She squinted sleepily as I lay beside her propped on my elbow. She tried to smile, but it turned into a grimace quickly. It had been one of the hard days that day. Her frustration had turned into one of those terrible headaches and she hardly ate or spoke for the entire day. It took me double the efforts to soothe her but she did fall asleep in the end, like she did every day, in my arms.
I raised my hand to caress her hair but she inched closer and buried her face in my shirt. Her faintly ragged breaths told me that she was still in pain and my heart screamed at the unfairness of it all. It didn’t have to happen. Not every day.
“What time is it?” she murmured.
“Nine”, I said, checking my watch.
She gave a small gasp and pulled back her head to look at me.
“You missed the Coke Studio. Again” she said apologetically.
I laughed in spite of myself. The TV show had been the last thing on my mind. I wanted to ask how she could remember it was Saturday but I stopped myself.
“No worries,” I said, “I’ll catch it on YouTube”. She nodded and replaced her head on my shoulder.
“Aren’t you cold?” she asked after some time. I realized then that I wasn’t inside the blanket but I had more pressing things on my mind.
“You are very warm” I said lightly.
She giggled, her voice husky with sleep and said playfully “You could get a blanket. If you want”.
I shook my head; I didn’t want to waste even a second without her.
“Good. I wouldn’t have liked if you went anyways.” She winked at me, her old smile back and I swear at that moment, my struggle that engulfed every minute of my life felt worthy.
“I don’t feel like getting up” she said, her eyes weary.
I looked at the purple hollows beneath her eyes, the cheeks that used to bounce with her smile once now sunken and empty.
“You don’t have to” I told her, knowing how tired she felt.
“I’m still sleepy” she insisted.
“I know” I said, the adorable look in her eyes when she was sleepy couldn’t hide even beneath all the physical signs of her trauma.
“You know everything about me, don’t you?” she asked, curiosity in her voice.
Her question caught me off guard. Despite having known her for years, she was a stranger to me every day. Each morning a different mood, each day a different shade. But the nights never changed. The fear never changed as we lay together afraid of the clock ticking. She was a stranger every day, but she was a stranger I loved.
“Everything.” I said in reply.
“Just a few more hours now isn’t it?” she whispered, her eyes bloodshot with the headache and the fear.
I just hugged her tightly in response; I didn’t want the weight of the question haunt the precious few hours we had together. But more than that, I didn’t want her to see the fear in my eyes. No, I had to be strong for her.
“You will be here tomorrow?” she asked me, her eyes downcast, staring at her fingers playing with the button on my collar.
“Every day as long as you want me to” I replied quietly.
She looked at me then, her eyes sad and said “I don’t know what I will be wanting tomorrow.”
My heart tightened at the truth in her words as the smallest vestige of hope I carried everyday vanished. She really wouldn’t know .
Before I could say anything, she started running her fingers on the silver chain fastened around my neck, almost absent-mindedly, but the goosebumps at her touch threatened to rise on my arms anyway. I marveled in amazement at the boldness she showed. The same junior girl who had been so shy, so wary to even say out her name when asked soon became so comfortable around me, so fearless. I ached to finger her slender neckline too; trace it to the rounded curve of her jaw, to the dimple on her chin but I couldn’t, the intimacy I forged all day long seemed so transient in the last few hours of the night.
She took a deep breath and sunk in closer, her nose at my collar bone now and muttered “You smell so good.” I smiled, she had always been one to steal my lines.
“Do you smell like this every day?” she asked and a small part of me died again.
“Yes” I said, the sadness now in my eyes.
She looked at me long and hard, as if etching my face to her memory but the fragile thing called memory wasn’t a part of her anymore.
Her eyes welled up and she choked “I don’t want to forget you”.
I wished. I wished. But I would be erased from her mind as surely as the sun was sure to rise, the clouds of her sleep that kept this at bay were only temporary. I made her fall in love me every day and she forgot me faster than the painful hours I put into making myself familiar to her. But I was willing to do it again and again till I could permanently etch myself in her.
Amnesia could erase her mind, but not her heart.
“You will know me again tomorrow. As a new person but I will still smell the same, sound the same and feel the same for you and you will fall in love with me all over again tomorrow.”
“I am sorry” she said, tears spilling down her cheeks.
“You don’t have to be, you don’t have to be” I pulled her closer and held her tightly, wishing I could bind the time with the strength of my arms too.
“Sleep now” I told her. I could see the argument in her eyes but exhaustion pulled her away from me as her lids slowly drooped.
I held her as the night crawled between us and the clock ticking became louder than our hearts beating together. I held her as time slowly and stealthily crept in like a quicksand to steal her away from me. Again.
Can anything be worse than the person you love forgetting you? Not once but with every sunrise? I have stretched the concept of dissociative amnesia here but it had always been something that intrigued me. Will the person you love be willing to forge that connection time and again for you? Love is patient, love is kind… is it really true? I wonder, I wonder very much.