As I walked by the big picture window, I caught a glimpse of a vague someone. Who the hell was that? The smudged reflection depicted a woman – a completely bald woman. My hand hesitated a bit before stroking my hairless head.. This did not make sense. I studied the strange specter in the glass, wrapped in a bulky trench coat. Who was this? A bus stop bench rested a few feet away. As I sat down to think, my wrap dropped open revealing I was wearing nothing underneath. I quickly covered up. My sense of terrified isolation produced a torrent of tears. A lady approached.
Are you all right?” she asked.
“Huh?” I said sobbing.
“Are you all right?” she repeated as her hand lightly touched my shoulder. Flashes of light crossed my face as cars whizzed by. This was an unfamiliar environment. Tall, dark buildings loomed over me like dispassionate pallbearers.
She sat next to me. “You don't seem fine. Is there something I can do?”
“Where am I?”
“Detroit, she answered.
“Is there any other?” she said, leaning back, her eyes transfixed on the sky. There could have been a billion stars, but the ubiquitous gray clouds masked the heavens. My body shook as an icy chill gnawed at my shoeless toes.
“This bus is never on time,” she said to fill the void of silence.
“I'm not waiting for a bus,” I replied. As much as I tried to contain them, tears burst from my eyes, again. “I don't know who I am, what I am, where I am.” My body shook as if it were in the path of an earthquake's aftermath.
“Wow,” she said staring at my profile. A moment or two passed until she spoke again.
“I have a wonderful idea! Come home with me. My uncle is a doctor. I know he can help.”
Was this woman for real? Curly, red locks tumbled from under a blue knit cap. Freckles, like pink snowflakes, flurried about her face. A big, thick, wonderfully warm-looking scarf was double wrapped around her neck.
“I was thinking of going to the police.” I said.
After slipping off her loafers, she handed me her socks. I put them on, but my freezing toes were indifferent to the cotton argyles. Then she uncoiled her wooly boa and wrapped it around my neck. This did slow down the penetrating cold.
“We'll call the police from my house. Meanwhile, I'll get you something warm to wear, and maybe shoes, if I feel generous enough.” She smiled and I nodded. The word “warm” sounded like someone had called out the last number on a winning lottery ticket.
The bus finally arrived and then dropped us off at the corner of Nowhere and Uh-oh. A thick forest of pine trees surrounded us. I did not know if I was shaking from the cold or fear.
“This way,” she said pulling out a flashlight. We walked only a couple of steps before the lights from a vehicle eased up behind us and stopped. She turned. I froze.
“It's Uncle Mac!” she yelled and ran to the black Mercedes. Uncle Mac? Was that the doctor she told me about?
She waved me over, but I did not move. I could not move. My socks had frozen to the road.
“What's the matter?” she asked.
The driver's side door opened and a tall man stepped out. He strode to my side and scooped me up in his arms. Dark, arching eyebrows highlighted the most beautiful aquamarine eyes I ever saw. I melted. He gently deposited me in the back seat of the car and I surrendered to the car's enthusiastic heater.
After a few, short minutes, we entered a long driveway lined with pine trees. A massive house, a mansion, in fact, was ensconced amid a misty forest of maple and oak. I sat up and marveled at this structure so miscast from my mind's expectations. I had not predicted this from a woman I met at the bus stop.
“This...this...is your house?” I stuttered.
“It's my uncle's, but I do live here.”
“Okay, ladies, let's get inside before we turn into ice sculptures,” Uncle Mac said as he politely guided us to the front steps and unlocked the door. The interior hall was intimidating, with its artwork, some of which were painted by artists even I was familiar with. How did I know that? I wondered. From where were these memories coming?
“I don't even know your friend's name,” Uncle Mac said.
“She doesn't either. I think she has amnesia.” She turned to me. “How 'bout we call you Ann
It had an unfamiliar sound, but I nodded.
“If you didn't know already, this is my uncle, Dr. Macintosh Zander and I'm Mira.”
“I like that name.”
“Sorry, it's already taken, you have to stick with 'Ann'.” Mira giggled and unbuttoned her coat.
She studied me. “I'll bet you could use a nice, hot bath.”
I followed her upstairs to the elaborately tiled room where a claw-foot tub beckoned me. As Mira collected something for me to wear, I knelt by the tub and swished the hot water lovingly. Mesmerized by the steam rising from the pouring faucet, I did not care who I was.
My toes tingled as I slowly eased myself into the hot water. Like a translucent jellyfish, my body seemed to disappear into the liquid.
The door handle turned and jerked, as if someone were trying to get in. Thankfully, I must have locked it. Then there was a light tapping, followed by Uncle Mac's voice.
“Can I come in?”
“I don't think so,” I answered almost as a question.
“Okay,” he said as his footsteps descended down the stairs.
Could he come in? What was that about?
I stepped out of the tub, clean and refreshed. The mirror over the sink caught my image, but I looked different. My hair was now a blond pixie cut. Hesitantly, I touched my head, and sure enough I had hair.
Hung up by the closet was a red, satin dress. No underwear, nothing else. It fit as if it had been designed for someone just like me. I discovered two red stiletto heels which completed the outfit.
As I made my way downstairs, laughter from a room off the hallway, gained my attention.
“Come in!” Mira yelled. “We were just waiting for you before we ate.”
“How do I look,” I said confidently entering the dining room. They beamed as I twirled a ringlet of my nascent hair.
“Like a dream,” Uncle Mac said.
The dining table was laden with the most wondrous delectables. Glazed ham, decorated with pineapple, a turkey sprinkled with fresh sprigs of parsley, and a roast beef carved so the end was cut revealing the juicy red meat. And more, much more. My stomach rumbled.
“Sit,” Uncle Mac said. I obeyed as I whetted my lips and eyed the gleaming fork by the plate.
“How did you do all this?” I asked. Uncle Mac drew his elbows up on the table and rested his chin on his folded hands.
“I have a confession to make,” he said. “This is not where I live.
“Where do you live?” I asked.
He ignored the question. “There is a picture of the real me,” he said pointing to a photo above the fireplace. It was of a gaunt man, with a prominent nose, hair slicked back like a shoveled driveway,
and thick, black horned-rimmed glasses.
The guy in the picture was odd-looking, so I snickered. Mira cleared her throat, probably to divert attention away from my impertinence.
“Mira, here,” he continued, pointing to the red-headed woman, “is just someone who sat across from me on the bus yesterday.” She tilted her head and nodded.
He was trying to make a fool of me, the stupid woman with amnesia.
Uncle Mac rose and walked to my side. He knelt.
“I'm sorry, Ann, but when you wouldn't let me in the bathroom, I knew.”
“Knew what? That I wasn't prey for your debauchery?”
“That this just wasn't going to work.” He embraced me. “After all, you've just been a figment of my imagination.”
I dissolved in his arms.