Jaime’s car accident nearly killed him. His coma lasted eight weeks. When he regained consciousness, he couldn’t recognize me and Inez. Prosopagnosia – face blindness – was the diagnosis. The doctors wouldn’t give us any answers about whether or not he’d get better. They just said we’d have to wait and see. Jaime could remember who we were; he knew he had a wife named Carla and a daughter named Inez, but whenever we walked into the room, he saw two strangers.
Over time, he started to recover. The recovery wasn’t total. Not even close. He’d jump with shock and surprise if Inez came into the room too quickly and didn’t leave him enough time to remember it was her. Last month, when Jaime and I were in the shower, I washed his hair and shoulders and back, but when he turned around, he yelped and tried to get away. He slipped and almost cracked his head on the faucet.
The therapist suggested Jaime carry and study a photograph of Inez and me as frequently as possible. The goal was for his damaged brain to hopefully remap the features he’d lost the ability to retain. After a couple months, we saw some major improvements. Still far from perfect, but much, much better. The frightened, jumpy person he became after the accident slowly started to resemble the strong, protective man I’d married.
Last night, I was jolted awake by the sound of Jaime shrieking. He wasn’t in bed. The sound came from down the hall. From Inez’s room. I jumped out of bed and ran to see what was wrong. Jaime met me halfway. His hands were covered in blood.
“It’s wearing her face!,” he screamed. He gripped my shoulders and studied my features with his wide, terrified eyes. “It stole her face!”
I struggled out of his grasp as Jaime sunk to the floor and called after me. “Find Inez!,” he choked out. “Please.” He sobbed as I turned the corner into our Inez’s room.
Gaping holes that once housed eyes oozed blood down pale cheeks. Those same eyes were now forced deep into the skull by the panicked violence of my husband. As I screamed with incomprehensible horror, Jaime came up behind me and bellowed, “get away from it!” “Find Inez!”
Jaime tore through Inez’s closet with the picture of Inez and me in his hand, frantically scanning everything inside for the girl who matched the appearance of his daughter in the photograph. My breath caught in my throat. In the picture Jaime studied to memorize the faces of his family, I was sitting behind Inez and brushing her long, black hair.
“What are you doing?,” he screamed at me. “Help me find her!”
Sobbing, I collapsed on the bed and cradled the cooling body on the blood-soaked Steven Universe sheets. After Jaime had gone to sleep, I’d finally given in to Inez’s nagging. Instead of the luxurious, flowing hair in the picture, Inez went to bed with her new, short, pixie-style haircut.