His physical injuries had pretty much healed, his concussion was the only thing still lingering, and a faint scar under his chin that was just barely visible.
The door opened behind me and I turned to give Dr. Andrews another earful about wanting to be left alone. Instead, it was a nursing assistant dressed in blue hospital scrubs carrying a tray with a plastic pitcher of water. I rolled my eyes. The doctor had sent this poor guy in to check on me, I was sure. The assistant set the tray on the bedside table and turned to leave. The man in the bed lifted his head from the pillow to survey what was happening around him. Perhaps uninterested in what was happening, or because he was drugged, I wasn’t sure which, he dropped his head back against the pillow and shifted to his side, cradling his cuffed hands in front of him. He flexed his wrists against the cuffs.
The assistant looked from the patient back to me, and I offered a nod, signaling to him that I was fine and he was free to go, though my heart pounded steadily against my chest and I felt anything but calm.
I hadn’t realized they had him handcuffed since his hands had been covered by the sheet when I first walked in.
The assistant paused at the door and faced me.
“Remove his cuffs.”
For the first time the man in the bed opened his eyes and looked directly at me. I hadn’t realized such a brilliant shade of hazel could exist until his eyes fixated on mine. I blushed at the obvious attention he directed only to me despite the aide hovering nearby.
Referring to him as John Doe didn’t seem right. I’m not sure when, but with that name tattooed on his arm, I started thinking of him as Logan.
“Miss, I can’t do that,” the assistant said, drawing my attention back to him.
“Do you have the keys?” I asked.
“Well, yes,” he admitted.
“Then yes, you can. Now unlock him.”
He shook his head, as if realizing he was in a room with not one crazy person, but two. “He gave Terry a nice gash on his face, and you’re too pretty, you don’t want him unlocked.”
I turned to Logan. “You’re not going to hurt me, are you?”
He shook his head.
“See, he’s fine. Now uncuff him.”
My dad was ex-military and had taught me how to throw a punch. I rarely got intimidated, even riding the train through the sketchier areas, and I wasn’t about to back down now. I could take care of myself, and besides, I didn’t believe he would harm me. There was something about him, some nudging feeling that told me I was safe with him. Even as I decided all this, I knew it wasn’t logical. Clocking in at barely over five feet, he would tower over me by almost a foot, and if his muscular arms were any indication, he could take care of himself and anyone else in his general vicinity.
The assistant glanced at the door, seeming to wonder if he should go and check with Dr. Andrews regarding my request, or just do what I asked and get out of this room as quickly as possible.
I considered speaking up again, but he pulled a set of keys from his pocket and quickly unlocked the handcuffs, then shuffled from the room.
Logan sat up in bed and rubbed at his wrists. “Thanks,” he croaked, his voice deep and rough from sleep.
I stepped closer and he drew the sheet up higher on his hips, concealing the trace of soft hair trailing down his belly. I felt mesmerized watching him.
My response to him was startling. Was I that starved for male attention that I was attracted to a good-looking prisoner? Damn, maybe my friend Liz was right, I needed to go out more, to get laid, instead of relying solely on my vibrator to do the job.
This certainly wasn’t the most professional of me. I should speak up, explain who I am, why I’m here, just as I’d done countless times before during the other studies I’d been part of. Of course, those had always been led by Professor Clancy, and I’d just followed his lead, easily explaining that I was Ashlyn Drake, a Ph.D. student studying behavioral psychology and I wanted to ask a few questions. But my mouth refused to form the words, and instead I just stood there staring at him.
He seemed to have a question on the tip of his tongue, but he stayed silent as well, looking me over for a few long moments. “Do… do you know me?” he finally asked. His voice was soft, inquisitive and I immediately relaxed at the sound of it.
The meaning of his question took a minute to resonate. He thought I was here for a visit. There was something innocent and sad in his eyes. Like they were filled with hope and wonder as he looked me over. Did he think I was his girlfriend? A friend? “No,” I answered.
His face fell, and he went back to rubbing his wrists.
I stepped toward him and went to the bedside table where the assistant had left the pitcher of ice water. I picked up the plastic cup and poured him a glass of water.
I held it out for him to take, but he didn’t react right away. He sat quietly, still meeting my eyes for a lingering moment before he reached out for the cup. His fingers brushed against mine. The warmth and solid feel of him startled me.
He took a sip without taking his eyes from mine. “Why are you here and why are you treating me humanely? They say I’m dangerous, that I murdered a man.”
I sucked in a breath of air, forcing my composure to return. “I’m a doctorate student, researching the effects of amnesia.”
“You’re here to study me,” he said simply. It wasn’t a question and his eyes flicked to mine, challenging me to disagree.
I saw my actions through his eyes, what he must assume were my motives for freeing him, giving him water, and suddenly my actions didn’t feel quite so genuine. I’d need his cooperation, it was true, but I hadn’t been thinking of my research when I ordered the aide to release his wrists, or poured him a cup of water. I’d been thinking of him as a man who needed comforting, which probably wasn’t wise. It’d be in my best interest, and safer to think of him only as a test subject. But it was becoming increasingly difficult to view him the way I should while watching him sit on the edge of the bed, his chest bare, and a five o’clock shadow dusting his jaw.
I could easily rattle off that approximately eighty percent of amnesia patients would recover their memory, but I couldn’t comfort him, and that left me unsettled. I’d always dealt with statistics, scientific research, facts and figures, so being face to face with a guy my age, who I was undeniably attracted to had completely thrown me off my game. I needed to pull it together.
“May I sit?” I motioned to the plastic chair across the room.
He shrugged his indifference.
Taking it as an open invitation, I pulled the chair closer to this bed and sat down, then removed the files from my bag. Just this small act, having the papers in my hands, calmed me. I felt more in control, back to my professional self, and pulled a deep breath into my lungs.
I could feel him watching me. When I looked up, I noted the curious expression on his face.
“What?” I asked.
He shook his head, biting his lip.
I looked myself over, making sure none of the buttons on my shirt had popped open or something awkward. “What’s wrong?” I felt too comfortable, more like I was talking to friend than interviewing a mental patient.
“You look too young to be a doctor,” he admitted finally.
Oh. I tucked my hair behind my ears self-consciously and glanced down at my lap. “I’m not a doctor yet. I’m still in school.” And I knew I looked younger than my twenty-four years.
I read over the questions I’d prepared and suddenly, sitting in this hospital room with him, they sounded stupid, too clinical. Besides, he wasn’t likely to be able to provide the answers just now, so I’d probably only anger him. Not that I was worried about him becoming irate; I already trusted him on some strange level. I just didn’t want to prod him with useless questions that would do nothing but frustrate him. I wanted him to trust me. And if I was admitting it to myself, I wanted him to like me. I closed the folder.
“I know you don’t remember your name, but I’d like to know what you’d prefer I call you. John Doe just doesn’t seem right.”
He swallowed and looked directly at me again. His eyes were piercing. I’d always thought the phrase ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’ was stupid, but with him, that phrase held meaning. His eyes were rich hazel, with flecks of chocolate brown and deep, mossy green, fringed in black lashes. They were so expressive I could read his anguish at having no idea how to answer the most basic of questions.
He rubbed absently at the tattoo on his arm.
“Should I call you Logan?” I nodded toward the tattoo.
He ran his finger over the script, as if trying to decipher its meaning. “Why would I tattoo my own name on me?”
“I don’t know, I suppose you wouldn’t.”
He nodded in agreement.
“I just figured it might be more familiar to you than John though.”
“I suppose you’re right, even though there’s nothing familiar about the name Logan to me, I guess I’d still rather you call me that.”
“Okay. Logan.” I smiled. “Are you hungry, have you had breakfast?”
His expression betrayed his suspicion over my concern and I immediately felt guilty. “Let’s just get your questions over with, each day has been a parade of doctors, lawyers and investigators coming through here and not a single one of you can tell me what the fuck is wrong with me. The sooner I can get out of here and back out in the real world, the more likely I am to remember something, right?”
Okay then. That’s a no to breakfast. “It’s possible that certain environmental stimuli could provoke a response…” but I didn’t explain that being under arrest for murder meant he wouldn’t be leaving this hospital anytime soon.
“Would I know it if I was gay?” he asked out of the blue.
“I’m not sure. Studies have shown that sexual preferences don’t change as a result of memory loss. Why? Do you think you’re gay?”
“No. It’s just… Logan is a guy’s name, right? Why would I tattoo the name of guy on my body?”
It was something I was wondering about too. “You think maybe Logan was a lover?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know what to think about anything.” He lay back against his pillow and closed his eyes. I could see him struggling to keep his emotions in check. I couldn’t begin to imagine what he was feeling, waking up one day in a hospital, being told you’re under arrest for murder with no recollection of your life up until that point.
I noticed the dark circles under his eyes, the skin pale a lavender color. I wished there was something I could say, something I could do that would truly help him, but for all my schooling, lectures and textbooks, I was at a loss. I could hold my own in a discussion on amnesia, but I had no idea how to comfort someone who was experiencing it. I wasn’t a psychologist, I hadn’t studied counseling, but suddenly I found myself wishing I had the right words to soothe him, to provide some hope, some semblance of normal. However, asking any of the questions I’d typed up this morning would just insult him.
“Listen, I’ll let you get some rest. Would it be all right with you if I came back tomorrow?”
He nodded, and let his head fall back against the pillow.
The conversation between us had been easy; he didn’t seem uncooperative to me. In fact, his response to this situation seemed very normal.
I stood to leave, folding the papers into my bag. “Bye, Logan. Sleep well.”
Just as I pulled the door open to leave, I heard him. “What’s your name?”
“Ashlyn,” I answered.
“Logan and Ashlyn,” he murmured before letting his eyes drift closed.
There was something about his quiet nature, and intense gazes that stayed with me the entire walk home. The way he softly spoke my name together with his, touched me at my core. Like they were something concrete he could catalog and count on.
The next day I returned to the hospital toting a canvas bag full of things for my session with Logan. A CD player and an eclectic selection of music to see if anything roused a memory from him, along with a collection of classic literature, the books most often assigned in high school.
Logan’s case was not the kind of amnesia that resulted from a neurological disorder or head injury. His was a case of dissociative amnesia, essentially a mental illness involving the breakdown of memory and identity, making it all the more fascinating. I knew that dissociative amnesia was brought on by a traumatic event and occurred when a person blocked out certain information. Treatment options were extremely limited. They typically focused on relieving symptoms and controlling problem behaviors brought on by the stress and trauma. Now, newer studies were exploring how to help the patient begin to process and cope with the painful memories.
Since no one had come forward to claim Logan, even after the news outlets had a field day covering his story, I knew that family therapy was out. I decided to focus on art and music therapy, hoping to avoid going the medication route for anxiety and depression that Dr. Andrews seemed to favor. I wanted to see how far I could get Logan on my own. I didn’t think it would be helpful to numb his brain with anti-depressants.
Dissociative amnesia is by far the most interesting to study because the memories still existed inside the mind, but were so deeply buried they might never be recalled. Sometimes the memories resurfaced on their own or were be triggered by stimuli in the person's surroundings.
The guard stationed at the door to his hospital room checked my ID and nodded his approval for me to enter. I opened the door only to find an empty room. I dropped the heavy bag on the floor to stop my shoulder’s aching protest and was ready to parade out to the reception desk to find out where they’d taken him, when a door at the side of his room opened and Logan stepped out in just a towel.