By Victoria Potenza
Phil stood in his kitchen, washing dishes. Almost every dish, pot, utensil, even candle holder stood in a towering pile awaiting a warm cleansing by Phil. He concentrated very hard on each individual piece giving them equal attention and care.
Outside the kitchen, observing Phil, were eight individuals; seven students and their teacher.
“Really focus in on Phil and his activities, this might all be on a quiz later on.” Said the teacher sitting leisurely in Phil’s recliner. “What sort of information can we gather from him?”
“I mean he is obviously suffering from some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder right? Everyone else has to see that!” shouted the psychology student, leaning against the wall furiously flipping through her DSM IV.
The undeclared student laid on the ground, feet kicked up near the couch not even facing Phil. “Ugh, psychology students, so quick to diagnose everyone.”
“At least she’s focusing on something,” remarked the business student searching for some way to make Phil’s activities into a business, service, or new as seen on TV money cow. “Would people have an interest in a dish cleaning service? He seems to be very good at that.”
“What a bore of a scene.” The film student zooming in on the pile of yet to be touched dishes, stated, unenthused. “It will have to be cut, I cannot believe I am wasting my good film on this.”
The undeclared student rolled on her belly kicking her feet up in the air, “It’s a man’s life we are watching, and is every aspect of your life so interesting and camera worthy Spielberg?”
Phil continued at his tasks, obviously unaware of the discourse going on only a few feet away.
Their teacher adjusted to take an inhale from his pipe, “Now come on everyone, you all have different focuses and interests, I want to hear some constructive observations from everyone.”
A crash of books came from the other side of the room everyone turned to see what the commotion was about. “Sorry everyone, I was trying to find a diary or a journal or something.” The history student said sheepishly, obviously embarrassed to have his classmates looking on at him. “I’m going to go look through some drawers, maybe there are letters or bills that might give me more background!”
The psychology student came over leaning a little too close to the future historian’s liking. She whispered “Hey, maybe we could work together to build a case study on Phil, you can gather and help with the research, we can get more of an idea of his family life. What do you think?” The history student leaned back in an attempt to get some space. “Yeah, um, maybe? My research might take me in different direction though.” The historian grabbed at a pile of papers and continued rummaging. The psychology student shrugged, wrote some notes down about the potential mental health red flags of the history student, then turned her focus back to Phil.
“Humph” came a noise in the corner of the living room. The art student sat cross-legged in the reader’s chair. In an attempt to ignore his classmates he put on his large headphones and continued to try to sketch Phil in charcoal. Under his breath he simply said “I need full concentration”
The biology student crouched down on the ground, examining Phil’s cat. Puzzled, she looked up at her classmates and asked “I’ve never seen this sort of eye coloring in a cat before, do you think it could be some new species?” everyone looked back not really having any sort of response for her. “What? I’m just here because I needed another social sciences elective.” The business student did walk over to the amateur biologist to discuss branding ideas for this new species.
Suddenly the door swung open. It was obvious Phil heard it but tried very hard to continue on in his task. A pile of folded packing boxes flung into the room followed by a tall, rather exhausted looking woman. She looked towards the kitchen to try to get Phil to meet her gaze. When it became obvious he was unwavering in his undertaking she looked back down, grabbed the boxes and walked into the room.
“Damn it! I would love to get that shot again, I’ll have to get extras to come in later.” The film student, clearly frustrated, scrambled to change out his reel. “It’s starting to get dark as well it would be great if they changed the lighting.”
The history major came over with a picture “I believe this is Phil’s girlfriend, Claire. They have a few pictures together on the mantle over here.” He was obviously proud of his findings.
“You would be correct in that assessment.” Nodded he professor. “Let’s see what happens next, remember Phil is our focus here.”
The undeclared student got up finally and moved to the corner of the living room where she could get a view of both Phil in the kitchen and Claire in the bedroom. She saw clothes being thrown on the bed. She rolled her eyes when the psychology student leaned over and said she believed that Claire might benefit from some anger management.
Phil’s cat made her way to the kitchen to rub up on Phil’s leg, it was only then that he paused to look down at the animal and give it a sad smile.
“So much tension between these two” observed the film student looking into the bedroom through his lens. “Some background would be great, you got any information over there bookworm?” clearly nodding to the history student who responded “Nothing I can find. If only we could get into their computers, too bad the IT student dropped out.” The film student was displeased with this answer. “Well I will have to talk to my screenwriting friends about helping with some back story.”
Claire brushed by them, stacking boxes in the corner by the door, clearly trying to make as much noise as possible. She then threw two big travel bags on the dining room table. She looked up to see if Phil would respond to the noises but he continued to scrub away at a not so dirty fruit bowl. She made a rather exacerbated sigh then moved to the bathroom to continue packing up items. She stomped passed the biology student who tried to take some nail clippings from the cat and put them in a plastic bag. She then moved on to Phil for some hair samples.
The undeclared student continued to look back and forth between the couple looking concerned. She whispered to herself “What is happening here?” but the film student heard her and simply responded “Who cares there is not nearly enough drama here. She should have thrown something. Plus this Phil character is so boring!” He then tripped over one of his electric cords.
“I second that! I see no real business ventures or investments here!” yelled the business student who finally realized his dishwashing business would not be anywhere near as interesting as the business projects his friends were working on. The art student simply glanced up, clearly no one cared about his need for concentration as he now sketched the growing pile of boxes in the corner.
Claire came back into the room with a bag slung over her shoulder. She stood in the kitchen doorway. “So my cab is here, I took some clothes and toiletries but I will have to come back for the rest of this later.” Phil continued in his work.
“Really Phil? You have nothing to say? This is how you want to leave things?” This time raising her voice and crossing her arms. The undeclared student saw Phil pause and open his mouth to say something, but then sighed and went back to the task at hand.
“Fine. I’ll grab the rest when you’re at work. Goodbye.” She turned and with tears welling up in her eyes quickly grabbed the rest of the bags on the table and slammed the door without looking back.
“What he didn’t say anything? He should run after her before she gets in the cab” said the film student.
“Hmm what sort of work does Phil do?” asked the business student imagining exciting new money making adventures.
“Depression is so hard for people to deal with” said the psychology student, looking for medication options.
“Hmm I just know I need to get the samples to the lab” said the biology student pulling off her gloves and packing up her items.
“I’ll take copies of some of these findings and hopefully I will have more answers.” replied the history student clearly not talking to any one particular person.
The art student crumpled up a failed drawing, the shadows just weren’t right. He threw it at the wall.
The undeclared student simply stared on at Phil, who now wiped his pruned hands with a dish cloth.
The teacher stood up and wiping off his glasses said “Well students we have seen enough for today. Think about what you want your final projects to focus on. Also course selections are coming up and we will be offering Claire 101 next semester if you have an interest. Dismissed!”
The students got all their items together and continued chattering on as they made their way out of the Phil’s apartment.
The Undeclared student was the last to leave she picked up the picture of Phil and Claire at the beach and put it in her jacket pocket. She didn’t really know why she wanted it. She turned around and was the only one to see Phil walk to a seat at the dining room table. He pulled up the chair and buried his face in the place mat.