Six weeks after my birthday, Doctor Clark came into my room. It was the last week of August, and, even though it was eight in the evening, the weather was swelteringly hot, so my window was open. I was hoping a breeze would kick up and there might be a little bit of air flowing through the room, but so far, my hopes had not come to fruition. Because of this, I was dressed in only an undershirt, which was rapidly being drenched with sweat.
I was sitting in a chair by the window, reading a book when he entered. When I put the book on the bed and made as if to stand, he gestured for me to remain sitting. I did so, and he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed.
“Erik, I have a proposition I’d like to present to you.”
“Yes, sir? What is it?”
“Well, I have to go to Knoxville on business tomorrow, and I’d like for you to come with me.” He held up one finger when I opened my mouth to speak. “No, let me finish. I know you don’t want to, and I won’t force you, but I want you to come. You can’t stay hidden away from society forever, and I think that you won’t be as much of a…curiosity in a larger city.”
I looked at him skeptically but slowly nodded. “If you think it’s a good idea, Doctor, I’ll try it—on one condition.”
“That you won’t leave me alone.”
The doctor gasped slightly. “Erik, I wouldn’t dream of it. I’ll be with you every second if you want me to be.” When I nodded again, he continued with a smile. “Good. We’ll leave in the morning. It will take us a few hours to get there, and then a few more hours to finish my business, so we’ll stay the night at a hotel. Get together the things you will need for a two day trip, and I’ll be back in a bit with a suitcase for you.” Just before he left the room, he turned with a smile. “Make sure you pack your black suit and dress shoes.”
Before I could respond, he disappeared, and I stood, looking around the room and trying to decide what to bring. I had no idea what a trip like this entailed, but I knew that I would bring the book I was currently reading, my sketchbook, and some pencils, so I placed those items on the bed. Next to them, I put the clothing the doctor had specified, along with a second set of clothes, necessary undergarments, and pajamas. The doctor had gotten the black suit for me about two weeks previously and he’d told me that it was for special occasions, but I hadn’t had a chance to wear it yet. Just as I was adding my toiletries kit to the small pile of things on the bed, Doctor Clark reappeared with a small suitcase in his hands.
“Is that everything?” he asked, setting it on the bed and opening it.
“Yes. sir, I think so,” I answered, unsure of what to do next.
“Well, then, let’s get it packed,” he said cheerfully, and he began placing the things on the bed into the suitcase. I just stood there and watched, trying to see where he placed everything so that I could do it myself the next time. When he was finished, he latched it and put it on the floor before turning to me.
“I know it’s still early,” he said, “but I think you should get to sleep. We’ll be leaving around five o’clock tomorrow morning, and it’s a long drive to Knoxville.”“All right,” I answered, but as he smiled and left the room, I knew that I would be getting very little sleep that night. My stomach was queasy, and I didn’t know if it was nervousness about being around strangers or excitement about taking a trip to a big city. I finally decided that it was a combination of both. I got into bed and curled into a ball, trying to quell the fluttering I felt, but it didn’t happen, and I resigned myself to having a long, uncomfortable night.