Basically this is (exactly) the same story as the one I posted yesterday. I only turned the main character into a guy. Don’t know if I succeeded or not, but it gave me food for thought. And I have never ever before written as a guy in first person, so it was an experience doing that. Quite hard too, since I don’t know how guys think, if they notice the same stuff girls notice, or if they live in a totally different world… 😉
Does it come out as ‘male’ or is there still that ‘female’ feeling in there? Can there be a female feeling in writing? How do you distinguish male from female? By the choice of words?
I couldn’t believe it was five years. Five years in coma. I had found my obituary in a paper from a library already. I was obviously killed in action. They had had a ceremonial funeral and that was that. The obituary was short and to the point and all condolences were asked not to call, only for closest friends and family. Well, I knew my family wasn’t missing me. They hadn’t been missing me for over ten years, so I guessed it was the Company that was considered family. I wondered how Adrian was, if he still was that happy go lucky, getting out of trouble and into trouble every other second. And Alabama, sweet Alabama. How she would have cried at my funeral.
I was making my way down the aisles of lockers in the train station, trying to remember my number. Amazingly the hospital had released me, without any ID or anybody confirming who I was. To them I was David Simon. One of my many aliases. Overcrowded, that was their only reason for signing me off. They didn’t have a bed to put me in, and I was obviously conscious and knew who I was, and where I was going. I told them I had a relative living in NYC so I’d go and knock on their door and hope they were home. Otherwise I’d come back and bug them. The nurse that handed me the papers to sign laughed nervously as if she wished she’d never see me again.
I stopped in front of locker number 1072. It was an inconspicuous number. I wouldn’t have remembered it, but when I saw the worn numbers, the way the number two had faded almost into nothingness while the zero was still completely intact, apart from a scratch that made it look like the letter u, triggered something in my brain and I knew instinctively it was my locker. I didn’t have a key, of course, but I had obtained a hairpin from an old lady and a paper clip, and together they could open any lock that required a physical key. Apart from those slide card locks. Those were a bit harder to break into.
The lock opened with a satisfied click and I smiled as I pulled the small door open and pulled out a black duffel bag. I was so glad that I kept this separate from all the lockers used by the Company. That meant no matter what happened, I’d always have a change of clothes and come cash and an ID. You can go very far with just that.
I was wearing old clothes, I think it might be the clothes I came into the hospital with, but I’m not sure. Anyway they fit ill and I looked like a bum with too small clothes. If they were mine, how could I have grown by lying still for five years? Well, when I regained consciousness I had a couple of months of muscular therapy before they’d even think of signing me out. I had had a shower before I left, but deodorant, toothbrush and all that crap I was without. And I hoped to god the stuff in the bag would still be good after being unused for five years. Usually I checked the locker once every year.
I didn’t open the bag, just took it and left without looking back. I locked the locker again – it could still be of use – and boarded a train, the first one that was leaving. I got off at the first stop, outside NYC but still NY. I got a road map an tried to look inconspicuous as a badly dressed tourist and found a cheap motel opposite a night club. Well inside I locked the door and pulled a chair up to keep the door closed incase someone decided to visit. I checked the room out, considered it safe enough and flopped down on the bed with the bag and ripped it open.
I was totally unprepared of the flood of memories that came in the bag. Mostly of work, and of Indrid. So far I had avoided thinking of the Company and my partner. It hurt to think about. Had they just abandoned me and assumed I was dead? Or had they looked for me for months, and then given up? Sometimes I wondered if Indrid was missing me or if he just continued as usual, in his cold way. Indrdid Cold. I owed him my life. Even though we seldom spoke I liked being in his company. There was no pressure on keeping up small talk. There was no awkward silences – apart from in the beginning, when I hadn’t known him that well.
At the top of the bag was the Smith and Wesson revolver he had given me on my first day at work. It was his personal, and he gave it to me when I confessed I had gotten up so late that I forgot to take my gun with me. I never gave it back. He didn’t ask for it, so I kept it.
I put it on the bed side table and continued my excavation of the bag. The box of bullets I put next to the gun and then pulled out the necessary items; toothbrush, toothpaste, all-in-one shower cream and a dry deo stick. They were all neatly tucked into a zip lock bag. Next was a tiny black bath towel. It was almost too small to do the job, but nothing else would fit. Underneath the towel was a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt and a navy blue hooded sweater. Black socks and what I had been looking forward most of all; underwear and shoes. Two black boxers and a pair of sneakers. I was all set.
I had a quick shower and pulled on my own clothes and revelled in the feeling and decided that there was no better feeling than that of one’s own clothes. Under the bottom of the bag was the cash and the ID cards. I had two to choose between. Did I want to be a Stephen Fields or Adam Hopkirk? I chose Stephen Fields and grabbed a tenner from the wad of cash and hid the rest in the bag. I hid the bag under the bed and put the gun under the pillow with the bullets and headed out to buy dinner. I settled on chinese, since I didn’t want to walk too far away. After years of only drip and months of only hospital food, I felt like I had never tasted anything better than the goose dumplings and the noodles I was eating.
I found a small convenience store and bought a magazine and some fruits a small yoghurt and a sandwich and a can of juice for breakfast. When I got back to my room I settled in on the small bed and read the magazine, trying to catch up with the world. I knew I needed to get in contact with the Company, but I didn’t know how to start. Among the cash I had a small flat plastic box with a simcard in it and a ring. In case I wanted to be married or not. The simcard contained phone numbers to the Company. All I had to do was plug it into a phone and I’d be able to call all my friends and tell them the great news. Only problem was: who do I call first?
The answer was so simple it had been dancing in front of my eyes all the time. Of course Indrid would be the first one I should call. He was, or had been, after all, my partner. We were a team. Him and me. I didn’t know if he would believe me if I called him and told him I was alive. The room grew darker and the noise from across the street louder as the clock ticked away. I decided to postpone all decisions until tomorrow, and I had to get a phone too.
When I woke up the world was still sleeping. At first I thought it was in the middle of the night, but the growing traffic outside was a telltale sign of nearing rush hour. I had wanted to avoid rush hour, but I guess it was too late now. I ate my breakfast still in bed, like I had done in the hospital when I had just woken up, but this time feeling like a king, without all the machines beeping around me. As soon as the sun hit my window I was up and about. Packed my stuff and was out the door within a minute.
A phone was my highest priority right now. And then I’d decide who to call. I checked out and got on a train towards NYC. I found a phone shop and got their cheapest phone to go and went to central park with a coffee and a cinnamon bun in a brown bag. The coffee tasted horrific, but the cinnamon bun was heaven. While I enjoyed the bun and forced the coffee down my throat I opened the phone and slit the sim card into it’s slot and then turned on the phone. “Searching for simcard. Please wait.” the phone displayed in a rolling banderoll. I finished the bun and threw the rest of the coffee in a bin before the phone beeped “simcard found, do you want to import phonenumbers?” I pressed no and then went to the address book. I looked up Alabama’s number. Adrian’s number. China’s number and Tennessee’s number. And last Indrid’s number.
Before I could stop myself I pressed dial and pushed the phone to my ear. I heard the tones ring. I let it ring eleven times before I hung up. Hunh? No answer. He always answer. A dreadful thought hit me. What if something had happened to him during these five years. What if he was dead too? I rolled my eyes at myself. What idiotic thoughts. Then I flipped through the phonebook again and suddenly I came across another number to Indrid. It didn’t say his name, but I figured “The Cold One” could only mean him. I pressed dial and almost hung up when the other end was picked up almost immediately. At first it was silent, then his dark voice carried through the ether.
“Valentin?” That was my nickname. He always called me Valentin. From my surname. My mouth was dry and the awful coffee made itself reminded.
“Indrid,” my voice sounded hoarse and I cleared my throat. “hi…” I didn’t know what to say. *Hi, remember me? I was your partner that suddenly disappeared. I know you’ve had my funeral and all, but I’ve really been in coma for these last five years. I just woke up and wanted to check in with you how things are going.*
What did I want him to do? Take me back? What if he had another partner? What if I was redundant? What if I had forgotten everything? What if he didn’t want to talk to me? What if he hung up? Panic welled up my chest as he kept his silence on the other end. What if he was the one who killed me? I banished that thought. If he was guilty, then I couldn’t trust anyone, and then he could get another chance at killing me. Then he broke the silence.
“Hey,” his voice was low and I wondered if he had missed me or just flicked me off as another partner killed in action. “You’re back from the dead?”
“Yeah… sort of… coma.” I stammered out the words, suddenly nervous. What did I want him to do? Pick me up? Take me home? I shouldn’t have called. He was silent for a long while on the other end and I was afraid he had hung up.
“Where are you?” I could hear he was moving, wherever he was. A cardoor opened and slammed shut.
“NYC” I breathed.
“A bit more specific?”
“There is a café down there called the Wild Goose Chase, can you get there?” I looked around and spotted the funny looking cafe with a flock of geese pictured on the window, running or flying, wings out. Funny how I hadn’t noticed it earlier.
“Yeah, I can see it.”
“Wait for me there.” And he hung up.
I made my way over to the small café and sat down on one of the benches outside and watched the traffic rush by. What if he had changed? What if I had changed? What if we couldn’t work any more? No team Cold. What if what if what if. All questions twirled around in my head and made me almost dizzy. The cars rushed past me, but I didn’t really see them. I was so deep in thought that I didn’t notice someone coming up to me before they blocked the sun. When I looked up I was pierced by those electric eyes I had been so afraid of in the beginning.
He grinned and extended a hand.
“Welcome back to the living.”
I took his hand and he pulled me up in a shoulder bump. The ones I and Adrian always tried to out bump each other with. He pointed to a Hummer double parked almost right in front of me. I must have been very lost in thought not to notice it.
“Let’s go.” He beeped the car open and I climbed in the passenger seat and dropped my bag on the floor. In no time he was in the drivers seat pulling out into traffic. I put on the seat belt and looked over at him. It looked like he was smiling. It felt odd. He usually never smiled.
“So, what’s up?” I usually didn’t start coldtalk with Indrid, I knew he disliked it, but now I felt like I couldnt’ contain myself. I had to know what had been going on during the years I had been gone. Had he found another partner? Had he found a girl? What if he’s married? I looked over at his hand and tried to spot a wedding ring. Nothing. We were silent for a long time while he wound in and out of traffic, then I tried again.
“I tried calling you on your workphone…” I started but he interrupted me, suddenly serious.
“Did you call anyone else? Anyone from work? Anyone from the Company?” I shook my head.
“No, I figured you’re my partner in crime, so you should be the first one to know…” I suddenly felt daft. Why hadn’t I called my boss instead of him? Surely the Company would like to know if one of their agents were back on the field?
“Good. Don’t call them.” He said, more like the normal Indrid I knew. Short and to the point. No smalltalk.
“Why?” I asked after a couple of minutes of silence.
“They went bad after the announcement you were KIA.” He flicked his eyes to me and then back. “That’s why I quit.”
“You quit?” I was flabbergasted. “But, but, you loved that job!” Hadn’t he?
“Yeah, but it wasn’t the same without you…” Was that a compliment?