Anxiety wracked John Doe’s mind. He had to do something. Left with no memory of who he was or where he came from, he had no idea what it was, but the urgency compelled him.
He turned off the machines and pulled the IV out of his arm, pressing a paper towel on his vein as he looked for his clothing. He scrounged a pair of sweatpants and a tattered shirt that said, ‘The Voices in my Head Need a Vacation.’
He made his way off the floor and out of the building before anyone noticed, barefoot into the city.
He knew his way around, and they’d told him the car hit him on the corner of Read and Jackson. Though he didn’t know his own name, this felt like home. What could be so important to him that it cut through the flesh of his brain and lived in the substance of his soul?
He followed the smells of asian, Mexican, and Greek foods from a line of food trucks, his stomach grumbling.
An image came to mind, an ascetic of simple wisdom, hirsute and wild, separated from his brethren and communing with higher spirits. Might he be the key?
Urgency did not abate. He had to find him. Had to find something.
“Excuse me.” John Doe chose a middle-aged Black woman, her pleasant demeanor and elegant clothing making her stand out among the tired, beaten look of so many.
“What is it, honey?”
“Is there a wiseman who lives around here?”
She laughed. “The only man with a brain around here is Dizzie at the news stand.”
He understood her intent, but in his soul he felt the meaning, ‘wisdom abandoned this place long ago.’ She offered him twenty dollars and told him about a thrift shop, but thanked her and refused. Maybe kindness will fill some of the void left by wisdom?
He asked a few more passersby and visited Dizzie, but no one knew the wiseman.
The accident. He was going back to the place of the accident, he remembered now. He took the shortest route to Read and Jackson, only a few blocks away.
On Read Street, rain sprinkled on his forehead, waking up the mineral smell of petrichor, but it didn’t last. When he arrived at the intersection, he looked frantically around for something lost, not knowing what it was. He crossed to all four corners, scanning the houses, the power lines, the streets and yards.
He heard a yelp, then barking. He turned to see a yellow labrador retriever sprinting toward him, dragging a leash.
“Sage!” Donnie—he remembered his name—crouched down and accepted the ecstatic dog, hugging and petting. It jumped and licked, covering Donnie’s face with kisses, reminding him who he was. “Good boy. You missed me, didn’t you?”
Finding himself gave Donnie relief and elation, but the urgency gushed up through his head.
“My sister!” Sophie, home alone with her newborn, her husband, Louis, overseas in the Marines.
Donnie walked Sage home. The door was unlocked. He went in, cleaned himself up, and dressed. A thirty minute drive in his Cavalier and he entered Sophie’s house after a short knock.
Sophie let out a cheer of relief and hugged him. “You’re just in time. I didn’t know if you’d make it. I couldn’t reach you, and I couldn’t find anyone else.”
Donnie let out an expressive breath. “I lost my phone. But there’s no way I was going to let you and Alex down.”
They loaded the baby into the back of the car and buckled themselves in. “St. Josephs, right?”
On their way to Alex’s baptism the urgency in his chest washed away.
With all the business of his life creeping back to him and all the difficulties of the day, taking his sister and nephew to this Sacrament seemed like so little, but somewhere in the the soul that was opened raw this day, he knew it was everything.