by Samuel Wells
A man forgets his girlfriend and she makes him fall in love with her all over again.
The Other Man
For Derek, this Monday started out like any other. He went to work as an accountant for Bronsdale Inc., crunched some numbers till lunch, took his lunch break in his car, and ate his soggy sandwich and his usually melted crunch bar, as his bag was left in the car since morning, then crunched some more numbers until 5 or 6, and clocked out for the day.
On this particular Monday, Derek hit a mass of traffic on the final stretch of his drive back to his apartment. As soon as he could; he got off on a side street, and navigated home from there. When he finally found his way back to a main road, it was smooth sailing, until something intervened and it made it much less smooth. In the left lane of the highway, some maniac in a rush to who knows where tried to quickly cut Derek off; instead he smashed his own tail lights into Derek’s headlights, before Derek even knew what happened. Derek was sent careening into the curb, where his car managed to come to a halt, but not before Derek had been thoroughly beaten up by his steering wheel, which eventually deployed the airbag, as Derek drifted out of consciousness.
When Derek awoke, the cops had already moved him from his car and sat him on a nearby bench. On the bench waiting was his lovely girlfriend of 2 years, Tiffany. The cops had found the note in his glove box that said: “If anything ever happens to me or this car, call this number” with Tiffany’s cell phone number written at the bottom, so they did as it said, and alerted Tiffany. Derek and Tiffany listened to cops after they had looked Derek over to find that he only had a concussion.
“You’re lucky to have only gotten a concussion out of this son, though to be safe you should go in for a check-up this week to make sure you don’t have any internal injuries.”
“Thank you doctor, will do” Derek said almost sarcastically heading for Tiffany’s car, as she had already called Triple A to have Derek’s car, which had a mangled front-end, towed to a local car repair shop.
As soon as they got into the car Derek said “Nope, no doctor for me, I’m fine, only a bump on my head, I’ll be fine”
“Do you really think that’s a good idea Derek?” Wondered Tiffany
“Well I can still think properly, so I don’t think I need a doctor at the moment. Don’t you get so worked up, I’ll be fine, and if I feel any lingering pain, I’ll schedule an appointment, ok?”
“Yeah, that sounds good” She said as she pulled out of her parking spot and drove him back to his apartment. She decided to stay there for the night since Derek didn’t have a car at the moment, and she wasn’t just about to leave him alone after what happened.
In the morning, Derek awoke with a huge throbbing headache. His head was beating loudly, as if echoing the sound of the steering wheel smacking his forehead from the day before. He decided to schedule a doctor’s appointment for as soon as possible. He got one for the next day, and then got ready for work.
Tiffany got up and drove him to work, before going to her own job, which was right across the way at the local pet store. Even though they worked across from each other, they tended to not see each other a lot during the workday. They made an agreement to not see each other during the workday too often, so that the time they spent together later would be all the more special. Every Tuesday she would stop by his car when he was on his lunch break, but that was about it.
This Tuesday, she decided to bring her car over to the parking lot of his work, so that he could have his lunch break there. She pulled up around noon and he got in and had his lunch, which was a not-as-soggy sandwich, and a crunch bar which wasn’t melted since he brought his lunch inside his air-conditioned building today.
“Feeling any better?” asked Tiffany as she pulled out her ham sandwich and her Hi-C juice box from her bag.
“I guess” groaned Derek “It doesn’t hurt as much, but I think that’s just because it’s getting numb”
“That can’t be good” exclaimed Tiffany as she chuckled at Derek’s calm description of his mind-numbing condition.
“Well yeah, but it’s not too bad either, I’ll be fine, if it’s anything the doctor will let me know tomorrow”
They sat and talked for a while before Derek finished his lunch, kissed Tiffany goodbye, and went back to work.
Little did Derek know, that he wouldn’t remember that kiss by sundown.
After work, Derek wandered outside in the parking lot, forgetting that his car was in the shop, and sat himself down on the curb to think for a minute, playing with on his phone. That’s about the time that Tiffany finally managed to pull up in her silver Cadillac, one of the newer models, which had a bulky frame that you wouldn’t think to find a girl her age driving.
“Forget that your car wasn’t here?”
“Guess so, thanks for the concern” He said without looking up
“Yeah, it’s a shame; you can pick it up tomorrow after your doctor’s appointment” Surmised Tiffany
“Would you just get in ya goof” Tiffany said impatiently
“I’m sorry; I don’t get into cars with strangers”
“Ok, good rule of thumb, but can you get in the car with me?”
“Uhh no; did ya miss what I just said?”
“No I heard it, I’m just wondering what’s gotten into you”
“Nothing, just a little safety. Thank you for the concern, but I’ll just call a cab”
“You don’t need one, I’m your ride”
“No you’re not” Derek said as he started to dial 411 to get a hold of a cab service
“Fine, I guess I’m not then, call me after your doctor’s appointment tomorrow” Tiffany said as she drove off in confusion.
“Thank you…stranger” Said Derek under his breath as he sarcastically waved, still looking down at his phone.
In the morning Derek got up and left his now empty apartment to go to his doctor’s appointment. He took the bus since he planned to pick up his car after his appointment. When he finally got in to see the doctor, the doctor did a check-up, and after Derek explained his minor concussion and his subsequent headaches, the doctor scheduled him for an appointment later that day to get a MRI at his local clinic. Derek got his car and drove to the clinic, had the MRI performed, and was told he would get the results in a week or so. The oblivious Derek expected to have no problems, despite the fact that he had one which he didn’t realize yet.
Tiffany got up that day, distressed, she had no idea what was going on with her boyfriend. She tried to call him and see what was going on, but he didn’t answer her calls. Later she called the doctor’s office to see how Derek’s checkup went; the receptionist told her that he was just sent for MRI’s to make sure there was nothing off about his brain. She started to wonder if there really was something wrong with his head. She decided to leave it alone, thinking maybe he was just distressed from the accident and needed some time to recover.
Days went by, and he never called her. She kept going to work, and seeing him across the street on his lunch break in his car.
This went on for the rest of the week, until Tuesday came back around.
Tiffany decided to take her own dog, Archie, for a walk around his parking lot, just so she could see him. Around the usual time, Derek came out of his building and went to go have lunch in his car. Tiffany noticed that Archie started acting rambunctious, then she saw why, Archie had seen his old friend Derek. Before she knew it Archie had tugged his leash out of Tiffany’s grip, and ran over to Derek. Derek leaned down to make sure the dog didn’t keep running away from his owner. Derek was friendly to Archie who, to him, seemed awfully friendly for a dog he just met.
“Hey little guy, you’re a friendly one” He said as Archie happily licked his face
“I think he likes you” Said tiffany as if it wasn’t obvious
“Yeah, what kinda dog is he?”
“Pitbull, he never did grow to his full size, but I think he’s cute at this size”
“Yeah me too, and to think people say pitbulls are mean, this guy is a lil angel.”
“Yeah” responded Tiffany who was thinking he really was at this moment, since his actions gave her a chance to talk to Derek.
Derek gave Archie’s leash back to Tiffany, and then continued to his car to have his lunch. Tiffany kept walking around the lot until Archie caught Derek’s scent again and started dragging Tiffany over to his car.
All Derek heard were faint scratches at his car, and looked up to see a struggling Tiffany trying to pull Archie back. He chuckled to himself, put his lunch down in his lap, and then opened up his door. Before Archie came flying into his car and started intently licking him again.
“Sorry again” said Tiffany who was now awkwardly standing outside his open car door
“It’s fine, I think I’m actually getting quite fond of this little guy.”
“Well that’s good”
“I guess” Surmised the clueless Derek
Tiffany gathered the courage to get in, since it seemed like Archie wasn’t coming out anytime soon. She called Archie back over to her and held him in her lap as best she could. Archie may not have been a normal sized Pitbull, but he sure wasn’t a lap dog either, although he thought he was.
Derek took his lunch back out, and continued to eat, while making pleasant conversation with Tiffany, who to him was a stranger. After a while he reached for his melted crunch bar, and Tiffany found something to talk about.
“Ya know I used to have a friend who used to love eating crunch bars like that”
“Well, I’ll say that friend had some good taste”
“Yeah, I think he does, well did. He was more of a lover really”
“Was? What happened to him?”
“Well, he sort of lost his way. He’s still around, it’s just like he doesn’t even know me anymore”
“Was this recent?” Asked Derek with a mouthful of crunch bar
“Yeah” Chuckled Tiffany “Fairly recent”
“Well, that guy sure is missing out; you and your dog seem like some great company”
“Thanks” said Tiffany with a smile that she had whenever Derek used to compliment her. He still had that sparkle in his eye when he looked at her, he just didn’t know it was there.
Tiffany was starting to feel a little emotional, and decided to excuse herself from his car. She said that she ought to be getting some lunch herself, and be getting back to the pet store across the street.
“It’s Tiffany by the way” She said, finally reintroducing herself
“Oh, I’m Derek, nice to meet you”
After that odd introduction, she left the car and got back in her own and headed back across the street, as Derek finished his lunch and headed back to work.
Derek went home that day with an odd smile on his face. For some reason, unbeknownst to him, he couldn’t stop thinking of that girl and her dog from earlier. A few days went by and he still couldn’t get them out of his head, despite how ironic that was given the situation, since prior to Tuesday they had disappeared from his head entirely.
He decided he’d stop by the pet store she worked at and see if Tiffany or Archie was there.
As the entrance bell rang and Tiffany looked to see who it was and got excited for a moment before remembering that he didn’t remember what she did of them.
Derek smoothly walked over to Tiffany and struck up a conversation.
“Come to a find a new pet?” asked Tiffany
“No actually I came for—“
“Me?” Tiffany asked, jumping to conclusions
“No, Archie actually” Derek said sarcastically with a chuckle after to show he was kidding.
“Sorry” Tiffany teased “He isn’t here, can I take a message?”
“Arf arf; he’ll know what that means”
“Good, because I sure don’t”
They both laughed
“Ha-ahh” said Derek easing out of the laugh and back into conversation “Hey, would you maybe wanna go out sometime?”
“Sure” Tiffany said quickly, as if she was expecting it.
“Great, meet me in the parking lot of Bronsdale around 8 tomorrow?”
“Great, see ya then” Said Derek as he strolled out with a smile on his face and a skip in his step.
“So where are we going” inquired Tiffany once her and Derek met in the Bronsdale parking lot
“This nice Diner up the street, I think I was taken on a date there once”
“The Tallstool Diner?”
“Yeah, I think I know that place…”
After that, they got in Derek’s car and drove up the street to The Tallstool Diner.
After having a great dinner, Derek asked about something that he had been wondering about the past few days.
“So…whatever happened to that other man who lost his way?”
“Eh, it’s complicated”
“Oh sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up”
“No its ok; it’s just that it’s been taking me some time to get over”
“So is that what I am, like a rebound?”
“No, not exactly”
“Ok” Said Derek not wanting to seem displeased “So…what was this other man like?”
“Well, he was a nice guy, funny, strong, but he didn’t let that get the best of him.”
“I can appreciate that”
“Yeah, I don’t doubt that. He also had this thing he did, whenever he saw me from a far. He would smile real big and then run his hand through his hair, like clockwork, and I swear, I don’t think he ever noticed himself doing it the whole time we dated”
“Wow that must be some serious tick; he should see someone about that”
They both laughed. Tiffany more so, because of how funny that comment was given the situation at hand.
They continued to talk about other stuff for a while before leaving, and dropping Tiffany off at her car.
“Thanks for such a great night” Derek said as he gave tiffany a peck on the cheek.
The next morning Derek went to the doctor to get his test results back, and the doctor sat him down to explain the findings.
“Derek, your brain is fine for the most part, although you may have or have had some mild amnesia from the injury”
“Wha--what does that mean doc?”
“Well, ya see here” He said pointing to the MRI image of his brain “This area was bruised slightly during the crash; this is where most of your memories are processed and stored. The effects of this bruise can range from short term memory loss, like forgetting something that occurred recently, or something more severe, like forgetting something entirely, not everything, just one or two memories that your brain may have lost.”
“So I could have forgotten something and not even know about it?”
“Presumably, yes. What I recommend is to look around your apartment and to see if everything registers correctly, and if something stands out as new that you don’t remember putting there, get back to me, and we’ll see if we can schedule you for and EKG”
“Ok, will do, thank you doc”
He said as he shook the doctor’s hand, left the office, and headed back to work.
Later when Derek got home, he checked just about everything in his apartment, and he remembered all of it clearly enough. Nothing seemed amiss.
The next Tuesday, Derek went out in the parking lot, and for some reason expected to see Tiffany there, walking Archie. She wasn’t there this Tuesday. So Derek scarfed down his lunch, and drove from across the way with 25 minutes to spare on his lunch break.
Tiffany looked towards the door once she heard the bell ringing and heard the door open.
On the other end of the door, sprinted Derek as to not be seen.
He managed to sneak his way to the other side of the store, flowers and all, and stared at Tiffany, who still had her eyes fixed on the door as if a ghost just walked in.
He stood there for a minute or so, before the Tiffany’s boredom drifted her wandering eyes into his direction.
He looked at her and as he smiled real big, and he ran his hand through his hair, and as he took his hand away from his head, he paused, and looked at his hand. His smile faded from his face as his hand slowly closed and he starred at it with a confounded look; as if he was solving a math problem written on his knuckles. Then he looked at Tiffany, and let his hand fall to his side. Then he smiled even bigger at her. A smile that said, I remember, I am the other man.