Maybe it was curiosity, maybe it was fear, but I decided to ride along with Dope and Pally to Ireland. I’d never been, that I could remember. Er, well; you know. Anyway, so far they’d been firm, but not violent; more definite than dangerous. The airport lobby smelled like food and they’d acted almost solicitous when they realized how hungry and thirsty I was, making sure I had enough pizza and fizzy American beer to keep me sedated for quite a while. Besides, I didn’t know of any reason I shouldn’t go, and two very good (very large) reasons I should. Three, actually: I might learn something.
Two things did make me just slightly nervous: they still hadn’t used their names, even when it would have made sense to, and they stopped at a little men’s boutique (looking ever so out of place) and made sure I had underwear and socks for at least a week. My crumpled suit didn’t seem to bother them much; I could tell I’d slept in it, but it wasn’t looking all that bad, to be honest. If I’d been the one who paid for it, I had money, at least once.
We had time for one more nervous-making: as I was wondering how they’d get me on an international flight without identification, Pally pulled a passport and driver’s license out of a coat pocket. He flashed both pictures at me with a smile. They were mine. I wondered where the rest of my pocket stuff had gone; whether he still had it, or it was in a trash can somewhere. It was hard to think clearly with so many disorienting things happening so quickly.
The plane had that sweet metallic smell of thoroughly conditioned air. No lingering odors from the previous flight. I don’t know if you’ve ever made a long flight, but 14 hours in a plane is surreal. I tried to sleep, but I just wasn’t tired; watched endless reruns of American television shows I had intentionally missed when they were new, and the latest Angelina Jolie movie, but only twice ’cause it wasn’t very good. When the lemon chicken and wheat pilaf was served I divided my time between eating again and staring into space, collecting my thoughts. Or, rather, groping for thoughts to collect.
My earliest memory, other than snippets of cars, was looking out that basement window. Obviously I’d gotten myself up on the crate, and for a reason, so I wasn’t unconscious at the time. Maybe I’d never been unconscious at all, but it seemed to make sense that my memory wasn’t just spontaneously missing; I’d had a blow to the head or something. Except, there hadn’t been any pain; no lump, no blood caked in my hair. So, the first question: why had I lost my memory? Hm . . . maybe that’s the last question. It’s a loop. Maybe I’m the loop. Or loopy. Or something.
My head jerked up like it does when you’ve drifted off to sleep and it falls forward hard enough to wake you. And I knew something. I knew whose house I’d been in.
Not much of an answer. Why was I in the basement of my own house? Why didn’t I recognize it? Why was there no food, no electric, no water, no living room? Why hadn’t I had keys? There hadn’t been anything in that house to make me think it was mine, but there it was in my head, large as life. I knew it the way I knew I was wearing my own clothes; I just did.
Like the scientists always say, one answer just raises ten more questions.
Of course, this realization didn’t tell me who Dope and Pally really were, or why we were going to Ireland. It was only their caution about speaking too much that had prevented them from realizing I didn’t know my own name, or why Pally had called me ‘Doc’, or where on earth my wallet and cell phone were. Yeah, cell phone; little folding Motorola thing; not the latest and coolest, but it synced nicely with my laptop.
It was almost as if I could feel things reconnecting in my head. But like an optical illusion, as soon as I realized it was happening, the cobwebs came back and I only had the bits that crept through before the door shut again.
Ah, well; Aer Lingus has excellent food, and Dopy shelled out for all the Jameson’s I could drink, which was a lot. I barely noticed it.
This time when my head dropped, it stayed dropped ’til Pally shook me hard enough to rattle it.
“Up. Out. Let’s go.”
We were in Ireland. I didn’t discover until later how astonishing it is to sleep through a landing at Shannon Airport; the winds batter the poor planes like pinwheels. Something odd was going on with my head; the bits of memory, the near catatonic sleep—something.
For the first time, I felt like myself instead of a stranger. The resurgence of an old self-confidence was almost overwhelming; good thing Dope and Pally were so busy herding me off the plane that they didn’t see the almost comic relief on my face.
I still wasn’t sure what was coming, but for the first time, I was dead sure I could handle it.