About River Run

Excerpt

You have no recollection of the day, or what you might have been doing on the previous day, or, hard as you try to remember, any other previous day.

You’re lying on the cool floor tiles of a men’s room.

 

A stall, a urinal, a washbasin, a paper towel dispenser, the mixed smells of human waste and disinfecting agents. Clean but not especially so. Can’t remember whether you urinated or not, but you don’t have to now, so perhaps you did.

 

Sitting up, you survey your body as if for the first time. You’re dressed in beige cargo pants, a green polo shirt and New Balance walking shoes. No recollection of these clothes. There’s a Breitling chronograph watch on your wrist, no rings on your fingers. You’re aware that all of these things should feel familiar. But they don’t. When you check your pockets in the hope of finding a wallet with a driver’s license, there’s nothing but a twenty-dollar bill.

 

The fact that you have no memory—neither your name nor anything about who you are or where you live or what you were doing up to this moment—is not immediately upsetting. You assume that at some point the lapse will just go away like the bad headache that presently afflicts you. You rise from the floor and stare at the stranger’s face in the mirror. You appear to be in your early to mid-forties, rather good looking and in excellent physical shape, with thick brown hair, brown eyes and photogenic teeth. Well, that’s a relief. You inspect your head: no bumps, no blood. Now what?

 

Now let’s see where the hell I am.

 

Outside the men’s room, you find yourself in a service-center gas station. Visible through large front-facing windows are gas pumps and beyond the pumps is the hurrying traffic of perhaps an Interstate highway and a desert landscape. The store is empty but for a plump Hispanic girl standing behind the service counter reading People magazine and chewing on a fingernail.

 

“Excuse me.”

 

She reluctantly looks up.

 

“Can you tell me where I am?”

 

She stares at you, trying not to appear annoyed. “Tell you where you are?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Sir, this is Reno, Nevada.”

 

“And that highway out there?”

 

“That’d be I-80.”

 

“Do you recall me coming in here earlier?”

 

“No, sir, I sure don’t.”

 

“You don’t?”

 

“No, sir, folks’s been comin and goin all day. I don’t pay much attention less they buy somethin.”

 

Now what? You take a moment to examine your surroundings—perhaps that will jog your memory. Display cases, shelves, lots of advertising. You know this is what a highway service center looks like, but you have no recollection of this particular one. You also have a disquieting feeling of being in a dream that you know is a dream but from which you can’t wake up. The girl has gone back to reading her magazine. Behind her, you notice a video camera.

 

“How about that security camera?”

 

“What about it?”

 

“Is it possible to check to see when I came in?”

 

“No, sir,” she says impatiently. “Sorry, we can’t do that.”

 

Perhaps laying out all your cards on the table might help. “Look, I seem to have lost my memory.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“ I don’t know who I am, or how I got here.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“I don’t have any ID.”

 

“Right.”

 

“I’m in a real bad fix.”

 

“You’re kidding, right?”

 

“No, I’m not.”

 

She offers a malicious smile. “Well, sir, that camera is for law enforcement. They don’t allow customers to mess with it. Besides, it’s been busted going on a month now.”

 

You see she is either incapable of helping you or unwilling, and that leaping across the counter and strangling her is not going to do you any good. She immediately goes back to her magazine. A calendar on the wall behind the service counter displays the date, June 16, 2014. You have no recollection of the day, or what you might have been doing on the previous day, or, hard as you try to remember, any other previous day. An electronic clock next to the calendar says it’s 5:18 p.m. You look at your watch, which reads 8:18 p.m. A thought occurs to you, and you take off your watch to see if there might be an inscription on the back of the case. There isn’t.

 

“Sir?”

 

You glance up.

 

“Are you fixin to buy somethin?”

 

“No.”

 

“Maybe you can step aside so’s other folks can get by?”

 

“There’s nobody else here.”

 

“I’m just sayin,” she says and goes back to her magazine.

 

Time to get the hell out of here.