He sat in her office. Not what he would call an office, a leather couch for him and a high-backed leather chair for her. But she called it her office and she said her name was Doctor Feuerstein but he could call her Nedra and so he did.

She scowled and scribbled on a legal pad. He leaned forward to try to read what she’d written. Gibberish. Silly drawings and scrawled out lines.

“How old are you?”


“Okay, okay. A couple years out of college, then?”

He tried to give an affable nod, appear comfortable on the cold leather, crossing his legs and then uncrossing them and then crossing them again. He hadn’t finished college.

“Do you have a job, then?”

“Not really.”

“Okay,” she said. “Can you explain that?”

“I’m staying with my mom right now. Working on a small business. Takes time.”

“Oh, nice. What kind of business are you starting?”

“It’s a website. That kind of thing.”

And she asked him why he wanted to come to therapy.

“I didn’t,” he said. “My mom made me.”

“Your mom made you?” She wrote something on her legal pad.

“Right,” he said.

“That’s interesting, Ben. Can I call you Ben?” She slouched in her chair. “You’re an adult. I mean, you’re a young man still, but you are old enough to make your own decisions. What makes you think your mom made you come to therapy?”

“She told me to try it. She worries.”

“Okay. So you decided you would do it to appease her?”

“She told me if I came, if I gave an honest effort or whatever, then I could stop. I don’t want to do this.”

“Why don’t you?”


“You’re sitting on a couch. We’re talking. What’s the big deal in that?” She stared into his eyes. He knew something, maybe the eye contact, maybe all the questions, was making him uncomfortable.

“Because it’s unnecessary.”

“So it’s the lack of necessity? You feel like you have something you’d rather be doing?”


“What would that be? Where would you rather be?”


“Do you spend a lot of time at home?”

“Yeah. I don’t really like leaving.”

And she wrote on her legal pad.


“Was that really interesting?”


“Why are you writing? I said I like being home and you started writing. I don’t get it.”

“Does that bother you?”

“A little. Yeah.”

“Why is that?”

“Because it’s weird to write when someone is talking. How would you feel if you were talking and someone started taking notes?”

“Okay, Ben. Let’s forget the notebook for a while.” She made a point of setting it on the table beside her. “Why do you think your mom wants you to see a psychologist?”

“Because she worries. She makes big deals out of tiny things. She wants to fix me. Like, make me more like other people. But I’m not broken, I’m just me. I don’t know, I talk to myself a lot is all. My mom thinks if she sends me to the right professional, I’ll get better or something.”

She nodded.

“Okay, Ben. You seem a little fixated on this. When your mom said she wanted you to see a therapist, what did she say? Do you remember?”

“She said she was worried I was pulling inside myself, I think. I guess since my dad died, she thinks I’m acting weirder.”

“And you don’t think that’s true?”

“Not really. If I needed help, I’d just ask.”

“Would you?”

“Sure. Who doesn’t ask for help when they need it?”

“Oh, lots of people, Ben. People feel stuck in situations. They don’t think they have a choice. They think they have to handle their problems alone. It’s common. For people struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction or spousal abuse or anything really. A lot of people don’t know how to ask.”

“Okay, fine. But I obviously would if I needed it. I’m fine. I just don’t do the stuff my mom wants me to do. I’m having a hard time finding a job is all. And I talk to myself. And sometimes I forget my mom is in the house and I guess she hears me. She wants me to stop.”

“Did she say this?”

“More or less, yeah.”


“It sounds like she worries about you.”


“Are you happy with yourself?”

“Sure, I guess. What does that mean? I’m happy with how I am.”

“What do you mean ‘how?’”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand your questions,” Ben said.

“You say you’re happy with how you are. Can you explain that? Can you explain what you are happy with and what you aren’t happy with?”

“I guess. But why? What purpose does this serve?”

“The more we talk about what you’re happy with, the more we can talk about solutions. Strategies. Ways you can cope with things that bother you. Specific tools for change.”

“Tools like what?”

“Ways to look at problems, Ben. There are new ways you might approach a problem. You might find something here that helps you deal. If you have a problem. And you keep dealing with it in the same way, if you keep approaching it the same, and that isn’t working, you may feel stuck. Sometimes talking about it can help. And we can work together on that.”


“So you’ll work with me?”

“I don’t know. How much time do we have left?”

“We still have forty minutes.”


“What aren’t you happy with?”

“Lots of things, I guess. My dad died. A couple years ago. I’m not happy about that.”

“Okay,” she said and she nodded.

“I feel a little lost, I guess. I feel like I keep waiting for him to come back.”

“Okay, Ben. Very profound. You’re aware—or articulate—of your problems.”

“I guess.”

“Has your life changed in a major way since he died?”

“Yeah, I lost my job like a few weeks later. And I moved back in with my mom.”

“Okay. So you used to have an apartment?”

“Yeah. And I had a girlfriend. I went out a lot. I felt. Free or something. Pretty comfortable with where I was.”

“And you don’t feel that way anymore?”

“I feel different now. Like I’m not entirely alive. I sometimes wonder if I’m dead. Like if my dad didn’t really die, maybe I died. And I’m in some weird hell where you have to live without your dad and your mom is always worrying you’re crazy and a weird carpet-faced monster chews your recycling and makes fun of your drug addiction.”


“Nothing. I’m joking.”


“What did you say?”

“I said I sometimes feel like I’m dead. What? I didn’t really mean it. Did I say something wrong?”

“There is no wrong here, Ben. But I would like you to explain what you said. Carpet-heads? Monsters? Are you using drugs? It’s okay if you are. I can’t tell your mother, the police, anyone: what you say here is confidential.”

“Sure, yeah, I like to take painkillers sometimes. It’s how I relax. Not a lot. I take a few in the evenings. They give me a nice buzz and I feel calm.”

“And you like that?”

“Yeah. It’s what works for me.”

“Right. And do you see monsters when you’re using them?”


“So can you explain why you said that earlier? About the carpet?”

“I said carpet-faced monsters. It’s a joke. I’m writing a story about it and it was the first thing that came to mind.”

“You write?”

“Yeah. I’m actually starting a blog on the Ottoman Empire.”


“Yes. I want to create a website on the economics of the Ottomans. That’s the business I was telling you about. You see, it was this ancient civilization. And they farmed.”

“Right. I know what the Ottoman Empire is.”

“Oh, yeah, okay. I have been reading about it a lot,” he said he felt relieved, like if he pulled with all his weight he could pivot the conversation towards farms and away from monsters.

“Would you consider coming back? I’d like to talk more and I think you’re getting something out of this. Would you do that?”

He thought about that for a minute and he said he would. Because it wasn’t terrible and because his mom would be happy if he did.


“I’m interested to hear about your website. I’m glad you have a goal ahead of you. How long have you been working on it?”

“It’s a recent development. Someone brought it to my attention that I don’t have anything going on in my life. And I realized he was right and I wanted to change. So I started thinking about things I could start a website about. I don’t know, I just thought maybe I could start a blog and then I could monetize it.”

“That’s interesting, Ben. Can you tell me more about the person who made you feel this way?”

“Huh? What way?”

“You said someone pointed out that you don’t have a lot going on. You changed. I’m curious who this person is.”

“Oh. That was my mom.”

She scowled and her eyebrows furrowed and she shifted and she picked up her notebook and met his eyes and set it back down without writing anything.


“She pointed out that I don’t have much I do. She wanted me to try and make some goals.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t someone else?”

“Yeah. It was my mom. Why?”

“Well, for one, you said ‘he.’ Why would you call your mom ‘he?’”

He hadn’t realized he’d referred to the monster as he and he wasn’t sure how to walk it back. He was no good at lying and he knew it and he only did when he felt he had to.

“Oh, well, maybe it was someone else who told me that. But it just made me realize I had to do something.”

“Ben, I don’t want you to think I’m mad. I’m not mad. But the more honest you are with me, the more we can work together. Okay?”


“Now I want to understand this. Because it may help us figure out how we can improve things. Someone told you that you aren’t doing anything, someone diminished you and it affected you.”

“Nah, it didn’t. I’m okay.”

“You say that, Ben, but you immediately started your website. You turned around and started trying to do something. Can we talk about that?”

“There’s nothing to talk about. I shouldn’t have said anything. This is dumb. I just thought I’d build a website to make money. Because I need to make money. I need to figure some things out. That’s all.”

“Okay, Ben. We can talk about something else.”

“How much time do we have left?”


For all installments from NEET, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4