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I never cried as a child.
I fell and scraped my knees countless times because I’m a klutz, but even as a baby learning to walk, I was just frustrated. I see videos my parents took of my journeys in scraping myself all over, and every time I fell my parents would coo over me and help me back up. I slapped their hands away.
I was also highly intelligent. By the age of three I could fluently say “supercalafragioulusticexpialudocious,” and “suoicodulaipxecitsuluoigarfalacrepus.” I read at a first-grade reading level and knew how to multiply every number up to six.
Overall, my parents were concerned for me. They noticed how quickly I learned and were grateful for that. But they also noticed I was timid, careless, and never complained. I was moderately obedient and rarely spoke unless I needed too. Or to be sarcastic. But the main reason my parents were concerned because I showed no sign of emotions.
No tantrums, no smiles, no sobs, no giggles, no complaints, no joy. By the time I started school, they decided to take me to a psychiatrist in fear that I would confuse the other children.
I clearly remember my first appointment with Dr. Queen. I was five; he was probably fifty. I thought he was one of those old men, the way a ten-year-old girl would think of an old man. He knelt by my side and shook my chubby hand, which was adorably small compared to his long, callused ligament. He was almost as pale as me, but clearly not half as Asian as I am.
I glared up at him.
“Hi, Yanamarie,” he whispered gently. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Clearing my five-year-old throat, I bluntly stated, “I would say the same, but then I’d be lying.”
My parents chided some incoherent, jumbled assortment about manners, while the doctor frowned down at me. Standing up, he whispered something to my parents and they piped down before everyone turned back to me. My neck hurt from the strain of looking up so high to the much taller adults. “Yana, if you’d come with me to my office, I’d very much appreciate that. Your parents can wait outside unless you say otherwise.”
I crossed my arms over my flat chest. “Whatever. I don’t care,” I explained, meaning what I said behind the defensive tone.
Dr. Queen raised his eyebrows, reaching down for my hand as we began to walk to his office. I knew my parents felt safer when someone trustworthy (like Dr. Queen) held my hand while I walked—because I was such a klutz—but I slapped him away nonetheless, stumbling on my feet in the process.
I hiccuped. He frowned.
Upon reaching the office, he left the door open a crack and proceed for me to sit in a nice armchair. I plopped down criss-cross applesauce, being overtly small in the wide room. Dr. Queen moved a wheely-chair across from me as he studied my posture, my face, trying to see through me at the layers that lied underneath. I sat up just a bit straighter, mirroring the same studious expression he held on his chiseled face.
“So, Yana—” he began, taking out the paperwork my parents had sent him on me. Outside the office, they were working on more paperwork surrounding my complicated being, hence why they hadn’t come into the actual office with me.
“It’s Yanamarie,” I enunciated, interrupted him very practically. I knew my parents had told him to call me “Yana,” because everyone did, but I was having none of it. He glanced up at me, and I pursued my lips in reply, staring him down. I could tell he was trying to contain his laughter as he cleared his throat.
“You’re parents told me I could call you Yana?” He explained, questioning what he had heard from the generation above me.
“Well, I didn’t agree to that, now did I?” I said, crossing my arms once again as I sized him up. My overall reading was this; I didn’t like him. But I didn’t like anyone, so he was no different.
“Alright, Yanamarie,” He said, glancing slyly up at me. “How do you feel right now? About being here.”
I furrowed my eyebrows at him like he was insane.“What does ‘feel’ mean?” I questioned. I rarely question anything.
Dr. Queen stared at me abruptly, clearly not knowing what to think of my strange question. After all, how does one describe something that is inherently understood across the world?
“Well,” he started, shifting his position, “feelings are emotions, and emotions are the release of certain chemicals in your brain that makes you perceive happiness, sadness, and all other sorts of feelings.
I nodded, still not understanding his pointless words... Of course, I’d heard if happiness and sadness, but I thought all of those things were made up, like stories you tell a child to go to sleep at night. I had none of these so-called “feelings!” No one did!
And as Dr. Queen interrogated me, the more I began to doubt myself. I know now that I always just “feel” empty, but he made me feel like there should be something more than what I already knew.