When confronted with reports from his parents and educators, questions were met with arrogant, cynical, and manipulative responses, and educators report history of sensation-seeking (renowned sexual reputation) and impulsivity. Patient demonstrates arrogant self-appraisal and superficial charm; inability to tolerate boredom; is self-assured, voluble, and verbally facile.
Continue to monitor for probable Oppositional Defiant Disorder; possible eventual diagnosis of Conduct Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
I CLOSED THE FOLDER WITHOUT CEREMONY AND handed it back to Noah.
“Why do you have two middle names?” I asked.
“That’s your question? After reading that?” Noah drew back, searching for something in my eyes. Disgust, maybe. Or fear.
“It’s not you,” I said to him, and softly.
The corner of Noah’s mouth lifted in a slow smile. A sad one. “Yes. It is.”
We were both right, I decided then. Our files were part of us—the parts that people wanted to fix. But they weren’t all of us. They weren’t who we were. Only we could decide that.
I swung my leg over Noah’s waist and straddled him. “Maybe the uncooperative part’s true. You’re very”—I brushed my lips against his—“frustrating.”
Jamie cleared his throat. I nearly forgot that he was there.
“You okay?” I asked him.
“If okay means ‘pessimistic, unstable, and manipulative,’ then sure,” Jamie said cheerfully. “‘Patient demonstrates extreme sarcasm and enduring bitterness; sees things in terms of extremes, such as either all good or all bad. His views of others change quickly, leading to intense and unstable relationships,’” he recited from memory. “‘Patient demonstrates conflict about sexual orientation and is preoccupied with the sexual histories of others. Demonstrates a classic pattern of identity disturbance—an unclear, unstable self-image—as well as impulsivity and emotional instability,’” he said, suddenly sounding tired. He closed his file, chucked it like a Frisbee at the opposite wall, and leaned back with his arms above his head. “Ladies and gentlemen, Jamal Feldstein-Roth.”
I blinked. “Wait, Jamal?”
“Suck it,” he said with a grin. “My parents are liberal Jews from Long Island, okay? They wanted me to have a connection to my heritage.” Jamie made air quotes with his fingers.
“I’m not judging—my middle name is Amitra. I’m just surprised.”
“Amitra,” Noah mused. “Mystery solved.”
“What is that?” Jamie asked me.
“Sanskrit? Hindi?” I shrugged.
I shook my head. “Mom’s Indian.”
“What does it mean?” Jamie asked me.
“What does Jamal mean?” I asked him.
“I probably have about as much connection to my Indian heritage as you do to your African heritage,” I said. “My mother’s favorite food is sushi.”
“Latkes.” Jamie smiled for a second, but then it faltered. “This is bullshit,” he said suddenly. “We’re teenagers. We’re supposed to be sarcastic.”
“And preoccupied with sex,” I chimed in.
“And impulsive,” Noah added.
“Exactly,” Jamie said. “But we’re in here and they’re out there?” He shook his head slowly. “Everyone’s a little crazy. The only difference between us and them is that they hide it better.” He paused. “It . . . kind of makes me want to burn this place down?” He raised his eyebrows. “Just me?”
I grinned. “Not just you.”
Jamie stood and chucked me on the shoulder. Then yawned. “Rain check? I’m beat. You guys staying?”
I looked over at Noah. We hadn’t gotten what we came for yet. When our eyes met, it was obvious that he was thinking the same thing.
“Yeah,” I said.
Jamie picked up his file and dropped it back in the appropriate drawer. He reached for the door. “Thanks for the fun. Let’s do it again soon.”
I waved. Jamie closed the door behind him.
And then Noah and I were alone.
NOAH LEANED BACK IN DR. KELLS’S CHAIR and watched me. I was still in his lap.
And suddenly self-conscious. “What?” I asked as I blushed.
“Are you all right?”
I thought about it, about what was in my file and what it meant. “Not entirely,” I said. Not being believed about Jude would always hurt. Noah’s arms tightened around me, solid and warm.
“You can read it,” I decided.
He shook his head, his hair tickling my skin. “I showed you mine with no expectations. You don’t have to show me yours.”
I looked up at him. “I want to.”
Noah’s hand wandered over the folder on the desk behind my back, and then he leaned back in the chair to read with me still in his lap.
We were silent. His fingers wandered beneath my T-shirt, drawing invisible pictures on my skin. Distracting me, I realized with a smile. I was grateful.
Then he said my name, bringing me back. “Mara, did you see this?”
I leaned over to look. Noah flipped the file around so I could read it. Under my stats, the ones I’d skimmed, there was a handwritten notation beneath a section called CONTRAINDICATIONS that read:
Sarin, orig. carrier; contraindication suspected, unknown; midazolam administered
My heartbeat thrummed in my ears. “Sarin. My mother’s maiden name.”
My grandmother’s last name.
I wasn’t sure if Noah heard me. He handed me the file and shifted me up, off of his lap. He was up in an instant.
The rush of blood was loud in my ears. “What does it—what’s a contraindication?”
“It’s like,” Noah started to say as he began opening drawers. “It’s like if you have a penicillin allergy, the contraindication is penicillin,” he said. “You shouldn’t take it unless the benefit outweighs the risk.”
“Like a weakness?” I asked. “What’s midazolam?”
“They use it at the clinic,” Noah said, thumbing through file folders. “They never told you they were giving it to you?”
“Wait, what clinic? The animal clinic?” I asked, my eyes widening.
“Most veterinary drugs started as human drugs, not the other way around. If it’s what I think it is, they use it for sedation, presurgery.”