Process Man arrived outside psychewriter’s office in a plume of smoke because…well, he didn’t know any other way. He was a minute late, regarding a closed door. Psychewriter had taken to heart a critique Should Woman hadn’t actually made, but nonetheless exuded. Process Man stared at the office door, nonplussed. What was he supposed to do? Transport to the other side, enter uninvited, as he usually did? But this was psychewriter. Indecision. Half-heartedly, Process Man closed his eyes—another of his habits just prior to “ghosting”—and summoned the smoke.
Psychewriter swung open the door. “No, not again,” he commanded just in time. “Jesus, just knock once in a while.” Process Man entered, head down, feeling sheepish. Not a good start. He barely noticed the parallels as psychewriter said, “Your colleague implied you weren’t doing well recently.” Sensitively, he turned and amended his statement. “She meant that you’re sick a lot, need some rest, otherwise you’ll go mad.”
Process Man nodded gingerly and looked around. “Rest. Yes. A chance to dream.” Psychewriter gave him an appraising look and lightened his tone. “What’s up? You’re not usually this flat. Where’s that buoyant spirit everyone knows and loves?”
“I’m not sure everyone loves it,” Process Man replied morosely.
Psychewriter chuckled. “That sounds self-pitying, but knowing you, I think you’re referring to me, what you imagine I’m thinking.” Process Man took in psychewriter’s vaguely transparent image.
“Who is Thunder Male?” he asked accusingly.
“Apparently, you have a new guy that you’ve been giving assignments to. I’ve heard he’s called Thunder Male.”
Psychewriter wiped his own eyes, bemoaning the gossip amongst the dispatches. He sneaked a rueful peak out of his window at mental health mountain. Thunder Male was a new recruit, trained in the valley, in secret. Psychewriter liked his energy, but had to admit he was over the top: loud, mesomorphic, shaped like a plinth. He wouldn’t know what process was, and wouldn’t give advice, per se. He was more of an inspirational speaker—liked to raise his voice at groups, talk about being a man, and so on. Psychewriter had Thunder Male earmarked for youth boot camps, wilderness programs where counselors bark at young men, telling ‘em it’s okay to cry, while still barking.
“Is that your problem? You think I’m replacing you.”
Process Man stammered while contemplating the most difficult of process comments.
“Your opinion. It means a lot to me. I worry that I’ve lost my focus, my direction. Tell me psychewriter, I can’t stand secrets. Am I past my sell-by date? Am I out of touch?”
Psychewriter swayed in place, suggesting a need to be elsewhere, not dealing with a sea of troubles, but rather dying.
“Ugh, I don’t know—not really. Or maybe, I don’t know.”
Process Man’s eyes widened, absorbing psychewriter’s equivocal response. His heartbeat danced a beat as he replied, “Wait, you don’t know? You can’t decide?” Modeling—primitive and containing—that’s what some call this.
“Well…okay, you could lose a few clichés: the cape thing, plus phrases like ‘sell-by date’. Plus, the smoke: you don’t need it. It freaks more people out than it impresses, and it’s screwing up your health. Also, your ‘tell a friend’ soundbite: it’s a bit cheeseball, or yesteryear. This is 2017, not 1957.”
Process Man gently nodded with dawning recognition. “Yes,” he said, exhibiting his toothy smile for the first time in days. “You’re right. You know, some of that stuff hasn’t felt right for ages. Thank you. Really, thank you for being honest with me. Geez, all this time I thought the toxic feeling within me was the smoke. Now I know it’s not literally the smoke. It’s that I think I need things like smoke. Ha!”
Process Man looked at psychewriter like he wanted to kiss him. Psychewriter stepped back, half-recoiling, but secretly relieved. “Wow,” he said, affecting pleasure. “I’m glad this little talk helped. Well, anyway, we’re at time. That was quick. Thanks for coming by. I assume you’ll be walking out instead of…you know.”
Process Man gazed at psychewriter. Now he was appraising the great leader, wondering about his hasty withdrawal. “I’m having a ton of thoughts right now. You were scared to meet with me, weren’t you—with Should Woman also? And I’m getting a hit on something else: Thunder Male is a back-up, isn’t he? Someone you have in case one of us leaves you, which would mean you’d fall apart, lose yourself. I think I understand now. We are you. And the process: it makes more sense now than ever before.”
Psychewriter was tongue-tied. “I…I…don’t know. It’s…” he uttered, falling apart. Fragmentation: that’s what he called this in others. For him, there was no leaving the shadow of the mountain. Process Man strode towards the exit, only to halt at the threshold. Reality was before him with a thousand natural shocks. He turned and looked over his shoulder at the slumped creator, who was peering out of his window, appearing fallen and tragic…needing a kind of magic.
“Don’t worry. I’m here to stay, friend,” Process Man announced triumphantly. “And your secrets are safe with me.”