Should-Woman was a more down to earth figure than Process Man. Should Woman didn’t believe in magical appearances or a quasi-heroic vanishing. Should-Woman rang doorbells, gave plain greetings, was stern and humorless, but compassionate. Reality and presence. Day-to-day, for discreet periods, Should-Woman would sustain a role in people’s lives. She would focus upon the practical, that which could be seen, heard, and proven, and she would insist upon continuity.
“I just can’t seem to figure it out,” complained Larry, laying on his couch late morning. Ostensibly, he’d been awake for several hours, but his energy was half-hearted. His days were ever half-activated.
“You should make a plan. People like you need a plan. We should make a to-do list. Now, what shall we do today?”
Larry shrugged. “I don’t know.” He looked around, gazed out the window. Like Ishmael from Moby Dick, he regarded an oceanic elsewhere as if it contained an elusive self and imperceptible limits. “There’s so much out there, you know? The world is like…it’s like a giant, beautiful harvest.”
“Yes, well, let’s try to focus on something real, like a resource list, a list of people to call today, or a goals inventory.”
“A goals list? My goal is to just be myself, and let others be—know what I’m sayin’?”
Should-Woman shook her head faintly and turned away for a brief moment. Collecting herself, she remembered her training and purpose. Tough cases like Larry might ever deflect with meaningless reverie and glib pronouncements. Her job was to keep her mind clean: to not accept deadness but rather model the positive and move forward.
“That’s fine, so let’s start by completing the household chores, then we can go out and work on the community garden.”
“I don’t wanna—”
“I know you don’t, but let’s just take it one step at a time.”
“What steps? Aint no steps?”
“You have laundry, last night’s dishes.”
“There aint no dishes. I ate out of styrofoam. I’ll just throw it away.”
“Well, you shouldn’t eat from styrofoam, and you shouldn’t just throw it away. It’s not good for the environment. Anyway, what about laundry?”
“This aint laundry day. I do that on…Sunday.” He was lying. Larry had no regular laundry day.
“What about that shirt? You were wearing that when I came here last week. It needs to be washed.”
“It’s fine, it don’t matter,” Larry said absently. He got up from his couch and started moving towards his bedroom.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m gonna lie down. I’m tired.”
“Tired. You just got up. Anyway, if you’re done in here, you should unplug your appliances, the TV and the computer. It wastes electricity.”
“Man, why don’t you go tell someone else what to do, Should-Woman?”
Tough case indeed. Should-Woman held faith, for she knew that people who didn’t know what was best for them would learn eventually. Solemnly, she followed Larry to the edge of his room, knowing a hard lesson was near. Across the threshold, he stepped amongst belongings that littered the floor and aimed a sloppy lurch towards an inviting bed. As he made a last torpidly decisive move, his foot tripped over a solid object beneath a sheet that had slid across the floor. From under that cover, Larry felt the smooth yet sickly texture of liquid swim over his toes. He looked down to see the emerging brown stain of coffee being absorbed into the sheet.
“Shit,” he exclaimed as he kicked the fabric aside, only to see a cracked cup laying above a page of handwriting. Larry scrambled to rescue the last letter he’d gotten from Mary, the woman who had left him a month earlier. He’d taken that letter to bed with him every night, having not wanted to let it—her—out of his sight.
“I told you that drinking and eating in bed wasn’t a good idea,” said Should-Woman, looking down upon the scene. Prostate in grief, Larry crumpled the irrevocably stained letter into a ball and said, “You’re right, Should-Woman. I should be more careful with my things.”