Brutus approached for a second time and sat down beside Goetz, and Goetz patted the dog on the head, but said nothing, his mind wandering, what few memories he had drifting past him like specters. The dog licked his hand and whined; perhaps hoping Goetz would shed some light on the mysteries of life, or perhaps just wanting Goetz to scratch his back.
A woman approached the two old friends and smiled at Goetz. Wearing tight fitting workout clothes, blue and black, pink sneakers and a pink cap, she looked like many of the other women who had come to the park this day, dogs in tow.
“I see you’ve found a new friend, Cleo,” said the woman to Brutus.
Goetz wanted to correct the woman, but could see she was absolutely convinced the dog’s name was Cleo, a stupid name for a dog of this type, whatever that type was.
The woman looked at Goetz, who was dressed in worn out, tope corduroys and an un-tucked, white button down shirt with a variety of food related stains. Goetz looked right back at her, wondering if he should say something or if she would prefer to talk to Brutus.
“Do you have a dog?” she said to Goetz.
“Yes. His name is Brutus,” said Goetz.
“Oh, where is he?”
The woman laughed, a laugh that struck Goetz as beautiful as beautiful could be. She gave Goetz a second look, wondering if he was homeless, which was one hundred percent true in Goetz’s mind. Instead of saying anything about homelessness, she said, “Do you need money or food or anything?”
Goetz thought about this. Did he need anything? If he did, what did he need? He circled around that thought for a few seconds and then said, “I don’t think so. Well, that’s not entirely true. I need many things, but ask for nothing.”
“What’s your name?” she said.
“Do you have a first name?”
“Just Goetz. What’s yours?”
“Samantha. Samantha Stone.” She held out her hand, a polite enough thing to do for polite people, so Goetz shook her hand and quickly let go, finding the contact unnerving. “Where do you live?” She hoped he would say he lived in the nearby shelter.
“I live here.”
“In the park?”
“What about in the winter?”
“I don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll move south and find a warmer park.”
Samantha, ever inquisitive, said, “So, you just became homeless?”
“I don’t know,” said Goetz.
“You don’t remember?”
“I remember many things, but nothing about my current situation, including how I came to be here, where here actually is and why I am here. The rest of it is bits and pieces and somewhat unpleasant, if you must know.”
“Why don’t you let me get you something to eat? Maybe that will help you remember,” she said.
“Maybe I don’t want to remember.”
“I’m sure there are many things you want to remember. Come on. There is a pizza parlor right across the street. You do like pizza don’t you?”
“As much as I like anything else, I suppose.”
Samantha gave Goetz an expectant look and motioned for him to rise and follow her, which he did somewhat reluctantly. He left the backpack behind, figuring its owner would soon return to recover it.
“So, you don’t remember coming to the park?” she said.
“What do you remember?”
“I remember my father.”
“Oh. You know, I could take you to a doctor and have you checked out. You can’t go around without your memories.”
“Maybe I lost them for a reason.”
“Maybe because they aren’t good memories.”
“You have to have some good memories.”
“Maybe, but I don’t know what they are.”
“What about your childhood?”
“Those memories aren’t good. At least, the ones I have aren’t good.”
“Are you messing with me?” she said.
“Absolutely not. I never mess with anyone.” Goetz was sure that was true.
Samantha pointed to the slice of pizza sitting in front of Goetz. “You going to eat that or should I?”
Goetz picked up the slice of pizza and took a small bite, returning the remainder to the greasy paper plate it had been resting on. He wondered how many calories this slice had within the crust, the sauce and greasy cheese and wondered how long it would take to digest it and to expel whatever part of it his body rejected.
“You don’t talk much,” said Samantha.
Goetz did not answer, having nothing to say about his silence.
“Do you at least know what you do for a living?” she said.
“I am a physicist. I know that, but what I have done as a physicist is completely beyond my grasp. I don’t even know if I am a good physicist.”
“Are you a professor?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you have any friends?”
“Only the bee, the butterfly, and Brutus, if you could call them friends.”
Goetz took another bite of pizza, wondering how many more bites he would have to take before he could toss it into the garbage.
“You know, you don’t really seem all that homeless to me, Goetz. I mean, I did find you sitting on a bench in the park, but that doesn’t mean you’re homeless. Maybe you’ve just forgotten where you live. Do you have a wallet?”
“I don’t know,” said Goetz, searching his pockets and finding a billfold tucked away. He opened it and looked inside, finding a library card, a social security card, a movie ticket, and a guitar pick. “Nothing worth mentioning, except a library card from some library in Tucson.”
“Well, that’s a clue, now isn’t it?”
“All it really says is that I’ve been in Tucson at one point or another.”
“Yes, but that library would have your address, would it not?”
“Perhaps, but I have no other form of identification, so I doubt they would give me that address, now would they?”
“Maybe. But if we told them you lost your memories, they might,” said Samantha.
Goetz realized this strange woman was in some small way entering into his life, and that she would probably continue to enter into it further if he did not do something to stop her.
“You know, I think I’m going to go back to the park now,” said Goetz.
“But, you haven’t finished eating.”
“Yes, well, I guess I’m not that hungry right now. However, I do appreciate your gesture.” Goetz rose and looked at Samantha, noting the look of disappointment on her face. He wondered if she felt like she had to unravel the mystery that surrounded him in order to avoid unraveling whatever mystery surrounded her, an all too likely possibility. Perhaps she felt lonely. Perhaps her husband had abandoned her or her children had died of unknown causes. There were other possibilities, of course, but Goetz didn’t have the time or patience to consider them all. He took a step toward the door and then another step.
“At least let me give you some money,” said Samantha behind him.
Goetz turned to her and said, “That is totally unnecessary, but I appreciate your concern. I’ll see you around perhaps.” With that, he exited the pizza parlor, gave Brutus, now tied to a post outside, a loving pat, and returned to the park, to the same bench he had been sitting on before Samantha entered his life for the first of what he assumed would be many times.
Back on his bench, Goetz contemplated the meaning of life, or at least of a life he little remembered. He wondered how it could be that he would find himself sitting alone on a park bench, completely unaware of anything other than his parents, a bee, a butterfly and a dog he called Brutus…and now Samantha, a strange breed of troubled woman that appeared to have no small amount of interest in his well being, a rather uncomfortable fact for reasons that escaped Goetz.
Goetz scanned the horizon for signs of the bee or the butterfly, thinking it would be best for everyone involved if he turned his attention to the smaller things in life, like breathing and blinking, and counting without thinking. He counted to thirty-seven, an appropriate number, and then counted back, his gaze shifting left and right for signs of his insect friends.
Brutus appeared by his side, a sure sign that Samantha would soon follow, and Goetz sighed, brushed his hair to the side and waited, wondering how many seconds would pass before he would hear Samantha’s soft voice. He counted out twenty-nine seconds.
“You know, you should stay with me,” said Samantha, coming around from behind. “At least stay with me until you figure out what is going on with your memory.”
“I don’t think that is the best solution to this problem,” said Goetz.
“You have a life. I would be intruding and you would come to resent me, I’m sure.”
“Nonsense. Look, I live alone and there is plenty of room for you and it will only be until you figure out what is going on in that head of yours.”
“I believe there is a reason, a good reason, for my amnesia, and I further believe that had I all my memories, I would refuse your offer. My gut, what little of it there is, tells me I should just stay in the park for the duration of my senility and figure things out on my own.”
“What if you’re wrong?”
“Then I’m wrong. Anyway, I like the fresh air and the bee and the butterfly. I am in good company and hardly see why I should move in with you in order to figure things out. Truly, I appreciate the gesture, but it is completely unnecessary.”
“Have it your way, Goetz, but I am going to be here every day to make sure you are okay.”
“I would expect nothing less of you, dear woman.” Goetz gave Brutus a pat on the head and the dog turned and licked his hand.
“He’s not like that with everyone, you know,” said Samantha.
“Why on earth not?”
“He doesn’t like men.”
“Well, he seems to like me, so I guess you’re not entirely correct about that.”
“You know what I think?”
“Please tell me.”
“I think you’re running away from something.”
“Whatever would give you that impression?”
“Just a hunch. I think you’ve tricked yourself into forgetting things so you don’t have to face something.”
“Well, I’m facing quite enough as it stands. My memories of my father alone are enough to drive anyone mad.”
“What was he like?”
“A complex number, indefinable, inaccessible, indifferent to his surroundings. I loved him in the most irrational way possible and got nothing in return, but there you have the essence of love, don’t you?”
“Did he abuse you?”
“He neglected my mother and me, or so I think. It could all just be a trick of the mind, you know. I could have manufactured these memories when I lost my real memories, or I could have misperceived things due to some mental impairment. Anything is possible.”
“Do you miss him?”
“I’ve missed him for twenty-five years, but he is dead now, killed by his much younger second wife in Brazil.”
“Why did she kill him?”
“His indifference to her, I suppose. But then, how would I know? The man was a mystery to me and to my mother as well.”
“Where is your mother?”
“Do you have brothers or sisters?”
“I am, I think, an only child. At least, I have no recollection of any brothers or sisters, though I do remember having cousins, long gone from my life.”
“Aunts or uncles?”
“Well, I have to have at least one aunt and uncle, don’t I if I have cousins?”
“But do you know who they are?”
“Are you married?”
Goetz looked at his bare ring finger and said, “Unlikely,” but he knew that was false. He could see the mark that a recently worn wedding band had left on his finger.
“Do you remember having girlfriends or anything like that?”
“You know, I remember a girl. I think her name was Rachael. That is all I remember.”
“Please let me take you to a doctor, Goetz.”
“I’d rather be stranded for all eternity in the chaos of confusion than go to a doctor to be poked and prodded.”
“Tell you what. Come with me to my place and we can call the library in Tucson and see about finding your address. You don’t have to stay the night.”
“I see you are going to give me no peace until I accept your offer, so your offer I will accept. But I stand firm when I say I will not stay the night at your home. Clear?”
The librarian had been able to give Samantha Goetz’s address. He lived or had lived on East Don Jose Drive, in the northern end of Tucson. Further, the librarian informed Samantha Goetz had checked out a total of thirty-seven books between April first, two thousand eleven and May thirteenth, two thousand fifteen.
“So, there you have it. I was in Tucson less than a month ago,” said Goetz. “Perhaps we should get back to the park.”
“Don’t you think we should look up property records?” said Samantha.
“For what purpose?”
“Well, maybe you own the house in Tucson.”
“Maybe I’m the Prince of Persia as well as a home owner. Even if I do have own the house in Tucson, I left that house for a reason and I came here for a reason, so what is the purpose in determining whether or not I own that house?”
“What if you lived with someone there?”
Goetz, feeling somewhat annoyed and set upon, grunted and said, “Fine. Have a look,” really wanting to say something along the lines of “Who the hell cares?”
Samantha opened a browser on her computer and searched for property records, finding a home owned by Goetz, a home that had the address listed in the library’s records. She showed Goetz the record, noting that it must be a nice house if it cost over a million dollars, to which Goetz said, “I was probably in debt up to my eyeballs and wanted to escape that debt.”
Not to be deterred, Samantha ran a number of searches for Nathanial Goetz through Google and finally came up with something she thought interesting.
“I think you’re an astrophysicist, Goetz. It says here you were a professor at The University of Arizona and that you worked at the Steward Observatory up until two thousand fourteen. Maybe we should contact the university and see what they can tell us.”
“I hardly think that’s necessary. They probably fired me for gross incompetence. Why don’t we go back to the park?”
“Why are you so hell bent on not remembering?”
“Just a hunch, really. You know, sometimes it’s best to leave the past behind and start fresh. Anyway, don’t you think it is the least bit suspicious that a thirty-seven year old professor would make enough money to buy a million dollar home? What if I was peddling drugs or engaged in some other sort of nefarious activities? Why would I want to remember that? At least now I can plausibly deny any wrongdoing. Further, revealing myself to the university and possibly the authorities might be a terminally stupid idea.”
“Well, I could call and inquire without saying I’ve seen you.”
Goetz knew he would not win this debate so said simply, “Do as you will.”
Samantha found the number for the physics department at The University of Arizona and dialed the number. She spoke with someone for well over a half hour before hanging up.
“Well?” said Goetz.
“They say you disappeared. They don’t think you had any family although they weren’t sure about that. The woman said you kept to yourself for the most part and that you were considered one of the best researchers in the department. She admitted she had a crush on you.”
“Wonderful. So, we have learned almost nothing and I will say this, any further investigation is going to yield almost nothing. I am now convinced that I have set out to lose the past and to make the past lose me.”
“We could search for marriage and divorce records, you know.”
“I swear you are the most persistent person I’ve ever met. What is the point of all of this? What is so important about me figuring out who I am? I have no desire to do that or much of anything else for that matter. I’d be perfectly happy sitting on my bench in the park, communing with the trees, the butterflies and the bees…and Brutus as well, if you must know.”
“I just think it’s sad that you don’t know.”
“How can it be sad if I’m perfectly happy?”
“But, you’re not happy. I can tell.”
Goetz paused before speaking because he wasn’t sure how to respond, because he realized that perhaps he was not as happy as he would like to think, because perhaps life had gone to shit and all hope had been lost. He cleared his throat and said, “There might be something to what you are saying, but I do not think I am prepared to find out exactly who I am, why I am not happy, where I belong, or anything else that relates to my current state. You have been generous and kind, but I think it would be best if I returned to the park.”
Goetz slept on the bench in the park that night, cold and miserable, miserable because he would have preferred to sleep in a house occupied by the woman that had shown such interest in him. He would have preferred to not be alone, and to wake up in the morning, starting the day with a warm breakfast and maybe some tea. But, he slept in the park instead, waking up with a sore back and a police officer standing beside him.
“Look, there is a shelter down the street and they can take another person right now. Anyway, you can’t sleep in the park,” said the young officer.
“Duly noted,” said Goetz, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
“Do you have any identification?”
“I have a library card, but it’s from Tucson.”
“None that I know of.”
“Are you okay?”
“I thought I was before, but I’m not so sure now.”
“Go to the shelter today and take a shower. They’ll take care of you.”
“Of course they will,” said Goetz, thinking how nice it would be to be taken care of, but not by the employees of a homeless shelter. The desires of normals, as Goetz referred to most people, flooded through him and he found himself stranded in a sea of regret, but what he regretted he did not know.
“Stay out of trouble,” said the officer, now walking back to his cruiser in the parking lot beside Goetz’s bench. Goetz realized he would have to find other accommodations, but wasn’t sure where to go. A map might help. Perhaps there would be a bigger park nearby where he could rest without being disturbed. However, leaving this park behind would mean leaving Samantha behind, and he was not yet prepared to do that. Perhaps he could find a place in the bushes in this park where he could rest at night, thus eliminating the need to walk long distances between two parks. Goetz looked around the park and found just what he was looking for, a group of bushes with a small patch of bare ground underneath. Rather than investigating further, he stayed on the bench and counted to thirty-seven, then counted back down from that. Following that, he recited the first hundred decimal places of pi and explored the Golden Ratio for thirty-seven minutes, thirty-seven seconds. An investigation of Planck’s constant followed and then an exploration of e.
Some time around ten AM Brutus appeared along with Samantha. Samantha sat beside Goetz, and for a while said nothing. Goetz responded in kind, his mind traveling through space and time to distant galaxies, floating through great clouds of dust into realms where stars were born. He witnessed supernovae exploding and black holes devouring doomed celestial objects.
“Did you sleep well?” said Samantha.
“Oh, it was wonderful, as my back can attest. You?”
“I was up all night thinking about you.”
“Why bother? I’m perfectly fine.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Well, we’ve already discussed this and I think it is best if we just leave things be. Anyway, I’m perfectly capable of dealing with this situation, whatever it might be.”
Samantha switched gears, perhaps trying to buy time or to draw Goetz in. “You know, Goetz, if you took a shower and shaved, you’d be a pretty attractive guy.”
This stumped Goetz. He had no memories of anyone ever remarking on his appearance, for good or ill. He scratched his beard and wondered what he looked like, having no memory of that at all. He thought it might be interesting to clean up a little and see what he might in a mirror. However, that would likely require a trip to Samantha’s home to clean up. Even then, he would be wearing the same clothes, now relatively filthy. He imagined Samantha would soon offer to take him to purchase new clothes as well as the razor and other necessities and suddenly felt a pang of guilt for drawing this fine woman into his life. Perhaps if he had represented himself differently none of this would have happened. But, then, perhaps, he represented himself the way he did purposefully, an interesting and unpleasant thought.
“You should come back to my place and shower at least. You look pretty ragged right now. I could wash your clothes you know.”
“What would I wear while you wash them?” said Goetz, thinking things were going in the entirely wrong direction.
“My ex left a bunch of clothes behind. You’re about his size.”
“Come on. After that I’ll make you lunch.”
“I fail to understand why you care so much about my well being. I’m just a man, and probably a bad man at that. No good can come of this, I assure you.”
“I can tell you’re a good man, Goetz. I have good intuition. So, will you come with me?”
“I think you’ve left me little choice in the matter, don’t you?”
Samantha laughed, “You have a funny way of expressing yourself, Goetz. I like it.”
“Well, it’s the only way I know how to express myself. Anyway, I’ll tag along. I’m sure this is all just some strange experiment, a pet project or something like that.”
“You know, you should be less cynical. Sometimes people really just want to help, no strings attached.”
Perhaps she was right. Charity for the sake of charity seemed noble and pure. Who was he to refuse such an offer? Of course, the moment she made any serious demands of him, he would cut the cord clean in two, the cord that now held them together as one, as distressing a thought as being alone.
After spending an hour in the bathroom, Goetz emerged, presented himself to Samantha, and seeing the look on her face he experienced something he had no memory of experiencing before. In that moment, he looked at Samantha as if for the first time, suddenly understanding her form and her beauty, made all the more remarkable by the clear signs of attraction on her face. Goetz and Samantha stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity before Samantha broke the silence.
“Well, you clean up nicely, don’t you?”
“You know, I had no memory of what I looked like. I didn’t know who I was looking at in the mirror. How odd?”
“The clothes fit you.”
Goetz examined his new khakis and his pink button-down shirt, a color he would not have chosen for himself, but one that somehow fit his mood.
“You’re taller than Ralf though, so the pants are a bit short. We’ll have to go out and buy you some pants that fit.”
“Not necessary. These are perfect,” said Goetz, meaning every word, unable to comprehend why the pants needed to be any longer than they were.
“Goetz, are you Jewish?”
“Oh. Do you eat ham? I made you a ham sandwich.”
“Of course I eat ham,” said Goetz. Of course, Goetz didn’t eat ham, but he wasn’t about to admit it. He didn’t eat ham because of the taste, not because of any sort of religious observance.
Samantha brought Goetz into the kitchen, where he sat at the counter on a high stool. She had prepared a ham sandwich and had filled one bowl with sliced pickles, which Goetz truly liked, and another with chips of some sort, which weren’t the least bit appealing to Goetz.
Not wanting to be rude, Goetz ate the food, finding the taste of ham somewhat less than unpleasant, perhaps because that ham had been served by a rather pleasant and striking woman whom Goetz found himself overwhelmingly attracted to, hoping beyond all hope that she might find him attractive too. The world of things wholly unremarkable and uninteresting, utterly pointless and meaningless had somehow created someone that could hold Goetz’s interest, perhaps for all eternity. He chided himself for assuming he had any hope of creating a union with this creature, but accepted the fact that he could not avoid desire. It was best to just enjoy the moment and maybe count to thirty-seven once or twice.
“Goetz, I did a little research while you were in the shower,” said Samantha.
“Really. Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“Stop. Look, you were married. You got a divorce in May. Her name was Rachael Weisz. You were married May thirteenth, two thousand ten. I don’t think you have any children. You divorced her on May thirteenth, two thousand fifteen. I think we should find her.”
“She could help you remember, Goetz.”
“I’m sure she wants nothing to do with me, and anyway, I have a very strong feeling that I don’t want to remember anything.”
“So, what are you going to do? Are you going to live in parks the rest of your life, talking to butterflies and bees?”
“I’ll talk to you and Brutus as well. I don’t want to remember anything. I don’t want to remember my family or friends or colleagues. Nothing.”
“I swear you are the most stubborn man I’ve ever met, Nathanial Goetz, and I’m not going to sit here and let you waste the rest of your life, homeless and alone. You might not know it, but you have things you want to remember. You had a life, and from what I can tell a good life. You might have some bad memories, but that doesn’t mean they are all bad. In fact, the odds that all of your memories are bad are remarkably low. So, I’m going to keep digging.”
“Well, do me a favor and don’t tell me what you find.”
“Fine, but I know you are going to ask eventually. I know you’ll come around.”
Goetz looked around the kitchen and saw a napkin on the far counter. He considered asking Samantha for the napkin, but decided it would be best to just get it himself. He raised his hand from the counter, and with a thought, brought the napkin to his hand, wiped his mouth and placed the napkin in front of him on the counter.
Samantha’s jaw dropped.
“What?” said Goetz.
“How did you do that?”
“How did you make that napkin appear in your hand?”
“You know, I’m not entirely sure. But, I know it wanted to be in my hand.”
Samantha looked around the kitchen, spotted a salt shaker and said, “Why don’t you do the same thing with the salt shaker over there?”
Goetz held out his hand. The salt shaker appeared in his hand.
“How did you do that?”
“I don’t know. Can’t you do that?”
“Uh, no. What else can you do?”
“How should I know? I’ve lost all my memories.”
“It’s a magic trick, isn’t it?” she said.
“It didn’t feel all that magical. Anyway, the salt shaker wanted to be in my hand as well.”
“What about that towel?” said Samantha, pointing to a towel ten feet from Goetz.
The towel appeared in Goetz’s hand.
“Who are you?” said Samantha.
“If I knew that I’d know a lot of things, but I don’t know much of anything, now do I?”
“Goetz, you have to get your memories back. You can’t ignore this. Please let me call Rachael.”
Goetz sighed, resigned to the fact that Samantha would never give up, and said, “Do as you will.”
“But, first, can you get me the TV remote from the family room?” said Samantha, smiling.
“Happy to see I can be a source of amusement for you,” said Goetz. The remote appeared in his hand.
“And a million dollars from a bank?” she said.
“That would be stealing, and I am not a thief.”
“Just checking, but it would be nice to have a million dollars, wouldn’t it?”
“It would be glorious, but it is totally unnecessary.”
Samantha retrieved her computer and placed it on the counter, then ran searches for Rachael.
“I think she lives in Tucson,” said Samantha. “I think I’ve found her. Should I call?”
“You’re going to do what you want anyway, so why not?”
“What should I tell her?”
“Tell her I’m dead.”
Samantha picked up the phone and dialed the number. Goetz wondered what would come of this, expecting the worst, praying that he wouldn’t learn anything disturbing about himself.
“Yes, hello,” said Samantha. “Is this Rachael Weisz?” Samantha paused. “Were you married to Nathanial Goetz?” “I see. I’m trying to find out some things about him. My name is Sam, by the way. I knew Goetz.” “Really?” “Really?” “Oh, I see. Well, he died yesterday.” “I am not lying.” “How is that possible?” “Oh, really.” “Yes, he’s here with me.” “I see.” “That’s amazing.” “Are you sure about that? Twenty-eight days?” “Oh.” “He what?” “How is that possible?” “I understand.” “Of course.” “It might have already happened.” “I know.” “I don’t think I understand that.” “No.” “No. Well, I came close, but it didn’t happen.” “Thank you, Rachael. Goodbye.” Samantha put down the phone.
“Well?” said Goetz.
“She wants me to tell you she hopes you are okay. She said she’ll mail you your things if you want them.”
“Well, you don’t want me to tell you anything, so yes, that’s it.”
Goetz stayed silent for a while, debating things, wondering if he wanted to know anything. Clearly, this Rachael didn’t hold anything against him, which was promising. But, did he really want to know what she said?
“Tell you what. Just tell me one thing you learned from her.”
Samantha paused, then said, “You can’t die.”
“Can’t as in I’m not capable of dying?”
“Oh. Well, she must be high or something. No wonder I divorced her. Can’t be married to a drug addict. Can’t die. Craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Can I tell you one other thing, Goetz?”
“In that case, absolutely not.”
“Rachael mentioned something about money. She says you have a bank account.”
“I told you not to tell me anything.”
“Well, you need money, Goetz, and you happen to have a lot of money.”
“Thirty-seven million dollars.”
“Well, I don’t need it. You know, we should return to the park.”
“My mother used to call me that.”
“Well, it’s your name. I like it much better than Goetz.”
“Call me whatever you like. I’m still just Goetz. Now, are we going to the park? I think Brutus would appreciate it. I know I would.”
Samantha, Goetz and Brutus returned to the park and Samantha and Goetz sat on his bench, minds wandering each for different reasons. Samantha tried to comprehend what Rachael told her, almost refusing to believe it. Goetz counted to thirty-seven thirty-seven times then calculated the square root of pi.
“Please let me tell you what she said,” said Samantha, breaking the silence.
“Absolutely not. I don’t want to know. I already know too much and I don’t like what I know. Do you think I want to reflect on a marriage that went sour.”
“It didn’t go sour, Nate.”
“Well, do you think I want to reflect on a marriage that ended in divorce?”
“You were happy.”
“I don’t want to know that.”
“But, you were.”
“Well, I couldn’t have been that happy if I divorced my wife.”
“You did it for a good reason.”
“She probably cheated on me with a younger man. In fact, I’m sure of it.”
“I’ll tell you why if you want.”
“No. Let’s just forget about it. I wonder where the bee is? Maybe it will sting me this time and this will all be over.”
“I know this is completely unreasonable and insane, but I’m in love with you. Rachael told me this would happen and it did.”
Goetz softened at hearing his, feeling something stirring within, and considered the chemical interactions that were driving this woman to claim she loved someone as…what was it…someone as pointless as him. A wave of regret passed over him and he took Samantha’s hand in his and squeezed it, thinking it would probably be best if he accepted her into his life, thinking things happened for reasons that would never make sense and that this utterly senseless moment would soon pass and he would find himself alone and content on the park bench, the memory of this beautiful woman lingering in his mind for all eternity.
“Did you love her?” said Samantha.
“I’m sure I did.”
“Move in with me.”
“I want to help you.”
“What if I told you I don’t love you?”
“But you do. I’ve seen it on your face and felt it when you took my hand. Am I right?”
“You’ve known me twenty-seven hours, three minutes and thirty-seven seconds. And anyway, I have less than twenty-eight days to live.”
“I know. Rachael told me you’re leaving.”
“Yes, well, don’t you think falling in love with someone who is going to leave will only lead to misery? Why not cut the cord right now and get on with your life?”
“Because I want to be with you until the end, until you take your last breath and move on.”
“How romantic. You know, I’m not really that interesting or desirable. You’ll probably be bored out of your mind.”
“You’re anything but boring, Nate.”
“You know, I’ve thought about it. I’d prefer you call me Goetz.”
“Of course, Nate.”
“Such a difficult woman. Is that why your ex left you?”
“No. I left him. We never really connected. Not like this anyway.”
“And what sort of connection do you think we have?”
“Hard to define, but I know we have it.”
“And did Rachael and I had it?”
“Yes. You’ve had it with all the women you’ve been with.”
“How many is that?”
“Rachael said four. I guess I’m the fifth.”
“Nice prime number. I love prime numbers.”
“So, will you move in with me?”
“What choice do I have? I mean, I could disappear entirely if I wanted to, but I don’t want to hurt you. So, I guess you have your answer.”
Samantha grabbed Goetz’s head and kissed him. He saw tears coming down her cheeks and wondered what it would be like to cry, whether in pain or in joy, to be overwhelmed by the uncertainty of love.
“Where is Brutus?” said Goetz.
“Oh, he’s fine. He likes to wander.”
Goetz got up and looked around the park, sensing something was wrong. He raised his hand and brought Brutus back, finding a dead dog in front of him.
“Oh my God,” cried Samantha.
“God has nothing to do with it, I assure you,” said Goetz, kneeling down. He placed a hand on Brutus, thinking he might be able to do something to bring the poor creature back from a death it clearly had not been prepared to die.
Goetz felt energy in Brutus’ lifeless body. Patterns emerged in Goetz’s mind, pieces to a puzzle, the puzzle of life. Brutus’ pieces, fragmented and scattered, drifted through his mind, chaotic and resistant to reassembling themselves. Goetz thought about piecing them back together and through force of will brought Brutus back. The lifeless dog stirred, stood and licked Samantha’s face, whining. Goetz sat on the bench, suddenly exhausted. Samantha comforted Brutus, crying uncontrollably. Goetz placed his hand on Samantha’s shoulder, thinking this would be a good time to cry, so he let the tears fall and in that moment, found a part of himself that had been hidden, a piece that fit neatly with the few others that had been brought together, perhaps a part of his soul.
“You need to know who you are,” said Samantha, sitting beside Goetz on her family room couch, Brutus sitting on Goetz’s lap.
“I think we both know I’m some sort of aberration.”
“You’re not. You’re something beautiful and pure, Goetz.”
“Strong words, but highly unlikely. I am just someone who can, apparently, bring creatures back to life. Perhaps that is unique, but I hardly see how that makes me beautiful and pure, as you put it.”
“So, you’re not going to let me tell you?”
“I’ll figure it out on my own I think, and when I do, I’ll tell you. Anyway, I seriously doubt you or Rachael or anyone else really knows who or what I am.”
“You told Rachael.”
“Well, I probably lied. I’m sure I do that from time to time. Anyway, let’s not dwell on it.”
“I want to tell you something else,” said Samantha.
“No. I don’t want to know anything else.”
“Not that, dummy.”
“I want to make love with you.”
“Well, I don’t know if I know how to do that.”
“I’ll show you how.”
“What if I have a venereal disease of some sort? Who knows what kind of mischief I’ve been up to? How do you know I don’t have a proclivity for cheap hookers and dirty syringes? I mean, I could have done any number of risky things.”
“Right, Nate. Are you going to go to the bedroom with me or not?”
“I guess so, but if you get a disease, it’s not my fault.”
Goetz lay beside Samantha, holding her hand, enjoying the aftermath of a journey that must have put so many long forgotten others to shame. He had done this before, hadn’t he? He must have.
Numbers floated through Goetz’s mind, finally resting on seven hundred, thirty-seven. Goetz speculated this was the number of times he had sex in his life, a surprising number, but not a prime number. Goetz figured he should make love to Samantha two more times to bring that number up to seven hundred, thirty-nine, a wonderful prime number. Of course, he would want to go even higher than that, given that the experience had been so completely satisfying, so counted through the numbers looking for a more appropriate prime to land on, settling on seven hundred, fifty-one, but even that might have been too low. He imagined he would want to do this wonderful thing at least once a day for the next twenty-seven days, so settled on seven hundred, sixty-nine, thinking that would be an excellent stopping point for any horizontal activities. Of course, that meant he would have to make love with Samantha twice on five days. Thinking this was an excellent opportunity to ensure that he reached his target number, Goetz said, “Do you want to give it another go?”
Goetz and Samantha returned to the park to allow Brutus a chance to run around, although Brutus chose to sit beside Goetz rather than run around doing dog-like things. Finally, Goetz got up and ran into the park in an attempt to get the dog to have a little fun, figuring no dog really wanted to just sit beside some strange man when there were plenty of adventures to be had nearby.
They played in the park for an hour and then walked down the street to a nearby restaurant where Goetz, Samantha and Brutus sat outside, enjoying the sunny day and the sounds of people talking at nearby tables.
“So, you don’t like pizza,” said Samantha.
“What do you like?”
“Funny. Do you like ham?”
“No,” said Goetz, taking a bite of his salad.
“You could have told me.”
“I didn’t want to appear ungrateful.”
“What else haven’t you told me?”
“Almost everything, I think. Of course, if I remember anything I’ll be sure to tell you. You are my fiancé after all.”
Samantha smiled uncertainly. “Is that your idea of a proposal?”
“I suppose it is. Would you marry me?”
“You know, you’ll probably just divorce me like all your other wives.”
“I thought I was only married once.”
“Maybe you were, maybe you weren’t. You’ll never know because you told me not to tell you anything.”
“You’ve already told me enough.”
“So, when should we get married?”
“Really? How can we do that if you don’t have any identification?”
“Good point. We should get me some identification and then get married.”
“So, the minute you get identification we’re going to get married?”
“I don’t see why we should waste any time planning a big wedding. I mean, I don’t have any friends to invite and you don’t seem to require such an affair, or do you?”
“No, I don’t. You know, I’ve never been married.”
“Were you a virgin before we…”
“Funny. Anyway, I’m not going to tell you.”
“We’ll need to get you a proper ring, of course. I guess that means I’ll need my money, or at least some of it.”
“Yes, well, about that. I called Rachael while you were sleeping. She is overnighting your drivers license, your credit cards and your check book as well as some note she said you might want to read.”
“You’re a really busy lady, aren’t you? Busy, busy, busy. I suppose you also had Rachael describe our relationship in great detail.”
“I’m not going to tell you.”
“Well, it’s much better that way, isn’t it?”
“You are such a character, Nate. You make my head spin.”
“Well, hopefully not a full three hundred sixty degrees.”
“More like seven hundred, twenty degrees.”
“Physically impossible unless you’re a Bladrithian.”
“Rachael said you play guitar. She said you collected guitars. Offered to have them shipped to you, but thought you would refuse.”
“Well, maybe I’ll pick one up somewhere and do my best to play for you. Can I sing?”
“Wonderful. Maybe I’ll sing you a dirge.”
“She also said you can alter time.”
“I don’t know. That’s all she said.”
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were lying to me,” said Goetz.
“Why would I lie?”
“To trick me into loving you.”
“But you already love me.”
“A technicality, I assure you. I suppose the next thing you are going to tell me is that I can fly like Peter Pan.”
“I could tell you that if I wasn’t supposed to tell you, so I won’t tell you that.”
“A perfect lie.”
“Why don’t you try to fly like Peter Pan?”
“What? You want me to startle all these fine people with what would undoubtedly been seen as an act of witchcraft? I think not. If I’m going to fly it will be in the comfort of your home.”
“Whatever. Are you going to eat those fries?”
After flying for a few minutes, thus proving himself wrong, Goetz said, “So what can’t I do?”
“You can’t die.”
“But, I’m going to die.”
“No, you’re not. You’re just going to leave.”
“Leave for where?”
“You don’t want me to tell you.”
“Fine. But, I’ll bet I can’t teleport places at will.”
Samantha started humming a strange tune, a tune Goetz didn’t recognize.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you try?”
Goetz appeared in Times Square, surrounded by thousands of people, and then returned home. “You know, if this is some practical joke. I mean, if you are God or something and are having a little fun with me, I think you should look elsewhere for entertainment.”
“I’m not God.”
“Then what are you?”
“A woman. Would you like me to prove that to you?” said Samantha, unbuttoning her blouse.
“Well, if you put it that way. Here or in the bedroom?”
“Fine, but I know you are playing with me.”
“Only a little.”
“So, can I read people’s minds?” said Goetz, trying to adjust to a new state of confusion.
“I don’t know. Can you?”
“Let me guess, marshmallows.”
“Exactly. Now, do you believe me??
“I think you’re an evil spirit sent to turn me into a schizophrenic.”
“Maybe you were already a schizophrenic before I met you.”
“Maybe. What else can I do?”
“You can make me feel pleasure.”
“Yes, we’ve seen that. But, I guarantee you I will also make you feel pain before it’s all over.”
“And you don’t mind that?”
“Who are you?”
“That’s a boy’s name.”
“It’s better than Goetz.”
“I like my name.”
“Sure you do, Nate.”
“You know, I don’t think I pleased you enough last time. Do you want to give it another go?”
Rachael’s package arrived the next morning. Samantha unpacked the small box and placed everything on the coffee table in front of Goetz, a driver’s license, some credit cards, a checkbook, and a sealed envelope with “Geotz” written on it in block letters.
“Are you going to open it?” said Samantha.
“No. Let’s go get your ring.”
“Aren’t you even a little curious?”
“Yes, but I’m not going to open it. If you want to read it, feel free, but don’t tell me what it says.”
Goetz looked at Samantha, doubt on his face. He wanted to read the note, but knew doing so would unlock feelings he didn’t want. He counted up, reaching fifty-nine before Samantha spoke.
Goetz lurched forward and fell, slamming his head on the edge of the coffee table.
For Goetz, blacking out seemed no different than blinking, a momentary break from reality that was, perhaps, needed for all things to continue without any technical issues. For Samantha, it was a grim reminder that Goetz was moving beyond, as Rachael said he would.
“You okay, Nate?” said Samantha.
Goetz looked around, felt a small amount of pain on his forehead, and a slight amount of dizziness, and said, “What’s that? You’re telling me time is not constant and Planck space is an illusion? I have to say, I agree.”
“Are you okay?” said Samantha, taking Goetz’s hand in hers.
“Why did you bring me back? Wasn’t it the right time? Who are you?” said Goetz.
Samantha, remembering Rachael’s advice, kissed Goetz.
“Why am I on the floor?” said Goetz, wondering why he was on the floor and why anyone would try to tell him that time was moving at a constant rate, an absolutely absurd notion. He knew he had blacked out, and knew that when he blacked out, time had jumped forward, bringing him along with it, never to worry about the two or so minutes where he had been lying on the ground, perhaps breathing, perhaps not. Whatever ever discontinuity he experienced, all memory had been wiped clean, so that no time existed between the moment his head slammed against the edge of the coffee table and the moment his eyes opened.
“You blacked out,” said Samantha.
“You probably drugged me. Admit it. I’m onto you now, you know,” said Goetz.
Samantha laughed and helped Goetz get back on the couch.
“Did you take advantage of me?” said Goetz. “I mean, haven’t I given you enough pleasure? Do you really need more?”
“The name is Goetz.”
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t know. Am I?”
“You look okay.”
“Maybe we should make love to make sure I really am okay,” said Goetz.
“As you wish, my dearest,” said Samantha.
“So what did you give me? Secanol? Downers? Horse tranquilizers? You can tell me. I won’t turn you in to the authorities,” said Goetz.
“Rachael said you black out sometimes,” said Samantha.
“So, she was drugging me too. No wonder I divorced her.”
“No, Nate. Your body is starting to reject you.”
“What’s that? My body is doing this? What for? Who is controlling my body? I swear I’ll sue you if you are behind this.”
“Funny. Rachael said, your body is ultimately going to reject you and send you packing.”
“Why would it do that?”
“I don’t know. Anyway, you told Rachael it would happen.”
“So the two of you are chums now, are you? Are you planning to poison me and run away together? You could do that, you know. I mean, if that’s what you really want. I was getting sick of living anyway.”
“Rachael also said you get a little paranoid after you black out.”
“Well, you’d be paranoid too if you had two women plotting to kill you, take all your money and run away together,” said Goetz. “But, it’s okay, really. I understand. I’m sure Rachael is a wonderful woman. I really hope you two will be happy together. So, do you want to give me the cyanide now or later?”
“You have a funny way of making me love you, Nate, but it works. Anyway, nobody is trying to kill you. You’re going through a process. It will be over in twenty-six days.”
“I see. Well, what if I don’t want it to be over?”
“I think it is going to be over whether you want it to or not.”
“Oh. So, you and Rachael aren’t trying to kill me?”
“Okay. I guess we should go buy the ring and get married,” said Goetz.
“By the power vested me, I pronounce you man and wife,” said the man who Goetz thought might be an alien of some sort. Not wanting to cause a scene, Goetz said nothing about the man’s genes or lack thereof, his planet of origin, his blue eye and his yellow eye, and his peculiar pronunciation of the word “wife.”
“Are you going to kiss me?” said Samantha.
Goetz leaned over and kissed his bride, keeping an eye on the man who had pronounced them man and wife, the very same man who probably had travelled at well over a thousand light-years to reach Earth and preside over this small ceremony.
“So, we’re done here?” said Goetz, wondering if the man would ask to eat their brains, a reasonable enough request from an alien, or at least an alien of his type.
“You are now married,” said the man.
“Great,” said Goetz. “Let’s get out of here. I don’t think we’re safe.”
Samantha laughed and took Goetz’s hand in hers.
The exited the building and got into Samantha’s car.
“Where should we go?” said Samantha?
“How about Antigua?” said Goetz.
“Sure, why not. I’ll pay.”
“Do you think we can get a flight or a place to stay?”
“I don’t know, but let’s go anyway. Fewer aliens there, I’m sure.”
They returned home and Samantha went online to look into getting to Antigua, finally finding something interesting.
“There is this place called Jumby Bay. It’s a small island off Antigua. Nice resort. They have rooms available,” said Samantha.
“What about the sheep?” said Goetz, referring to the herd of sheep Samantha said roamed the island.
“What about them?”
“Can we trust them?”
“I don’t see why not. They are sheep.”
“Don’t be too sure. The could be some sort of pan dimensional entities looking to steal us away to their plane of existence while we’re sleeping.”
“I doubt it. Are you being serious?”
“I think so. Anyway, it looks good. I think we should go. Do you want me to bring us there?”
“That’s fine, but let me make the reservation and then we can pack.”
“Sure. You know, I don’t have anything to pack.”
“Well, there’s a swimsuit in the closet that should fit and Ralf left some shorts and other things. I think there are some flip-flops too.”
“What would cause Ralf to leave without taking such important things? Were you aiming a gun at him?”
“I’ll never tell.”
“You can’t lie to me, you know. I’ll see right through it. Did you threaten him or maybe kill him?”
“No, he just never came back to get the rest of his stuff and then he died in a car accident, thus eliminating any need he might have for his stuff.”
“Well put, but I’ll bet anything you cut his brake lines.”
Samantha made the reservation for a week starting that night, using her credit card.
“I’ll pay for it when we check out, of course. I know you’re thinking I won’t, but I will. I’m no weasel,” said Goetz.
“Let’s pack,” said Samantha, smiling to herself, wondering if Goetz would make a landing any time soon. He had become somewhat agitated since blacking out, a little high strung and out there, at least compared to his general out there self.
The most common way to get to Jumby Bay Island was by ferry. Of course, one could swim to the small island if so inclined, but nobody ever did. That said, when Goetz, Samantha and two suitcases appeared on the beach, about a hundred yards from the resort’s main building, a couple of people who had happened to be looking at that particular spot on the beach, wondered if they were hallucinating. Further, when Olivia Banks, the guest relations manager, spotted Goetz and Samantha, she wondered how the hell the two had gotten onto the island. So, she did what any normal person would do. She asked.
“We teleported,” said Goetz. “You should try it. Much more comfortable than airplanes, cars and boats, I assure you.”
Olivia didn’t press; figuring the strange man in front of her would not give a better answer. She checked Goetz and Samantha in and had their luggage brought to their villa. After giving the two a tour of the island, she brought them to one of the restaurants on the island, as per their request.
“I think she was going to feed us to the sheep,” said Goetz.
“Why do you think that?”
“Did you see the look in her eyes? Feral. We’re going to have to keep an eye on her. She could be capable of anything.”
“Nate, you need to relax. She isn’t going to feed us to the sheep.”
“You sure about that?”
“Positive. She’s just going to tell the sheep where they can find us and they are going to take care of the rest.”
“See! Maybe we should go to Bermuda. No sheep there, I think.”
“I’m kidding, Nate.”
“Oh, of course. Okay, I’ll stop thinking about the sheep for now, but don’t think for an instant I’m going to let them get close to us.”
“What do you want to eat?” said Samantha.
“The lamb looks good. Maybe a nice glass of wine and some bread to go with it. If the sheep see that they will know I mean business.”
Samantha laughed, leaned over and kissed Goetz.
“You know, you are a beautiful woman,” said Goetz. “Don’t know what you see in me. I’m a liability, an imposter. No good can come of this.”
“Nate, I want to have your child.”
“I’m not sure I can get you pregnant,” said Goetz, his expression serious, the manic look on his face a distant memory. “Why would you want my child?”
“To remind me of you when you are gone.”
“So, I am leaving. I guess I knew that. You know, I don’t want to leave anymore, so maybe I can change that.”
Samantha knew he couldn’t change it, or believed Rachael was right about him not being able to change it. “Well, I don’t want you to leave either, but if you do I would like to have a child with you. You know, a little Goetz.”
“Let’s hope this little Goetz isn’t all twisted around like I am. Anyway, we can get to work getting you pregnant after lunch. Would you like to do it on the beach or in the villa?”
“Why don’t we do it in front of the sheep?”“Don’t taunt me, woman! You have no idea how dangerous those beasts might be.”