The day was hot, sticky, and so we were as we ran down the street in an attempt to outflank the riot police. We were a small group, maybe only twenty, but we were moving fast, and in our nimbleness we could out maneuver them. I was close to the front, medkit strapped tight to my back, ready to be the healer for the violence that was sure to come. I, off to the side, marked up as a medic, was hopeful, confident that my uniform would deter the ire of the state enough that I could do my job.
The herd rounded a corner to see a smattering of cops attempting to block the street. There was a single knot in the middle and two solitary enforcers, one on each side. It wouldn’t be enough to stop us.
The first few antifascists broke through unscathed, and I shot for a gap between a cop and the main cluster. He squared up as if to tackle someone behind me. I was so foolish to think that he wouldn’t target the medic of everyone in the crowd; I was still in disbelief as he slammed me to the ground.
I was dazed, seeing stars. My visions was flashing and flickering.
I lost consciousness.
My ears were ringing as I came to. My body was sluggish, clumsy as I tried to get myself onto my hands and knees. I felt like a turtle, turned on his shell. My limbs were flapping, useless, not fully under my control as I tried to right myself.
I was on a different street than where I’d remembered being tackled, but who had moved me? I wasn’t restrained, and there were no cops immediately around me.
My arms instead of bare were covered by my thick winter jacket. My medic vest was pulled tight over it. Cold air bit at my face, and when my head lolled to the side, I could see the white sparkle of frost on the ground.
What the fuck happened?
I assumed I was dreaming. That was the only thing that could account for the sudden change in scenery like that. I closed my eyes and told myself “This is a dream, and I’m waking up” as I jolted myself upright expecting to snap awake in my bed.
My body couldn’t listen, and my head slammed back against the pavement.
I tried again, and once more after, yet I remained there on that dirty, glistening patch of street. I was still there on the ground, sore, aching, only partially responsive.
I’d never not been able to wake myself from a dream once I realized I was in one, so I concluded that this was in fact reality. I, in my dazed state, tried to deduce what happened.
My last memory was in the summer being slammed to the ground. The scene around me looked similar. To my side were two police vans and a few cops pinning a protester to the ground. My best guess was I got tackled again and the concussion had blanked out my memory since the previous concussion. But maybe it was more than that, maybe I had gotten enough brain damage during the last clash that I wasn’t able to form memories properly.
“Hey, are you ok?”
A voice to my side.
I rolled, flopped, on to my side to see Melissa, someone I’d lifeguarded with years ago. What was she doing here in Berlin? I was trying to pull up my memories, looking for some hint of how she got here. Had she traveled much in Europe before? Maybe she was on vacation and had messaged me? Surely she didn’t live here now, right?
She didn’t seem surprised to see me, so we must have been at the protest together. She looked like she had a medkit too, so maybe she was my wingman that day.
I couldn’t really talk, and my body was stumbly. I remembered this feeling from previous concussions when I’d been hit by a car and when I’d broken my neck. The detachment from reality, the almost drunk loss of cognition and motor control were familiar, which somehow was reassuring. I’d dealt with this before, and I could do it again.
Melissa pulled my arm over her shoulder again and pulled me to my feet. She carried me over to a near by park where it looked like there was some sort of barbecue and concert happening. She leaned me against the wall of a small building, and propped me up with my bag.
I still didn’t know where I was. There were German flags hung around the park, and I felt unsafe. Was this what we were protesting? Am I the enemy here? I wanted to leave, but I could barely function, and certainly not enough to leave.
Melissa checked my fingers and toes for sensitivity and mobility, working quietly. Watching her felt like a distant memory, maybe because I was used to being on the other side of the examination. Maybe it was because she was a distant memory, someone I hadn’t seen in a lifetime, somehow here in my home.
I turned to the side and vomited into the dirt. She looked sad, hurt by my suffering. She cleaned my face and kneeled by my side to hug me. It was so soft and tender, comforting and familiar. We’d been here before, and we’d done this before. I hugged her back.
“Melissa,” I said. “Are… are we dating?”
“What? Yes, of course we are.”
“I’m sorry. I just… I can’t remember.”
She sat back and looked at me.
“I can’t remember anything. The last thing I can think of was running during another protest and being tackled. Everything since then is blank.”
“Oh honey, no no. It’s ok. We’ll get you taken care of.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
I woke up laying in my bathtub, the shower running over me.
How long had I been here? Minutes? Hours? The water was still hot, so it couldn’t have been that long. I didn’t know how I got here, and all I could remember was Melissa and the two instances of being splayed out on the floor.
Again, there was nothing between but blackness.
Was the second incident early today? Had I fallen or maybe just sat down because I felt weak? Why did I feel so horrendous still? Was I permanently damaged from the violence of the state?
I pulled myself over the edge of the bathtub and crawled to my room.
My roommates opened the door to my room and turned on the light.
“Heartsucker? Are you ok?”
Something must have been very wrong. They never came into my room.
They sat on the edge of my bed as they checked in on me. They asked if I needed anything.
Was I dying? I couldn’t remember.
Was it the same night as the night I woke in the bathtub? Was it the same year even?
I didn’t know.
I woke up in my bed, my old bed, the bed from my childhood. I could hear voices downstairs talking, so I pulled myself up. My body worked fine. I couldn’t remember how I got there, and my last memories were all of agony and riots. The last incident must have been months ago, but I couldn’t tell.
I got up and opened my door, and two kittens and a puppy burst in. I didn’t remember my parents telling me they’d gotten new pets. It’d been years since they last had any critters living with them, so this was an odd turn. Hell, were they even still alive or was one of my uncles taking care of this house after their passing?
The puppy barked at me and the talking downstairs stopped.
“Hey, are you awake up there?”
“Yeah, yeah. Coming down.”
I walked down the hall and leaned over the banister to see my family and Melissa sitting by the fireplace. It was wholesome, comforting, a sight I’d seen a thousand times and also never before.
They smiled when they saw me, but over the joy was the haze of my lack of information. I still couldn’t remember anything. Nothing. Not how I got there, not why I was there.
More startling were the tattoos I had on my arms and legs. I didn’t remember them, not even the thought of the feeling that would have brought them into existence. They were healed, faded even. They were far too old and alien.
“Hey. What year is it?”
They looked surprised.
Three years. I had almost no memories for three years.
I slumped to the floor and cried, not just for how damaged I was but how useless I must have become. Instead of being an instrument of revolution, I had dropped out and become a burden on those around me. How many others had I taken out of the fight?
I woke in my bed in Berlin; the sounds of the S-Bahn had rumbled me awake. My body felt lethargic and heavy. I couldn’t fully pull myself to consciousness. My mind, like my body, was slow and hindered.
Rain pattered against the windows, and I could hear the splashes as cars drove through puddles.
The world wept for me, but why?
“What year is it? Was all of this a dream?”
I tried to jolt myself awake, again, not sure what to expect this time. I was sitting upright, but nothing changed. Maybe finally I’d broken through to reality.
The medication my doctor had given me had been fucking with my sleep, that much I remembered. I remembered having wretched dreams, and maybe all that I’d experienced was merely my imagination.
I hesitantly checked my phone.
Maybe it all was a dream. Maybe I was awake.
I wasn’t sure.
I’m still not.