Ben found his cigarettes and left to smoke. He heard the scraping sound of the monster’s paws as it followed him out of the house. He went to slam the door behind him, hitting the monster, but the door stopped short. It stopped like it hit an invisible wall.

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” he asked and he lit a cigarette.

what. would you even do. if i wasn’t. here.

“I don’t know. Whatever the hell I wanted to do.”

the only. things. you have. are therapy. and a blog. both started. after i showed up.

“You’re making a mess. You’re screwing things up. And I need you to leave.

if one of us. has to go. ben. maybe. it should be you.


why not.

“It’s my house.”

it’s your mom’s.

“You love pointing that out. You don’t have a house, Ben. You’re a loser. Your blog is dumb, Ben. Yeah I get it. You think I’m stupid. But this is my mom’s house and she lets me live here. She needs me to live here because my dad is dead and she’d be lonely otherwise.”

is that. really. what you think.


“What do you want to talk about today?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one who wants to me keep doing this.”

“Your mother also wants you to have these sessions, Ben.” She scooted forward in her chair, leaning on her knees and making eye contact. “Do you not want to have these sessions?”

“Not really. I mean, I don’t care. I don’t see the point.”

“The point is to help you find skills. To help you deal with some of the things in your life that are bothering you.”


“Last week, you talked about someone bothering you. I know you don’t like talking about it very specifically. But someone said you need to improve. Someone diminished you.

“You used that term last week.”


“You said ‘diminished.’ You said it last time.”

“Why do you want to pivot to my word choices, Ben? Someone made you feel small and they hurt your feelings. Can we talk about that?”

“There’s not much to talk about. Just somebody. One of my friends or whatever. He said I should try to get my life together. Pointed out that I haven’t done much since dad died.”

“Was he friendly about it?”

“He’s not that kind of friend.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know how you have friends who are warm and nice to you? And then friends who are kind of prickly. Just teasing and shit-talking. Like that. He’s that kind of friend.”

“Hmm. Do you like hanging out with this friend?”

“Not really.”

“So why don’t you stop hanging out with him?”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Would he hurt you if you stopped visiting him?”

“No. I mean, I don’t see why he would.”

“It isn’t possible to stop hanging out with him?”

“Probably not. Or, well, at least I don’t know how.”

“You don’t know how to stop hanging out with him? Okay.” She paused and picked up her clipboard and wrote something.

“What are you writing?”

“Ben, if you can focus on what we’re talking about, we can make a lot more progress. If I have to defend my note-taking, that is a form of changing the subject. Can we instead talk about this hostile friend of yours?”

“There’s nothing to say. And you’re probably taking stupid notes. You’re confusing everything.”

“How am I confusing everything?”

“You’re writing that I’m crazy. Because you’re a shrink and that’s what you do.”

“Ben, I appreciate that this is difficult. A difficult conversation to have. But to transfer your frustration with your friend on to me isn’t the path forward.”

“I’m not transferring anything. I’m pissed off because you ask me all these dang questions and then you write notes when you think something. And then you’re gonna take it all out of context and convince my mom I’m crazy. Because that’s what she wants to hear. And then I’ll keep having to come back.”

“You do this a lot, Ben. You change the subject. You accuse. You disparage. I understand. He’s clearly a stress for you. But if you can open up about that, we can find strategies to deal with him.”

“It isn’t that simple.”

“What isn’t simple about it?

Ben thought about that.

“He isn’t just a friend. He follows me around sometimes. He’s just there. And even though I don’t like him, it just is what it is. He won’t go away.”

“Okay,” she said and she wrote in her notebook and this time Ben said nothing.


“It makes me uncomfortable,” he said finally. He could feel he was about to cry.

“What does, Ben?”

“You taking notes. You’re getting all of what I say. Getting it verbatim. But I sound really dumb a lot of the time.” He started to cry. “I’m not great at talking and I sometimes exaggerate the time it takes to complete tasks.”

“The time it takes to complete tasks?”

“Yeah. It took me an hour to clean up a mess on the kitchen floor. The recycling bin tipped over and made a mess. And I later told him it took four hours.”

She wrote more in her notebook. “He was in your kitchen, then?”

“No, I mean, I told him later about it.”

“You told him, after the fact, that you cleaned up the kitchen?”


“Then how would he know how long it took?”


“Ben, I’m not mad, but this slows our process. He must have known something about it to say you lied about how long it took.”

He said nothing.

“Why don’t you want to talk about him?”

“I just don’t.”

“As much as I would like to continue this conversation, I have another appointment right after this one and our hour is finished. Will you come back next week?

“Yeah. All right.”


Ben spent time with his laptop reading about demand, supply, and equilibrium. He read about costs of production and perfect competition and irrigation and trade routes and timars and feudalism.

He read about using social media to promote blog posts and the importance of building lists of people you could spam with information products.

The Internet wasn’t pages and that made it hard at first. Books were pages and sometimes people were as well. But the Internet was doors and breadcrumbs and trails you could get lost in.

He texted Gerald to drop by.

He waited in his room and he paced and muttered so quickly he couldn’t keep up with the words, trying to piece together the strategies and tools, as Feuerstein had called them, to nail shut his windows and doors and send home the stitched -ogether mess that had crawled into his life and chewed it slowly into something he didn’t recognize anymore.

Gerald eventually texted him back saying he was in the alley.

“Hey, chubs.”

“Hey, Gerald.”

“How you been?”

“About the same.”

“Cool. You get that blood flow checked?”

“You got my pills or not?”

“Yeah, yeah, relax, man. I’m just fucking with you.”

Ben said nothing.


He went inside and took two Vicodin tablets and watched cartoons all night. He watched cartoons and thought of nothing but their cheap dialogue and plots that reset after a half hour. He watched cartoons and considered what he would do if he had money and independence. He watched cartoons and wondered why some kids grew thin mustaches in high school and impregnated girls. He watched cartoons and pondered how his dad had teased him for throwing a football “like your damn mother” before walking back into the house to vomit on the carpet and die.

And he thought about his dad, what was left of him, the bones and hair buried in a box in the ground.


For all installments from NEET, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5
  6. Part 6