Jake awoke slowly to find himself in a hospital room.
He felt drained. He tried to lift his arms, which were mere skeletons of what they once were just moments ago when he collapsed on the floor of his living room amongst scattered photos. Glancing around, he saw a photograph on a table of himself and his ex-wife. He thought that rather odd. There were also knick-knacks that seemed familiar but weren’t. There were some photos of his sisters that he recognized, but his sisters looked different than the last time he had seen them a few short weeks ago. They also had kids in the pictures who he didn’t recognize.
On the wall was a kid’s drawing obviously of a dog and the name “Shaggy” scrawled on it.
How long had he been here? Jake wondered. What had happened?
The door to his room opened, and a tall brunette with bright blue eyes walked in and gave him a huge smile. He recognized her, somehow, right away.
“Well, welcome back, Mr. Peterson. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Sarah,” she said, checking his chart and switching the fluid bag that was attached to the IV. She hovered around him checking his sheets and then moving his arms and legs. Jake knew it was her job, but he didn’t like her hovering around him and handling him so much. It felt intrusive.
Regardless, wanting to get some answers, Jake opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Only a crackle emerged. He looked perplexed as was obvious by the nurse’s concerned look.
“Just relax. The doctor will be with you in a moment,” she advised before leaving the room.
A few minutes later a big burley guy dressed as an orderly came into his room. He seemed familiar. The orderly looked startled as he walked in the room and made eye contact with him.
“Mr. Peterson! You’re awake!” He looked nervously around. “Has the doctor seen you yet?”
Jake shook his head slowly, trying not to talk.
“I’ll be right back!” he said excitedly. It was strange to see such a big guy act so animated and giddy.
A moment later the door opened and a woman, who must have been the doctor appeared. She commanded the room and had flame red hair pulled back tight. Jake’s heart raced a bit feeling a familiarity, but still too confused to understand why.
“Hi, Mr. Peterson. I’m Dr. Turner,” the doctor said checking over his chart. “Don’t try to talk. You’ve been through quite an ordeal.”
Jake was very confused. The name ‘Gwen’ popped into his mind and he tried to speak again to say her name. But nothing came out and no one seemed to notice.
The orderly and a few nurses stood in the doorway. All of them seemed familiar.
They were all looking in with interest and curiosity. That’s when Jake noticed the name badge on the janitor. It read, ‘Kenny.’
“Mr. Peterson, I have some difficult news for you to hear,” the doctor spoke. “You were in a car accident and have been in a coma for some time. Do you understand?”
Jake nodded slowly. It made sense. But when had he gotten into the car? Had he tried to leave his house when the bright lights practically paralyzed him with pain?
“How?” he mouthed.
“Your car started to swerve off the road towards a bridge support, but just as you regained control, you had a blowout and ended up hitting the support after all.”
Jake blinked slowly several times, trying to remember. “When?”
“Your sisters will be here soon with their kids and husbands. They’ll talk to you about all of this. But, as I?said before, you’ve been here for some time.”
Jake nodded slowly again. Then he mouthed, “How long?”
Dr. Turner glanced back towards the door, and the nurses and orderly shifted uncomfortably, closed the door and left them to have some privacy.
A few months went by as Jake picked up the pieces of his shattered life. He was able to get back into shape with only a few slight disabilities: diminished hearing, loss of range of motion in his left arm and a slight limp, which the therapists said would heal with full mobility in a few more months.
His life in the coma was comprised of only vague wisps of memories now. But from time to time, things that his sisters, their kids, the hospital staff and others did would bring small flashes of the dream back to him.
His wife — that was still a bad part that he would have to deal with over time. She had stayed around for about a year, but then she felt she had to move on. She had turned over all rights to his sisters and left. Their marriage hadn’t been doing well before the accident and just staying was not something she could do for him. A letter had been left behind and was actually quite heartfelt and positive.
The accident — he still couldn’t remember the night clearly. Maybe he had been suicidal. Maybe he had just been careless. But one thing was obvious, that fate orchestrated different plans for him.
Gwen — one of the different plans was that after several months, he had become close to the doctor that had helped him when he needed it most. They had finally gone out on a date and found that they had many things in common. He shared what memories he could of the alternate life and how most of his memories were about cleaning, organizing, and throwing things away.
They both decided that while he was healing, his mind and psyche were sorting through all the things in his life that mattered most and put them in their proper perspective. Gwen wished she had time to do that on a regular basis.
Jake did have one holdover from his alternate life, Shaggy. It turns out that Shaggy was the name of one of his sister’s kid’s dog. It just so happened, that his sister’s family was moving and Shaggy needed a new home.
As he relaxed in his living room with Shaggy on his lap, he remembered back to when his family finally got to bring him home. He had entered to find a house clean and organized. They had come together to clean and gathered what was theirs, get rid of what they knew he never used, and grouped things for him to sort through when he got home.
Shaggy let out a contented sigh as Jake looked around his home at the pictures on the wall and old memorabilia on shelves from the past. He smiled and realized with some contentment of his own, that in his home and in his thoughts every memory had a place, and there was a place for every memory.
© 2005-2012 Eric Huber. The Awakening is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.