“This room needs some color,” Edward Meyer said. The old leak stains on the white drop ceiling and scuffs on the floor were the only signs of character. The simple plastic white chair Edward is sitting on resembled one you might find on an outdoor patio. This was in contrast to the stainless-steel table bolted to the floor and the large two-way mirror on the wall in front of him.
He mumbled with a chuckle, “Looks slightly institutional to me,” then remembered he needed to be careful. You never knew when someone might be watching.
Today was his eighteenth birthday and he sat alone, wearing a green cotton shirt, drawstring pants, and slippers. This was no birthday celebration. He was there for an important discussion with his doctor. In truth, it was more of an evaluation; one he had high hopes for.
He thought about the first time he waited, alone, in this room. The table and chair are the same. His attire and reason for being there had been different. He’d worn jeans and an Iron Maiden t-shirt and sat there confused as to why he was there. He was only fourteen, and things had been rough with his foster parents. OK, “rough” might not be the best word. “Horrendous,” yeah, that’s the correct term. He wasn’t beaten or neglected. Food, care, clothes, etc... nothing was withheld. In fact, to those looking in from the outside, he’d had a great childhood with supportive foster parents that gave him all they could to make sure he had a wonderful loving home.
When he turned nine, they encouraged him to sign up for little league, which he jumped at. He loved baseball. They traveled around to every practice and game, ensuring he always saw two parents supporting him. The same for every school event. He felt they were trying to overcompensate. Having lost both parents in a horrible tragedy at age seven, he felt his foster parents tried too hard to make his childhood normal.
The door clicked and Edward turned to see the tall, slender forty-something frame of Doctor Law entering. His nose buried in papers as always.
“Good morning, Edward.” Doctor Law said. His name was always the source of a few jokes among Edward and the other patients. With a name like that, he should be a lawyer. But Edward’s favorite was, he was the “Law” around this place. He liked that one, because it was true, and it was the one he came up with.
Doctor Law pulled a chair away from the table, and then stopped with a bewildered look on his face. He frantically studied the folder in his hands. Without looking up he said, “I will be right back. I have the wrong folder.” He walked back out the door, flipping through the pages with the look of confusion growing the whole time.
Edward always wondered if these types of mistakes were legitimate or some kind of experiment, with someone observing the subject’s reactions through the two-way portal in the wall. He played it cool, sat, and waited for the doctor to return.
The two-way mirror grabbed his attention during his first visit as well. They don’t hide what it is, just what is behind it. He remembered sitting there, focusing as hard as he could to see through it; hoping his foster parents were on the other side waiting to take him home. That was not the case. Instead, only Doctor Law entered the room.
They talked for hours about many topics. Law asked about his relationship with his foster mom, and then about his foster father. To both questions, Edward gave glowing answers about how close he felt to them and how great his life was going.
The conversation moved to school and friends. He wanted to know if Edward was being bullied or harassed at school. He suggested that kids sometimes single out a child who has been in a foster home or has had a traumatic past. Well, the answer to that was most definitely not. Edward had lots of friends, both in and away from school. Other than the normal ribbing you give each other during a baseball game or in the schoolyard, he remembered nothing like bullying. He couldn’t think of any time he may have bullied anyone else, either.
Doctor Law asked him if any of his friends tried to get him to take or experiment with any kind of drugs. That answer was a very loud, “Absolutely not!” His foster parents asked him about drugs once before too. They even took him to the doctor for testing. Edward tried everything he could to convince them. It bothered him to feel untrusted by them. Two days later, the results were in, and his foster parents were apologetic. They explained they heard rumors from other parents about drug use among his friends, and wanted to be sure. Doctor Law listened to his answer while consulting a file laid out on the table before him. He didn’t challenge Edward’s answer, or ask him any more questions about it.
Next, he asked Edward about his real parents. He thought for a minute about how to answer, since he was still unsure why he was there. He could have said he never thought about them or what happened to them anymore, but that would have been a lie. He thought about it daily. Sometimes hourly. He told Doctor Law how he felt, and how bad he missed them. Edward felt the need to explain. He loved his foster parents, but he missed his real parents. Doctor Law broke his line of questioning to tell him that was normal, and they understood that. Hearing that made Edward feel less guilty, though it was not really bothering him much.
Doctor Law asked him delicately about the moment he found them. Edward shifted in his seat and explained, “Something woke me up. I lay there for a few moments and heard several loud crashes coming from the kitchen. I called for my mom and she never answered. I heard another crash, and she screamed. I walked down stairs and pushed open the door. That’s when I saw both lying on the floor. Shortly after that a police officer came in and rushed me out of the house.”
This is a memory Edward wishes every day he could lose. For months, he would wake up screaming as the image of his dead parents invaded his sleep. His foster mother would come storming into the room and hold him for hours, trying with all her might to protect him from the memory, but nothing drove it away.
Walking in to see your own parents lying on the kitchen floor in pools of their own blood is enough to have a severe emotional and mental impact on any seven-year-old that will haunt them the rest of their life.
Moments after Edward walked in, Officer Tillingsly grabbed and rushed him out to his patrol car. He left him there for the longest minute or two of his life. When he returned, he took Edward to the police station. He was a friend of Edward’s father, and was always around. He could tell Officer Tillingsly was in as much shock as Edward. He sat Edward in the chair behind his desk and gave him a soda to drink. Sitting in a chair beside him, they talked about anything and everything, including a fishing trip he’d taken with Edward and his father over the summer.
They’d been out there for hours with no bites, if you didn’t count the bugs. Officer Tillingsly thought he had a bite on his line once. He reeled it in close to the boat, but when he looked, he leaned over the side a little too far. Flapping his arms like a back-pedaling turkey, he hung there for a few seconds until gravity won and he entered the water with a splash. Edward remember hearing his father laughing while saying, ’Well, Lewis, if we weren’t going to catch anything before, we won’t now. You scared them all off.”
When they got home, Edward’s mother asked if they caught anything. Edward told her, “We caught Officer Tillingsly.” She looked at them like they had lost their minds. All three busted out in hysterical laughter. There was no laughter between them this time. His attempt to distract Edward—both of them really—failed. He struggled with his emotions while thinking about the trip too.
The station itself was a hive of activity. Everyone moved around from one room to another in a blur. All talking, and all giving Edward the same heartbroken look as they walked past. Some even had tears in their eyes. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knew his family. It is a typical small town with only one elementary, junior, and senior high school. Everyone went to school together. On top of that, his father was a local legend. He was a high school All-American Quarterback. Sportswriters and scouts came from all over to meet him during his senior year. He had the pick of prime offers from the best schools, and I do mean the best schools. Alabama, Penn State, and Notre Dame were at the top of a long list. Even with all those great offers, he bypassed college to stay and work the family farm.
After high school, he married his high school sweetheart. They were both active in the community, helping to run the fall festival each year, things at church, town council meetings, and the school board. With all of that, Edward’s house was always full of the sounds of laughter and conversation. Most memories were happy ones, but there were a few that were not so joyous. Once or twice a month, a group of men would show up late at night and talk to his father for a few minutes before leaving. Edward would hear a car door close when he came home the next morning just before sunrise. His parents never discussed what this was about in front of him; all he knew was that his father kept to himself and seemed different for the next couple of days.
A click from the door gave Edward the sense of déjà vu, as Doctor Law opened the door carrying a file like he did about ten minutes ago. He hoped it is the right file this time. He sat back in his chair and watched the doctor circle around to the only other chair in the room. Edward cleared his mind; it was now time for his Oscar-worthy performance.