Monday, July 4, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 1, 2398

Mateo was surprised to learn that Marie’s therapist had an opening the following day, but he decided he needed to go ahead and get on it, instead of waiting. Now he’s waiting in the waiting room, with a little boy and his father. There appears to only be one therapist here, so either they’re really early, or Mateo’s in the wrong place. Not long before the door opens, though, the father looks at his watch, gathers his son, and they leave together. Maybe they just didn’t have anything to do before their next appointment?
“Mister Matic?” Magnus Sharpe presumes.
“That’s me.”
“What would you like me to call you?” she asks.
“Mateo is fine.” He walks past her as she holds the door open, and takes a seat on the couch. A little furry dog slowly waddles over to him, and situates itself upon his shoes.
“You can carefully move him if you don’t want him there,” Mag. Sharpe tells him. “Some people find him comforting.”
“He’s good there.”
“On the phone, you said that you’re a friend of a patient of mine?”
“Yes. Marie Walton.”
“I cannot confirm that she’s a client, or anyone else, so if you want to talk about her, we’ll have to move forward under the possibly true assumption that I’ve never even heard of her before.”
“What brings you here today?”
“Well, I don’t know what she told you...I mean, she couldn’t have told you anything since you don’t know her, so I guess I’ll explain. We’re time travelers. When it began, it was just me. I was in a cemetery with my friends on my birthday, and suddenly everyone around me disappeared. I quickly learned that I was the one who disappeared, and that I had been gone for a year. I soon thereafter met my future wife, who became like me when I donated my kidney to her. The other three showed up later, for various reasons.”
She nods, not only like she understands, but believes him.
“None of this is all that important to my issue, but I’m giving you background, so you know what makes us a team. We’re not just a group of old friends who met at college, or in a stuck elevator.”
“That wouldn’t be what makes you a team,” Mag. Sharpe notes. “Teams accomplish goals together.”
“Well, we help people. At least we try. Sometimes a friend gives us missions, sometimes an enemy does, and sometimes we don’t even know who’s calling the shots.”
She jerks her head, confused.
Mateo thinks he knows why. “Yeah, there’s this mysterious group called the powers that be who have some kind of control over the whole universe.”
She shakes her head now. “No, I’ve heard of them. I didn’t know that you would complete missions for enemies. Tell me about that.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess that would sound weird, so I must just be used to it. I think that those people generally wanted to do good, but they built this reputation of being assholes, because they have all this power, and power corrupts, ya know? So they want to change, but when you’re a time traveler, it’s basically impossible to change your reputation, since linear time is just an illusion. So they keep being assholes, and force us to help others. That way they don’t actually have to have done any of the helping, but it still gets done.”
He chuckles mildly. This is going surprisingly well. He’s never felt so uncomfortable around regular humans than he has in this world, but Mag. Sharpe feels like someone he can trust. Now it’s time to get to the real issue, though, which has nothing to do with time travel.
“Go on,” she urges.
“Well, as you’ve probably heard, all the others are the smart ones. Angela and Marie studied and trained a lot of different things in the simulation. Leona and Ramses both studied science in normal school before they found out about any of this. I’m just the big dummy. The only reason I’m here is because my only true skill is that I attract the villains, and those villains have other victims, so that’s how we meet.”
“You feel useless.”
“Yes. I can’t fly a ship, or fight a monster. I try to look back on the things that I’ve accomplished since this started, and it’s all rooted in convincing others to help me. I don’t actually do anything myself.”
“You don’t think that alone is a skill?”
“Being helpless, and others taking pity on me? Not really,” he says.
“I think it is,” she counters plainly.  “I mean, think about it, if none of this time travel stuff existed, what could you do with that? What kind of job could you get? Why, you could help other people get jobs. That’s called recruitment, or headhunting. Heck, you would even excel as the top executive of a big company. People like that don’t need to understand the products or services they provide. They just need to know how to find the people who do. That is a skill, and most people don’t have it, because we grow up to be jaded and cynical, so we find it difficult to trust in the expertise of others. So not only is it a skill, but a virtue.”
“I was 28 when this happened to me. I had plenty of time to become a top executive, or at least start making my way down that road. But instead, I’m a driver. I’m a literal driver, and that’s all I could ever have been.”
“Yeah, not the most glamorous role, and I’m not saying that you should have become an executive, or that you did something wrong because you didn’t. I’m saying everyone has their own strengths, and just because yours aren’t as obvious as your friends, doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. You seem to be feeling inadequate in this reality, because while you’ve always relied on your team, you’ve probably always been able to contribute by following their direction. Now that you’re here, and relatively safe, there’s really nothing you need to do to help. If you were to sit on the couch all day in front of the TV, while the others were at work, they would be fine. No more antagonists, no more missions. It would be like if they were the parents, and you were the child. No one gets mad at the child for not having a job.”
“Hmm. Yeah, that is the difference. I was pretty much always busy, but now, all I do is read library books, so my ineptitude stands out more.”
“What are you studying?”
She nods. “The proverbial subject that won’t get you a job unless you remain in academics. My daughter’s doing the same thing, but she doesn’t want to become a professor, or anything. So after she gets a degree, she’s going to have to find something probably unrelated.”
“What would that be?” he asks.
“You like the library, Mateo?”
“Eh, it’s growing on me.”
“Then why don’t you work there?”

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