“Do you go to a bartender for a drink when you happen upon them in the supermarket? No,” she said sternly, crossing her arms and looking out from under creased eyebrows. “So don’t ask me to ‘hear-you-out’ when I’m not on the clock.” She sat across from me, her heavy bulk resting in her armchair. I sat on a small, putrid colored love-seat.
“But you’re on the clock,” I said.
“But you’re not,” she said, pointing at her clock on the wall, which ticked onto 11:01.
She was right, I was not on the clock.
Recently, I have been going to a therapist. I was prompted to seek ‘help’ by my bartending friend, Alice Waters, who, upon seeing me at the supermarket stressing out over the fat content of a can of refried beans, told me, with that candid air of hers, that: “maybe you should seek out help.” And she was right. It appears I haven’t even noticed that the drama of losing my wife to Africa, my brother to mars, my friend Alexander DeCantos to a hang-gliding incident (see image above), and my job to fire, had really taken it’s toll on me mentally. Giving me the phone number to her friend, Dr. Tracey H. Gilbert, Therapist; Alice told me I should really let her (Dr. Tracey H. Gilbert, therapist) listen to my stories. “She’s a great listener. Her slogan is, ‘You’re Welcome for Hearing.’” After informing Alice that her friend’s therapeutic slogan was not very therapeutic or grammatically sound, she informed me that there’s a reason people didn’t ever listen to me; leaving me, the therapist’s number, and the can of refried beans in her wake.
And so I called Dr. Tracey H. Gilbert and set up a session and have been going to therapy ever since. Now, back in that room with her, as time ticked away and my 10 a.m. appointment now was a minute over its hour session…ticking to 11:02!...
“You’re welcome for hearing,” she said, pointing to the door. “Be sure to pay the receptionist on the way out.”
I stood up and, slowly making my way to the door, turned, and in a heated, overzealous manner, told her just what I thought of her policy. “Someday, somehow, something’s going to happen where you’ll be in a situation where someone’s off the clock and they won’t help you.”
“That won’t happen,” she said. “Please be sure to pay the receptionist on the way out.”
And I was out the door.
“Is she always like this?” I asked the receptionist.
Looking up from the nail-filer that the receptionist was using, busily filing away already filed away nails, he said: “She doesn’t talk to me. So I don’t talk to her. Check or cash?”
Well, reader, when I tell you the surprise I felt when in the same corner of the market, standing in the canned beans section, I found my therapist, Tracey H. Gilbert, Dr. contemplating the very same can of refried beans I had contemplated over all those weeks ago when Alice Waters found me… I was taken aback.
“Hey,” I said to the old doctor.
She looked up at me and instantly frowned. Apparently, doctors don’t like running into their patience outside of the office.
“Hey,” she said.
“That’s a good brand,” I said, trying to make small talk.
She set the can down and stared blankly back at me.
“I’m deathly allergic to processed, refried beans.”
“Oh,” I gulped, nervously. “I’ve never heard of that sort of allergy before.”
“It’s rare,” she said. “Tex-Mex is my enemy. If I ever touch it, if I ever even smell refried beans, my body seizes up, my throat closes and the only thing that can save me is fermented sugar.”
“Alcohol,” she said.
“Alcohol?” I asked.
“Alcohol,” she said.
“Oh,” I said, not understanding.
“Liqueur, to be exact.”
“I’ve never heard of—”
“It’s science,” she said and she walked off without a goodbye.
The next day I was sitting in the waiting room, looking at my watch—watching the time tick by. I had arrived 20 minutes too early, which really set off my nerves. And so, sitting in the waiting room I—well, I waited. I was passing my time by looking at my watch, when in came Alice Waters smiling breezily with the air of someone who has just gotten off work and had a few too many. I was right. She had not only just gotten off of work, she had also had two too many.
“Chip,” she said, carrying with her a small bag of food-leftovers from the restaurant/bar she worked at.
“Hello, Alice. How was work?”
“It was great,” she said, and taking a flask from her apron, she took a swig.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Well, I’m here to give Tracey my two-cents. I was talking to her—and you know we’ve been friends since—well, since we were younglings. And we were on the phone and she said—can you believe what she said to me? Because you won’t be able to—she said that she can’t listen to my problems, but I could, if I needed to, set up an appointment with her and she’d gladly assist—that, when she is off the clock, she’s ‘damn’ well off the clock. Well, I never. So I’m here to tell her just what I think of her policy. You don’t go treating friends like that.”
That was when she came out. Dr. Tracey H. Gilbert came storming out of her office, her face bright red, her eyes bulging, her hands to her throat. “What! What is that?!” she stumbled out and pointed at the bag of leftovers in Alice’s hands.
“Well,” Alice said, “Now you want to talk.”
“This is what I need to say! The world would be a better place,” Alice continued, “If we, each of us, were more than just lemmings. If we were more than our drive to work, than a quick word, than the hours between 9 to 5—if we were people and not employees, if we were people and not drifters. If we could get a drink with our bartender, or have a talk with our therapist after hours. We are more than our set categories, more than what we say we are, more than what we are, more than what we can be…”
The therapist stared dumbfounded at Alice, her eyes watering: “But is that Tex-Mex?”
“It’s Tex-Mex,” Alice said.
“Yep, refried beans,” Alice said.
And Dr. Gilbert grabbed at her throat. “I need alcohol,” she said.
“What?” Alice asked, taking a swig of her flask. “You’re not off the clock. I am, though.” And Alice, nefariously stormed off, leaving me with the chocking, exasperated doctor.
“Call an ambulance!” I yelled at the assistant, who ignored me and the situation and continued to paint his nails. I grabbed my phone and dialed away.
It was a few minutes before 11 a.m. and she had just gotten an IV of what looked like whisky, when I sat beside her talking to her. She sat with her eyes crossed, her face contorted in agony, but her ears—they looked sublime. She was the perfect listener. It was 11:01 and I said to her, with a bright smile on my face:
“Thanks for listening.”