Blackness swirled and threatened, then the curtain was slid aside as a man stepped into the cubicle in the emergency room I was in at the hospital.
"I'm Doctor Horton Miss Lee," he said, "let's have a look at you." His middle-aged face was kind and his voice soothing as he took a chair by my side. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"I don't know," I said twisting a kleenex.
"Did you wake up feeling like this, this morning?" He asked.
"I don't know," I repeated. "But I have a room key and it has Regency Hotel on it."
"You are in Dallas, Texas. Can you tell me what year this is?"
I could only stare at him in silence and when I could not tell him who our president was, he said, "I'll need to do some tests, so I want you to stay with us for a day or two." He smiled kindly. "Try not to worry, we'll find out what's wrong, Miss Lee." And a nurse came in with a wheelchair.
The ride through the long halls in the hospital was a blur and finally she wheeled me into a room and smiled.
"Now I'll help you get undressed and into bed. I want you to rest and Doctor Horton will be back to see you soon." She hung up my red silk dress and lined my black pumps in the closet. Then tied the strings on a gown and tucked me into bed.
The lights of downtown Dallas had come on spreading a soft glow over the stark room. Dinner carts rattled on the tile floor leaving a trail of tuna and noodles and coffee. I laid back on the hard pillow and again the panic came over me. I felt as if I was being strangled and I struggled for a breath. And then the doctor's familiar face came into view. He put a hand on my shoulder.
"Take a deep breath, Miss Lee, its going to be okay. I'm going to give you a shot to help you get some rest."
And I felt the needle prick my arm and then the warm blanket of the drug as it crept through my body dragging my tired eyelids down. I greatfully slid into the comfort of sleep and the clanking busy noise of the place receded into nothing.
The next day was a maze of tests and humming machines and I began to relax after another night of sound sleep.
Later, Doctor Horton came into my room and took a seat. "Miss Lee," he said, "Your tests came back negative. Now I discussed your case with my colleagues and we've all agreed you have what's called hysterical amnesia."
I looked at him helplessly. "What's that?" I whisered.
"It's caused by stress. Stress and possibly from some painful event. You see, sometimes when our minds get too full of unpleasantness, we shut down. We can't accept any more, Miss Lee," he went on, "but most of the time it's a temporary thing."
I could only stare at him again in silence.