“And you remember nothing about the accident?”
Dash snapped back to the drab office and was immediately reminded of how uncomfortable he was. The ragged tear in the arm of his chair was directly under his right elbow, and there was no way to avoid it except to lean on the other arm, which was inexplicably lower.
“Sorry?” he asked.
The psychologist stared at him with hard eyes and scribbled on his yellow pad so forcefully the pad trembled as it seemed to resist the needle-like point of the pen. Dash guessed that this written reminder was related to making good on the threat to prescribe Adderall for his attention deficit. He considered the probability that many of the doctor’s patients – particularly young patients like himself who had to endure the dry, methodically paced lectures – found themselves diagnosed with ADHD.
Finally Dr. Roose spoke, slower this time, giving every word its proper weight and then some.
“You remember nothing about the accident?”
The older man’s brow furrowed as he tried to work out whether his pupil was being obedient or facetious. He decided to let it go, but Dash knew he was adding it to all the other small incidents and would take his revenge when the sum reached its zenith.
“Strange. Given that it was such a traumatic experience for you, I would have thought even at that age you’d have some memory of it.”
“No. Sir.” he quickly corrected himself.
“That makes me wonder about the validity of your other memories. It’s not consistent, is it? That you’d remember your parents’ faces and your vacation. Perhaps you manufactured those memories, or perhaps you dreamed…”
“I can see their faces. I have pictures, so I know it was them.”
“Well, the memories could have come from the pictures.”
“No. Their expressions are different. And… Joe had a beard. Sir.”
At first, the good doctor wasn’t sure how to respond. But his training and his general estimation of himself remedied that problem fairly quickly.
“No need to be so defensive, Dashiell.” He refused to abbreviate the boy’s name. He must have felt it was high time this kid learned to respond to his proper Christian moniker. “Everyone’s memory is flawed. Even mine.” He smiled a patronizing smile – possibly deducing this last proclamation should create some common ground.
It wasn’t the first time Dash heard that particular note ring in the other man’s voice and he knew there was no use arguing the point. He relaxed and tried to summon the waves and the fog.
“Certainly your vacation could’ve been manufactured. It’s possible you disguised the accident as a holiday.”
He stared at the man across from him with a thousand yard stare that was, frankly, troubling coming from a child of his tender years. “I was in Nantucket.”
Dash remained stubbornly mute, and the psychologist did not push the point but made another angry footnote.
“You wouldn’t remember the place though, would you? You were only two years old.”
“Two and a half.”
“That hardly makes any difference. It could’ve been any beach anywhere, if it actually existed. The place you’re talking about is very expensive. Your parents wouldn’t have had the means to travel there on their modest income unless they robbed a bank.” He chuckled softly at his little joke. An oldie but a goodie, he might have thought to himself.
Dash bristled against his better instincts. He was remarkably composed for a twelve-year-old, but he couldn’t resist the hook Dr. Roose had baited.
“I remember the house. I remember the windmill and the whale bones.”
“You could’ve seen those in a book.” His inquisitor smiled that smile that meant he was pleased with himself.
“I never saw any books on Nantucket.” This wasn’t strictly true, but Dr. Roose didn’t need to know that. Besides, the only books he’d seen had black-and-white pictures and he recollected the vivid colors as clearly as the images.
“You could have dreamed it. As I said.”
“You might not know the difference between the real world and a dream but I do.”
“Watch your tone”, the doctor growled.
“How could I remember it in such detail? How could I remember the pink flowers on the little trees? SIR?”
That one was definitely facetious. The yellow pad endured yet another scribble.
“Well, I’ve never been there, so I wouldn’t know. But my point is, you might not, either. Meaning, one, you might not know and two, you might not have been there. You see, Dashiell, we all take our paths in life, and you, sir, have to take care of that you aren’t traveling the road of least resistance just because…”
As his rant continued, Dash tried once again to drift out with the fog, but he found his anger and frustration prevented this. He managed a sideways glance at the clock… Fifteen minutes left. Fifteen whole minutes. Time had a way of slowing down in Dr. Roose’s presence, and his naturally slow, strangely pitched voice stabbed into every inch of Dash’s consciousness, a torture of Dash’s own making – when would he learn not to rise to every challenge, fall for every ploy?
Mercifully, his mind was finally distracted by those two stone markers, irrefutable proof of the boundaries of Nantucket, irrefutable proof that the town indeed existed outside his imagination, and, in his young mind, irrefutable proof that he had been there. He saw himself on that shrouded beach with all the other tourists flitting in and out, a ghost himself viewing his ghostly past life.
And as he watched himself it struck him that this exercise secured his sanity much more effectively than any ten of the sessions he was currently enduring.