Love at Second Sight

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Darkness blossoms into radiant light. Emptiness transforms into a warm fullness. I breathe, knowing intuitively that I am alive, yet WHO AM I? White angels surround me, their lips moving in an incomprehensible stream of words. I know of nothing but the feeling seeping back into my frozen body. Strangers come and hold me, as if they’ve known me forever, but surely I was just born from the darkness. What life could I have had before? Slowly my consciousness begins to comprehend the words these strangers speak and they christen my new life with a name: Lily.
Although I do not know them, what else am I to do but follow them home once the angels have left? A foreign place, yet already a room has been prepared for me. A meal is placed before me, full of exotic smells that make my mouth instinctively water. They talk through the night showing pictures full of strange faces and places. I wonder what the point of it all is. They laugh, but with a desperate longing in their eyes and although they smile, I can almost feel their hearts breaking in disappointment. What do they expect from a newborn like me? I go to sleep, sinking back into darkness wondering if I will even reawake to this dreamlike life; will I still be Lily or lose myself again and become Jane Doe? My dreams are scattered; the fragments of memories trying to piece together like the shards of a broken vase with an abstract design. Feelings of strange familiarity grow as my subconscious processes the happenings of the first day of my life.
Darkness blossoms into radiant light and emptiness transforms into a warm fullness. I breathe, knowing intuitively that I am alive, yet WHO AM I? Lily. That’s right: I AM LILY. A sense of relief rushes through me; what exactly was I afraid of? That I would emerge from the darkness a second time into an unknown world without even a name to call my own? Surely not, even now my family begins to surround me. Family, that’s who these people surrounding me are! Why didn’t I realize that before?
Looking at them I wonder how well I ever knew them, my mind grasping for unreachable memories that slip away like an elusive ghost of my past. As they show me more pictures and tell more fairytales, I begin to realize that perhaps their words may not be fiction. My leg feels a dull ache as they talk about the time a little girl named Lily fell from her castle treehouse. I glance over into a mirror and am surprised to realize that I’ve seen that face the photographs they had been showing me. I can’t help but grab the pile of photos, scouring them for that familiar face. MY face. How can I be in all these photos? It is like seeing a documentary of a life and slowly realizing that the person they are covering is YOU. My fingers trace the surface of the photos as I ponder, what else am I missing? The hope in the eyes of my family is boring into my soul; from the depths rises a feeling of obligation and determination to remember and rediscover who exactly this Lily is that they are talking about. That night I do not fear the darkness, but embrace it in the hope that it will elucidate all of these strange feelings and piece together these images flashing through my head.
I see a man. Black hair, ivory skin, a welcoming smile. He beckons me over to where he is standing and I am compelled to follow his command. I blush as he compliments me with a comparison to the beauty of flowers. It is a beautiful spring day, the birds are chirping and a stream bubbles happily alongside us. Yet, even if it was the dead of winter, I know I would have fallen for him anyway. I can envision us growing old together and like a movie reel happy memories shutter past in my dream. Then suddenly the reel turns from a colored spectacle to a black and white horror film: an icy road, a black car with one burnt-out headlight, and my bloody hands clutching the steering wheel, too scared to look next to me after hearing a sickening crack coming from the passenger’s seat. A feeling of guilt so strong it wakes me up...
To another man, dressed in black, a broken vase spilling ashes at his feet. In his hand a diamond ring; my most precious possession, the only thing I could never part with. Without thinking I charge the man, his eyes widening in a panicked surprise. He grabs the first thing his fingers touch, a marble bookend, and suddenly my head is shot with a bolt of lightning as I fall into a bottomless pit of darkness.
I jolt awake, sweating and shaking. What was that? My stomach churns and I feel as though a part of me has died. My voice fails me as I try to call for someone, anyone to come and save me. But save me from what? A, it felt too real, too life-like and what do I really know about my life yet anyway? Could this be another memory; could this be linked to the reason I was reborn?
I reach for the light and fall off the bed with a loud thump. I can’t stop crying, not from physical pain but from this unfathomable anguish engulfing my soul. I feel that I have lost something irreplaceable, something even more dear to me than my precious memories.
Soon my family is surrounding me, full of concern, hugging me and asking what’s wrong. But I am not sure myself. In this state I can’t separate the reality of a memory from the horror of a nightmare. Calming words coax the vision out of me and later the police call me in for a line-up. Half hoping it was just a nightmare, I reluctantly agree. 1, 2,, wait. It couldn’t be: my night terror staring back at me through the one-way glass. I squirm, forgetting he can’t see me but feeling uncomfortably like he is daring me to call him out. With a deep breath I decide to face my fears and do just that.
This man is the reason I lost myself. Rage boils up from deep within; I fiercely want to make him suffer the way he has made my family and I suffer. I want him to know the intense sorrow of waking up and not knowing who you are and watching the people who love you suffer as you hurt them unintentionally with your lack of recognition.
But the words that come out of my own mouth surprise me:
“Thank you. Although I lost nearly a year of my life that I will never be able to replace, because of you I was able to reconnect with my family in a way we had never been able to before. I learned more about my family and friends in these last few days then in my entire previous life. Because of you, our dysfunctional family nearly torn apart by divorce and silly squabbles, became a tight-knit supportive unit. Because of you I am able to move on from the loss of my beloved fiancé and start life anew.
This process was full of pain and sorrow, and for that reason a part of me wants to make you suffer at least a fraction of what I have. But I see your family in the crowd and I wonder how much pain you have already inflicted upon them by having to stand in this court. How much more pain will they suffer on your behalf when you are sentenced today and sent away? They are being punished severely when they have committed no crime. And you, although I cannot condone your transgression against me, you acted in defense, likely never intending to cause any more damage than the sentimental loss of a few stolen trinkets. The self-inflicted pain etched onto your face reminds me of myself after the car accident, so I know you are already suffering in ways far worse than I could ever do to you.
So I’ll forgive you; pay for what you have done according to the law and be at peace with yourself because although you took away one part of my life, you also allowed me to start a new one even more vibrant than the first. For that I thank you.”
Silence. The man’s eyes are wide in a mix of disbelief and shock, which slowly dawns into a look of shame as tears start to fall from his eyes. I don’t need to hear his reply; what he does from now on is his choice to make. I have made my peace and want nothing more to do with him.
I stand up and, gathering my family around me, we head out of the courtroom into a sunny spring day. Looking up at the sky, excited about embracing my future with my re-discovered loved ones, I accidentally bump into someone. Blushing I look up into the face of a man with fair skin and black hair. Stuttering over my apology, he smiles and compares me to the beauty of the birds that had enraptured me and forced this fateful meeting. For a moment I think this is another fragment of a memory, and then I realize: This is love at second sight.


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