What Are the Odds?



Sophia was on the cusp of her mid-thirties and already had achieved far more over the course of her relatively short career than her ambitious younger self could ever have expected. Her practice was in a gleaming Manhattan highrise.  The carefully crafted space coupled with her reputation was enough to attract the sort of clients that could pay the rates that supported a lavish lifestyle.  She accumulated enough wealth as a confidant to the city's elite she was able to live like them. Her money trickled down among an army of service staff that handled various aspects of her life. People made her appointments, took her calls, cleaned her loft, delivered her groceries and handled her taxes. Just over two years ago she had saved her engagement thanks to the advice of a teenage boy who believed he was Adolf Hitler. He was, of course, a rising star in his field and at the time seemed like the centerpiece for a life anyone would be envious of, but her steady ascendancy turned into a meteoric rise that raised her far above and beyond where she planned to be. Now there were too many possibilities to ever consider such a commitment.

She circulated socially among the upper echelons of New York.  Her friends, acquaintances, and lovers were CEOs, policymakers, and the movers and shakers of the art industry. She gave advice on talk shows, wrote a weekly column, and now had a book deal in the works. She had reached astounding heights at a dazzling speed, but barely in her mid-thirties, she saw no end in sight.

She was in a session with a client she had seen for nearly four months. She was watching him dig around under the couch for something he had left there the day prior. For $750 an hour even she wasn't able to convince herself she had made much progress with him, but his family was footing the bill, and it seemed to them that at least he was happy to talk to the nice lady for two hours a day.

“Ah-ha!I found it,” He declared triumphantly.

“I'm sorry. Found what?” Sophia asked a little confused.

“This.” Art said holding up a M and M as he crawled back on the couch. “I left it here last week as a test.”

He studied the candy carefully. “let's see, looks like it's got a little dust on it, the shell's cracked. Ok, good time has definitely moved forward!” He said happily.

“Arthur we talked about this. What happens in movies and what happens in real life are two different things.”

Arthur threw up his hands “I know I know, but I'm telling you last Tuesday I was in the grocery. I picked up a carton of milk and had this incredible feeling of Deja Vu, and it wasn't just the milk. When I went to lunch when the waitress came by I knew exactly what she was going to say before she even said it!”

“Just check your calendar, and you'll see time is moving forward like it always does,” Sophia reassured him.

A digital alarm marked the end of the session. “Our time is up for today Arthur,” said Sophia.

“Ok,” Arthur sighed. He stood up and headed for the door. “By the way, I left a piece of cheddar somewhere in this office if you find it leave where it is.”

“I'm not going to do that,” said Sophia sounding slightly annoyed. “I'll see you next week.”

“Who knows when that will be,” Arthur said sadly.

“In seven days just like always,” Sophia said flatly.

Arthur left and closed the door behind him. Relieved Sophia sighed and sank into her chair and decided “groundhogs day syndrome” might be completely untreatable.

The phone on her desk rang. She sat up and answered.

“Doctor Paulson Susan Belinski is here,” chirped the cheery young secretary.

“Alright, send her in,” replied Sophia.

Her next patient was far from the mentally degenerating but ultimately harmless Arthur Bell. Susan Belinski was one of the most well known and respected statisticians on the planet. She was the author of two best-selling books, and she taught at the Ivy League level.

She was almost 20 years Sophia's senior. Her experience, reputation, and remarkable intelligence intimidated the jet-setting counselor. There was a sharp knock at the door. Sophia sat up in her seat, squared her shoulder, and started pretending to look busy.

“Come in,” she said.

Susan opened the door. She was a bit short, probably no more than 5'4. She had an average figure and a nest of curly black hair. She didn't wear makeup and was quite modestly dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, far different from the far more ostentatious Sophia who liked to use clothes to extenuate her superb physical features.

Susan did not bother to introduce herself. “Should I sit her?” She asked pointing towards the leather couch.

“Yeah right there,” said Sophia.

“Ok,” Susan mumbled as she plopped down.

“I'm Doctor Paulson it's nice to meet you, Susan,” Sophia said warmly.

“Yeah yeah it's good to be here,” Susan replied sarcastically.

Sophia was unnerved. She reached for her notebook and acted like she was writing something down.

“What are you writing?” Susan asked.

“I like to take some handwritten notes,” Said Sophia.

“About what? I haven't even said anything yet.” Susan said flatly.

Sophia was stunned, but she quickly rebounded. “As a psychoanalyst, I can make inferences from things like posture and body language.” Sophia blurted.

Susan rolled her eyes. “So where do you want to start doctor?” Susan asked.

“Well, that depends,” Said Sophia. “Is there anything on your mind?”

Susan scoffed “Well I guess I might as well get the $750 bucks worth. I'm here because my children are upset I divorced their father.”

Sophia was relieved. Finally, something she could worth with. “Yes, they expressed some concern about some of the decisions you've been making,” Said Sophia.

“Look, to you and them it may seem like I'm being erratic, but facts don't lie. I ran the numbers, and I concluded Christopher couldn't have more than 1-3 years to live.” Susan said as she sat back and got comfortable. “All I'm doing is detaching myself, so when the inevitable comes, it will be easier to deal with.”

“Why do you believe your husband's going to die?” Sophia asked.

“Well, we all do,” said Susan being slightly coy.

“But why so soon?” asked Sophia.

“Can I get a' pen and paper?” Asked Susan.

“Of course,” said Sophia.

She handed her a pen from her desk and tore out a page from her notebook. Susan laid the sheet flat on the coffee table and started writing.

“Susan?”

“Yeah?” Replied Susan without looking up.

“Oh, that's right. Doctor Paulson, do you smoke?

“No,” said Sophia.

“Ok thanks,” Said Susan scribbling something on the paper. “in answer to your question I as you probably already know am I statistician and I'm actually pretty good at what I do. One of the areas where I have made a rather comfortable living in risk assessment. By taking into account all the variables, I can make accurate predictions about any number of things. How old are you Doctor Paulson?

“35,” said Sophia trying ambivalent to the client's line of questioning.

“I'm so good at this, a lot of very important people have paid me lots and lots of money to use this skill for a variety of reasons,” Susan continued. “Doctor Paulson are your parents still alive?

“My mother is my father isn't,” Said Sophia

“how did he die? If you don't mind my asking.” Susan said added.

“Melanoma.” Said Sophia. Susan returned her attention to her piece of paper.

“I understand you are at the top of your field but don't you think it's a little bit odd you believe you can predict how and when people are going to die?” Asked Sophia.

“Not really. I didn't give a date I'm not a psychic or anything. Just given all the factors I know it will happen relatively soon, and frankly, I don't think I could stand the heartbreak, said Susan continuing to write.

“Are your grandparents still alive?” Asked Susan.

“My grandmother on my mother's side is but the rest no.” Said Sophia.

“How did they die...if you don't mind my asking.”

“My grandmother on my dad's side died of a stroke her husband, my grandfather died of lymphoma, and my mom's father died of heart attack.”

“Ok, thanks,” said Susan.

“Even if you're right about your husband don't you think it might be wrong to end your marriage based on that alone? I mean part of being in a partnership like marriage is taking the good with the bad. We have to accept everyone we love will die one day so why would you abandon them because of it?” Asked Sophia.

“Are you married?” Asked Susan

“No,” replied Sophia.

“Yeah I figured,” Muttered Susan.

“Look I know I agreed to whole death do you part thing and all that but I've had people close to me die before, and frankly I hated the experience, and I would like to avoid it if I could. I had to go through it with my parents, grandparents, friends and now, this time, I'm using what I know to preempt all that negativity. How often do you drink?”

“I don't know maybe two, three times a week,” said Sophia.

“Hard liquor, wine beer?” Asked Susan.

“I little bit of each I suppose,” said Sophia.

Susan returned to writing on the scratch paper. “Ms.Paulson how often do you eat red meat in a given week?”

Sophia pondered the question. “If I were to guess I would say maybe three times a week.” She answered.

“Ok good,” Said Susan. “And how often do you have sex.”

Sophia gave the statistician a hard stare. “Ok I think I can just guess that one,” said Suan.

Sophia was fed up. “Mrs. Belinsky the purpose of this session is to talk about your issues not to discuss...

Susan's phone rang cutting Sophia off. “One second,” Said Susan as she picked up her phone.

“Hello?”

“From what?” She asked after a minute “No, no I'm ok I've been expecting it for some time. Listen I have to go I'm in a therapy session. Yeah...yeah ok thanks.” She hung up the phone and dropped it in her purse and returned to writing on the scratch paper.

“That was New York general my husband just died,” Susan said casually.

“I'm so sorry,” Siad Sophia.

“Yeah yeah never mind that now.” Said, Susan, as she abruptly stopped writing. “Ms. Paulson I think I have some bad news for you......

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