“I think you’re really, really going to like it here,” a warm voice says from behind her. His lips spread into a magical smile, so filled with charisma and care. The voice and the smile come from a tall, friendly-faced man with black hair and a button up shirt, and it reassures her that everything is going to be okay. She gets the sense that that smile and that voice have brought her comfort many times over many years, they feel so familiar. If only she could remember who they belonged to.
“These are your sheets from home,” he tells her, smoothing over the blanket on her new bed, with a hand that’s got blue scales on it, almost as if he were part octopus. “And I put up your tapestry and your pictures. It looks just like your apartment.”
Wait, if we’re not at my apartment, where are we? She looks to him as if to ask that, and immediately his energy changes. His arms are orange scaled now, like he’s a human mood ring. “We’re at your new place, remember? You’re going to stay here from now on. And you’re going to have lots of new neighbours to be friends with, and lots of kind people around all the time to make sure that you’re always doing okay. Okay?”
Oh. Right. You told me this. She nods, just slightly. Her fingers dust along the blanket, the one the octopus man said he brought from her old apartment. It must be special, to go through the trouble of packing it up and moving it– to go through the trouble of packing up all of her stuff and moving it, he must really care about her. She knows somewhere in her heart she really cares about him too, she feels it. Love’s such a funny thing.
The blanket doesn’t feel familiar at all, nor does it look it. It looks old and worn down; she’s sure she does, too. Just like he said, the man had set up framed pictures on her nightstand, too. The faces in those frames felt more familiar than the blanket did, but in a far away sort of way. Like the man, her heart felt the connection to them and yet her mind couldn’t place them. He was in one of the photographs actually, with a younger boy that looked just like him in his lap and two blonde women, identical twins, by his side. Another one held a photograph of a young woman wearing a graduation robe and honours cords around her neck, she’s got dark hair and a big smile on her face, an arm around an older, taller man, you can see the pride in his eyes. The last photo looks old, worn, like the blanket does. A little girl smiles, sitting on what she assumes is her father’s knee, and he smiles too. The girl’s mother has her hands on her daughter’s shoulders, and it looks as though she’s trying to smile too. Out of everyone in these photos, that woman looks the most familiar, the most familiar. That woman may be her deepest cut, but she still couldn’t recall how she got it.
“I have to get going now, Auntie Luisa,” the man tells her gently, pulling her back into the present time. “I’ll come visit again on the weekend, okay? And Mom and Dad will come as soon as they can, you know that.”
She nods, stroking a hand over his scales as he leaves. They just feel like regular skin. He leans in and kisses her face before her leaves. Does that turn her into an octopus too? She’ll have to look in the mirror and check.
She doesn’t miss him once he leaves, because she forgets he was there.
There was a missing that never went away, though. It slung over her soul like a sweater, and came to her in waves in the strangest times– with the smell of mint or the taste of sugar, sometimes in a passing glance or a fleeting feeling. She knows it was years ago, whatever– whoever– it was that left this stain behind. It doesn’t surprise her that she can’t remember, she can’t even remember her family’s names anymore and she’s lucky to still remember her own. She has a list of things, things not to forget, but one by one she’s been forgetting those too. She’s down to only four now. My name is Luisa Alver. I was born on July 11th 1977 to Mia and Emilio Solano in Miami, Florida. I have bipolar disorder and Lewy Body dementia. I am not crazy.
Suddenly there’s a woman in her room, the shock of it causes a scream to escape from her throat. Now they’re both startled.
“This isn’t my room,” the other woman releases right away. “I am so sorry, this– this isn’t my room.”
It’s okay, Luisa wants to say. It’s okay, it doesn’t feel like my room either. She taps her lips and shakes her head, trying to communicate that she doesn’t speak much, she can’t speak much, not anymore. And eventually, the woman picks up on it.
“Apologies,” she says, shaking her head. Her hair has a tinge of orange in it, she was a redhead once upon a time. “What, what room is this?” she asks, as if Luisa can answer.
She takes a quick dash at the door. “I’m not even on the right floor,” she mumbles, her voice sinking a little. “I’m sorry to bother you.”
Luisa pats the bed beside, motioning for the woman to sit with her. Just because she didn’t make good company didn’t mean she didn’t like company, especially with new people she was drawn to. Red sighs, collapsing on the bed beside Luisa. Luisa strokes her arm politely, carefully. It makes her smile.
“I’ve been forgetting more and more lately, getting lost in the building when I go for walks,” she says absentmindedly. She shakes her head. “You don’t care.”
It’s Luisa’s turn to shake her head, and then nod. No, I do care! I promise.
“I have a list of things not to forget,” the woman says. “I go by Rose now. I am in Miami, Florida now. I… am in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease now. And I used to have a great love, I am capable of great love.”
Luisa smiles. That sounds nice, that sounds really nice! I… I think I used to have a great love too, I think. She motions for Rose to keep talking. She finds her voice comforting.
Rose pulls a photo from the pocket of her robe. That must be her in the photo; Luisa’s suspicions were confirmed, she did used to be a redhead, a beautiful one with a sparkly smile and expressive eyes.
“That’s me,” she points out, as if those eyes require explanation. “And that’s Luisa,” she says simply.
Luisa reaches out for the picture, running a thumb along the faces. How nice. My name’s Luisa too. Luisa Alver. I was born on July 11th 1977 to Mia and Emilio Solano in Miami, Florida. I have bipolar disorder and Lewy Body dementia. I am not crazy.
“We, uh, we were never, we were never married or anything,” Rose says. “But I spent many, many years in love with her. I still am, if I’m honest.” She perks up with a little chuckle. “We had some pretty wild times together, the best years of my life. We used to sneak around, we weren’t openly in a relationship. It was worth it, of course. She was worth it. I hope she’s okay, wherever she is.”
Luisa nods, moving a hand, finally, to Rose’s arm . I hope she’s okay too, she sounds very nice. A very cute couple.
Rose makes a move to get up from the bed. “I should leave you alone,” she mutters. “I need to find my way back to my room.”
“Rose,” she tries to say, as Rose is leaving. The name felt so familiar on her lips, like she’d spent years whispering it and screaming it and everything in between.
“Y-yeah, that’s me,” Rose nods. “Good job, that came out really clearly. What’s your name?”
My name is Luisa Alver. I was born on July 11th 1977 to Mia and Emilio Solano in Miami, Florida. I have bipolar disorder and Lewy Body dementia. I am not crazy.
But the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth, not the way the spirals and the squiggle squirmed their way out of the top of Rose’s head and out of her ears, flying around the room like confetti. Luisa followed them with her eyes, as they hit the air and turned to birds, flying around. Open the window, let them out! I don’t want birds in my apartment!
Rose nods, getting back to getting going. “I’ll see you around,” she says gently. And as quickly as she came, she left. And the birds flew away with her.
But as she left, she left a trail of roses growing out of the shag carpet, following her out into the hall. That’s how Luisa would remember her by. Rose. I like that name.