Of course he was late. I’d been warned.
When he finally arrived, he sauntered in, wearing an Italian double breasted deconstructed blazer in flecked wool. It looked luxurious, silk and cashmere with patch pockets.
He could have paired the jacket with anything.
He chose basketball shorts. The kind you find on the floor at Ross Dress for Less.
“Are you Dr. Friedrich?” he asked, pronouncing my name in a German accent. His tone indicated neither an apology nor any amount of curiosity. Youthful decadence, entitled by a raw beauty that would fade.
Noticing the mild annoyance in my eyes, he smiled brightly, obeying societal conventions, mutual agreements constructed to keep the thin veneer of civilization intact. One did smile when greeting another person, yes?
“Yes, I am Dr. Friedrich. Please have a seat wherever you wish.”
“May I recline on the chaise longue?” His prep school French was perfect. “I’ve always wanted to lay on a therapist’s couch.”
I doubted it. I couldn’t imagine him wanting to do anything. Certainly he had just been given too many things his whole life. What’s there to wish for when your every need and want has been met?
“As you wish, Mister—? What should I call you,” I mused.
“That’s the point, Dr. Friedrich. What should you call me, indeed.” He ran his fingers through his hair, cut, gelled, styled. “I’m not sure I know who I am. Or what I am,” he replied, fidgeting, until he realized he was, then he stopped immediately. He laid down on the couch, facing away from me. I became a disembodied voice to him, whomever he thought he was.
“You’ve asked to come. So what is your primary reason for seeking my services?”
“Clarity,” he replied, matter-of-factly. “Tell me who and what I am.”
“That’s a tall order,” I said, shuffling my papers, attempting to read his loopy scrawl on the personal history intake forms. “It says here you feel hopeless at times.”
“Yes. A bit of an existential void.”
“Since I was young, I’ve always believed that I’m a pessimist.” Again, he flashed an inexplicable smile, turning his head to make sure I was listening to him.
“You are still young,” I reminded him.
“But I feel old,” he complained.
“You don’t seem pessimistic to me. Do you have an inordinately dark view of the world? Do you feel depressed?”
He curled around again to look at me, a Cheshire cat’s grin. “Do I look depressed?”
“No, you actually seem quite charming . . . ”
“At times, I suppose.” He crossed his legs. He was wearing flip flops. His toenails were painted turquoise.
“So maybe you are not a pessimist,” I suggested. “You seem to have a joie de vivre, a love of life on some level.” Flip flops with a four thousand dollar sports jacket.
“True, but I feel most things—especially life itself—seems entirely pointless.”
“I see,” I said, writing that down in his file. “Do you dwell on this bleak view, the half empty glass—?”
“I do not. I tend to distract myself to avoid thinking about much of anything. The world is full of delightful distractions.”
“So,” I said, jotting down his commentary. “Perhaps you are not a pessimist.”
He sat quiet for a bit. “But I know I’m not an optimist,” he chuckled. “Optimists are lazy.”
“Lazy? Explain,” I said as neutrally as possible.
“People who believe that things will just work out for the best—ridiculous! That seems so lazy to me. The very road to complacence. Optimists just wait for something good to happen or for someone else to do good or be good or make a good thing. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that anything works out—things just are. If I want a good thing, I do the thing—I don’t wait for anyone else.”
“I see,” I said, but I didn’t follow his logic. Self indulgent rants are seldom logical.
“Perhaps I am a cynic, instead?” he queried.
“It seems like the logical conclusion, if I’m not a pessimist,” he reasoned.
“You would be a cynic if you are irredeemably negative,” I suggested.
“I don’t think I’m negative—well, not irredeemably. And I don’t really think about people, truth be told. I mean, what’s to think about? People just are the way they are.”
“Well, when you do think about people on occasion—do you think you are better than they are?”
“Do you assume the worst about people?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “I presume that it doesn’t matter what I think about them. If they are false or true or terrible or good, it simply does not matter.”
Now I was quiet for a bit, then something occurred to me. “Perhaps you are a skeptic?”
He laughed, good naturedly. “Heavens, no!” the young man said, taking a flask from the inside of his jacket pocket. “A skeptic waits for evidence before passing judgment.” He took a long pull from his flask and winced, bourbon burning his esophagus. With a short cough, he continued. “I don’t think applicable evidence is forthcoming or if it does, it cannot possibly be credible. I simply do not care about people, what they purport, how they act, or what they choose to do.”
“You feel nothing,” I begin to write.
“I feel everything,” he corrected, and I scratched out my initial comment.
“You feel everything, but nothing matters.”
“You’re a nihilist,” I said, taking off my bifocals, leaning back in my leather chair.
“A nihilist,” he ruminated, luxuriating in the word. “I like it.”
“At your age, I gather you would. Embrace the belief that there is no inherent meaning in the universe, and stop trying to make sense of anything. Behold, the nihilist.”
He took another drink, screwed the top back on, and sat deep in thought.
“Aren’t nihilists boring though? I don’t want to be boring.”
“Then,” I shrugged, “develop a great sense of humor. Coupled with your innate nihilism, you can make quite a go of it as an absurdist.”
“You think so?”
“Oh, absolutely,” I reassured him. “But, unfortunately, our time is up. Please see the receptionist to book another session at your leisure.
“Thank you, Dr. Friedrich.”
His flip flops flapped as he walked out of my office, just as my secretary walked in.
“How was the session?” she asked, as I handed over my notes for her to transcribe.
“Good, we made progress in determining who this young man truly is,” I said, signing off on the charts.
“And who is he?” she asked.
“He’s an asshole.”
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That last line made me chuckle out loud! I really enjoyed the conversational flow you created between Dr. Friedrich and his patient. Each of their personalities was clear cut and consistent (I agree with the therapist's opinion about his patient lol). This was an amusing and engaging story, nice job!
I teach 12th grade. This week we've been talking about Nietzsche and existential crises, and how people attempt to resolve them by theistic and atheistic means: religion, philosophy, essential oils, etc. (Almost kidding about the essential oils. Peppermint is pretty transcendent.) I wanted to embody the ultimate narcissist or nihilist and came up with this entitled SOB. P.S. Friedrich is Nietzsche's first name. It is also "fried rich" which seems very French Revolution...perfect for the times?
I took a philosophy course last fall, so while I don't remember a ton of philosophical terms, once the patient started talking, "nihilism" immediately popped into my head. A narcissistic nihilist sounded like an oxymoron to me, but you made it work for this very entitled patient (hopefully, he will put in the effort to better himself)! And I have to agree, "fried rich" is very timely indeed.
“he’s an asshole.” ladies and gentlemen, we got 'em-
Oh, how I've missed you :) :) :)
'He's an asshole' FUNNIEST WRITER OF THE WEEK ALERT!!!! That joke aside, i really liked this story purely because of the characters, and I wish my character's personalities were as sTrAiGhT as these guys lol also ur name reminds me of Deidara XD
Thank you? :) What is a Deidara....? Like a tiara?
lmao its a compliment XD na it's a naruto character LMAO
wow...I simply love your stories, I recently joined and I have to say, you really are talented. Just wondering if you could check out my stories, it would give me some motivation to write more. ~~~~ Love from The Masked Writer
Thank you, Masked Writer. I'll jump over and see what you got.
Loved it! That last line was tres magnifique!
It's an official diagnosis: Assious Holious
Another master class from you Deidra! It flows at such a pace I could barely keep up. I might have to read this one again😊
You know I just write stories so I can use curse words. That's really my main motivation.
gosh, i love this one. the way you built the character up - it's clear he doesn't want to do any of the heavy work, he just came here with his bourbon just to recite his mind and take what's left for him. wonderful story, deidra, well done! :)
God bless counselors and psychologists and psychologists everywhere. Can you imagine...???
must be a tiring profession! i can only imagine what they're telling their colleagues every day. they need a counselor themself; they must have a lot of venting to do.
LIke others, I truly enjoyed the last line. Though, one line led me to feel a certain way only for the therapist's response to go a complete opposite direction. When he said that if he wants a good thing, he just does it rather than waiting for a good thing to happen to him, I feel the exact same... I figured it was something that was universally understood. Is that something that people don't believe? That they would have to do something about what they want if they want something good to happen to them? Outside of that, the dialogue f...
I wanted the young man to engage in self-indulgent hyperbabble, and boy does he :)
Deidra! Gosh, I wish I could write like you. Your stories are always amazing and this didn't bring down my expectations! It got me hooked from the beggining with that AMAZING title, all the way to the end where I laughed. I loved your original take on the prompt. Keep it up! -❤- 𝔹𝕖𝕝𝕝𝕒 P.S. Can you check out my newest story and leave some critique? 🥺 🥺
I'll try. I'm back at school and the workload is crushing me :) I'll zip over later though.
Enjoyed it! You write very well :)
I'm glad! Thank you so so so much!! :D
Your stories are always so great! I enjoyed reading this one so much because it all just happened in one moment, but there was so much characterization happening and there were lots of philosophical discussions going on! I’m quite fascinated with philosophy (and, I guess, there’s a bit of psychology in it too with all the different types of people — nihilists, pessimists, optimists, skeptics), so it was a factor that I enjoyed. Also, what a character the patient was! He’s that one kind of character in a book/movie that I always scream at o...
I love comments that are almost as long as the story :) :) :) What a wonderful comment -- I so appreciate the read. All the best
I was initially surprised that a patient would bring a bourbon flask to a therapy session. To me, this showed disdain and contempt for the process. By the end of the story, I realized that this was an element in building his character, confirmed at the end of the story. He was there just for word play and to brag about being in therapy.
The patient was not interested in doing any of the hard work. So much easier to surrender to the void than find any purpose and meaning in it. (And I'm sure he didn't even like bourbon; he probably stole it from his father's liquor cabinet.)
I love the way you teased the reader, by revealing facts slowly, sometimes by descriptions and sometimes by words. Your character was amazing. You included so many facts that truly told who is was. He held his traits throughout. You perfected him. Great job! I was labeling him asshole about a paragraph before you did.
HAHAHAHAHAH. See, this is why I could never be a psychotherapist. I'd want to shake people so bad! I love that you made the patient believe that being an asshole is a good thing....like he was shopping for a diagnosis that would look cool and "unique" for social media or something.
Exactly. I'm sure he went home and made a half a dozen TIKTOKs films on Nihilism and pronounced it wrong. :)
Tremendous ending. Great storytelling. And no one should wear flip flops with a suit jacket. 🤣
Would love to chat about writing at some point with you in the podcast 😎 https://www.readlotswritelots.com/wp/
Excellent, let's do it.