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Who Are We Today? by Michelle Jacobs

I wake up while being walked down a long beige corridor. There are doors in carefully measured increments along the corridor. Everything about this corridor seems unusually large and has me quite concerned. I feel small. Physically small, and I am not a small person. Others usually feel small around me. There are people walking on either side of me. They seem to be accompanying me somewhere. Strange, since I just woke up. Perhaps someone is serving breakfast. Without looking like I am trying to see, I glance at the shoes of the people walking me down the corridor. Female shoes on the right, male shoes on the left. I frown. They look like very large shoes. I have just noticed the female is holding my hand as we walk. Her hand is enormous. It’s completely swallowed any sign of my own hand. We stop at the very end of the corridor and the man uses his keys to open the door for us. We continue walking. Two more corridors, much shorter than the last, and then we stop at what appears to be an office. The man knocks, and another man answers, “Come in!”

The female leads me across the room to a simple wooden chair with a cushioned seat and backrest. It could have been someone’s kitchen chair if it wasn’t bolted to the floor. The chair across from it is also bolted down. A quick glance round the room tells me everything in it is bolted to the floor or the wall. I must be in some sort of psychiatric hospital, and this is the Doctor’s office. The chair is much larger than it needs to be, and I am again feeling small. This must be some sort of an illusion. The male that walked with us keeps standing over by the door, like a guard. The female is seated in a chair bolted down on the other side of the door. She is now reading a book. I guess her job is done for the time being. A man with a smart cardigan and a notebook sits himself in the chair across from me, opens his notebook to a fresh page, and smiles at me. “Good morning,” he says, “Who are we today?”

I frown again. What a strange choice of words.“ Lane Miller, and you are?” I ask the Doctor, clearly showing distaste in my tone.

The Doctor smiles and writes my name at the top of his page. “I’m Doctor Jewels. Pleasure to meet you, Lane. May I call you Lane?” He looks genuinely interested in my answer, so I nod my approval. “Excellent!” he continues. “Can I get some more information from you? Where and when you were born, and where you live now, that sort of thing?”

I stare at him for a moment. Would they not already know that? This Doctor Jewels must be testing me. “I was born May 9th, 1953, in Bloomington Indiana. I live at 1236 Jeanette Drive in Dayton, Ohio.” I do believe the Doctor knows this already. I guess it must be standardized questions or something.

“What do you do for a living, Lane?”

It takes everything I have to not roll my eyes at this man. “I’m a laborer for a roofing company.”

“That sounds like hard work, Lane. Do you like it?”

I accidentally snort out a chuckle. “It’s a shit job Doc.”

He nods and writes a couple of words in his book. “Tell me more, Lane. Tell me your whole life story. I want to know who you are.” I smile. Why not? I have nothing better to do at the moment.

We wound up in Springfield after my Daddy left us. I was about eight years old then. Momma was working at a restaurant downtown in the morning and the grocery store in the evenings. We didn’t see her much. My brothers and I were left to do as we pleased. So, we did. We knew we had to go to school or Momma would tan our hides, but we were free once that bell rang. Sun, snow, rain, sleet, it didn’t matter to us. We rode our bikes all over the place exploring. Empty lots, parks, new houses being built. It was a great childhood. We were always back by 9. Momma got home at 9:30 and would make us snacks and ask us about our day. She was a good one. We had a good life without Daddy. It only lasted a couple of years though. The day that truck crashed into the bus and killed her, it killed us too. We were taken to our Aunt June in Dayton.

That woman was a nasty one. She didn’t like kids in general, but she really did not like boys. We were fifteen, twelve, eight, and I was just about eleven. She treated us like hoodlums, so we acted like them. My older brothers got arrested for stealing cars and taken away to some kids’ jail within the first year. My little brother and I did okay for a while, but when I was thirteen I got into a fight at school and hit this kid as hard as I could. He stumbled backwards, cracked his head on the water fountain, and died. I didn’t go to jail since it was an accident. I did get sent to this group home place back in Springfield though. My Aunt June thought I was going to be a bad influence on little Jake. That home was not a good place, and I learned a lot of things a kid shouldn’t have to. I was stuck in that shithole for over two years. Every time I would run away, they would find me and drag me back.

When I turned sixteen they let me leave. Said I was old enough to make it. I went back to Dayton and tried to visit my brother. Aunt June wouldn’t let me. I found a rooming house, found a roofing job, and found out where my brother went to school. I would work every day but Thursday. That day I would go get my brother from school and we would hang out at the park and eat. I made okay money, so I could afford to buy him lunch once a week. We did that for a while, but then the school called Aunt June and she called the police on me. Everything went downhill from there. My brother started acting out and skipping school. The police would show up at my work looking for him, even though he was never there. The boss started giving me a hard time about the cops coming all the time. The other guys were getting nervous, so I had to change to a different crew. Roofers are mostly out-of-prison guys like me, so we don’t like cops so much.

My brother robbed a bank three months ago with one of his school friends. Cops showed up to arrest me for it. Said I must have been the one to make them do it. I had a good alibi for that day, as I was roofing the mayor’s house, and nothing came of it. My brother managed to keep out of jail somehow. Aunt June must have hired him a good lawyer. I think my brother is into some bad stuff now. There are guys who keep coming around my work asking funny questions. I think he might owe money to some bad guys. I haven’t seen my brother since we got busted for having lunch together. I know I have a bad rep around here. I should move, but I want to stay close to him, just in case I can get him away from Aunt June. Maybe we could go to California or something. I can do roofing anywhere. I could teach him how to do it too. I don’t think he’s going to finish high school anyway, so he might as well work.

I look out the window of the Doctor’s office, hoping for a sign of where I am. “Is he here too, Doc? My brother?”

The Doctor, who has listened very intently to my story, frowns. “Lane, what year is it?”

"1970, why do you ask?"

“Well, to put it simply, it’s not 1970. It is 2022.”

I blink in confusion and stare at the Doctor for signs of sarcasm. “What do you mean? 2022 would make me almost seventy. I am clearly not an old man.

The Doctor looks at me with pity in his eyes. “Lane. Look at your body. You are not a seventy-year-old man, but you are not a seventeen-year-old one either.”

I look down at my hands. They are the hands of a child, not a roofer. My legs are that of a child too. I realize that I am a little girl sitting in a grown-up chair. This is why everything looked so big to me. I look up at the Doctor with wide eyes. “I don’t understand! Why am I like this?” I feel weak. I can’t breathe. My eyesight goes blurry. I feel myself falling….

Doctor Jewels watches in fascination as the little girl in front of him shatters in despair. “This never gets old,” he says to the orderly beside the door. The little girl has what looks like a mild seizure, then goes still. She blinks twice, looks around the room, then focuses on the Doctor again. “Well good morning,” Doctor Jewels says to her, “And who are we today?”

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