I am going to be brave this year.
So here it goes.
This is different from what I usually write and posting it scares me to death. I’ve had it in my mind for years but it was a one-act play. I never wrote the play. When a chance came to write something to enter into a contest I dusted off the idea and re-crafted it to meet the format of the contest. I’ve only trusted one other person to read it. Until now.
Helen this one is for you.
All I’ve Forgotten
By Libby Hayes
The room was white. So white that it hurt to look at. So white that even in the heat of the day, it made me cold. Cold to the bone. “Do you know why you are here?” a stranger asked. He, like the room, was clad in white.
I clutch my purse closer wrapping my arms around it and hugging it to my chest. For comfort? For warmth? I laugh a nervous laugh, “Of course I do. You want to know about this,” I hold out my hand. It too is bathed in white. This white burnt. A cold burn that I couldn’t shake. This cold burn wrapped in white in this white, white room.
“This is all so silly. I am having a shower; for the baby. I needed food for the party so I was making some. There was chicken Olivia, which is wonderful for a party. It’s light. And strawberry salad-It’s so pretty on the plate, the strawberry salad. You see it’s got a layer of gelatin and then a lovely layer of…oh dear…what is in that layer? I’ve made it a hundred times. Everyone loves my salad. It’s lovely. The red gelatin and the white layer of….oh dear…what is in the layer. I can’t believe I can’t remember,” I struggle to remember what the recipe called for. I know I should know.
The bright white faded a bit. My purse was here in my lap. Thank goodness I had not forgotten my purse. I open it and peered inside. Now what was i looking for? I glance up and see only white. And a stranger. A stranger clad in white looking at me as if he’s waiting for me to say something. I peer down at my open purse. It’s open. I snap it shut and hug it to my chest. The man still looks at me. Waiting. Waiting for me. He had asked me a question. But what was the question? I glance around to see if I can get a clue, a glimmer to help me remember what it is the man is waiting on me to say. This man clad in white.
White walls stare back at me. It’s so white. So white it makes me cold. I hug my purse to my chest so I feel better. It’s my purse. I know my purse. I hadn’t forgotten my purse. I open my purse and peer inside. There, inside, are things I remember putting there. My wallet. My Handkerchief…I always tuck one inside of my purse. My keys. Rosie gave me that key ring and it’s so handy. It’s got the loveliest cameo etching on it. She got it because it has a clip—a clip that slides right into the side of the purse so you don’t lose your keys. How nice not to have to rummage around in the purse when trying to get inside. Inside. Did I take my groceries inside? The chicken will spoil if I don’t get it into the refrigerator. The jello salad really needs to be chilling. Did I get the……what was it I needed for the jello salad?
Oh goodness. The gentleman. The gentleman clad in white is staring at me. Was he trying to get my attention? What in the world did he want? I glance around but I only see white. I am cold. I hug my arms to my chest. My purse presses against my jacket. Oh good. I’ve not forgotten my purse. I loosen my arms so that the purse falls into my lap. It’s open. Nervous to have purse open with strangers around I glance inside. My wallet is there. In the corner is my handkerchief. I take it out to dab my nose. Something tumbles out. There in the bottom of my purse lay rings. Two rings. Why would rings be there for goodness sake? I tuck my handkerchief back into the band of my watch so my hands are free to reach down and take out the rings. But I don’t. I glance around and see that I am in a white room. And there are strangers. Strangers are looking at me. Strangers who are staring at me and my purse. Do they know what I have inside? They want my rings. They are here to take them. They can’t do that. They can’t have my rings. No. These were gifts. Gifts from my son, Larry, the skier who was traveling the world. Why, the King of Jordan himself had given Larry this ring. It didn’t start off as a ring. It was a lovely set with a tie tack and cuff links. Larry didn’t need them so he gave them to me. I had a ring made and 2 pendants for the girls. Lovely pieces.
In my I see there are 2 rings there. I feel nervous and a bit afraid. I have an open purse in a room of strangers. These strangers want to take my rings. These strangers in this white room. I snap my purse closed and clutch it to my purse to my chest. They can’t have them. They can’t have my rings. I tell them that very thing. I tell the man in the white coat and the woman beside him that they can’t have it. They can’t have my purse.
“I don’t want your purse. You can keep your purse,” he leans in to me. This stranger in the white coat in this white, white room. His eyes seem kind and gentle. “Do you know why you are here?” the stranger with the kind face and white coat asks. I laugh. Of course- this was the question.
“Certainly,” I wave my bandaged hand in front of him. The room brightened. The white got even whiter. He was the doctor who had bandaged my hand. “Oh yes…of course! You want to know about this. It’s silly, really. You see I was preparing for a party. More of a brunch really. It isn’t polite for family to give showers. So I am having a brunch. The ladies from the guild are coming over. It’s a brunch for the baby. A baby shower without gifts. Family can’t throw showers—it’s not polite.
“I wouldn’t normally invite them considering the circumstances but… “I throw my palms in the air and shrug my shoulders. “It’s really not polite to talk about the circumstances. Not proper to discuss it here with this stranger. “But I decided to have a brunch instead. Chicken Olivia is so nice to serve for a brunch. I was working on the gelatin salad when I burnt my hand. I added the gelatin to the boiling water just like you are supposed to. Then, I was pouring the gelatin into the casserole dish. That’s when it happened. This injury. I was pouring gelatin into the casserole dish. Gelatin for the strawberry salad. Strawberry salad looks so pretty on the plate. The gelatin is red and the layer of cream in the center. It’s lovely.” My voice trails off. I shake my head. I was supposed to be telling him something. This gentleman in front of me seems to be waiting on something. I glance down and see my purse in my lap with my hands clothed around it. One hand is bandaged heavily. Underneath the bandages it burns. “Oh yes,” I laugh pleased that I have remembered what he was waiting for. “You want to know about this injury. So silly really. I was making my strawberry salad for a brunch I am having. I was pouring the hot water into the casserole dish when I burnt my hand.” There. I sit back and clutch my purse. I’ve answered his question.
But he has another. How did I burn my hand? Didn’t I just tell him that? Goodness.
“I just told you. I was making strawberry salad for a brunch I am throwing when I burnt my hand. I always serve Chicken Olivia and strawberry salad for brunch. Everyone loves it,” I am a little irritated. This white is hurting my eyes and his stranger with his white coat and stethoscope around his neck is asking me silly questions when I have so much to do. Thank goodness the chicken casserole is made. It’s so much better when it sits overnight. It’s time I get back to it. I clap my hands to indicate I am ready to go. I mustn’t be rude but there is so much to do. Where is my purse? I mustn’t forget my purse. My keys are there. I have to have my keys. I need the keys to get into the house. My keys are in my purse. Where is my purse? I look around for my purse and there it is right there in my lap. Silly me. Of course it’s in my lap. I hadn’t forgotten my purse. I remember going back inside for my purse before coming here to see about my hand. How silly of me to have poured the gelatin all over the counter, all over my hand. I can’t believe I forgot to put the casserole dish out. What a thing to forget. How could I forget to put the casserole dish on the counter before pouring the gelatin. How could I have forgotten?
The white distracts me from my thoughts. What have I forgotten? Oh yes, I have to make the chicken Olivia. And the strawberry salad needs to be made. Did I thaw out the strawberries? Last time I didn’t and the gelatin salad was ruined. Surely I didn’t forget this time. I am sure I didn’t forget. The gelatin is made and now I only have to pour the strawberries so it can set. It needs to set overnight or the layers don’t chill right. It will be so pretty on the plate.
“Did I tell you I was having a party? A brunch really. This is just a brunch for the ladies of the guild who understand about the circumstances,” I gesture to let him know that I can’t say any more about that. “I am making my chicken Olivia. Everyone loves it. And gelatin, strawberry gelatin salad. So pretty on the plate. There is so much to do. I must go.” Where is my purse. Ahh….there it is. I’ve had it the whole time. Thank goodness I haven’t forgotten my purse. “Thank you for having me. It’s been lovely. I hate to rush but I’ve got to run. I’ve got so much to do.” I stand. “Thank you so much for having me.” The stranger stands. What a nice young man to stand when a lady is leaving the room.
“I won’t keep you much longer. Just one more question,” he says, taking my hand. His hands are warm in this room. Gracious this room. It’s so white and cold. The stranger pats my hand. I really need to go. I need my keys to go. Where are my keys? I know I’ll need those. I’ll need my keys to go. Oh yes, they are in my purse. I’ve got my purse. I really must go. “What is your name?” he asks.
“My name is…” I can’t finish the sentence. “My name is…” I stop. I am cold in this white, white room with these strangers. “My name is…Goodness,” I repeat. “I’ve forgotten. I’ve forgotten my name.”