Lost in Moscow

Lost in Moscow

I gently touched the man’s arm as he walked by: “Sorry to bother you, sir. Do you speak English?”

The man turned quickly to face me, angry with my touching, shook his head from side to side, pursed his lips, looked me up and down, and finally spoke, “Nyet!” the Muscovite said in a low angry voice and walked away, disappeared around a corner.

“My God! What am I going to do? I’m freezing”

I stood slumped over, leaning against a cold gray brick building on a near-deserted street corner in Moscow. My hands were stiff from the cold Moscow weather.

Does the sun ever shine in this God-forsaken city?

The thought lingered in some stoic wilderness of my mind until my plight hammered its message to some core of my being and tears came. Stop worrying about ‘sunshine’! You’ve got bigger problems!

My plight?

No memory! I have no memory of coming to Moscow. I’m, just, here!

Ask me, what were you doing fifteen minutes ago?

My answer to my own question.

I don’t know.

Now, I’m shaking my head. What did I just say? Did I just now ask:  what were you doing fifteen minutes ago?

Yes, I did ask that question. Just, now, I asked that question. Well, what’s your answer?

My answer? Did I just say, what’s your answer?

Yes. Well, do you have an answer?

Do I have an answer to what?

To, what?

I don’t know.

A woman is passing.

“Maam, sorry to bother you, but do you speak English?”

The woman smiled slightly and continued walking.

A Young boy, maybe fourteen, fifteen, is coming down the sidewalk.

My head is spinning.

I’m falling, sliding down the side of this cold gray brick building.

The young boy is stopping, leaning over me, asking me something. His words are lost in my spinning head and I feel my body falling sideways to the snow-covered sidewalk.

*

“Can you hear me, young lady? Young lady, can you hear me? Her eyes are open. She must hear me. Please, young lady, we’re trying to help you. Can you hear me?”

I can hear a man’s voice, a gentle voice, asking me a question. I’m trying to answer, but I’m having difficulty forming my words.

“She’s trying to speak. Her lips are moving… Quickly, let’s get some water down her…slowly, lift her slowly, that’s good. She’s having trouble, but she’s getting some of it down her…that’s enough for now…she wants to say something…”

“You speak English,” I say so quietly. I have no volume to my voice. I’m scared.

“She’s trembling! She’s frightened! Yes, we speak English. You’re okay, young lady. Do you know your name?”

“Becky Whitsel.” Still lacking volume.

“Where are you from, Becky?”

“I’m from Philadelphia. Why am I in Moscow?”

The people dressed in white and green look strangely at each other. The male in green asks me: “What’s the last thing you remember, Becky?”

“A street corner in Moscow.”

The doctor has a suspicion, and asks: “Are you an avid reader, Becky?”

“Yes.” My voice is coming back.

“What have you recently read, Becky?”

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.”

The doctor smiled. “Are you taking any medications, Becky?”

“No, sir.”

The doctor smiled again. “It’s okay, Becky. I want you to feel really comfortable. I’m only doing an assessment. Don’t be afraid to answer my questions. You will not be punished for speaking the truth. You said just a moment ago you were on a street corner in Moscow. Do You remember saying that?”

With some timidity, I answered, “Yes, sir.”

“Okay, have you by any chance – and, again, please don’t be afraid to answer. We’re only getting to the root of your problem. We will tell no one what you tell us here – have you by any chance taken any drugs or smoked marijuana recently? Please, don’t be afraid to answer. You will not be disciplined.”

Embarrassed, I answer, “Yes, sir. It was my first time – and, only time, I promise. Some school friends and I, just experimenting after school.”

“Okay, Becky, tell me about last week, about your family, and where you live.”

Somehow, with the smiles all around me, I opened up and gave them more information than they likely needed. When I was finished with my short bio, the doctor sent a nurse out to call my mother. Geez! I’m home…good old Philadelphia!

“Don’t worry, Becky, your mother will not hear anything from us, but you must confess to her yourself – and promise her you’ll never do any kind of drugs again… You have had what we in the profession call ‘Global Transient Amnesia’. You will be fine now…but, again, young lady, no more experimenting with drugs. You do understand, right?”

“Oh, yes sir! I can easily answer that question!”

The little gathering with my close friends after school had given me an unexpected reaction I would never wish to go through again… Indeed, me, in the great city of Moscow…and in the winter.

NO MORE GRASS!

We have our own snow in Philadelphia AND it’s much friendlier!

A ‘Flash Piece’ by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 27, 2019

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