Film School Shorts


She Isn't Here

A woman grapples with her life-long severe anxiety. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a sympathetic co-worker. A film by Michelle Noland.

AIRED: October 04, 2019 | 0:19:23

(lights buzz)

(gentle music)

(women murmur)

- [Woman] No.

(bell rings)

(eerie music)

(phone rings)


(soft music)

- So you're just gonna lie here.

Is that the plan?

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great plan.

Just not sure how bladder's gonna feel about this.

When he suffers, we all suffer.


(makes noise of surprise)

Where did, huh.



(neck cracks)



- Well, I was hoping you'd be interested in James.

I saw the way he looked at you at that office party.

- How did he look at me?

- [Mom] Like no other girl in that room existed.

- Yeah, I, uh, I don't think you

were reading his facial expressions correctly.

- Hey, I know what I saw.

Just because I've been postponing

my cataract surgery doesn't mean I can't see. (laughs)

- I'm pretty sure it does, actually.

- I'm just worried about you, hon.

I mean, I just want you to have babies and be happy.

- I don't need to birth a child to be happy.

- Well, that's your choice but don't complain to me

about not finding a good man when you end up

like one of those old cat ladies on that MTV documentary

surrounded by smelly, dirty litter boxes

and old chewed-up cat toys in bed with you.

- Oh my gosh, no, I'm not a cat lady, mom.

- [Mom] Well tell me that in another 10 years.

Remember Aunt Betty from New Mexico?

There's a reason we don't visit her anymore.

You're not even living your life right now.

I mean, who's gonna want to end up

with a homebody for the rest of their lives?

- Look, I'm tired of explaining myself to you, okay?

- [Mom] I didn't mean it like that, I--

- Look, I've gotta go, I've got a lot to do today.

- [Mom] Okay.

- I'll talk to you later.

- [Mom] Bye, baby.

- Bye, Mom.

(soft music)

(people murmur)

- [Rebecca] Ooh, hey.

- (laughs) Betacarotene.

- (laughs) Carotene.

- (laughs)

- I don't know, what are you gonna go for next?

- Honestly?

- Honestly.

Don't lie.

- Probably another carrot.

- Okay.

- Yeah.

- Me, too, let's do it.

- I'm, I'm not done, okay.

Yup, back.


Oh, I saw you got a new little thing on your desk.

Looks really cool, the little, is it a paperweight?

- Oh, the dalek, from Dr. Who.

- [James] Oh, dalek.

- Yeah, Dr. Who.

- Oh, yeah, Dr. Who.

- You watch Dr. Who, right?

- I know.

- Oh, you have to watch Dr. Who.

- [James] Is it really that good?

- It's so good.

- [James] Okay, everyone keeps-

- It's British.

- Is it really that good?

- [Rebecca] It really is.

- [James] So that makes it good?

- It does.

- [James] Okay.

- He's really cute.

And he flies through the universe

and the daleks are the bad guys.

They're like these little, um, like robot guys

and the doctor hates them and they come at you

in like huge numbers and it's like, exterminate.


And I don't know why, but they're just super creepy.

- Yeah?

Well, they're little boxes that go, exterminate.


So that's creepy.

- Yeah.


That's how they sound, yeah.

You should watch it. - Exterminate.

- Like that. (laugh)

- [James] Cool, it sounds like a good, a good show, I guess.

- It is a good show.

- [James] Yeah?

It sounds like it.

- It is.

I, I make my mom watch it with me.

- Oh, hey.

Hey, ma.

- Please don't.

- [James] Oh, I'm sorry.

- Yeah, don't.

- Okay, um, I mean,

great. - Um, have another carrot.

- [James] What?

- I have to go back.

- Oh, to-- - I'll see ya.

- 'Kay, cool.

Exterminate. (chuckles)

("Oh Christmas Tree")

- Mm.

(checkout machine beeps)

(bell rings)

(background noises grow louder)

(ringing sound begins)

(breathes heavily)

- Are you finding everything okay?


(checkout machines blare)

(breathes heavily)

(basket crashes)

(ringing noise escalates)


- So what is agoraphobia?

An agoraphobia is a marked fear or anxiety

about two or more of the following five situations.

They're either scared of using public transportation,

of being in open spaces, being in enclosed spaces,

standing in line or being in a crowd,

or being outside of the home alone.

Now they'll avoid these situations

because they kind of fear that escape

may be difficult or extremely embarrassing.

That thought and that worry keeps them out

of those situations, and for some people,

can even cause them to be home-bound, which--

(mellow music)


- Good job, Rebecca.

You've got yourself another anxiety disorder.

How'd you manage to accomplish

such a noble and dastardly feat?

Well, my motivation came

from my deeply-rooted fear of confrontation.

I feel I really consolidated both my feelings

of inadequacy and lack of security as a child.

That's amazing, Rebecca, thank you

for sharing with us today.

(exhales) It is my pleasure, Pat.




(phone rings)


(phone rings)


Hey, Jo, I love these things.

It's kind of like a shark or (makes animal noises)

crocodile. (staple remover squeaks)

Um, new desk?

Sorry, I'm here to see Pat.


She back there?


You look great.


- So, you're back.

I'm surprised.

(laughs softly)

Thought you'd need more time.

- Ah, well, that's the thing.

I've been able to get my work done more effectively

from home and I was thinking, for the sake

of all of our spring projects coming up,

that it might be better--

- Rebecca.

- [Rebecca] Yeah.

- I've only made this exception

because you've always been a good worker.

- [Rebecca] Thanks.

- [Pat] Unfortunately, I haven't seen

any improvement from you.

- Oh.

- [Pat] Our team thrives on collaboration.

You know that. (ringing noise begins)

I just don't see how keeping you home is gonna help.

(Ringing grows louder)

It seems the more time I give you,

the worse things are for both of us.

If I can't get what I need from you anytime soon,

I'm going to have to let you go.

Look, I understand your situation and I'm here for you

as a friend but as an employer, I have to do

what is best for this company.

Look, (sighs) I've collected some contact information

for some local therapist over the last few days.

Please, consider giving them a call.

- Okay, okay, okay.

(soft music) (sobs and gasps)


(ringing begins)


- God.

- [James] Are you okay?

- What?




- Are you okay?

- No.

I'm an old cat lady.

- Um, okay, um, I'm not gonna explain

how strange this looks or how confused I am

by that last statement, but--

- I know.

- Since you already know that, I'm sure,

but, uh...

But if you need anything from me,

now might be a pretty good time to ask.

Can I call someone for you

or get you something like gum, anything?


- Uh, I think this is the part where I give some kind

of speech about, you know, how my life

wasn't supposed to be this way.

- Um, what?

- I mean, you know, all that stuff they say in movies.

About, like, wishing life was better

and the main character usually cries,

dramatic music starts to play.

- Hey, I don't hear any music.

(gentle music)

- [Voice On Radio] Allow your meditation--

- Oh. (laughs)

- [Voice On Radio] To bring you to a place of peace.

- What is this?

- Okay? (laugh)

- [Voice On Radio] Float in the garden of peace.

- I don't know where that came from.


- I don't believe you, not for a moment.



- Uh, James, I do need something.

- Sure, anything.

- (inhales) Will you go out with me?

- Like on a date?

With you?

- I mean, yeah.

Or whatever, it's okay. - No, no, no, no, no,

yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean, yes.

- Yeah?

- Yes, I would like that.

- Yeah.

- Mm hm.

- Yeah?

Oh, (laughs) awesome.

I'm excited.

- Me, too.

- [Rebecca] Awesome, great.

- So look out for that call now.

- [Rebecca] I will.

- Okay?

- [Rebecca] Okay, definitely.

- And I will see you later.

Have a good night.

- [Rebecca] Thanks, you too.

It was good seeing you.

- And feel better.

- I will.


Oh. (makes sound effect)

(makes sound effect)






(bright music)

All right.

♪ Maybe it's just for once

♪ And the spaces in between

♪ But this is where we wake up

♪ And where we fall asleep

♪ And I can't think

♪ Of another place

♪ That I would rather be

♪ So these are the only arms for me ♪

♪ I don't wanna get out of bed

♪ Won't you wake me gently, please ♪

♪ Or maybe just come lie down

♪ A little while with me

♪ Life ain't always easy, dear

♪ But happiness is free

♪ So won't you just stay awhile ♪

(upbeat music)

- [Announcer] Film School Shorts is made possible

by a grant from Maurice Kanbar, celebrating the vitality

and power of the moving image.

Additional funding for She Isn't Here was provided by...

And others.

A complete list is available from PBS.

(bright music)


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