“Daren? You’re early.”

It’s easy to forget with this one, our ‘stray’, that he isn’t a child. He could be one right now, the way he’s hunched down in the hallway with his arms hugging his legs and forehead pressed to his knees. He looks frightened, lonely, lost. It’s hard not to kneel down and wrap my arms around him, comfort him like I would the true children I treat. I fight the urge, though; I must never forget that this fragile form unfolds into a man a head taller than me, one who if not strong is surprisingly agile and quick. No one touches him except the orderlies.

“Would you like to come in? We can start your session now.”

Yes, his age is easy to forget – at least until those black eyes flicker in my direction, hard and hating, hurting, and it seems this man has never been a child at all. It’s possible in this moment to imagine him wielding a knife, driving it over and over into the chest of a man who was his… what? Friend? Lover? Something darker? Until we can get the story from Daren – if we can get the story, if he ever speaks in more than broken sentences – he’ll remain here indefinitely. I won’t allow someone so traumatized to be put on trial.

“Why don’t you come into my office, Daren?”

His lips twitch; his gaze falls away. He mutters something almost inaudible, voice rusty and weak, but I’ve heard the phrase enough times to make it out anyway. “Need… need to find Tanim…” It’s all he’ll say in reference to his past, to the incident which led him to this involuntary committal. He doesn’t seem to remember his own part in Tanim’s death, nor even that the man is dead, no matter how often I break the news to him.

“Well… let’s talk about that, okay? Come inside and we’ll talk about Tanim.”

I’m determined to uncover the truth behind Daren’s instability, to help him face whatever horrors are so unbearable he’s locked them from his mind. But if he does remember, what will happen to him then? Will he stand trial for murder? Will he be locked away with no hope of rehabilitation, when chances are he had no true understanding of his crime?

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