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Comedy Stories

The Abyss Gazes Back

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.”

“Go on.”

“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.

“How so?”

“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?”

“Not particularly.”

“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.”

“Exactly.”

“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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