To a Point

To a Point

A Story by Andrew Schecker

This is a dialog between two people. A therapist and her patient. This examines the human experience, focusing primarily on the basis of all human interaction. I hope you enjoy.


Session I


Joseph thought about removing his overcoat and jacket and placing them upon the arm of the cheap, monotone couch before him.  He sat down instead, sinking into the middle as if being swallowed by the shadow presence of each dilapidated heart which sat there before him.  He wondered just how many others had bared their dark secrets in this very position.  How many cried?  How many screamed?  How many sat in complete silence while weathering the clamor present within them.  How many were just like him?


 “Hi Joseph, how are you doing today?” 


“I’m doing ok.”


Dr. Elizabeth Merit always started the sessions like this, similar to how a safety inspector checks off items on his board as he investigates the cleanliness of a meat packing plant.  Likewise, Joseph always replied in kind.  Placing a pause before his final word, he hoped to show Dr. Merit that he was not in any way ok.


“I thought about my mother again today.  Well, not today, I haven’t stopped thinking about her since the funeral.  Sometimes I find myself thinking the coffin must be empty.  There is no way my mother is in there.  She’s in the kitchen.  She’s cooking my breakfast early in the morning as I prepare for school.  I know that doesn’t make sense.  She’s dead.  The dead tend to lose their ability to properly flip a good flap jack.  Let’s not even talk about the fact that I haven’t been home since I graduated high school nine years ago. “


“Why don’t we need to talk about that?”


“Why should we?  It doesn’t matter.  It’s just how I remember her best.  Years of Rockwell propaganda have engrained this image into my mind as the most important moment.  And that’s the real joke isn’t it?  My mother never made breakfast from scratch.  It was always precooked biscuits or frozen hash browns along with cereal or toast.  There was nothing homely about it.  She wasn’t awake.  She thought of her bed just like I thought of mine each morning.  She didn’t even have time to put on make up to hide this fact from the world.  Of course I should still be grateful though.  I’ve never met many people who had mothers who always prepared breakfast for them.  It is the most important meal of the day after all.


Unfortunately, these thoughts no longer make me hungry.  My stomach does react, but now it is only following the cues of my heart.  The whole cartwheel bull s**t and such.  It’s safe to say that breakfast has never been the same for me since.  I try to make do with an apple, but I know it’s not enough.  It’s just not my place to make those biscuits or hash browns anymore.  That was her world.  Those were her things.  They aren’t mine.”


“Why can’t they be yours?  Other people make biscuits and hash browns too, why can’t you?”


“Those people didn’t have my mother.  These people you love to speak of don’t feel like I do.  These people are not me.  They will never be me.  They can only, and forever, be themselves…  I wonder which one of us is the unlucky b*****d.”


“What do you mean?  What makes you unlucky?”


“That’s just the thing.  I must be the unlucky one since I can’t be like everyone else.  Of course they can cook their own metaphorical biscuits after their loved ones die, but I can’t.  These people just move on with their lives and push aside the memories, be them happy or horrific.”


“I would argue that it is healthy for them to move on.  I mean, how can they function if they let those memories wear them down and bring them to a dead stop on the road to life?”


Joseph couldn’t help but laugh at this idea.  What is healthy?  Why is this considered healthy?

In another corner of his mind he wondered why Dr. Merit always used such neutral terminology.


“Healthy?  What’s so healthy about that?  Maybe it is healthy for them, but what about the person they leave behind?  When a person dies, they don’t go anywhere.  They don’t even stay in the place they are put.  They just become a series of ‘no’s’.  ‘Are they alive?’ No. ‘Can they sing?’ No.  ‘Will they remember your birthday?’ No.  ‘Do they exist?’ No.  ‘Do they still love you?’ No. 


In other words, the only thing that keeps them alive, that keeps them healthy, is you. The moment you forget the way they smelled, or how they tied their shoes, they die a little more.   I know that sounds crazy and artistically sentimental, but it’s the truth.  Do you want to be that murderer?  You may not hold that proverbial knife, but you are killing them.  After they die, they can only exist in your mind.  You are all that is left for them.  Since they can’t exist on their own anymore, you have to carry them.  You have to keep them going.  You have to keep them alive.”


“Why do you have to do this? Why can’t someone else do this?  Why does anyone have to do this?”


Joseph could not help but smirk at this question.


“How many people do you actually think are even capable of this?  I would think that the number of individuals capable of this passion to be lonesomely small.  Let’s be thankful that I am not one of those great many incapable of true thought or care. I refuse to act as such, even if it may better my own condition.  I will not be like those people.


“But these people are happy, they are able to fulfill their goals and continue with their life, in my opinion.  What makes you look down on them in such a way?”


“Why shouldn’t I look down on these failures?  Why should I respect these people who are capable for removing others from their lives as easily as they clip their nails into the trash?  With each clip that person dies a little more.  Their existence is put into question once again.  I should respect these fools?  I should not denounce these single-minded drones?  I cannot respect others who put their own needs before that of even their dearest of loves.”


“Well, that’s very interesting of you to say, but we will have to continue this next week”




Session II


Dr. Merit’s office was similar to all the other offices Joseph had seen throughout his career as a depressed individual.  The walls were covered in a dull beige meant to replace the stoic white plaster originally thrown together.  There was the strategically placed plant meant to comfort a person and an old, worn wooden chair resting opposite the couch.  Dim lighting softened the lines of every object it illuminated, creating an intimate blending sensation that left Joseph feeling oddly out of place.  The room was warm.  Too warm.  Joseph always wondered how Dr. Merit was able to work in such a suffocating room on a daily basis.  The room lacked a personal feeling.  Despite the glass cross on the wall and the supposedly inspirational quotes framed on expensive stationary hanging beside it, the room was practical and neutral.  Joseph could only imagine the walls crying over their unlucky fate as boring barriers.


Dr. Merit sat at her desk.  Unimposing as the rest of the room, the desk seemed to melt into the corner.  The only thing that still caught Joseph’s eye after his many appointments was the desk chair.  Modern, black, and sleek, the chair seemed to snub its nose at the rest of the room.  Imitating scuff marks on a marble floor, the figure disrupted the mundane, natural lines of the room.  Joseph liked that chair.


“Hi Joseph, how are you doing today?” 


“I’m doing ok.”


        Joseph wondered if this pattern would change.  He felt the urge to try and shock her by explaining his failed experiment concerning mortality from the night before.


“So…What have you been up to this week?”


“I’ve been job hunting.”


“Job hunting?  You don’t have a career at your age?”


“Well…You could argue that being a depressed person is my career, but I do enjoy sitting on my couch and watching the stock exchange spit out incomprehensible numbers while I eat my morning apple and decide on what I will not be doing for the rest of the day.”


“So you have no job.”


“Yep.  I was laid off 4 months ago from the newspaper.  I had worked there since I graduated college.  Five years of my life passed off like a soon to be overly ripe banana.”


“That must be very tough for you.”


“Well it’s not exactly like finding buried treasure in your basement.  Really, it seems like journalists and reporters are disappearing faster than the trees being cut down to spread their words.”


“What about your health insurance?  Do you still have it?”


“Yea.  For now.  In about one and a half months it will end.  Oddly enough, I believe our meetings will end on the same day.  Such a strange coincidence.”


“That won’t happen.  We’ll figure out some way to continue working together.”


Joseph didn’t believe this excuse anymore than he believed in a stork’s baby-transportation capabilities.  People leave when they no longer benefit from a relationship.  It was a simple and straightforward belief that Joseph would write about if the newspaper had not also taken away his company provided laptop.


“Sure.  I guess we don’t really have a choice do we?  My friends must have been provided by the company since they have all but disappeared.  All I have now are these sessions.  You feeling the pressure yet?”


“No pressure.  I’m just doing my job.  Why do you think your friends are no longer in your life?”


“I’m not sure.  I have my theories, but nothing that can be proven.   I never had many friends to begin with.  I’m not the overly social type.  I stayed away from company parties and social gatherings along with remaining very business oriented in the office. I know I’m not exactly an easy person to approach.”


“I wouldn’t say that.   You seem like a nice person to me.”


“Is that written on the cue cards behind my head?  Don’t humor me please.   It is not constructive.”


“I’m sorry.  I was only trying to be nice.”


“I don’t want nice.  I want honest.”


“Not all honesty is harsh, I think.  I was being honest.”


“I asked you not to humor me. It’s obvious that I am not a nice person.  My lack of friends, family, or any type of companionship should be a pretty strong hint.”


“Ok, let’s move on then.  We were talking about your mother last time, would you like to continue with that?”


“Sure.  Where to start…”


“Why not continue with her cooking?”


Joseph was unsure how to respond to this suggestion.  Cooking?  Why cooking?  Quickly running through the logic in his head concerning why his mother’s cooking and whether it had anything to do with his fixation on death, he was unable to find an adequate answer.  Joseph decided to go along with the suggestion.  He knew how to give doctors what they wanted.  He had been in and out of appointments with therapists and psychologists enough to know exactly what to say to get the reaction he wanted.  Joseph abused the system, and he knew it.  Never truly opening up, he was unsure why he even bothered seeking help when he was aware of the fact that he could not allow himself to trust anyone enough to honestly let them know what he was thinking.


“Ok.  She was never the greatest of cooks.  Most of the meals we had came from a frozen box, precooked meats, or canned spaghetti.  But for special occasions my mother would really cook.  She would make meatloaf, oven roasted ham, mashed potatoes and corn, and spaghetti made from scratch, even the noodles.  This only happened for special occasions though.  Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, etcetera.  Of course the preparation was always hell.  Not because my mom had trouble but because my father refused to stay out of the way.


My father is a child.  For these specials meals my mom would have to hold off on her own cooking so that everything will be prepared and ready to go with the one dish my father would make.  Store-bought frozen rolls.   My father would help make the potatoes too, but he only made them for himself.  We all had a slightly different taste in how we wanted our potatoes seasoned, but my father never cared.  He really only lived for himself in this sense.   When we had finally finished preparing the meal and would begin to place food on the table, my father would already be seated and taking his share of food.  Before any of us had even sat down he would already be half way through his meal.  I really hated family dinners sometimes.


Luckily it is only during these big family dinners that we all sat together and ate.  Most of the time we all made our own food and ate on our own schedules.  I liked this.  I could take my time or hurry.  I didn’t need to take part in any forced conversation and the food was prepared just how I like it, not how my father liked it.”


“You seem to have some very deep-seated opinions of your father.  Do these thoughts always revolve around the dinner table or do they appear elsewhere?”


“Of course they appear elsewhere.  I’m not some disgusting fat b*****d who hordes food.


I could never talk to my father.  It wasn’t that he scolded me or didn’t know what he was talking about.  No, he just wouldn’t shut up.  The man could spend an hour repeating the same sentence and still feel like he hadn’t gotten his point across.  His heart was always there.  He wanted to do well for me.  He just always missed the mark.  I’m a very shut in person with my family.  I don’t tell them anything.  Ever since my first bout with depression when I was fifteen I have had a hard time speaking with my family.  My father especially.


He’s never been able to really deal with my depression or anything for that matter.  Each time I’ve made a mistake he has been at a loss for words.  Of course, this does not stop him from talking.  I know he loves me.   I just don’t know if I love him.”


“He’s your father, how can you not love him?  He’s never harmed you physically.  He just seems to be a little offsetting.  That is hardly a basis for not loving someone, I think.”


“The truth is that I don’t know if I love anyone.  My friends would always claim to love me.  I was a “brother” to them, a “son,” a “father,” and all those other wonderful nouns. But I never really felt this love.  What they said had no more weight to me than did someone reading off the lunch menu at a restaurant.


Is that natural?  When I think about this, it just seems like I must be broken.  How can everyone else feel this love around them while I just put on a smile and “accept” their love?  What do you think?”


“Well, I think this is very interesting of you to say, but we will have to continue this next week.”




Session III


Joseph entered Dr. Merit’s office waterlogged.  Sprinting through what could only be defined as a typhoon had broken his umbrella and left him at the merciless hands of each ill-intentioned droplet.  Joseph hated the rain.  It was not that it had intentionally wronged him or stolen his fifth grade science fair project; it was simpler than that.  The rain was unlucky.  Keeping a catalog in his mind of each truly horrible experience, Joseph could always recall the slick presences of the sky’s shower drain.


Walking through Dr. Merit’s reception area and office, Joseph kept his head down and scolded himself for dirtying her rug with his muddy shoes.  He had meticulously rubbed his feet upon the greeting mat outside the building, but he still knew he had just passed off his poor luck to the evening janitor.


        Joseph continued to the couch, carefully removing his coat and concaving its shape in a vain attempt to save the poor sap an extra ten minutes of work.  Sitting across from Dr. Merit, Joseph sensed an air of urgency in the room.


“Hi Joseph, how are you doing today?”


“I’m doing ok.”


        He felt no need to fain improvement from the last time he was asked this.  He had only ruined another man’s evening. 


“I wanted to jump right in today and ask you a question about something you said several sessions ago.  You spoke of depression being your career.  What did you mean by that?  I know we briefly spoke about your history when we first met, but it just felt odd to me for you consider it a career.”


“Well, it is a career isn’t it?  It certainly is my life’s work and the most time consuming aspect of my day.”


“But shouldn’t you enjoy a career?  Shouldn’t a career be something you wish to spend your life working on?”


“Why should one enjoy a career?  I know that a career cannot always be joyous.  I’m sure Picasso had moments where he wished he had stayed with simple portraits.  And I’m positive that Van Gogh never really heard of this idea.


In the end, I was just saying that all I know is depression. It’s been with me so long now, it is me.  You can no more separate black ink from water than you can remove me from my depression.  I’ve come to accept this fact.”


“I don’t think it’s who you are.  I honestly believe that you are you.  A person can always change.”


        Joseph hated this phrase.  He had heard it so many times before he could sense its upcoming presence before the words even spewed from a person’s lips.


“People can’t change.  I’ve dealt with enough horrible people to know that a person can’t change.  They may change how they look or how they speak, but on the inside they are still the same waste of carbon as everyone else.”


“That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?” 


“Most truths are…Unwelcome.”


“What brought you to this conclusion?”


“It’s not what, but who.  It’s a list of people throughout my life who have shown me the dark secret within everyone.”


“Could you tell me about these people?  They must have had a profound impact on you to have darkened your perspective on humanity so much.”


        Joseph’s eyes lit up at this opportunity.


“Sure.  I never miss the chance to prove myself right.


Let’s start with high school and a boy’s first love.  Her name was Mari.  She’s a w***e now.  We fell in love and proceeded with a Romeo and Juliet romance.  Actually, I guess it’s more like West Side Story.  The girl lives in that one.  She was an American born Hindu raised by parents who mistook suburban New York for the streets of New Delhi.  Our relationship was a secret from her parents.  Everyone else knew, of course.  I never liked being kept a secret.  It made me feel dirty and unwanted; like that wet mutt a child sneaks into the house when it rains.


As expected, the secret didn’t stay hidden for long.  After about five months Mari suddenly needed to talk to me after school.  Can you guess what she told me?  She wanted to go on a break.  The girl I loved wanted to go on a break and wouldn’t even tell me why. 


Great way to have your first love end, right? 


It didn’t end though.  We stayed friends.  We fought.  A lot.  I learned later that she broke up with me because her parents had found out and threatened to disown her if she didn’t leave me.  We stopped talking after that.  I could understand why she had broken up with me, but I couldn’t forgive her for lying to me.


I tried to kill myself soon after that just because of some juvenile present fiasco.   It was a weak attempt that was more me screaming for attention than anything else.   Still, when my parents noticed a missing knife I was rushed to a mental hospital to enjoy group sessions and bad jell-o.  I spent three days as an inpatient and two weeks in an outpatient program.  While there, I realized that I needed to remove Mari from my life.


Upon returning home I burned a dresser’s worth of scented love notes we had written to each other and called her.  I told her I couldn’t be around her anymore.  I explained that if I was going to get better, I needed to get away from her because seeing her smile every day tore me up inside. 


She cried.  She never cried.


She said she loved me.  She said she loved me so much that she couldn’t have me out of her life.  Being the foolish sap I was, I believed her and thought that this meant we would get back together.  


I was wrong.


Upon returning to school I found her courting an upperclassman.  Soon I was in a dick measuring contest to get her back.  I won.  We were together again.  I was happy.  We stayed together until the following St. Valentine’s Day. And after I did everything a sixteen year old boy could do to worship the girl he loved, Mari broke my heart again. 


It rained that day. 


I slipped back into a heavy depression after that and had to withdraw from school for medical reasons.  The following semester I found myself back at the day spa known as Irving Maple.  I spent nine days as an inpatient because of ‘self injury.’ 


You know, that’s such a wonderful term.  It means everything but nothing.  Smoking is self-injury, but no one gets thrown into a padded room because they turn their lungs black.  Of course, I wasn’t smoking.  I was carving phrases into my arms to remind myself why I should not love Mari. 


I called them my personal sticky notes.”


“Sticky notes?  That’s rather grim don’t you think?”


“Well, they are like sticky notes.  They remind me of important items in my life and keep me focused on goals.  The only difference is that they don’t lose their stickiness and fall to the ground on the way to the trash can.”


“Couldn’t you have used creams or other products to reduce the scaring?  Wouldn’t that make everything a little easier for you now?  I know patients have done that before and had wonderful results.”


“You’re assuming that I want to get rid of these. 


Sure, the memories are still fresh in my mind.  Listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and watching my sink turn red with blood as I washed each gouge.  And because of the glories of the human mind I don’t remember the pain explicitly, but I do remember the image.  I even remember my thoughts before the fact.  I remember brainstorming on what to write.  I ended up with ‘I LOVED MARI,’ ‘SHE LOATHES ME,’ and ‘IMMORTAL BELOVED.’  That last one took two nights to complete.  It may not sound like much, but think about it, that’s one hundred and sixteen gashes.  The best part is that these were not clean cuts.


I dug.


“And this makes you want to keep the scars because…”


“Because they’re me; because they are still serving their purpose, just in a different aspect.  They make sure I don’t forget.  I can’t forget.  I need to remember this void within me…


Besides, they make a great conversation piece.


Anyway, when I left for college Mari and I hooked up for the first time.  Unfortunately, I had lost my virginity to someone else the winter before graduation, it wasn’t magical, it wasn’t even awkward.  It just was. 


Mari and I kept in contact and she led me on sometimes about us getting back together.  It never happened though. 


We haven’t spoken for more than six years now.”

“She really hurt you, didn’t she?”


“Yea, just a little bit.


I mean, she’s only the catalyst for everything that has made me who I am now.”


“Can you blame her for making you who you are?”


“No, I blame myself.  I was still too young to understand everything.”


“That’s very interesting of you to say, but we will have to continue this next week.”




Session IV


        Dr. Merit leafed through the photo album she kept inside her desk.  Within its leather binding laid the vibrant photographs of a bleak past.  White dress, white rice, white doves, white cake, and white wine were all found within each snapshot of innocent joy.  Of course, along with all this purity was Jessie " or as Dr. Merit put it, “the w***e of Planks City.”


        Joseph knocked on the door and entered. Briefly catching Dr. Merit throwing a white book in her desk his mind started computing.  What was that book?  Why did she rush to hide it?  What is she doing with something so important at work?  Why can’t the book be kept at home?  Joseph’s eyes darted to the named posted on the framed diploma perched above the desk.  Mrs. Elizabeth Granzer-Merit.  This variance was nothing new to Joseph; he had noticed the missing wedding ring and slight disparity in surname in their first meeting.  Yet, the presence of that white book hung in his mind.


        Pure white, intricately bound, and worn.  Joseph wondered what could be in it.  The thickness of the pages denoted photos. But photos of what?  It must be a wedding album.  What other album would require white leather and be so cherished as to wear down the corners and edges?  It couldn’t be a baby album. That would call for bright or pastel colors.  Besides, there were no pictures of children on Dr. Merit’s desk.  Joseph doubted it was an album created to honor a deceased relative as well.  Why would anyone make such a thing white?  No, this had to be a wedding album.  But why here?


“Hi Joseph, how are you doing today?”


“I’m doing ok.”


        Dr. Merit recovered quickly, this was not the first time she was interrupted while taking a not so merry journey down memory lane.


An uneasy silence lurked over the room.  Joseph did not know what to say.  Dr. Merit had always started off the sessions with a question.  Waiting behind the starting gate for the conversation, Joseph remained tense and off balance.


“So…what happened after Mari?  Were you able to graduate from high school with your class and friends?”


“Yea.  I graduated on time.  With my class. Yes.  With my friends. No.  By the end of high school I had no friends.  By that point they were all fed up with me.  No one wants to be around an annoying downer.  Sure, they tried to help, but it was half-assed.  They were covering their tracks and protecting their own egos than actually helping me.  Like most, they only went as far as ‘well, at least I tried.’


People are s**t like that.”


“You really think they just gave up and left without a second thought?”


“Of course not.  I’m sure they had several thoughts that all ran along the lines of ‘get the hell out of Dodge.’”


“I really can’t believe people can act that way.  It makes me really sad to know that you have these kinds of thoughts.”


“It’s fine if you don’t believe me.  How about I give you the best story I can think of that basically takes your theory and snaps it in half like a termite infected floor board.


Her name was Amber.  I loved her, or at least I lusted her.  Now that I look back on it, it looks a lot more like I was just lonely and she filled that hole.  We met at the beginning of college and just hit it off because I made sure we would.  I lied through my teeth to create an overly romantic experience she couldn’t resist.  Very soon I found myself addicted to her.  I had to see her every day, every spare moment.  I even fooled myself in to crying in front of her and telling her I loved her.  At the time, I had no real idea.  I loved her company though.  I can’t argue that point.


But, I did end up falling in love with her, or at least I talked myself in to it.


And that’s what I hate most.  I didn’t just lead myself on, I led her on.  I took her love but never really felt it.  I took everything from her and left her with nothing.


My own weakness killed her.  My own weakness warped her.  My own inability to be better cost both of us our hearts.”


“What do you mean?  What happened?”


“Well…I continued to live the lie for the next two years.  I stood up for her even though I didn’t need to.  I took the beatings meant for her because I had to protect her.  I had to protect her from her awful friends and her awful mother.  I was always there for her, I never left her side.  I was always there.  But I got tired, and my lie started to crack.  I couldn’t fool myself any further.  I had always had my doubts, and they were starting to beam down on me.


I was tired.  I was beaten down but constantly having to look after her but never receiving any support.  My thoughts.  My fears.  My desires all stayed within me because I couldn’t trust her to handle them.  Though I was always with her, I was always alone.”


“I see.  But, how did this end up hurting her?”


“I left.  I left her for another girl.  I spent a year studying in South Korea.  I was studying international law and relations and wanted to go to an Asian nation where I could get a completely different opinion than that found in the US.  Her name was Okju.  She was beautiful and smart.  She was strong and passionate.  She was everything I could ever want in a woman.


I broke Amber’s heart.  She loved me.  I was her first love.  I was her Mari.  There is one difference though.  I never left her side.  Even as a friend, I never left her side.  I was there for her every moment, every hour, every day.  She had a problem; I was there to fix it.  She was lonely; I was there to keep her company.  I never turned my back on her.  I was always there, no matter what.


But, when I need Amber she was gone.


Okju was wonderful.  But she was also temperamental and narrow minded.  I had to act the way she wanted me to act.  I had to speak Korean flawlessly.  I had to act Korean.  I had to be Korean.  I was none of this, and she made sure I knew this on a daily basis.  She quickly tore me down.


I was always dealing with my depression.  I never really escaped it.  I came closest when I was with Amber, but with Okju I was tumbling down again.  I had no one to grab for help.  I only had myself.  None of the other students where there to help me.  They all disliked me.  I was too smart, too egotistical, too depressing, too rude.  I was too not them.


The only person I had to reach for was Amber.  I couldn’t go to Okju.  The only time I had tried to tell her about one of my problems she quickly blamed me for it and called me a racist.  I had been drunk and apparently said something that seemed racist.  It didn’t seem racist to me, I was just making an observation.  Apparently observations are racist.


Amber became my outlet.  She wanted to be my outlet and wanted to be there for me.  But guess what, she wasn’t.  Soon after I started really opening up to her and trusting her she disappeared.  She yelled at me, accused me of being an awful person and has never spoken to me since.


Amber left me at a time where I could have been on the evening news in Seoul.  I could have been big flashing characters stating ‘Foreigner Plummets to Death from Apartment Building Roof.’  That didn’t matter to Amber.  She was only focused on making herself happy.  It didn’t matter all the years I spent helping her and protecting her.  All the wounds I gained from protecting her amounted to jack s**t.  She dropped me when I needed her most and left me for dead.


Talk about a good example for how inhumane humans are.  I give everything and receive nothing in return.


Because someone must always pour salt into my wounds I lost Okju too.  We always fought.  We fought because I was too depressed to see all the effort she was putting into the relationship and could only see all the awful things.  It wasn’t until months after our break up, and I was back in the US, that I realized just how much she loved me and just how much she did for me.  She had a good heart, she just couldn’t control her temper of communicate well.  And that’s my fault.”


“How is that your fault?”


“Because I should have seen it.   Because I need to see those things.  I need to be able to react to them and fix them.  I should be better than that.  I am better than that.  But I failed.  I couldn’t see it all clearly.  My depression distorted my vision and I ended up breaking her heart too.  I could have married her.  I could have spent the rest of my life with her.  I could have been happy.  But I failed.  But I was too stupid to see everything and too weak to stop myself from being so miserable and clingy.  If I had just been stronger and more resolute, I’d still be with her.  I wouldn’t be here.  I wouldn’t be here talking to you, I wouldn’t be in this goddamn country.  I would be married and happy.  I would have children.  I would have a family.  I would be complete.


Instead I’m here, alone and jobless.  I have nothing.  I’ve lost everything because I have thrown everything away.  My ship is sinking and I’m throwing everything overboard to try and stay afloat.  The problem is that I’m still sinking.”


“That’s very interesting of you to say, but we will have to continue this next week.”




Session V


        Joseph didn’t want to meet Dr. Merit.  He wanted to sleep.  Sleep had evaded Joseph in a way he never thought possible.  It was not insomnia.  He could sleep.  There was not even anything stopping him from placing his head upon his pillow and going through another dreamless night.  The only thing stopping Joseph from sleeping was himself.  He knew this.  He understood that he only needed to gently place himself into bed and he would give his body and mind the respite they needed so desperately.  He understood everything he needed to do; he just did none of it.  This is not to say he did not sleep.  Joseph did sleep.  He only required himself to be so tired that he fell asleep at his desk or on his covers, if he was lucky.  A few hours a day was all he needed to function.  Punch in at four in the morning.  Punch out at eight.  That’s all he needed.  Joseph still wanted more.  He just could not allow himself to have it.


“Hi Joseph, how are you doing today?”


“I’m doing ok.”


        Joseph wondered whether his face denied him this lie.  He knew his eyes were swollen.  He knew he was not clean shaven.  He had taken a shower and made himself presentable, but he still could not beat even the most unskilled actor who wakes at the end of a sleep aid commercial.


“You look really tired today.  Are you doing ok?”


“Yea. I’m fine.  I’m just not sleeping.”


“Why aren’t you sleeping?”


“Because I won’t let myself.  Don’t ask me why.  I don’t know.  I haven’t exactly spent these sleepless nights staring off into the middle distance thinking of flying pink VW Beatles.”


“Ok.  I won’t ask.  But I do hope you get better.”


“Of course you do.  It would seem oddly unprofessional if you didn’t.  Then again, if I get better you’ve just lost a client.  It’s an interesting business model you mental health specialists have.  Although, I do wonder if anyone ever does leave this roach motel.”


“Well.  I do hope you get better.  And don’t worry about my business model.  I think I’ll be ok.”


“Yea.  Sure.  Besides…it’s not like I will be leaving anytime soon.  The only other person who I can talk to is my wall.  His name is O’Connor, or at least that is what his name should be.  He’s always plastered.”


“Was that a joke?  It’s funny.”


“Yea, it was a joke.  I’m crazy remember?  Would you really be surprised if I did talk to walls?”


“You’re not crazy.”


“Flash cards.”




“It’s ok.  I’m just in a bad mood today.  Very tired.”


        Joseph hated that.  Not being tired.  He had grown accustomed to that many years ago.  Joseph hated taking his frustration or bad temper out on people.  He had it happen to him so many times before that he made it a personal goal to not take his anger out on others.  He missed stepped sometimes of course, but that never meant he also apologized.  Apologies were hard.


“Ok, well let’s try to move forward then.  You seem to really regret all the relationships you’ve had, why is that?  Why do you have such a hard time moving on?”


“Well…that’s not a complicated question at all.  Do you think I can get the whole answer in before our hour runs out?”


“I don’t know, but let’s try.”




Well, let’s start with the simple and move forward from there.  Why should I move on?  Why am I expected to forget about my mistakes and move on with everything?  If I forget mistakes, how do I stop myself from committing them again?”


“No one says you have to forget them.  I just don’t think it is healthy for you to let these regrets rule your thoughts.”


“Of course it’s unhealthy.  If it wasn’t I wouldn’t be here, right?  All I can say is that it’s really hard not to linger on these past misjudgments since there is nothing to stop me from always thinking about them.  Nothing keeps my mind occupied enough that I can just concentrate on one thing.  I just can’t.  I doubt I’m anything special because of this.  I just know that I think so quickly and my thoughts fly around in my mind so irrationally that it doesn’t take long for one thing to connect to another and then come back to my regrets.  I would say it all happens in less than half a second.


I’ve tried to find ways to occupy my mind.  Video games, being around friends " when I had them " reading, writing, walking, watching TV, listening to music.  You name the activity and I’ve probably tried it once.


In the end, my regrets are what rule me.  They are the hub for all my thoughts.  Everything has to pass through that station at least once.  Unfortunately, they always seem to be delayed when they enter the station.  Some never leave.”


“What kind of regrets cause such a delay?”


“Mostly ones revolving around how codependent I am concerning those I love.  Yea, that’s right.  I realize it.  I know that I throw a lot of pressure onto those I love or trust.  Especially my girlfriends.  I’m that annoying ex boy friend you see in movies who just can’t leave the main character’s love interest alone.  I’m just too heavy.  When I open up, I really open up.  I take all my thoughts, all my fears, all my hopes and place them in their hands and ask them to be gentle and help me carry it all to the end of the line.  They never do make it to the end.  Of course, I end up on my own with a load I can’t carry and I fall.”


“It’s hard for the other person too though.  Having someone rely on your is a massive burden.  Especially if you are not ready for it.  It’s not healthy for you or them.”


“Obviously.  But it’s not like I am trying to hurt them.  This is not some sort of fiendish plot of pull someone down with me.  It’s a cry for help.  I’m fighting for my life so that I don’t get crushed by all this weight.  For the person looking on, it seems like I’m not even moving.  Like I’m just giving up.  But that’s not the case.  The truth is that the load is so cumbersome that I doubt even Sisyphus would be able to handle it.  It takes a patient and caring person to see this.  Unfortunately, such a person is not exactly an abundant resource.  The self interested mentality of all people prevents them from really understanding what’s going on and having the fortitude to stick it out.  The moment the person feels they are no longer gaining anything from this experience they let go and leave.”


“If that’s the case, why do they help to begin with?  What do they think they gain by helping?”


“It’s pretty simple actually.  All you need to do is sit down and think about it.  I have.  Having no job or friends gives your mind a lot of free time.


People like feeling good.  It’s a simple enough answer.  People like that little pleasurable sensation they get when they know they’ve done something good.  That being said, it makes complete sense that they would try and help the other person with their burden.  They’re doing good.  They know they are doing good and they like knowing they are doing good.


Once reality hits though the person realizes that they aren’t happy at all.  Once the initial euphoria from helping wears off the person loses interest very quickly.  In the end they give up because they provide themselves that small loophole.  All they need to do is utter those magic words.


‘Hey, at least I tried.’  And there.  They’re done.  They’ve given themselves a blameless exit and are back on their merry way trying to find their next round of pleasure.


“That’s an overly simplified view, don’t you think?”


“Of course it’s simple.  It’s the base end to all decisions.  Everything springs forth from one original item.  Be it thought, action, atoms.  Everything.  In terms of thought and action, everything reverts back to self interest.  Just think about it.  Go through the logic.


Here let me give you an example.  Friendship.  Why are you friends with someone?”


“Because I like being around them.”


“Why do you like being around them?”


“I don’t know.  I just like being around them.”


“Yea…that’s not the reason.  You have to dig deeper than that.  Here, let me help you along with this.  Does the person make you happy?”




“Ok.  Good.  Do you make them happy?”


“I suppose so.”


“Alright, now we’re getting somewhere.  So you both spend time together because you both make each other happy.  The partnership you create when in a friendship, or in any relationship for that matter, is based off of an agreed upon need.  You have both decided that you are gaining something from the friendship and so work to maintain it.  Isn’t that right?


“I think it’s a little more complicated than that.”


“Is it?  Let’s keep going down this train of thought, but let’s change the formula a little bit.  Let’s say that you don’t like the other person.  You don’t hate them.  You just don’t like them.  They bother you, they’re annoying, they don’t shower enough.  Whatever the reason, you don’t like being around them.  Would you consider them your friend?”


“No, I don’t think I would.”


“Ok.  Now what if that person really liked you?  What if they just wanted to always be around you.  What if they wished they could be more like you?  What if they could never be as happy as they are when they are near you?  Would they still not be your friend?”


“I don’t know.  Maybe.”


“The answer is ‘no.’ Think about it.  They bother you.  You don’t want to be around them.  Therefore there is no partnership.  No mutual exchange of profit.  You are not friends.  The partnership doesn’t exist.


You see how it works?  A friendship is a partnership.  A partnership is based off of mutual profit.  No assurance of profit.  No partnership.  No partnership.  No friendship. 


This formula can be applied to any relationship of any capacity.  Business, social, family, pets, that strange foreign guy who sells you outdated hotdogs on the street.  They are all partnerships based off of mutual profit.”


“That’s very bleak.  I have a hard time believing it’s that simple and dark.”


“Well, you go ahead and throw up that defense mechanism.  It’s not easy realizing how shallow even your grandest of deeds are.


Just think about it.  My health insurance ends after next week.  Where is the mutual profit after that?”


“Yes, well that’s very interesting of you to say, but we will have to continue this next week.”




Session VI


        The last session.  Joseph walked into the room as he had done so many times before.  Placing his jackets and sweatshirt on the arm of the couch, Joseph prepared himself for his last session.  He was not calming himself for a revelation or even for the prospect of gaining some hope.  Joseph was preparing to erupt.  There had been a growing pressure within him which had finally pushed its way to the surface for the sake of displaying its horrific implications and cancerous ideas.  Joseph was ready to explain the reasoning behind the deed that would follow this session.


“Hi Joseph, how are you doing today?”


“I’m s****y”


“I’m sorry.  Why do you feel so bad?”


“Why shouldn’t I?  I’m struggling with the want to tear my chest open and let this void within me escapes and plague another man’s hopes and dreams.  I’m struggling with the reality that I am unemployed and stuck in a profession that isn’t exactly hiring.  I’m struggling with the meaninglessness of everything around me.  I’m struggling to wake myself each morning and not spend the day upon my bed gazing deeply into the pictures of the only person I never been able to forgive myself for losing.”


“Who is that?”


“Okju.  It’s always been her.  For more than six years now I wake up hoping to see that I have a message from her, a package, a picture, recognition of my existence.  For more than six years I have fallen asleep thinking about what she is doing right now and if she is thinking of me.  For more than six years I have wondered if she even remembers me.  For more than six years I have battled with the reality of the issue.  For more than six years I have fought the urge remove myself from these concerns.  For more than six years I have been preparing myself for this day.”


“What is happening today?”


“I’m going to die today.”


“What? Why?  What has happened?”


“The problem is that nothing has happened.  Like a sailor’s wife at the waiting on the coast I have waited.  I have waited, fearing each and every moment that passes.  Waiting and wondering whether I will ever see her again.  And just as like that wife, I return to the coast everyday to wait and bare the harassment and cruelty of the wind and waves repeating the same lie with each crash:


‘Maybe they will return on the next wake.  Maybe the next breeze shall push their ship over the horizon as if it were a gift from the sea for your unyielding patience.’


Of course this is all a lie.  Just as the wife, I know my loved one is lost, never to return.


So, I have to ask the question.  What’s the point?  Why should I not follow the example of that widow and plummet into those violent, bone crushing waves?”


“There’s always a point.  This issue exists for the singular goal of discovering it.  Even though the finish line is different for everyone, it is a journey we all share.”


“That’s bull s**t.”


“I don’t think it is.”


“Of course you don’t.  If you didn’t I doubt you could get through your day.  Sob story after sob story must take its toll on your heart.  I bet that believing there is a purpose for everything is the only way you are able to accept the circumstances and decisions of each fucked person who enters those doors.”


“What are you getting at what?  What are you saying?”


“I’m asking ‘what’s the point?’  I’m screaming out to have someone prove me wrong.”


“Prove what wrong?”


“The futility of life.  Honestly, what’s the point?  Why does it matter?  Everyone spouts this bullshit about how great the world is and how we all have these journeys defined by love, family, and friendship will pull you through everything. 


But that’s bullshit isn’t it?


These things don’t pull you through s**t, do they? 


They’re just useless.  I mean, love only serves as a means to shatter your heart and remind you that you are alone.  Your family is meant to crush you and pressure you into situations because of traditional obligations that will, in the end, drain you of life.  And friends.  Friends are just there so that they can let you down later on. 


Why the f**k should I care about these things?  Why the f**k must I go 60 more years before it is acceptable for me to die?  Why?  Why can’t I die right now?  Why can’t I just kill myself and cease to be?  I won’t go to heaven, I won’t go to hell.  I won’t be.  And that is truly sublime when you think about it.  When I don’t exist, I don’t think.  When I don’t exist, I don’t feel.  When I don’t exist, I am nothing. 


The idea of being nothing is so appealing.  Nonexistence removes everything.  Can you wrap your head around that?  Can you even grasp the concept of ‘nothing?’


Think of an empty black room.  Now remove the black.  Can you remove the black?  Is it even possible for you to do that?  Well, maybe you can’t because behind that darkness is nonexistence.  Behind that darkness is where we all end up no matter what. 


Of course you can’t really end up there for two reasons.


First of all.  There doesn’t exist, it is non existence.   Secondly.  Even if there did exist we couldn’t go to it since that would require us to have some form of existence to move.  There is no soul, let alone body to carry you there.  You go where there is nothing.  But you don’t even go.  That nothing has always been nothing and you are just that small non-value zero floating in a sea of zeros in a realm of zeros.


The truth is that you're life is all together meaningless.  It may be meaningful to you...but it won't matter in the end.  10 years. 50 years.  100 years.  A millennia.  In the end your bones turn to ash and any thought anyone ever had for you is gone.  You exist no more than that worthless god everyone clings to.

There is nothing special about you. Or me.  Or anyone.  We are no more important or special than a piece of debris floating in space.  That's all we are.  Worthless.  There is no special being who gave us life, no great land that awaits us.  The joke is that nothing awaits us.  Nothing at all.


Anyone who says otherwise is only fooling themself since they can't deal with their own mortality.  Anyone who latches onto religion, or science, or anything is only trying to blind themselves from the fact that when they die nothing awaits them since they are nothing.  You can’t gain something from nothing.


So tell me.  What’s the point?”


“I don’t know.  I don’t know what to tell you.”


“Of course you don’t.  You’ve never even thought about this have you?  You’ve never given a full moment to ponder on what really happens to you after death.  I bet the mere thought of death makes you change direction in your mind toward something else almost instantaneously.”


“I’ve thought about death before.  I’ve thought about it more than you will ever know.”


“Good, then why don’t you have an answer?  Don’t tell me you cling to all those foolish cults that preach reason and meaning in an irrational and meaningless universe. “


“No, I lost faith in God a long time ago.  But I know that my life has meaning.”


“Does it?  What meaning does it have?  What have you done that will guarantee your immortality?  You’ve got nothing.  You are nothing.  You will die and everyone will forget.  You will die and cease to exist.  And in time it will be as if you never existed.”


“My life has meaning.”


“No it doesn’t.  No one’s does.”


“Yes it does.”


“Prove it.”


“I can’t.  I don’t know how to prove it.  I don’t know how to show that there is a meaning.”


“You can’t prove it because there is no meaning to prove.  You can no more describe this meaning than you can tell me what lies behind that darkness in that empty room.  You can’t prove the existence of something that doesn’t exist.  You can’t give meaning to something that has none.”


“No.  I refuse to believe that.  My life has a meaning.  I just don’t know what it is yet.”


“You keep telling yourself that.


I tried to tell myself that.  I tried to accept the supposedly intricate and incomprehensible meaning of losing the two women who I have ever loved.  I tried.  I have fought to show myself that my mother and Okju are meant to guide me in some direction.  But there’s no direction.  There’s no street sign.  There’s no road.  There’s just nothing.  What reason do I have to keep fighting?  What reason do I have to stand strong against this realization?  What am I to do?


I’ve lost everything.  I’ve lost my job, my mother, my love, my friends, and now I’m going to lose the only person who will listen to me in the next ten minutes.  What’s left for me here?”


“You won’t lose me.  I told you that I would find a way to make sure we can stay in touch and I think that I found a way.”




“I just need to verify everything and pass it through the right channels, but I believe that we will be able to maintain our relationship for a good time to come.”




“Yes.  Really.  You don’t believe me?”


“Well.  Yea.  It’s been so long since someone has honestly done something to truly help me when I need them most.  I just can’t believe this.”


“Well, you should start believing it.”


“Thank you .”




“Thank you.  I don’t believe you know how much this means to me.  These sessions are all I have left.  Thank you Dr. Merit.”


“Call me Liz.”


“Thank you Liz.”


“There’s no need to thank me.  I worry about you.  I don’t want to watch you walk out this door knowing that you may being walking into such a dark place.  Just come back next week at the same time.  I won’t have all the paperwork and such taken care of until around the time of our next appointment, so let’s just continue with the same schedule we’ve always had.”


“Thank you Dr. Merit.”


“I told you.  Call me Liz.  I’ll see you next week.  Please keep fighting until then.”

“I plan on it.”




Session VII


        Joseph arose from a full night of sleep that morning.  He had managed to calm his mind to a point where sleep was acquired in a little over an hour.  This was a grand achievement for him.  Joseph showered and shaved that, preferring to look his best as he began his new journey away from that gorge of nothingness he had called “life.”


        Joseph thought about the things he would say to Liz that day.  He carefully considered each secret he carried and the value it would have on the conversation that day.  Should he tell her about the gay dream he had once?  Should he tell her about the time he had walked in on his grandmother changing?  Joseph held so many secrets he knew he could finally get rid of.  He finally had someone he could trust.  Someone who would bare all his defenses and egotism and wait for him to appear as the man he truly was.


        Rubbing his shoes upon the mat outside the building, Joseph entered into the final stage of his trek to Dr. Merit’s office.  Wwhen he found himself outside the door to Dr. Merit’s clinic though, he paused.  Something was wrong.  He was too happy.  He was too hopeful.  This was disconcerting.  He was jinxing himself to an insane degree.  He forced himself to suppress his joy and hope, and replace these leanings with their safer counterpart, pessimistic hopelessness.  Joseph knew what happened when he became too excited or passionate about something.  He knew that if he let this just spread through his system he may find himself rudely awoken to the world he was trying to desperately to push aside. 


This was impossible.  Joseph could not control his joy and he walked into the reception area and sat.


        There was a new receptionist at the desk.  Joseph didn’t recognize the woman who obviously did not recognize him.  She held on to a face which seemed to equal that of a suburban housewife witnessing an alien abduction.


“Excuse me.  Do you have an appointment?”


“Yea.  I have an appointment with Liz, I mean Dr. Merit.”


        The receptionist buried her face into the computer as she sifted through the dates and times of Dr. Merit’s hectic schedule.


“I’m sorry, I don’t see an appointment for this time in Dr. Merit’s planner.”


“That must be some kind of mistake, I have an appointment with Dr. Merit.”


“I understand that you might think that, but Dr. Merit isn’t even here today.”


“What?  No. That doesn’t make since.  I, Joseph Sullivan, have an appointment with Dr. Merit this time every week.”




“Yes, that’s my name.”


“Joseph Sullivan?”


“Yea, what’s going on?


“Dr. Merit asked me to give this letter to you.”


        Joseph rose at a slow rate.  Something was not right.  Something had gone wrong.  Maybe Dr. Merit is sick today.  That’s what he told himself at least.  He was not fooled.  Joseph new his hope and happiness had once again truly distorted his world and thrown him back into reality.


        Joseph reluctantly took the letter and delicately removed it from the envelope.  Opening the paper, Josephs eyes quickly found the message he felt shiver through his hands.




“That b***h.”

© 2010 Andrew Schecker

Author's Note

Andrew Schecker
I would greatly appreciate any comments you have. It does not matter if the comments concern grammar, style, or even font choice. I want to make this story as good as possible so all comments are welcome.

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Hey i like reading your stories..this is my second one...okay i would begin by saying that i feel your story needs a lot of editing...since i am not a pro at it...i can only judge your writing from a lay man point of view...i deeply feel it should be a lot more crispier and you could really cut down the length and there are some details which are clearly not required but there are many more points where your story does work.
Your writing style remind me of how i would write a story...Your story and characters are based a lot on self introspection and hence when one is reading it one can introspect one self and link with the characters.The protagonist here mentions so many crucial points about life even though in a darker immediately connect with him on many points.I feel...i may not be correct though that a lot of this story has elements which are a part of is more like a monologue you are having with yourself...i am just guessing this...see i may or may not be ryt when i am saying this...cause your writing brings out many aspects of the human psyche which one faces as one grows through life...
I find the begining much to ponder upon...
He sat down instead, sinking into the middle as if being swallowed by the shadow presence of each dilapidated heart which sat there before him. He wondered just how many others had bared their dark secrets in this very position....i loved the way you began though i would mention i was a tad disappointed by the end...i mean honestly...i was expecting was just vague not definite...there was not much clarity there.
I feel you could cut down on the sessions and the number of women in his lives or you could have shortened his encounters with them.I do understand many of times we want to put everything down in our write...i mean there are a lot of things that may be going on simultaneously in our minds and hence we wana put it all...
Your theme is very just need to structure your thoughts more and built out something more consolidated and sharper...cause there are points where clearly your writing loses grip on the reader's mind and when you are writing a story that you want to sell i think it can be a great drawback.
I loved that entire para about how we slowly forget dead people and how some of us keep them alive by only our efforts...i think it was great...also talking about walls...that para too...
i found his relationships weren't very clear or profound...
anyways all in all...keep are awesome.

Posted 9 Years Ago

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Added on May 24, 2010
Last Updated on May 27, 2010
Tags: Short Story, Dialog, Relationships, Love, Suicide, Death, Family, Trust, Betrayal, Therapy, Counseling


Andrew Schecker
Andrew Schecker


I am an English teacher living in Japan. I have a lot of free time on my hands and I want to start filling up that time by writing. I have been told I have a talent with words, but I want to hone th.. more..

Chapter I Chapter I

A Chapter by Andrew Schecker

Chapter I Chapter I

A Chapter by Andrew Schecker