[Once again, I’m incorporating the most recent Weekly Writing Challenge from The Daily Post into the story I’m currently developing. I’m also working in a synopsis of sorts for readers new to the story.]
Jane agreed, thinking back to five mornings ago, when the world around her had suddenly changed. When she suddenly heard Mozart playing in her kitchen, and found a strange device on the table. When she couldn’t get to work, because the Unirail transit system she’d used daily for years no longer existed. When she walked into Gary’s office at Crasob Engineering, and admitted to Arjie and him that she didn’t recognize these things they called smart phones and laptop computers. When she’d asked about her drawings, and was dumbfounded to hear that all her work was done on CAD.
Ever since that terrifyingly confusing morning, Gary had been her steadfast friend and confidant, even more than he had already been in the years she’d known him. It was Gary who’d arranged for her to take PTO from her job at Crasob, who set up her computer training sessions with Arjie. Even the visit with the pyschiatrist, Dr. Patel, that Gary had insisted on had been helpful.
Jane exhaled, letting her breath vibrate her lips. “Yes, a lot’s happened since I came in with my crazy story.” Jane was suddenly uncomfortable, recognizing the implication of what she had just said. After a week of insisting that the problem wasn’t with her, it was the world that had changed . . . She shifted suddenly in her seat, turned fully to Gary. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to ask something. I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful or anything, but I have to know — ” her gaze bore into Gary’s face — “why are you doing this?”
Gary took half a step backwards, looking up at the ceiling. Arjie coughed, turned back to the computer screen. But then Gary stopped himself, took back the half step he had given like a fencer riposting a parry. A smile crossed his broad face. “What you’re asking me is, why don’t I treat you like you’re insane?” Jane nodded, anxious for his response but no longer fearing it.
Gary glanced quickly at Arjie, who took the hint and excused himself. Gary took Arjie’s seat, his round body squeezing against the armsrests. He leaned forward, placed a hand on Jane’s shoulder. “All this week, I’ve been remembering something your father once told me.”
Jane instantly thought of that moment in the hospital, her gaunt father lying piteously on the bed, the cancer having reduced him to little more than a skeleton adorned with loose flesh. The plastic tube under his nose looked more sturdy than his arms, purple from IV bruises. Gary had been with them, holding her father’s emaciated hand. He mustered as much strength as he had remaining while he stared at Gary from blank sunken eyes. You take care of my girl. That had been two days (three?) before he died.
Gary laughed. “It was five years ago.” Jane was surprised — that was before the diagnosis, even the symptoms. “We were doing this job for IDOT. Briggs was the PM.”
Jane rolled her eyes. “Oh gawd, Briggs.”
“And we’re on this call with Briggs, and he’s being very, you know, Briggsy, and your father just goes off on him, telling him he’s a such and so and all this, and Briggs is giving it to him right back until finally they’re literally yelling at each other. So we finally end the call, and I take your father out for coffee and I tell him, Eddie you’ve got to calm down when we’re talking to Briggs, and — and this is what I remember — he says, Gary, I just can’t be anything other than who I am. It’s worked for me so far in life, and the way I see it, if I try to be something I’m not, I’ll sound like a fraud.”
Jane nodded. “Yeah. I heard him say things like that.” She blinked, shook her head. “So what’s that got to do with this week?”
He squeezed her shoulder. “Remember what you told me at breakfast, couple days ago?” Jane thought a moment — she’d said a lot that morning. Gary continued before she could guess at what he was referencing. “I’d said I just wanted you to be you again, and you said — “
“I am me.” Jane remembered it clearly now. “I’ve always been me. What I need to do is figure out how I can still be me now that the world’s changed.”
Gary released his hand from her shoulder. “It didn’t strike me until later, but when you said those words — you were speaking in your father’s voice.” He rose from the chair, placed his hands on his hips. “That’s why I don’t think you’re crazy, Jane, even though your story’s pretty bizzare. Because just like you were before Monday — you’re still the daughter of the man I knew.”