Nadine had stalled her car when she was slowing down to take a rest stop. Her car was an aging single-clutch sedan and the battery was dying, so she’d been starting it using a mobile jump-start battery pack. Unfortunately, her mobile battery pack had also died, so she was stuck out here, unable to get the engine to turn.
Fortunately, Charlie knew exactly what to do. He didn’t know why or how he knew, but he presumed this was the nature of his selective amnesia.
Also, you’re a man, his sword reassured him. Men know things like this.
“Stick it in neutral and release the parking brake,” Charlie told Nadine as he positioned himself behind the car, ready to push.
“Alrighty,” Nadine replied from the front seat of the car. “What next?”
“Come back here and help me push.”
Help me push it deep inside you… yeah baby. Mmm.
Charlie shook his head, although by now he was growing accustomed to the constant sexually desirous banter his sword fed him.
Nadine got out and lined up next to him. Charlie smelled her perfume and his mind momentarily blanked thinking, “this must be what heaven smells like.” A giddy grin flashed across his face, but for fear of looking like a lech, he controlled his face and tried to appear serious. He waited for Nadine to get a stable foothold, watching sweat bead up on her forehead and trickle down her face, past her collarbone, and into her cleavage. There was a dull ache in his balls as he imagined laying into her. He shifted uncomfortably, cleared his mind with practiced precision, and said, “Alright, on three.”
The two of them pushed with all they had, and got the car rolling. Charlie ran around, jumped into the front seat, hit the clutch, and engaged first gear as he turned the car on. He did this all so smoothly, he impressed even himself. He’d half-expected to muck it up.
The car push-started and the engine hummed to life. He gently braked to a halt, slipped back into neutral, and engaged the parking brake. Nadine caught up a split second later and he got out to let her drive.
As he got into the passenger seat with his sword, Charlie watched Nadine brush away matted strands of hair that stuck to her sweaty forehead, the bone structure of her face limned perfectly in the midafternoon sun. In this scene, he felt serenity. Seeing her this way was like looking at a painting, or watching a beautiful flower in the breeze. The sexual attraction he felt was still there, but it was smoldering, like a volcano at the bottom of the ocean.
She noticed him watching her intently and seemed to become shy. “What is it?”
“Nothing, I… sorry.”
No you’re not. You have no regrets staring at something so beautiful.
Nadine seemed to blush, but Charlie wasn’t sure. He looked away, towards the horizon. The clouds and mountains, so far out of reach, seemed to beckon to him. Somehow, they felt closer to him than Nadine did. Inasmuch as he wanted to touch her, to hold her, to feel her, to know her thoughts and emotions at their depths… he also wanted to discover other women as well.
Part of it was because he didn’t know who he was, and part of it was because he wanted to find out what other wonderful women there were in the world. Nadine was lovely, but Charlie imagined there were so many other lovely women out there.
Then there was the thought of children, and of being a father. His amnesia had not eroded his memories of certain infants and children. He did not know who these children were, only that the memory of their tiny faces and the feeling of carrying their little bodies filled him with delight and belonging. He had fond memories of being gentle and interacting affectionately with these little ones. He was certain that these memories were of relatives he loved and cared for.
Somehow, Charlie felt confident that he’d never been married and that he was not a father. He did not know why, but he felt if he could remember these other children, then assuredly, if he had ever been in love or had any children, he would have remembered them as well. But there were no such memories.
Perhaps that was why his sexual wont for Nadine was so great. He glanced at her focused face as she drove, watching her hair dance in the wind coming through the open window, savoring the texture of her skin from afar. He wished he could take a photograph of her, for he wanted to capture this beauty to draw and paint later.
Glancing at his sword, Charlie realized it had been quiet for an unusually long time. He appreciated the peace, and closed his eyes.
Charlie awoke to Nadine poking him in the shoulder. Scatterbrained, he glanced at the clock and calculated that he’d probably slept a solid two hours. There was other traffic on the highway now, and it appeared they were approaching a city.
“We’re approaching Cote Naranja,” Nadine voiced over the wind.
Nodding dumbly, Charlie yawned, unsure why she’d woken him up.
“I’m going to grab some grub, then find a hotel to stay the night… what’re you thinking?”
Charlie wasn’t sure how to answer. He really hadn’t thought that far ahead. He supposed it made sense to go to a government office to try and figure out his identity, but… honestly, it seemed like such a hassle. He didn’t particularly care.
He shrugged. “Is it okay if I stick with you?”
“Uh, what now?”
“At least for tonight, while I sort myself out.”
There was a long pause. “Yeah, I guess that’s alright. Maybe we should try and figure out who ya are?”
Charlie looked out the window, seeing the faint reflection of himself. “Somehow… I feel like it doesn’t matter all that much.”
“Well, maybe not to you, not now, but. I dunno. I feel like it sure as hell would bother me, not knowing anything about my past, what my real name was, who my family was.”
Charlie shrugged, turning to look at Nadine as she drove. “I feel free not knowing. Rather than looking back on anything, I can only look forward. I have to.”
Nadine pursed her lips in thought and briefly glanced at Charlie, who wore a pleasant expression from the thought of having a clean slate.
“I’m sure there are countless people who yearn for a fresh start… here I am, gifted with one. I don’t want to go dirtying it up by digging up the past.” Charlie said.
“Yeah… I can understand that.” Nadine’s expression mellowed.
“And… besides, I like you.” Charlie said nonchalantly, shrugging.
At this, Nadine smiled. “I like you too, Charlie.”
Charlie nodded quietly.
I like her too, his sword piped up. Charlie grinned.
“Alrighty. I guess we’re shackin’ up together then,” Nadine said, exhaling deeply.
“Your husband probably wouldn’t like that, huh,” Charlie commented obliquely.
“Soon to be ex husband,” Nadine corrected. “And no, he would not like it one bit…”
“But you don’t have a problem with it.” Charlie probed.
This caused Nadine to pause. She took a few moments to respond. “We’re not going to be sleeping in the same bed,” she said firmly.
Ask her if she wants to, his sword nudged.
Charlie thought it over. “Of course not,” he responded strategically. “But you know, it might be cheaper.”
Oho. You really think that’s going to work? C’mon.
“Platonically speaking,” Charlie added hastily. “Because I don’t have any money.”
Now it just sounds like you’re being desperate.
Nadine didn’t say anything, but it was clear she was considering his proposition because the car started to slow down noticeably. Then she coughed, clearing her throat. “You know, you’ve got a point.”
Seriously?! No way. You’re such a creep. I can’t believe she would acquiesce to such an outrageous suggestion!
“I don’t care either way,” Charlie said, realizing that was both true and untrue. It would be nice to sleep with her, but he wasn’t sure he really wanted to; it might be better to avoid all of this completely. He didn’t know what the right answer was, and it felt like every time he opened his mouth, he only muddied it up more. “I mean, we could just get a single and I’d sleep on the floor. It’s not appealing but, you know, you footing the bill and all.”
Nadine thought this over and answered after a minute, “well, we’ll see what we can find.”
Charlie sighed with some relief and turned to look out the window. Part of him wanted to think that maybe Nadine wanted him, in that same bone-deep lustful way he wanted her. The caring part of him felt like, here was a nice person, he didn’t want to weigh her down randomly. The manly part of him wanted to be alone and not be bothered by any of these thoughts.
“Maybe it’s not such a good idea,” Nadine said suddenly. “I mean, we’re total strangers. I’ve no idea who you are,” she thought aloud.
“I don’t know. I’m… just… kind of distraught,” she continued.
Charlie empathized sincerely. He turned and put a supporting hand on her shoulder.
“Honestly, I’d be okay on my own, too. That might be better for you and me. The thought of staying with you awhile longer feels comfortable, but it’s a comfort I can do without.”
Nadine smiled a bittersweet, sympathetic smile and nodded. “Yeah, I get it sweetie. It’s alright.”
She paused a moment. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess, I think one thing and then –”
“It’s quite alright,” Charlie said gently as he squeezed her shoulder affirmatively. “You’re going through a lot as it is, and here I am making things complicated.”
Then he let go and turned to look back out the window. He liked being called “sweetie” even if he wasn’t sure he deserved it.