The first color was a wall of dull pea-green, the stiff weight of a wooden icon in my hand, the face of a friend named Alexandria. These paltry impressions were the first steps back into the girl people called Alina– people being strangers and Alina the strangest, still. At fifteen, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. The scars on knees, shoulders, and palms– the hole in the back of my head, a basal skull fracture– remnants of a Snapple peach-iced tea and whatever I was thinking. I have no memory of the accident or the fourteen months which preceded it. I live without knowing the girl who was hit by a car and it is impossible to convince others this girl was not me.
After time in the ICU and various surgeries, I learned to walk again. I learned to drive a car (a year later than my friends). I learned to complain about acne and college admissions. I learned about my life from family members whose stories I memorized and recited. I learned that laughter kept questions away. I learned that people saw me as one complete girl. Finally, I imagined this girl so often that it grew easy to play her.
At what point do the parts we play– the social scripts we pick up in given contexts– become the person with whom we identify? What part of “I” is mine? And why? What does integrity mean for amnesiacs? These are questions which fiction allows me to explore as a girl who has been forged from a distance.
More than twenty years later, the memories have not returned. Not even a nanoparticle or flashback. Nothing which ties me to that girl in the road, unless you count the beautiful, barely-white scars. I look like any other thirty-something female who debates whether to brush her hair in the morning, my demographic being unremarkable apart from the trees I hug when all the neighbors sleep. I don’t resemble amnesia, since there is no face for the forgetting.
As I watch my children play, little mouths mimicking words overheard in kitchens or grocery lines, their performance combines things seen with things that need explanation. The most fantastic stories are magical-realisms of curious tongues unstifled by social convention. I watch them play Mommy or Daddy or Rock-climber or Romanian shepherdess and what I see changes without settling into a solid shape. Each person is one version of a story that cannot stop changing. What we know of one another is an instant in time, illuminated by memory. I am not the girl you knew because no human is the image known, or preserved, by another.
On the wall beside my bed hangs the icon– the first remembered image from a hospital bed, a version of Mary, the soft smile before the pieta. Who can believe the changes to come?
Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and raised in Alabama. Currently, she lives with her partner and three small native mammal species inside the boundaries of a speculative fiction. Her story “White Tennis Shoes” won the 2015 Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award. There are nights when she wishes you would magically find a copy of Objects In Vases(Anchor & Plume, 2016) in your head but the physics is beyond her. More online atwww.alinastefanescu.com.