“What is your earliest memory?” Dr. Dauch, the Psychiatrist, asked calmly.
Bronia imagined hearing sincerity in his voice. Otherwise, she’d decide to be untruthful. She realized ages ago that it benefited her to be honest, not only because it amused her to see others reactions but, because the truth didn’t take energy to remember.
“My earliest memory is of walking outside, cold and alone. There was a blizzard that night. My coat wasn’t adequate in keeping me warm. Neither were my shoes.”
“Why didn’t you stop someplace to get warm? Why were you alone?”
“I needed to get to where I was going. I was always alone, except for that night that led to this night of walking in a blizzard.”
Bronia paused and took a sip from her water bottled. It was warm, room temperature, the way she liked it. Since that blizzard, she never liked anything cold.
“I could see the top of the building I was trying to get to. For once, I was looking forward to seeing people. Receiving someone’s help. If I didn’t have help, …” Bronia’s voice trailed off.
“If I didn’t receive help, I’d always be cold.” She managed with a furrowed brow.
“What’s the connection between not receiving help and always being cold?” Dauch asked.
“Help to take the heat from me. Outside of my reach. The heat staying alive, would’ve given me eternal warmth. The mind plays tricks on you. It convinces you if you consume something warm, it’ll warm you. In actuality, it only temporarily warms your core, leaving your extremities dangerously close to frostbite. You don’t feel the cold. You’re happy to feel the warmth in that moment.”
Dauch nodded to show his agreement and also to encourage Bronia to continue her story.
“I slipped on a patch of ice as I detoured down an alley. It was a quicker route to my destination. I wasn’t able to gather my feet beneath me and fell instead. The cramps began almost immediately and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. The snow between my thighs turned crimson. I tried to withstand the pain, but instead felt my body baring down to rid itself of it.”
Pulling her shawl around her shoulders with one hand, Bronia wiped a stray tear from her face with the other.
Dauch leaned forward to hand Bronia a tissue. She waved it away absentmindedly. “You see,” she sighed heavily, “I was lost as soon as I saw the steam. It was thicker than my own breath pluming from my mouth. I couldn’t let the warmth escape. I, my body, needed that warmth. Should we both freeze to death?”
Dauch lowered his eyes to write additional notes onto the pad on his lap. He looked up in horror, not only having understood what Bronia had said, but because she was smiling.
“Ironic,” she crooned, “that my core was warm so briefly I wonder if it was ever warmed at all. Ironic, or maybe not, that I’ve been cold ever since. Could it be that the warmth actually gave me permanent frostbite in my soul?”
The red light behind Bronia on the wall blinked red. “Well, Bronia. Thank you for again sharing your story. Interesting that not one detail has changed in the … what is this now? The ninth time you’ve shared it with me.”
Bronia smiled politely as she thought, “One day, one day they’ll believe me.”
“Same time, same day in three weeks, Bronia?”
“Yes, Doctor.” Bronia gathered her shawl tightly around her body as she stood to leave the office. “Oh, and thank you.”
“For what, Bronia?”
“For turning the air conditioning off for my session,” she laughed. “I saw sweat dripping down your face and not once did you draw attention to it by wiping or blotting it away.”
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