Bonus Episode 3 Transcript

The Bright Sides: Patient #8-C-6
by Jordan Cope & Briggon Snow

{sfx: Austin drumming on the coffee table]

Austin: Sorry. 

Dr. Bright: That's quite alright, Austin. 

Austin: Sometimes I just get caught in a rhythm - you know how it is. 

Dr. Bright: Did you feel yourself slipping? 

Austin: No more than usual, I guess. 

Dr. Bright: Would you play that again for me? 

Austin: Really? 

[sfx: Austin drums]

Dr. Bright: What do you feel when you play? 

Austin: Nothing really. I know what you're getting at - that when I play, I'm happy and when I'm happy I don't...you know. 

Dr. Bright: Do you think that’s how it works? 

Austin: I guess. I mean, I don't know. All I can think of are times when I was feeling anxious that I went full on freak. 

Dr. Bright: I don't think you're a freak. 

Austin: Well, you're a doc to the freaks - you're probably just used to it. 

Dr. Bright: Do you feel like that right now? 

Austin: A freak? 

Dr. Bright: Anxious. 

Austin: A little. Not as bad as I get out in the real world, though. 

Dr. Bright: Do you feel yourself slipping? 

Austin: What do you mean? Am I - am I going invis? 

Dr. Bright: Not as far as I can tell. 

Austin: I sort of feel like I am, maybe. I don't know. Sometimes, when I want to, I can just make it happen. But even when I don’t want it, it, like, passes a point of no return and I can’t pump the brakes. 

Dr. Bright: Can you remember a recent time that you went invisible when you didn't mean to? 

Austin: Yeah, like an hour ago. 

Dr. Bright: If you're comfortable sharing... 

Austin: I took the train over here. There was this group - a bunch of  interns I think - coming on at City Center. And there was this pretty girl that ended up sitting across from me. I was just listening to my music and following along on my charts - and she kept looking over at me. Every time I looked up she was eye- ballin’ right at me. 

Dr. Bright: How did you feel about that? 

Austin: Excited at first. But she kept looking - and then I thought I was manspreading or whatever - I wasn't - and I kept catching her looks. So I- I started to panic. It was like she was trying to figure me out or something. 

Dr. Bright: And did you disappear in front of this girl? 

Austin: No, when I feel it kicking in, I make it, like, my life's mission to just get somewhere and ride it out. 

Dr. Bright: And how do you do that? 

Austin: It's not easy. But this time I just got up and moved to a back seat - and just curled up out of view so I wouldn't go full on Claude Rains in front of her. 

Dr. Bright: Claude Rains? 

Austin: Yeah. "The Invisible Man". 1933? 

Dr. Bright: I know who Claude Rains is, I'm just surprised that you're a fan of old movies. 

Austin: I'm not really. But I figured I'd deep dive into the history of my people. What? 

Dr. Bright: It's nothing. I just think that’s- it’s nice. That you’re accepting what you can do. That you’re a part of something. How long did it last this time? 

Austin: On the train? 

Dr. Bright: Yes. 

Austin: A couple of stops at least. - By the time I got to your neighborhood I sat up and she was gone. Sucks. Part of why I have no dating life. Anyway, she was judging me and stuff - and so I went invis. 

Dr. Bright: Does feeling judged often trigger your invisibility? 

Austin: Yeah. Just people...not "getting me", I guess. Not even want to "get me". Not seeing me for me. Ignoring me, too. That's a big one. Like, not even giving me a chance. 

Dr. Bright: What is being ignored like for you? 

Austin: Lonely. I feel alone. A lot. 

Dr. Bright: If you are alone - physically alone, when no one is around - does the invisibility ever happen unexpectedly? 

Austin: I thought we already knew how this worked? This is - what? - my sixth, seventh session with you? 

Dr. Bright: Sixth. In almost two years, Austin. 

Austin: I know... I know. I just...I only get to book sessions with you when I'm on break, and even then it's hard to find the time in-between family and band and just like- 

Dr. Bright: It's okay, Austin. You don't need to justify anything to me - I'm happy to see you whenever you're able. What is it, Austin? 

Austin: You said that you "see me" and I don't know - it just feels nice to hear. 

Dr. Bright: Could you be more specific? 

Austin: When you say to me "I see you" it’s, like, grounding? I don’t have to guess that you see me, because you’re telling me. 

Dr. Bright: You’re not always sure when you’re invisible?  

Austin: Well, it's not like my skin gets all tingly and I can "feel it feel it". It's like an inside feeling. You know that sixth sense people get when someone is standing behind them or they're being watched and they can sense it? It's kind of like the opposite of that - like knowing you're around people but not feeling like you’re really there. I don't know. When it feels like I'm not being seen then that usually means I'm not. I've gotten pretty good at figuring out that I've gone invis but it’s still nice to know for certain. 

Dr. Bright: I don't believe I’ve ever asked you this, Austin, but can you see yourself when your ability is triggered? 

Austin: What do you mean? 

Dr. Bright: If you were to raise your hand in front of your face when you were invisible, would you see your hand? 

Austin: No, I guess not. Wait, is that weird? 

Dr. Bright: Not at all. Atypical abilities are very personal. While the mechanics of abilities across Atypicals can be similar, they vary from individual to individual. No person is the same as any other, right? 

Austin: Yeah. It's weird now that I think of it. It's like a shitty FPS. 

Dr. Bright: FPS? 

Austin: It's not important. 

[sfx: Austin starts drumming]

Dr. Bright: Have you told any friends at school about your ability? - I know you were struggling to- 

Austin: What friends? 

Dr. Bright: Austin. Austin? 

[sfx: drumming stops]

Austin: I'm sorry. You know. 

Dr. Bright: What were you thinking about when you started drumming? 

Austin: I don’t know...I- I felt that lonely feeling. Was I disappearing? 

Dr. Bright: No, you weren't. Not as far as I could tell. What does the drumming do for you in these moments? 

Austin: It just helps me. The sound, the movement. I don’t know. It just helps me be here. 

Dr. Bright: Was there something in specific that made it difficult for you to be here? 

Austin: Um, I don’t know. You asked about my friends and...yeah. I don’t have any. So. 

Dr. Bright: When we first met - it was your Christmas break Freshman year, if I remember correctly - you said you had lots of friends in your music program. 

Austin: Yeah, well, Freshmen sorta cling to each other. Everyone is nervous, you kinda latch on to the first people that sit next to you. Then people get to know you and things change. 

Dr. Bright: What about your roommate? You and - Thomas - was that his name? 

Austin: Yeah, Tommy - 

Dr. Bright: You were fairly close with him - is that no longer the case? 

Austin: I ended up getting a single this year. Dorm life was getting complicated. 

Dr. Bright: How so?

Austin: Sexiling. 

Dr. Bright: Excuse me? 

Austin: You know - the whole sock on the door thing. Roommate puts a sock on the door to let you know they're in there doing stuff. 

Dr. Bright: Stuff...Oh - Oh! 

Austin: Yeah. 

Dr. Bright: So you are saying this "sexiling" was getting in the way of your studies? 

Austin: Yeah, sure - we'll go with that, DB. No, it's- it’s that it wasn't happening frequently enough. 

Dr. Bright: How do you mean? 

Austin: So, dorm life is weird, right? You live with somebody - and you share a space - and some of the time you talk and are living in it together. And other times you're in the same space but you're totally ignoring each other just because - I don't know - that's just how it is. And when I was in there, sometimes I would end up going invisible and I wouldn't even know it. 

Dr. Bright: I think I might suspect where this is going... 

Austin: Mm-hm. Tommy would put the sock on the doorknob when he had his boyfriend over, but the problem is, I'd already be in the room. But I was invisible. 

Dr. Bright: I see.

Austin: Yeah. So did I. I saw a lot more than I wanted to. 

Dr. Bright: I can understand why you would feel it best to move to a single

Austin: Yeah. We didn't have much in common anyway. 

Dr. Bright: How so? 

Austin: Well, like...so it's and HBCU, right?

Dr. Bright: Yes. Your mother’s alma mater, correct? 

Austin: Yeah. And I don’t have a lot in common with people there. 

Dr. Bright: Why do you feel that way? 

Austin: We've been over this, DB. 

Dr. Bright: You're referring to- 

Austin: Yeah, the “black mom, white dad” thing. Which makes me... 

Dr. Bright: You.

Austin: Complicated. 

Dr. Bright: Please forgive the platitude, Austin, but you do know we are all complicated. The fact that your father is white and your mother is black, it- 

Austin: I was raised white. 

Dr. Bright: What does "raised white" mean to you, Austin? 

Austin: I don't know - I just was. I have trouble connecting with a lot of the folks at my school. And everyone else can tell. 

Dr. Bright: Did you feel that way growing up as well? 

Austin: Well yeah - but I really didn't have a lot friends growing up. I was pretty quiet. Nobody wanted to talk to me, anyway. 

Dr. Bright: When was it you started drumming? 

Austin: I don't know - maybe, 10...11? 

Dr. Bright: And your ability didn't first appear until college, correct? To your knowledge. What is it? 

Austin: "Appear". Just funny. Yeah, fall of Freshman year. That's why I started going to you. Thought I was going crazy until I found your name on a weird message board online. I didn’t know what to expect but it’s been nice having someone to talk to. 

Dr. Bright: I’m glad. You still haven't told your parents? 

Austin: No way! Are you kidding? I'm enough of a freak. 

Dr. Bright: You are not a freak, Austin. 

Austin: Well other people think I am. Everyone always has. I guess I've just always been on the outside of stuff. 

Dr. Bright: Why do you feel that way? 

Austin: I don't know. It just feels like everybody else has something- is something- belongs somewhere. But not me. 

Dr. Bright: Because of your ability? 

Austin: No, not just that. I've always felt it. Like I'm living in-between the cracks. 

Dr. Bright: How do you mean? 

Austin: Like I'm here by accident, like I missed my stop or something. Like I’m just a bunch of jumbled parts that don’t fit. An undefined mistake. 

[sfx: Austin starts drumming]

Dr. Bright: Austin? Austin, can you hear me? Austin. Austin, I’m going to reach over and touch your hand now- 

[sfx: the drumming stops]

Austin: Sorry. I didn’t realize- sorry. 

Dr. Bright: It’s alright, Austin. Where do you go when that happens? 

Austin: Nowhere. 

Dr. Bright: Nowhere? 

Austin: It's like I feel empty...but in a good way. And like, full at the same time. Does that make sense? 

Dr. Bright: Does it make sense to you? 

Austin: I guess it does. 

Dr. Bright: Those parts of you that you say don’t fit - do they line up when you play? 

Austin: They're not there - I mean, they're not gone - but I don't care, I guess? Maybe it's just that I care less. I don't know. 

Dr. Bright: But, most of the time, you feel judged by your peers for all these different parts? 

Austin: Yeah. Because I'm not like them. I'm different. Growing up I was a - a black kid - I looked like a black kid - I was always on the outside from the white kids in my year - and now I'm this guy who isn't black en- Never mind. 

Dr. Bright: In here, you don't need to extinguish your thoughts and your feelings, Austin. Please. 

Austin: They see me as not "black enough". 

Dr. Bright: Have they told you this? 

Austin: Well, no. But - it's like - we have nothing in common. To them -I'm this black dude who grew up listening to Panic! at the Disco and Arctic Monkeys - not Drake or whatever. I didn't grow up with soul-food, my Dad didn't get me into basketball. I know these sound like stereotypes but, like, everyone at school talks about growing up with this stuff - and I didn't. 

Dr. Bright: I can understand how that would make you feel like an outsider. But there isn’t a correct way to “be black” or any other race. 

Austin: I’m not talking about genetics or whatever - this is about culture, right? Black men listen to hip-hop and I don't. 

Dr. Bright: And you feel rejected by your classmates because you don’t listen to the same music? 

Austin: I'm a music major. It's important. Trust me.

Dr. Bright: Even so- 

Austin: And the messed up part is- if we really want to get into it - 

Dr. Bright: Please.

Austin: I don’t even know if I like the music I like because I just like it or if I forced myself to like it of hip-hop or whatever because I wanted to fit in with all the white kids I grew up with. Like a chicken and egg thing. 

Dr. Bright: When you drum and you feel, as you've said, empty and full at the same time, are you black or white? 

Austin: I don't know. I don’t think about it that much. 

Dr. Bright: So, you're just you. 

Austin: Yeah. I'm just me. I'm playing. It doesn't matter. 

Dr. Bright: Do you want to feel that way all the time? 

Austin: Feel how I feel when I'm drumming every second? Sounds dope. 

Dr. Bright: Austin, in my experience, if we try to divide ourselves into binary traits, of course we’ll feel like nothing matches up - because humans don't work like that. 

Austin: I thought I was Atypical. 

Dr. Bright: Atypicals are still human beings. And none of us can be put in neat little boxes. 

Austin: But people still try to put you in  a box. I just want to be me but the world won't let me. I don't think you get it. 

Dr. Bright: Who are you, Austin? 

Austin: That's a weird question. 

Dr. Bright: I think it may be the only question that matters. "Who are you?" When you think of Austin Whipple, what comes to mind? Humor me. 

Austin: Uh, I'm tall... 

Dr. Bright: Yes you are. Keep going. 

Austin: I like music...I play music...I'm pretty good at playing music. 

Dr. Bright: From what my coffee table and I have seen, you're great at it. 

Austin: My favorite color is purple. That good? 

Dr. Bright: Keep going. 

Austin: Uh...My favorite food? Okay...uh...Korean barbecue. Oh! And Italian. - And...Toy Story 3 is the only movie that has ever made…

Dr. Bright: The only movie that has ever, what? 

Austin: Made me cry. Okay, what's the point of this, DB? 

Dr. Bright: Have you ever been in love? 

Austin: DB...No, but I want to be. 

Dr. Bright: Have you ever felt happy? 

Austin: Yeah.

Dr. Bright: What is the happiest you've ever felt? 

Austin: Does getting my drum kit count? 

Dr. Bright: Is that your happiest memory? 

Austin: That I can think of. It's less about the drums - if you can believe it. More about me and my dad setting it up together Christmas Eve. My parents couldn't wait one more night to give it to me. I bet if you asked them a week later they would've been begging you for that one more night of quiet. 

Dr. Bright: That's a really nice memory, Austin. 

Austin: Yeah, it is. 

Dr. Bright: Have you ever felt sadness? 

Austin: Record screech, DB. Yeah. When my mom got sick. 

Dr. Bright: I'm sorry, Austin. 

Austin: It's alright. She's fine now. It's been years. We're in the clear. 

Dr. Bright: Now - the friends you had when you were growing up - 

Austin: I told you, I really didn't have any. 

Dr. Bright: The boys and girls in your year, then. Did any of them have boyfriends or girlfriends or best friends? 

Austin: Yeah... 

Dr. Bright: So they felt love, or wanted to feel love or - 

Austin: Sure, yeah, I guess. 

Dr. Bright: Do you think any of them have felt happiness? 

Austin: Well, obviously, right? 

Dr. Bright: Sadness?

Austin: Duh. What are you getting at? 

Dr. Bright: When I asked you to tell me "who you are" - you began telling me the things you like - and physical traits - which are part of you - but it's not who you are. Do your peers in college like Korean barbecue? 

Austin: Tommy is the one that got me into it. He and his boyfriend invited me out one night last year. 

Dr. Bright: Is Thomas Korean? 

Austin: No, his family’s from Mexico City, I think. 

Dr. Bright: And he loves his boyfriend. 

Austin: Yeah, remember the whole sexile thing? He loves him a lot. What’s the point? 

Dr. Bright: Your friend sounds like a nice young man, who not entirely unlike your peers growing up, is in love with his boyfriend. He's not Korean but enjoys Korean barbecue...What's his favorite color? 

Austin: I actually think it's purple, like mine. You're saying none of my interests matter? 

Dr. Bright: It's not that they don't matter, Austin. They are a part of what makes you you. But who you really are is a young man who feels love, happiness and sadness, who happens to like certain foods and music that other people may or may not like. Black, white - these are words meant to describe what skin looks like - they don't come with predeterminate interests and they fail to encapsulate everything that makes us who we are. 

Austin: But what about community? I mean, what I look like has a lot to do with that. 

Dr. Bright: Community is important. But not when we use the idea of community to snuff out the things that make us unique. And there are lots of different kinds of community. Yes, race, gender, sexuality- all those things the world defines us by, those can give us community. But so can our interests, our passions. You’re a musician in a music program - do you feel a sense of community there? 

Austin: I mean, not really. I don’t belong with those people either. Like, okay, at the beginning of this year, for instance. I volunteered to help man the band table in the student union during opening weekend. 

Dr. Bright: That's very nice of you, Austin. 

Austin: Didn't hurt that they were offering me priority hours in the practice room. But, so, I was sitting there behind the table with Dom, Kelly and Reece, I think it was. 

Dr. Bright: Friends of yours? 

Austin: Nah, just bandmates. I don't really know them. Anyway, we were hanging there - and our job was to get freshmen interested in the program. So these kids would come up and ask questions - and we were supposed to draw 'em in and make them feel comfortable. And I would be fine talking to them about the music program and all that but then Kelly would lean in on them and next thing you know everybody is talking about movies and where they grew up and stuff and I just... 

Dr. Bright: And that's a problem? 

Austin: Well no one would include me, I guess, and then - boom - full on invis. They didn’t even notice. 

Dr. Bright: Where were you sitting? 

Austin: Behind the table. 

Dr. Bright: Were you behind your bandmates? 

Austin: Yeah, I guess. 

Dr. Bright: Before you realized your ability had been triggered, had you contributed to the conversation? 

Austin: No. Not really. But I mean, Kelly and Dom kind of had that on lock. So I kind of just- 

Dr. Bright: Hid in the back? 

Austin: But they ignored me - because I didn't fit in - so my whole deal kicked in. 

Dr. Bright: Do you think maybe you chose to sit in the back, Austin? 

Austin: So? 

Dr. Bright: Maybe you chose not to participate? Not to speak up? 

Austin: But we don't like the same stuff. And they didn't want me to. 

Dr. Bright: Did they tell you that? 

Austin: No. But, I could tell. 

Dr. Bright: Why not try and contribute with your different interests and opinions? 

Austin: Because I could end up looking stupid - and they'd just end up not liking me. 

Dr. Bright: So you chose to make yourself... 

Austin: I chose to make myself invis. But I didn’t- I didn’t want to. It just happened. 

Dr. Bright: You said that, on occasion, you’re able to control your invisibility; activate it. 

Austin: Yeah... 

Dr. Bright: And how does that work? 

Austin: I just want to become invisible and then I am. But this wasn’t like that. 

Dr. Bright: What do you feel when you're in your invisible state? When you mean to do it? 

Austin: Fine. Safe, I guess. 

Dr. Bright: And when you don't mean to? 

Austin: All over the place. 

Dr. Bright: When you’re feeling insecure about being mixed race or being different or you’re feeling left out, do you feel the need to protect yourself? To hide? 

Austin: I mean, I want to not feel that way but- wait, are you saying I choose to go invis when I feel that way? 

Dr. Bright: If you feel safe when you mean to go invis, is it possible that you seek the same feeling subconsciously when you feel judged? 

Austin: But I want people to see me, that’s the whole fucking point. 

Dr. Bright: Do you fear rejection? 

Austin: Of course I do. Everyone does.

Dr. Bright: Do you feel like you need to keep parts of you hidden because they don't match what you feel is expected of you? 

Austin: Yes! Look, I don't know where I belong! Where I'm supposed to belong! 

Dr. Bright: Austin?

Austin: I hate it! 

Dr. Bright: Austin? Austin I need you to stay with me. I see you - and I know that’s scary - it’s scary for anyone to be seen - but I want you to try and stay here. 

Austin: I can't help it. 

Dr. Bright: I think you can, Austin. I know you’re afraid to connect - but I believe that you can connect with me. I'm here with you and I will never judge you. I accept you for everything that you are. 

Austin: Everyone judges me! 

Dr. Bright: You are a young man with an incredible gift for music - who is struggling to find his place in the world, like so many other people your age. You are who you are - a mix of genetic histories that merely controls the outside - not what's in your heart. And you have so much heart, Austin. Come back and let's talk - you don't need to be anything more than what you are, in this room. We can work on everything outside of these walls - but let's start here. 

Austin: I'm sorry. I didn't want to. I guess maybe- I guess maybe I did. But I didn't want to want to do it, if that makes sense. 

Dr. Bright: It does. I'm not saying that your peers - or even myself - don't have an effect on your ability. But I am saying that maybe- 

Austin: That maybe I'm blaming them more than I should - when I should blame myself. 

Dr. Bright: This isn't about blame, Austin. Being vulnerable is one of the hardest things we do in this life. I'd be out of a job if being vulnerable was easy. 

Austin: And if there were not freaks like me walking around. 

Dr. Bright: For the last time, Austin, you’re not a freak. None of my clients are. 

Austin: Right, sorry. I get what you’re saying, DB. I do. And maybe...maybe you’re right. Maybe I hide a little. But people do judge me. It doesn’t matter what’s in my heart or whatever if all someone sees is either a scary black guy or a light-skinned nerd who isn’t black enough. You can’t tell me that people aren’t gonna make snap judgements based on how I look. 

Dr. Bright: You’re right. We do, unfortunately, live in a world full of biases and prejudices. And I wish I could tell you that you’ll never be unfairly judged for the color of your skin. But we both know that’s not true. 

Austin: See? So I’m not totally delusional for being worried about people judging me. 

Dr. Bright: I wasn’t suggesting that you were. Sometimes people are going to make up their minds about us based our exteriors. But spending energy wondering who’s judging you and how doesn’t actually help you. You can’t control what other people think. All you can control is you. 

Austin: You mean control when I go invis? 

Dr. Bright: That’s part of it, yes. But you also control how much fear of judgment or rejection affects your own behavior. You can live your life based on what you suspect people think about you or you can live your life as your full, authentic self. 

Austin: That’s easier said than done. 

Dr. Bright: Yes, it is. How are you feeling? 

Austin: Anxious. You see me, right? 

Dr. Bright: I do, Austin. 

Austin: Cool. Cool cool. Can we do those exercises we do sometimes? 

Dr. Bright: That sounds like a good idea. Start by getting into a position that’s comfortable for you and when you’re ready, close your eyes... 

[sfx: time passes]

Austin: Yeah it's called Panic! at the Disco. Brendon Urie is like the ultimate dude. He is next level. I could totally send you a Spotify playlist, if you want. 

Dr. Bright: I- I wouldn't know what to do with it. I don't have many applications on my phone. I'm assuming this is for my phone. 

Austin: Yeah. I can just burn you a CD or something. You know how to play a CD, right?

Dr. Bright: Yes, Austin, I have a CD player. I'm not that far-gone. 

Austin: Neither am I, huh? 

Dr. Bright: Neither are you, Austin. 

Austin: Cool - I'll see you around, DB. 

Dr. Bright: You can make another appointment with Sarah on your way out if you know when you'll be back in the city. And, remember, we can always talk on the phone too. You have my number. I'm here. 

Austin: Yeah, I'll, uh, I'll do that. Thanks, DB.

[sfx: closing door]

[music & credits]

Lauren Shippen: The Bright Sessions was created by me, Lauren Shippen. Julia Morizawa is the voice of Dr. Bright and Michael Felix was the voice of Austin. This episode was written by Jordan Cope and Briggon Snow and directed and edited by me. It was sound designed by Mischa Stanton and all our music is composed and performed by Evan Cunningham. Our psychological consultant is Elizabeth Laird. If you’d like to support The Bright Sessions and help us make more podcasts, you can become a patron at patreon.com/laurenshippen. Our next bonus episode will be coming out on October 15th. Until then, thanks for listening and stay strange.