"Your Mom thinks you're a cutter," Dr. Colden said. "Are you a cutter?"
"Of course not," Jack said. "Janet's watching too many Lifetime movies during the day. She needs to get a job."
Dr. Colden nodded. "Probably. I told her most cutters are depressed young women, not boys. Boys usually get their self-harm kicks in other ways. Like beating their head against a wall or something."
Dr. Colden pulled a stitch tight on Jack's forehead.
"Sorry about that," Dr. Colden said. "So...are you depressed?"
"More so than usual?"
Dr. Colden was Jack's family doctor. As far as Jack could remember, he had never seen another doctor in his life. Dr. Colden was probably in his forties, although he had hair that was much too long for a doctor and looked about 25. Dr. Colden was clearly the smartest adult Jack had ever known, yet Jack found it easy to talk to him.
"I told Janet, you know, your Mother, that most cutters make small, quick cuts with razor blades anyway," Dr. Colden said, continuing to stitch up Jack's forehead. "Not like this huge six-inch gash you've got on your arm. Tell me one more time how that happened."
"I was running and looking behind me, not paying attention to where I was going, and I ran right into a tree branch-"
"Yeah, that sounds right."
"And the branch knocked me down and my arm hit something sharp on the ground-"
"Yeah, that sounds wrong. That's the part I'm having trouble with."
Dr. Colden snipped off the thread and nodded at his work. He sat down on his stool and spun around twice, then stopped and pointed at Jack.
"Do you know that people lie to me all day long, Jack? Except for maybe a parole officer or a priest, I probably hear more lies than anyone else around."
"I don't think you got that cut by falling on the ground, Jack. The branch? I guess I believe that, it looks about right, but not the arm. Someone cut your arm, Jack, and you need to know that I know that."
Jack nodded again, unable to meet Dr. Colden's eyes.
"I don't think it was either of your parents because I've known them for a long time and I don't think they have it in them."
"It wasn't my parents," Jack said quietly.
"You going to tell me who?"
Jack shook his head.
"How old are you, Jack?"
"I'm going to say it's a girl, then. Wouldn't be the weirdest thing I've ever seen. Or if it's not actually a girl, then it's because of a girl. Am I right?"
"Sure. Why wouldn't it be? Hey, we all have girl troubles, right? And Jack, I'd love to say to you, being all of 'almost 13,' that this girl just isn't worth it. Isn't worth getting hurt over. That you'll be lucky to remember her in a month, or six months, or a year. But you know what?" Dr. Colden said.
"I'm not going to say that. It would be condescending of me. Because let's face it, I could, and probably should, say those exact words to men that come in here and lie to me every day. Men that are in their 40's and 50's and even their 60's. But I don't. So why should I say it to you?"
Dr. Colden scooted his stool up closer to Jack. He caught Jack's gaze and didn't let him look away.
"But I will say this," Dr. Colden said quietly. "You need to ask yourself if this particular girl is worth it. Is she worth you getting hurt? Ask yourself that question and answer it honestly, Jack. Then do what you need to do."
Dr. Colden stood up and slapped Jack on the back, then left the room.
And Jack sat, and thought about what he needed to do.