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She told me I should lie down. That I might feel more comfortable. Yeah, right, I thought. With the "calming" baby-blue walls, yellow ducky stickers, and kiddie games stashed in the corner, there was nothing comfortable about this place.
"I know it's difficult." Gertrude set down her clipboard, impatiently. "Just...look for your inner child. Go further inside yourself."
I sighed. I wanted to hate my shrink, wished it were that simple. She was also a close family friend. She has known me ever since I was born - as far as I'm concerned.
"I've got nothing to say," I replied honestly.
"Then say something. Anything. Whatever is on your mind."
I shrugged. "You asked for it," I warned, leaning forward on the couch. "Well, the worst thing that happened this week was canning my Algebra finals. But I did pass. And the rest of my classes I happened to pass with flying colors. That's because my life is perfectly fine. I've got good grades, awesome team mates, and a beautiful girlfriend. I'm alive, healthy, I go to church... What more could I want?"
Gertrude gave me that hard stare she used to whenever I misbehaved. "You have to want more out of life than that. Maybe some answers."
That cut deep into me, but I shook it off and covered it up. "Maybe later on, when I'm going through some midlife crisis. Then I'll give you a call."
She didn't laugh. Too bad, because I liked her laugh. It reminded me of Christmas mornings, Thanksgiving feasts, and even Superbowl get-together's. She'd been there right with my parents throughout these...five years. As far as I know, as far I can remember, Gertrude has always been there for me.
"Do you ever think about... about before, Issac?"
I shook my head. "I don't feel the need to."
"Aren't you curious? Haven't you wondered...where that German accent came from, for example?"
I took a deep breath. "I used to be German. Big whoop. Besides, I've outgrown the accent."
"Okay, what about your being dressed in rags when you were found? Do you wonder about that?"
I ran my fingers through my hair, stressed. "I came from a poor, German family that dumped me in the big city. Period."
Gertrude sat up straighter, coming up with a new approach. "Tell me what you remember when you were twelve years old."
I didn't respond for a long time. Somehow, she was patient enough to deal with this. I finally come up with something blunt. "I remember being born in New York."
Those normally sweet brown eyes were hard and cold on mine, demanding more.
"Okay, I remember...waking up in a hospital. Knowing English. Forgetting a whole lot. Being adopted by Mom and Dad - Carol and Dave." I shrugged again. "You know I don't remember anything before that."
Gertrude's gaze warmed a little, and suddenly she was my friend again. "I've known your parents for a long time. I helped them raise you. You know you can tell me anything."
"I'm telling you everything." This came out through gritted teeth.
"Why do you seem so angry?"
"Probably because I'm sick of these sessions," I snapped at her. "We've been through this every six months since then. You haven't gotten anything new - anything that would help me. You know why that is? It's because I don't need any help."
Her tone is composed. "That's very true. I haven't gotten anything new from you. In fact, I think I've gotten even less over time. You'll talk to me about just about everything else - your academics, your social life, what you want for the future. I'm not some strange woman to you. I'm your friend. You know this. Yet you always become hostile when it comes to this subject. Can you tell me why that is?"
My mouth was about to start working faster than my mind when she cut me off.
"It's because you want to forget any of it happened. Don't tell me there isn't a part of you who wants to know who you used to be."
I bit down hard on my tongue.
Gertrude grabbed an all-too familiar blue folder. "Shall I pull read off the papers?"
"Dear God, don't," I practically begged.
She must have had her hearing aid off. "'April 7th, 2008: Boy Fished Out Of New York Harbor; A young boy is found unconscious in New York's harbor, with no identification'.
“A few weeks later..." - she pulled out another headline - "'April 21st, 2008: Boy From The Harbor In A Coma; The mystery boy with no family or friends we're aware of has a beating heart.'"
I jumped up from the sofa, marched across the room, and picked up the Ibuprofen on the counter. Gertrude had left me water on the table between us, but I hadn't bothered to touch it. Now I used it to chase down the supposed painkillers.
She went on, despite my unease. "A few months later... 'June 11th, 2008: Harbor Boy Comes Out Of Coma, But Remains A Mystery; The boy pulled out of the water three months ago has awoken, with a severe case of amnesia'. You remember what your statement was, Issac?"
I chugged down my water.
"It says here you remembered feeling cold, and terrified. You were trying to protect someone, and you were sure you had died trying. It didn't feel right when you woke up. You felt like magic had brought you back."
"You want to move on?"
Gertrude sighed. "'June 15th, 2008: More Light Shed On The Harbor-Boy Mystery; The fishermen from New York Harbor disclose new information on the mystery-boy'. It says here your body wasn't simply fished out of the water. You were trapped in an iceberg. They spent days thawing you out. They knew you were somewhat alive."
Unable to fight it, my hands start shaking. Soon my entire body reacts, trembling under the memory. The cold, the God-awful cold...
"When they brought you to the hospital, they told the doctors your body randomly appeared in the water, which wasn't entirely false."
"This is nothing new to me." My teeth chattered as I spoke. "I was there." I finally regained my composure, and looked down at the folder of nightmares. "Let me see that real quick."
"I don't think - "
"No, really, it's okay." I snatched it off the table. "There's one of these I especially like."
Gertrude had taken each article out as she read them, so the unread one I was after was tucked alone in the left flap.
"Oh, here we go. Okay, 'December 3rd, 2008: Christmas Comes Early For Harbor Boy; After seven months in foster care, Issac is adopted by a married couple in their mid-twenties.' Check it out – it says one of the fishermen on deck, Dave, and his wirfe were the ones who adopted me. He even helped thaw me out, it says. When he and Carol were looking to adopt, I was still in the Manhattan area, and at the foster home they were looking in. And so, they all went to live in the suburbs, as one big happy family." My voice took a sharper, more sarcastic tone. "How sweet is that? A happy ending." I slapped the five-year-old newspaper on the table. "That's what it was. An ending. It's over. You do realize no one remembers it, no one is crazy enough to keep every single article related to the incident."
Ignoring my stab at her, she takes a minute to gather her thoughts. "A lot of people - back then, when they did remember - thought it was all a hoax. They thought the men from the harbor were full of it, once they mentioned your body in the iceberg."
I shrugged for the third time. "It might as well have been. I don't know what happened. I don't care. Because nobody - "
"Nobody remembers. Nobody except for you. No matter how much you want to forget, it'll always be there. It's not going to go away for you. Not until you find closure."
"I found it!" My voice rises. "I found it a while ago! The day they took me in, I found closure. I didn't need anything more. I had a pair of nice people who saw me as more than a headline. You're the one who wants to fix me - to prove you're some uber-shrink - when there's nothing you can do. Whatever happened when I was a kid is over. Whoever didn't care enough for me is gone. I'm grateful. I'm happy."
She stood up and looked over me, like she was scolding a child. "You are comfortable. There's a difference. All I'm trying to do is help you get on with your life."
Now I was standing up, although I was too exhausted for anger. It was almost reassuring to know I was a head taller than her. "Gertrude, I'd like to go home now. Please."
"We're not through, here!" Her eyes darted to the coo-coo clock on the wall, and then back at me. "You've barely been here twenty minutes."
I started backing away from her. "I'm sorry, I have a date. My girlfriend will be waiting."
"Issac, I - "
"One more thing." I asked her if she had a recipe for the blueberry pie she'd made us last week. She silently wrote the ingredients and directions on a nearby notepad. Slipping it in my jacket pocket, I thanked her, and rushed out the door.
I didn't really have a date that night. Amy was staying with her brother for the weekend. Plus the guys all had tickets for some wrestling match in the city, which I wasn't in the mood for on a Sunday night. I had nothing to do. I could've spent the entire 60-minute session with Gertrude. Going home for Mom's meatloaf seemed much better than that.
As soon as I got stepped into Dad's car, my nerves were calmed. Knowing I was headed home reassured me. I didn't think about the session, Gertrude, or anything else that would give me a headache. I didn't think about Mom's sprained ankle. I didn't think about Amy's Dad’s pointless hatred for me. I didn't think about the detention I had to make up tomorrow.
Driving out of the parking lot, I played with the radio until something decent came on.
I didn't think about what I'd been doing in New York by myself. I didn't think about why I was such old, ratty clothes. I didn't think about my possible German heritage. I didn't think about how I could've been frozen in an iceberg - in April, nonetheless.
I stopped at a nearby Subway, scoffed down the six-inch tuna sub, and headed back on the road.
I didn't think about my real parents. I didn't think about if they were good people. I didn't think about if I had just a mom, or just a dad. I didn't think about if I had any siblings. I didn't think about if we were rich or poor. I didn't think about if I was close to any of them. I didn't think about if they loved me. I didn't think that if they loved me, someone would've been there to claim me.
I didn't think about how rotten of I kid I must've been for no one to claim me for nine months.
I pulled over on the side of the road, desperate to get a grip on myself. My head was spinning - throbbing - and my eyes were burning. My nose was stuffy and my heart was just too heavy.
No, I didn't cry.