A Birthday Gift – TLWM 8B

After a moment’s hesitation was dismissed by an affirmative nod from Sumeet, Jane rose from her chair, walked over to the bookcase, glared down at the orange ball she had seen, and confirmed what she’d thought she’d seen inside it.“A mosquito, trapped in amber.” Sumeet rose from his chair, walked briskly around his desk. “Like in ‘Jurassic Park’ — ” the psychiatrist stopped, brought a hand quickly up to his mouth — “Ah . . . have you seen — ”

Jane frowned, nodded. “DNA, resurrected dinosaurs running around, eating people — yeah, they made ‘Jurassic Park’ in the world I came from.” She glared at the block of amber a moment, then looked up at Sumeet as he approached — “Are you into fossils?”

“Not really.” Sumeet lifted the block of amber from the shelf, and motioned for her to take it. Which she did. “This was a gift, from my father. He gave this to me on my thirtieth birthday, when I was back home, in India. I had just earned my license to practice, the final step in becoming a permanent resident here in America. That visit, my birthday — everyone in my family knew it would be a long time before I would be coming back.”

Jane examined the amber ball in her hand. The mosquito trapped inside it looked larger than the pesty flying insects she remembered. She noticed a change in Dr. Patel’s voice as he resumed speaking.

“My family comes from the state of Gujarat, in India.” He sounded pleasantly distant. “My people, the Gujarati — they call us Guji — were some of humanity’s first explorers. Before the Greeks, before the Persians, Guji merchants traded from China to the Mediterranean. And to this day, people raised in Gujarat go to all corners of the earth — to conduct business, to find a place to earn a living, or just to see the world.”

He folded his arms behind his back, nodded in the direction of the amber ball in Jane’s hands. “We have a joke, in Gujarat. We are so accustomed to travelling such great distances, we say that no matter where you go, you can find the Guji — even places where there are no mosquitos.”

Jane looked up at Dr. Patel, a smile of recognition on her face. “So your father gave you this — ”

“To remind me of where I am from. Yes.”

Jane hummed pleasantly, placed the amber ball back on the shelf. She turned toward the nearest window. “Well here in Chicago, you certainly don’t have to worry about finding mosquitos. They find you.”

Sumeet motioned for Jane to return to her chair, as he walked back behind his desk. “If I may be so bold, I’m not the only person in this room who’s not a native of this city.” His statement was a calculated risk on his part, to further his investigation into her psyche. He knew there was a chance she would take offense, or feel threatened, by his observation.

Instead, Jane smiled, pointing to her mouth. “It’s the accent, isn’t it?” Sumeet sat, and nodded. “I’ve done a pretty good job of losing it since moving here from downstate, but every once in a while I still sound like a hick.”

“Does that bother you, Jane?”

She shrugged. “Not really. It’s like, I don’t know, a birthmark or something. You’re not happy to have it, but it’s part of who you are, so you just, I don’t know — live your life.”

Sumeet was encouraged by her response. “A healthy attitude.” He waved an upturned palm at her, as if he was holding a platter for her to take — “Go on.”

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