Mr. Stevens is laid up in a chaise lounge chair, opposite Dr. Roger, a veteran therapist. They find themselves enclosed in an office space, where a therapy session is about to unfold.
Dr. Roger: Please let the record show that the date is *****************. The time is 2pm, Eastern time. Hello, Mr. Stevens. How is everything?
Mr. Stevens: How… did I end up here?
Dr. Roger: I don’t understand the question, Mr. Stevens.
Mr. Stevens: I don’t recall waking up, or doing anything today, for that matter. I don’t even remember walking into this office. Speaking of, where are we? This place… there’s something about it.
Dr. Roger: Let’s see… it says in your file that you have a prescription for your bipolar disorder. Side effects include nausea, mood swings, and acute memory loss, so that may explain your lack of recollection.
Mr. Stevens: I don’t under-
Dr Roger: Mr. Stevens, let’s not get sidetracked. We are here today because you made a decision, and that decision was made entirely because of your comprehensible misery with life in general.
Mr. Stevens: You look awfully familiar… what’s your name again?
Dr. Roger: You can call me Doc for the time being, as it will simplify things in the long run. Now, Mr. Stevens, what has been troubling you as of late?
Mr. Stevens, still confused as to where he is at, submits to Dr. Roger and plays along.
Mr. Stevens: Well, Doc, life has been fucking trash to me. I don’t know when it’s going to end.
Dr. Roger: Do you care to elaborate?
Mr. Stevens: I recently went through a rough patch where everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. For one, I’m on the verge of a divorce with my wife of 10 years. She says she doesn’t recognize who I am anymore, and she also suspects I’m having an affair.
Dr. Roger: Well, are you?
Mr. Stevens: Of course fucking not! I would do anything for Chloe, but she doesn’t understand the fucking struggles I have to go. And I told her it was a bad idea to buy the upscale home we live in now. The mortgage is killing my savings, and I have a smooth couple months left before I get foreclosed.
Dr. Roger: What fueled your decision to settle on the home?
Mr. Stevens: I just wanted the kids to have a great childhood, man. They fucking deserve nothing but the absolute best that I can give them. But my job started downsizing, and they let me go last month. They’re set to declare bankruptcy in a few weeks, so my branch was one of the first ones to go.
Dr. Roger: Have you been looking for a replacement job?
Mr. Stevens: I haven’t. The severance pay has me holding me down, but I just lost all motivation to do anything. I didn’t have the heart to tell my wife I got fired, but she found out anyways via a letter from the company. She FLIPPED, as she assumed I’d been working this whole time.
Dr. Roger: So what HAVE you been doing, Mr. Stevens?
Mr. Stevens: I would usually leave around the time work starts, and head straight to Tom’s house to smoke some chronic. Tom’s an old college pal. I picked up the habit after I was let go because it helped with the stress. Most days though, I would buy some booze, or spend the entirety of my day at the bar down the block. It helps with the pain.
Dr. Roger: This pain you speak of… how would you describe it?
Mr. Stevens: The pain, the stupid fucking pain, is one I’ve been experiencing all my life. Feeling like a disappointment to everyone around me has always been a major personality flaw of mine, but it’s worse when you actually are a disappointment. For as long as I can remember, I was never enough to a lot of people. From my scumbag father, to my teachers in high school, to my former boss, they never saw the potential in me, and always rebranded my accomplishments as shortcomings. Oh, you could’ve done more. Oh, this isn’t enough. FUCK THAT. Add my family to the list of people I’ve disappointed, and the pain couldn’t be greater.
Dr. Roger: Mr. Stevens, it is important that you realize that pain is a fundamental part of our existence. It is what defines us. From the traumas, to the disappointments, pain is everywhere. The key is to not let pain dictate your life, but rather, control it so that you get used to it, and so that it doesn’t usurp your hold on your mental and physical health.
Mr. Stevens: I do everything for my kids, I would fucking die for them, but recently, I’ve been feeling incredibly unfit as a parent. You see, when my wife found out I wasn’t working, she suggested we go to couples therapy to sort our trust issues out. I didn’t have the heart to tell her because the mortgage was so high, and I didn’t want to send her in a panic when I let her know we couldn’t afford the house anymore. She’s a Kindergarten teacher, so I wanted to wait until the school year finished to tell her, so I wouldn’t distract her with my bullshit.
Dr. Roger: Seeing as you two have been married for 10 years, what would you say has been your greatest accomplishment as a couple?
Mr. Stevens: What type of bullshit question… forgive me Doc, I’m in a bit of a headrush. Well, the twins, for sure. Max and Phoebe, my little angels, have been my light at the end of the tunnel. Both of them are 9, see, and they’re very active. Max is killing it in Little League, and Phoebe is a natural in ballet. The silver lining of losing my job is that I can attend her recitals, as well as Max’s games. But that only started happening after Chloe found out I was unemployed, so it’s been a weird balance of positives and negatives.
Dr. Roger: Circling back to this pain you described earlier, Mr. Stevens… you feel as if you’ve disappointed everyone all your life, but here’s the thing: not everyone in your life needs to be pleased. Your family definitely takes priority, as do those that have looked you out through thick and thin. But people like your father? Your boss? Those clumsy high school teachers? Who gives a fuck about what they think? They’ve never done anything but looked down on you, treat you subhuman, and deny you various opportunities that could’ve made everything easier for you.
Mr Stevens: How do you know all this?
Dr. Roger: Uh, I read it in your file, but that’s besides the point. How did the couples therapy go?
Mr. Stevens: It was going well, Doc, but then, on our last visit, she starts expressing her serious doubts about our marriage, including my tendency to lie. I mean, I only lied to protect her, like my mom used to do for me. But then she brought up the idea of divorce, and that’s when I lost it. We got into a bombastic screaming match in front of the therapist, and before long, she said she never wants to see me again, and that she’s taking me to court for custody of the kids. Filled with rage, I stormed out to the car, and drove off without her.
Dr. Roger: What happened after, Mr. Stevens?
Mr. Stevens: I must’ve been driving 100 miles per hour. I couldn’t stand the thought of living anymore. Everything was crumbling before my very eyes, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. NOTHING. Morbid ideas started filling my head like clockwork, and before you know it, I was feeling suicidal as fuck. The way I gripped that steering wheel, man, I was vexed as fuck.There was no barrier separating oncoming traffic from my traffic, so I was contemplating driving head-on into a colossal vehicle, preferably an 18-wheeler, so I could guarantee death. But then, I started thinking about the kids. What type of parent would I be to leave them alone in this shitty ass world? So I went back on those thoughts, and I decided to go back to pick up my wife.
Dr. Roger: Did anything else happen after that?
Mr. Stevens: I called her cell, but it went straight to voicemail, so I texted her saying I was coming to get her, but that’s actually the last thing I remember before this therapy session. Wait, what the fuck?
Dr. Roger: Alright, I think it’s about time I let you know. No more games.
Mr. Stevens: What do you mean?
Dr. Roger: My name is Dr. Roger, but that isn’t my real name. That’s the name that you gave me. Also, you are here because of your decision to try to take your life while driving back home from the counseling, only to go back on it at the last second.
Mr. Stevens: But-
Dr. Roger: While on your cell phone, you nearly passed your exit, and in an attempt to make it, you crashed head-on into the concrete barrier. Your survival was unprecedented; a tour de force in modern medicine. The firefighters that pulled you out of the wreckage said they’ve never encountered a more devastating scene in their respective careers. The paramedics were characteristically bleak in the back of the ambulance, stating multiple times that they don’t expect you to make it. The surgeons spent hours in the operating room working on the extensive skull trauma and lacerations you were punished with. In the end, the only option was to place you in a medically induced coma to prevent swelling, thus preventing any further irreparable brain damage.
Mr. Stevens: This is bullshit. I don’t believe you. I feel perfectly fine right now.
Dr. Roger: Mr. Stevens, you manifested me as a way to accept your grim reality. A part of your subconscious chose me as the proper suitor to address you in this state.
Mr. Stevens: Who the fuck are you?
Dr. Roger: I was your pediatrician, Mr. Stevens. You know, the one that made headlines in your town when they found me strung up by the neck in my own office. You know, THIS office.
Mr. Stevens looks around, and comes to the realization that the current setting was his former pediatrician’s place of practice. He begins to freak out.
Mr. Stevens: Oh fuck, what is this?
Dr. Roger: I wish I could answer that clearly, Mr. Stevens. See, I accomplish many tasks in this setting. Even though I’m the Doc now, I also gather information that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. While you were asleep, I picked up on tidbits from the voices.
Mr. Stevens: The voices?
Dr. Roger: Yes, the voices. From your family visits, to the television that’s always on right in front of your bed, to the nurses that tend to you on the daily (and bitch about it), I’ve heard it all through the use of your ears. Well, ear, seeing as one of them is missing as a consequence of the crash.
Mr. Stevens: Wait, so this…
Dr. Roger: Yes, Mr. Stevens. I am afraid this is not real. This is just your brain formulating a scenario, like a dream of sorts.
As Mr. Stevens comes to terms with this revelation, he decides to get answers for his burning questions..
Mr. Stevens: Well, while we’re here, you never told me why you killed yourself…
Dr. Roger: Now, Mr. Stevens, I am not an unlimited source of knowledge. I only know as much as you do, and as I recall, your mother told you I passed away because of a heart attack. In her attempts to shield you from the grotesque details, she piqued your interest, and of course, you eventually found out through the Internet that I killed myself because I couldn’t bear the thought of living alone, as clarified in my suicide note. My wife had actually divorced me, and with that, she took the kids, the house, fucking everything. Unfortunately, some people handle it worse than others, and I saw no other way out. But it doesn’t have to be the same for you, Mr. Stevens. I’m here to let you know that you won’t suffer the same fate. You’re stronger than I ever was.
Mr. Stevens: How do you know that, Doc?
Dr. Roger: Well, I overheard your primary doctor speaking earlier, and he said that it’s time.
Mr. Stevens: It’s time for what?
Dr. Roger: Your family is waiting for you, Mr. Stevens. I wish you good luck in your future endeavors.
Mr. Stevens: But fuck, wait! I have more questions!
Dr. Roger: I no longer have the answers, Mr. Stevens. They’re on the outside now. Adieu.
As Mr. Stevens gets up and approaches Dr. Roger, not willing to let him go, the room melts away, and Dr. Roger fades. Consciousness is handed back to Mr. Stevens, and he opens his eyes to an assortment of family and friends lined up around his bedframe.
The hospital room goes into an uproar before the head surgeon walks in.
“Everyone, please quiet down, as Mr. Stevens is extremely sensitive to sound at this time.”
Chloe, present with the kids, hugs the surgeon ferociously.
“I’m so grateful that you guys were able to save him! I prayed this whole time, hoping that he wouldn’t leave us during this difficult time in our lives. Thank you so much!” Chloe breaks down crying in joy as the surgeon approaches Mr. Stevens.
“Good morning, Mr. Stevens. Let me be the first to say congratulations on your recovery. Everyone here is very excited to see you off home. We cut off the vecuronium bromide from your system in order to help you transition into a normal state. There still needs to be tests run before we can discharge you today, in order to assess any possible rehabilitation procedures you may have to endure, but rest assured, the best possible outcome is what we got here today. Your story made headlines nationwide.”
Mr. Stevens, finally alert, forms his first sentence.
“How long was I out for?”
A look of concern shoots across the surgeon’s face.
“Mr. Stevens, you were out for a very long time, 9 weeks to be exact. You missed out on quite a bit.”
Max and Phoebe interrupt the surgeon, ecstatic to see their father awake.
“Daddy, you’re back! You missed my games, but its okay, because we won the championship! Coach said he dedicated the win to you, and I did really good in your honor!”
Phoebe interjects suddenly.
“Mommy said she started a fundraiser to help with the costs, daddy! Also, my last ballet recital is Friday. Can you come, please?”
Mr. Stevens grows a weary smile.
“Oh course, my love. And Max, I’m very proud of you. You too, Phoebe. I love you two and your mother very dearly. “
He glances over at Chloe, who was still teary-eyed, and inquired about the fundraiser.
“Yeah, babe, Tom suggested we start a GoFundMe, and post photos of our family to get traction and support. You should’ve seen it; we got over 10000 donations, and the total was almost half a million! Even celebrities reached out to us, and I was invited to make an appearance on the Ellen Show. The kids warmed the hearts of America, and we didn’t lose the house after all! But besides all that, I’m just happy to have you back. Promise to never leave us like that again?” Chloe starts crying again as she carefully embraces Mr. Stevens.
“Oh, and one more thing; the head surgeon on this case pulled a miracle out of his ass with you! He told me your case was unprecedented; a tour de force in medicine is what he said, whatever that means. But he told me that your chances of survival were slim to none, so we owe him our lives. Once again, thank you so much for everything, Dr. Roger! We wouldn’t be here without you.”
Mr. Stevens, not remembering anything during his comatose state, simply grew an even bigger smiled as he looked at Dr. Roger.
The real Dr. Roger.