Sleeping Giants Page 23

FILE NO. 120

INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT COUTURE, SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISOR (DCIPS)

Location: Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), New York, NY

—I remember going to the zoo with my father. I must have been five or six years old. It was a good hour from Montreal and my dad didn’t like to drive. He also didn’t like crowds. But I had been begging my parents since the middle of winter and my mom finally convinced my dad to take me. I was so excited. It’s all I could talk about. Will there be lions? Will there be zebras? “I don’t know, son, you’ll just have to wait and see.”

We finally left on a sunny Sunday morning. My father gave me a present for the ride. It was one of those wooden puzzles; just a cube made of small indented pieces of wood that only fit in a particular way. I remember thinking it was really pretty. My father, of course, insisted I take it apart and put it back together on our way to the zoo. “You have an hour,” he said. “That should be plenty of time.” Well, it wasn’t. I was still working on it when I saw the giant Zoo sign. Of course, I immediately put the puzzle back into the box it came in and I started naming every animal I could see on the signs. Look Dad, a zebra! He said: “Great! Finish your puzzle, then we’ll go.” I said I didn’t want to but he reminded me that, in our family, when we start something, we see it through to the end.

I worked on that thing for another two hours while he read a book. I could almost make the whole cube, but in the end, I would inevitably end up with one or two pieces that didn’t fit. I knew I must have put a couple of pieces in the wrong place, but there were just too many and I couldn’t remember what I did the next time around. I kept doing the same thing over and over again. By noon, frustration had turned to despair. I started crying. My father just kept on reading. I couldn’t think anymore. I was shaking, frantically jamming pieces together. By two o’clock, I was just hysterical. My father put his book away. He started the car and drove straight home.

We didn’t talk for the rest of the day. After my mother tucked me in, he came into my room and told me I had learned a valuable lesson that day, much more valuable than seeing some caged animals.

—What was the lesson you learned?

—I suppose he meant that emotions get in the way of judgment, that I might have succeeded had I not been so eager to do something else.

—You must have been an exceptionally smart child. This would seem difficult to grasp for a five-year-old.

—Oh, I’m saying this now. I had absolutely no idea what he meant at the time. I just wanted to see the zebras. My father was a philosopher. Literally, I mean. He was a philosophy professor. We didn’t always get along once I got older but I worshipped him when I was a kid.

—What did your mother do?

—She was a teacher too, until she met my father. She gave up her career when I was born. She was a really smart woman, but her heart was bigger than anything else. She wanted me to play sports, to spend some time with other kids my age, but my dad thought it was a waste of time. He said I was born with a brain that worked better than most, that it would be a shame not to use my gift. He didn’t think I could do that throwing a ball with a bunch of half-wits.

My mother insisted, but I told her I didn’t want to. I loved my dad. I did everything I could to make him proud. It must have driven my mother crazy. She left us, eventually. We were both crushed. I don’t know why it came as such a surprise. It wasn’t hard to see that one coming. Any woman in her right mind would have dropped that selfish egotistic man in a heartbeat. She probably just found some half-decent guy who paid a modicum of attention to her every now and then. I know she didn’t leave because of me, but I think she might have stayed had I not ignored her as much as my father did. I was so bent on pleasing him. At times, she must have felt like she didn’t even exist. She wasn’t a cynical woman, not for a second. This would probably just make her really sad, but you can bet the irony wouldn’t be lost on my dad.

—The irony?

—Oh yes. I worked all my life at being the smartest I could be. My dad always told me I could make a real difference someday. Most people don’t really have a purpose, a sense of purpose anyway, beyond their immediate surroundings. They’re important to their family but it doesn’t go much beyond that. Everyone is replaceable at work, friendships come and go.

I had the chance to be a part of something much larger than me, but it’s not because of how much I learned, or how smart I am. The one thing that made me special, what made me truly useful, turned out to be my legs. And now I’m about to lose them both.

—What makes you think you will lose your legs?

—The doctor left a few minutes before you walked in. He said there’s no choice but to amputate. Both legs.

—I do not wish to appear insensitive, but you seem to be handling the news fairly well.

—I spend most of my time sitting down thinking, really. That’s what I’m good at: sitting and thinking. I figure, so long as I can do that…I never paid much attention to my body. Didn’t eat that well, didn’t exercise much, didn’t play sports. I do think I’ll miss walking. Walking was good.

—Is that all you are feeling?

—What do you want me to say? Life is unfair. I didn’t deserve this. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think what I’m feeling is all that important. If you can’t get the controls to work for someone else, then it’s all over for everybody. Putting that helmet on was a really stupid idea.

—Guilt is a normal feeling. Some form of resentment would also seem appropriate.

—I’m heartbroken about losing all of this, if that’s what you wanna hear. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I don’t know why, but I keep thinking of that astronaut who got grounded seventy-two hours before liftoff because he was exposed to the…How do you say rougeole?

—The measles. You are referring to Thomas Kenneth Mattingly, II.

—That’s him. I can never remember his name. I’m sure he was pissed. I’m sorry if I’m not devastated enough for you. To be honest, I was pretty sure it was all over when I saw that truck coming. Everything just went…dark. How’s Kara, by the way? She must be pretty shook up.

—She is doing fine. She feels responsible, but she will be OK. She would have come but…

—No, she wouldn’t have.

—Perhaps, but she is genuinely grateful. You might have saved her life. She said to tell you to hurry up and get back home.

—Ryan?

—There is not much I can tell you. He has been reluctant to speak, at all. He is being held at Fort Carson. Have no fear, Mr. Couture. He will pay for what he did to you.

—What good would that do? I’m many things, vindictive isn’t one of them. I can’t imagine how he must feel.

—Love makes people do some crazy things.

—Nah. Love makes you get really drunk and punch through a wall. That man had everything he cared about taken away from him, everything. I did that. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I’m the one who turned his world upside down. Not so Captain America after all, I guess. I didn’t think he had it in him…I’m sorry, I’m not laughing because of that.

—You find it humorous that Mr. Mitchell is losing his mind?

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