Her laughter went first, then her smiles, which were so deep they showed more gum than tooth. The last thing to go was her eyes—her brilliantly expressive eyes. They stopped looking and gazed right through. They stared at walls, and cabinets, and floors. They stared at everything except me. In the early days I’d tried everything to get her to look at me: drop a bowl of cereal and milk on the floor, right in front of her so that her toes were flecked with milk, or scribble all over my arms and legs with marker until I was as deeply blue as a Smurf. With grim determination, I lied to her face, broke her trinkets, swore loudly, and sang songs she hated at the top of my lungs. Hateful attempts met with milky-eyed ambivalence. She’s slowly dying, and I’m not sure she knows it.
I sprint up the stairs. There is a metal chest in the carousel room at the foot of the bed. I found games in there earlier, a couple of puzzles, even some books on human anatomy and how to survive in the wild. I rifle through its contents and pull out two puzzles. Each one has a thousand pieces. One depicts two deer on a cliff. The other is a Where’s Waldo at the Zoo. I carry them downstairs and toss them on the table. Puzzle race, I say. Isaac looks a little taken back.Seriously? he asks. You want to play a game?
Seriously. And it’s a puzzle, not a game.He leans back and stretches his arms over his head while he considers this. We stop at the same time for bathroom breaks, he says firmly. And I get the deer.I extend my hand and we shake on it.
Ten minutes later we are sitting across from each other at the table. It is so large in circumference that there is plenty of room for both of us to spread out with our respective thousand pieces. Isaac sets two mugs of coffee between us before we start.We need some rules, he announces. I slide my mug over and hook a finger in the handle. Like what kind?
Don’t use that tone with me.
My face actually feels stiff when I smile. Other than my manic laughing the first day we woke up here, it’s probably the first time my face has moved in the upward direction.I really liked Leah, she says. When you lost your memory, she really just stuck with you. As a mother, I appreciated that. She sighs. But, I know you still love that girl.
I don’t know what you’re talking about. And even if I did, I wouldn’t want to talk about it. So talk about something else. How are your roses?Don’t even, she says. Jessica is great, Caleb. Really, she is. But, she wants a commitment. You do know that, don’t you?
Do you want to be married again? Have … children?You can’t let one woman steal who you are.