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Fortitude by Gene Este is a story of a conversation that twists and turns, and eventually goes drastically awry...
by Gene Este
WHATíS YOUR NAME?
My name? Iím sure you want my name. I thought these things were supposed to be anonymous?
They are. I just want to know what to call you.
Marie. Call me Marie.
Why that name?
Youíre analyzing my name? This was a mistake.
So there must be a reason you want to talk to me. Whatís going on in your life, Marie?
Thatís a loaded question, Doctor. Gotta be careful with questions like that. You just might get an answer.
Isnít that the whole point of asking a question? To get an answer?
What do you mean?
I donít know. Iím just saying that not everyone who asks a question wants an answer.
Why do you think that is?
What was that noise, Marie?
Iíve got to go.
Where did you go last time, Marie?
Why did you have to leave?
I just did.
Youíre avoiding the question, Marie.
Do you smoke?
Do you smoke?
No. I think itís an unhealthy habit. Why?
So do I. Have you ever been burned by a cigarette?
I have. Funny thing about cigarette burns is that they never really go away. Theyíre always there, and even if they donít hurt, you imagine they do.
Those scars never go away.
Are you alright, Marie?
I have to go.
What do you want to talk about today?
I donít care.
Alright. Why do you always leave around the same time everyday?
Donít waste any time, do you Doc?
No, I guess I donít. Do you want to answer the question?
Again with the ĎWhyís. Do you ever take something as it is?
No. Why donít you want to talk about it?
Talk about what?
Youíre avoiding the question again.
Really? No kidding.
Hmm. Sarcasm. Classic evasion technique.
Youíre using sarcasm to get me to leave the issue alone.
Your PhD tell you that?
Hostility. Another evasion technique. Whatever it is must really bother you. What is it?
I donít want to talk about it.
Thatís not true, or you wouldnít be talking to me now.
Are you married?
Got any kids?
Not yet. Why do you want to know?
No reason, really.
Thereís a reason for everything, Marie.
Not around here.
What does that mean?
It doesnít matter.
Yes it does. What did you mean by that?
One thing you gotta learn here, Doc. Reasons donít explain everything, and everything donít explain the reasons.
Iím not sure what to make of that.
Now you know how I feel.
You donít get it.
Youíre so high on your pedestal.
Why are you angry?
You think everyone can be helped. Everyone can be saved. It doesnít work that way.
You look down your nose at people and analyze them and think they can be changed. Then you go home at night and toast yourself a job well done while those same people are at home dealing with the same things you thought you helped them with, only then itís ten times worse because they were sure they could get away from it all. All because you hoped you could make it better.
Itís all I can do. Thereís nothing wrong with hope, Marie. And bitterness only robs you of happiness.
Itís not bitterness that robs me of my happiness, and hope shut itís door on me a long time ago.
Do you feel better today, Marie?
I never feel better, Doc.
I could help you.
Sure you can.
Why do you find that amusing?
Think about it, Doc. What does it say about you that you sit around all day trying to solve everyone elseís problems? What about yours? Whatís going on in your life, Doc?
This isnít about me.
Am I making you uncomfortable, Doc? Iím asking you your own questions and you donít like it? Why is that, Doc? Iím worried about you. Doc.
Is this making you feel better, Marie? That you have the power now and not me?
You know they say Fortitude is a virtue?
Strength. Courage. Resoluteness. Endurance.
Marie, are you crying?
I donít understand that.
Whatís going on, Marie?
Do you think God lets people into heaven for enduring?
If you tell me, I can help you.
I donít think so.
Donít hang up, Marie.
Whatís happening, Marie?
Did you know that when youíre worried you add my name to everything you say?
Why are you talking strange, Marie?
There you go again. That must really annoy your friends.
Iím sure it does. Iíd like it very much if you could ignore that for the moment and tell me whatís happening to you.
Nothing that I canít handle.
You didnít sound like you were handling it before.
It wonít happen again.
Because I have to handle it.
I donít understand, Marie. Why?
Because I want to go to heaven. I think I might have to make the trip soon.
You okay, Doc?
Marie, I think God would understand ifó
Marie, what was that? Are you alright?
Marie, this Doctor Hanson. Iím sorry I traced your phone number, but I need to talk to you. Could you please call me back? You know the number.
Marie, this is Doc again. I know that you want to be anonymous, but I think you need help. Iím worried about you. Please call me back as soon as you can.
Marie, please. Are you alright? You donít even have to talk to me, just leave a message. Let me know youíre ok. Please.
Marie, I donít know if you can hear this, but I got your address and the police are on their way over. Just hang on till then.