What if doctors were able to transplant your mind into a new body after a terrible accident? What if, thanks to the process, you found you could no longer love the person you were with or live your old life? What would become your new 'normal?'
The first thing I remember is dying.
Then every one of my muscles spasms like my body is trying to pull itself apart. For a moment, I don’t know who or where I am, my limbs flail, and there’s a strange noise all around me, then I realize the noise is me, screaming.
Then there are arms and hands holding me down, easing me back into the bed while someone makes soothing noises in my ear. Slowly, by degrees, each muscle loosens its knots, though I still feel like a current has gone through me, leaving every nerve seared and burning in my—
—body. There’s a white sheet covering me, which I fling aside and look down at myself. This body, this pile of flesh and skin and hair—this me is an impossibility. Why am I alive?
The same hands that held me down pull the sheet back over me. I focus on the people attached to those hands, or try to. Their clothing is as white as the sheets, like the rest of the room. Everything here is white. Is this heaven?
“Honey, it’s me. I’m right here.”
It’s my mother speaking. No, this is not heaven.
I look up. She’s by my bedside, tears running down her smiling face as she leans over me and I breathe in her scent of powdered lavender.
“You’re going to be fine, Jess. We brought you back.”
* * *
One of the nurses—that’s who the people in white are, I now realize—gives me something she says will make me relax, and when that kicks in I don’t mind my aching muscles, my confusion, or my mother. The whiteness of the room goes gray and hazy, and I close my eyes.
When I open them again, time has passed, I’m not sure how much. My mother isn’t there. No one is there except me. The room looks golden now. I try to sit up, which takes marathon effort, like I never learned how to do it correctly. When I’m finally sitting up, I take a second to catch my breath.
The details come out in brief snippets from hospital staff over the next couple hours, then I get the whole story from someone I eventually find out is my counselor. It’s been six months since I died. Apparently, the paramedics got to me in time to keep my brain functions active long enough to download my consciousness. Growing the new body took a while, though. April 15, they tell me, is the day I woke up. My new birthday. The nurse tells me that in a few more days, I’ll be ready to start physical therapy.
Gary comes to visit me, and his face lights up when he walks in and sees I’m awake. He’s been by almost every day, Mom tells me, even when I was not awake, when they had no idea when I would wake up, or if I would wake up. That happens sometimes. People are transferred into their new bodies and just never wake up.
He’s brought a photo album with him. This is what they’ve said to do, to show me pictures from my life and reorient me to it before I’m released. He sets the photo album down and envelops me in a massive hug, and I inhale his scent.
I feel nothing.
Gary kisses me then. He’s crying, and his hands are cradling my face now as he kisses me everywhere on my face. I worry he’s going to become hysterical, which would be unlike him, but how often does your lover return from the dead? Well, actually, it happens all the time, but not to everyone every day.
He settles onto the bed and opens the photo album across our laps. Some of the snapshots are old, pictures of me in school and of my parents when they were young, before I was born. We skip over these and move to the digicaps of us at our first apartment, on vacation in Mexico, me falling off the water skis over and over in an endless loop. Our new house. Our anniversary. A kiss that repeats in eternal cycle.
I feel as though I’m looking at someone else’s photo album. It’s mildly interesting, but I feel no connection. Eventually, my attention wanders.