Library bookshelves, Park benches, a metallic heart exhibit wound with wires, a bridge that overlooked the river, carnival grounds adorned with bright lights where a green-blue Ferris wheel turned slowly and majestically as the firecrackers set off and lit up the night sky. These were the images that kept coming back to Alaska in flashes as she recovered from the surgery post the accident. A drunken man had driven an empty bus and struck Alaska and 2 other pedestrians as they were crossing the road at a red signal on a snowy afternoon, seven months ago. She had had severe brain damage due to which she lay in a comatose stage for five weeks. When she gained consciousness, the painful trauma of a complete memory loss with little or no recollection of her life earlier to the accident was hers to bear.
She remembered seeing only patches of her hospital room as her eyes adjusted to the scene, and an unfamiliar voice (who she later found out was her father’s, with the help and reassurance of the doctor in the ICU) whispering excitedly “Baby! Alaska! You’re okay; you’re okay, thank god!”
“Alaska’s condition is complicated. Her memory may return slowly or never at all, depending on how well her brain copes. In any case, she shouldn’t be exposed to stressful situations or sudden encounters of past incidents or people, which may cause her emotional strain” the doctor had warned Alaska’s father.
Over time, as she slowly rekindled with her life under a protected environment maintained by her father, she re-discovered the truths about her life. Alaska had lost her mother to lung cancer when she was six and had grown estranged from her father over the years as he had remarried and started a family of his own when she was teenager. The loss of her mother had left her broken, but the realization that her father had found a place in his heart for someone else- sent her adrift. She knew that deep down the rage she felt for her father was mainly because she herself wasn’t able to move on when her father was able to; though she’d never admit it this to herself.
She didn’t have any siblings, and had severed all ties with her father once she moved to college. But, this accident had brought them closer. Alaska was desperate to know about her life in the city, but as her father didn’t know of any of her friends, he couldn’t help in that direction. Her life had turned into a jigsaw puzzle, whose pieces she didn’t know of, or couldn’t put together; almost as if it didn’t exist.
At first when she started having flashbacks in her mind, she panicked. She didn’t understand what was happening to her, and couldn’t make sense of the images in her mind. Her father had advised her to ignore them as he was worried about the doctor’s warnings. But even against all the good-will advises, Alaska knew that she needed to find out who she was before all this happened. It was the only way she could start over. So she’d reached out to a few friends from her college inquiring them about her own life, but there wasn’t much they could help her with as most of them had not heard from her since she’d graduated; instead she received unwanted sympathy.
“We were inseparable back in college. How about I buy you a cup of coffee and we could talk things over?”One guy had even slyly offered, taking advantage of the situation.
She had politely refused though his intentions didn’t matter to her, as she couldn’t move on to the future if she had no idea about her past life. When she’d run out of choices, she began sketching the images in her mind that kept coming to her in flashes. Though they didn’t make sense to her, she believed that at some point that it would all come back to her.
Life had given her a second chance to start things over and she’d accepted it wholeheartedly. She’d discovered new light in the relationship with her father, making her wonder why she ever distanced herself from him in the first place. Even though her life seemed incomplete and out of balance, she’d slowly learned to make her peace with it until one eventful day when she ran into an old college friend. Alaska poured out her life story, concluding that she could no longer find the pieces of her own life. Her friend persuaded Alaska to move back to the city so that she could seek answers and find a way back to her old life.
At first, her father was against the idea, afraid that it would affect her recovery, but they’d come to an agreement that she would stay at her father’s for four days a week and spend the weekend at the city.
For the first few weekends, Alaska stayed at a small motel in the city. She simply roamed about the streets looking for apartments that she could afford. She was hoping that she would stumble onto something or someone that would jog her memory. One Sunday, she’d found a quaint little café during one of her exploratory walks. Something about the café appealed to her and she felt safe as though she belonged there. So began her ritual of visiting the café every Sunday at 3 p.m., to put away the demons in her mind into the white Bristol papers.
Week after week, she returned to that café, and though she knew that she was no close to discovering her complete identity, she knew that it was at least a start.