2 March 2014

The Foreign Accent That Came From Space - 2 of 4

While collecting data from headlines of English papers for my MA dissertation, I came across a curious article about a rather strange language fact.

The following short story is based on such strange fact.
Was I actually suffering from paranoia? After waking up in a infirmary ward, with no memory of how I’d been taken there, a complete stranger appeared affirming to be mother; and when my obvious Latin American accent evidenced that I couldn’t possibly have been raised by a native English speaker, the head nurse seemed determined to convince me I had foreign accent syndrome.

“Do you know this nurse?” I asked Sharon, trying not sound hysterically suspicious.

Sharon’s light smile turned into a light scowl. “Wha’, hun?”

If something dodgy was going on I’d better put Sharon on the spot quick, otherwise I could end up in some nutter’s slaughterhouse. So, I raised my voice to a tone of challenge. “The nurse… you know each other.”

Sharon held a sigh. “Oh luv. We’ve been through this…” She turned her head midsentence, and hastened toward the exit.

Discreet as she was, Sharon caused a few necks to turn. Before I even could feel any remorse, I was left to shun facing the looks which other ward patients threw at me.

I'd already rehearsed a non-discreet rant. Following my first meeting with Sharon, I demanded to one of the nurses that I had to talk to some civil authority. After that, a social worker had come to have with me.

"We fully understand your concern. We ask you just a couple of hours so that we can talk to yo... Ms Sharon and make sure she can provide us with evidence of your acquaintance and connection to her."

Roughly an hour later, the social worker was back. "...this was given to us by Sharon herself."

She gave me pictures showing that I bore a striking resemblance to Sharon's actual son. I just could not bring myself to understand what coincidental odds made Sharon's son go missing right at the time that they found me unconscious at Hyde Park. The social worker still told that I was enrolled as an undergraduate in the Bachelor of Computer Science from the University of Leeds. Indeed I already knew that. But the social worker seemed to deliberately neglect a small detail: I was an overseas exchange student. I had sound memory that I'd come originally from the National University of Trujillo, northwestern of Peru. She should've had a hint that there'd be something wrong with that information when my English presented no characteristic feature of the West Yorkshire dialect.

All things considered, when all coincidences showed that Sharon should be right in her judgement, I checked the mobile that was found with me. It did list my real parents' landline number in Trujillo. I didn't mention any of these facts to the social worker or Sharon to avoid bringing her more distress. Soon as I brought myself to calm down I'd definitely contact my actual parents overseas.

Half an hour after having raised my voice to Sharon and made her disappear, the same social worker returned again, bringing with her a few documents that evidenced Sharon's integrity as a person. But I wouldn't give up that easy.

"What about the student accommodation? I must live like most students from the University of Leeds." I asked, actually knowing exactly where I stayed - but having to deny that knowledge since I was still faking amnesia. "Could you check this out?"

"Actually, I did check this out with the Student Accommodation Office. It turns out you do live in a shared residence in Headingley." Her words brought me a sigh of relief. Finally something was making sense. "But we're in July, right in the middle of vacation period. And so the accommodation is closed till the beginning of the new academic session in September."

White Lodge, Student Accommodation in Headingley
My memory had betrayed me regarding that information. I was then left with no choice but to go with Sharon to what supposedly was our residence in Horsforth – a town six miles from the commercial centre of Leeds.

Sharon remained supportive and patiently introduced me to what seemed to be my room, my things, and my routine. As far as I could determine there were no immediate issues between us. Despite the fact that Sharon was a single parent, we seemed to form a quite functional family. Most days Sharon worked as the morning shift manager of the Whistlestop Cafe at the main station. During the first two mornings I tried to reach my real parents.

"Madre, es tú?" I used my native Spanish.

I was hung up a few times. In the third day attempt, someone finally answered. "Quién es esso?"

Who is it? I didn't recognise the voice at the other end. It was my turn to hang up. I'd always been a level-headed person and I wouldn't fall prey of desperation so easy. I'd find an answer.

An ocean apart from my real family and home, I took that as challenge to my ability to remain focused under all the madness that was going on around me. So, I initially focused on getting my head around that situation and trying to recall what had exactly brought me to the ward 38.


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