Long Lost Page 47
I said nothing. My chest tightened. I found it hard to catch my breath. I grabbed my Diet Coke and started taking little sips.
’’You\'re shaking,’’ he said.
’’Last night. Did you have bad dreams? Nightmares?’’
’’Of course. I was in a hospital. Why?’’
’’Do you know what twilight sleep is?’’
I thought about it. ’’Doesn\'t it have something to do with pregnancy?’’
’’Childbirth actually. It was quite popular in the fifties and sixties. The theory was, why should a mother have to suffer through the horrible pain of childbirth? So they would give the mother a combination of morphine and scopolamine. In some cases it would knock the mother out. Other times the end goal the morphine would lessen the pain while the combination would make it so she didn\'t remember. Medical amnesia or twilight sleep. The practice was stopped because, one, the babies would often come out in something of a drug stupor, and two, there was the whole experience-the-moment movement. I don\'t get that second one exactly, but I\'m not a woman.’’
’’Is there a point?’’
’’There is. That was way back in the fifties or sixties. More than half a century ago. Now we have other drugs and we\'ve had lots of time to fiddle with them. Imagine the tool if we could perfect what they were able to do more than fifty years ago. You could theoretically hold someone for an extended length of time and they\'d never remember it.’’
He waited. I wasn\'t that slow a study.
’’And this is what happened to me?’’
’’I don\'t know what happened to you. You\'ve heard of CIA black sites.’’
’’Do you think they exist?’’
’’Places where the CIA takes prisoners and doesn\'t tell anyone? Sure, I guess.’’
’’Guess? Don\'t be naïve. Bush admitted we had some. But they didn\'t start with 9/11 and they didn\'t end when Congress held a few hearings. Think about what you could do there if you simply put prisoners into extended twilight sleep. It made women forget the pain of childbirth the worst pain there is. They could interrogate you for hours, get you to say and do whatever, and then you\'d forget it.’’
My leg started jackhammering in place. ’’Pretty diabolical.’’
’’Is it? Let\'s say you captured a terrorist. You know the old debate about if you know another bomb is about to go off, is it right to torture him to save lives? Well, here you wipe the slate clean. He doesn\'t remember. Does that make the act more ethical? You, my dear friend, were probably interrogated harshly, maybe tortured. You don\'t remember it. So did it happen?’’
’’Like a tree falling in the woods when nobody\'s around,’’ I said.
’’You French and your philosophizing.’’
’’We\'re about more than Sartre\'s little death.’’
’’Too bad.’’ I shifted in my seat. ’’I\'m having trouble believing this.’’
’’I\'m not sure I believe it either. But think about it. Think about people who suddenly vanish and never reappear. Think about people who are productive and healthy and suddenly they are suicidal or homeless or mentally ill. Think about the people people who always seemed fine and normal who suddenly claim alien abductions or start suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome.’’
’’Let it go. . . .’’
Breathing was a struggle again. I felt my chest hitch and get caught.
’’Can\'t be that simple,’’ I said.
’’It isn\'t. Like I said, think about people who suddenly become psychotic or the rational people who suddenly claim religious rapture or alien hallucinations. And again the moral question is trauma okay, for the greater good, if it is immediately forgotten? The men who run these places aren\'t evildoers. They feel they are making it more ethical.’’
I lifted my hand to my face. Tears were running down my cheeks. I didn\'t know why.
’’Look at it from their viewpoint. The man you killed in Paris, the one working with Mohammad Matar. The government thought he was about to turn and provide us with inside information. There is a lot of infighting with these groups. Why were you in the middle of it? You killed Matar yes, in self-defense, but maybe, just maybe, you were sent to kill him. Do you see? It was reasonable to conclude that you knew something that could save lives.’’
’’So’’ I stopped ’’they tortured me?’’
He pushed the glasses back up his nose, said nothing.
’’Wouldn\'t someone remember, if this was really going on?’’ I asked. ’’Wouldn\'t someone tell?’’
’’Tell what? You may start remembering. What are you going to do about it? You don\'t know where you were. You don\'t know who held you. And you\'re terrified because you know in your heart of hearts they can grab you again.’’
’’Your mom and dad . . .’’
’’So you\'ll stay quiet because you have no choice. And maybe, just maybe, what they are doing is saving lives. Don\'t you ever wonder how we break up so many terrorist plots before they hatch?’’
’’By torturing people and making them forget?’’
Berleand gave me an elaborate shoulder shrug.
’’If this is so effective,’’ I said, ’’why didn\'t they use it on, say, Khalid Sheik Mohammad or some of the other al Qaeda terrorists?’’
’’Who says they haven\'t? To date, despite all the talk, the US government has only admitted water boarding three times and none since 2003. Do you really believe that to be the case? And in the case of Khalid, the world was watching. That was the mistake your government learned from Gitmo. You don\'t do it where everyone can see.’’
I took another sip of the Diet Coke. I looked around. The place wasn\'t packed, but it wasn\'t empty either. I saw business suits and guys in T-shirts and jeans. I saw white men, black men, Latino men. No blind men. Anthony the bouncer was right.
’’So what now?’’ I said.
’’The cell is broken up and so too, most figure, is whatever plot they had planned.’’
’’You don\'t think so.’’
’’Because Rick Collins seemed to think he was on to something huge. Something long-term and far-reaching. The coalition I work with was upset I showed you the picture of Matar. Fair enough, that\'s why I\'m on the outs.’’
’’Don\'t worry about it. They are searching for the next cell and plot. I\'m not. I want to keep investigating this one. I have friends who want to help.’’