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Authors: Michal Hartstein

Deja Vu

BOOK: Deja Vu
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Déjà Vu


Michal Hartstein

Copyright © 2015 Michal Hartstein

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 1518663109

ISBN-13: 978-1518663109





This book  is dedicated to my sisters: Anat and Tammi




I would like to thank Mr. Yuval Gilad, Miss Michal Fridman, Mr. L.L. Fine,  Mrs. Julie Phelps and Mrs. Kristie Stramaski

for the great help they provided.




At the age of sixteen and two weeks, I woke up in a hospital and couldn’t remember my name.

The medical staff crowded around me, looking at me with astonishment and joy. A few minutes later, a man and a woman were ushered in to see me. The woman's eyes were filled with tears, and the man was holding her gently while they cautiously approached my bed. Personally, I was confused and scared.

They were my parents, but I didn’t know them. My glazed look increased the flow of tears pouring from my mother’s eyes. My father gently stroked her and leaned over to give me a kiss. I winced. I didn’t know him.

“Rose,” my father whispered, “I'm so glad you woke up.”

Who’s Rose? I thought to myself until I realized I’m Rose.

“We were so worried,” my mother said, still sobbing.

I kept looking at them blankly and asked the doctor to give me a few minutes to recover.

At first, the doctor told my parents that this confusion was natural, but a month later he had to admit that my amnesia was chronic, and my chances of remembering my past were very small. I don’t know anyone who remembers the moment of his or her birth. I don’t think it makes sense for a person to have memories of his life minutes after it began, but for me, in those moments, I was born again. I had no memory prior to the moments of my awakening, but my first few moments awake, after the serious accident I suffered, will forever be etched in my memory. After my frightening waking moments and the awkward meeting with my parents, I was left alone. The doctor wanted to give me time to rest, and everyone left. I found it hard to get up by myself and asked the nurse to slightly raise the back frame of my bed. Looking around, I found I was in a standard hospital room.

Because of my injuries and the fact that I was connected to quite a few monitors, I was, apparently, in a private room. I looked at the window. The sun coming through the drapes managed to blind me. I blinked and continued to survey the room. I watched the various monitors in horror. I had no idea what their purpose was, but the number of devices I was hooked up to shocked me and made me understand the seriousness of my condition. Looking toward the door of my room, I noticed another door adjacent to it. I realized immediately that this was the door to the bathroom and shower. When was the last time I peed, I wondered in horror as I lifted the blanket that covered me. I was shocked to discover myself wrapped in a large diaper. I covered myself again in embarrassment. I looked at the bathroom door again and was, again, shocked to realize that I had no idea how I actually looked. I desperately wanted to get to the bathroom, to the mirror. I rang for the nurse and she immediately appeared.

“I want to go to the bathroom.”

“You can’t get out of bed yet.” She smiled a comforting smile at me.

“And if I need to pee?”

“When the doctor says you can stand up, we’ll help you get to the bathroom. In the meantime, I’ll help you while you're stuck in bed."

“Can you take this diaper off?” I asked sheepishly.

“Yes, sweetheart.” She smiled that same comforting smile again.

“The truth is, what I really want is to see myself in the mirror,” I smiled back, trying to emulate her smile.

“Of course.” She smiled again, but this time, her smile was different. “I'll bring you a mirror.”

She returned a few minutes later with a small mirror, and I looked at myself in disbelief. It’s difficult to describe how strange it feels to look at yourself without recognizing the person you see, not because I’d been through a bad accident and had numerous bruises on my face, or because my hair was disheveled from lying down for such a long time. It was because I just didn’t recognize my own face. 

A few days later, free of the IV line and the different machines and monitors, I was moved into a room with two more hospitalized women and visited the toilet without the aid of the medical staff. After I recovered from my exertions, I made a point of brushing my hair. The swelling in my face gradually subsided, and, apart from a small scar that adorns my right cheek to this day, I went back to looking like I did before the accident.

Of course, I had no idea what I looked like before the accident. My parents brought the family photo album, but my image was foreign to me, just like those of all the other people in the album. I liked the way I looked. Perhaps if I hadn’t been through the accident, I’d be like all the other teenage girls - terribly busy finding faults in my appearance - but since I had to accept my image as a fact at the age of sixteen, I liked what I saw. I was a fairly tall girl, my brown hair was long and smooth and my eyes were a changing hue of green and brown. Although I was at the peak of my adolescent years, my face was clear of the acne that many other teens had to deal with. That I was quite an attractive girl was confirmed pretty quickly by the enthusiastic stares of men and boys who visited the department. My mother said that I had a boyfriend, but I asked not to see anyone. I was very confused, and I wanted to get to know myself at my own pace.

My parents and sisters sat with me for hours, flipping through the photo albums, trying to help me regain my lost past, but I remembered none of it. Interestingly, my semantic memory wasn’t damaged at all. I wouldn’t have to repeat first grade. I couldn’t remember who taught me to read and write or who taught me to solve equations in algebra, but I remembered how to do it. 

I would learn to lie in the coming years. I would memorize every detail of the stories my family and friends would tell me, and when I wanted to make someone feel better, I’d lie and say I remembered something. In all honesty, I didn’t remember a thing.

Several days later, the doctors suggested that we add some of my friends to the list of visitors. I realized that almost all of my class volunteered to visit me. I didn’t know if I was popular at school. My mother claimed the kids were simply curious. My parents suggested only my two closest friends, Inbal and Daria, and my boyfriend, David, come to visit. David wanted to come first, but had to report to the recruitment office for some pre- enlistment exam, and therefore Inbal and Daria came to visit first. My sisters told me a little about Daria and Inbal, so I had no doubt which was which when they came to my room. Daria ran into my room like a hurricane and attacked me with hugs mixed with tears of joy. Inbal, who stood behind her, tugged Daria off of me and reminded her that the staff had asked them to be gentle with me.

“It's okay,” I smiled. I was ready for Daria’s stormy nature. “You must be Daria.”

Daria was stunned as she looked at me. Despite all the preparation she’d had, it was hard for her to face the fact that she was a stranger to me. ”Yes,” she replied, blushing.

“How are you?” Inbal came up from behind her and gently stroked my hand.

“I'm fine,” I said as I got up from my bed. “Let's go outside.”

“Are you sure?” Inbal asked anxiously. “Are you able to -”

“It's okay.”

We sat around a table in the courtyard of the cafeteria by the children's ward. Daria and Inbal looked sadly at a little boy with no hair, playing with his mother in the little playground.

“It's so sad.” Inbal wiped tears from her eyes. “How can you deal with all this?”

I was ashamed to admit that I was so busy with myself that I hadn’t yet found the time to feel sorry for the other children in the ward. “You get used to it,” I said and shrugged.

“So how are you feeling?” Daria asked.

“Okay,” I replied. “Nothing hurts quite so much anymore, and the doctors say that within a week or two, I'll be back at home.”

“That’s great!” Inbal went back to smiling, her round face graced by huge dimples. I smiled a big smile, hoping that my smile created such beautiful dimples too. Later, in the shower adjacent to my room, I sadly discovered that it didn’t, even after much effort.

“Your parents asked us to bring you all kinds of pictures and letters to refresh your memory,” Daria said, raising her purse on her lap.

“I don’t remember anything,” I said awkwardly.

“Maybe this will help you remember?” Inbal suggested.

At this stage of my treatment, the doctors were still hoping that my memory would return. Despite their hopes, I had a feeling early on that I would never be able to remember my childhood.

Inbal and Daria spread a stack of photographs before me as well as memoirs and letters that we’d written to each other. I looked at my four-year-old self sitting between Inbal and Daria at Rebecca’s Kindergarten. Our little heads were decorated with crowns made of flowers for a holiday celebration. Our friendship had begun at that kindergarten. Ever since then, and up until the accident, we’d only ever been separated for a few days at a time. We continued flipping through albums until we reached more recent ones - pictures from the scout summer camp, from school class parties. In one of the pictures I was hugging a handsome boy.

“Is this David?” I asked.

“Do you remember him?” Inbal asked hopefully.

“No... my parents told me I had a boyfriend named David.”

“They didn’t show you a picture of him?” Daria said with wonder.

“They didn’t have any.”

“He hasn’t been here yet?” Inbal was surprised.

“He was supposed to come earlier today, but had to go to the recruitment office.”

“You know he was with you at the time of the accident?” Daria said.

“Yes... I was told he’s the one who called the ambulance.”

“He actually saw you being run over. He was standing on the other side of the road, waiting for you, when that drunk driver slammed into you. He followed the ambulance and didn’t leave the emergency room for two days,” Inbal said, and her eyes sparkled at the mention of his name. I had a feeling that she was in love with him herself. “Only after two days did he agree to leave.”

“When I woke up, the doctors allowed only immediate family to visit me,” I explained. It was a partial truth; the doctors forbade visits only for two days. After that, I was the one who refused to meet people. I was embarrassed about my memory loss and the fact that I didn’t know anyone.

“So when’s he coming?”

“Tomorrow,” I said as I continued to carefully study the picture of the two of us.


The next day, I dozed off in my room, and when I opened my eyes, I saw a handsome young guy sitting next to my bed, looking at me with a dreamy gaze.

“How are you feeling?” he asked with a shy smile.

“Okay,” I looked at him in puzzlement.

“I understand you don’t remember anything.” He looked at me lovingly. His blue eyes glistened with the tears he was trying to hold back.

“That’s true,” I said and continued to stare straight into his mesmerizing eyes.

“So you have no idea who I am...” he said in a sad voice and lowered his eyes. As he did so, a single tear trickled down his cheek.

“I'm sorry.”

“I’m David.”

He was much more handsome than in the picture I’d seen the day before.

“You're David, my boyfriend?”

“Yes,” he said, biting his lip. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“David, I'm sorry,” I said and made him open his tearful eyes. “I honestly don’t remember anyone… it's not personal.”

“I know,” he said and took my hand.

I was taken aback. I didn’t know him, and my reluctance startled him.

“I love you,” he said, and his words meant nothing to me. He was a fairly good-looking guy, but a complete stranger to me.

I said nothing. I didn’t love him. I loved no one. I had no past. How could I love anyone? Love isn’t an emotion that can be created out of thin air. 

”How did it go at the recruitment center yesterday?” I tried to change the subject.

“Okay,” he said in a disappointed voice. “I managed to raise my army profile.” Obviously, I couldn’t remember what his profile was to begin with and why he had to try and raise it. “The military doctor said I won’t have any problem now, joining the paratroopers.”

“Great,” I smiled.

He smiled a shy smile. The last time we spoke we were lovers, and now we were like two strangers. In my eyes, this was exactly what we were.

“I brought you something,” he said, and he handed me a small box.

Inside the box lay a gold ring with a small green stone. ”I wanted to give you this on your birthday, but then everything happened,” he said sadly. “It's pure gold with a real emerald, the one you liked most in the jewelry shop we visited a couple of weeks before the accident. I checked. It’s the stone of love and health.”

I found it hard to hear him say the word ‘love’ again, but I couldn’t hurt him. I looked at him inquiringly. Although he was only a boy, not yet eighteen, his body was as solid and muscular as that of a man. I knew he was the captain of the school basketball team and tended to work out a lot. In my encounter with Inbal and Daria the day before, Inbal told me, her eyes shining with admiration, how he was doing everything he could to get into the elite paratroop squad, which was why it was urgent for him to report to the recruiting office.

“Maybe you could tell me how we met?” I asked him. Perhaps that would reunite me with my emotions.

BOOK: Deja Vu
2.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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