Symphony 131

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If he tried really hard, Neil could remember the ambulance, and the uniformed officers standing around taking statements; but it was vague, like a memory belonging to someone else, so he let it go.

A doctor said, “Can you feel that?” and Neil was surprised to realize that the pain had gone away. He tried to shake his head, but something was gripping him so tightly that he could not. He was trying to puzzle that out when the darkness came again.

Later he saw a moving grayness, like the unrolling of an unexposed film. Round objects swept into his field of vision from below and disappeared above. When he finally recognized them as electric lights, the grayness came into focus and became a ceiling sliding by above him. He felt the lurching of a gurney and the jar as they stopped. Hands lifted him into a bed, and he tried to say, “Where am I?” It came out as an infant’s shapeless gurgle.

Then the world went away for a century or so.

# # #

Neil was not sure when he wakened. The world was a slow, abstract dance of unrelated patterns for a time, and he could not judge how long that time was. Eventually the blur of light became a window, the swaying blot suspended above him became an I. V. bottle, and the smear of yellow close in at his right side became a blouse, with Carmen wearing it.

When she came swimming into focus, he said, “Blumurf.” She smiled and swept her hand across his forehead in a caress. Neil said, “Whisimulf.”

“I’m sure that makes sense to you, Love, but you are going to have to learn to talk with your mouth wired shut before the rest of us can understand you.”

“Maulf?”

She leaned over and kissed his forehead. There were tears in her eyes. She said, “You had us worried. You had me worried; the doctors said you were going to be fine.”

“Whappund?”

“What happened? You were very brave and noble and got the crap beat out of you. Don’t you remember?”

“You ‘ont sunn vry worrd t’me!”

Her mouth quivered and she bit her lip. Tears ran freely down her cheeks as she threw her arms around him. With her face buried in his chest, she whispered, “You’ll never know how scared I was!”

# # #

Things stayed blurry all that day. He knew it was Sunday because someone told him, but he couldn’t fit that into any kind of personal time line. He kept remembering his time of crisis in Oregon. He could remember that it was in his past, but it felt like last week, not a year ago.

If today was Sunday, then tomorrow was Monday and he would have to make up lesson plans for a substitute. He asked for paper and pencil, then sat for five minutes trying to remember what chapter of Macbeth they were studying before he finally remembered that he had been teaching that a year ago and five hundred miles away.

After that he just slept.

He slept until ten o’clock Monday morning, then woke clear headed. He found that his mouth was wired shut; his lunch consisted of mashed bananas and cream of wheat. His memory was there, but it was like a jigsaw puzzle that had been dumped on the floor. more Monday

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