Chapter 9: Andrew

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"You're coming up on a pretty big anniversary," Dr. Greene stated, looking at Andrew over the tops of her reading glasses.

For a minute Andrew wasn't sure what she was talking about. Anniversary? Like, his birthday? His birthday was in March. That couldn't be it. And his parents' anniversary was in May.

Then it hit him. The anniversary of the accident. He found himself not able to breathe for a second, that was how hard it hit him.

November sixth. Not quite Remember, remember the fifth of November, but close enough that whenever he heard that phrase he thought of it.

"Andrew? Are you alright?"

He clenched his jaw. "Yeah."

"A lot of people find themselves getting triggered more often around the time of anniversaries," Dr. Greene said. Had she really not fucking noticed his reaction? He balled up his fist inside the pocket of his hoodie. "I don't think we've discussed triggers before and I think now would be a good time."

He waited, saying nothing. Glaring at the floor. God, he hated the fucking carpet in this place.

"Do you know what a trigger is?"

He shrugged.

"We've talked about how that isn't an answer," Dr. Greene said gently. "I'd rather not bore you with a lecture about what triggers are."

Deep breath. "I know what a trigger is."

"Do you have any triggers that you're aware of?"

Andrew ground his teeth and tried not to scream. "Obviously, cars."

"All cars? Are you including trucks or vans?"

When he closed his eyes, he could see the dashboard of his dad's black Volkswagen Passat. He opened his eyes and let the carpet take the brunt of his anger. "I haven't been in a truck since then. Or a van."

"What about your mom's car? Does it trigger you to ride in the passenger seat of your mom's car? Or have you only been triggered by driving her car?"

"I--" His voice cracked a little, and he cleared his throat to cover it up. "I guess when my mom has to drive me somewhere, I freak out a little."

"What do you mean by 'freak out a little'?"

So he explained how he gets quiet, and doesn't talk unless his mom bugs him to, "Answer me, I'm talking to you," and then he'll snap at her. How he grips the door handle so hard his knuckles turn white and he keeps his feet pressed into the floor and his back and head pressed into the seat, like he's bracing himself for impact.

"Do you avoid having your mother drive you places?"

"Yeah." Hence why he rides his bike to therapy, and to school, because he doesn't want to know if he feels that awful riding the school bus. He hasn't gone on any long car trips since the anniversary. Only trips to the hospital, to see a specialist in the city, to his physical therapy appointments. The longest car ride was last Thanksgiving, to see his grandparents. Now he remembered how when they got there, he'd gone into the bathroom to throw up and spent the whole meal lying on the couch watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

"Can you think of anything else that triggers you? Anything at school, maybe?"

"How about every time I look in a fucking mirror?" Now he had to pull his fist out of his pocket and grind it into his eye socket.

"Your scars trigger you?"

"It's just... it's like... everything, you know?" He was crying now. Great. "Every time I have to remember I don't have two fucking hands. I can't even look in the bathroom mirror. It's bad enough when I'm just brushing my teeth or whatever. Naked... I can't... It's like, I see my arm isn't there and then I have to think about why it isn't there and on top of that I'm just disgusting, I hate what I look like and I can't imagine anyone ever liking how I look now."

He suddenly remembered that in his dream, he had two arms. Ryan had been sitting on his left side, both of their arms touching.

"And even if I thought someone did like me, then I have to wonder what their deal is that they would be cool with dating somebody with one fucking arm. Like, how fucking damaged do you have to be to want that?"

Dr. Greene was quiet for a moment, which made his own sniffling that much more unbearable. "You don't think anyone could like you for who you are, outside of what you look like?"


Earlier, in the waiting room, Andrew had been thinking about asking Ryan if he needed a ride home again. Earlier, it had seemed almost imperative that he ask, to take that opportunity to have Ryan's arms latched around his chest, just to see how it felt again.

But he hurried out of the office before Ryan was done with his appointment, so that he could get his bike unlocked – without falling over this time – and be ready to roll when Ryan walked out, looking about like Andrew felt.

"See you around seven?" he asked.

Ryan nodded. "Yeah."

Andrew pushed off, then called out his shoulder, "My address is 3 Adams Street," before booking it home.

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