What am I doing here? I don’t remember how I got here or what happened. My mind is blank. The last thing I remember is that I was walking down Main Street looking for a store that a friend had recommended and… Nothing else. A blackout.
Without a doubt, I’m in a hospital. What happened to me? I look me up and down trying to find bruises but there is nothing. I feel no pain in my body. I touch my head and there are no strange sensations either. All this is disconcerting. I see a bell next to the bed and I press it, hoping that someone will come soon who can explain what is happening. Fear, bewilderment, unease about what might have happened to me, fill everything at this moment. Uncertainty is a powerful agitator of the soul.
Well, I hear footsteps at the door. There is a knock, and then someone opens the door. This suspense is going to kill me. It’s a very young doctor, apparently. She greets me with a compassionate smile, which makes me wonder with trepidation what has happened.
- Good morning, Lorena. I’m Dr. Garcia. Do you know why you’re here?
- No, not really. I have no idea,” I answer with a certain tremor in my voice.
- They brought you in an ambulance because, apparently, you suffered what we believe was a panic attack of such magnitude that you even lost consciousness.
He stares at me with his big eyes the color of a calm sea. They convey tranquility. He has a clean look, as if he were one of those people in whom it is easy to abandon oneself and trust. Still, of course, I am absolutely shocked by what he is saying. A panic attack. A loss of consciousness. It’s impossible. Nothing like this has ever happened to me.
- There are no contusions or anything like that in the head, so we have determined, together with what some witnesses told us, that it must have been a panic attack, as I have just told you. Maybe something happened to you and your brain just blocked it out. And let’s try to guess, shall we?
I nod my head slightly. The tension I feel doesn’t allow me to do much else. I try to remember but nothing comes to mind.
- Does it sound like anything out of the ordinary happened?
- No, nothing. I was looking for a store that had been recommended to me because I wanted to buy an original gift for a relative. I remember I was walking down Main Street, near the Ciudadela café. And I don’t remember anything else.
- All right, don’t worry. Let’s try to unravel together what could have triggered it, okay? It could be repressed memories of something that happened to you a long time ago and that your brain has buried in your subconscious to protect you from the pain they mean for you. That’s why I’m going to need your full cooperation. Together we are going to try to remember things that happened to you on that street. We have to start from the beginning, from when you woke up this morning. I beg you to be very meticulous with the details, because everything can be important. Sounds, smells, things that caught your attention or things that you didn’t pay attention to at the time but now seem relevant to you for whatever reason.
She grabs my hand, I guess to convey that she is with me, that I can count on her. Her tone of voice is also restorative, with the perfect volume, with an ideal timbre that rocks you and invites you to relax and trust. I think she senses that something big has happened to me because if not, why so much attention?
- Are you ready?
- Okay, good. Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes to avoid being distracted by anything. Breathe deeply, being aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the cleansing effect the breath has on your body and mind, emptying them of distractions. And now, breathe at a normal rhythm, without forcing.
I follow his instructions to the letter. I concentrate and feel the effect. The tensions dissolve little by little. I surrender to what his voice tells me.
- Tell me everything you have done since you got up, step by step, leaving absolutely nothing behind. Keep your eyes closed.
- The alarm clock goes off at 8.15 am.
- The melody or the usual sound?
- Yes, the song Explorers by Muse is playing, because it is a beautiful and very calm song that helps me to wake up without agitation. I stopped the alarm clock, although not immediately. It took me a while to get up because I was too lazy. I put music on my cell phone, the penultimate Bruce Springsteen album. Western Stars was playing when I plugged it in. I went to the bathroom, took a shower. The usual.
- You’re doing great. Do you remember the smell of the shower gel, shampoo, cream?
- Yes, they smell of coconut, because I don’t like to mix fragrances. I stay a little under the shower because it makes me feel good. I put on my underwear and bathrobe and go to breakfast. I make coffee and toast.
- Did you feel rested or, on the contrary, did you feel that you had slept badly?
- No, rested.
- Are you nervous or worried about something?
- I think so, a little. But I don’t know why. It’s just a feeling, I guess. It’s Saturday, I don’t have work or anything. I wasn’t meeting any friends because I wanted to go early to buy the gift and get it over with as soon as possible.
- Okay. So tell me more. Did you drive, walk…?
- No, I took the bus. The center is a bit far from my house but there is bad parking there, so I preferred public transport.
- Any problems there? Any uncomfortable presence, any sensation?
- No. Everything was fine. I got off at Plaza de Los Caídos and went straight to Calle Mayor.
- Very slowly here. Was it cold? Was it crowded?
- I buttoned up my coat and adjusted it to my body because there was a wind blowing that made the wind chill drop several degrees. There weren’t too many people.
- What do you see?
- There’s a mime getting ready. He is dressed as a tin man and is in the middle of the square. The cafés are already open and there are terraces with stoves. I head straight for the main street. Come to think of it, I never liked going there, you know?
- Any reason?
- I don’t know, it’s a rather dark and sad street. Narrow, almost cramped, with dingy facades. I don’t feel comfortable there. I’ve never felt at ease there.
- Yes, you’re right. It’s not exactly a bright street. What do you feel when you enter the street? Is there anything that worries you, do you see anything that alarms you?
- No, the stores are opening. I’m about halfway down the street and I can already see the alley where I’ve been told the store is. There are few people and…
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can hardly breathe. I can’t control it. That smell. That smell that overwhelms my senses. My heart is going to burst…
- What’s wrong? – asks the doctor in alarm.
- I don’t know! That smell, that damn smell…
- What does it smell like? Describe it.
- I can’t, I don’t want to – my tears start to spill over and I can’t control it and I don’t even want to cry. It’s stronger than me and controls my will.
- Make one last effort. Tell me everything. Describe the smell.
- It’s a sweet smell, like from a bakery or a candy store.
- There’s an old candy store in St. Luke’s alley. Is that it?
- Yes, that’s it. Oh my God!!! Nooooooo!!!!
- What’s going on?
- There’s some guys in there. They’re coming towards us.
- Who are they? Who are the guys? You said you were alone.
- Me and my dad. I don’t get it. He’s taking me by the hand to buy trinkets because he used to come here when I was little and… No, please! Leave us alone! Let go of my daddy! Help, please! He’s bleeding! Daddy, wake up! Daddy, wake up!
I’m waking up here again. It’s like a loop where everything keeps repeating itself. Groundhog day. I don’t get it. I’m still in the hospital. I was talking to the doctor. And now there’s no one there. I’m all alone. I don’t even know what time it is. I press the button again and wait impatiently for the doctor to show up again. This is a nightmare. I don’t understand anything. I don’t really know what happened.
- Hi Lorena! I’m glad you woke up. We had to sedate you again.
- What happened?
- A lot of things, I think. Have you ever heard of PTSD?
- No, what’s that? What does it mean?
- Post-traumatic stress disorder. I think that might be the answer to what’s going on with you.
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