I wake in my hospital bed. Jane, the day shift nurse, is back so it must be morning again. Yesterday was a long weary blur. Cat scans, MRI’s, blood tests, and a half dozen specialists. They all keep assuring me that my memories should be coming back any time.
I recite the facts they have shared with me, hoping they will trigger something. My name is Martina Alvarez, but the nurses just call me Tina. As my name implies, I am of Hispanic extraction, though the face that stares at me under the thick dark mop of hair seems too pale. But I guess if Ricky Martin can be Hispanic, so can I.
I am twenty three years old, currently in the ICU at Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Did you know that Kansas City wasn’t in Kansas? I did. I can’t recall a single detail of my life prior to yesterday morning but I remember this piece of trivia.
A middle aged man comes into my room. His hair is dark, with gray at the temples. His brown eyes take me in. He is wearing a suit, a tan tweed jacket with patches at the elbow. He is carrying a medical chart, mine I presume.
“Can I help you?” I ask.
“You don’t recognize me?” He seems surprised.
“Sorry, I have amnesia, or something,” I reply. If he has my chart, he should know this.
“I am Dr. Hoffman,” he says, “your psychiatrist.”
“So they want me to have my head examined?”
“Tina, I’ve been your psychiatrist for five years.” He finds a seat and sits down. “Do you have any idea how close you came to dying this time?”
“This time?” I echo.
He gives me a long, calculating look.
I look away, uncomfortable. “What did I overdose on?” I ask. I was brought in nearly three days ago, unconscious. I spent the better part of it on a ventilator, hovering between life and death.
“That was supposed to be my question,” he replies. He glances through the chart. “Well your drug screen was a chemical soup. EMT’s found several empty pill bottles in the house, but they could only guess what you took or when.” He looks up at me. “Why did you do it?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
“I don’t remember anything,” I say. “Not a damn thing.”
“What do you mean?” he asks.
“I mean I don’t remember a single freaking detail of my life and its starting to freak me out.”
He looks away and I know he doesn’t believe me, he just can’t figure out what angle I am playing. “Tina, I want to help you,” he says after some time, “but you have to be honest with me, tell me what’s going on.”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” I reply. “Believe me, I would tell you if I could.”
“Where was I found?” I can’t remember. Do I have a house? An apartment?
“An abandoned house on the east side. A neighbor called about squatters but when the cops got there everyone had left. Except you.”
“Already unconscious. They called the EMT’s.”
“None of this is familiar.” I am nearly in tears. “None of it. Why can’t I remember anything?”
For a second I think he’s torn, like maybe he’s starting to believe me. Then he looks down. “The medical doctors have cleared you. They find nothing wrong.”
“What am I supposed to do now?”
“I don’t know. But I know what you will doing for the next couple of days at least.” I give him a sharp look which he meets evenly. “That overdose was serious. Tina, I can’t turn your life around, but I have a professional obligation to try. I have no choice but to recommend at least a 48 hour psychiatric assessment.”