Even the drive to the cabin hadn’t aroused much curiosity out of Blair, or conversation for that matter. By the time they were halfway there Jim found himself missing the voluble old Blair who never seemed to shut up when they made this trip. There were times when Jim had snapped at him to be quiet for a while so he could concentrate on driving in those days. Now he’d give just about anything to have a reason to tell Blair to shut up. They stopped at a diner along the way and Jim saw the waitress raise an eyebrow as Blair waited to eat till Jim told him to. Jim wasn’t sure what to do about that. He’d actually wondered if he could maybe simply order Blair to eat whenever there was food in front of him without waiting for Jim to tell him to but that presented its own problem. What if Blair then felt he had to eat everything on his plate regardless of whether he liked or wanted it. Jim sighed and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as they pulled away from the diner and got back on the road. He was trying to be patient but even after this short time of getting Blair back and despite the breakthroughs they’d had there were times when he couldn’t stop the doubts from creeping in.
Jim turned on the radio when they got back in the car. He needed some noise to fill the empty silence. Blair sat staring stolidly out of the window, not registering any interest when what Jim knew to be one of his favorite songs came on. Jim decided to take advantage while he could though. After all, the whole point of this trip was to stimulate Blair’s memory, bring it back online so to speak, much the way Blair had explained about Jim’s senses coming back online all those years ago when they’d first met. “You really liked this song, do you remember, Chief? Used to drive me nuts playing it over and over when it first hit the charts.”
Blair turned his head to look at him and he smiled a little. Was that recognition Jim saw or just Blair playing along agreeably the way Olsen had programmed him to? “I can never remember the singer’s name though,” Jim mused aloud, hoping against hope. He’d read somewhere once that music memory is actually stronger than other memory, which is why Alzheimers patients will often still know the words to their favorite old songs even when they can’t remember their own name or their family.
Blair tilted his head to the side, listening then said, “Ricky Martin, Living La Vida Loca.”
“Yeah, that’s it. Living the crazy life, huh?” Jim kept his response matter of fact and calm as if this was just another conversation on yet another trip to Simon’s cabin. “That was definitely you and me back then, Sandburg.”
Blair nodded and Jim allowed a miniscule hope to rise to the surface. Maybe those memories weren’t buried so deep after all.
Within another half hour they were pulling up in front of the cabin. Jim climbed out and stood for a moment, just inhaling the crisp, clean air. In the distance he could hear the lake burbling over the rocks and behind the cabin, green hills stretched up till it looked like they touched the billowy white clouds in the azure blue sky. By the time he’d walked around to open the door and tell Blair he could get out of the truck, Jim had felt relaxation beginning to seep into his bones for the first time since he’d gotten that call from Simon about Blair. He went around to the back of the truck and unloaded their bags, handing Blair’s over to him to carry. He was glad to see that over the few days since he’d had Blair back with him, his friend’s body was beginning to fill out again, thanks to the regular nutritious meals Jim was making him eat. He was still thin but he no longer looked as if a stiff wind would blow him away. Jim shouldered his pack and picked up his suitcase and led the way to the front door of the cabin. “Looks like we’re in for some nice weather while we’re here,” he said as he unlocked the door then stood back to let Blair precede him through. “Welcome to our home away from home, Chief.”
He got Blair busy with unpacking his things in one of the bedrooms while he went out to the truck and got the cooler he’d filled with meat and drinks. There was a big bag of vegetables and fruit as well as some snack type things like chips and peanuts and muesli bars, oatmeal cookies, which had always been Blair’s favorite in the years Jim had known him. Jim intended to stick with the routine that was aimed at getting Blair back to his old self, both physically and mentally. He could add regular exercise too now. Some hikes along the forest trails and even some fishing. Jim dumped the boxes and bags of food in the cabin then went back for the last load of stuff. In this box was, among some of Blair’s university notebooks and photographs, Blair’s dissertation, the thing that had caused Blair to storm out of Jim’s life two years before, the thing that had destroyed their friendship, and now the thing he hoped would restore Blair’s memories completely. He grabbed up Blair’s old fishing spear and took that inside as well. He hoped that seeing it might rekindle some memories of Blair’s previous visits here to the cabin.
Blair was in the kitchen when Jim got back. He’d already started putting away the food and Jim walked over and patted him on the back. “Good job,” he said, cheering inwardly that Blair had actually used his own initiative for once. Then again, he’d done that the first morning after Jim had brought him home too, getting up and going out to wash their dinner dishes so Jim warned himself that it might just be that he was used to doing such chores around Olsen’s home without being asked to. But Blair smiled shyly at the praise and kept on with what he was doing as Jim turned on the fridge and made sure all the lights in the cabin were working. He put Blair’s bag into one of the bedrooms on the bed there then put his own stuff away in the other room. The box with Blair’s diss he left on the couch in the living room with the fishing spear resting on top. Blair looked at the spear curiously but quickly went back to his self-appointed duties when he saw Jim watching him. That was okay, Jim thought. They were here for a week at least. There was time.
They ate an early dinner and then watched a little TV on the old set Simon kept here. Jim missed the old loquacious Blair even more right now. The air was heavy with silence at times and Jim struggled to fill it. Blair answered when Jim asked him questions, though Jim was careful to steer clear of any questions about Olsen and Blair’s time with him… for now. He kept it general, talking about music Blair used to like, since that had sparked a positive response during the car trip, and TV shows they used to watch together. Blair actually laughed out loud when Jim mentioned Bonanza and Jim couldn’t help but push him a little more.
“Do you remember that case we worked, Chief? The one where I had to pretend I was from Texas? You taught me how to speak with a Texan accent.” Jim watched Blair closely for any sign he remembered.
Blair shook his head and Jim’s heart sank then just as suddenly Blair nodded.
“What do you remember?” Jim prodded. It was like pulling teeth getting information out of this version of Blair.
“You got your lilt or your twang,” Blair parroted in such an uncanny copy of that particular phrase he’d used that day that Jim’s eyes actually teared up at just hearing Blair’s “old” voice again.
“Yeah,” he replied, swiping hurriedly at his eyes as Blair looked at him with concern in his eyes. “I’m fine,” Jim said quickly in case Blair thought he done something wrong. “I have allergies…” he obfuscated.
Blair’s eyes widened and there was a moment of such total recognition on his face that Jim suddenly understood where the saying ‘a lightbulb went on’ had come from.
Jim leaned forward and reached out a hand, resting it lightly on Blair’s knee. “What did you remember?” he asked. “Please, Blair, you can tell me.”
Blair stood up suddenly and turned as if to run for the cabin door and Jim leapt to his feet, waylaying him with a hand on his shoulder, turning Blair to face him. “Tell me,” Jim demanded more forcefully.
“It’s all mixed up,” Blair whispered. “Your senses? You were angry at me.” He put a hand to his forehead as if trying to bring the memories forth more clearly. “I don’t know what it means,” he went on. “I’m sorry, Jim.”
“it’s okay, Chief. You were close there, real close. Let’s get some rest. We can talk more tomorrow.” Jim wanted nothing more than to push harder but he’d promised that this time he’d put Blair first. He ushered Blair over to his bedroom and patted him on the shoulder. “It’s okay, buddy. We’ll work it out. Get some sleep, okay?”
Blair nodded agreeably and Jim went back out to his own room after checking all the doors and windows were locked. He didn’t fall asleep for a long time though and when he did his dreams were full of the night Blair had left.