It was just after midnight with myself trapped by the bar holding onto a third drink I didn’t need but wanted. I wouldn’t remember the next day though, but when you are on the road by yourself there is little else to do. A tall redhead was stood a couple of feet to my left, she was gorgeous to look at, and the more I drank the less inhibited I felt to doing just that. She had naturally rosy cheeks, which rose when she smiled and for one reason or another she seemed to smile a lot. Our eyes had crossed a few times, there was a slight lingering before letting go again, a silent battle of will and want. She wore one of those black strapless tops, too low cut to avoid the top of her breasts, but I was past avoidance anyhow. Tight blue jeans which were rolled up down below and reached halfway down her calves, combined with some flat pointed shoes, she had some of those rockabilly qualities I had always found hard to resist.
A long time ago the bar would have been filled with smoke and a four piece band in the corner. Nowadays, smoking was banned and a four piece band didn’t come for free. The music sounded from speakers dotted around the room, probably sounding better than any four piece band would ever do too, but then there wasn’t any of the bravado which came along with those. I had been on the road for the best part of the last two weeks and with only an empty motel room to wait for my return I was eager to stay out and find some conversation. Although as yet I had failed to talk more than was necessary to get a drink, however it felt good being around people.
Again I nodded to the redhead and raised my glass wishing she would just come over and strike up a conversation, but there was little reaction. It wasn’t the way it goes in books where the hero dashes across the floor while pulling a gun to safe the day. I looked at the barkeep who was busy polishing glasses and restocking depleted stocks. My eyes wandered along the shelves behind the bar, till they stopped at a fine bottle of single malt of which I ordered a glass with a dash of water. The music kept playing and I could feel my eyes doing things they weren’t supposed too, but then it had been a long day. Again, I turned my head slightly to admire the woman next to me but my vision started to blur and my step became unsure. I held onto the bar, just enough to stay seated, just enough to come across as not yet gone. Then I felt her arm tuck under mine, a blurred smile and a voice I could not decipher, she led me from the bar while I hadn’t quite finished yet.
I came around when I could feel the pain behind my eyes, and although those were still closed I knew there was light. There was a fine drizzle which was blown into my face and the wind and rustle it awoke, was the only sound about. I slowly edged one eye open, staring straight into a fluorescent tube somewhere above. Then the smell hit me, pungent, sickeningly sweet, revolting and about to make me vomit. I scrambled up realising that I was inside a dumpster, furthermore realising that said smell had become an inherent part of myself. I climbed onto what was a wet narrow backstreet, careful not to move my head more than necessary, breathing shallow through mouth, avoiding vile stench, or as well as was possible. I had no idea where I was, as for the time, it was dark, anything valuable had gone from my pockets and that included my name.
I hated the feeling of not knowing, yet I barely knew that I didn’t know. I looked down the road first this than that way and started to stagger, like a fly would fly, in the direction of the bigger light source, eventually reaching what looked like a main road. The feeling of recognition however eluded me, the light bounced of the ground creating a haze through which I started wandering towards city. City seemed miles away, but gradually grew taller, another corner separated me from its centre. When I reached, the light was everywhere, billboards of coloured light beaming down from high above, a whitening smile so big that I was dwarfed by a single tooth.
Suddenly I was shoulder to shoulder with what seemed to be millions certainly thousands, I was pushed about, till I fell into pace and followed the flow. The pink of sun started crawling up the horizon, as I started to wonder where I was heading. When the sun hit the still moist street steam started to rise, the entrance to a park appeared to my right and eager to leave the crowded streets I entered, seeking shelter on a bench below a tree, the sun shone through the sparse leaves and with the steam rising from the ground it looked like a haven of peace. I sat, stretched, checked on the odour oozing from my suit, which was near negligible by now. Then I started to think. I carefully went through all my pockets piling all trace of who I was next to me. A small pocket knife engraved with the initials V.D. A booklet of matches, the sort you get in restaurants or bars, the sort that usually carries an address, just that in my case it didn’t. A ripped off piece of newspaper with a barely readable email address scribbled onto. Some change which would buy me a coffee and sandwich leaving me with a little for emergencies. The thought of how little, made me laugh, I had humour and not all was lost. I stared at the small pile, then put it back into pockets.
A short distance from the park was where I found a café, you got free web access with a coffee, and a coffee came with a sandwich. I got on one of the machines which powered up as I sat down in front, opened a web browser then stopped, realising that I would need an email address myself to make contact in the first place. I went to yahoo to open a new account, V underscore D at yahoo dot com was what I became then logged on, I went to look for the person who’s email I had, there was a profile: female, 29, was all it said and she was online. I connected via instant messenger.
“Morning from the City, do you know what V.D. stands for?”
“Venereal Disease!” came the answer after just a few minutes.
“Any other idea, such as a name of sorts, one for a person rather than a disease?”
“Who is Vernon Dwayne?”
There was a pause.
“You still there? Who is Vernon Dwayne?”
“Who are you?”
“Male, around 33, short dark hair, about 1,80 meters.”
“What do you want?”
“Who is Vernon Dwayne?”
“Just a guy I met in a bar the other week. Are you police or something?”
“I think I may be him.”
“I woke up in a dumpster, I don’t remember.”
“Where are you?”
“The City - you?”
“Memphis. Can you send your image?”
There is a cam on top of the screen, I release the shutter and my picture is being sent right over.
“It’s you, you don’t look so good though. Come over.”
“I have no money.”
“You left a parcel, I can courier it over.”
“What’s in it?”
“I don’t know, you mentioned you may call for it.”
“Can you open it.”
“A wallet, a phone, cards, some cash, the cards are in your name.”
“OK, send it to the station, care of me, what does n_corn stand for?”
“Nancy Corn, my name.”
“It’s ok, I get the parcel off now, it should be with you in the afternoon, do you have a number?”
“No number, I will check my mail firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“OK, I’ll be online.”
I quit the program, the connection stops and the screen returns to its homepage. I wondered who Nancy Corn was. Why would I leave my wallet and phone with somebody I briefly met in a bar a week back.
It didn’t make much sense, I had presumed I had been robbed, now my papers and phone showed up somewhere else. And who if not someone I already knew was Nancy.
When I checked with the station 5 hours later, I had mail. A wallet which has a familiar feel and a phone filled with numbers, the bonus is a handwritten note from one Nancy Corn inviting me to see her in Memphis, and a number to reach her on. There was little to lose I hadn’t lost already and somehow gotten hold of again, Nancy was the closest link to any memory I had, and she had been kind enough to help me out. It was easy to get on a flyer to Memphis, hook up and make sense of the gaps in the story, be that hers or mine. I looked through the wallet again, there was a distinct lack of personal belongings, no pictures, no notes, no numbers, addresses or any other scribbled down reference to me or anyone. I wandered through the city, trying a few of the numbers on my phone, most of which seemed to lead to an answerphone, some lead to a busy person promising to ring back shortly.
“Not a good time right now Vernon, let me call you back later.” And then the click when the handle was being pushed down as you got cut off. It felt like a door being slammed in your face every time, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. My phone was useless, the only number I would get through to would be that of Nancy, I knew without trying.
I arranged for travel to Memphis, resigned to the fact that there was nothing else to do. The flight was pleasant enough, I was upgraded to first without so much as a word, the food was exquisite and the stewardess assigned to me one of the most desirable women I had ever come across.
Then we landed.
Memphis. I took a deep breath, the weather clung to me like a wet towel. Getting on the bus that would take me into town was one thing, when I got off I stood and stared. The sun was starting to set at the far end of the road. I walked that way, just like I had followed the light earlier. Straight down, till I turned into a diner for a bite to eat. And then a beer, the jukebox was playing what Memphis was known for and I started to see Elvis wherever I turned. I hadn’t made any calls since landing, but the phone was burning a hole in my pocket.
Vernon Dwayne was who I was, but that was all I knew about myself. I would have to get in touch with Nancy, hoping that she would be able to fill some of the gaps which became more apparent as I went along. I was hoping to recognise something, when I got here but it was as alien as the City had been.
I left the diner and carried on walking, passing through some of the seedier parts of town. The neon of strip clubs lit the roads and women of disreputable profession clustered around corners, as if the neon drew them out of the dark. Then the ladies became more infrequent and the strip bars faded making space for gun shops, tightly packed next to each other one and another and then again. There was Gun’s R Us, Guntronics, Luke’s Gun’s, Pete’s Gun’s, Customized Guns, Second Hand Guns, Rent a Gun, etc. etc. I wondered whether to rent a gun or better someone with a gun, just to keep an eye on me, just to make sure I wasn’t about to lose myself again.
The street changed when I entered the town centre the buildings grew more elaborate and the establishments more expensive. I sought out character, trusting intuition when I walked into a bar down a basement. The walls were made from bare brick and the wooden tables solid and heavy, a hint of must was in the air, the space larger than was expected.
A loose after work crowd had assembled, to my right a sweaty man with to tight a collar laughed a hearty laugh which carried across the room. He was sat with a slightly overweight woman in her mid forties, they were hitting it off without realisation. I clambered onto a chair by the door then changed my mind and moved over to the bar, signalled the barkeep for a beer, looked around seeking to catch gaze of someone, interact, invent personality for myself. I stayed silent by the bar, watching through the mirror behind as people entered or left. I felt like a wild cat on the jump ready for attack, resigned to waiting, drifted, one thought let to another and I was somewhere else, someone else, there was aim and focus as to what I wanted to be in that other place. But I couldn’t hold on to the image like a dream from which you wake slips into darkness, I never caught more than a glimpse.
The bar started thinning out, one crowd replaced another this one came from an altogether different place one that was made up of nights, one where the sun had no place in.
I stayed, lost in thoughts finishing one than ordering another drink. A rosy faced woman with a thick bundle of dark red hair entered from behind, smiled a knowing smile through the mirror then stood somewhere to my left. She had me, there was something vaguely familiar, something in her mannerism that I recognised.
I threw her a limp smile, withdrew, then looked away, I couldn’t figure it out.