Hilly and I had been out late the night before. I began the therapy session by playing a snippet of a tape recording I’d made in the wee hours at a rooftop party, chatting with a Southern woman named Tara, while Hilly was nearby.
I sat on Dr. Selman’s couch and hit play.
TARA: And to all of the ways in which we have hurt ourselves, unwittingly or wittingly, we forgive ourselves. And to all those people whom we have hurt, wittingly or unwittingly, let us forgive ourselves for doing that as well. Cheers!
GEORGE: Tell me your name.
TARA: Better to ride a horse in the direction that it’s going. That’s what my granny said.
GEORGE: How are you feeling now since I gave you those chocolate mushrooms?
TARA: How am I feeling right now? I’m feeling like until the last moment, I was really fucking hating this party. I was really fucking thinking that all these people here were fucking jackasses and there’s no New Yorkers left in Manhattan and that all the artists and all the musicians are gone and it’s just a bunch of pretentious, dressed-up people here who have no fucking clue what’s going on, and it was so fucking boring I thought I was going to hang myself—
GEORGE: And then you met me?
TARA: Until I met you and this other guy who was dancing, and we were like, “What the fuck, let’s just fling ourselves into the goddamn pool.”
[GEORGE stops the tape.]
HILLY: I hate that girl. What an idiot. What, is she drunk and on mushrooms at some party and the only word she can say is “fuck” or “fucking”? It’s pathetic and she sounds so elitist, and she’s making fun of everyone else. I mean, come on!
GEORGE: I thought it was a pretty good party.
DR. SELMAN: What party was this?
GEORGE: We weren’t going to go out—
HILLY: Actually, that brings something up. There’s this thing that George does when we have plans to go out. I don’t know if I’ve ever brought it up with George, but I’ve brought it up with a few friends of mine. It’s really weird: He always insists on me coming home to kind of pick him up. I work on 57th Street—let’s say we have a plan to go to a party on 56th Street. He’ll still come up with a way to get me to go back to 74th Street to pick him up.
GEORGE: I think what it is, is I don’t like to commit to things until the very last minute. Any idea of making plans to meet somewhere—“I’ll meet you on the corner of 14th and Seventh”—creates anxiety. That’s No. 1. No. 2, last night I wanted you to come back and maybe convince me to go out, to inspire me, and as soon as you came back, we were off. You were wearing that nice dress, Jackie Onassis style.
HILLY: That’s the sweetest thing he’s ever said to me.
GEORGE: She’s obsessed with Jackie O. and Lee Radziwell.
DR. SELMAN: What did you think of George’s response?
HILLY: It’s silly. He says it creates anxiety—what about my anxiety? I can’t even begin to go into all of the anxiety that builds from this sort of stuff. Well, you know, I have routines: If I get to work in the morning and I have an idea in the back of my head that I’m going to be at the office until 7:30, and then I’m going to walk around the corner to meet George—then I will show up in shoes that aren’t necessarily comfortable for walking, and I might put off responsibilities I have at work until a certain hour later in the day, thinking, “Well, I’m going to be here later than normal.” Then all of a sudden, at 4:45, you find out that you gotta leave at 5 in order to go back home and get George—
DR. SELMAN: Why wouldn’t you just say to George, “It’s out of the way for me to pick you up?”
HILLY: Because he tells me, “Stop talking! Learn to stop talking!”
GEORGE: Whoa boy.
HILLY: It’s true. He just said that at Starbucks, too. We went to get a coffee and he only had $1 in his wallet, and I didn’t bring a bag or a wallet, and I think he asked, “How much for a tall coffee?” And the guy said $1.79. So he starts looking in his wallet, and I said, “Well, you can use your bank card.” He said, “Would you just shut the—”
GEORGE: I said that because you were saying it so loudly for everyone to hear. I had this situation under control. But also—
HILLY: So I said, “Why don’t you get this size smaller?” Then he said, “Would you just learn when to stop talking!”
GEORGE: I know how this appears.
DR. SELMAN: How does it appear?
GEORGE: It appears that I am controlling and abusive and Archie Bunker–like. But immediately afterwards, we were both laughing about it.
DR. SELMAN: Who was laughing?
GEORGE: Both of us.
HILLY [pausing]: Yeah.
GEORGE: It’s a screwball-comedy routine.
HILLY: Yeah, but it’s a little weird, because while it’s actually happening you can’t get him to crack a smile. But 20 seconds afterwards, his entire demeanor changes.
GEORGE: I think you sometimes deliberately act over-perky and speak loudly to sort of set me off.
HILLY: Not in public.
DR. SELMAN: You think she intentionally sets you off?
GEORGE: Not always. Yes. She knows when I can’t talk and I just need to conserve my energy and save it, for instance for therapy, and not expend a lot of it at Starbucks.
HILLY: But I really thought I was offering helpful suggestions.
GEORGE: It was so high-energy and perky. Anyway, I don’t think it falls under the category of a fight. What did the guy behind the counter do?
HILLY: He just gave me this look when George ran out the door. I just stood there kind of staring, a little puzzled, and the guy behind the counter looked at me like, “Oh no he di-int! What’s wrong with him?” And I just started laughing.
DR. SELMAN: So what would happen if you said to George, “Picking you up just doesn’t work. Why don’t we meet at such-and-such a place?”
HILLY: Well, if I’m calling from work, usually it’s a no-win situation. But if this was a discussion that happened at home, I might say something like, “Well, what about my anxiety and what about my feelings and how it affects me?” And you would say, “Oh, why does it always have to be so difficult?” And then it would turn into this big thing. And he would say what he said before: “I’ve never been so miserable since I’ve been living with you! I’ve never been this miserable in my entire life! I just don’t know what I’m going to do!”
DR. SELMAN: That’s what George would say?
GEORGE: I said that once or twice. Not recently. Come on, we’ve been having a lot of fun—you know it. How else have I been irritating, while we’re on the subject? I’ve been hiding beers and forbidding you from bringing back bottles of wine.
HILLY: It’s interesting, because you’ve done that before and I’ve found ways around it, but this past week, I have to say honestly I think it was a natural desire not to drink. It was more like I was sticking to your rules, but I kind of wanted to.
GEORGE: Remember I hid that beer, then you found it, and you told me your parents once had to put a fridge in the garage in order to hide food from you because—
HILLY: I ate all the bananas.
GEORGE: So I took mushrooms last night.
DR. SELMAN: What?
GEORGE: First we went to Toby Young’s book party at the Soho House, and there was a fight and I was drinking vodka. That was a good party, right?
DR. SELMAN: A fight?
GEORGE: Yeah, these two guys. We missed it.
DR. SELMAN: This was where?
GEORGE: In the meatpacking district. So I’ve had some vodka and things were getting kind of crazy in there, so went to the other party at Sky Studios.
DR. SELMAN: What does that woman on the tape have to do with it?
GEORGE: I’m getting to that. So we get to this party. Hilly and I were talking to members of Rene Risque and Moby about The Omen, the original with Gregory Peck, versus the remake. Just having a normal time, and this friend of mine came over and she had chocolate mushrooms. It looked like a little candy bar, but it had mushrooms—
DR. SELMAN: Hallucinogenic mushrooms?
GEORGE: Exactly. Did you see that they just came out with the study at Johns Hopkins about “sacred mushrooms”? They proved that they can induce mystical-spiritual experiences with I think two-thirds of people who take them. Serious study!
DR. SELMAN: How about the other third?
GEORGE: I think I fall into the other-third category. I had moments of paranoia. I was acting like a fool, running around telling people I was on mushrooms.
HILLY: He couldn’t focus on anything. It was scary.
DR. SELMAN: How do you come to identify Hilly as having an alcohol problem when you yourself are taking mushrooms and drinking vodka, etc., etc.?
GEORGE: Um … because … well, that’s a good question.
HILLY: I’m a scapegoat.
GEORGE: Well, I don’t have to have a drink every night.
HILLY: But the difference is—and that did actually irritate me last night. I mean, it happens all the time. Last night—
GEORGE: You were not being a good spiritual guide on my trip. You were making fun of me.
HILLY: Well, it was irritating!
GEORGE: Teasing me in front of people.
HILLY: It was irritating because—
GEORGE: I was in a very fragile state of mind.
HILLY: We had these plans to go out to a few of these parties since earlier in the week. And I know George doesn’t like to make plans, nevertheless, he actually did this time. So then it was 4:45 and I was at work, he calls and says, “Oh, I’m not really sure I want to go out. I can’t talk. Call me later.”
GEORGE: I was feeling so good. I’d just gone swimming for 45 minutes and I thought, “Do I really need to go out and screw it all up?”
HILLY: He called me back and he said, “Just come home, just come home,” and blah blah blah. So finally I’m like, “O.K., fine—whatever.” So I went home and, almost the second I got home, he said, “Let’s get ready—let’s go out.”
GEORGE: I know, it was great—you inspired me. I needed that.
HILLY: Then in the cab he was saying, “What’s good about this? Tell me the pros and cons about going out tonight.”
GEORGE: I was hoping you would convince me to stay in! Get the cab to turn around.
HILLY: I said, “George, we have three specific events to go to. Why don’t we go to one, two and three parties, nowhere else, and then go home? We’ll be home by midnight, 1 o’clock.” Instead, he takes magic mushrooms—which, you know, is fine. I was pretty lit myself. Not on magic mushrooms—
DR. SELMAN: I see. So he got you to come home and basically control him, get him to go to the parties and get home early—but he goes out of control?
GEORGE: Well, yeah. Again, I’d like to reiterate: I would’ve appreciated it if you’d been a little bit more supportive when I was on my trip. Last night when I was peaking on the mushrooms, we ran into this girl I used to date, and I was like, “Oh my God, Hilly’s gonna clock her!” And then I went for a walk and met that girl on the tape, and she had a couple nibbles of the mushrooms, and we were kind of looking at the stars. And I said, “I gotta go, because Hilly’s going to throw you off the roof.”
DR. SELMAN: What did you think of what she was saying?
GEORGE: It started off good. I like those affirmations.
DR. SELMAN: You know what those affirmations are? Either one of you? What she said was directly from the “Big Book” on alcoholism. It’s one of the steps.
HILLY: Ha ha ha ha ….
DR. SELMAN: It’s one of the 12 steps in the 12-step program. I can’t believe you don’t know that.
GEORGE: Wow. Guess I got her off the wagon.
DR. SELMAN: If you like those kind of affirmations, George, you should go to some A.A. meetings. There’s 11 more of them.
HILLY: Yes, for me, hearing that, it was like holding up garlic to a vampire.
DR. SELMAN: So you were up, out till when?
GEORGE: I think I got home at around 5.
DR. SELMAN: Were you with him the whole time?
GEORGE: Hilly went home a little early.
HILLY: A couple hours earlier.
DR. SELMAN: Why wouldn’t you go home together?
HILLY: We normally don’t.
[To be continued.]
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