DR. SELMAN: It’s been two months. So what’s going on?
HILLY: Where’s the Effexor? Get the Effexor. Immediately. Give it to him.
DR. SELMAN: Why?
HILLY: Well, George has been a mess and—bless his sweet heart—he’s been really sick. He’s had shingles. We went to Florida for a long weekend—we stayed in the most gorgeous house you could ever imagine in your life, right on the beach. It was the most idyllic weekend in the whole entire world. The day after we came back—I had to go on a business trip for two weeks—George developed shingles. He was on all of this medication, and it worsened his stomach problems; he was on painkillers and antibiotics and he couldn’t eat, because of the pain in his ear and mouth. It’s just been lingering. I think the stress from the illness worsens his day-to-day stress. It just doesn’t stop. He can’t even speak—he sits there, almost in a fetal position. In addition, he spent the last five nights in a hotel, because he can’t take the air in the apartment, can’t sleep. And so at 5 o’clock in the morning, he storms out in a fit of rage—
GEORGE: Uhhh. Let’s just start over. O.K.! I haven’t been able to sleep well in the apartment for 18 months. Can’t breathe in there. Severe allergies. Frustration—not rage. Manhattan’s fault. Two months ago, I flew out to L.A. Friend of mine from college and I went to the Chateau Marmont—he had some mushroom cookies, and we were having lots of drinks, laughing, maybe 20 people there, a few celebrities, an Olsen twin. We got pretty loud, obnoxious. I had the next day to lounge by the pool, drank Bloody Marys. I flew back, drank Bloody Marys, left my toilet kit on the plane, went out that night to Siberia, stayed very late. Next night, Hilly and I had some drinks, took a cab out to Hangar 11 or something at J.F.K., got my toilet kit and went back to Siberia again—stayed even later. So I guess my immune system might have been a little compromised.
GEORGE: And I had projects, work obligations, people on my case—all kinds of pressure. A lot of it was in my head. At one point, I felt like I was dealing with the Mafia or loan sharks—remember the guy gets his head in a vise in Casino? Like that, but via e-mail. These e-mails felt so cold-blooded, but I was reading too much into them. I ended up having two and a half panic attacks. Saying “I don’t know what I’m gonna do!” over and over, waking up Hilly. Felt really paranoid. I’m sure this has been horrible for Hilly.
DR. SELMAN: Where did you develop the shingles?
GEORGE: First I got some kind of cyst on my chin and my ear started to hurt—I thought I had swimmer’s ear. Then, back in New York, this redness streaked across my face. A few days later, I looked like the Elephant Man. About 10 days of excruciating pain. Sill comes and goes. A slight throbbing—I feel it right now, little bit, here on the chin. On the walk over here, it attacked me.
DR. SELMAN: What are you taking for it?
GEORGE: Nothing now. Doctor said the shingles would clear up in a month. But he said if these sensations are still there in two weeks, I should see a neurologist.
DR. SELMAN: I can give you something. Sounds like you have post-herpetic neuralgia.
GEORGE: Right, I don’t know if we’re at that stage yet.
DR. SELMAN: Sounds like post-herpetic neuralgia.
GEORGE: O.K., but I’m hoping that we’re not at the post-herpetic neuralgia stage yet.
DR. SELMAN: It may go away. I’ll give you some Lyrica—it’ll help.
HILLY: But then there have been all these other things, adding to the anxiety and pressure, and one of the things is, we have these little neighbors that are unbelievable, I mean it’s like Sanford and Son moved to the Upper West Side. Their backyard—if you look out our window, every single backyard in the entire block is so manicured and just perfect and quiet and lovely. In their yard, it looks like a junkyard. And to make matters worse, they built this trampoline, and they jump and jump ….
GEORGE: They set it up one night at 1 a.m. They’re sort of hippies.
HILLY: And since the weather has gotten nicer, it’s every single day they’re out there, and they’re having, like, a love-in, with music playing and chain-smoking and drinking beer ….
GEORGE: The smells waft up into her room, and they’ll wake her up at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning. We’ve called the police.
DR. SELMAN: Eventually one of them is going to be injured on the trampoline.
HILLY: That’s what we were hoping.
GEORGE: People are filing in and out of that apartment to jump on it. It’s like a dormitory. Every time we look outside, there are little kids flying up in the air.
HILLY: And the best is, right up to the side of the trampoline, they have a big sheet of glass. It’s like they are begging for someone to slip on the trampoline, fall in the glass and shatter—
DR. SELMAN: What happened to all of the anger and the Effexor and all of that?
GEORGE: We’ll come back to that. The other weekend, I heard this dog barking out back—driving me crazy. I didn’t know where it was coming from, so I stuck my head out the window and saw that it was the trampoline people’s backyard. So I screamed, “Oh, what a big surprise that you people would leave a dog barking outside! I’m so shocked!” And then I started chanting “Ass-holes! Asssssss-hooooooles!”
HILLY: Well, they deserve that. Every time I come back to the apartment, especially because George is always there and because he’s ill and trying to recuperate—it’s like walking into a den of curmudgeon-ness. I don’t know if that’s even a word. The poor guy—not only is he cranky, he’s depressed.
GEORGE: You know those neighbors actually seem pretty cool, like they’d be fun to hang out with.
HILLY: And the breathing thing with his cat—and I decided we needed to move. And I’ve been to probably 15 apartments. I’ve spent a lot of time looking for places and blah-blah-blah. George hasn’t come to see any of them. I discovered Roosevelt Island the other day! So today we were supposed to see a two-bedroom there, and it was all very exciting, but naturally, of course—I don’t know why I thought anything different would have happened—around mid-afternoon when I spoke with George, he wasn’t feeling up to going. So I went alone, looked at six apartments, alone, and found one that I think is perfect. It’s one subway ride away from Manhattan, yet it’s so quiet and you look out and see the water—seagulls perch on your windowsills! Two separate bedrooms—two separate bathrooms. He could wake up to the sound of the seagulls chirping on his windowsill and—
DR. SELMAN: That could be annoying, you know?
GEORGE: And it’s only $400 a month! No—it’s a lot more than we’re paying now. Which is kind of worrisome.
DR. SELMAN: But if you’ve been paying $250 a night for a hotel room—
HILLY: Exactly. And so many things are included. Phone, cable, health club, heated swimming pool, tennis, wireless, washer and dryer. It’s perfect, it’s fantastic, it’s amazing. They even have a valet service—you can have your shoes shined. I’m sure if you figured out the cost difference, we would only be spending a tiny fraction more.
GEORGE: The main thing is, I’ll have my own room, Hilly will have her own room, and the cat will have her own room.
DR. SELMAN: Are you going to have both your names on the lease?
GEORGE: Plus I’ll be able to sleep anywhere, and work. I have trouble working when Hilly is around.
HILLY: You’ll be able to work while looking at this magnificent view of the city—
GEORGE: O.K.—got the point. Can’t wait to see it. Looking forward to it.
HILLY: You have an appointment to see it Sunday night.
GEORGE: O.K.! So, last night, here’s what happened: I can’t go to sleep in my apartment anymore under any circumstances, even if I take Ambien. And what’s happened is, using these decongestants [GEORGE takes a snort from a Vicks inhaler] has made me more congested.
DR. SELMAN: You’re addicted to the decongestants.
GEORGE: Right, and all kinds of sprays. So last night at 1 a.m., I thought I’d get to the hotel early this time. It was the Comfort Inn—I’ve been staying at the Milburn on West 76th, but that’s like $270 a night. So I thought I’d try a cheaper place, the Comfort Inn. Kind of gross, but real nice lady at the front desk.
DR. SELMAN: I don’t get it. I thought you are stressed financially.
GEORGE: I am. We haven’t paid rent this month. So the lady at the front desk says, “Your wife just
called and said to hold the room.” You didn’t call her, right?
GEORGE: So they took me to this room, and I thought I was going to pass out. They were doing something with the carpets—I don’t know, it was disgusting. Got another room, $150, but after an hour I got completely clogged—my mouth was just open and I wasn’t able to breathe involuntarily. Also they didn’t have Fox News. They had every single cable channel—CNBC, CNN, Bravo, A&E, MSNBC, Comedy Central, all of them—but no Fox News.
DR. SELMAN: Do they have any hotels on Roosevelt Island?
HILLY: I’m telling you, this place I looked at is like a hotel, like a resort. You should see all of the amenities—six walk-in closets!
GEORGE: Main thing is to get out of Manhattan. You really need $25 million minimum or you’re a chump. So last night I checked out of the Comfort Inn and went over to the Milburn. So … I still got the shingles. Right now, I don’t know what the hell is going on. I’m not feeling that much pain, but there’s this numbness and weird, irritating tingling—if I think about it some more, I can make it more painful.
HILLY: I hear him saying “ah-ow!” all the time. I’m trying to be stern—because you have to help yourself in order to get better.
DR. SELMAN: Why don’t I give you some Lyrica? I could also give you something to sleep. I mean, if you take it.
GEORGE: I was going to ask you for Ambien.
HILLY: My parents are coming into town tomorrow; we’re going to Newport for the weekend, and I’m going to stay with them in their hotel. And I was thinking, George is staying in a hotel every night anyway—why don’t I get a hotel room in Newport for the two of us, we can go together? Stay right by the ocean. Maybe that would be therapeutic.
GEORGE: I’m trying to conserve energy. Basically, anything social, or involving travel or being around people, is not what I need right now. Do you think, based on what I’ve told you, is it O.K. to introduce Effexor into my system?
DR. SELMAN: Why Effexor, though?
GEORGE: What do you mean? I thought that’s the one you’ve always wanted me to take.
DR. SELMAN: I hate to start people out on three drugs at the same time.
GEORGE: Especially because there was another report out today about anti-depressants being dangerous. I don’t think taking any drug like that right now is going to help me sleep.
DR. SELMAN: I could give you something that would knock you out.
GEORGE: Better than Ambien?
DR. SELMAN: Yes. Seroquel.
GEORGE: O.K., it will knock me out, but—
DR. SELMAN: What are you afraid of, that you will stop breathing?
GEORGE: I do have mild sleep apnea.
DR. SELMAN: You’ll breathe through your mouth. You’ll snore. And how much have you been drinking, by the way?
HILLY: But isn’t it true that it’s human nature that you wake yourself up if you can’t breathe?
DR. SELMAN: You have receptors in your neck that will cause you to breathe, if you stop breathing for some reason. Like an escape mechanism. You can’t not breathe.
HILLY: You’re gonna be fine.
DR. SELMAN: Drinking causes or makes worse sleep apnea.
GEORGE: I’ve been taking one Vicodin and one Ambien a night. As for anti-depressants, Dr. Lamm doesn’t think I should take an Effexor, and he says, “If you do take it, you have to be really careful when you get off it, because it will make you want to jump off a bridge.”
HILLY: But why don’t we just focus on the other stuff right now, right?
DR. SELMAN: It seems like the most pressing thing is the sleeping and the pain.
GEORGE: Will this sleep drug you’re talking about be like Demerol?
HILLY: Don’t you think it’s important that he establishes a normal sleep clock?
DR. SELMAN: It’s called sleep hygiene.
HILLY: As opposed to going to sleep at 3 or 4 in the morning?
DR. SELMAN: I agree. She’s absolutely right.
GEORGE: What’s this sleep drug called again?
DR. SELMAN: Seroquel. It’s not specifically a sleep drug. It’s a mood stabilizer, but it’s very sedating.
GEORGE: Is it nicely sedating?
DR. SELMAN: Why don’t you try it? I may want to propose that you stay on the Valtrex longer.
GEORGE [indicating left side of face]: Do you see it here?
DR. SELMAN: It does look slightly—
GEORGE: It’s a lot better. It was so grotesque. It’s scary when you get it on your head. Chance you’ll get hearing damage. Encephalitis. What was the third one?
HILLY: So Lyrica, Valtrex and—
DR. SELMAN: Seroquel. You can take Ambien, too, and the Vicodin.
GEORGE: Vicodin’s nice. It doesn’t make me feel high, but it distracts me from the pain.
HILLY: This also broaches the subject—when he was taking all this medication for shingles, it was really making his acid reflux act up. He would take six Aciphexes in one day. But if you start taking all this medication again—because when he stopped taking it, that’s when the acid reflux stopped.
GEORGE: Right now, the pain is O.K. Wait—I just felt something in my ear.
DR. SELMAN: So are you going to put both of your names on the lease?
GEORGE: I think my mom will end up co-signing.
HILLY: I just think it seems like such a great place. You’ll love this: This apartment building—that I actually really like— it used to be an insane asylum ….
DR. SELMAN: How ironic.
HILLY: But the place where the insane people actually stayed burned down years ago.
GEORGE: Have you seen the movie Nighthawks with Sylvester Stallone, and Rutger Hauer has the hostages on the tram? So great.
DR. SELMAN: I try to avoid watching Sylvester Stallone movies.
GEORGE: Came out in 1981. It’s pretty great.
HILLY: The windows are floor-to-ceiling!
GEORGE: No crime, apparently, on Roosevelt Island.
HILLY: No crime. And there’s also a billiards room, and in the library there weren’t any people.
DR. SELMAN: You’ll have an unobstructed view of the fireworks.
HILLY: And, George, if you wanted to get away from me, you don’t have to leave the building—you could just go to the club room and read, or talk to your funny friends or something on y
our phone. Then take a dip in the heated pool.
DR. SELMAN: Sounds too good to be true.
HILLY: Isn’t it great?! And then the tennis courts, and they have a pro there. So I had this vision, especially during this time of year: I could come home from work, and if you were there every day, we could go out and play tennis together. Wouldn’t that be fun? And you could teach me how to serve. And we’d go back home and I’d cook dinner, and there’s a garbage disposal and a dishwasher. Six closets! And you’ll have your own bathtub, Scoopie! You don’t have to see anybody. And they have maids, so if you want to have someone come clean, you just call them and they clean the whole apartment, and you pay them like 50 bucks. So let’s go!
GEORGE: I already told our landlord we’re moving out because of the trampoline people.
HILLY: But also I think it’s nice because it’s almost like—not a commitment, but when you go home, you’re at home.
GEORGE: What’s the air like?
HILLY: Oh, it’s amazing! When the real-estate agent opened the windows, so much clean sea air moved in. And everything is brand-new in there.
GEORGE: O.K., I’ll check it out.
HILLY: It’ll be a whole new life. We’ll be adults.
GEORGE: I’m completely into it. Except you’re talking a little loudly.
HILLY: And I even asked the woman—she’s really nice—and she said nobody ever uses the facilities at all. George will have the pool to himself the entire summer, except on Saturdays.
GEORGE: Why don’t we give the conversational ball back to Dr. Selman?
DR. SELMAN: Well, let me give you all the medications we discussed. [To GEORGE] I think you that you should come in a little more often, especially if you’re going to be on these medications, so I can monitor you.
GEORGE: It’s really funny, because two months ago, everything was going so great, career-wise—it was like I was back.
DR. SELMAN: I have another suggestion. Why don’t you come in off the record? Just you. Because it sounds like there’s something there, and nobody has to know about it.
GEORGE: I have a bit of a stress problem. One of my best friends is getting married in July in Jamaica, and I haven’t made my reservation. I’d be there for four days.
DR. SELMAN: Four days of towel-snapping.
GEORGE: There will be women there, too. Four days of hard-core partying.
DR. SELMAN: Weren’t your friends abusive to you in high school?
GEORGE: The seniors—but these are my friends; we were all in it together. Everyone got abused.
DR. SELMAN: Why would you subject yourself to that?
GEORGE: I do want to go—I just don’t want to get shingles again. I’m also kind of terrified to go to Jamaica, because I have visions of being killed or taken hostage by gangs with machetes and voodoo. Hilly doesn’t want to go, because this friend has been with his fiancée for less time than we’ve been together, so she has issues: “We’ve been together longer!” But from a medical standpoint, after having gotten shingles, would you advise me against going?
HILLY: Especially because of the sun.
DR. SELMAN: The sun was probably the most likely trigger of the shingles. Why would you expose yourself to a place with strong sun again? You really probably shouldn’t go. I think it would be a big mistake. O.K., so you need the Ambien? You want some more Vicodin?
HILLY: Do you have Prozac samples?
DR. SELMAN: They stopped sampling years ago!
DR. SELMAN: Sure. These are my last 25 milligrams of Seroquels. Start out with this. Take one of these tonight. And these are 100’s; these are the strong ones. Take half of one of these—or you can go as high as a whole one.
GEORGE: And even though I have trouble breathing through my nose, I’ll be O.K.?
DR. SELMAN: You’ll be O.K.
GEORGE: Why it is better than Ambien?
DR. SELMAN: It’s very different than Ambien. It’s good for sleep. Here are some Viagras.
GEORGE: Do these Seroquels have a hangover deal?
DR. SELMAN: Well, you’ll have to try and find out.
[Postscript: That night, GEORGE looks up Seroquel and finds out it’s prescribed for sleeping disorders—but seems to have been designed mainly for people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This concerns him, but HILLY tells him to go ahead and give it a shot. He takes the pill. One hour later, GEORGE feels like a sledgehammer is pounding at his head. This continues for five hours. Early the next morning, HILLY is getting ready to leave for Newport for the weekend. She checks on GEORGE. His mouth is open wide and his stare is blank. Does he want a bagel? she asks him. He can’t speak. She gives him a kiss on the cheek and leaves.]
[To be continued]
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