Drawing A Blank
A/N: I thought I'd try my hand at something a little bit different, so this is from an Outsiders POV. This will have two chapters. I hope you enjoy.
It always made Gloria sad to see patients with no family or friends there to support them.
She supposed that it was her motherly instincts, still there despite the fact that her two boys were grown and had long since left home, and gosh, didn't that make her feel old?
It was hard to see anyone alone in this place, but even harder when they were young, and the patient in room 416 reminded her a little of her youngest son. It was the hair, she guessed, and couldn't help wondering whether there was a parent out there who had often insisted on a haircut, probably met the same response as she had with hers, who was now frantically searching for their lost son.
She preferred to see it that way, rather than believe that this boy had no one to look for him, no one to worry. There was an almost tragic amount of people that came through these doors by themselves, were treated, and left, or died, by themselves, but usually they were older people, who had outlived parents and friends or simply kept to themselves. Not someone as young as this boy.
Gloria smoothed out the sheets on the patients bed, regarding him once more. If he was anything like her son, the kid was probably gonna be pissed when he woke up and found out that the side of his head, just above and behind his ear, had been shaved, but Gloria was worrying more about how he'd feel waking up alone. Kid must've had family somewhere. She just hoped they found him before he had a chance to realize they were missing.
Gloria constantly found herself drawn to John Doe's bedside. Kid hadn't woken up to give them a name, and no one had come forward to claim him in the four days he'd been there.
The boy was a mystery. Found by some dog walkers, early in the morning, in the park on the other side of town, unconscious and bleeding. At the hospital they had found a fractured skull and he was hemorrhaging. Gloria gathered from the other nurses that at one point the surgeons had thought he wasn't going to make it, but the kid – whoever he was – was obviously a fighter because he'd pulled through.
The staff assumed he must've been mugged, because he had nothing on him. No cell phone, no wallet, nothing that could identify him, and there had been some goings-on in that park recently. Gloria had read about it in the newspaper, tutting with the other women and men in the staff room over what their town was coming to. Two other victims of whatever was happening there had even been treated at the hospital, but not in the ICU and Gloria hadn't had any need to talk to them.
Those two – a man in his late twenties and a young teenaged girl – had had family with them immediately however. Gloria found it hard to believe that this kid had no parents, no siblings or friends to notice that he was gone. Hell, employer or teacher even – the kid looked old enough to be in college, but no. No missing persons report, no frantic relatives. Just a kid, unconscious in a hospital bed after major surgery.
Gloria liked to think that, God forbid, if one of her sons was injured and she couldn't be there, someone else would. She guessed that that was what led her to his room more often that her shift demanded, checking up on him.
Her working day was winding to a close and she was thinking longingly of putting her feet up in front of the TV with a cup of tea, or maybe a glass of wine if she felt so inclined, and finding out whether Kendra was going to succeed in ruining Jackie's wedding and if Zac would come out of his coma, when she went to visit the boy in room 416 for the seventh time that day.
"Just me again," she greeted the young patient cheerily as she slipped into his room. Never mind that he was unconscious. Gloria was a strong believer in the power of words. She even talked to her plants and yes, it did help them grow, thank you very much, even if it had led her eldest son to suggest that she was going dotty in her old age.
"My shift's almost finished," she explained as she checked the monitors, jotting down the new sets of numbers. "But I'll be back tomorrow. Maybe you'll wake up for me then and we can finally put a name on your chart."
Gloria paused, brushing a stray coil of hair from the boy's face. His forehead creased slightly. Gloria froze, and then leant in closer, setting the clip board down on the bedside table.
"Hey, can you hear me?"
She was rewarded by fluttering eyelashes and finally – finally – heavy lids rose to reveal dark eyes. The boy blinked up at her drowsily, incomprehension heavy in the drug-dulled hazels.
"Hey there," Gloria said gently, "It's nice to see you awake."
His forehead creased again, eyelids drooping. He gazed dazedly up at her face, and Gloria surmised that he was more out of it than not. He was on some heavy medication after all. It would probably be a while before he woke up properly.
The boys eyes struggled to fix on her face. Gloria saw them sweep over her blonde hair (and not a touch of gray in it, thank goodness.)
Gloria felt a pang in her chest at the whispered query, "She's not here right now, honey. If you tell me your name I can find her for you."
The boy looked even more baffled, his eyes drifting around the room now.
"You're in the hospital," Gloria explained gently, "Does anything hurt? I can get you something for the pain."
The boy either didn't understand her or ignored her, still searching the room. Looking for someone he knew, Gloria surmised.
"What's your name, honey?"
The boy gave up, his lids slipping closed again and Gloria listened to the change in his vitals as he fell asleep.
'Traumatic Amnesia' were the words being batted around the ward in the days that followed. A CAT scan had confirmed that the head injury - though serious and life threatening at one point – hadn't have affected the part of the brain that stored memories.
Gloria explained it to the boy in 416, after the doctors and their fancy extended words had left him more confounded than before, as the brain receiving a big shock that had muddled things up, and it just needed some time to sort things out again.
"Like a computer re-booting?"
Gloria bit her lip. The only thing she knew about computers was how to send email and to call one of her sons if her machine froze up or started beeping threateningly at her. "I guess so."
H was a sweet boy, under the grogginess of the medication, and Gloria found herself visiting him even after her shift ended, sometimes staying for hours. She had been a nurse for almost thirty years now, a mother for almost as long, and she knew when she was needed.
Besides, it wasn't like she had a husband to go home to. No, he had left when the boys were still young and good riddance to that. She didn't even have a cat to worry about, and the boy was young and confused and alone. He taught her how to play poker.
"Good thing we're not playing for real money," she commented one day as she looked at her dismal hand. "You'd have my house by now."
"My brother's better than me," the boy said absently, shuffling his cards.
"Your brother?" Gloria leapt on the slip immediately, but the boy just frowned and carried on the game as if he hadn't spoken.
She carefully moved her pair of twos so they were next to each other, "What's your name, honey?" she asked casually, watching him out of the corner of her eye.
The boy shrugged and lay down his Royal Flush.
Two weeks. It had been two weeks and no one had come. No parents or friends. The brother mentioned hadn't shown up. Gloria was his only visitor, still popping in as often as she could even though he'd been moved out of the ICU and into a ward, and she couldn't imagine how boring it must have been for a young lad like him to be stuck in bed all day, with nothing to do and no one to talk to.
"Who do you think I was?"
Gloria looked up from her cards, startled, and met hazel eyes, brimming with curiosity, and wondered how on earth she was supposed to answer that.
"You're still the same person, honey," she said carefully. She always called him honey. She'd called him John once, because of the John Doe written on his chart but he'd screwed up his face in a frown and told her that that wasn't his name.
"What is?" she'd asked, but got nothing, so she stuck with honey.
"I don't remember anything."
"Michael? Ben, Henry, Sean? Daniel?"
The boy shrugged, "I don't know. This is stupid."
"I might find the right one and you'll remember it."
"Maybe I wont. Maybe my name is Michael or whatever and I just can't remember it. Maybe I wont remember it, ever."
"That's very unlikely," Gloria assured him, although she was beginning to grow concerned.
One time when she came, and the boy was asleep, Gloria picked up the notebook at his bedside. She'd given it to him three days after he'd woken up, suggesting that writing things down may help set things straight in his head.
It was an invasion of privacy, she knew, but she was a nurse and was trying to do what was best for her patient – although he technically wasn't her patient anymore, now that he'd been shifted to a different section of the hospital. She thought that there might be a clue in there, a memory, a name, something that could lead her to the boy's family, but when she opened it up…
The boy was quite an artist, she'd give him that, and she supposed he had been through some trauma recently, but… these drawings…
The first was humanoid, but with elongated limbs, flesh over bone in a horrific caricature of a person, and it's face… She thought it looked… hungry. There was what looked like a werewolf, a vampire, fangs dripping blood, creatures she couldn't name and didn't want to, page after page of monsters, dozens of sets of yellow eyes, and around the pictures were frantic scrawls of words in a language she didn't recognize.
Gloria looked from the book to the sleeping boy in the hospital bed, and just couldn't fit them together. She carefully placed the book back down on the side table and silently crept out of the room.
"Did you know I speak Latin?" the boy asked as soon as Gloria appeared in his doorway, as if he'd been waiting for her.
Gloria blinked as he rattled off what sounded like gibberish. So that was the language in his book. "No, I didn't. You must've been to college. Maybe you're still meant to be going. I'll have to ask around."
Something flickered across the boy's face, but it was gone before Gloria could decipher it.
"Do you like Chinese?" she asked instead, holding up the take-away containers she held. "Figured you'd be sick of hospital food."
As she set out the containers, Gloria added one more clue to her tally, one step closer to finding out who this boy was. A Latin scholar who drew pictures of monsters. Perhaps he was doing a minor in mythology. He must've been a college kid, a pretty smart one too, to have learnt Latin at his age.
The boy pushed himself up so that he was sitting straighter, taking the fork that Gloria handed to him.
"No dizziness today?" she observed.
"Nope, guess I'm getting better."
"What's your name?" Gloria slipped in, forever hoping that the answer would slip out, but the boy just shrugged.
"I don't remember." He twirled some noodles round on his fork, before looking up at her. "Why hasn't anyone come for me?"
He looked so lost, the mother in Gloria just wanted to give him a hug, but that wouldn't fix things. She'd been waiting for this question, longer than she thought she would, and had her answer ready.
"Maybe no one knows that you're missing. Maybe they think you're somewhere else."
The boy chewed morosely on his lower lip. "Maybe there's no one to come. Maybe no one knows me."
Gloria didn't know what to say to that.