“Congratulations Brian…it’s a Boy!”
I looked down at the little, screaming, bundle of joy sitting in my arms. I couldn’t believe that this little boy was mine. Would I be a good father? Like the man my father had always been, could I live up to that? I glanced at my wife. My tired yet beautiful wife. She beamed at me, an expression of pure joy. It sparkled in her eyes, and filled her smile with life.
I stood in the doorway, watching a man I knew to be myself. He looked younger, happier. But it was me. Going by the name I knew couldn’t be mine. Having the things I always wanted, but hadn’t yet managed to grasp.
“Baylee.” The other me had answered. “Baylee Thomas Wylee Littrell.” There was so much pride in his voice.
“He’s beautiful.” The mother replied, the woman who continued to haunt my dreams. I couldn’t bear to look at her for some reason. It, it just got to me.
I turned, and started walking down the hospital corridor. Oddly, this felt familiar as well. Not real, but familiar, like I played out this scene before. I glanced off to the side, and there was me again, far younger than the man I’d been watching in the room. But yet, it was still me, just how I’d been in my early twenties. The hall was empty except for the two of us.
There was something odd about him though, other than the fact he was singing at the window of the room he was staring into. I looked down at myself, at my skin tone, then back at the younger me. He was lacking color, not grey, but just, I don’t know. I couldn’t think of terms in my head, it wasn’t the easiest to describe.
He took no notice of me when I made my way over to him. He continued to sing, completely oblivious to my presence. The melody was haunting, yet beautiful. It took me in, struck a familiar chord, like there was something missing in my heart. I stepped beside him, looked into the window to see what he was staring at. Before I could get a good look, doctors rushed in and out, obscuring my view.
The younger me continued to sing, and I was touched at the pain ringing through the song.
I started to walk away; he too, did the same. Doctors rushed by eyes by neither of us took any real notice of them. The doors at the end of the hall opened, and a bright light filled my vision. The youthful me was gone. I was out on the road, it was nighttime, and the rain came down in vicious downpour.
I wiped some water away from my eyes and walked forward. Another scene that felt familiar, though incomplete. Headlights brightened the night between the flashes of lightning. They came around the bend, the Jeep they came from swerving on the turn. It spun out of control, going off into the shoulder of road across from where I stood. The car rolled, and a woman was flung from the car and slammed head first into a tree.
When the car stopped, I rushed forward. First I checked the young woman, and gasped at the face I saw. It was the same one who gave birth earlier. I checked her pulse, not that I needed to. Her head was slumped at an awkward angle, she was clearly dead. I ran back to the car, in hopes the other person hadn’t met their end. I glanced through the window of the totaled car, seeing myself, bloodied, damaged, unconscious, but alive.
This time, he was my age.
All I could do was scream.
I woke up screaming, terrified at the images that still danced around my mind. My eyes snapped open, I breathed heavily as I rushed up from my bed. I ran to the bathroom, checking myself over in the mirror. I ran a hand through my hair, my thinning hair that I managed to hide with a nice collection of baseball caps. It wasn’t bad yet, but it was slowly getting there. I turned on the facet, collecting some water in my hands and splashing my face to try and bring myself back to reality. I looked at my reflection in the mirror again.
The dream, it felt so real.
I paced the floor of my bathroom, trying to put this all together. My mind was faulty these days when it came to my life, my past, and my memories. I knew some sketchy details, attempted to fill in the blanks logically. But actual memories? Those were few and far between. And wasn’t that what made someone who they were? Their past, their experiences?
So what made me, if I couldn’t remember much of that?
It was a question that had begun to haunt me.
I’d had my first therapy session with the female Dr. Woo yesterday. As I had guessed, this wasn’t normal. It wasn’t what I would call a big shock, being told that. She had her theories, about why I couldn’t remember much more than the basics. None of them seemed like they fit for me. She thought maybe my panic attacks were because I was trying to remember. That Carlie reminded me of someone I once knew. I don’t know if I agreed, but then again, I’m not the psychologist.
I hadn’t told her about my dreams yet.
I hadn’t told anyone.
How could I tell anyone about something I hadn’t even begun to understand myself?
The night had been a good one, a simple dinner where I cooked for Carlie. And now here we were, walking under the stars, enjoying the peace in the night. Crickets could be heard chirping a sweet melody. Most people were inside, and I was enjoying the solitude and seclusion given to us. It was like we were thrown back in time. Back before the days of technology and noise. That was the beauty of Tristan da Cunha, the timelessness of the land. The way it goes undisturbed overall as the rest of the world fights to rush forward. And lately, the people, the people who are like their own little family. They were distrustful of outsiders, but once in, more accepting than most communities.
“This is really nice Brendan, I’m glad you’re doing better.” Carlie said kindly, breaking through my thoughts.
“Thanks, sorry if I scared you before. I didn’t used to be like this.”
She shook her head, her gentle brown curls bouncing about her heart-shaped face. Her smile was cute and open; I could see the small gap between her front teeth. It was always the friendliness that attracted me to her. “Everyone has their flaws, no one’s perfect right? The only perfect one is God.”
“You’re religious?” I asked with surprise. It was simply a subject that never came up, but I really liked that she was.
She nodded and continued walking; we could hear the livestock moving around on the various farms. “My father was an Anglican Priest, religion was his life. He believed in it so much.”
“You say he like it was your father who believed it, not you.”
“I did, but I question it sometimes. It’s hard not to, you know? My mother, she died when I was very young. Some virus that swept through the island. When I was little, and did my bedtime prayers, I’d ask God why He took my mom away from me before I got to know her. I never got an answer of course, but I have faith, all the same. Just not as steadfast as my father’s was, it never faltered, even when he got sick and later died, of skin cancer.”
I swallowed hard then, understanding her grief. It was weird though, because instead of thinking about my parents, my mind flashed back to the dream I’d awoken from that morning. The loss in the dream, felt suddenly more real than the loss of my parents. The loss that had led me back to this tiny island.
“I’m sorry, it can’t be easy.”
“It’s alright; I’ve learned to accept it. I have my students to keep me busy. School isn’t taken that seriously here, most kids stop at around fifteen, but I like to think I help make a difference anyway. What about you though? Are you religious at all?”
“I was,” I found myself saying. “I lost faith just before I moved here. It’s hard; I’m not sure what I believe in anymore.”
“You’ll find your way.”
“You sound sure.”
She shrugged simply. “I know you, I have faith is all.”
I laughed, walking closer to the beaches. We watched the waves crash against the rocks along the shore. A wind picked up, and when I saw her shiver, I wrapped my arm around her. I hear her sigh, and I smile to myself.
“I’m surprised you’re still here, you know.” Carlie suddenly says.
“See, most outsiders don’t stay. Our government, they’re very picky about who they let in. It used to be that people weren’t allowed to move here at all. But I’m glad you did.”
I beamed to myself. “I’m glad too.”
“You don’t get bored here? I’m sure we’re a bit simple compared to America. We didn’t even get TV till about ten years ago.”
“I like it. Simplicity was what I needed, and America’s missing one thing.”
I turned her towards me; my hands ran down her arms with the gentlest of touches. I then reached up and stroked the side of her face as her beauty is illuminated by the full moon above us. Her eyes met mine.
I pulled her close and my lips met hers. It was bittersweet. It was like a battle raged inside me that I couldn’t begin to comprehend. Part of was excited, it was that feeling that had my hands running down along her back. That feeling drove me to deepen the kiss, satisfied my deepest cravings. Yet there was another side to me as well.
I could hear it, fought to ignore it. It screamed in protest, shouted at me that This Was Wrong! Despite the reasons as to why this was just completely irrational, I couldn’t deny that it was tearing me up inside. Guilt rushed through my veins, churned my stomach. Finally I pulled away, unable to fight it. I turned away as tears inexplicably stung my eyes, wiped them off quickly before Carlie could see. I found myself faking a cough, to explain myself without words. I turned back towards her with a forced smile.
At least there wasn’t a panic attack this time. For that, I was thankful.
“You’re so sweet Brendan, a perfect gentleman.” She said, unaware of my own inner war.
I nodded, guiding her away from the shore with my arm wrapped around her. She didn’t see my face and I was grateful for the night. I didn’t say anything more as we walked back to our homes together. It was too hard to carry any sort of conversation. Not when my own heart was shattering into a million pieces. Not when I wanted to be with her more than anything despite that.
Not when I felt like I just killed someone, and I couldn’t even explain why.