27. Nature/Nurture

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27. Nature/Nurture

“Do you think Kent could ever escape who he was?” I ask Mr. Aschen. He seems tense in his chair, leg folded and pressed up against the wall. One hand clutched his folder and the other, his trusty metal pen, as though the weight of the writing utensil gives his words more worth.

He sighs and looks up at me. “This is one of the big problems with modern psychology. To a certain extent, people are shaped by their upbringing, and also by their genetics. We are not sure exactly to what degree these things control a person, but—”

“Seems to me like they control a person a whole fucking lot.” I half-yelled, the pain of losing Geoff still fresh in my mind. Telling the story had been like digging my fingers between the stitches in a healing wound and ripping them out.

“But Eureka ultimately led to this accident occurring,” Mr. Aschen protested, seeing where my argument was heading and attempting to cut me off. “David is selling snake oil—he is pretending to have the answers to your problems, telling you Eureka can change who you are, giving you false expectations.”

“Why wouldn’t Eureka change who you are?” I ask. “Isn’t your identity comprised of the choices you make? What could be simpler than making new choices?”

“It’s not as simple as that, not everyone can just make new choices and—”

“So what exactly do you do for a living, Mr. Aschen? Don’t you go around telling people how they can change their actions? If Eureka doesn’t work, isn’t what you do also a sham?”

I wait while Mr. Aschen sputters out a few sentence fragments.

“Kent only tried to change who he was. I’ve seen the stats, Mr. Aschen. People with abusive parents are more likely to become abusive, people with criminal parents end up going to jail. Call it genetics or the way they are raised, I don’t care. Kent wanted a way to change his past, something he had no control over. He wanted a way to rebel against what his father turned him into. What would you have told Kent? That he was doomed to be an abusive loner?”

My counselor shakes his head, clearly lost for words. I pick up the slack for him:

“But, I agree. Eureka did seem to be responsible for this incident. Geoff shouldn’t have died. It wasn’t lost on me; I quit.”

Now he looks up, alert.

*

By the time the firemen arrived, the top half of the apartment was in flames, and a crowd had gathered around us. The fire burned like a virus that infected the Earth, an infernal hunger destroying its host and eventually itself.

About twenty minutes after the fire died down and only the blackened ends of the apartment’s skeleton smoldered, Mr. Gimble arrived.

I gripped Cameron’s arm and held her back. We watched from the opposite end of the parking lot, hidden behind parked cars. Occasionally she pulled away, testing my grip, but I refused to let her go.

Mr. Gimble ran from his car, screaming, toward his home. Halfway to his apartment he tripped, fat stomach reaching the ground first, springing his forehead onto the cement with force.

Paramedics assisted the landlord up and then restrained him as the obese, middle-aged man began howling in rage, cursing the medics for keeping him from surveying the damage, cursing the firemen who stomped through his home with big rubber boots, cursing God for cursing him.

This was Mr. Gimble. Victim only in his mind, held hostage by perception.

Cameron jerked out of my arms. I reached to reclaim the scarred teen but wasn’t fast enough and instead followed at a close distance, ready to pull her away if I needed to.

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