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Earth in the Sky
It had been raining for a week and the gloom was just beginning to clear from my mind. Was it a week? For what seemed forever, all I’d really been aware of was the rain. I looked up to see a stranger looking down at me. I was huddled under the edge of a bush and hadn’t realized the rain had stopped, the bush was still dripping.
“Are you okay?” The man was staring at me from the backdrop of his familiar red umbrella.
“Where am I? And what was that stuff,” I looked around, wondering if a new rain would start, “the rainbow stuff, it fell out of the sky at night?” I stood up and dusted my pants off.
“Well, we’re on Cedar Street, today’s Tuesday, if that helps. The police are looking for you. They saw you come out of the star-shower. They just want to make sure you’re okay, oh and you’re in another dimension.” He squinted at me, as if he were looking for some sign I was an alien.
I was doing the same thing. I caught myself and laughed. “What? I picked the only nut on the street to ask? I think someone put something in my drink.” But I hadn’t drunk anything, had I? Did I drink? I took a wobbly step down the sidewalk. Where was I going? I stopped, and then turned towards the man with brown hair.
He’d taken a step with me. “Hang on; I think the clouds are clearing.” He was looking at the sky, not me. “There, look the Earth’s coming out.” He closed his umbrella and pointed at the sky.
“Whoa, what?” There was a planet up there. My head was feeling fuzzy. “Am I on the moon…?” My mouth dropped open as moons, both the tiny Earth’s and the other one, poked out followed by the sun. My ears started to ring. I knew this feeling, what did it mean? It seemed important.
He must have noticed how pale I was. “Don’t worry; it’s not going to fall. I remember when I first came here, I came on a clear night, and it only took me a few hours to start panicking. I thought the planet was going to fall. My name’s Charlie.” He stuck his hand out for me to shake.
I looked at him as my world receded into my personal fog; he caught me as I fell.
I woke up on the sidewalk.
Charlie was leaning over me, swearing. He stopped when he saw I was awake. “You scared me when you fainted. I almost didn’t catch you.” He helped me sit up. “I think you’re dehydrated, here drink this.” He handed me a bottle of something.
I took a sip, not sure what to think. It was apple juice. “Sorry, I didn’t realize I was going to drop like that.” I giggled. “I couldn’t figure out what I was feeling. What a mess.”
Charlie laughed, “Yeah, well that’s okay. How are you feeling anyway? What’s your name?”
“I’m feeling better now, thanks. My name is…” What was my name? My hand flew to my purse, which I wasn’t wearing. “I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything.” As I tried to stand up, Charlie stopped me.
“Whoa, hey, it’s okay. You probably shouldn’t get up yet. I’ve heard of people getting star-dust in their brains, it’s supposed to cause amnesia.” He kept one hand on my shoulder, stopping me from rising.
Candy bright rainbow colored dust caused amnesia? I thought back to the stuff I’d seen. At first I thought there were sparks raining down around me, but they weren’t hot and as more of them splashed like rain on the ground around me, fading almost instantly in a candied rainbow glow, some green others yellow or red, I looked up. What I saw was a wall of brilliant lights come crashing down in a waterfall. When my vision cleared, I was standing in an unfamiliar street with people yelling at me, someone ran at me and I ran away. I jerked myself back to the present. “The sparkly stuff can cause amnesia? Does it wear off? How did it get in my head?” That part was disturbing, was there a hole I didn’t know about?
Charlie took his hand off my shoulder and sighed. “You ask so many questions. Hmm, from what I hear, it causes amnesia, I don’t know if it wears off, probably does. And I have no idea how it could get in someone’s head.” He smoothed his hair back. “Maybe you should see a doctor, just in case?”
“No.” I pushed to my feet and this time he didn’t stop me.
“Well we should at least tell the police you’re okay.” He was standing next to me, fiddling with his umbrella, uncertain how to proceed.
“No. I’m afraid of them.” I turned the direction I’d taken a step towards before. Then I drank some more of the juice.
Charlie sighed, “I’m just trying to help.”
I started walking then stopped at the edge of 41st. I had no idea where I was going. I turned around to find Charlie standing where I’d left him, looking as confused as I felt. “Can I stay at your house?”
“What?” His head jerked up, he’d been staring at the ground. “Yeah, I guess. I live just down the street. Wait what about your cat?”
“Huh?” What was he talking about, what cat? I noticed a name badge he was wearing. I snatched it off on an impulse. “You’re a doctor? What do you do?”
“I’m a therapist. I mostly work with children. Oh, I should warn you, I have a dog.” He held his hand out for his badge.
“Okay.” I handed it back. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, but everything is so crazy right now.” I eyed the tiny planet. “What kind of dog?” Did I like dogs?
“He’s a Chihuahua.” Charlie walked across the street, and started walking along the ditch the direction I’d been heading.
I tried not to laugh that he was worried about his Chihuahua being offensive or a problem at all.
I trotted after him up to 40th Ct. We turned crossed again and then headed up the empty driveway of the second house on the right. The house was grey and as he opened the door, we could hear the dog barking. Turned out, I did like dogs.
That night, Charlie let me borrow some of his clothes and we washed mine. The pockets were all full of rainbow colored dust. His Chihuahua, Mo, looked like a shrunken Rottweiler. We had spaghetti for dinner and since I still didn’t remember my name, he decided he would call me Sandy, because of the dust in my pockets. His house seemed so familiar, I had no trouble falling asleep in the spare bedroom; I felt like I’d lived there my entire life.
In the morning, I woke up disoriented; my feet took me straight to the bathroom, even though I shouldn’t know where it was. Why had Charlie mentioned my cat yesterday? Wait, I have a cat? I looked at the things around the sink, all where they should be.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. How did I know that? How did I know that the hand soap went on the right, toothpaste and mouthwash on the left? I had a feeling like I could walk through the house with my eyes shut and not hit anything. I knew the rooms and the layout of the furniture. How?
I walked into the kitchen, Charlie looked up from his oatmeal and I saw something flash across his face. For a moment he knew me, and then his brow wrinkled up in confusion.
“Good morning Sandy.” He smiled at me, the you’re a stranger and I’m being polite smile.
“Hi.” I said it awkwardly as I walked sideways across the kitchen, then turned as I passed the table, as though it needed space. I yanked the cupboard open as Charlie stood up.
“Here, let me help you.” He stopped as I pulled out a bowl and then retrieved a spoon without stopping.
I glanced over my shoulder, his mouth was hanging open.
“You’ll catch flies like that.” The confused look was back as he snapped his mouth closed. “I know where everything is, it’s my kitchen. No, what, I mean it’s like my kitchen, I think.” I put oat mix and water in my bowl, slammed it into the microwave, and slumped against the cupboard.
“I don’t know. I’m so confused. Why did you ask about my cat yesterday? Mochi is home, where I should be.” Where I am, I didn’t add.
“I don’t know, maybe I was thinking of someone else.” He knelt down at my level. “At least you’re starting to remember.” He took my hand then stood pulling me up with him as the microwave peeped.
As I pulled my breakfast out of the microwave, he deposited his in the sink.
“I have to go to work, my phone number is here,” he pointed to a sticky note on the cupboard. “Mo should be fine, but if you take him outside use a leash. I’ll be back at three.” He gave me a quick hug, but was gone before I could return it. I watched him walk out of sight with his red umbrella.
I smiled, he always had that umbrella. A memory flashed through my head. He’d had it that other time, when I’d been caught in the rain looking for Mochi, my fat grey cat. I’d huddled under a bush wishing the rain would stop. I was soaking wet and a pair of rain-boots had stopped in front of me. Like yesterday, I’d looked up to see a stranger with a red umbrella.
“Are you okay?” His face all concerned.
“No, I lost my cat and now it’s raining.” I’d started crying.
“Your cat? Well let’s look for him together. My name’s Charlie.” He’d held out his hand to help me up.
“Is that a state of being or a name?” We both laughed. “What’s your cat’s name, what’s he look like, and when did he vanish?”
People had starred as we walked around calling for my cat. In between yelling for Mochi, I asked him questions. Mochi had been up a tree and to my surprise, Charlie climbed up after him.
I snapped back to the present. That couldn’t be the same Charlie, could it? What were the chances? Highly unlikely, I was sure. But if he was, then why didn’t he remember me?
I froze with a spoonful of oatmeal halfway to my mouth. If someone forgot just one person, how would they know? They might never even realize something was missing. I wanted to cry all over again. What if he’d forgot someone like me? If there was a house identical to mine, there could be another me, almost the same. He couldn’t be my Charlie, my Charlie was somewhere else.
I finished my breakfast and changed back into my clothes. I grabbed a CD in the kitchen, at random, and sat down with a pen and paper. After a few lines, I stopped. I knew this song. NO way, he had Closing Time on CD, I loved that song. But I pulled the CD out and switched to the radio, unnerved. It was a burned disc with my handwriting on it.
I didn’t recognize any of the songs on the radio. I wandered into the living room and switched the computer on. The O.S. was called Acorn, but looked like what I had on my PC at home. It was set up just like my computer. I got online and Googled the songs on the CD. Nothing came up. I starred, no results, how could that be?
Maybe Charlie hadn’t stood me up. I could remember standing in front of the movie theater, waiting, then I called him, emailed, nothing. Three days I tried to find him, then I called the police, people from the government showed up at my house, dragged me off, questioned me. I shuddered. When I’d finally been allowed to go home, the place had been searched; it was like he’d never existed. No, he’d vanished and left a mess. I thought, well it didn’t matter, I’d been wrong. But Charlie didn’t remember me. He and his red umbrella had gone off together. Not his fault. I put the CD back in and went back to writing.
Around diner time, I’d made my decision. I needed to find myself. I needed to leave Charlie, for now. He was a great guy, but he needed to remember for himself. How many people took strangers off the street and helped them, not expecting anything in return? As far as I knew, only Charlie did. I looked out the window. There it was, still in the sky, so small. The world was too small, too mean, and there didn’t seem to be enough people like Charlie in it. I could remember a little now, of what my life had been like, muggers and vandals on every corner. No, not nearly enough people like Charlie. Outside I could see a rainbow glow starting. I’d written down what I could remember and left a copy for Charlie.
I started heading for the door.
“Where are you going?” Charlie was following me.
“I’m going to watch the stars fall.” I grabbed his umbrella, knowing I wasn’t coming back. I ran through the shower and kept going, off up the street, swinging the red umbrella in Earthlight. I meant for him to think I’d gone with it, but I’d write to him. Mochi rushed out of the stars and raced after me.