By Kala Séraphin
He stood naked in front of the mirror, his gaze avoiding his body. He did not want to dwell on the ravages that time did to him. He knew that his muscle tone was weak and that his gut carried years of debauchery. His pale skin looked sickly even though he felt OK. Yet, OK was the norm for him. There wasn’t a day he recalled where he woke up full of energy and ready to accomplish Herculean tasks. It was always an OK day, feet dragging, lazy smiles and many cat naps.
“Mr. Janus, are you ready?” The nurse’s voice was shy and uncertain. She didn’t want to bother the client before such a life changing procedure.
Javier Janus was a simple man who worked tirelessly six days a week organizing parties for young and elite clients who were jaded by everyday life. He spent days pleasing their outlandish requests to have memorable parties. Some wanted absurd amounts of alcohol served in gold cups, others asked for circus freaks to make up the serving staff. Once, a young man celebrating the completion of his PHD thesis, asked for a human sacrifice. For the right price, Javier could fulfill any wish.
After years of catering to the rich and eccentrics, Javier Janus woke up feeling worn out and unmotivated. After searching around for a solution that could fit his personality, he found an underground hospital without a name but with a slogan: Where every day is a new day. Despite his aversion to such forced optimism, Javier made an appointment thanks to a referral from one of his clients.
Stepping out of the preparation room, Janus looked at the nurse with a stern expression and nodded, holding tightly to the small towel around his waist.
The halls were white and sterile, devoid of life. The sound of the nurse’s heels resonated loudly, creating a hypnotizing rhythm. Javier followed behind, his eyes on her behind and enjoying how the muscles flexed with each step.
She led Javier to a large room with a domed ceiling. The walls and ground were covered with gold tiles. In the center was a pool filled with a green jelly-like liquid. Electric wires bordered the pool, making a low humming sound. He looked around, trying to keep the fear from showing on his face. He nonchalantly took a few steps towards the pool.
“So, I just need to stay in the pool and everything will be fixed?” He asked.
The nurse staid back, her hands neatly tucked behind her back. She had a smirk on her perfect red lips as she replied:
“Yes sir. We will come get you when sufficient time in the pool has passed.”
Javier dipped his left foot in the pool and was surprised by how warm it felt. He then sat down on the edge, soaking his legs. He enjoyed the viscous feeling as he wiggled his toes. His gaze fixed on the green liquid as images of the ocean came up. He wondered if there was ever a time he visited the ocean.
When he heard the door close after the nurse left, Javier breathed a sigh of relief and discarded the towel. He then jumped into the pool and immersed himself completely. As he floated and let his body relax, soothing music started to play. Javier closed his eyes, letting his mind go blank.
“What would you do if every day was a new day Mr. Janus? What else could you accomplish if you didn’t have your past dictate your future?” The soft woman’s voice blended with the music, giving a pleasurable feeling in Javier’s mind.
Suddenly little electric shocks could be felt. They attacked Javier’s body randomly like a phantom predator trying to exhaust him. They weren’t painful shocks and he knew to expect them. He simply tried to keep his body relaxed as the doctor had explained.
Time slowly passed in that manner and it didn’t take long for Javier to doze off, floating in the green liquid. Visions of his day danced around, only to fade away in the darkness. He saw himself having lunch with his girlfriend, arguing; but he couldn’t remember what the argument was about. Then, he was in a limousine with a client, discussing details of an upcoming party. Again, he could not recall the details and the image simply faded away as well. This continued until there were no more images and only darkness.
He woke up in a hospital bed, feeling dizzy and confused. Sitting up, he was faced with his tired reflection and a message written on the mirror.
Your name is Javier Janus.
Who else can you be for the rest of your life?
Stumbling out of bed, he found his clothes and dressed slowly. He was feeling like he had just spent a night partying. With that thought, came the realization that he wasn’t certain what such a night would involve.
He found his car easily as it was the only one in the parking lot. There was a note on the door with an address. Unquestioning, Javier proceeded to drive to the address. It took him to a tall office building, looking sinister with its tinted windows.
“Who would work in such a place?” He wondered out loud.
Looking down at the note, Javier noticed it also mentioned the twentieth floor, main office.
“Shit,” was all he muttered before heading up.
There was no one else in the office. He walked around, hesitantly. There was a kind of waiting room with seats and magazines. The desk where the secretary would be was clear of clutter, every pen and pencil neatly aligned. Javier then walked into the office and was overwhelmed by the luxury that greeted him.
Still hesitating, he slowly walked to the desk. The carpet amazed him as he thought how impractical it was. The cost of cleaning would be outstanding.
He slowly sat down at his desk and noticed another envelop. Inside was a simple white paper that said:
You are the organizer of a party company.
You cater to extravagant clients.
Your secretary’s name is Eileen.
At the bottom was written:
Where every day is a new day.
Janus sat back in the chair, wondering about his day to come. An hour later, a mousy looking blond woman walked into the office. She let out a small cry when she saw him sitting quietly in the dim office.
“Mr. Janus! You’re here early!” She stumbled with her words, looking left and right nervously.
“Yes, Eileen. I thought I’d get an early start.” He smoothly replied, carefully placing his hands on the table.
The secretary gave him a strange look.
“Is something the matter?” He asked.
Eileen shook her head, biting her lips. She was obviously nervous about speaking her mind.
“It’s just that…well, Mr. Janus…you look different.” She explained in a weak voice.
“How so?” He innocently asked.
“You’re not scowling.” Her dead pan answer gave Javier pause. He looked at his reflection in the computer screen. His soft features were kind and inquisitive. There was no anger or bitterness etched anywhere. He tried a few faces then turned to the young lady.
“Is this better?” He asked.
She bobbed her head, backing out of the office.
Javier Janus shrugged it off and went on with his day. He called his clients, making appointments and mapping out details for upcoming events. When he kindly asked his secretary to bring him some juice, she brought it with shaking hands. It came as a surprise to Eileen that, when she spilled some juice on her boss, he did not fly in a rage.
Half way through a meeting with a client, the woman stopped, her arms crossed on her chest.
“What’s wrong with you? You use to tell me what I want for my parties and made this so easy! Now you’re asking for my opinion. What is this?” She asked.
Javier had no response. If that was how she felt comfortable with him, he needed to oblige. He proceeded to change the set menu for something he believed was more appealing. It was strange but Javier felt he had to accommodate his client.
At the end of the day, the party organizer was exhausted. His head throbbed from adjusting himself for all the different people he encountered.
A beautiful brunette walked into his office. She wore a small dress that barely covered her assets. In her arms she held a ball of fur that looked like a gremlin. With bright red lips, she smiled and sat on his desk.
“Hey baby, ready to go? I’m terribly hungry and need a martini real bad.” She declared, planting a kiss on Javier’s forehead.
“I’m sorry…who are you again?” He asked, feeling confused. He didn’t recall any notes about such a woman.
Her eyes went from adorable and flirty to angry and confused. She made a pout with her ruby red lips.
“Is this some kind of sick joke? We’ve been in a relationship for the past two years!” Her voice became sharp and high pitched.
Javier simply sat, looking at her. He did find her attractive on a superficial level. However, he didn’t feel any pull towards her that would make him want to even talk to her. He had trouble imagining being in a relationship for two years.
She looked into his eyes and snorted.
“You’re…straight? I mean, you haven’t taken anything, have you?” Her questions were weakly masked statements of the obvious.
“Well, no! Of course not!” Javier felt insulted by such insinuations.
“It’s that place you’ve been going to! Every time you come out different! I hate it! I hate you!” She hissed. Then, to prove her point she spit in his face and stormed out.
Five minutes went by before Eileen popped her head in the office and asked:
“Shall I send Trixie the usual apology flowers?”
“No, that won’t be necessary,” he mumbled as he cleaned the spittle dripping on his cheek.
Javier sat in his office all night, looking at the note informing him of his job. The sentence: Where every day is a new day! mocked him. What was the point of embracing every day as a new day if the people around treated you the same as before? Javier felt that they were forcing him to stay the same. What would it take, he wondered, to truly have the change he desired?
With nowhere else to turn to, Javier drove back to the establishment where his day started. There was only one car parked, only one light seen from the outside. It could have been that the building was deserted for the night, except for one workaholic.
However, he knew better. It was another customer getting the treatment.
Javier entered the building with confidence. He walked past the security guard and straight for the elevator. He knew to go to the top floor where his existential angst might be solved.
“Mr. Janus! What brings you back to us so soon? Is everything alright?” The nurse with the red lips smiled but her eyes were worried.
“No, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I need to talk to the doctor.” He declared.
The nurse calmly led Javier to another room. It was a big room that felt familiar though he couldn’t remember ever being here. At the back of the room, sitting at a mahogany desk, was a woman in a white lab coat. Her dark blond hair was cut short, to keep from being a nuisance. She wore no makeup. Her features were simple and plain. When she looked up and saw Javier, she smiled a professional smile.
“Mr. Janus, what brings you to us at such a late hour?” She had a deep voice that spoke of years of smoking and education.
He sat down, looking around. Now that he was in front of the doctor, he didn’t know where to start.
“You have a problem with this new start you were given?” She asked, carefully placing her pen back in its designated place.
“The gaps in my memory are bad. I couldn’t remember my girlfriend.” He declared.
“What did you expect Mr. Janus? You’ve been getting the treatment too often. We warned you of the possible side effects. In your own words, you said you did ‘give a flying fuck’s ass’.” Countered the doctor.
“What are you talking about? Last night was the first time I came.” Javier cried, feeling uncomfortable.
The doctor, still smiling, reached back to where she kept her clients’ files and placed his on the desk. She showed him multiple entries, all with different dates.
“In the last year, you’ve come a total of seven times. We’ve erased your short term memory and habits, true, but in the process your long term memory has suffered. We don’t know what long term effects there will be. Not to mention that when you came to us, your body was heavily damaged by all the drugs and alcohol abuse.” She coolly explained.
Javier was baffled. He couldn’t remember any of the other times at the clinic. In front of him were pictures and signed documents. He wondered how badly his mind was damaged.
“Last year, when you first came to us, you were a wasted person. You said you were sick of living. We gave you a new start. Our procedure erased all those preconceived notions that pushed you to constantly make the same choices. Yet you kept coming back. What is it that you are missing Mr. Janus?” She asked with earnest eyes. This was a woman who always accomplished her goals.
He licked his lips, looking over all the pictures and reports. In his handwriting were tales of debauchery that made him sick and tired of life. It continued with his need for a new start to find a new meaning to his life.
He was given more than one chance and yet found himself at the same place. What elements were preventing him from moving onto a better, more fulfilling life?
“It’s the people around me. They react to me as if I was the same person. When I don’t react the same, it causes trouble and I have to go back to my old self to make it better.” Javier complained, sitting back on the chair.
“So you give in to their reality? Does that sound like the proper way to start a new life? Mr. Janus, what more do you want from us?” The doctor opened her hands, looking bewildered.
“Write notes to the people in my life. Explain to them the procedure.” Javier instantly replied.
The doctor sighed, slowly shaking her head. She couldn’t understand how to explain to her patient that once the procedure was done, it was all about his own choice. The first few times she told him and yet he kept returning, with different excuses every time.
“Mr. Janus, your personality is very…how shall I put this? You are addicted to being addicted. When you were a child, it was sweets. Then, sex and alcohol took over your world. When that became predictable, you moved on to drugs. Now, it’s erasing yourself. Do you realize that these cycles are all your choice?” The doctor asked, pointing to the papers on the table.
Javier tore everything up, throwing the pieces in the air. There was a violent desperation to his action that scared the doctor.
“I don’t give a flying fuck’s ass! Just fix this! I give you a lot of money for this so you better damn well give me what I want!” He yelled.
“And what is it that you want?” She slowly asked.
“I want a blank slate. To have a real fresh start.”
The doctor smiled and called in the nurse with the red lips.
“Miss Sorell, please prepare Mr. Janus.” She asked with a calm and commanding voice.
The nurse looked surprised. She opened her mouth as if to say something yet thought better of it. She led the way for the patient.
Javier went through the routine of undressing and going to the pool all on his own. Walking naked down the hall, he listened to the nurse walking behind him and wondered if she was staring at his behind.
Jumping in the pool, Javier thought of the ocean. His world soon went dark.
The cry of gulls woke him from his slumber. He opened his eyes and saw sand and the shore, washing up and licking his toes. He sat up, feeling nauseous and weak. All there was around him was sand and water. There wasn’t a sign of civilization to be seen.
“Where am I?” He mumbled to himself.
Looking down at his hands, he felt a strange sensation of familiarity. The problem was that he was missing many words to make sense of his story and identity.
“Who am I?”
Our identity is our choice.
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