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November 2, 2015

By John Rutter

Let me start by apologising for the blood. I lost it for a moment there when I first saw… I was going to say ‘my face’ in the bathroom mirror, but it wasn’t my face! That’s why I panicked and that’s when the glass got broken. I had to shut the bathroom door quickly so I didn’t see him again.
      So here I am trying to make sense of it all, with pink toilet paper wrapped around my hand and crimson crawling towards the edges like Hitler’s armies advancing across a map of Europe. What’s happening to me? And, more to the point, where am I?
      I think I must have been drugged or had my drinks spiked or something. I’ve got a vicious headache, you know, like a red wine hangover when you’re too far gone to drink some water before you go to bed. Was I drunk last night? I don’t remember. In fact I don’t remember ANYTHING!
      Amnesia. That’s a start, then. Probably good news; there will be some rational explanation as to why I have temporarily (I hope) lost my memory and therefore there will be some logical reason why I am here.
      I need to get some facts first. Location? It seems to be a budget hotel room. Why do I know that? I must use hotels a lot. That’s something. There’s a yellow pencil and a small notepad. I’ll start a list of things I know about me:
      Blank page: Name…
      I don’t know my name. I can see a capital D, but I don’t even know if that is me. What can D stand for? What do I know? I know that whoever that was in the bathroom mirror, it was not me. How do I know that? Do I have any ID? Hold on a minute. Walk around the room, have a look.
      Bed; plain duvet cover (beige); wardrobe; wooden, brown, cheap. Carpet; patterned (like a hotel carpet). Put that on the list:
      Things about me:
      1 Male, about 40, name unknown, possibly D?
      2 Suffering from amnesia, drinks (probably).
      3 Uses hotel rooms often, perhaps businessman?
      Where are my clothes? I’m wearing white boxers and a white T-shirt. Ah! There’s a suit in the wardrobe – grey, Marks and Spencers, size 40 chest; seems about my size. Shirt: white, cotton, creased (recently worn), size 15½, again about my size. Anything in the pockets of the suit? No wallet. That’s odd. Bedside table (brown wood again), nothing in there; shoes and socks (black brogues, plain black socks). All there seems to be is the furniture and some clothes; and me.
      And the bathroom door.
      I’m not going back in there.
      Is this my body? It feels like it’s me. The hands do what I ask. I think the bleeding’s stopped and I can put the red tissue in the bin. I’m unshaven. I normally shave every day. I know that. How do I know that? Write that down.
      4 Clean shaven (usually). Again suggests professional type.
      What else? I must be educated because I am employing reason to analyse my situation. Why is there no wallet in the bedside cabinet or suit pocket? Have I been robbed?
      Maybe I’m captive here. What if it is some kind of prison or hospital? Perhaps I’ve been drugged. Maybe I’m on a police protection programme and they have changed my face. I can’t feel any scars or marks on my face. My hands are smooth. Not a manual worker, then. Maybe I have been transferred to another body – brain transfer – and the amnesia is a result of the anaesthetic. Bit far-fetched.
      What if this isn’t real? Maybe I’m imagining it all. But I’m wide awake.
      The door. I must open the door. Yes, that’s it. Be calm. Open the door, find out where I am.
      It isn’t locked, so at least the prison/captive/kidnapping options can (probably) be ruled out. Why would someone kidnap me, anyway? Am I important? A man should know that about himself. When you think about it, that’s one of the big things, isn’t it? How important am I?
      The door opens inwards. There is a number 6 on the door in a modern sans serif font, Calibri, I think. Why do I know about fonts? Put that on the list in a minute – profession may involve printing and words. This room is on a long corridor with other brown doors, all numbered. Is the number 6 important? I remember a story about a man being number 6. Was that me or a TV character?
      The patterned carpet is well worn and a red fire extinguisher stands guard. Fire extinguisher; is that significant? No – they have them everywhere. Is there an exit? There seems to be a door at the far end with a green sign above it. That must be the way out. Better get dressed first.
      But where am I going? I don’t know my address. If I do go home, will there be anyone there? Do I have a family, a wife? I can’t see a face. I can remember a flowery smell; shampoo? Perfume? Long dark hair… I can’t picture a face. There’s no ring on my finger. Would I wear a ring? If I did, why would I take it off? Am I being unfaithful? Perhaps I’m divorced.
      Glass, breaking glass, I remember that. Shouting and broken glass.
      More urgently, if I work out where I live, how would I get there? Did I come by car? If I did, where are the keys? Maybe I am very close to home. I have no money. What if I’m late for something? For work, an important meeting? I remember meetings, lots of meetings. What if they are all waiting for me? What if they expect me to make a presentation or a speech? Am I important enough to be asked to do that? Who are they? I can’t remember any people. What if no one’s waiting for me?
      What time is it? No watch. No phone. I’d better not open the curtains in case I see a reflection.
      OK, sit back down on the bed. Get yourself together.
      I could do with a glass of water, but I’m not going in there.
      I’ll have to ask for help. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. But how will I find someone?
      Get dressed, that’s a start; trousers, socks, shirt.
      And what will I say when I find someone?
      ‘Erm, excuse me. Can you tell me where I am? I seem to have lost my wallet, and my memory.’
      Belt; jacket; no tie. Is that so I can’t strangle myself? Can’t be, I’ve got a belt.
      I suppose I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror now.
      Wait a minute. What if it’s him again? What if I look in the mirror again and his face is staring back at me? He looked very angry. I wonder who he is. What if he’s dangerous? Maybe I’m dangerous.
      Oh, come on! Get a grip! What’s the worst that can happen? He can’t harm me. He is only a reflection. I have to face him. Face me.
      It’s strange to think back on your life, to pause for a moment and think about yourself and to know nothing at all.
      Am I a good man? Have I made good use of my time? Does anybody love me? I can remember the smell of long hair, brown. Who is she?
      There was a child, a small boy. That was long ago. Why does that make me feel sad? What happened to him?
      The big question is – who or what am I afraid of?
      I can’t just stay here. I have to do it. Confront him…
      Straighten my jacket. The suit fits well.
      Hand on the bathroom door handle. Turn it slowly. I remember the mirror is straight in front of the door.
      Let go of the door. Close my eyes. It swings open and echoes against the bathroom wall.
      Deep breath.
      Open your eyes.
      No! It can’t be…
      … There’s no one there.

© John D Rutter 2015