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Giving Up is Hard to Do
Riley Bennett stared at the psychiatrist sitting in the soft armchair across from him. The man wore rectangular glasses with curved corners, and had a very high, obviously-receding hairline. His nose was long and had large nostrils, and the face of the psychiatrist bore a look of pity and skepticism all rolled into one.
“Well?” asked Riley hopefully. “What do the tests say?”
Riley was a nineteen-year-old kid with straw-colored hair that stuck out at odd angles and a pale, slightly sickly-looking face. The hoodie he was wearing was a stark black, but he wore typical blue jeans and white sneakers.
The psychiatrist sighed.
“Mr. Bennett, I really don’t know what you want me to say. As I told you at the outset, all of the psychiatric tests you insisted on taking are meant to evaluate mental wellness, not awaken any lost memories, especially ones that you lost as long ago as you did. Let’s see, the form you submitted said you had no memory prior to the age of…” The psychiatrist flipped through the sheets on his notepad. “Thirteen?”
Riley nodded grimly, which prompted a curt nod in return from the psychiatrist.
“Memories gone that long, either from amnesia or head trauma or otherwise…contrary to whatever the media and popular culture may say…you’re not going to, I don’t know, trip and hit your head and get them back. They’re gone, Mr. Bennett. They’re gone for good,” the psychiatrist explained solemnly.
Riley crossed one of his legs. “Sir…y’know, you’re the ninth one I’ve seen.”
“The ninth shrink- the ninth psychiatrist.”
“Oh. How, wait- may I ask how you could afford-?” Riley ignored this.
“They all told me exactly the same thing- the, no joke, some of them used the exact, word-for-word explanations and apologies as you’re using. And I always hoped that they were wrong, and then I’d just get up, thank them for their time, and go back to my apartment, and then work the next day, saving for a month for my one appointment with the next one…” Riley said, half to himself.
The psychiatrist raised an eyebrow. “Mr. Bennett, why?”
“ ‘Why’, what?”
“Why are you so intent on this? Why are you so intent on finding this out? You had a foster family, you said so in the form…”
“But we never really connected, we just kind of…I dunno. They tried to care, and I guess they were nice enough to me, but I just felt like I didn’t belong there,” he admitted. “I moved out the day I turned eighteen, trying to find…trying to find out where I was from.”
The psychiatrist looked sympathetic as he asked,
“What is the very first thing you remember?”
Riley shut his eyes and took a deep breath, letting the images enter his mind. He exhaled.
“Being in the hospital bed. They said I had been left there, by some guy who- he claimed he had found me unconscious, right? Just floating in the stream…”
Riley felt some tears coming out of his closed eyes.
“I don’t know about my parents, sir. I don’t know who they were, or if they loved me- maybe they were killed or shot or mugged, and maybe I ran away and was, like, traumatized? Or maybe they were scum, and they dumped me there so they could go and party every night. I don’t know, and for some reason, it feels like- like I have to know, or else I can’t rest. I’ve always wanted to know. It’s like a burning, pulsing, desire in me, and I don’t know how to fix it,” he spoke bitterly. The psychiatrist watched him, fingers crossed through one another.
“Maybe you should try letting it go.”
“Wh-what?” asked Riley in confusion.
“Mr. Bennett,” began the psychiatrist, “I think it is highly unlikely that you will ever find your parents…No, no, hear me out,” he said, holding up a hand as Riley looked ready to interrupt.
“I think it highly unlikely that you will ever find them. And even if you should…what do you hope to achieve by it? I can tell you right now that it won’t bring back your memories in a miraculous flash. If your parents are even alive, then there is a reason that they are not involved in your life, and have not been for the past two years. There is a reason, but you just don’t get to know it.”
“That’s not really fair,” protested Nick. The psychiatrist smiled.
“Few things are,” he conceded. Then he set down his clipboard and notes.
“You need to accept this- accept that your birth parents cannot be in your life anymore, and that you need to move on and stop this search you’ve undertaken. Start a new beginning, Mr. Bennett. Perhaps try and reconnect with the people who have housed you for the past six years, or let yourself open up to others once more. You are really just beginning your life, and so you shouldn’t fill it with an unachievable task with little or no reward at its conclusion.”
Riley sat there for a few minutes, staring at the ground thoughtfully…then he got up and left, while the psychiatrist did not say another word.