Joey Needs a New Therapist

Joey was at work when he got the call. Or rather, the multiple calls because he couldn’t really pick up on the first ring. He was in a meeting with John and he was already nervous because he had till 4 to finish the entire presentation and it was already 2 and John was breathing over his shoulder every 5 minutes, asking more and more questions which only meant more and more slides for Joey to make. After the 4th time that stupid ringtone went off, he excused himself in the middle of yet another one of John’s questions. He knew that even his mother wouldn’t call this many times in a row if it wasn’t an emergency, but he still answered the phone with exasperated frustration “What?” 3 hours later he was on a flight back to Chicago with no luggage – no carry on, no backpack, no nothing. Just the same clothes he had on his back at the goddamn office. “It’s just a minor heart attack, honey, don’t worry” his mother kept saying “There’s no need for you to come home now if you’re busy, he’s going to be fine. Don’t you have that big presentation tomorrow? You need to concentrate on that, just whatever you do don’t worry, because there’s no need to worry, everything’s going to be fine.” But as we all know, when someone tells you not to do something, your body and brain start to do it anyway. And usually at breakneck stupid speed. So when he ran out of the plane and out the airport to get his rental car, he didn’t even think to stop at the house and eat the turkey brie sandwich like his mother told him to, but instead sped straight on down to St. Vincent’s Medical Center. And as he run down the hallway to room 508-B, he prepared himself for the scene he was about to walk in on – his father in a bed, eyes rolled to the back of his head with only the whites showing through the half open lids, scary, gaunt, weak and drugged up with all kinds of tubes and beeps and hisses going in and out of his mouth and veins and hands and dick and asshole. But when he walked in the room, dad was sitting up in bed wide awake reading the latest edition of Details. “Hey! Look who’s here!” His voice was even stronger and happier than it had been in months. “Hey! How are you…” Joey asked cautiously, still expecting some horrible news. “Yeah! Everything’s fine, they’re gonna let me out tomorrow. No big deal. It was a small one. They’re just gonna give me these anti… uh… anti…” He was looking around the room for the word he lost with his mouth wide open like a Neanderthal. “Coagulants. Anticoagulants.” Joey took a seat in the chair next to him. “Yeah! Those! Want something to read?” “No thanks. Where’s mom?” “She’s dropping off deda at home. She took him to his dialysis today cuz I’m here in this fuckin’ bed.” Suddenly his dad got very stern with him “Hey! Don’t you dare tell deda about any of this you understand me? He doesn’t need to know.” “Yeah ok I know I know obviously. You think I’m an idiot.” He didn’t but he laughed a big “Ha!” as if he did.

Deda was always worried about dad. One time when dad had to go to the hospital because he had a UTI and needed intravenous antibiotics, deda accidentally found out about it from mom and he worried so much that he lost 10 lbs that week because he couldn’t eat. And when dad got out of the hospital he yelled at deda for worrying so much about him. But he and mom would worry just the same whenever Joey would get even a little sniffle of a cold. “Oh no… you’re sick?” his dad would say in a voice full of pain and tears. And in the distance over the phone Joey would hear his mom screaming from the kitchen as she ran full gallop to the phone “Oh my god is he ok?! Is my boy sick!? Should we fly out there!? Let’s fly out there!” “Stop screaming! I can’t hear him when you scream like that!” dad would yell more into the phone than at her. And Joey would yell at them too. “Jesus fucking Christ guys relax! It’s just a fucking cold! Stop screaming! Stop worrying! It’ll be over in like… 4 days! No one’s gonna die! Its fine! I’m fine! This is so fucking STUPID!” He had tried to explain to them many times with lots of curses that if they kept reacting like this every time he had a bad day then Joey would have to start lying to them about anything and everything because what’s the fucking point of 3 people feeling miserable instead of just the one. And then they’d stop with the despair in their voices and start trying to help him with good old fashioned medieval advice. “Get one of those girls you know to go to the store and buy you 3 heads of garlic, olive oil, whole milk, honey, tea, and those oregano oil drops. Now mix them all together and then put it on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven at 350 and…” “Mom… Mom… Mom!” He couldn’t even get a word in. She just had to get all the advice out. “Stop! Stop!! Please! First of all there are no fucking girls and second of all I know how to take care of myself! Every time you give me the same goddamn advice. I already know what to do! I already know what works! PLEASE. STOP. I’m not telling you I’m sick because I want your advice. The only reason I’m telling you is because you’d ask why I’m coughing and talking through my nose anyway. In fact, your advice is the last thing I need right now. Both for my physical and psychological well being. Please. Just. Relax. I’ll be fine.” But no matter how rationally he explained and how clearly he enunciated his words and curses, they could never really stop worrying. And each time they’d just end the conversation with “You just don’t understand. You’ll understand someday. When you have kids.” But he was pretty sure that he wouldn’t ever have kids and even if he would, he wouldn’t let something like them having a common cold affect him so deeply and emotionally. This was impossible and ridiculous. Besides, he may not have had kids of his own but he had his parents and he had his deda and it pissed him off whenever they said shit like that because it implied that their love for him was somehow greater than his love for them. And that was just more of the same old guilt that got him into therapy in the first place. Or so he thought. Because when his therapist pointed out that Joey was carrying at least 3 generations worth of all that Jew guilt on his back, and asked him to think about just how heavy it felt, Joey ended up breaking down and crying for a good 2 minutes straight. “Ya see?” his therapist said in her thick New York accent. “Ya see how HEAVY that feels on ya back?” And maybe it was because after he stopped crying he felt a little relief. But maybe it was just from knowing that this particular session was actually worth the $220 bucks. As opposed to all the other ones where she just asked him how his week went and waited till he was all riled up and angry before she cut him off with the standard “well I see we’re gonna need to stop now.” But as he sat in that hospital room, looking at his father – healthy, happy and chipper reading that magazine – he didn’t feel any relief at all. Instead he felt angry. Angry because after all these years of thinking ahead and being mindful and responsible and making the kind of decisions that would them all proud, they still for some reason didn’t think he was smart enough or care enough for deda to lie to him. Because OBVIOUSLY he could never love or worry about his dad as much as deda loved or worried about dad – his son. But then why didn’t his dad worry about Joey leaving work, running straight to the airport, getting on the first flight to Chicago, paying over $800 bucks for it, sitting on that fucking airplane without taking a piss or a pretzel? Didn’t he know what that feels like? To think your father’s on his death bed and you might not make it in time to see him before he kicks the fuckin’ bucket? But Joey didn’t say anything to his dad or even his mom because he knew they wouldn’t understand such things. They weren’t too keen on him going to therapy and talking about family stuff to any outsiders either, to tell you the truth. “Well… if it makes you feel better then go! Go every day! Tell them everything! Tell everyone about how terrible your parents are and what a horrible thing we did in raising you with so much love and care and for worrying about you!” That’s what they would say whenever he broached the subject. But it didn’t. It didn’t make him feel any better. Not when she said it like that. In fact it pissed him off that they thought about it in such a way. And even more so that he in turn had somehow absorbed that mentality and learned to think of things in his life in the same way. Hence the therapy. But now wasn’t the time to try and explain this shit to them again. Instead, Joey picked up a Men’s Health from the rack in the corner and tried to distract himself with pictures but of men who looked the way he used to look just a few years ago. Before he stopped going to the gym, before he started working this goddamn 80 hour a week job. “Mr. Rosenberg?” The doctor was suddenly in the room staring down into his charts. “Yes?” Joey and dad both answered simultaneously. “You’ll be fine. We’ll put you on some anticoagulants and monitor you overnight and hopefully you’ll be out of here by tomorrow afternoon.” Before they could both say “ok” the doctor was already halfway out the door.

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