DR. SELMAN: It’s been a long time.
GEORGE: I don’t know where to begin.
HILLY: George has been really sick. First he thought it was pink eye, then herpes, and then he thought it was chlamydia. Ha ha ha!
GEORGE: I went out really late, and the next night my left eye was sort of red in the corner, and the next night it was even redder. So Hilly took me to the hospital, and they said it was pink eye and it should clear up in a few days. I went to the doctor, and he gave me some drops that seemed to make it worse. And then he thought it might be something called ocular herpes—it’s not a sexual thing, but you can lose part of your vision. Then this friend of mine said, ‘Isn’t pink eye a symptom of bird flu?’ And sure enough, those chicken workers who got bird flu in Canada had pink eye first. So I started thinking, ‘Not only do I got herpes, I got bird flu.’ I went to an expert at Columbia Presbyterian. He jabbed some big Q-Tips into my eye.
HILLY: He was tearing all the time; his skin got all dry.
GEORGE: Hilly really took care of me, put lubricating drops in my eyes.
HILLY: Cold compresses.
GEORGE: And T.L.C.
HILLY: I got you Purell and anti-viral tissues.
GEORGE: I was on Vicodin the whole time, it was so painful. Codeine. So this expert says it’s not ocular herpes, it’s pink eye, but then he says there was a small chance it could be chlamydia. He may as well have said, “You have six months to live,” because I’m pretty hypochondriacal. When I got that possible verdict, I didn’t immediately tell Hilly.
DR. SELMAN: Why not?
GEORGE: He said it would take four days to find out. The doctor said I didn’t have to tell her anyway.
DR. SELMAN: Thought she’d take it the wrong way?
GEORGE: Aren’t you glad I didn’t tell you that was a possibility?
HILLY: No, because then—remember?—we had relations.
GEORGE: Right, O.K., there’s an ethical thing here. But anyway, it was pink eye, and I think these doctors have to always raise these possibilities.
DR. SELMAN: What do you think about this?
HILLY: Well, I think they have to be careful because of malpractice suits, so they have to tell him what the possibilities are, to make sure he’s careful until they get test results.
GEORGE: This all beside the point, because I didn’t have it. I had pink eye. Get that from a doorknob. Case closed.
DR. SELMAN: If someone has ocular chlamydia, does that necessarily mean they have chlamydia elsewhere?
HILLY: I don’t know about chlamydia, but ocular herpes—no, not necessarily.
GEORGE: Not ocular herpes—you can get that from a doorknob. Chlamydia is a different story. And the expert said, “The good thing about the drops I’m giving you is they’ll clear up anything down below—you know, if you have any discharge.” I’m just like—my head was about to explode: “There’s no way that’s what it is; why are you putting this in my head?”
HILLY: I remember the thing that upset me the most was that, because you were so upset, you felt you couldn’t talk to me about it.
GEORGE: I asked around for advice about this ethical dilemma, and everyone I talked to said I didn’t have to tell her—to wait until Monday, until I knew for sure what it was.
DR. SELMAN: Who’d you ask?
GEORGE: I asked the doctor and I asked, um, someone else.
DR. SELMAN: Where’d you get the Percocet from?
GEORGE: A doctor. It was really painful. Vicodins. And some codeines.
DR. SELMAN: And some codeines?
GEORGE: I started off with the codeines, then moved on to the Vikes. I was sitting on the couch for three weeks. I’m up to 216 pounds, gained about fifteen pounds. I’ve never weighed this much. I gotta cut back on the carbs—that’s my big weakness. I drank throughout my sickness, too—I couldn’t go to sleep. Took Ambien, too.
DR. SELMAN: I don’t think that’s a carbohydrate.
HILLY: I brought you lots of bad food, too.
DR. SELMAN: How about Effexor?
GEORGE: O.K., hold on a minute, hold on a minute. That probably would have been the best time to start taking it, but I didn’t. In lieu of that, I was listening to certain songs over and over, two songs by the Hollies and one by Brian Eno, and that would sort of perk me up.
DR. SELMAN: Why has it been so long between appointments?
HILLY: He was a shut-in except for his doctor appointments; he was at home thinking it was highly contagious. Until last week.
GEORGE: Yeah, it hurt when I blinked. I could watch TV from a certain angle, but I couldn’t read. Oh, yeah, the money thing. I finally came into some money—I mean I got paid for a freelance article. It’s just not enough. I just think you need to be a millionaire to live in this city. I just need to get paid like a veteran, not less than some kid fresh out of some Ivy League school. I have issues about that. I imagine all these kids coming out of Harvard, and they worked at the Lampoon, and there’s some journalistic cabal running everything and they say: “Well, we gotta pay them more.” Anyway, there are some good signs. I can afford to take her to Daniel for Thanksgiving.
DR. SELMAN: Don’t you have to save up a month for that—a month’s salary?
GEORGE: Wait, are we splitting it?
HILLY: No. Ha ha ha.
GEORGE: I got you a present the other day, didn’t I?
HILLY: He got me a stuffed animal.
GEORGE: She had this little pig and lost it, so I got her a new one.
DR. SELMAN: What’s been going on in your relationship?
HILLY: Umm. Oh, I don’t know.
GEORGE: We’ve been having lots of fun, right?
GEORGE: Lots of fun and the occasional moment of drama. Mock fights that kind of fizzle out?
HILLY: Well, recently—like in the past week or 10 days—he’s been having this really bad sleeping problem. He wakes up in the middle of the night, and then he wakes me up. I don’t know why.
DR. SELMAN: You guys sleep together every night?
GEORGE: She likes to go to bed at midnight. I couldn’t go to sleep until 5 this morning. I can’t breathe in my apartment. I got a humidifier slash air purifier, and it’s not working. I’m seeing a breathing doctor tomorrow.
DR. SELMAN: Where are you getting the Ambien from?
GEORGE: I got about four from someone I know. I think I may need some of those. Are they highly addictive?
DR. SELMAN: Well, you don’t want to mix alcohol with them.
GEORGE: I took a Xanax last night.
DR. SELMAN: Where are you getting that from?
GEORGE: Doctor. But I don’t take them regularly, only when I cannot sleep.
DR. SELMAN: Well, you seem congested. Probably if you had some drinks, that also interferes with your sleep.
GEORGE: Had two beers last night. Really trying to cut back. I’ve mentioned how I’m a nightlife reporter—I also have a lot of friends who are always trying to get me to go out. On the way over here, I got a text message, one word: ‘pool?’ An hour before that: ‘Hey, are we on for Saturday?’ Hilly, don’t people want to party with me a lot?
GEORGE: It’s always, “Oh, come on, one drink!” Drinking bullies.
HILLY: First of all, George has been sick a really long time. So finally he told me we’re going to this big fancy party on Saturday, so I got all excited. Friday, I went over to his house to sleep over, and it was a quiet night, and then all of a sudden his brother called, so George ended up going out to meet him and didn’t get home until 6 o’clock in the morning, and then had to blow me off the next night.
GEORGE: My brother wanted me to see his friend’s band. Well, I also got another call that night, this friend of mine in town from Moscow—
DR. SELMAN: You know the first word that a human being learns—you know what the first word is?
GEORGE: Uh, “no”?
DR. SELMAN: Good guess!
GEORGE: I’m telling you these people are really good—
DR. SELMAN: And somehow you skipped over that period—you went right from birth to two years, so you never learned that word. [To HILLY.] You’re looking at him.
HILLY: That was weird, too, when we went to—our friend Tom wrote this book because he stopped drinking, and you used to drink a lot with him. So he had a reading from his book, and it was really bizarre because as he was reading, I was sitting at the table with you and with Chris, who was even referenced in the very beginning of the book. I wouldn’t call you guys “enablers,” but ….
GEORGE: Right, so he gave this very powerful reading. It started off funny—it’s about how he hit rock bottom one night, by destroying a Pac-Man machine. The second half was pretty emotional.
HILLY: Well, he’s going through withdrawal, so he goes into great detail about how his body and mind are reacting to the alcohol withdrawal, everything from pus boils on his back to hallucinations and—
DR. SELMAN: Sounds fun.
HILLY: It was just awful! Ugh! This was after he stopped drinking.
DR. SELMAN: It’s like all roads lead to Rome here. We always end up talking about the same thing.
GEORGE: Then, after that reading, I went out and—
DR. SELMAN: Got blasted.
GEORGE: Yep. So I’m safe if I stay home. One other thing about money is, I’ve only gotten back $45 from insurance, and Hilly’s absconded with the rest of it.
HILLY: No, I told you, and I have photocopies: I’ve only received two checks from the insurance company, and they added up to $290, and I spent it on a new Hermès agenda for myself after ….
GEORGE: Can we not talk about that? I had a party at my place. Nothing happened.
DR. SELMAN: Well, this is all the good juicy material. I’d love to talk about sex.
GEORGE: Umm … well … um ….
DR. SELMAN: You don’t want me falling asleep.
GEORGE: [to HILLY] Well, we did it the last time I saw you.
HILLY: I don’t want to talk about it!
GEORGE: You said we’re gonna do it tonight, right?
HILLY: Geor-age! I don’t want to talk that—it’s private.
GEORGE: O.K., one more thing about money. Didn’t you make a joke about how we should get sponsors here? I was thinking maybe we could say what kind of food our cats eat.
HILLY: Cat Chow!
GEORGE: Then the people at Cat Chow would read this and send us a check. Or Metamucil.
HILLY: George likes to drink Metamucil.
DR. SELMAN: You must have big bowel movements.
HILLY: Oh my God.
GEORGE: [to HILLY] What was your theory? That if I can discuss this “weird” stuff with you, it means we’re like siblings?
HILLY: We won’t think about each other sexually.
GEORGE: I want to get into the movie business. I want to go into the woods for a week by myself like Jeremiah Johnson.
DR. SELMAN: Hilly, you’re not gonna go?
HILLY: No. Ha ha ha!
GEORGE: Crowds are driving me crazy. My health club, all these naked dudes walking around talking to each other, drying off. I think the male body is repulsive. Even Michelangelo’s David.
DR. SELMAN: There’s a medical term that doctors use: a help-rejecting complainer. Somebody who has lots of complaints, and yet whenever you have any suggestions or ways to help them, they don’t want to do it.
GEORGE: [to HILLY] What’s it like at your gym?
HILLY: Disgusting. Because these weird people just hang out in the locker room, naked, and they don’t do anything. They just stare at themselves in the mirror and walk around and sit their naked butts down on the benches without putting a towel down.
GEORGE: We didn’t like the Johnny Cash movie.
HILLY: It’s overrated.
DR. SELMAN: George, I just called you a help-rejecting complainer, and you didn’t even respond.
HILLY: I have to tell you, George is so much fun when he’s on Vicodin. So much fun! You just giggle and smile. It’s fantastic!
DR. SELMAN: Well, that’s good to know.
HILLY: We bought the book [Co-Dependent No More].
DR. SELMAN: Did you read it?
GEORGE: Got 20 pages into it. I respect this, but somewhere along the way I was turned off against that language.
DR. SELMAN: It’s like garlic to a vampire, you know.
GEORGE: But I do respect it. I like the little vignettes. But then the little demon in my head: “George, you’re gonna turn into one of these ‘recovery’ people, and you’re going to be a great big bore.” I’m going to keep reading it. I tried to get Hilly to read it, and she couldn’t for more than a minute.
HILLY: Well, I wasn’t in the mood for it.
GEORGE: How’s she co-dependent in the relationship?
DR. SELMAN: She’s the enabler. She enables you to not function, to go on drinking, to carry on with your addiction.
GEORGE: Well, it is true that I stay in five, six nights a week and don’t drink, maybe have one drink.
DR. SELMAN: I imagine somebody could make a hypothesis that you would be a more productive writer if you didn’t stay out all night drinking and sleep the next day. And instead, if you were awake and alert, maybe you could do better at writing and make more money.
GEORGE: Am I also co-dependent with Hilly?
DR. SELMAN: Actually, that book applies more to her than it does to you.
GEORGE: So what’s my diagnosis?
DR. SELMAN: You’re on the receiving end.
GEORGE: I’m on the receiving end? I like the way this sounds! That means it’s not all me.
HILLY: No, it’s because I don’t stand up enough. I allow you to get away with doing stuff.
DR. SELMAN: That’s part of it.
GEORGE: Can I just enjoy this for a second? It’s not just me, and that she’s enabling me.
DR. SELMAN: It takes two to tango. I’ve said this several times—that I thought that, at some level, your relationship works this way.
GEORGE: I agree there’s stuff I gotta do. And I think that we’re making progress here.
DR. SELMAN: What’s the progress, George?
GEORGE: What’s the progress? We’re talking about this, and I think my behavior is changing.
DR. SELMAN: As evidenced by?
GEORGE: It just is.
DR. SELMAN: Do you agree with this?
HILLY: A little bit. I mean, you don’t go out as much as you used to; you really don’t.
GEORGE: I’m adjusting to the kinds of things we’re talking about.
HILLY: It’s true you actually asked me about—
GEORGE: I’m more considerate about her feelings.
DR. SELMAN: Are there any examples of that?
HILLY: Well, you asked some questions about Thanksgiving.
GEORGE: Got you the piggy.
HILLY: Got me the piggy. And you ask me lots of questions.
GEORGE: I don’t want to take Effexor, because I think it will turn me into a zombie.
DR. SELMAN: But why is it O.K. to take Vicodin, Ambien?
GEORGE: Because those go away, they’re not 24 hours a day, and I want to feel stuff. We watched The Wizard of Oz the other night, and I was crying 30 seconds into it. I started thinking, “If I was on Effexor, maybe I wouldn’t feel anything.” Right?
DR. SELMAN: What was so depressing about The Wizard of Oz?
GEORGE: It wasn’t depressing, it was just so beautiful. I really relate to Bert Lahr and Judy Garland—
DR. SELMAN: I can imagine. She was a big drinker and—
GEORGE: I wasn’t thinking that. I wanna go home, back to Kansas.
DR. SELMAN: Wasn’t she in rehab?
GEORGE: Don’t know. I relate to Dorothy. I’m a friend of Dorothy, and I resent the fact that—I think Judy Garland and Dorothy, that’s for everyone, not just gay people. She was sixteen in that movie. Isn’t that a wonderful movie?
HILLY: Yeah, it’s fantastic.
[to be continued]
George and Hilly published 11/14/05
George and Hilly published 11/07/05
George and Hilly published 10/24/05
George and Hilly published 10/17/05
George and Hilly published 10/10/05
George and Hilly published 10/03/05
George ’n’ Hilly, Back in Couples, Turn on the Doc published 09/26/05
But Should We Get Married? Part III published 08/29/05
But Should We Get Married? published 08/15/05
Should I Get Married? My Hilly Joining Me In Couples Session published 08/08/05