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Love is a Solitary Thing

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In his fantasies, it’s always happening against his will.  Which is sort of a contradiction, he guesses—to want something to happen in a way that he doesn’t want.


He imagines himself fuzzy-headed, being drugged or plied with alcohol.  Rick is drunk too, fumbling around like a hormone-addled teenager, breath hot against Morty’s ear, hands squeezing, gripping, invading as he stutters and curses and snarls and drools.  Rick is crashing into him, knocking things over:  Morty’s body is a house and he arrives uninvited, kicks in the door, raids the fridge, rummages through the drawers.  He leaves empty beer bottles all over the living room, he spray-paints his name on the walls and pisses on the toilet seats.  There is pain involved:  dream-pain, which feels like pleasure.  A dark and nasty kind.


That voice, growling and stuttering in between huffs and puffs:  Morty, k-k-k-keep your eyes open.  I need—I n-need to—I wanna see you crying.  Cry for me.  Go on and cry, you little bitch.  It’s okay.  Grandpa’s here.


Alone, he gasps for breath with his face pressed to the pillow, tears wetting the pillowcase, hips grinding down against the mattress.  He finishes himself off with quick sharp jerks, sweating and shaking, high-pitched whining muffled groans emerging from his throat.


This crush—or whatever the fuck you call it—is undoing him.  He is being split open, turned inside out, his molecules divided and recombined.  There is deep chemical action going on in the mammalian core of his brain, something comparable to a drug.


He’s tempted to blame it on the therapy sessions.  It’s not like he never had those kind of thoughts before.  But in the past, his desire for Rick was embryonic:  an unformed, unacknowledged thing.  The dreams were just dreams.  They were crazy and weird and unsettling, but dreams were like that, and they could be forgotten by breakfast.


They didn’t even feel that weird.  It seemed only fitting that Rick, who had rudely crash-landed into Morty’s life and taken over, was now blundering into private mental chambers where he had no business being.  Morty’s fantasies have always had always had a whiff of masochism about them, but those chambers were previously reserved for dreams of Jessica—Jessica tying him to a chair and slapping him around a little, or shoving her bare feet in his face and giggling at his muffled protests, or forcing him to dress up in her clothes and then teasing him.  Aww, are you gonna cry?  What a sissy.  But you look so cute in that skirt.


Now, those fantasies feel innocent and conventional by comparison.


Because now there is Rick in her place.


Gray eyes.  Long, brittle fingers, twig-thin and yet bruisingly strong.  Sharp jerky frenetic movements, long gangly limbs, a tangle of wild, ghost-pale hair.  That brain, burning bright and hot, a clockwork city ticking madly away.


Of course Morty hasn't told anyone.  Not even his therapist.  It's just too fucked up.  This is, after all, the man who showed up as a pickle, dripping with rat-blood.


But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore his feelings.  Because now he’s going to counseling every week, digging, unearthing, overturning every rock, hearing Mom start to unpack just how much Rick’s dysfunction has shaped her—and indirectly, Morty and Summer.  He no longer has the shelter of ignorance, the unthinking freedom of being a mute adolescent animal floating through life in a haze of feeling.  Everything is verbal now.  Ambiguity is blasted cruelly away.  Experiences, images and sensations become crystallized into words:  into small, hard, inescapable things like gems.  Things which can be scrutinized.


Do words shape the truth or merely expose it?  He’s not sure.


Either way, he can’t escape the ever-heightening awareness of just how deeply Rick is woven into him, into all of them.  His fingerprints are on Morty’s brain, on his soul—a thought which should probably disturb him but which gives him a weird, wobbly little pleasure in the pit of his stomach.


When he talks about his insane adventures with Rick (holding back the worst of them) and Dr. Wong asks him why he keeps doing it even though he claims to hate it and he has to look, really look, at those feelings—


During one session he froze up and had to excuse himself to the bathroom and hyperventilate in the stall because a dream resurfaced with overwhelming force.  Him and Rick on some other planet, far away from everything, alone in the spaceship, Rick reaching over and…


Y-y-y-you like that Morty, you little fuckin’ pi—piece of shit?


Rick!  Knock it off!


You’re my little friend, Morty.  You know that?  I’d die without you Morty.


Aw jeez...


You stupid bitch.  C’mere.


Wet sloppy kisses.  More kisses, rough and biting.  Hands grabbing, maneuvering him around.  A probing tongue on his face, on his eyeball, licking up his tears.


He returned from the bathroom flushed, distracted, and remained that way through the rest of the session.


He has entertained the idea that these are actually repressed memories.  Or traces of memories that Rick tried and failed to erase.  It would almost be easier to think that.  Less messy—casting Rick firmly as the villain, his natural role.  But Morty doesn’t think so.  Or at least it doesn't feel that way.  The dreams are dreams.  The desires, the feelings, are Morty’s own. 


It's why he keeps going along every time Rick grabs his arm and drags him off into the unknown.  It’s like eating Chips Ahoy cookies dusted with an addictive and mildly poisonous chemical.  This is not good for him.  It can’t possibly be.  Yet he wants more and more and more and more.


But no matter how much he gets it doesn’t ease the ache of need buried in his center.  That ache never goes away.


* * *


Morty has been journaling.  He writes and writes and writes and then tears the pages out, crumples them up, throws them away.  Then fishes them out of the trash, tears them into tiny little pieces and flushes the pieces down the toilet.  And then he writes some more.  He writes everything he can’t say.  The need, the longing, the joy, the shame, the confusion, the self-hate.


The journal is just for him.  Dr. Wong has said that he’s not obligated to bring it to their sessions.  But if he wants to bring it he can.


So one day—when he’s close to the edge, close to imploding—he does.


It’s a private session.  He requested it.  No Mom, no Dad, no Summer.  He dresses up in his nice clothes, combs his hair.  Dad drops him off.  Morty sits down on the couch across from Dr. Wong, journal in his lap, heart beating so hard and fast that he feels sick to his stomach.  Sweat dampens his armpits.


“There’s something you wanted to discuss with me?” she asks.


“I, um.  Yeah.  I’ve been having some…some pretty weird dreams.  And f-f-f-fuh…fantasies.  I thought—I thought maybe—”


She gives an encouraging nod.


“Like.  Sex stuff,” he mumbles, gaze downcast, face hot.  “Am I—am I allowed to talk about that?”


“You’re allowed to talk about anything you want.”


“And you won’t tell anyone?  Like my family?  Or…”


A brief pause.  “If I have reason to believe you’re in immediate danger or are a danger to anyone else, I’m obligated to report it.  But aside from that, I’m sworn to confidentiality.  Nothing leaves this room.”


He hands her the journal and sits there, motionless and stiff-backed, as she opens it.  After a few minutes, she looks up.  If she’s shocked or disturbed, she hides it well.  “To be clear,” she says.  “These are just your own thoughts and feelings?”  There’s a hint of tension in her voice now.  “Has he ever actually—”


“No.  Never.”  The thing with the seeds doesn’t count, he decided.  “H-h-h-he—” Morty swallows, throat tight.  He squeezes the thumb of his left hand inside his right fist.  “He has no idea.  Th-that I…f-f-f-feel this way.”


“I see.” 


The tears swim into his eyes.  He’s afraid that if he speaks he’ll start to cry, but he manages to whisper, “Do you…d-do you think I’m—you know—sick?”


“These types of fantasies are more common than you might imagine.  It’s important for you to understand that you’ve done nothing wrong simply by having these feelings.  All thoughts are morally neutral until we act on them.  They are ‘sick’ only to the extent that they interfere with your life-goals and well-being.  There’s nothing deficient or broken about you.”


He still can’t look up.  But the tight, painful knot in his chest—which has been growing like a tumor for the past few months—loosens, just a little.  He can breathe past it.


And then he does start to cry.  Quietly, face downcast, one arm over his eyes.  She pushes a box of tissues toward him but otherwise doesn’t react, just waits in polite professional silence.  He cries for her because he needs to cry for someone.  Because he'll collapse if he doesn't.


When he’s gotten himself under control, she says, “It seems like this was a difficult thing for you to share.  It was brave of you to show me this.  You’re a strong person, Morty.”


He doesn’t feel strong.


“What do I do?” he asks in a wobbly voice.


“Well,” she says.  “That depends.”




“On you.  On how you want to proceed.”


He doesn’t quite know how he’s supposed to take that.  “I d-don’t—I don’t know.  I mean…I can’t let anyone find out.  Not my family.  N…not Rick.  For sure.  He’d…think it was gross.”


Would he?


“Would you like these feelings to go away?" she asks.  "If you could flip a switch and make them disappear, would you do it?”


“No,” he says at once.


“Why not?”  At his silence, she adds, “That isn’t a challenge or a demand.  It’s an invitation to talk more.  If you want to.”


“Because—” he stops.  He doesn’t know how to explain it.


She waits.


He grasps blindly for words.  And what comes to him is a memory.


“When I was six,” Morty says, “I f-f-found this…this baby bird on the street.  It was hurt.  I wanted to help it but I didn’t really know what to do with it.  So I just…p-put it in a shoebox and put in a dish of water and some birdseed.  I checked on it every few minutes.  I talked to it.  I really wanted to help it.  Because I felt like...I loved it.  Even if that doesn't make sense.  It died the next day.  And I felt awful.  Like…it would’ve been easier if I’d just left it or never seen it in the first place.  I don’t know if anything good came out of that.  It was just…painful and confusing.  But still, when I think about it, I—I dunno.  It seems…important?  Like, I wouldn't want to get rid of that memory.”  He stopped, clutching his arm.  “Sorry.  I know that I’m not making sense.  I’m not explaining anything.”


“It’s all right.  I…might understand.”  She’s silent for a moment.  Thinking.  “If you don’t want to stop the feelings themselves, we’ll work on mitigating the shame and other negative emotions around them.”




“Easing.  Even if you can’t act on your desires, you can learn to manage and make peace with them.  How does that sound?”


He takes a breath.  Lets it out.  “Okay.”


“I want you to do some more journaling.  You can show me or not.  Just get your feelings out in some form.  And I want to see you again on Friday, before the next family counseling session.  Is that all right?”


He nods, sniffles, and wipes his face.


* * *


When he walks out of the building, journal tucked under one arm, he freezes.  Instead of the family sedan in the parking lot, he sees Rick’s spaceship.


Rick leans out of the window.  “H-hey Morty, your dad’s busy being an unemployed loser, so I came to pick you up.  You—you wanna get some McDonald’s?”


Morty stands paralyzed for a few seconds…then says, “Uhhh, sure.”  He gets into the spaceship and sits stiffly, clutching his journal tightly in his lap—the journal filled with clumsily written, poorly-spelled confessions about his feelings for Rick.  About the dreams.  About the things he imagines Rick doing to him with his tongue and hands and dick.


Morty's still reeling from the fact that he actually showed Dr. Wong his horrible, embarrassing, world-ending secrets.  Even if she took it in stride about as well as anyone could, he feels like he just peeled off his own skin.  Like he just cracked his ribcage open.  The idea of Rick seeing it—


It’s not just the sex stuff.  The journal contains thoughts that are somehow even weirder and more personal than that.  Lines like, I want him to swim around in my brane I want him to taste my fears.  And, Sometimes I can feel him crying even when I’m nowere near him.


The spaceship pulls out of the lot.  Rick drives it like a car, since it tends to attract a lot of stares when it’s in the air.


Rick glances at him, frowning a little.  “You all right?  You seem a little—I dunno.  Like the TV’s on but there’s only static.”


He clutches his own arm.  “I-i-it was…kinda intense.  This session.”


They drove in silence for a minute, then Rick said, “I keep telling you, this stuff is a waste of time.”


“It’s not,” Morty says, more forcefully than he means to.


“Th-the system wants us to be drugged up and compliant little drones who just do our jobs without complaining.  Is—is that what you want Morty?  To be a chicken in a cage on growth hormones and antibiotics?”


It’s just Rick’s usual bitching—Morty’s used to it—but he’s on the edge, and he blurts out, “W-w-w-w-what, you want me to be like you?  An emotionally constipated old drunk?"


“Booze is cheaper.  Wh-what’s she charge, two hundred an hour?”


“I’m serious, Rick!”


“Wh-what’s that book, anyway?  Your angsty teen poetry?”


He draws his breath in, clutches it tighter.


“It is, isn’t it?  Holy shit.  What, y—you read it for your therapist?  This I gotta see.”  Rick makes a grab for it.


Panic stabs through him.  A small and treacherous part of him wants to surrender, to let Rick see it, see everything.  He's so sick of hiding.  Let it all come spilling out like intestines.  Why not?  But he can't.  Morty curls around the notebook, flushed, breathing fast and hard.  “If you touch this I will fucking kill you!  I swear to god!”


“Like you could.”  Rick reaches for it again, smirking.


Without thinking, Morty lashes out.  His nails catch Rick’s cheek and rake across it, scratching him like a cat.


“Ow!”  Rick claps a hand to his face.  “You feral little bastard!”


Morty clutches the notebook to his chest, trembling, eyes wet with tears.  “L-l-leave me alone.”


“Okay, okay.  Sheesh.  I won’t touch the stupid thing.  Calm your tits.”  He pulls into the drive-thru.  “What do you want?”


“J…just fries.  I’m not that hungry.”


They sit in silence for a moment.  The scratches on Rick’s face are bleeding, just a little.  Morty swallows.  “Sorry,” he whispers, even though he's not the one who should be apologizing.  “Does it hurt?”


“Eh.  Don’t worry about it.”


* * *


He dreams again that night.


The door creaks open and Rick comes in, breathing softly unsteadily in the darkness.  He climbs into Morty’s bed and just holds him like he’s a teddy bear, close and warm in the dark, breath tickling his ear as he nuzzles into his neck.


“Hnn…”  Morty’s eyes twitch beneath his closed lids.


Rick is sleep-talking, drowsy and disoriented, mumbling something about Szechuan sauce and about Diane.  He snores once, twice.  Morty holds very still, not moving, not breathing—afraid that if he moves, he’ll either wake up or realize that it’s not a dream.


Then he does move.  A little.  Rubbing against him.  He feels Rick’s arms tighten—


“Mmph.  S-soft…you—you smell nice, baby…”


Then he jolts awake and Rick is gone.  Because he was never there.  Morty shuts his eyes tight.


It’s better this way.  He knows.  But the ache remains.




-The End