He needs you. The pull. Double helix leash. He can’t remember. I do. He is asking. I am unsure. His room is plain. He sits to the side, his legs long crossed. My legs. I sit opposite mirroring him. Making the most of the negative space.

Are you my three? His voice cracks. There is white around his lips. He is shifting and adjusting. There is something frenetic in his constant movement. Hands at the cuff of his sleeve pulling and spinning. I sit. I smile. I look for anything that is still him. I had heard once keeping pictures in the room helps. There was one. A baby. Large cheeks, wet smile. Me or my son, I am unsure.

I am Mary. My jaw hurts. My molars disappear into each other. He stares. Eyes go up, eyes go down. There is his careful smile.

Good afternoon Mary. What should we discuss today? He is trying to remember where we had left off. Who I am. He is stalling.

How was he? Her voice is careful and sharp. He thought I was his patient.
Hasn’t he always?
Before there was pretense.

And how does that make you feel? I breath. I stare. I do not answer.

His gaze is clear. How do you feel today?
Mary. My name is Mary. He makes a church steeple under his chin. I am fine. The nurse had told me to play along. Keep him calm. Keep him talking. It would help. It might help us both. I am fine. You would not be here if that were true. He pulls his index fingers together. The silence has a pulse.
What do you think is wrong with me? I am so tired. Tired and almost curious. I feel violence under my skin.
His face is impassive. He is waiting for my tell. Eyebrows arched to show sympathy, empathy. We have a stare down. It feels like home. I almost feel strong as our eyes lock. Fifteen, rebellious strong. I am young and ablaze. 

Story and photo : Monica Michelle