Why can’t I forget things M. said to me? Why is she a brainworm that eats new memories? Why have these three lines wormed their way into my brain?
-You’re the Keith Richards of good beer?
-If you don’t see anything wrong with Slinky, then I feel sorry for you.
-Do you have a therapist? Because you should definitely have one.
When the girl at Duane Reade says, Do you need a bag? why do I hear M. say, Do you have a therapist?
Should I call her and say that I don’t think I’m the Keith Richards of good beer? Would she answer the phone? Should I email her and say that I’m sorry I called her Slinky because she looked like a slinky when she hung over the edge of the bed, like a slinky hanging over a step?
Should I have a therapist? Do other restaurant owners have therapists? Has agonizing over Cynar and women put other restaurateurs into therapy? Isn’t therapy exactly what I wanted to avoid when I moved here? Before I moved didn’t Uncle John say, New York, eh? Before long you’ll be chain-smoking and whining to a therapist about the Jewish girls you chased who are too smart for you?
Do I even have time for therapy, and should I tell the wife? Does she need to know? How would she take this: I’m not in therapy because of Us; I’m trying to stop thinking about this 22-year-old I had an affair with? But could a therapist extract the M. brainworm? Isn’t a new brainworm the only cure for an old brainworm? Will telling a therapist all about the brainworm only push the brainworm in deeper? Could he pull it out? Or should he be a she?
How many times a day does someone google “therapist New York”?
Should I have picked one with an office so close to M.’s apartment? Did I do it on purpose? Why has torturing myself in little ways become my favorite hobby? More importantly, what do you wear for your first day of therapy? Does a maroon cardigan say I’m ready to be healed?
-So Richard, I think you’ll discover that therapy is a gift you give yourself. You seem apprehensive about it, and that’s normal. Few people WANT to have a therapist. If our lives are going perfectly well we typically don’t seek therapy.
Her perfume: apricot? Or is it an apricot air freshener? Should I ask?
-Have you been in therapy before?
-OK, before we start I’d like to understand what you want to do in this room every week. What are your thoughts about therapy?
-I’ve never thought about it before, and I’m not sure if I’ll come back, actually. So, consider this is a trial run.
-Fair enough. Tell me about yourself. What is your life like right now?
-I don’t like to talk about myself. I’m from Indianapolis and people from Indianapolis don’t talk about themselves the way people from Boston or Long Island do. We were trained not to.
-Do you really believe that? Or is it just something you like to say now that you live here? Now that you live among people who talk about themselves.
-You might be right. You’re very good.
-Can I ask why you think you need a therapist?
-Why do you think you need a therapist?
-Someone said I should have one.
-Who told you you needed one?
-Here we go: The woman I was I have having an affair with. She says she can’t see or talk to me anymore. She was my employee, until she quit. She lives around the corner from here, which I think is why I chose you. I can’t stop thinking about her. She’s a brainworm. There is a hum in my brain and it’s humming her name.
-She is a worm. In my brain. I don’t want her in there. But I can’t help it.
-How often do you think about her?
-Unless I am fucking my wife or sleeping, I am thinking about her. No joke. I know, it’s ridiculous, I didn’t think someone could obsess about someone so much, it’s pathetic.
-You think about this person non-stop unless you are having sex with your wife or sleeping? I have a hard time believing that.
-Why would I lie? It’s true. It’s a constant hum. Her name is M., so my brain is constantly humming, like this: Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. As I talk to you right now I can feel the hum in my head. It’s torture. It’s no way to live. She’s not a person anymore, she’s more like my brain’s default setting. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.
-For how long have you had this hum?
-Four months maybe. That’s it, not too long. But it’s on every minute, every day, every night, unless I’m asleep or having sex with my wife. When I’m at work, yelling at my shitty nephew to tuck in his shirt, I can feel the hum. When I take a shit at work, my only moment of peace at the restaurant, there is the hum taking a shit with me. When I ride the train and read my book, the hum is reading over my shoulder and I can’t concentrate. I’ve been reading the same book for three months now because I have to re-read pages because the hum is so distracting. The hum is so strong that the book has become about her. It’s a non-fiction book about the history of paper, a micro-history, and the words on the page are about paper and trees and Chinese people making paper back in 2,000 BC, but it’s really about M, there’s a subtext there that only I know about. As I talk to you right now I can feel the hum in my head, I’m not kidding, it’s there. Sometimes it’s dull, like when I’m talking to a girl I haven’t slept with yet whom I’d like to sleep with. It’s still there, taunting me, saying, Are you going to fuck her, Richard? Are you gonna man up and fuck her? But at least it’s duller than usual. So I’ve been hitting on girls like crazy, like it’s my last day on earth. Complete strangers, friends, employees, doesn’t matter. Waiting for a train, on the train, in line at a bodega: What are you listing to? Take off your headphones. That’s a cool iPod case, where’d you get it? Which Apple Store, Meatpacking, Central Park? I really should get up to Central Park more often. It’s like, you live in the city for ten years and you’ve been up there maybe twice. Ha! I know, right? What do you do for a living? I embarrass myself in front of strangers and desperately hit on these girls, all to dull the hum. And when I come home and my wife asks me how my day was I can’t muster more than OK, fine because the hum prevents me from speaking in-depth about anything other than the hum. These are the most words I’ve spoken in a row in at least a month. I went online and read about how to stop thinking of someone. The article said to write the person a letter but don’t send it so I tried that but the hum was so powerful that I couldn’t get any words down. The page is filled with M’s, M. M. M., as if I were a mad man. So that’s why I’m here. The hum’s driven me mad, and I want you to turn it off. I want you to pull out the brainworm. How many sessions will it take? I don’t have insurance. I own a failing restaurant.
-I don’t pull out brainworms. That isn’t my job. But I can talk you through the process of getting over this person. You say your brain is humming with her name. This is a very intense feeling, and it will take time for you to un-burden yourself of it. Let’s try to lock down a regular time each week.
-This is interesting: You talk like M. talks when she’s being condescending. Will that be a problem?
-Is that really true? Or do all women sound the same to you when they’re telling you something you don’t want to hear?
NEXT: Sweet, Sweet DayQuil