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How to Change Careers and Ruin Everyone’s Life

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Joined: 28 Feb 2009
Posts: 1
How to Change Careers and Ruin Everyone’s Life  Reply with quote  

It took nine years before Eric ex-ed me out entirely. I’d been his imaginary friend since he was three. At three years old, I’m his oldest memory. And now, I’m nothing to him. Scum. Toe jam. Rutabaga juice. I’m just imaginary to him, like I was never even there. It started when he was nine. He’d be hanging out with me less often, wouldn’t notice me as much anymore. I’d be in his school yard, holding a basketball wanting nothing more than to just throw some hoops with him but he’d just walk by to join a group playing soccer like I wasn’t even there. I bought that ball just for you, Eric! Sometimes, he’d go weeks without talking to me. Can you believe that? Would you ignore the man standing in the corner of your room with a batch of fresh cookies for that long? Every time I almost gave up on him and walked out, he’d come back and find me. Stupid me, I’d always forgive him and forget what he’d done. We’d travel to the moon. We’d explore Myanmar – though it will forever be Burma to us…I always ignored the fact that he was growing up; never accepting that he probably just didn’t need me now. I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, the day I definitely stopped being his imaginary friend, but by the time he turned twelve he didn’t see me anymore. I became to him what I was to everyone else: invisible.
So now I’m unemployed. Now I have no home. Now I drink to fill the hole in my heart. Yes, Eric, I’m being melodramatic and I hope some bully at school gives you a chocolate swirly and forgets to flush and you drown.
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. Take me back.
Please disregard the previous paragraph. It’s been emotional.
Don’t worry, though. I knew exactly how pathetic I was: a jobless drunk sitting in a wading pool of my own self-pity, sipping Gatorade and rum and crying. No, wailing. It was bad. I couldn’t do anything. Eric was my life; I’d been passed down in his family for decades. On rainy days when I couldn’t find any available wading pools to sit in, I’d walk the streets. I was invisible, so I couldn’t even panhandle. It was a hard time in my life and I would rather not describe it any further. Sometimes, I’d get into heated arguments with disturbed homeless people. We’d be on street corners, screaming nonsense at each other. I was just happy someone could see me again.
One day, after I chased a shopping bag lady down a few blocks, I noticed a sign that caught my attention like a small child hitting you in the middle of your forehead with a plastic hammer. In big, black, bold letters was written “Friendless Imaginary Friends Welcome”. It was beautiful. If I had a lachrymal apparatus, I would’ve cried. The sign was above a door so black you’d think it wasn’t even there, like a Wile Ethelbert Coyote illusion. Next to the door was a shady character leaned up against the wall giving me the stink eye. I sheepishly shuffled past it. The stairs went down forever, or two flights. I couldn’t tell which. It led to a room that was either totally dark or bright, depending on where you were standing. It was full or completely void of chairs, based on where you sat. In the middle of the room, unless it was to the side, was a man who was either really tall or really fat. His name was Dvgt. I knew this because as soon as I walked in, unless it was a few minutes later, he came up to me and stuck out his skinny or meaty hand.
“Hello, my name is Dvgt.”
“How do you spell that?”
“Would you like to sit down?”
“I thought I already was.”
“How can I help you?”
“I don’t need help sitting down, thanks. I can manage.”
“No, I mean what can I do for you?”
“Really, I’m fine, I can manage sitting down on my own.”
“No, I mean, why are you here?”
“Oh…the sign.”
“Did it make you feel like a small child hit you in the middle of your forehead with a plastic hammer?”
“It does that every now and again. I’ve been meaning to get it fixed, but they never come to do it. Come, sit down, we’ll talk.”
“I thought I already was sitting.”
This went on for a while.
Dvgt brought me a cup of black coffee or milk and sat down, unless he stood up.
“So, you haven’t worked since Eric, you say?”
“That’s what I just told you.”
“I know, I’m just reiterating.”
“You know, Lord Abernathy –”
Lord Abernathy is my name; I’m terrible sorry I haven’t introduced myself yet. Pleased to meet you.
“You know, Lord Abernathy, children these days respond very differently to imaginary friends. What with the advent of videogames and the flourish of pharmaceutical companies, nowadays kids simply have no need or even abilities for imaginary friends. You were very fortunate to have been passed down in that family for so long.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying the chances of you finding another child in need of an imaginary friend are rather unlikely.”
“I thought this whole business was supposed to help unemployed imaginary friends! Are you saying it’s hopeless for me, I’m done like a Christmas turkey?”
“No, no. You’re like the cran-apple stuffing.”
“Sorry, I guess food metaphors aren’t my area of expertise.”
“That’s ok; we’re not all linguistic masterminds. You’re doing fine.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind.”
“So, regarding my hopeless predicament?”
“It’s not hopeless.”
“It isn’t?”
“No, there are options.”
“There are?”
“What are they?”
“Have you ever considered the realm of psychiatry?”
“You could be a delusion.”
“A delusion?”
“Yes, a fixed false belief derived from deception. You see, what we do is assign you to a client and you manipulate his or her psychological behavioral patterns to the point of distress or disability, rendering him or her incapable of typical social functioning.”
“You take their marbles and you lose them.”
“For instance, we could introduce you to a ripe unstable mind caused from genetics or early environment and showing pre-morbid signs of madness, and you can send them over the edge of sanity. Similarly, you can work with a client with no predisposition to an illness and suddenly give them an onset of acute symptoms of mental confusion, delirium or other psychotic behavior. Or you could even be a new set of hallucinations to a chronic patient who’s going on a new med change that he or she is in fact – unbeknownst to the staff – non-responsive towards or who’s simply going out of their temporary remission phase, if you prefer to not be a first episode psychosis.”
“I…I wouldn’t know what to do though.”
“That’s not true. You told me you recently chased a shopping bag lady which led you here.”
“But that’s horrible! I can’t do that for a living.”
“It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.”
“I don’t know, Dvgt.”
“How about you take this gig as part-time and, meanwhile, I’ll keep looking for a kid in need of an I.F.”
“That’s biz-talk for imaginary friend.”
“What do you say? If you were a first episode psychosis you would make your own hours.”
“Fine. But only for a bit. I’m not changing careers, this isn’t my scene.”
“Of course, I understand. I have the perfect client for you. You’ll start tomorrow. He’s in the perfect conditions to become a paranoid schizophrenic.”
“Which are?”
“He’s a sixteen year old genius who in an honors program at M.I.T.”
“Sounds about right.”
“I’ll give you his coordinates. He just moved into the dorms.”
“How should I…you know.”
“Do anything you want. The beauty of a paranoia influenced hallucination or delusion is that they entirely irrational to everyone except for the patient. He’ll believe anything you tell him.”
“I’m an evil, evil friend. I can’t believe I’m doing this, I’m going to be sick.”
“Just go with the flow, you’ll do fine. Be his friend at first, talk to him when he’s alone; make him think you’re real. You don’t have to let the sickness manifest itself publicly right from the start. Let it creep up on him.”
It was at this point I threw up all over Dvgt’s shoes, unless it was his shirt.
An hour before I went to Oliver’s room – that’s the kid whose hallucination I would soon become and subsequently whose life I would send spiraling down into a horrifying abyss of nasty bits – I had three messages waiting for me. They had gotten quite impatient from waiting and I only noticed them when they started tapping their feet and coughing lightly into their cupped hands. The first one was from Dvgt, saying that he’d found a girl who would respond well to an imaginary friend. I was so relieved I almost fainted. The second one was from Dvgt too, saying that the girl was just admitted into the psych ward. Diagnosis unconfirmed. That time, I did faint. The third message was from my mother, asking me if she was every going to stop having to imagine having imaginary grandchildren any time soon. I felt my breakfast file divorce from my stomach. I don’t want to talk about it any more.
I was scheduled to meet Oliver at 1 P.M. I accidentally went to the wrong wing of the dorms and almost missed him. He was locking his door when I ran into him. I didn’t know it was him until I realized that I actually knocked him over and he stared at me strangely while we lay on the floor together. He could see me. I smiled. He frowned.
“Can I help you?” He was very confused. I panicked.
“Stay down, they can’t see you here.”
His face lit up brightly.
“Who are they?”
Um. Um. Um.
“The Russians.”
“Oh God! What do we do?”
I still can’t believe he bought that.
“Quick, let’s go into your room. We can talk in there.”
I just thought we shouldn’t be on the floor holding each other for any longer.
He closed the blinds and locked the door. Then he stared at me, forlornly. I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Forlornly?” Yes, really. He stared at me forlornly. It was the adverbs that ruined everything. So I panicked, again.
“I’m super…special agent…lieutenant detective…colonel…Covert Op…Desert Storm…Honorable Judge…Bob. M.D.”
He said nothing.
“CIA,” I added.
“Holy shit! CIA? Why me?”
This kid was easier than I thought.
“The Russians have been monitoring us. You. They’ve been monitoring you. They think you’re a threat…or a nuisance. They think you’re a threatening nuisance. Luckily, we’ve intercepted their, euh, transmissions and…stuff. Can you build yourself a radar deflection device, so that they can’t read your thoughts?”
He looked at me quizzically. His facial expressions were surprisingly adverbial.
“Yes, that’s right. They have the technology, they can build it.”
“What should I make it out of, then?”
I hesitated.
Oh cripes, I made him textbook.
“What else should I do?”
“For now…nothing. Just be careful. And tell NO ONE.”
“No one! Of course.”
“Yes. Bye.”
I ran out his room and slammed the door behind me. My stomach felt like an industrial blender filled with sixty-seven Skyper Pagers set on “Destroy”. Then I threw up. It wasn’t so bad though. Oliver would complain of vomit outside his door, no one would believe him because he’s the only one who could see it, and then he’d think that everyone was in on an elaborate scheme to condemn and destroy him. I’m wrecking this kid’s life and all I could think of was how my performance on my first day was.
Weeks went by, and Dvgt still hadn’t found me someone else. Oliver got worse. He rarely went to class. He filled his walls with paper clippings circling random letters supposedly depicting secret messages the CIA was sending him, or from Russian spies talking to each other (it varied from day to day). He loaded notebooks full of calculations trying to figure out where the next KGB attack was going to be. He spoke with such circumstantiality that you could go get a coffee and a cranberry/banana muffin before he got to actually answering your question. His wardrobe became exclusively aluminum. Styx was extensively played on stereos throughout the dorms that semester. Eric used to love Styx… I soon grew bored, blasé, whatever. I’d leave him alone for days, then suddenly follow him around and yell at him as eloquently as Frank Booth. Public episodes were always spectacular. Sometimes I’d keep him up all night telling him just awful things. Ironically, I was so ashamed of myself I couldn’t sleep.
Two years went by and no one took his madness seriously. Ridiculous. He needed help, I needed out. They only way people would really take notice was if he became a danger to himself or others. I encouraged him, but made sure he’d get caught before it was too late. I’m restrained by law from telling you what actually happened, but what I can say is that Acme Corporations recently got the patent approved. Any more information is judicially bound. After that, he was institutionalized. I retired. He’s started doing much better. I did go to visit him a few years later just to say hello, but that ended up involving the staff having to restrain and beat him. I left somewhere in between the screaming and the crying. His med cocktail has been reevaluated.
Don’t judge me, I am not a lemon.

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