Episode 26 Transcript
26 - Patient #11-A-7 (Caleb)
by Lauren Shippen
[sfx: click of recorder]
Dr. Bright: Patient #11-A-7, session 40. The patient has been away for most of the summer. The last we spoke, he was very much looking forward to his summer vacation - the final weeks of school were extremely stressful for him.
[sfx: door opening and closing]
Dr. Bright: It’s good to see you Caleb. How long has it been? Two months?
Caleb: Uh, yeah, something like that.
Dr. Bright: How was your vacation- you and your family went to your lake house, correct?
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah, it was good. It was nice, just being with my family for a month. Sometimes they get on my nerves but, all in all, they’re…you know.
Dr. Bright: You have an easier time balancing their feelings.
Caleb: Right. Yeah, exactly. I mean, Alice is 13 now so like, she’s a real pain in the ass but- sorry - but you know, she’s like, all hormonal and stuff.
Dr. Bright: Hormonal and stuff?
Caleb: Yeah, like she’s really happy one moment and then she gets really angry like, instantly and it’s been giving me headaches.
Dr. Bright: I know you’re 17 now, Caleb, but surely you can remember how hard puberty is-
Caleb: Ick, that word.
Dr. Bright: I know, it’s not the most fun thing to talk about. Have you talked to Alice at all about what she’s going through?
Caleb: Not really. I mean, no teenage girl wants to talk to her big brother about that kind of stuff, right?
Dr. Bright: Maybe. But you and Alice have always been close.
Caleb: Yeah, but it’s - I don’t know, it’s different now. Her feelings feel different and they’re more intense and I just- I haven’t figured out how to fit them in yet.
Dr. Bright: How are her feelings different?
Caleb: Well, I mean, it’s still her obviously. Most of the time, there isn’t any difference at all. But then there are these spikes- like she’ll lose her temper at me or get really sad when she gets into a fight with her friends and I mean, she always did those things but now it’s- it feels weird. Like there’s an added layer of stuff on top of it.
Dr. Bright: But the underlying feelings are the same? The essence of her emotional being, once you get through all the “stuff”.
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty much the same. But there’s never been something between us, you know? I’ve never had to try and get through fog like this before. The first time it happened - she was texting with her friend and I guess her friend said something mean and she got mad - I didn’t even know where the feeling was coming from. It was so quick and so extreme that I didn’t recognize her for a second.
Dr. Bright: How did you figure out it was her?
Caleb: Well, once I got past that weird jolt of anger, it just felt like Alice angry. Maybe angrier than usual, but it was her.
Dr. Bright: Then that’s what you focus on. If you’re having a hard time balancing Alice’s changing emotions, just focus on what’s familiar. Chances are, she’s having a hard time balancing them herself. It doesn’t mean that she’s a different person but things might be a little bit more intense from time to time.
Caleb: Yeah, I guess so.
Dr. Bright: You’ve felt these kinds of jolts from your classmates before, haven’t you? I know your empathy didn’t really start in earnest until you were 15 but you go to a big school.
Caleb: Yeah, I have, but- it’s different when it’s someone I really, really know. Like, I’ve never had to worry about balancing Alice’s feelings before. Once I figured out what was going on and started seeing you, home has been, like, the one place that I don’t have to worry about stuff. At home, I can tell my family when their feelings are too much. I have to pretend to be normal with everyone else. Well, except for...
Dr. Bright: Have you talked to Adam?
Caleb: Not really.
Dr. Bright: I know you two had agreed to step back for a while and focus on finals but have you spoken at all since school finished?
Caleb: No. I mean, I was away with my family and then he was away with his - visiting some of his dad’s siblings in Ohio or something. And then I’ve been in football camp for the past few weeks to get ready for the season and I just. No. We haven’t talked. We’ve- we’ve texted a little. That’s how I know he was in Ohio. And he’s sent me some new music and I’ve snap-chatted him a bit, but you know, we haven’t really had like, a conversation or anything. You’re confused.
Dr. Bright: What are you trying to achieve by “snap-chatting” him but not talking to him?
Caleb: I don’t know. I mean, I wasted the last few weeks of school being so mad at him and by the time I cooled off I was away and it just…it got too hard to really reach out, you know? After- after I told him I needed space to think, he didn’t try to talk to me again and I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk to him so I guess I was sending him stuff to try and…I don’t know, bridge the gap a bit? Make it less weird when I see him at school?
Dr. Bright: You start school again next week, right?
Dr. Bright: And do you plan on talking to him then?
Caleb: Ugh, I don’t know. I thought if I took the summer to get my head screwed on right, I would know exactly what to say and what to do. But I don’t. I just…Can we just talk about something else?
Dr. Bright: Okay. But I would like to come back to this. You’re starting senior year - are you excited?
Caleb: I don’t know. Yeah, I guess. I mean, I’m excited for our last season - things went so well last year so hopefully I can go out on top.
Dr. Bright: Do you think you’ll play football in college?
Caleb: No. No, I like it but, I don’t know, I don’t need it as much anymore. When things first started, football was like, this great outlet for everything - something to focus on, distract from what was happening to me. And I still like it but, I don’t need that escape as much anymore.
Dr. Bright: You’ve learned how to cope with your ability extremely well.
Caleb: Yeah, that’s part of it. I mean, things have definitely gotten easier. And I believe you, you know, when you say that overall it’s just going to get easier and easier the older I get. I think that’s true. But it’s not just that, it’s- I think I’ve learned to like it?
Dr. Bright: Being an empath, you mean?
Caleb: Yeah. I mean, all annoying little sisters and bummed out classmates aside, it’s kinda cool, right? I never realized how cool it was until- well, until Adam.
Dr. Bright: What do you mean?
Caleb: Well, not a lot of people know, right? And my parents weren’t exactly thrilled to find out there was something different about me. I mean they don’t think I’m a freak or anything like that but, when you first told them about what you thought was going on, they got so scared. I could feel it from your waiting room. I remember going to the door to try and hear what you guys were talking about because I thought something had gone really wrong. But they- they were just worried, you know? They believed you right away, which is still so weird to me but I think they could tell that something was really off with me. I mean, you remember how hard it was at first - I thought I was gonna explode from all the feeling.
Dr. Bright: Yes, you were under a lot of strain.
Caleb: Right, and they could tell, they were worried that there was something really wrong with me. So when you told them about the empathy thing, I felt their relief at first: that they had an explanation for why I was behaving the way I was, getting headaches, acting out. But then they got so scared and worried. And I got that. 'Cause I was scared too.
Dr. Bright: That’s perfectly understandable, Caleb. Coming into an ability can be very difficult, especially when it presents all at once.
Caleb: Yeah, I mean, it was hard. But then I started working with you and got better at handling it and felt less scared about losing control, but my parents were still scared. They still are sometimes. They love me, I know that, and they wouldn’t want me to be different. I actually think they’re thankful for it sometimes - that I’m able to understand stuff, you know, without them having to explain. But they still get scared. And more for me than for Alice - I can tell the difference.
Dr. Bright: Why do you think that is?
Caleb: Because I can’t be normal. Ever. I’m always going to have a harder time with some stuff than other kids. My relationships with people are always going to be kinda weird. And it’s been mostly fine so far but what is it gonna be like when I go to college and have to live with someone I don’t know? Or get a job? I mean, dating Adam’s hard enough and he knew about it - it’s not like I can tell every person I date or hang out with.
Dr. Bright: There are many people in this world who are very sensitive. Empathy is something most of the human race experiences. I don’t think you’re as different as you worry.
Caleb: Great, that’s just what I want to be: “the sensitive guy”
Dr. Bright: There are worse things to be, Caleb. Society changes - men aren’t expected to ignore their feelings anymore.
Caleb: Yeah, yeah, you sound like my dad.
Dr. Bright: Really?
Caleb: Hey, you can’t be surprised - you just said dudes can be sensitive. My dad is just one of those guys, I guess.
Dr. Bright: Of course. I just didn’t realize.
Caleb: I mean, he’s always been a stay-at-home dad for, like, my whole life. Like, he writes and stuff but my mom always been the, you know, breadwinner. That’s a thing, right?
Dr. Bright: Yes.
Caleb: Yeah, so, my dad’s always been telling me and Alice that guys should cook and clean and do all the stuff just as much as the women. And that it’s okay for guys to cry and talk about their feelings and stuff - that they don’t have to be all macho all the time. I mean, I remember when I told him I wanted to play football, I was so nervous, because I thought he would see it as me, like, selling out. You know, conforming to like, gender roles and all that. But he just smiled and he told me I could do whatever made me happy as long as I wasn’t a dick about it.
Dr. Bright: He said that?
Caleb: Well, yeah, but in, you know, like, a dad way.
Dr. Bright: It seems like you have wonderful parents, Caleb. I know I’ve only met them a handful of times but they love you very much.
Caleb: Yeah, I know. But most parents want their kids to be normal, right? I mean, it’s just easier.
Dr. Bright: Maybe. But just because they have different things to worry about with you, doesn’t mean they have more to worry about. Atypical or no, they would still be scared for you. It’s what parents do.
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah, I guess you’re right.
Dr. Bright: How does Alice feel about your ability?
Caleb: I don’t really know. She calls me a freak sometimes, but I know she doesn’t mean it. And I think she knows I know she doesn’t mean it because I can feel the emotion underneath it.
Dr. Bright: So it doesn’t hurt your feelings when she calls you that?
Caleb: No. I know it’s her way of dealing with it. She definitely thinks it’s weird, but she loves me anyway.
Dr. Bright: You said you didn’t think of your ability as cool until Adam - what did you mean by that?
Caleb: Well, he’s the only other person who knows, right? Well, now Chloe and Frank too, I guess, but that’s different because they’re both weird too. And then the only other normal person who knows is you. And you just feel kinda, I don’t know, unfazed by it. I guess you deal with things that are a lot crazier than me.
Dr. Bright: I’ve met those with more extreme abilities, yes.
Caleb: But Adam thinks it’s really cool. I mean, obviously he was really freaked when I first told him, you remember that whole disaster-
Dr. Bright: It wasn’t a disaster once you two actually talked though, was it?
Caleb: No. No, definitely not a disaster.
Dr. Bright: So once he got used to the idea…
Caleb: Yeah, he thought it was awesome. He like, turned it into a game sometimes. Like, Adam would make guesses about which of our classmates had crushes on each other. And then when we would see those two people talking, he would make me go stand near them and try and pick up the vibe, you know? It’s, like, so dumb and it’s not like we would tell anybody if the person they liked actually liked them back but - I don’t know, it was fun. Sometimes it got sad though - there’s a lot of unrequited crushing going on in high school.
Dr. Bright: Yes, I think I recall that from 100 years ago.
Caleb: I mean, we would do all kinds of stuff like that. Like, on big presentation days, I would go ask the teacher something before class - like, something simple - and feel what kind of mood they were in. And then I’d tell Adam or give him a signal or something and then he’d make his presentation so that it would fit the mood of the teacher. I like- I don’t know how he did it but, based on whether they were happy or sad or annoyed or whatever, Adam could tell what kind of thing they’d like the most. If a teacher was really tired, and really over it that day, Adam would get up and give a really long, like, really good presentation. And it would give that teacher, like, a break because they could just listen to one student talk for 15 minutes and actually be smart instead of sitting through 10 four minute presentations that are all copied from SparkNotes.
Dr. Bright: My goodness, it sounds like you two had a whole system in place. Did it work?
Caleb: I don’t know. But it made Adam happy and it’s pretty fun to watch him improvise 20 minutes about Hemingway. I mean, I think he made a lot of stuff up but Mr. Collins was hungover that day so he, like, got an A.
Dr. Bright: I’m not quite sure I approve of manipulating your teachers that way but I’m also not sure a teacher should be hungover in class so, I don’t know whose side I fall on.
Caleb: No, it’s okay. Like, Mr. Collins is a really good teacher most of the time. But he’s youngish - your age or close probably - so it’s not like he’s never going to go out with his friends. I mean, I assumed that’s what he did and he wasn’t just drinking at home. I think that would have felt different. Like, sadder. But, even though he was feeling all fuzzy and woolly and nauseous - and not the fun butterfly kind of nauseous, just, like, straight up nauseous - he also had this like, little buzz of happiness? Like what happened the night before was worth the terrible hangover.
Dr. Bright: And how do you know what a hangover feels like?
Dr. Bright: Are you sure?
Caleb: Yeah, are you kidding me? There’s no way I’m ever gonna get drunk. At least not on purpose.
Dr. Bright: I’m happy to hear that, but once you get to college-
Caleb: No, I mean, I’ve had alcohol before. Don’t give me that look, everybody does it. I bet even you drank in high school. But the one time I drank an entire beer, it felt, like, so awful. I mean, feeling other people drunk around you is bad enough, but feeling tipsy yourself and then also the feelings of 20 drunk teenagers is, like, a nightmare. Now when I go to parties, I bring iced herbal tea with me in a flask and try to find the sober people. Or at least, the less drunk people.
Dr. Bright: You put herbal tea in a flask?
Caleb: Yeah, I got that stuff that’s supposed to de-stress you or whatever. I have no idea if it works, but it just helps having something in my hand and a reason to turn away drinks.
Dr. Bright: Well, whatever works to stave off the peer pressure.
Caleb: Bringing Adam helped too. If I could focus on his feelings, everyone else didn’t bother me as much. He, uh, I don't know, he grounded me. Anchored me.
Dr. Bright: How so?
Caleb: It’s just always really easy to focus on his feelings. Even when he was really sad, he felt like- it was like being at home.
Dr. Bright: And how about now? With the limited contact you two have had, how are you feeling?
Caleb: I’m okay. I, uh- I miss him a lot, to be totally honest. And I feel- I feel, like, really dumb. I mean, I know I overreacted but I just got so freaked. And now I feel like I kind of ruined everything - like he’s not going to forgive me for what I said about his parents when I finally do talk to him.
Dr. Bright: So you no longer have the same concerns about Adam’s parents?
Caleb: Well, no, I do. I mean, I definitely do. You know what’s going on with Frank, right? You’ve talked to him?
Dr. Bright: Chloe is still trying to convince him to come see me. But, yes, she’s filled me in on what she’s been able to glean about what happened. I gather he doesn’t like talking about it very much.
Caleb: No, he doesn’t. Especially around me. Sometimes, I think I shouldn’t even be trying to help him at all.
Dr. Bright: Why do you say that?
Caleb: Well, if he’s having a bad day, I think being around an empath makes his whole situation worse. Like whatever empathy he has bounces off of my empathy and then we just go round and round and it feels pretty fucking terrible. He gets really scared - last week we were both helping Chloe move some big pieces in her studio and he started yelling at me about how I needed to leave, how it was too dangerous, he couldn’t protect me, just like, all this stuff.
Dr. Bright: What did you do?
Caleb: Well, Chloe tried to tell him he was safe, that we all were safe, that he wasn’t in combat mode anymore - I guess he was having some kind of flashback? But she told me to leave and I think she handled it on her own.
Dr. Bright: I see.
Caleb: What? You feel mad.
Dr. Bright: I’m sorry, Caleb, I’m not angry at you-
Caleb: I know. Trust me, I know what “angry at Caleb” feels like.
Dr. Bright: I’m just worried, that’s all. I know Chloe and you are better equipped than most to know what someone in crisis needs but you’re still both essentially children.
Caleb: Hey - that’s not fair. I’m almost 18-
Dr. Bright: Caleb, your birthday isn’t for months-
Caleb: -and Chloe is 21. We’re not totally incapable of dealing with serious stuff.
Dr. Bright: I know that.
Caleb: Then why are you mad?
Dr. Bright: I told you, I’m worried.
Caleb: C’mon, I know it’s not just that.
Dr. Bright: Okay. I’m angry that Chloe has taken on this responsibility. She could be putting herself, and you, in danger-
Caleb: Frank would never hurt her. He would never hurt anyone-
Dr. Bright: That may be so, but he’s still a highly volatile individual. He needs professional help. And Chloe is not a trauma specialist - she’s an art student. And you’re a high school student. What happened to Frank is beyond both of your expertise.
Caleb: For now.
Dr. Bright: What do you mean?
Caleb: Remember when I said it might be cool to use my ability to help people? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. I don’t know, coming to therapy and talking to Adam and getting to know Frank - it’s made me think about what I want to do after high school. And I think it could be good to use this weird thing I have for a career. Like, study psychology or social work in college and then use the empathy to be, like, really, really fucking good at it.
Dr. Bright: I think that’s a wonderful idea. And I’m so glad that both you and Chloe have such giving hearts. But you know you can’t practice on a traumatized veteran, right?
Caleb: Yeah, I know. And that’s not what I’m doing - I really feel for the guy, you know? Ugh, you know what I mean.
Dr. Bright: Yes, I know you what you mean.
Caleb: And it feels personal, I guess. Knowing that my boyfriend’s- well, that Adam’s parents are behind it, it feels like I was meant to meet him.
Dr. Bright: You’re beginning to sound a lot like Chloe.
Caleb: Yeah. But I don’t buy all that universe stuff as much as she does. Just that, well, I think some people are meant for other people, you know? Like, not even in a romantic, soul-mate way. But I know Chloe thinks she was meant for Frank. They just get each other. And she helps him and he- I don’t know, he gives her a purpose. Someone to take care of. I think she likes that.
Dr. Bright: And you feel like you’re meant for Frank, too?
Caleb: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, not in the same way Chloe is. ‘Cause I think whatever happened to Frank in his life, he would have met Chloe and they would have made art together. Even if he never went into the army. But it’s like when those scientists did all that stuff to him, his life got shifted and aimed towards me. Like I became part of his story.
Dr. Bright: And what role do you think you’re playing in his story?
Caleb: I don’t know yet. I mean, maybe it’s that he’s in my story - maybe it’s just that I was supposed to meet him to see what could go wrong.
Dr. Bright: What do you mean?
Caleb: Well, the reason his head is all messed up, the reason he has such a hard time - it’s because his empathy is out of control.
Dr. Bright: Frank was given an empath ability artificially. His biology wasn’t structured for it in the same way yours is. Your body produces your ability naturally - his was injected into him, along with a lot of other things.
Caleb: Like, what kinds of things? Did Chloe tell you that?
Dr. Bright: I’ve been looking into it independently. There’s not a lot I can do to help him until he comes and sees me so I’m doing what I can to figure it out.
Caleb: But it definitely was Adam’s parents who did it?
Dr. Bright: I haven’t been able to find that out for sure yet.
Caleb: What am I supposed to do with that? Like, how am- how can I go to Adam’s house and see his parents when I know they do bad stuff to people like me?
Dr. Bright: I don’t know. But you’re not in danger with them, I don’t think. Do you want to get back together with Adam?
Caleb: I’m not even sure we ever really broke up. I mean, yeah, we haven’t talked but, I don’t know, I feel like we just hit pause. It’s not like I’ve been out there dating a bunch of other people or even thinking about other people- oh fuck, do you think he’s been spending the whole summer dating other people?
Dr. Bright: I have no idea, Caleb.
Caleb: Oh god, I should have said something. How am I still so bad at this?
Dr. Bright: What would you have said?
Caleb: “Please give me some space to freak out but also don’t change your feelings about me so we can figure it out at the end of the summer”?
Dr. Bright: I take it he doesn’t have any reason to think that’s how you’re feeling?
Caleb: No. I mean, all the contact we’ve had has been pretty…well, really fucking distant and polite - not like how we texted before. God, what if he has some better, normal, non-freak boyfriend now?
Dr. Bright: I don’t think Adam would be so quick to forget about you, but if you want to keep seeing him you need to reach out. Have a serious conversation with him.
Caleb: Yeah, I know. I know I should but I’m just- even if he hasn’t forgotten about me, even if he does want to be together…I don’t know. I guess I’m kind of scared.
Dr. Bright: Because of his parents?
Caleb: Yeah, it’s partly that. But it’s also- I mean, I didn’t handle things very well, I know that. I know I should have talked to him after I freaked out, instead of just ignoring him at school, and I know that sending him snaps and stuff isn’t actually communication or whatever. But I don’t even know- I don't even know that I was that great of a boyfriend in the first place. I always got really overwhelmed whenever we fought and I don’t know how to take care of him when he’s feeling bad and I just- I’m worried I’m going to make things worse.
Dr. Bright: Make things worse how?
Caleb: For him. Because even though it’s easier to balance stuff with him, when he gets down, I really don’t know how to make it better. When he’s sad, I can feel it, and then he gets angry at himself for making me feel sad, even when I try to tell him I’d rather know what he’s feeling than have him hide it from me. But it makes him self-conscious and making him feel worse is the last thing I ever want to do. Like, ever. I don’t know, sometimes I think he should be with someone else. Someone normal. But then sometimes…
Dr. Bright: Sometimes?
Caleb: Well, I think what I was saying about some people being meant for other people, sometimes I feel that way about Adam. Not that I like, think we’re gonna get married someday and spend happily ever after together or whatever but just- he’s not special, you know? I mean, obviously he is, you know, special in that way every person is special, but he’s not different like me. Every time I’ve met another atypical, their feelings feel different to me. Sometimes it’s a little, like with Chloe, and sometimes it’s a huge difference, like the one time I met Damien. His feelings were, like, so strong. And then there’s Frank, which is this entirely unique, consuming thing. But Adam’s just a normal guy. Like, yeah, he’s got his own issues that are hard to handle sometimes but so does my dad, you know, and a lot of people at school I think. But, no matter what, Adam’s feelings still feel special to me. I always know when he’s nearby and I can feel the smallest changes to his moods and, even when they’re bad, he makes me feel good. Just like, comfortable in my own body. I like knowing how he feels. And there has to be a reason for that, right?
Dr. Bright: Does there need to be a reason?
Caleb: No, I guess not. But sometimes I still worry about my own feelings being real, you know? Like if I’m actually feeling things on my own or if it’s just the influence of everyone around me. It’s hard to know what to trust. But the way I feel about Adam - the way he’s different - that means it really is mine. I really do love him, it’s not just a teenage crush or my ability doing things to me. It’s me. And him. And we just, we fit and we would fit even if I wasn’t special, right?
Dr. Bright: Do you think so?
Caleb: Yeah, I do.
Dr. Bright: Then that’s all that matters. Well, that and Adam feeling similarly.
Caleb: I think he does. We’ve never said it but- I think he does. But what if how he feels isn’t the right thing for him? What if I’m not the right person to be there for him?
Dr. Bright: You can’t make that decision for him, Caleb. All you can do is love and support him the best you can. That’s all any of us can do with the people in our lives.
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. I’ll do my best. I can do that.
Dr. Bright: So, you’re going to talk to him?
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah, I’ll text him. God, don’t give that disappointed feeling.
Dr. Bright: I just think a phone call-
Caleb: I’ll text him asking to talk. Does that work?
Dr. Bright: It’s a step in the right direction.
Caleb: Yeah, okay.
Dr. Bright: So tell me more about this lake house - did you have any other family come visit you while you were there?
Caleb: Yeah, we had a couple of family friends come by…
[sfx: time passing]
Dr. Bright: Alright, Caleb, I’ll see you next Sunday. Good luck with the start of school. And please, consider picking up the phone and calling Adam.
Caleb: Okay, I’ll think about it. Thanks Dr. Bright.
[sfx: opening door]
Dr. Bright: Bye, Caleb.
Caleb: Bye, Dr. Bright.
[sfx: closing door]
[sfx: click of recorder]
[music & credits]
Lauren Shippen: Episode 26 was written and directed by Lauren Shippen, and produced by Mischa Stanton. The voice of Dr. Bright is Julia Morizawa. The voice of Caleb is Briggon Snow. Our music is composed and performed by Evan Cunningham. The original Bright theme was written by Lauren Shippen. To hear the full theme and for other bonus content, please visit thebrightsessions.com and follow us on tumblr and on twitter @brightpodcast. While you’re there, consider voting for us in the Audio Verse Awards! It only takes a few moments and there are some other amazing podcasts nominated that really deserve your vote. And, if you haven’t already, please rate and review us on iTunes. The Bright Sessions would like to thank Elizabeth Laird, Anna Lore, Elizabeth and Matthew Harrington, Ken Hertz, Oswaldo Rossi, and Authentic. The Bright Sessions will return on November 16th with Episode 27. In the mean time, thanks for listening and stay strange.