This short fiction is based on an exercise from Carolyn Elliott’s Existential Kink. @carolynelliott_
Simon walked out of the residency director’s office, and walked down the hallway. He had to get out of there. “They can’t do this to me. I don’t deserve this.” He didn’t usually talk to himself, but he was whispering as he walked, finding the exit from the building. In the heat and bright sunlight of the afternoon, he was blinded. He shut his eyes and looked away, then squinted until he reached the shadow of the Emergency Department. He couldn’t believe he still had to work an overnight shift after his residency told him they were going to fire him. Maybe. Possibly. Unless things change.
“I’ve got to get my head clear. They can’t do this to me.” He continued walking, deciding he was going to go and sit in his car and try to calm down for the two hours remaining before his shift. “They’re going to fire me. This is bullshit. This residency has been the most stressful situation in my life for three years. They criticize my reports, they criticize me, nothing I ever say is right, even if I know everything I’m treated as if I’m wrong. No matter how hard I work, nothing ever changes and I’m back to square one. They say they’re going to fire me, but maybe they won’t. I have this mental disorder, and I can sue them if I do. They’re probably just going to be shitty to me until I graduate, and I just have to put up with it. I just have to try and not to step on any landmines.”
He crossed the street to his parking garage, and started up the eight flights of stairs to the fifth floor. “OK what are my choices here? What are my emotions here? One, I feel very afraid. I feel like I am checking my reports several times and then I can get yelled at or criticized for anything and I won’t know what it is; it’s like I’m constantly in danger. I feel very anxious, like in my diaphragm, it’s tingly.”
“I just don’t like being criticized. I just stays in my head and runs around forever.” He reached his car, which unlocked in its proximity the keys in his pocket. “The shit they say is so mean, and it takes away all my enjoyment and pride in my work. I worked really hard to get here, and I think that they could evaluate me in a way that’s a lot more constructive. It would be one thing if I got all the answers wrong, but I know a million things and get a million things right. They just hate me and they want to see me squirm and suffer. They want to embarrass me.They want to abuse me so that they feel better about themselves and their own shitty lives.”
He reclined his seat, and found his headphones. He’d try and listen to some meditation and calm down. “I feel sad for the loss of my residency. This is supposed to be like a seminal experience. This is supposed to be the time in my life where I’m learning so much in becoming a practitioner, but I feel like I’m getting more neurotic instead.
“They just make me feel very stupid. I feel worthless and useless. It makes me ashamed. It makes me feel like I’ve made all the wrong choices and I’ve let down my family and myself. I’ve wasted my time and my money and my life because there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. I cannot do the job that I was given to do and it was it mistake for me to come here in the first place.”
“The best thing for everyone would be for me to just kill myself.” He felt a tapping on his wrist and he was screaming before he opened his eyes. There was a man in the car with him, in his passenger’s seat. He ripped the headphones out of his ears.
“So there it is, right? You’re just going to kill yourself?” The man asked. Simon stared at him, and there was something familiar about him.
“Have we met? What are you doing in my car?” Simon started to open the door.
“We’ve met before, Simon, believe me. Pull your head out of your ass. Where have you seen this face before?” He pointed to himself and smiled, and Simon recognized immediately.
Simon Vaughn, MD. The man was him, from the straightened teeth. He pointed to his right upper canine tooth, and Simon put his tongue on his. It was filed flat, from when he’d filed it as a ten year old because he thought the ridges looked ugly.
“Simon? Did I not take my medicine today?”
“Why don’t you call me something other than Simon. How about Virgil?”
“Our grandfather’s name?”
“And I’ll be your guide through this inferno you’ve created. Well done, by the way. It’s totally OK now for you to you to stop pretending you don’t enjoy this kinky relationship you have with your attendings at your residency.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t enjoy this. I hate this.”
“Bullshit, I’m you. I like to be watched. I like to perform. I’m a theatrical person, and part of me always wanted to be an actor. I’m an exhibitionist at heart. When they say something to me, and I tense up and stammer, it’s the same as when a hot girl comes up to me and talks to me and hits on me. It’s exciting, and I get all tangled up. When I feel that anxiety in my diaphragm, that’s the same way I feel when I get criticized. I’ve just been getting off and all this sadness and misery.”
“What am I always said about myself? I’m like the perfect victim here. You can just punish me punish me I’m just gonna take it, I’m gonna turn it around and you’re gonna be so happy with what I do, I’m just your punching bag, I can be anything you can just crush me and run me over and I’m gonna just be fine, I’m gonna be happy about it. Because any attention is good attention right? Because I never got to be the bad boy when I was a kid, and now I get to be the bad boy?”
“I won’t let myself go around and screw around on my wife but it’s OK if I get punished at work, I can get off on that. Why, I get so turned on then I have to masturbate driving home, I’ve got so much excitement just jammed up in here with me.”
“What do I really hate? Being ignored. Being treated like an non-entity, like I’m nothing. If they want to spit on me, I must’ve really made them love me. I like not being a goody two shoes. I like not being the perfect boy, the answer to everyone’s prayers. I like being stupid. I’ve been smart my whole life and where is it got me? I’d like it when people are rude to me. It gets my heart beating. I think of so many cool things to say, it’s like taking Adderall or something. My brain is just on fire with whatever bullshit they throw at me.”
“Didn’t I always want to be a revolutionary? Did I always want to fight? To strong enough to kick some ass. And I’ve got these pricks by the balls. Nobody cares what they think. I already have a job after residency. I went to war with the fabled Philadelphia Medical Institute and I smashed that squad of fucking geniuses. When I walk out of there, it’ll be like, “fuck those guys, they can’t do shit to me.’ Yeah I’m gonna squash those motherfuckers, smartest assholes in the fucking world. Fuck you.”
Simon exhaled. This wasn’t going well. How was he supposed to work all night in the emergency room when he was having a psychotic break?
“Virgil, listen, your take on this is refreshing, but doesn’t it give you pause to think about what our mom and dad are going to say if I get fired?”
“I love your righteous indignation. My parents? They’re gonna love me more because they have to take care of me now. They’re reaching out to me now, they’re worried about me, and they’re thinking about me, more than they ever did when I was a kid. I can do no wrong. They want to make me happy. What am I going to do, break their heart more? I went to medical school. So I tried my best and I failed. Now I get to hang around in my hometown for the rest of my life just doing the bare minimum. I can spend all my time trying to write a book. I always wanted to be a writer. My jackass brother is just sit around at home and not writing his book, and here I am. I got tricked going to work. I got tricked into trying.” Virgil folded his arms across his chest and sat back.
Simon paused, and then began. “Virgil, I want to say how grateful I am to you. I’ve always wondered how I had the strength to get through this job where everything was against me, and now I know that I created this entire situation. I like it. It’s forced me to learn a ton of bullshit because those assholes have been riding me. When I have nothing to do, I exist in a state of torpor, a perennial slug like existence. I need a cattle prod in the ass so that I can actually get something done. One of those assholes gets going, and I memorize anything. It’s like, ‘oh yeah, I know, I do need to be whipped. Yeah I’m just so bad. Spank me spank me daddy. That’s the only way I’m gonna learn.’”
He leaned over and kissed Virgil on the mouth, softly. “Virgil, you’ve given me so much pleasure, and you’ve kept me alive all these years. Thank you for everything you’ve done. Thank you.” He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, he was alone in the car.