What If Today is the New Forever?

August 27, 2019

In the middle of the night I see her, slowly scooting down the hall, eyes on her feet and hands gripping her walker. She has red-pink spiky hair and a pair of Jack Skellington socks that are too big for her feet. Immediately, I hear my Mama’s voice in my head: “Oh Lordy, look at that poor little thing. She’s no bigger than a minute, is she?”

Southern ladies. They get in your head and never leave, which frankly, I find rude. I really don’t want my mother in my head but she’s incapable of silence.

Spiky hair scoots, scoots, scoots. Back and forth. For hours. Nobody reprimands her or tells her to go to her room, even though everybody else is ordered to their rooms at 10:30. Her walker is tricked out with glittery stickers and the back legs are encased in tennis balls, so she’s almost soundless as she moves. Scoot.

She always misses breakfast. She gets it delivered to a table in the commons, where she sits by herself and picks at it. She rarely attends any of the morning meetings or activities, but by afternoon, she’s willing to shuffle in. An earnest boy named Rafe sees her outside the door and is on his feet immediately, holding the door open as she makes her way.

“Well hi there!” the meditation/yoga lady chirps enthusiastically, and spiky hair immediately cowers and covers her ears. “I…I…I…” Her enormous eyes tear up.

“Sadie has a brain injury,” Rafe says, leaning against the door. “Noise–even like a normal speaking voice–sounds really magnified in her head.” He looks pointedly at yoga lady. “You’re gonna have to lower your register. Volume, too.”

Yoga lady’s face falls. “Oh my gosh. Of course. Thank you for telling me.”

Rafe the Dragonslayer. Keeper of the Spiky Haired. Heart Outside Body.


Today she has black leggings adorned with everything Jack Skellington. He’s dancing, he’s laughing, he comes to life on her legs. Mostly, people leave her alone while she scribbles furiously, deliberately into a leather journal.

It takes two days before I have the courage to approach her.

We’re at lunch and it’s hard for her, trying to negotiate the tray and the silverware and the Diet Coke without ice that I know she drinks at lunch because I’m the only weirdo who does the same thing. But she grits her teeth and she does it on her fucking own and she can deal Goddammit and it’s all a matter of physics, the balance of the walker and the tray and the cup. I offer to get her the dang weird Coke since I’m going up anyways to get the same and there’s a ghost of a smile. It whispers across her face and then is boom. Gone.

“Tha-that is nn-ice. Thh.” Her eyes glower in frustration but she gets it out. “TThh. Thanks.”


Day 4. She will sit with me sometimes and color these crazy pages from an adult coloring book that are supposed to calm us the fuck down.

“D-ddd-do you know I-I havehave a duh-daughter?” She smiles shyly but her face is alight.

“Show me,” I say. And she does. A toddler with pigtails and a stuffed elephant. I reach for the coloring book and tear out a picture with an intricate butterfly, ready to launch. “Do this one for her,” I say.


It’s kind of soothing, the scritch-scratch of ink on paper.

“Can I ask you?” I say quietly. My eyes are on my page; an elephant with wings (whatever). “Can I ask you what happened to y0u?”

She nods. “Two-two ww-weeks ago. I-I was. A-assaulted.” She reaches for the orange marker. “H-he slam-slammed my h-head into thethe p-pavement. I wuh-was unconscious f-for d-days after.”

I have no control over my face and I must look completely Gobsmacked because she laughs a little.

“Wait. You don’t remember? Like, at all?” I clench my teeth. “Do you at least know who did this to you?”

She nods. “I-I d-do.” She gestures to her phone, which she is somehow allowed to have. “L-l-law offices are call-calling. T-they wwant t-to repre, represent me.”

“Oh my God, that’s good. I hope he fries.”


She’s wandering the halls in the night again but she’s upset. Tears stream down her cheeks. I can’t sleep either. I have a new roommate and she’s lovely but Jesus, she snores. I pad carefully out of my room, wondering if I’ll get yelled at. I don’t say anything but I fall in beside her. I hand her tissues and we just stand there for a minute, not knowing if we have to whisper.

“You don’t sleep,” I say.

She shakes her head. “I c-can’t.”

“Is it because you are starting to remember?” I ask.

Another shake.

I force myself to wait her out.

“It-it’s j-just. W-what if.”

“W-what if this is-is h-how my life i-is go-going to b-be now? I-i can’t even t–a-tal-talk. Any. Anymore.”

I grab her fragile wrist, no bigger than birdbones, really. She allows a hug.

We color soundlessly, winged elephants and butterflies, until we can’t anymore.




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