Waking Up: Missing Pieces – Part 5
**Content Warning:** This story contains references and allusions to the abuse of vulnerable populations, such as those with disabilities, LGBTQA+, and children of abusive parents, and may contain content that some may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.
I lull in and out of consciousness in the wheelchair as I stare out the window. My mother’s voice awakens me each time I fall asleep – jolts of you used to do this, and you were this way. My body tenses into fits with each nightmare.
A tigress growls and rouses me. Her voice carries from the nurses’ station down the hall. “Diedre! Her name is Diedre Williams. Where’s my wife?”
The voice buzzes a memory somewhere in my brain; I taste fondant with ginger vanilla cake and raspberry filling. With my eyes closed, I smell an ocean breeze and cedar. My hands tingle with sensations of soft ringlets of long hair through them. My muscles release tension as a mysterious yet familiar warmth fills me.
“I’m so sorry, Ma’am, but there is no Diedre here. I’m afraid we need to ask you to leave.” The male nurse placates.
I roll closer to the cracked door, listening to the nurse’s firm, masculine rumble. With a shove, I wheel into the hall toward the day room. But I forget about the day room.
“Madison?” I whisper. Who is Madison?
Growling at the nurses’ station is a phantom pulse electrifying my entire existence. The stacked bob of red hair and darting brown eyes on a tall thin frame fills my chest with the missing piece of that long-absent warmth and need. “Madison?” I speak louder in a voice I don’t recognize. She acknowledges me, and I exist. A flash of horror crosses her face. Security guards seize her as she runs toward me.
“What have you done to her? What have you done to my wife?” She fights against the security guards that restrain her as the large head nurse thunders down the hall to usher me back into my room.
“Michael, it’s time to go to take your nighttime medications and go to sleep.” The large head nurse blocks my view of the most beautiful human I’ve ever seen with her body. My eyes water as disconnected memories flood back, and I see flashes of my life before the accident.
In another time, another place: Madison reaches out to me with soft eyes and a weary, but unconditional smile. Diedre, it’s time to go to bed.
“Michael, it’s time to go to bed. We’re very sorry for the disturbance.” She grabs my wheelchair, whipping it around and holding my shoulder to prevent me from tipping out.
“That’s… not… my… name…” I shake my head and hyperventilate with clammy skin. My hand touches damp cheeks to clear blurred vision, and a pit opens inside of my chest. She shoves my chair into the room and slams the door as the chaos in the hallway continues.
Once the hallway quiets, a moment in silence passes before the male nurse opens the door with a gentle knocking. He brings in the candy-colored pastilles in their disposable paper cup with a Dixie cup and kicks the door closed with his foot. As he walks to the sink, he speaks without turning his head, “Some things aren’t adding up around here.” I extend my shaking left hand for the paper cup with the pills, then take the water with my right hand. “Before I ask any questions, let’s go through this one step at a time. First, the pills, then a big gulp of water, and swallow as if you’re drinking from the cup in therapy.”
I stare at the pills. “What are these?” My hoarse voice manages not to stutter.
The nurse sighs and nods, his eyes were scanning the room in thought. “You didn’t talk much when you first got here. Let me grab your chart.” The nurse opens the door and grabs the computer cart, keeping his eyes on my hand with the pills. “Your doctor prescribed them, you can talk to him about what they do tomorrow.” While he pulls up the chart, I follow the instructions. He takes my trash and looks at me, “you ready?”
“Yeah.” I nod, rotating the wheelchair to the assistive bars I use to help lift myself into bed as the nurse spots me. I hoist myself onto my feet, rotate onto the hospital bed, and settle.
He returns his attention to the computer cart. The nurse reads off, “400 milligrams magnesium, 5 milligrams melatonin to help with circadian rhythm disorder – common after TBIs – and 200 milligrams topiramate to prevent seizures and 5 milligrams olanzapine. That last one is pretty common to prescribe to patients after brain injuries. It’s calming, rebuilds sleep architecture, and stabilizes moods. Have you been on that one before?”
“I don’t remember. I don’t think so.” I mutter.
The nurse shakes his head. “Your chart doesn’t show a history of mental illness, but…” His eyes do a full-body scan. My limbs take on minds of their own – wrap themselves around me as shields. He looks back at the screen as his face turns red. He pushes the computer cart out of the room and closes the door, sitting next to my bed in my mother’s chair. “Listen, Michael, I gotta know. What’s with the breasts?”
My arm shifts and left-hand splays its fingers, patting my chest. Within a few moments, I laugh as tears roll down my face. The fatty tissue over my pectorals muscles aches as I gain awareness. “I do have breasts, don’t I?”
One of his eyebrows knots in toward a deep crease in the center of his forehead. “Do you remember why?”
As he asks, I train my eyes on his badge and make out the letters E-D-D-I-E. I raise my head as the room begins to take on rainbows in my periphery. The medication seeps into my veins, but something stirs. “Ed-die,” I stutter, “I’m… n-not Michael.” The medication smiles for me.
Eddie’s face drains of color, his mouth slack and eyes widening. “Wait… then who are you? What about your mother? Your childhood photos?”
I shake my head, exhaustion curling and extending its way into my muscles like a wiggling worm, my eyes falling closed. “She’s my m-mom. . .” I grasp the blanket with my left hand, pulling it over me. The nurse does his walk around the bed; checks the floor pads and bed rails for nightfall precautions. As Eddie approaches the head of the bed, I meet his eyes. The eye contact hurts my head and chest; I maintain eye contact through the pain as my eyelids threaten to collapse. I curl my left hand into a ball and hold it against my chest, then reach my right hand up to my head. I comb my fingers through my mop of hair and trace the surgical scars on my scalp as my eyelids fail to support the weight of sleep.
“I’m Dee.” I introduce, relaxed, and comfortable as Eddie readjusts the blankets over me and dims the lights.
“It’s nice to meet you, Dee. I’ll update your chart. Sleep well.” Eddie shut off the last non-red light switch as I drift into a restless solipsistic sleep.