Friday, September 18, 2015

Tropical Fish and Dialogue

The setting, the address, and the small, invitation-sized envelopes in which he presents his bills to you jump out at you like cliches being called to your attention in your own work by a New York editor, or either of your two favorite waitresses at the two cliche Beverly Hills delicatessens, Nate and Al's  or Linny's.

Bedford Avenue, Beverly Hills, had, at the time, enough psychiatrists to ease the woes of all of Southern California, where there were, now that you think of it, woes similar to your own.  

A block or two away, the psychiatrists had given way to psychologists, or, as the patients would often discuss in any of the amazing small bars or lounges, the respective difference between an M.D. and a Ph.D.

Yours was on Bedford, thus doctor meant M.D., which, for a brief time, put you in good standing with a girl named Mitzi, who said of you, "You must have some serious shit to need an M.D."  This meant for a time she thought you exuded a danger you did not exude and a mystery you seemed to convey to those about you but by no means to yourself.

Mitzi could be counted on to have a half-pint of Hennessey's or Courvoissier in her purse, which you would share at a shady area off Roxbury Park after you'd been to your M.D. and she to her Ph.D., discussing in sweeping rhetoric your reasons for your respective visits to these professionals and pursuing the extent of your chemistry.  "I sit around and brood, can't stand the sons of my parents' friends, read anything but assigned reading for classes, and stay up late, listening to music."  For this, her sessions with the Ph.D. were ninety dollars an hour.

Your symptoms seemed close enough to have you wondering what you were getting for your hundred twenty dollars an hour from the M.D., an issue raised on your next visit to the M.D. on Bedford Avenue.  For his part, he wanted to know if this was something you'd discussed with Mitzi or arrived at by yourself.  At this point, you noticed the M.D. had a considerable tropical fish tank set-up.  

You paused for a moment or two to regard a spectacular display of small fish of various widths and accouterments, parading about in splashes of bright color.  You decided to ask Mitzi if her Ph.D.--you were always polite about that, even though she called your M.D. a shrink--had tropical fish.

"I am looking at,"  you told the M.D, " at list two thousand dollars worth of fish here.  It's not so much that I begrudge you a hobby as it is that I'm wondering if I'm not here because my hobby on display is my difficulty in moving through my teens, into my twenties without a clear sense of where this is taking me."

The M.D. smiled, stood, shook your hand, and gave you another invitation-sized envelope with an invoice in it.  "Good dialogue,"  he said.  "I think we're beginning to get somewhere."

"He told you that?,"  Mitzi said, about forty-five minutes later, under a shady tree in the parking lot of Roxbury Park.

"Listen,"  you said.  "Does your Ph.D. have anything like a fish tank in his office?"

"How could you know that?"  she said. "How could you possibly know that? "

You told her it was part of your danger and mystery, whereupon she began to cry.  You watched her for a moment, wishing she'd get to the part where the Hennessey's or Courvoisier came out, thinking also that there was something vulnerable and attractive about her crying, thinking there was the possibility of something beyond your established plateaus.

"I want you to know I am seeing someone,"  she said, "and while we haven't discussed it yet, I don't think he--his name is Josh--would be comfortable with what you and I--"

"Not Josh from 'The Nineteenth Century American Novel'?  Is he--Is he dangerous and mysterious?"

"He is sensitive.  I like that in a man."

"More than danger and mystery?"

You were reminded of those times, including your growing suspicions that your visits to Bedford Avenue and the tropical fish were drawing to a close by a note you received from your literary agent a few days ago, giving you a URL to click on and a password to type in when prompted.  She was eager for you to see the brief scene between a series character, portrayed by the actor Tom Selleck, whom you find mildly effective, and his character's shrink, portrayed by William Devane, an actor you do admire to a considerable degree.

The agent was right; the dialogue was superb, each character revealing arresting layers of depth and resources.  This reminded you of your time on Bedford, your time with Mitzi, and your sense of how dialogue has changed the way you look at life and narrative.

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