One of my patients–“Director X“–invited me to a screening of his soon-to-be-released film at Paramount. Director X begged me to attend, so I drove over to the studio on Melrose after work, even though my intestines were rumbling from some heavily spiced lentil soup.
The screening room at Paramount was nearly full when I got there. Several hundred people had shown up to see Director X’s new film, and more than a few of them were my patients.
A well-known, nympho talent agent was seated near the front, in a low-cut blouse, and she motioned for me come sit beside her. In her lap was a divinely inspired, quilted, black, buttery leather handbag with a detachable cross-body strap and silver ID frame. It could only be Chanel. My daughter, I thought to myself, would adore that. (My little Meryl is very sophisticated for a four year-old.)
“Charles, darling!” cried the nympho agent, “I heard you were coming. I’m dying to see what this new film is about. I hear it’s a departure from this guy’s standard, commercial fare! I’ve never understood the appeal of this man's films!”
“And I’ve never understood the appeal of Christian Lacroix,” I said, gazing at her shoes.
“What?” said the agent. “Oh, these silly things? I wore them for a lark. Aren’t they too perfect?” She leaned her knees from side to side so that the black satin, vulgarly jeweled shoes would shimmer.
“Three and a half-inch heels and double ankle straps are perfect if you‘re going to the Hookers’ Ball,” I suggested, helpfully.
She set her hand on my knee. “Darling, anywhere I go is the Hookers’ Ball!”
Director X had stepped onstage and was introducing his film. “This movie,” he said, “is a little different from my others. In this film I examine the inner workings of my own mind. And I have to say, I’ve been helped in this process by my acupuncturist and consigliore, Charles.”
Several heads turned toward me and there was a smattering of applause, which I found embarrassing.
“One day,” he continued, “I was feeling very sad, and Charles said these words to me, which I’ll never forget: ‘The only real problem is, you’re a poem.’ A poem! We’ll, I thought about that and..”
A poem? Had I told him he was a poem? I didn’t remember that. But then, I’ve told lots of people they’re a poem. It’s just a thing I say during a session, a handy space filler.
Hello, you’re a poem, how’s your hemorrhoids?
The talent agent nudged me. "Charles, darling,” she said, “you told me I was a poem.”
“I did?” I said, as the lentils stirred in my gut. “Are you sure about that?”
“Of course I’m sure,” she said, sticking out her lower lip. “And I thought that you meant it.”
“Well I did,” I said, suppressing a belch.
“Then how come you told him he’s a poem?”
I was getting nauseous and didn’t feel like arguing. “Well, maybe you’re both poems. Did you ever think about that? Maybe he’s iambic tetrameter and you’re free verse.”
“Oh?” she said, with a small, annoyingly ironic smile.
“That’s right,” I said. “He’s solid, conventional and not overly inventive. Dull in many ways. And you’re the trail blazer, full of fun and mischief. He’s ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,’ and you’re Allen Ginsburg’s ‘Howl.’"
“Well,” she said, looking pleased, “I’ll take that as a compliment. Thank you, darling!”
“Whew!” I thought. That was a close one.
Somebody tapped me on the shoulder from behind. It was a young freckled lady, a patient of mine.
“Charles,” she said, “you told me I was a poem!”
“I can’t talk now,” I said, getting up and running toward the door. “I’ve got to go. You’ve got issues? Make an appointment.” And I sprinted to my car.
On the way home, I stopped at a magazine stand. As I was paying for some Tums and a “Psychology Today,” a man walked up to the cashier and said, “Excuse me, sir. Have you got ‘Modern Christian Magazine'?'"
“No,” said the cashier, reading his newspaper.
“Well then,” said the customer, “have you got ‘Christian Perspective Monthly'?"
“No sir, I don’t,” said the cashier.
“Well then,” said the man, “have you got ‘Boob-a-licious'?”
“Aisle number two,” said the cashier.
“Excellent,” said the man.
I wondered how ’Boob-a-licious’ satisfied the same spiritual needs as ‘Christian Perspective Monthly.’ But then, I thought, people are endlessly complicated so what’s the point in trying to understand?
People are a lot like poems. At least that’s the way I see it.