“We talked about monsters today,” I tell Dr. Freud.
“Monsters, eh?” he asks, bemused. (His name’s actually Ron Chandelier; I just call him “Dr. Freud” because he thinks I think about sex too much. Or not enough. It’s usually one extreme or the other depending on his mood.)
“Yeah,” I reply.
“Are you afraid of monsters?”
I shake my head. “Monsters aren’t real.”
“But are you afraid of them?”
I glance around Chandelier’s office. Everything’s made of leather and mahogany. Faint wisps of cigar smoke cling to Chandelier’s hair, his clothes. “It’s not so much the idea of monsters, but the fact that I lied about mine.”
“My friend asked me what my pet monster would be. You know, if I could create a monster to walk around with me and take care of the people I don’t like. I didn’t want to admit mine, so I made up something about an ordinary guy who turned out to be a serial killer. But really…” I trail off. It’s hard to say.
“So, you do have a monster?”
“Sort of. But it…they’re not my pets.”
“And you’re afraid of them?”
“I didn’t say that—”
Chandelier shifts to rapid-fire mode. “Spit it out, lad.”
I sigh. “My monsters are…old people.”
“How old? Middle-aged? Elderly? Older than you?”
“I…I have this recurring dream where I’m walking down the street on a Sunday and all the old people in my neighborhood are out taking their afternoon strolls. There’s this one guy in a buttoned-down suit and a big bowler hat. He’s coming my way, and he’s smiling at me, saying hello. I want to smile at him and say hello back, but my foot always catches on something, and I always end up stumbling forward and slamming into him. When we collide it’s like punching a bag full of broken twigs and branches. I try to grab him, to steady him, but that just makes things worse. His arms always snap off, his legs always buckle and collapse. We both go down. The first part of him to hit the concrete is his head, and it just bursts open, scattering brains at least five feet along the sidewalk. I’m trying to hold him together, but it just makes things worse so that by the time the paramedics arrive, all that’s left is a gooey mess. Like stew.”
Chandelier studies me quietly, smiling slightly. He looks like he’s made some sort of connection—but I’ve been seeing him long enough to know that this just means his prurient half has kicked in. Ignoring everything I’ve said, he asks me, “So, how’s the girl situation?”
I’m hesitant to answer. Chandelier has asked this before; he’s adamant that I begin seeking female companionship as soon as possible. I don’t exactly understand why. “The same.”
“Oh, come now, my lad! You’re in high school now! Surely a skirt or two has caught your attention?”
“High school girls don’t like little boys.”
“What did I tell you about letting your physical size dictate the size of your goals, your ambitions?” He tilts one of his earlobes in my direction with his finger.
I quote him: “‘It’s not your size that matters but how you use it.'”
“Exacto! See, high school boys rely entirely too much on their size—big on the outside, puny on the inside. The girls, unfortunately, judge their books by the covers. But you, you, my lad, I bet you have more spirit packed away in that little frame than ten football stars! You know how to talk, and you know how to listen. Start doing both, in no particular order, and you’ll soon find the ladies lining up to meet you. Your inner size outshining your outer size. See?”
I don’t, but I nod anyway. It’s usually best when I do that.
“Good! From here on out, no more dreams about old people. If you see an old person walking towards you, turn him or her into a beautiful girl, put yourself with her on a clothing optional beach. Talk to her a little, listen to her, let her realize her zest for you, and bear in mind that whatever happens between you two in your head is perfectly allowable. Practice. Conquer in your dreams and you shall conquer in your life. This will be another of your cognitive behavioral therapy tactics. You get my drift?”
“I think so,” I say, though I don’t see the point of seducing clothing-optional girls in my dreams.
Chandelier nods and takes a deep breath, flexes his fingers, rises from his armchair. “Same time next week?” he asks, even though he knows I’ve been scheduled with him for the rest of the year.
“Yes, Mr. Chandelier,” I say, getting to my feet.
Chandelier walks over to the door, opens it, and makes a grand gesture towards the hallway beyond. “Now, go out there and get yourself a cute little thing and tell me all about her next week!”
I shake his hand and leave the office, thinking to myself that only Ron Chandelier could’ve equated my old people dreams with girl troubles. I’m glad I haven’t mentioned Eva yet.
My mom meets me in the lobby. “How’d it go?” she asks.
“We talked about girls,” I say.
Funny: She thinks I’m joking.