned around and handed me my hairbrush. I brushed my hair and put in a bobby pin to hold it back out of my face.
I looked at the woman now that I was ready. “When did Joe die?”
“Three years ago.”
“Did he suffer?”
“No, he just went to sleep.”
“Where’s my family?”
“They are at their homes.”
“When did Joe die?”
She took my arm and led me out into the hallway, “Three years ago.”
“I can’t remember anything. Did he suffer?”