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Time Takes a Toll on Us(2)

“Abe?” he slowly reiterated.

“Mmhmm,” she nodded back.

Taking another breath, Ariel continued. “He was the one who brought me to the hospital. I thought he was my father,” she ended up chuckling. “I immediately went looking for him after I was admitted out of the hospital. He was so nurturing and kind but he was also quick to say he wasn’t related to me at all. All he told me was that I had been struggling next to some truck in a parking lot all by myself. I had been mumbling some gibberish and suddenly I fell unconscious.”

“Unconscious?” Joe couldn’t believe his ears. How could she have been unconscious in those few minutes when he went into that motel? This didn’t make any sense.

“I don’t know, maybe it was from the pain or the air or something. I don’t exactly know why but he said I just collapsed. I never knew why. I never knew who left me in that truck or if I was there alone. I just didn’t know anything.”

“Did you ever wonder who left you next to that truck in the first place?” Joe quietly asked, taking in a deep gulp.

She was silent for a moment. “I used to,” was her reply. “At first, I thought maybe I was by myself, but it didn’t make sense that a pregnant woman would drive truck because it’s obviously dangerous. I told myself that maybe someone was there but left. I thought I was abandoned. After a while, explanations got harder and harder to deal with. The ‘what if’s’ kind of ruin it.”

The room grew quiet as she explained. Joe had nothing to say. He only had his ears to listen. Ariel was having a hard time talking. She would get emotional here and there but didn’t cry; only quick breathes here and there. As she fiddled her fingers, anxious to continue, Ariel looked over to see Joe’s uneasiness run all over his face.

“I’m sorry I shouldn’t be telling you all this. I’m sorry if you’re uncomfortable,” she quickly apologized.

“N-no,” he shot his head over to face her. “It’s fine. I want to hear what you have to say. Why did you stay in Caoya?”

“Where else was I supposed to go?” Her voice cracked at the moment. “I didn’t know where my family was, if I even had one, or who the father of my baby was…all I knew was that this town, this remarkable town, offered me shelter, food, services that I certainly couldn’t afford back then for nothing in return. Even if I did remember who I was back then, there must have been a reason for me to be left alone in that truck. There must have been a reason for me to escape from it. To start anew.”

“What reason could there possibly have been?” Joe defensively snapped back.

Her face darted to his. The emotion in his tone of voice was like no other. “I don’t know. But I waited. I waited for a voice, a sound, anything. Nobody ever came for me. Nobody knew who I was. Sometimes, I think to myself, the reasons why my memories never came flooding back. Maybe they were too painful. Granted, some did. Like my name…trivial things. But I wanted to know my life. Not just the trivial things. And I think, maybe God doesn’t want me to remember. And then I think of all the horrible things that could have been my life before. I think up all these horrible images of how I got pregnant. I dream of how scary things might have been those years before.”

She was wrong, he thought. The words that came out felt like sharp knives cutting through his chest, cold and dull. How could she be so wrong? Life wasn’t like the way she pictured at all. None of her dreams spout reality.

She took in a deep sigh. “It has been a long while since I’d had those dreams. But it still worries me from time to time. The idea would pop into my head, but I don’t delve into it.”

“What if you’re wrong? What if there is a loving family waiting for you?”

“I have one, and they’re not waiting,” she let out a quick sob. “I have Kris, I have this town and now I have you.”

She wiped the tears that flowed freely from her eyes before she lowered her head on his chest. She could feel his heart beating furiously from her story and she knew he had loved her more than just the way that was expressed in words. Cradling her closer, Joe wrapped his arms tightly and rested his chin on her forehead.

“Do you sometimes wish that you can remember everything…and things just… went back the way they were?” he numbly asked to her.

“ No,” she coldly remarked. “I wouldn’t want it to. I don’t want to remember anything from my past. I don’t want to remember how painful it has been trying to remember it. I don’t want to remember how excruciating it has been trying to escape from it. I don’t want to remember if it was all just a bad dream and I woke up to find myself here. It’s just all too much for me.”

“Shh…” he gently rubbed her back, letting in a firm warmth rise over her. “It’s ok.”

With a soft push away from him, she sat up and looked him right in the eye.

“You know what really just…kills me?” she scathed. “I hate feeling so lost, so alone in all of this. I can’t go around telling people that I have amnesia because they will think I’m crazy, that I’m lying to them, or bluffing.”

Her breath was getting more ragged and her hands flew towards her mouth, trying to cover those pesky whimpers and gasps from crying out of her way. Joe could tell she was having a tough time saying things but she never felt freer in a time like this where all her emotions were being poured out.

“You know how hard it is to get a job, not knowing what the heck to put on the resume?” she scoffed. “That’s why I couldn’t get a decent job for more than a few weeks without getting fired?”

“Then how’d you get the job in the terminal?” he asked curiously.

“It’s the government,” she let out a small smirk. “As long as I keep my mouth shut and do as I am told, I have nothing the government wants from me. I don’t have an educational background. I don’t have experience doing much. Who in their right mind would hire me? Did you know I wanted to work in the ATC? Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever told you. A few people know, but they also know I can’t ever do the job. Not while raising Kris and trying to keep a low profile.”

Pity, Joe thought. Ariel had been through so much already and he had taken for granted that he had the privilege to go to aviation school during his roughest time. It was as if she had been robbed of more than just her memories, but opportunities. What Joe wouldn’t give to have her memories come back. Even if she didn’t remember who he was, if all of her memories came back, he’d be happy.

“No one really understands that I’m so scared of things I don’t even know exist. My worst fear is that one day I’ll be staring at someone I used to love and I wouldn’t know it. I wouldn’t know how much they’ve loved me and how much they’ve missed me…while I struggle to even remember their name. If there is someone out there who did love me, I would have so much pity and sympathy for them…and envy because I wouldn’t know how it feels. I want to able to, lord knows I’ve tried. But if there isn’t anyone who loved me…then that’s just how life intended things to be, right? For me to be far away from them…to start new memories.”

Shout it to her, he thought to himself. He could do it. His mind was already pummeling his head back and forth to just tell her exactly what happened. That he had loved her for so long, that he was the one who left her in the truck like a damn fool, that he is the one that deserved no pity whatsoever and that he was the one that she was trying to remember. If nothing at all…he wanted her to know that it was him that she was trying to remember.

“Ariel-

“Joe,” she interrupted him. “They say I have dissociative amnesia. It occurs when a person blocks out certain information, usually associated with a stressful or traumatic event. I don’t know what happened to me in the past…but now that you know a little about me, are you still willing to stay with me?”

Joe could feel his heart pounding out of him, as if it knew that if he wasn’t going to tell her, it certainly would. This was it, wasn’t it? The perfect time to tell would be now…right?

 

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