h2>Dating : They Want My Soul
The clock read that it was a bit past 12pm, but it didn’t feel like it because the sky was already fairly dark. James and his mother sat at the kitchen island, in the middle of their beautiful kitchen, staring blankly at the bowls of tomato soup in front of them. There was no use in going outside to get any food since the snow was already starting to pile up outside. Across the street, the snowplows and town trucks made their way around the winter wonderland plowing and adulterating the freshly fallen blankets of snow. James considered the soup laid in front of him amidst the silence of his mother. Chunks of saltine crackers bubbled and floated about in the crimson soup. The stuff tasted fine, but the presentation wasn’t incredibly appetizing.
To his left, James’ mother sat transfixed at a certain point in the grey marbled kitchen island. But she had not suddenly become interested in the fine details of marble décor. Instead, her seemingly glazed over eyes were working overtime, looking at a million flashes and dots moving across her retinas in user-friendly fashion. James hated her at some moments such as these. His disgust at the new EquipEye proliferated into his feelings for his family. His mother could not talk to him, for she was too busy listening to the news and watching it without him.
Hungry but angry, James decided to abandon the tomato soup and walk into the living room. He sat down on the uncomfortable modernist couch and turned on the TV. Still inside, his mother hadn’t seemed to notice his disappearance. She wasn’t even eating the soup, and it was growing cold like the weather outside.
“Mom, the soup is going to get cold you know”, James called out from the other room. No response. He gave up trying to contact his mother, figuring that it was her own fault if the soup went cold. Matter of fact, he wouldn’t even put away the leftovers from the pot. It was her fault if it went cold, not his. The TV continued to flash away with the images of a game show, smiling faces glimmering on the TV, and celebrity guests coming to interrupt the flow of the show with their laughs and personal anecdotes. James’ disgust continued to linger for quite some time, and even the dim-witted sounds of the television could not mask the fact that his mother was sitting inside, practically zombified. Suddenly, the door burst open and a pair of snow-covered boots burst into the mudroom.
“Groceries are here!”, called Dad from the mudroom. Behind him was Alison, James’ youngest sister. She followed behind her dad, looking quietly at the floor as she undid her boots. Dad walked into the kitchen with several bags of groceries from the health food market at the other end of town. Alison was still stuck in the mudroom, haphazardly forgetting to take off her winter hat in her distraction by her own EquipEye.
“I’ll tell ya’, I could hardly see as we went down Stewart Avenue. The snow seemed to pick up so quickly that I could hardly switch my visibility settings!”, Dad exclaimed. Mom briefly looked up from the kitchen island and gave a brief but genuine smile at the pair. Behind Dad, Alison briefly murmured a “hello Mom”, and then immediately went to sit down with James. From the other room, James could hear his father continuing to talk to nobody in particular, certainly not his mother.
“It was absolutely fantastic”, he began with the force of an uninteresting Shakespeare monologue. “The deals that you can get with this thing are insane!”, he motioned to his eyes.
“Peanut butter was half off, and the fancy toilet paper that Alison likes was 75% off, just for downloading a new app that lets you track the stock of the shelves!”. It was true, EquipEye and WholeMart were hosting a dynamite deal that let users take off a certain percentage off of their shopping list if they downloaded a new app. It was common for EquipEye to run these sorts of promotions, and they worked well since the promotional video was programmed to suddenly show up in the right edge of the user’s view if they happened to be at their local WholeMart.
James rolled his eyes and looked at Alison, who was sitting next to him but quietly talking on the phone with her friend.
“My Dad is talking to himself in the other room, I think that’s what you heard, it wasn’t me”. She laughed at this, thinking that her father’s rambling was funny. James concurred, Dad always seemed to be talking about shopping and amazing deals that he saw. But it wasn’t that funny. Nobody had made the effort to ask James about the tomato soup, or why it had (by now) become completely cold, sitting lonely on the stove. Alison continued to talk to her friend for a bit and then hung up and looked at James.
“What have you been up to today?”, she asked. James was delighted, nobody had really talked to him since this morning when his mother briefly looked up from her perch near the window to give him a “hello”.
“Well I was reading earlier but I came down around 11 because I was getting hungry. Mom made tomato soup, but I think it’s cold by now so you might have to heat it up”, James responded enthusiastically. But by the time he reached the part about the soup, Alison had already interrupted him.
“Oh, well I think there is a way that you can check the temperature of the soup without a thermometer, if only you would just stop being a loser and get one…”, her voice trailed off and she gave a teasing grin. Again, James’ annoyance rose like a wave. It seemed like every time he talked to her she would just keep rubbing in the fact that he didn’t want to get an EquipEye. James was fed up with the conversation, and so he got up to investigate the groceries in the kitchen.
“We could have gotten a huge discount if you weren’t such a pussy, you know”, Alison called out from the other room. But her prods fell on deaf ears, for James was already talking to his father.
“What have you been up to today bud?”, his father asked.
“I just told Alison that I was upstairs for most of the day, and then I came down because I was hungry”, James replied.
“Huh, what were you doing upstairs the whole morning? You must have been seriously bored!”
“I was just reading. Oh, also I got a message from Dr. Elver, he said that I can meet with him today at 2”
“Well, that’s great bud! Hope that those sessions are helping you. I would go see him myself but I’ve been using this new program called ‘MindSpace’. Basically, I just sit at home doing whatever I want and it just monitors my reactions to certain things. Say I am watching baseball. If I don’t seem to be really excited when someone hits a home run, MindShare will guess that I am feeling down that day –“.
James’ attention had already started to shift elsewhere. It was becoming annoying to hear his family talk about their gadgets all day. In fact, it really was all day. Nobody around there seemed to talk about anything else. The last time they all sat down for dinner was nearly two weeks ago, and James remembered every part of it. He only remembered because it was so rare that they sat down.
It was Alison who had the bright idea of convening the family at the dinner table. He EquipEye was malfunctioning because water had gotten through the space between her eye and her eyelid while she was showering, so tech support was taking a while to fix it remotely. James’ mother decided to make Shepherd’s Pie for the occasion, which was also a rare event because she hardly ever made anything other than pizza or soup. James’ father wasn’t able to make it to dinner since he was busy on a late night business call in the basement.
The three family members sat together around the table in silence for a brief few moments, unsure of what to talk about. Alison started to talk about a show she was watching about.
“It’s about three High School girls who decide to go camping in the woods with few supplies. It’s really interesting! They each get to bring their favorite item from home, and they aren’t allowed to contact anybody. So each of them had to get their EquipEye disconnected, and you even get to watch the surgery. That was probably the worst part, it looked like they were in so much pain, I was wondering if it was even worth the pain to go on the show!”, Alison explained.
“Which network did you find it on? It sounds interesting but I’m not sure if I’m subscribed to the network so I don’t know if I can watch it. But it sure sounds interesting!”, their mother replied. For most of the dinner, James was unable to participate in the conversation. The pair seemed to only talk about television shows that only they could watch. He cringed as he heard them explain the details of shows that they could not physically watch with each other. Finally, after they had exhausted all of the juicy details of their respective shows, they turned to James.
“Are you watching anything, James?”, his mother asked. No, he wasn’t really watching anything. He was mostly in his room reading and writing.
“No, not really, it just makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s because I can’t find anything that I’m really interested in. And the TV in my room doesn’t get good channels so I usually just give up and go back to whatever I was doing”, James explained. His mother and his sister looked at him with a collective sense of vacancy, as they were unsure why he could possibly abandon the idea of watching something.
“It would be a lot easier if you had just gotten these things with us when we ordered them”, his mother gestured to her eye. “I think you would be a lot less bored stuck in your room, not talking to anyone or socializing at all”. Clearly she didn’t mean actual socializing, she hadn’t even left the house for the past month claiming that it was too cold outside to want to move.
“Again, I really don’t care if I’m bored. It’s really not the end of the world, I can just move onto another activity just like you guys can with those things”, James said, gesturing again towards their eyes.
“Yeah, but it makes you look kinda sad I think,” Alison retorted with obvious disdain in her voice. “It’s a bit tough when I have to explain to my friends that you don’t have an EquipEye because you ‘don’t like the idea or the concept’ of it”.
“Well, that’s just because I don’t! You know I have anxiety…it just makes me feel some weird sort of way. I am anxious enough where it already feels like I am not part of reality, I don’t want some machine in my skin making it easier to feel that way, I’m just not going to do it”, James replied defensively. It was clear that the conversation was getting nowhere, as both Alison and his mother had resumed a position of defeat. It was no use; they had tried many times before to convince James that buying an EquipEye was alright for him. Finally, James’ mother reached a hand across the table as reassurance.
“James, sweetie, I’m your mother. If I didn’t think it was safe then I wouldn’t let any of us get them! You know that, don’t you? They really are just harmless. Let me tell you when I first got mine in I was very taken aback, and it took me a couple weeks to figure out how it worked. But now I love it! Just consider it is all I’m asking. I promise it won’t hurt you, sweetie”, she crooned.
His mothers’ sweetness had disarmed him for a moment, and perhaps he was wrong in thinking that the device would hurt him. He had only seen pure joy and happiness from his family after they got them. He hadn’t seen them that happy since before Joseph died. Poor sweet Joseph.
He was resigned for the rest of the dinner, not wanting to speak for fear of spilling out some sudden urge to run down to the store and buy one of the devices. It was only when he got to his room after cleaning the kitchen table that he was finally able to relax…
He forgot what had happened the rest of that night, and suddenly realized that his father was just looking at him, confused as to why his son was so deeply lost in thought. James turned to the back of the kitchen and glanced at the clock on the wall. 1:50.
“Uh I have to go dad; my appointment is in a few minutes. Can I just take the silver car?”, James stammered.
“Sure, drive safe bud, it’s still snowing really hard out there”, his dad said with a sad tone.
James rushed out the door, nearly forgetting to grab the keys from the drawer by the door. Sure enough, the roads were nearly covered with snow again. It would have been impossible for him to get to Dr. Elver’s office if he decided (for some reason) to go on foot. He arrived at the office at 1:58. It was an old grey health complex, approximately 5 floors. It boasted a small yet convenient customer parking lot, one where there were gaps in the hedges so that customers could easily walk straight to the door. James made his way to the door, and eventually to the elevator, where he selected the “fifth” floor button on the worn out steel panel. Making his way down the hallway at a quickened pace, James rounded the corner to Dr. Elver’s door a minute before 1 o’clock. He took a seat in the grey waiting room. There was nobody else there, just the door he came in through, the chairs, and then the door to Dr. Elver’s office.
James loved Dr. Elver. He had been going to see him since High School when he first started to develop anxiety problems. It helped James to talk about his feelings and to uncover the deep psychological mechanisms that made him feel so out of place and constantly alienated. He trusted Dr. Elver with all of his secrets. He used to think that his anxiety was among the strangest cases, and he frequently suffered from crippling panic attacks. Severe ones too, but not unlike anything that Dr. Elver was accustomed to dealing with. James’ mother even went there, Alison too. Hell, it seemed like everyone in the town went to him. In fact, they did.
“Hey James, why don’t you come in and make yourself comfortable?”, Dr. Elver said in his calm voice, almost like water splashing elegantly into soil. James obliged, and Dr. Elver shut the door behind them.
“How have you been doing since the last time we spoke, James”?
“I’ve been alright, I guess. It’s just been a bit boring because of the storm, I haven’t gone outside in a couple of days”.
“Well that’s understandable, I actually heard that the storm is finally moving past our area, so it should be gone within a couple of days…how has your mood been those past few days while you were at home?”, Dr. Elver asked. James paused for a moment and carefully considered the question. His gaze nervously began to shift to different objects in the room. The lamp, the old photos, candy for children.
“I’ve felt okay, not a huge change since last time. Mostly just anxious, so I think that impacts my mood a lot. I don’t think I mentioned this last time, I’m not sure why, but a couple of weeks ago I actually had dinner with my family for the first time in a while, well not my entire family because my dad had some business call he had to be on”, James explained.
“Okay, and how did that dinner go with your family? Were you guys talking about anything special in particular?”, Dr. Elver asked.
“Well at first it started off with Alison and my mother talking about shows they have been watching, separately of course. And then they started coming after me because they had nothing else to talk about”.
“Why do you think they started coming after you? Were you being rude to them, or were they just trying to ask about your day?”, Dr. Elver asked. James could tell that Dr. Elver had already formed an idea in his head, probably something along the lines of his mother and sister being concerned about his recent antisocial behavior, which James understood was a reasonable conclusion for a therapist to come to.
“Well, they were saying that I should have bought the EquipEye along with them, then I wouldn’t be so bored and I could do all the things they do, and probably talk to them about it too”, James replied.
“Ah, I see. I think it makes sense for them to be concerned-.” Dr. Elver paused a moment to look over James’ shoulder at nothing in particular, there was only a half open curtain over James’ shoulder. James could see his eyes darting about, probably looking at something on his own equipment. After a few seconds, Dr. Elver’s gaze again returned to James.
“Sorry about that, I just received a message from another patient, I just had to make sure it wasn’t an emergency”, Dr. Elver explained.
“Of course, no worries”, James replied quietly.
“So, as I was saying, I think your sister and your mother are just concerned about your antisocial behavior, and they probably think ‘if only he had an EquipEye, then we could talk to him about all of our favorite shows’. I’m sure they would like that James! Why don’t you consider getting one again?”, Dr. Elver said. Immediately, James began to feel uncomfortable in the upright leather seat. The room seemed to imperceptibly have been raised a few degrees, but the thermostat was on the outside of the door, so it wasn’t likely. James shifted uncomfortably in his seat for a moment and clasped his hands in front of him.
“I still haven’t been able to come around to the idea of getting one of those things. It’s just the same issue I told you about earlier, I just don’t feel comfortable about putting something in my body. It just reminds me of some surgical procedure I guess…well It actually is, that’s how they put it in you. I remember when Joseph was in the hospital they were using those prong things on his eyes when he- “.
“James, I think you are getting a bit agitated, we don’t have to talk about this anymore if you don’t want to”, Dr. Elver said in his most soothing tone. James breathed a loud sigh and looked out the window. The snow was still coming down heavily, not showing any signs of letting up as Dr. Elver said. A short pause fell upon the room, with both Dr. Elver and James looking at different corners of the room.
“I think that you should still think about getting one James. I know that what happened with your brother was scary and hard to see, but his case was one in a million James, truly. I don’t think his device was working as well as it should have, right?”, Dr. Elver said with an inquisitive tone.
“Yeah…I guess”, James replied, not shifting away from his gaze from the clock in the corner. It was 2:20.
“James, I think you just need to trust me on this. Your mother, Alison, your father, and even myself think that these devices are safe. Sure, they are still fairly new, but they are extremely popular for a good reason! Allow me, if you will to present you with a good example of how safe these things work”.
“I’m not really sure if I want to hear about — “, James interrupted, but Dr. Elver continued his rant, with passion mounting every few sentences, judging by the gestures he was making with his hands.
“One of my patients, her name was Emily, also had extremely bad anxiety like you. She also came in here saying that she was afraid to have an EquipEye put in place because she didn’t like the idea of her eyes being ‘violated’, which was her word by the way. The surgery really isn’t that invasive as she made it out to be. Anyway, what we did was we watched videos of people having the device put in place. She got to see the whole procedure, well except from the confidential parts they have to remove, but after we watched a few videos she told me ‘it doesn’t look that bad!’. So, a week later she went to have one put in, and she has been loving it ever since. Isn’t that great? The next time I saw her we were able to friend each other and we even talked about what shows we were watching, it was great, and she was happy. James, I can’t tell you how happy she was. It was really one of the greatest things she had ever done, that’s what she told me”.
Dr. Elver finished his salvo of information and sunk back into his faux-leather chair, as he had been increasingly coming closer to the very edge of his seat. James’ anxiety had begun to rise even more than he thought possible. Dr. Elvers face was red, but not like any way that James had seen before. The man talked a lot, but never that much, at least from what he could remember. His hands started to feel light and fuzzy, like there were ants crawling into his arteries and slowly removing red blood cells, taking them back to their little anthill. Dr. Elver drew another breath, seeming to prepare for another speech.
“So what I think we should do is this: today we can head down to the store and check it out ourselves, how does that sound? We can talk to the clerks and see what type of model would be good for someone with your type of anxiety. Now, they need to do a quick brain scan just to check for any abnormalities, but the whole process should be quick, they are very good at speeding the whole process up, it’s quite convenient. What do you think? We could just pop in there right now if you want, we could take my car or you could just follow me if you want. It shouldn’t be too snowy”, Dr. Elver said in a great breath.
It was still snowing very hard outside. There wasn’t any chance that they could make it down the street without their tires slipping down the slope near Pine Road. It wasn’t terribly safe for them to take the chance, despite how convenient the whole visit would be.
James couldn’t take it anymore. Dr. Elver had never pushed him to do anything he didn’t want to do in the three years he had been seeing him. He had rarely mentioned his feelings about the EquipEye, but when he did he didn’t remember Dr. Elver caring so much about it, not like this. Although, it may have also been due to the fact that Dr. Elver didn’t get his own device until a few months ago, and James had only seen him once since he got his device in…
“James? How does that idea sound? We could even walk down there if you don’t want to drive, maybe that would make you feel more comfortable”. Dr. Elver became more excited, his hands moving wildly, red heat drawing into them like a crustacean. He was on the edge of his seat again, and he touched his left eyebrow rather strangely, not to itch it, just to touch it. “If you want, we can get you an app called ‘Mindshare’, I’ve been using it myself. What it does is that when you are doing your activities you grant it access to your vital signs and basically it monitors- “.
“No, I don’t want to go, please Dr. Elver. I really don’t. I just really hate this whole thing. Can I go home? I’m not feeling very great. Could we maybe reschedule this visit? I’m really just not feeling good right now, I think it would be best if I came back another time”, James explained. Dr. Elver barely heard him, and resumed his tirade as soon as James finished speaking.
“How about a discount? I know that your parents and your sister really enjoy a great discount”. Now Dr. Elver was completely standing up, his wrists slowly spinning in circles, like he had some wires in his veins that he had to keep twisted. James was still seated, sinking into his seat even further than the leather seemed to allow. Suddenly, Dr. Elver seemed to appear much large than James had realized. His chest seemed bigger somehow, and his hands seemed more swollen than usual. Dr. Elver’s hands kept gyrating, getting slightly faster as he continued his rant.
“Your mother would really appreciate that discount, James. You just have to trust me on this one James, I’m your therapist after all. I would never make you do something you don’t want to do. I would never make you do something that I didn’t think was good for you, really James. Didn’t you like the story of Emily? She was so happy James, her depression and anxiety were cured! Didn’t you know that? She also had depression, really bad too. She was cured of that too, because she wasn’t so bored and anxious like you. And did you know that she also got a massive discount too? They offer great discounts for people who went there at their doctor’s referral. I can give you a great referral James, and it would really help me out too. Let’s just go down there right now, I can drive you, let’s go grab your coat. I will tell you mom that we are going down there to get you the new EquipEye.” Hands gyrating furiously, Dr. Elver made his way to the door for his coat, which was hanging on a skeletal wooden coat hanging on the right side of the door. By now, James’ hands were also shaking and sweating.
“Dr. Elver, please listen to me, I really don’t want to go, I think I’m just going to leave, please. We are not going down there”, James replied, slurring his words and stumbling over phrases. James leapt up from his seat. It was enough to give him a panic attack. He felt his chest begin to constrict as he gained his footing. The blood rushed to his head, making the room seem dark and fuzzy. Dr. Elver appeared even bigger than before, somehow stretching all the way up to the ceiling. The rush of blood to James’ head made Dr. Elvers’ eyes look strangely dark. Did he have brown eyes? They were definitely blue when James walked in.
“I don’t think it’s safe for you to leave, James. It’s just not a good idea. Trust me, I have a great weather application. James, listen to me, I am your therapist. I know what is the best thing to do for you. You have to trust me, you have to”, Dr. Elver said, his voice suddenly deeper and clearer than it was just a minute ago. A spear of fear pierced James. Sweat started to pour down his back, drenching his lumbar area and flowing into the rear of his pants. There definitely wasn’t something right about Dr. Elver. He was too big, too big, too big. His voice was deeper, it was never that deep, James was sure about it. And he wouldn’t stop talking about the EquipEye, he just would not stop. Dr. Elver stood by the coat rack, wrists still gyrating, moving his coat back and forth with his neck craning upwards to the ceiling. It was suddenly quiet.
“Your mother is going to be upset if you leave James. Very upset. We are all going to be upset”. The words weren’t even coming from his mouth anymore. His eyes were brown; James could finally see them clearly. They were brown, not blue like he thought they were when he walked in. Maybe it had been the snow that made them seem lighter, maybe not.
“I’m leaving”, James said, and with a few quick strides, he made it to the door. Dr. Elver didn’t make any attempt to stop him, he just stood in his place with his coat in his hand, breathing heavily, panting.
James made it outside the door and ran down the hallway, his pockets feeling weirdly light. He didn’t have time to take the elevator, so he went straight for the stairs. As he touched the cold metal railing, he took a look behind his shoulder. Dr. Elver was standing behind the corner, half of his body still obscured by the wall. He was just looking at James, his now brown eyes staring intently, analyzing. James began to run down the stairs, nearly tripping down the stairs. His shoes were too big for him and he nearly crashed into the wall as he reached the bottom of the last staircase. He ran past an elderly woman waiting for the elevator in the lobby, nearly knocking her over as he scrambled for the door. A whimper came from the bottom of his chest as he collided into the door, the formation of a cry began to form in his throat from the fear of Dr. Elver following him down the stairs, walking with heavy steps nearly touching the ceiling as he came down the stairs.
James made it outside the building and rounded the corner into the parking lot. Nearly all of the cars were gone from the parking lot. The snow was continuing to fall, heavier than when he came in. a white blanket of snow seemed to be falling in its complete form from the sky. He could barely see his car, all the way in the back of the lot, completely covered in the untouched snow. As he ran towards his car his feet began to slip on the black ice obscured by the freshly fallen snow.
James reached the car and yanked on the handle, but the car wouldn’t open. He searched his pocket for the keys, but they weren’t there. He had left them back in Dr. Elver’s office, and as he discovered, his phone was back in the office as well. What used to be heat radiating from his sweating and stressed body started to slowly fade away. He became cold, as he was not running anymore. James wasn’t exactly sure what to do. He was still afraid that Dr. Elver would follow him outside, and he couldn’t conceivably go back inside to sneak into his office for the rest of his things.
He sat down in the blanket of snow, by then it was past his boots standing up, so he was half submerged in the snow while sitting down. The parking lot was quiet, and strangely peaceful since there were no cars on the road. James leaned against the back right tire. It would be some time before he could muster the courage to go back inside to Dr. Elver. For the next two hours, He kept his head turned towards the building entrance, waiting.