'Go away, clear off. This is not a freak show. Leave me alone . . .' And even as
he speaks Leo's voice cracks and fades away. They have seen enough, they are
ashamed and someone closes the door.
The episode triggers a thought in his clouded mind. Why do I recognize those
people? He turns to the doctor.
'What is the date?'
'It is the second of April, señor.'
'The second of April?' He searches desperately inside for a connection.
'Where am I?'
Latacunga he knows the name. Yes, now he remembers that he has been through
Latacunga before. There is a busy market in the town square. He changed buses
there with Eleni to go into the mountains. He is in Ecuador.
'What date is it?'He forgets that he has just asked this question.
'It is the second of April.'
'The second of April? What happened?'
'You were in a bus crash, señor.'
Nowhere in his memory can he place this information. It does not even create the
slightest ripple across his psyche. He sits with the idea for a moment. No, he
does not remember a bus or a crash. The thought hangs outside him like an alien
trying to gain entry. His brain refuses to connect this information to any
synapse or nerve ending. And yet somewhere lost in the internal wreckage sits
the little black box, the flight recorder which carries the truth of what
happened. A strange protective mechanism has kicked in which prevents him
getting too close to the epicentre of his trauma. Like a witness in a court case
who is not obliged to give evidence which could implicate him, so the body
refuses the mind access to the information which could damage it.
'What date is it?' He wonders if he has asked this question before.
'The second of April, señor,' the doctor repeats patiently.
Leo grapples with the year. He set off in 1991. When in 1991? The end, near the
end. December 1991. So what happened over the last four months? A small light
switches on and he sees himself lying on a beach with Eleni. It is New Year's
Eve; they have taken a day trip from Cartagena in Colombia to a tropical island.
Eleni is wearing her pink swimsuit. They lie there in sunbleached bliss with the
surf at their feet. He turns to her and kisses her warm cheek.
'You know, I can't think of anything in the whole universe that I want. I've got
you at my side and I love you and that's it. There's nothing more to life than
Eleni smiles, leans over and kisses him. 'Let's photograph it,' she says. She
takes out their small instant camera and holds it at arm's length above their
heads and points it towards them. They check their positions in the reflection
on the lens and take the picture. Click.
He looks down at her corpse. The memory acts like a pair of hands that plough
through his breastbone, rip open his ribcage and expose his heart to the
elements. His spine melts away and he stands before his dead lover like a piece
of limp flesh. He cannot breathe. His only thought now is that he wants to die
and go with her.
From nowhere he feels a shooting cramp through his leg. He looks down and
notices his jeans are ripped and covered in blood. Next he feels a throb in his
hands. They are cut and bleeding. Shards of glass stick out from the skin. For a
moment he becomes quite self-absorbed picking out the splinters.
His right shoulder is badly bruised and his hip joint fires sharp warning shots
up his back.He realizes that he has suffered injuries all down his right side.
But worst of all is his right knee.He cannot bend it or even feel it. How could
he not notice the pain until now?
What is the date? he wonders. He is too embarrassed to ask again. The door
opens. The crowd has disappeared. A policeman enters and asks Leo to accompany
him to the bus station to identify his bags. Leo is reluctant to leave Eleni's
side but he is strangely open to suggestion. There is no fight left in him and
he obediently follows the policeman out of the room. The doctor follows and
Eleni is left in peace.
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