He did not whisper to us anymore, not when he needed a familiar shoulder to sleep on. It sometimes seemed like he couldn’t even find his way to our room if he had wanted to. He woke up crying out, lost in the rooms of the home that was supposed to be his own.
I ran to him, taking his trembling body in my arms and said, “Hush, my dear boy,” though he stood taller than me now. “Hush, my sweet Isaiah. You’re home. You’re home with your momma. You’re safe here. You’re safe now. You’re home.”
But I knew, in the back of my truthful subconscious, that this house was no more home to him than the junior high school he never attended. He had no memories of this place. No memories of what it was like to run in the sand at the beach as a child, what it was like to go to school or read a book or fall asleep in the arms of someone who loves you. He had so few memories of me that it broke my heart over and again every day. When, at the breakfast table, he would speak to his father in the way the old, comfortable friends speak, but then look at me—his mother—and for a short moment, there was a flash of question in his features. They would fleet away as quickly as they had come, as he remembered who I was—who he knew--I was, and yet it was something that needed a little reminder every morning, not something instinctual.
I smiled, like I always did when Baeou tried to explain things. After all this time, I still understood his meandering thoughts and cut-and-pasted together words, like scraps from magazines.
But his assurance that our son would ever return to the happy, loving child he had once been, did not ease my pain in the nights when Isaiah would cry out, lost, from the living room. His assurance that someday Isaiah would remember me as the one who raised him, not as the one who comforted his night terrors, did not dull the pang of hurt I felt when Isaiah ran from me at night because he thought I had come to kill him at last.
His assurance did not make me feel any less guilty when, at night when I could hear Isaiah breaking a lamp or hitting the wall from across the house, I wondered if maybe my boy would have been in less pain if he had just been killed when first he had been captured. If the ones responsible for the hollow, terror-filled boy that slept down the hall from me, had just been humane from the beginning…
But how could I think that? When every time I see his face, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for his return to me? When, on those very rare occasions, when my memory steals into his mind and in his half-sleeping state, he knows who I am…I mean really knows?
He screams again, and my husband sits up in the bed. “That was a different scream,” he says.
And though the comment sounds crazy, I realize that he is right, though I don’t know why.
“He was not afraid,” Baeou says with certainty, turning to face me. “Whatever dream it is he’s having, in that moment he was fighting for something.”
I listened again, though Isaiah had fallen silent.
“Fighting for his memories?” I said before thinking.
Baeou lied back down and rolled over. “I’d like to think so.”