Home > Becoming Chloe(7)

Becoming Chloe(7)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

“The famous Jordan,” he says.

It embarrasses me. “I’m not famous.”

“You are around here.”

He peels off the butterfly bandage and I try to not yell out. I don’t want to be a coward in front of him. I want to be brave.

“Your girlfriend really loves you,” he says.

“She’s not my girlfriend. Are you going to have to stitch that again?”

“No, it’s starting to heal. I’m just going to take out the old ones. It’ll hurt. I’m sorry.” He’s right. It hurts like hell. But I don’t make any noise. “Your sister?” he asks.

“No, she’s just a friend.”

“Damn good one,” he says. “She waited in line all night, and when we tried to lock up she sat down cross-legged on the floor and wouldn’t leave. We had to give her antibiotics and aspirin just to get her out the door.”

“Did she seem . . .” Then I don’t know how to finish that thought.

“What?”

“I’m not sure how to say it. Did she seem . . . smart?”

He thinks a minute. Shrugs. “Smart enough, I guess. Why?”

“I’m just having trouble figuring her out. Sometimes she’s . . . Well, like when I met her, she’d just been raped. And she wasn’t even upset about it. She just said it happened all the time. I asked her if she ever said no, and she said it doesn’t matter what she says. It’s like she doesn’t even understand what a bad thing is. She doesn’t even know that what’s happening to her isn’t okay. Then when she needs to get something done, she seems a lot smarter.”

He has his hand on my shoulder now, but I wish he wouldn’t. Because it makes me think things that I feel ashamed about. And because I think he’ll see that I’m attracted to him. Like he’ll all of a sudden know me way too well.

“Maybe she doesn’t want to understand things that she doesn’t think she can change anyway. Maybe sometimes you just have a couple of rotten choices. Like you can fail to comprehend the world you’ve got, or you can see it as this ugly, evil, dangerous place and not be able to do a damn thing about it.”

“So you think it’s an emotional thing?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know enough about her. I just know the kinds of things I’ve seen over the years.” I look at his face and I see what he means. About the things he’s seen over the years. He’s seen too much. “I wouldn’t rule out severe trauma. Of course, it’s just a theory. But don’t rule it out. And don’t undersestimate it.”

“So if that’s it, could she get better? I mean, if somebody made her feel safe and took care of her? Could she get better?”

“I don’t know how to answer that question. I can’t predict the future. I think a better question would be, Does she have anybody in her life who cares enough to do all that for her?”

He still has his hand on my shoulder, but now it doesn’t matter because I’m thinking about Chloe. “I’m not sure,” I say. “I guess I’d have to think about that.”

“Do you know the person who did this to your head, Jordan?”

I look down at the clinic floor, which is linoleum. Very old linoleum. I wonder what he’ll do if I don’t answer.

When he gets tired of waiting he says, “Okay, let me put it another way. Is this someone you still have to see on a regular basis?”

“No, sir.”

“Good. That’s mostly what I needed to know.”

On the way home I stop at Chloe’s old grade school. Okay, I’m lying. It’s not on the way home. It’s eleven blocks out of my way. But I go there all the same. Because I just have to know about all this. I go into the office and a woman asks if she can help me. She’s about fifty, with a round face. She seems nice, which makes me uneasy. Then I realize the doctor was nice, too.

This is my problem. I’m not used to people being nice to me. Not lately, anyway. I’m not sure how to deal with that.

“Did Wanda Johnston used to go to school here?”

The woman looks her up on the computer. “You realize I can’t give out any of this information unless you’re family. I can’t show you her records.”

“I just want to know what she can do,” I say. “I want to know how bad it is.”

“How bad what is?”

“I mean, was she in, like, a special ed class? I’m only asking because I want to help her. Somebody has to. Help her.”

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