Chapter 16: My Room of Forgiveness
May 30, 2017
I stand in front of a red brick building, smoking a cigarette and inspecting the layers of pollen on the sidewalk. Her name is Dr. Clair Brown—my therapist or psychiatrist, I think. I made sure to look at her appointment card beforehand today. I forgot her name last session. I walk through the door and into the reception office.
“Good morning, please sign in, and Dr. Brown will be right with you, sir,” an old lady slides a clipboard towards me.
I scribble my name and plop in a chair, fidgeting with my cuticles. Damn, I don’t want to be here, but I don’t really have a choice in the matter. I made a promise to go to therapy. I look around the small room at the three other whackos sitting beside me. An older-looking gentleman in a 1950’s Army suit; there is a lady in purple pajamas sitting diagonally opposite. She appears to be asleep sitting up. The third guy has his face buried in a book, so I can’t tell whether there’s anything peculiar about him yet. Oh wait, his book is titled “How To Get It Together By the Age of Fifty.”
“So, why are you here?” Mr. Army suit tries to strike up a conversation with me.
“I’m not here to socialize,” I put my head down with a little grunt.
“I have gotten to that age where I don’t care about what people think about me anymore. Every day, you have to wake up and think, these might be the last words I speak, because tomorrow isn’t a guarantee,” he says.
The poor old bastard’s skin is loose and saggy, and his eyes are drooping with fatigue. He stares absently into space.
“Okay, why are you here then?” I ask him.
“I am here because of that fateful day in New York. Do you remember it? My wife and I were in the Trade Towers. I was saved by a firefighter, who pulled me out of the rubble later that day, but she wasn’t. My wife. I have never gotten over it, and I don’t think I ever will. Where were you that day?”
He slowly turns his gaze towards me.
I didn’t say a word.
“Where were you that day? Do you remember?” he asks again, this time staring me in the eye.
“No, I don’t. Sorry, I don’t remember,” I melt back in my chair, the last few words hardly audible.
I lied. I do remember. I remember it like it happened yesterday . . .
September 12, 2001
It was a little after 3:00 p.m. I switched off the television in my office after watching the horrific scene for the hundredth time that happened yesterday. My hands were trembling. I couldn’t get the vision out of my head. Those planes. The smoke. That blazing fire.
I grabbed the bottle of whiskey I stashed underneath my desk and poured it into my coffee. My forehead percolated beads of perspiration.
I got up and ran down the hall and onto the sales floor, screaming, “Everyone! Everyone get in the conference room A-- Immediately! We have a meeting, right now!”
“But, sir we are missing almost everyone.”
My stupid short newbie, Sam, spoke up.
“What?! Where’s Allen? Where’s Dale?” I screamed at him after seeing that only about a third of my guys had even showed up.
“Get in the conference room! All of you! Now!”
Six of my guys came running into the conference room with nothing but shock written all over their faces, and sat down across the table, holding their contract files.
I paced through the room.
“The damned market is closed. Word is that only security guards are at the NY Stock Exchange today, and NO decision has been made about the reopening. This is complete pandemonium!”
“Calm down, sir, our country is in shock.” The newbie sickened me with his words.
“CALM DOWN! Did you just say calm down?” I walked up to the short little man and flung a notebook on his face.
“Call your clients. Tell them to hold! Do you hear me?! DO NOT SELL! HOLD! No panic selling!”
Spit was flying out of the corners of my mouth. I paused for a moment to take a big deep breath.
“And start watching the European markets. Where’s Dale?”
“His . . . Sir, his brother lived up in New York. I think he worked in the World Trade Center. And he . . .,” John stuttered.
“And he what?!”
“He is . . . he is . . . is missing,” John said.
“I don’t care! I don’t care where Dale’s brother is!? Ok!? Everyone focus. We are not going to cower and let this take us down like a bunch of wieners. Everyone in here, you show up to work on time every damn day until that market opens back up. Or you’re fired! You get it?! FIRED!”
“But sir, do you even realize what’s happened to our country yesterday?! There are still people under the wreckage of the building! Some of us can’t focus . . . sir,” he muttered.
“You’re fired, John! Get out!”
He got up and slammed the door.
“Everybody get on your freaking phones and call your clients back! Quit dodging them! Don’t sell low when it opens back up! We aren’t dumbasses in here!”
I looked over at Sam whose head hung low.
Sam timidly asked, almost in a whisper, “But . . . Mr. Lawrence, what about all those people yesterday? D-d-do you t-t-think we are going to war?”
“Ah, quit whimpering, Sam! Are those damn tears in your eyes? Man the hell up!”
“But think of our country, our people, everything our country stands for has . . .” Sam cried.
“Yes, I realize we’re . . . we’re . . . under some terrorist attack, ok. But we all need to focus,” I continued to pace the room.
“Turn on the TV in here somebody! Are the flights still cancelled? Where’s Betty? Get her in here?” I screamed.
I called Betty on the intercom.
“Betty, get in the conference room. Now!”
“Yes?” she came shuffling through the glass doors.
“Betty, are all the airlines still grounded? What about my flight tomorrow to Dallas?!”
She stood there staring incredulously.
“I said, what about my flight tomorrow?!”
“Yes, sir. It appears that all flights are cancelled,” she stood there with tears in her eyes.
“That’s my biggest client!”
“What is this? The apocalypse?! What the hell’s going on? Why is the whole damn country shutting down?”
My hair was straggling down on my face as I shoved a bunch of contracts all over the table. I straightened my collar.
“This meeting is done!” I walked out, slamming the glass doors behind me.
I drove home from work like a bat out of hell. The day had ripped through me like a tornado. I walked in through the garage door, threw my keys across the kitchen table and walked into the den. Of course, Raines was sitting in front of the TV in her nightgown.
“What are you doing? Nothing, again?” I asked.
“You haven’t returned any of my calls? Is everything ok? What has been going on?”
“I don’t need your nagging today. I don’t want to talk right now, Raines,” I sulked.
“Ok, but you need to talk to me. I have been watching the news. And I can’t seem to wrap my head around this. If I can help . . . I am here for you,” she said in her usual soft voice.
“I don’t need help, ok! But you do! Do something useful, will you?!”
I stomped upstairs and went to bed. All I care about is my company and nothing else…….
The door pops open. I jolt back to my culpable reality.
“Hi, Mr. Lawrence. Please head that way down the hall to the left. Mrs. Brown’s office is on the right.”
I walk past the old man and down the hall with my head bent as low as it could go and waltz straight into her office and sink into the dark brown fluffy couch.
Her eyes stare at my face through those thick dark wire-rimmed glasses.
She looks even more rested and refreshed since last week. The lights are dimmed. She walks around the couch.
“Ok, so let’s start where we left off, Mr. Lawrence. I believe we were at a very crucial point in your—uh—journey,” she pauses.
“It wasn’t just a journey. I was inside my own soul.”
She taps on her notebook while reviewing her notes. Why does she keep looking at those notes? If only I could see what those notes say. They probably have the word psychotic written somewhere in all her therapeutic verbiage.
“Yes, the journey inside your soul. So you met this obscure man, he promised to reunite you with your son, led you to a basement, and then, he locked you inside? Is this correct?
“Yes, I was locked inside for what seemed like months. Look, I know all this sounds crazy. But, I was there. And, I definitely know that I was trapped in there for a very long time. I didn’t have a watch or a phone but . . .”
“Right.” She scribbles in her notebook.
“Yeah, I know. None of it makes sense,” I admit.
“Ok, well let’s just continue with the story all the way to the end, and then we will focus on resolving the issues. I need to know what happened next. And so, let me make sure I have this correct. The basement then presented you with a box, and then you traveled to some goo type world?”
Her face appears very perplexed. Her black eyes almost pierce through me while she turns the pages of her little black spiral notebook.
“Yes, that’s correct,” I mumble. God, I feel stupid.
“Ok, and so then the basement turned into snow and…”
“Yes, that’s correct. This is all true. I am not making this up. And I realized what an asshole I had really become. I hated the person I had become,” the words rolled off my tongue.
“Hmmm . . . sounds like we might be getting somewhere now.”
I start scraping my cuticles again.
“Ok, well what happened next? Let’s start where you left off last, Mr. Lawrence,” she writes a few notes and then takes a sip of her coffee and waits for my reply.
I wonder what’s really in that coffee. If it were me, I’d have to have a little something-something in that cup if I had to listen to my story.
“Ok. Here goes . . .”
I lie down on the couch, prop my feet up on the armrest, close my eyes, and start visualizing that moment when I woke up which will forever burn in my memory.
“So after blacking out in the snow, I woke up and somehow I was at home again. It was May 18th, I remember it clearly. I don’t know how or when or who helped me go back home, but I remember opening my eyes—they were blurry and tired. I remember trying to focus. It was hard at first. I noticed the rug on the floor, and then the bedposts beside my arm. I recognized them. I looked out from underneath the bed and could see the bottom drawer of our dresser was jolted open. And I crawled out from underneath the bed, accidentally bumping into two feet standing beside the dresser. I stood up. It was Raines!”
“Raines was standing in front of me, clutching the letter I had written in one hand and a picture of her father in the other. She was shocked to see me appear, but I think it may have been the letter.
“I don’t know how she had that letter in her hand, but it was the exact letter I had written while still in my soul!”
“Before I could even blink, I heard the door slam downstairs. Leo came running up the stairs and into the room towards us. He still had his book bag on his back. And his poor eyes were full of tears.
“I was so happy to see them. I reached out my arms to both of them.” I pause to look up at Dr. Brown.
“I expected Raines to turn around and walk away, but instead, she looked at me with those big brown innocent eyes that looked like a child’s, and she reached out her hand and I grabbed it. Leo then puts his arms around both of us and started to shake. He reached down to his pocket and brought out a ring and he handed it to Raines. It was her wedding ring! I still don’t know how he had the ring, but it was perfect timing. But she smiled, and put it on her finger. I held onto both of them. I will never forget that moment. I could feel the snow falling inside my soul.
“None of us said a word. We all just held each other for quite a long time. I finally stood in my room of forgiveness.”
After pausing for quite a while, she fires back, “That’s quite a journey. Now, let’s suppose that this was all . . .”
“Stop—right there, please. It wasn’t a dream. It was real. Well . . . it was real to me, at least.”
She glares up at me, “So, let’s suppose you were inside your soul. What then? Are you going to go back again? Are you any different from when you left?”
“No. I will not be going back anytime soon, I hope! And yes, I am a lot different now. But listen, there is not too much more that I need to talk about. Truthfully, I am here, because I promised Raines I would come,” I look at the ground, hoping the clock would turn faster.
“Ok, I see,” she scribbles again in her notes.
“So, tell me about your son. How is your relationship now? Has it changed?”
“Yes, we are doing . . . so well,” a tiny itch irritates my throat all of a sudden.
I burst out with an uncontrollable cough. I can’t stop.
“Excuse, me. So sorry, something is in my throat! I will be right back!” I run to the bathroom coughing all the way.
After hacking out a lung in the bathroom, I walk slowly back into the room and fall back on the couch.
“Ok Mr. Lawrence, your time is almost up. Did you want to continue telling me about how things are going with your son?” her voice raises slightly.
I sit up straight, scratching my head, slightly dazed.
“Whew, that couch is comfy. Yes, things are going well. I am taking the necessary steps towards building a closer relationship with him. You know, talking about father to son things, and so forth. Matter of fact, he told me he needed to talk about something important later this week. He said it happened few weeks ago but he wasn’t ready to discuss it until now. I don’t know what it is exactly, but he says there is something in a black box he wanted to show me. Sounds to me like he wants to confess something. Who knows, but whatever it is, I want to listen and help him.”
I look at my cell phone. “Welp, I better hurry, I have to get my oil changed in few minutes.” I stand up to leave.
“That’s interesting, weren’t you given a black box inside your soul?” she curiously jots down some notes in her spiral notebook again.
“Yeah…yeah…I was. Interesting,” I turn towards the door.
“I will see you next Monday, Mr. Lawrence,” she says gently.