We sat together under the tree, the broken tree, for a little while. Every now and then, my friend would say, “Gee, I have a bad headache,” or “this is a very odd day”. I sat beside him, agreeing with him that it was indeed a very odd day, or that it made sense that his head hurt, owing to the fact that he had a concussion. Then he looked at me, his eyes wide, and said, “What day is it!?”
“Oh,” he said, seemingly calmer. Then, “Er, what *month* is it?”
“Oh,” he said thoughtfully. “I wonder if I have a job.”
“Yes,” I answered, “you do. You work mostly evenings, but your schedule is open until Saturday.”
“You seem to know quite a lot about me,” he said. “Are we romantically…inclined?”
“We are not,” I answered hastily. Perhaps too hastily.
“Ah,” he said. “I see. Is your name…J-?” he asked.
“No,” I answered, momentarily feeling very bad indeed. Then I realised he wouldn’t likely remember how quickly I’d insisted we were not romantically involved. “But J- is a friend of mine. She works with you.”
“Ah,” he said, “because I think I remember J-.”
“Mmmm.” I said. Earlier that day, we’d quarrelled a little over the fact that he wouldn’t shut the eff up about J-, and I was quite tired of it.
“You know, I have the *worst* headache,” he said.
“Would you like to go to the clinic now?” I asked.
“I think I’ll just sit for a moment. If you don’t mind my asking,” he said, “what am I doing out here in the woods? And what, furthermore, are you doing here with me, if we are not romantically inclined?”
“We were walking together. Hanging out. Then you decided to jump out of a tree. That did not end well for you.”
“I don’t suppose it would,” he said. “Walt Whitman wrote a poem about young boys climbing trees and they would hold on to a branch, or the sapling’s trunk, and then let go with their feet, and the tree would bend gently and lower them to the ground.”
“Well,” I said, “I’ve always said that no good comes of Walt Whitman.”
“Or maybe it was Robert Frost,” he said. “I have the worst headache.”
“I think it’s a good idea for us to go to the clinic,” I said. “After all, it is Tuesday.”
“What’s special about Tuesday?” he asked.
“Headache days at the clinic,” I replied. He glanced suspiciously at me, then started to laugh. It was the first time he’d laughed in half an hour. I figured things would be okay, then.
Slowly, I helped him to his feet. He was unsteady, and a little dizzy. He leaned heavily on me as we climbed the forested hill on the way back to the car. “I think I’m starting to remember, now,” he said. “I remember someone called J-.”
“Yes,” I said, a little out of breath from half-carrying him up a hill and across a field. “I suspect you do. You wouldn’t shut up about J- earlier.”
We rested often, and discussed things like headaches and trees and Walt Whitman. Sometimes we discussed Robert Frost, as well. Once, I broached Gerard Manley Hopkins, but that caused a great deal of consternation, so I backed down. After a couple of hours, we were in sight of his car.
“Oh look,” he said. “A car! Perhaps we can flag them down, and…”
“That’s your car,” I said, tired, sweaty, and a little short of temper.
“I see,” he said. “In that case,” he reached into his pocket and drew forth some keys. “One of these ought to do the trick.”
I grabbed the keys out of his hand and shook my head at the look of offense he shot me. “You can’t even remember your name or where you live. You can’t stand up on your own. You have a concussion because you JUMPED OUT OF A TREE. I am NOT letting you drive.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” he said. Then, as soon as he opened his door, a look of fear crossed his face. “Oh my God,” he said.
“What!!??” I asked, suddenly alarmed at his ashen look.
“I have DOGS,” he said.
“I have two DOGS!”
“We have to go back for the DOGS!!”
“Oh, ah, yes, well, you see, your dogs are at your parents’ house right now. In fact, we might want to stop there first so they can pee.”
He sighed heavily in relief. “That’s good to know. Do you know J-? I think she works with me.”
I sighed heavily and started up the car. I was a tad rusty on driving standards, but after a few bunny hops, I got us going. “This is a nice car,” he said. “What year is it?”
“Um,” I said. I glanced over at him.
“This is *my* car, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes. Completely. I’m driving because you have a concussion.”
“Oh! That would explain this terrible headache I have.”
“Which you got from….”
“…jumping out of a tree?” he asked tentatively. I was very pleased.
“You remembered something! Good for you!” I exclaimed. It was a very Princess Bride moment.
“You know, I could have sworn I have dogs,” he said. “Two dogs. Little things.”
“You do have two little dogs,” I said. He glanced around the car. “They’re not here right now because they’re being featured in a commercial for pet food, and their handler says it’s best if you’re not there to distract them, so we came for a walk in the woods,” I said.
“Ah,” he said. “Of course. I remember.”
I glanced at him. “Do you also remember that you perform in the lounge at the hotel in town?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I sing Elton John songs.”
“And Kim Mitchell,” I said.
“Only in the summers,” he said.
It should be noted that my friend was the night auditor at the hotel in town, didn’t sing Elton John tunes, and his dogs were never featured in any commercial. I am a bad, bad person.
“Do you remember my name?” I asked.
“You know, I’m terribly bad with names,” he answered.
“Well it’s okay, owing to your having a concussion and all.”
“I have a concussion! That would certainly explain this headache. It’s a doozy.”
“My name is cenobyte,” I said.
“I knew that,” he said. “It’s just that I’m really quite bad with names. What day did you say it was?”
“Ah. That’s good then. I work on Friday, I believe. Hopefully this headache will go away by then.”
I glanced at him. We were driving through the city now, toward his parents’ house. “You remembered something else!” I said.
“Well!” he said, leaning back in the chair and closing his eyes. “Good for me.”