Dr. Haag stared out the filthy window of his office and remembered that he had no Windex. Meant to buy some on the way in this morning. He didn’t like poaching from the hospital’s cleaning staff, given the high frequency of use.

It was eleven o’clock. His next patient was Ethan, a 32-year-old cancer survivor with chronic depression.

Dr. Haag went out into the reception area of the behavioral oncology department. Ethan sat slumped in a chair with his eyes closed, his back to the reception area television. He perked up when Dr. Haag called his name. Dr. Haag led the young man into his office. Ethan sat down in the chair beside the window.

“So how are you today?” Dr. Haag asked.

“Well,” Ethan said. “I hate my entire generation.”

Ethan was the kind of patient who could launch right into it. Not one for small talk.

“Your generation,” said Dr. Haag. “Millennials.”

“I know I am one,” Ethan said. “But I hate them.”

“Me too,” said Dr. Haag.

Ethan laughed. “You hate your generation, or you hate millennials?”

Dr. Haag admitted it was a joke, and he actually wasn’t sure which group he had been referring to. “What bothers you about millennials?” he asked.

“Where to begin?” Ethan said. “I’ll give you my thesis, then supporting evidence.”


“Everyone says Millennials are helpless, self-centered crybabies,” Ethan said. “I’m not jumping on that bandwagon. I take it a step further. I think Millennials are soulless, selfish automatons who care about nothing except their own immediate pleasure. I’ll support this with evidence.”

“The jury is listening.”

“Let’s start with the obvious: personal relationships. A generation raised on social media, 99.9 percent of whom cannot hold an undistracted conversation with another human for more than a few minutes. My brother and I took our sister out for dinner for her 26th birthday last week, and both she and my brother stared at their phones the entire time while I just sat there, looking at them like a fucking moron. I had to order for them. My own flesh and blood couldn’t be bothered to converse with me. So I watched the football game on the TV above the bar. No one said anything the whole evening, and no one complained that they were bored.”

“Obviously, technology is a problem for everyone these days.” Sometimes, Dr. Haag said things just to keep from thinking about how it was only Wednesday.

“I’ll get to technology,” Ethan said, “after I finish socialization. I’m 32: most of my friends are now married, many have children. They never call me. Not ever. I always initiate contact. I understand that they’re busy. I’ve seen parenting in action. It looks exhausting. But is it so all-consuming that the previous lives of the parents have to completely vanish?”

Dr. Haag acknowledged that it was a fair point.

“Even the ones who aren’t married don’t call me,” Ethan said. “I track them down and ask them what they’ve been up to, and they say ‘working.’ I have no rebuttal. I’d just assume they were all sick of me, except that once in a while they answer my text messages, so I guess that means something. Guess I should be grateful for text messaging. I fucking hate text messaging. It’s ruined conversation. God forbid you should have to hear someone’s voice. Let’s all celebrate the miracle of emojis.”

“I agree with you there,” said Dr. Haag. “I hear a lot of people say that texting has affected their ability to interpret real human signals.”

“Exactly. I just want to be in a room with someone when we talk. Not staring at my fucking phone, like some Neanderthal. The phone isn’t the conversation. It’s just a conduit. You see those sad couples out in restaurants, silently sitting at the table, both on their phones? Are they texting each other? That would be even sadder.”

“I know what you mean.”

“Dating is an absolute nightmare,” Ethan continued. “The dating scene is a wasteland out of a Stephen King story. Millennials are the worst dating generation there has ever been.”

“Why do you think that?”

“They treat people like iPhones. One breaks? Throw it away. Don’t like yours? Get a new one. Everyone is obsessed with everyone else’s relationship status. Who are you fucking? You must be fucking someone, or else you’re a pathetic loser. A total pariah. Millennials fuck anyone, everyone, and it means absolutely nothing to them. I feel like my goddamn grandfather, telling my last girlfriend I thought sex should be special. I actually said that to her. She laughed in my face. Thanks to Tinder, you don’t have to get to know anyone at all. You can just swipe them away like crumbs off the dinner table. There are people who go out on ‘dates,’ like to a bar, or a restaurant, and if they feel like it isn’t working, they go on Tinder during the date. Looking for a new date. For that night. Like they can still salvage the evening, as long as they find someone else’s body to masturbate with before they go to sleep.”

“You’d rather take the time to get to know someone?”

“Absolutely. How else are you going to know if the person’s a psychopath?”

Dr. Haag has no response to that.

“Spoiler alert,” Ethan said, “they’re all psychopaths! They can’t wait to get that orgasm, so they can turn you off and turn on Netflix. Please don’t let me get started on Netflix. I’ve almost made it through a whole day without crying.”

“I notice,” Dr. Haag said, “that you refer to Millennials as ‘they.’ Do you see yourself as detached from the group? Or separate?”

“Detached, definitely. Separate, no. I don’t consider myself different or better than anybody. I know how hypocritical I sound. If I were you, Dr. Haag, I would punch me in the face.”

“I’m not going to punch you in the face,” Dr. Haag said. “I just had my knuckles waxed.”

Ethan laughed again, a high-pitched laugh that rang out through the office door into the hallway. Dr. Haag liked Ethan.

“Ever since I was sick,” Ethan said, which was how he referred to his cancer, “I’ve felt so disconnected from everyone. I look at my friends and my siblings and my cousins, and they’re all in relationships. Every one of them has some sort of relationship status. Except me. I’m the only one who doesn’t date.”

“Why don’t you?”

“Because nobody’s looking for me. I’m like a dating nightmare. Short, skinny, pale, depressed, small penis. I can’t grow a beard. I live with my parents. I’ve never had an important job. I have no money. And I’m not good-looking. And I had cancer. I’m grotesque. But I know what you’re going to say: I’m being too hard on myself.”

“You are.”

“Who cares? I could be six-foot-two, rich as fuck, and look like Chris Evans. Women might want me, but they still wouldn’t like me. I’d still just be some fix.”

“Do you think women of your generation are superficial?”

“No more superficial than men. That’s my point. Everybody’s superficial. Plus, men are predators. That’s worse. Predatory men are ruining it for the rest of us. I wish I could wear a sign around my neck that says ‘Not a Predator.’ Maybe then someone would at least talk to me. But just because I don’t want to swipe right, or jump through a thousand insipid little messaging hoops, or get blackout drunk and fuck on the first date, I’ve become a pariah.”

Ethan, Dr. Haag noticed, had a real talent for boxing himself into labyrinths of circular logic from which there was no escape. Every time the young man opened an insightful window, he slammed it shut again in his own face.

“I think you have a lot of positive things to offer someone,” said Dr. Haag. “You’re intelligent and thoughtful, and you can be funny. I know socializing seems to be horribly impersonal these days, but believe me: you’re not the only one who feels that way. Many people are fed up. There are women out there who would want to be with someone who can hold a conversation.”

“And if they had any brains, they would punch me in the face,” Ethan said. “Like you should do.”

“I’m working up to it.”

“I won’t even sue. I’ll testify on your behalf.”

“You’re upset because you think you don’t matter to people.”

“I know I don’t matter to people. Here’s what I think about—I probably shouldn’t think about this, but here’s what I think about—I imagine my friends and loved ones, staring at their phones, or watching Netflix, and one day they think to themselves, for some random reason: ‘I wonder what Ethan’s up to. I wonder what happened to Ethan.’ So they’ll Google me. And they’ll find out I died like ten years ago. Then they’ll go back to their phones.”

“Now I think you’re being a little hard on everyone. You’ve described your friendships in the past. I have to believe people in your life really do care about you.”

“Then why are they always busy? Epitaph for millennials: ‘I was, like, so busy.’ Chisel it on the tombstone of our entire generation. You know what the only real difference is between me and the rest of my generation, except for a few other unlucky bastards who had cancer? I think about time differently. Everyone else acts like they think they’re going to live forever. I, however, am certain that I’m going to die.”

“Unfortunately, you’ve learned a few hard lessons.”

“I wish everyone else could just see time the way I see it. That it’s running out. For all of us. You could get sick and have your whole life taken away from you at any time. And yet everyone I know spends all of their time hustling for jobs, drinking themselves stupid, fucking strangers, using their kids as an excuse not to socialize. I want to scream in their faces. Just slow down and spend quality time. That’s it. No phones, no apps, no Netflix. Just spend quality time with other people. That’s the only thing that provides real comfort. Instead, everybody’s addicted to opioids and technology, wondering why they aren’t happy. I don’t know anyone who’s happy. I talk to all my friends, they’re all having chronic existential crises. They don’t like their jobs, and they’re scared of automation. They want meaningful relationships, but they use Tinder. They want to have attractive bodies, but they don’t exercise. I don’t understand why we’re all so miserable. Life is safer and healthier and easier and more convenient than it’s ever been in history.”

Dr. Haag glanced at the clock. Ethan was working his way into a closed box.

“You make some valid points,” said Dr. Haag. “But whether or not we like the world we live in, we all still have to live in it.”

“I know,” Ethan said. He took a deep breath, rubbed his eyes. “Here’s the worst part. I hate my generation because they’re all so blindly superficial and addicted to everything. But I’m even worse than them. I am a complete waste of space. I should have died from cancer, but I didn’t, and now I just sit around feeling unhappy. All I want to do is be nice to people. I just want to hug my friends. I want to tell strangers everything’s okay. I want to meet a girl who’s expecting to meet another predatory sociopath and blow her away by showing her that I actually care about her feelings. I want all my friends with kids to meet up at the park with me sometime, spur of the moment, and smoke a fuckin’ joint, while the kids all play soccer or something. I want to gather all my single friends who are working two or even three jobs, kidnap them all for a day, and go to Six Flags. Or the beach. We could just sit in the sun playing cards. Or telling jokes. I wish I could turn off everyone’s televisions. I wish I could tell everyone how important they are to me. But if I started telling people these things, or doing these things, they’d all think I’d lost my fucking mind. All I want to do is be genuinely nice to people, but I feel like I can’t because nobody wants to be nice anymore. It’s the worst time in history to be a decent, conscientious, empathetic person. I know I can’t change the world and I know I have to live in it, but honestly, I’d rather just get it over with. I wish someone would put me out of my fucking misery.”

Finally, the words Dr. Haag had been waiting for. And with only three minutes left in the appointment.

He reached into his desk, pulled out a .357 magnum, and shot Ethan between the eyes. Ethan’s brains splattered all over the window. His corpse lolled forward onto the floor. Blood pooled on the carpet.

Dr. Haag took a deep breath. He loved his job. Another patient cured. Now he really needed to find some Windex.