“These blog entries are sexist,” Should Woman muttered bitterly.
“What?” Process Man’s face was an irritable grimace. Hanging out with Should Woman was a drain upon his energy and cheer, which was already dragged down by a stubborn cough and burning eyes. When not out intervening, he spent time in the break room of mental health mountain, waiting upon assignments. The only nourishment available was through a vending machine. Should Woman was often there too, giving attitude and, as ever, telling people what to do.
“Psychewriter. Your story is called ‘Adventures of Process Man’—typically male description, making you a hero. I get ‘Diaries’, like I’m a housebound teenager, stuck in my bedroom, being a whinny little girl doing something ordinary.”
You probably were a whinny little girl. As Process Man kept rejoinders to himself, he dabbled water upon his red eyes, and chose to air a complaint of his own.
“At least you don’t have to enter and leave in a ball of smoke everyday. I swear, I’m gonna get lung cancer or asbestos poisoning doing this job. You don’t know the pressure created by that kind of act. People expect golden insights every time. People want magic.”
Should-Woman was not initially sympathetic. “Well, that’s what you get for performing an act. It’s not magic. You should try being real for a change. Try helping people in a practical way: establishing structure, holding people accountable—being there, day after day, instead of coming and going like a ghost.”
“Jesus, here we go. You just can’t help yourself, can you? You know, you almost did something different for a minute there.”
“Excuse me, what are you talking about?”
“Your analysis of adventure versus diaries. That was interesting, and correct, actually. If and when we have an audience with the great psychewriter, we should ask him about the subtext of our characters, see what’s on his mind.”
Should Woman scoffed. “What’s on his mind. Yah, that sounds like a good use of our time.” Sarcasm aside, Should Woman had often wondered what was on psychewriter’s mind. What was her purpose versus that of guys like Process Man? What did he expect of her?
“I’m being serious. That was an interpretation you made earlier. It’s in you, if you try.”
“Don’t patronize me. Just because he gave you a cape and the gift of disappearance doesn’t make you superior. If anything, that makes you unreliable. You probably trigger people’s abandonment issues.”
“See, there you go. You did it again, making a point about the unconscious reaction people might have towards me. I often sense the ambivalence when—”
“Oh, shut up.”
“Look, I didn’t mean to—” This time, Process Man’s words disappeared into a coughing fit, not an interruption. Should Woman softened.
“You should get that looked at. It doesn’t sound good.”
“I know,” he said finally in a quiet sputtering voice.
She walked over, took him by the hand. “Here, come with me.”
“What are we doing?”
“You honestly don’t know, do you?”
“First, stop drinking soda. It doesn’t help with…well, with whatever’s wrong with you. Next, you should gargle. It will dislodge any obstruction, rid you of bacteria.”
“Obstruction? I’m not choking.”
“You don’t know that. Or it might be phlegm buildup. Regardless, you should take some time off. We should tell psychewriter that you need a lot more rest than a few hours in that miserable break room. In fact, if you want to just rest, I’ll go to him. I’ve got a few things to say anyway. So…”
Should Woman stopped as she glanced at Process Man’s hangdog expression. It seemed he didn’t have strength to fight her anymore.
“What?” she said. “You want me to stop talking, don’t you—stop telling you what to do? Is that what you’re telling me? Is that look your process comment?”
Process man chuckled and shook his head. “No,” he said wearily as he looked deep into her. Should Woman dropped her shoulders and sighed. A wave of fatigue claimed her as she realized one more thing.
“We both need rest,” she said.
In the cuts, from a slightly aerial vantage point, psychewriter looked on, thinking his characters had something in common.