“Oh, Little Daisy,” I hold her close to me as her cries subside.
“Why did you call her that?”
I turn toward Nate’s imposing form in the doorway.
“I don’t know. Why? Are pet names not allowed?” I’m asking to get fired. But damn him for being such an ass when I know that’s not who he is … or was.
“Daisy. Why did you call her that.”
Cupping the back of her tiny head, I whisper, “Shh shh shh” while dancing in small circles. “I don’t know. She sleeps a lot, so I called her Lazy Daisy earlier and the daisy must have stuck because little daisy just…” I shrug “…came out. Why?”
He shakes his head. “Nothing … no reason.”
Within minutes, Morgan drifts off to sleep, and I ease her back into the crib. Nate backs away from the door as I shut off the light.
“Do you have nightmares about losing your wife?” I whisper as we stand toe-to-toe in the hallway.
Nate’s brow knits together. I wait for him to answer.
“Maybe she does too.” I press my palm over his heart.
He stiffens under my hand.
“I’m not hitting on you. I’m just reminding you that touch is a basic human need, and it’s an expression of love. If you were self-soothing you wouldn’t be seeing Dr. Greyson.” I remove my hand. “Touch is the only kind of love Morgan can feel right now. So remember that the next time you count the hours I spend holding her while you’re at work.”
Gathering every ounce of emotion desperate to explode from my chest, I grab my backpack and run out the door. After several blocks, I slow to a stop, bend over, and rest my hands on my knees as tears well in my eyes. “Jesus, Nate. What’s happened to you?” Standing, I stare at my hand. The second I pressed it to his chest, it remembered the feel of his heartbeat. My fucking hand remembers a heartbeat. How is that possible? And why can’t he remember me?
The trickle of the fountain in the corner of Dr. Greyson’s office drowns out the muffled voices in the waiting room. Someone needs to water the sad, wilting fern on the window ledge. The aroma of coffee fills the air, but I know by the time I leave, it will be replaced with peppermint.
Dr. Greyson averages five mints during a session—the strong kind that come in a little tin with a white paper liner.
“Can we discuss something new today?” I ask while hugging a navy throw pillow with a white compass embroidered on the front. Maybe he likes to sail or maybe it’s symbolic of helping patients find direction.
“We can discuss whatever you’d like to discuss.” Dr. Greyson has three postures: hands folded in his lap, hands folded on his desk, and hands folded at his chest with his chin resting on steepled fingers.
Right now he’s giving me hands folded on his lap, which is where we usually start each session. In another twenty minutes they will be on his desk, and by the end they will be steepled—his most contemplative position.
I notice random stuff.
“Lately I’ve had some déjà vu moments, but not the kind that feel weird for a few seconds and then go away. They’re not just fleeting feelings of ‘I’ve experienced this before.’ They’re vivid memories, as vivid as the memories of my sweet sixteen birthday party or the look on my mom’s face when the doctor told us my father died.”
Dr. Greyson skips hands-folded-on-the-desk position and goes straight to steepled fingers. “Tell me about these memories.”
My fingernail traces the cross of the compass on the pillow hugged to my chest. “I recently saw this guy, and I know him, but not like ‘why do you look familiar, I know I’ve seen you before.’ I mean I know him, but not the now him; I know the then him.”
“The ‘then’ him?”
“So you knew him when you were kids?”
The million-dollar question.
His lips purse as his brow draws tight.
“I know things about him from when he was a kid. Not us as kids.” I laugh. Saying those words aloud sounds even crazier than they do in my head.
“Does he know you?”
“You switched schools a lot. Are you sure you weren’t classmates at some point?”
I shake my head slowly. It’s funny and confusing and insane and … heartbreaking because I remember his touch—the rhythm of his heartbeat.
“Do you have old yearbooks you could look through?”
My head continues to turn side to side. “He wouldn’t be in any of them.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because he’s fifteen years older than I am.”
The lid to his mint tin snaps open and the white paper crinkles as he plucks out a mint and pops it into his mouth. I think he uses this time to think of another question or maybe an appropriate and professional response that doesn’t involve the word crazy. “Can you be more specific about the memories?”
“What do you want to know? His favorite color? The layout of the house he grew up in? His quirks and mannerisms? How much his father hated the way he scuffed his feet along the floor like he was too lazy to pick them up and walk like ‘a normal person?’ I know everything about him, or that’s what it feels like.”
“But you don’t know how you know?”
“Yeah.” I cringe.
“Have you confirmed that what you think you know about him is factual?”
“Yes. Well, not everything. I don’t want to freak him out completely. He’s my new boss.”
“You got a new job?”
“Yes. I’m a nanny for a one-month-old. Her mother died giving birth. The dad is a professor and works odd hours.”
I wait for recognition on his face. He has to know I’m talking about Nate—Nathaniel Hunt.
The pace of his blinks increases for a few moments. He’s making the connection.
“He’s your patient. Nathaniel Hunt.”
Dr. Greyson wets his lips methodically.
“I know you can’t tell me. That’s fine. I saw him in your waiting room after our first visit. That’s how I know. You don’t have to speak, just listen.” I chuckle. “Nothing new, right?”
He relinquishes the tiniest grin accompanied by the lift of one eyebrow.
“I think Nate … that’s how I remember him … has some type of emotional trauma from his wife dying. Not the average grieving, but something deeper that’s affected his ability to remember things like … how we know each other.”
“I can’t discuss—”
“I know. Really, I don’t expect you to share anything with me. I’m just throwing it out there. Food for thought. Whatever. I guess…” I blow out a slow, long breath “…what concerns me the most is that I can’t make sense of how I know him. Like …”
Little balls of anxiety bounce around in my gut, bringing on a familiar nausea. It’s the same feeling I used to get every time my parents took me to be tested or evaluated. I can’t remember a single time in my life where I felt normal. Experts have been trying to “figure me out” forever.
“It’s hard to explain, but it’s the us factor. I remember my past and his past, but not us. And it feels ridiculous, even impossible, to know so much about him if there wasn’t an us.”
Not a single blink from Dr. Greyson. I expect a team of people in white scrubs to burst through the door at any moment, plunge a needle into my arm, and haul me to a place with padded walls and no windows.
Seconds, maybe minutes, drag on until he taps the keyboard at his desk, slips on a pair of black-framed reading glasses, and tips his chin up reading over his nose.
“Are you reading my health history again?”
Questioning eyes shift, shooting me a scrutinizing gaze. His honey-brown eyes are kind but tainted by something that feels like concern. It’s the first time I’ve seen that look from him.
Stuffing the compass pillow behind my back, I fix my sunken posture. Crazy people don’t look confident, so I’m going to be the mascot for confidence even if insecurity eats me alive on the inside. “No head trauma. No history of abuse—drug, physical, or otherwise. My last drink was half a glass of wine several days ago. No prescription meds. No pot. Nothing.”
He slips off his glasses and returns to the steepled-finger pose. “Are you sleeping well?”
“Eight hours of sleep. Ideally six good hours straight.”
“Depends on the night and how much coffee I’ve had for the day. But you can’t honestly believe that my knowledge of Nate is from a lack of sleep. Like … his past has wormed its way into my dreams. No. Not buying it.”
“I think you’re struggling to remember how you know him, and it could be caused by a myriad of things. A lot of physical and emotional things affect memory.”
“Do you think Nate losing his wife is what has caused him to not remember me?”
“Swayze, I can’t discuss that with you.”
“What if he weren’t your patient? What if I told you about this guy, and his wife dying, and you didn’t know him. Would you say it’s ‘hypothetically’ possible that he’s suffering from memory loss due to the emotional trauma in his life?”