903. What Is Love?

I took the T to my counseling intake appointment. I came out of Kenmore Square in the middle of the afternoon and there were already ticket scalpers in Red Sox hats staking out their territories on the sidewalk. I walked on the overpass of the highway to get from Kenmore to the medical center where my main doctor was as well as a lot of specialists. I had to walk right past the intersection of Landsdowne Street, the street with all the music clubs on it, including Axis, Venus de Milo, Bill’s Bar, and the Citi Club. I can’t remember when they quit calling it Citi and started calling it Avalon.

It felt weird walking past it in the daytime. Venus was where Jonathan and I had seen that unannounced Mark Sandman set. Axis was where I’d once almost-fought with Ziggy and where we’d seen Sugargum. And we’d played shows at basically all of those clubs in the early days, in the months before Chris joined, and a few after.

We really hadn’t been on the club scene for very long because of how fast things had happened for us. It had felt slow at the time but looking back I could see it wasn’t. It was surreal to think that just three-four years earlier we had been carrying our own amps in and out of there and three weeks ago we played to fifty-thousand-plus people in a stadium in South America.

It could make a guy’s head spin.

Which was why I was going to get my head straightened out, I guess. Although I suppose “straightened” is a bad turn of phrase here.

Carynne had researched the therapists available through our health plan and had looked for someone who could deal with both substance abuse issues and “alternative sexuality.” That term kind of cracked me up because I couldn’t hear it without thinking of “alternative music,” as if it referred to people who were only attracted to Robert Smith and Michael Stipe or something.

The therapist I saw was a short woman with short black hair shot through with some gray. I pegged her as a possible lesbian early on. She was wearing a not-feminine polo shirt.

Her office was small, but I suppose I was supposed to think it was cozy. Interestingly enough, a white stuffed unicorn resting on a rainbow sat on her desk.

She had a clipboard in her hands when I came in. They’d made me fill out a questionnaire and she was looking over my answers and frowning. I wondered if I’d somehow failed my intake test.

I sat in a chair facing away from the window that overlooked Brookline Avenue.

“So,” she began. “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”

“Um.” That was a very broad question. “A lot. I’m trying to figure out where to start.”

“How about starting with why you decided to come see us?”

“Because I think hiding all night in the water tank of a high rise hotel in Brazil while having intense paranoid delusions is probably something I should try to avoid repeating?”

She held her poker face but I wondered if she wanted to laugh. I kind of wanted her to, even though I hadn’t been joking. “Are you still having them? The delusions, I mean.”

For some reason I hadn’t been expecting that question. I’d been expecting to launch into a much more detailed description of my downward spiral. I had to think about the answer. “I don’t think so. The closest thing to one was like a momentary panic about four or five days ago, but it was literally over with in two seconds.”

“Hm. And you’re no longer taking any of these?” She ran her pen under the part of the questionnaire where I’d listed off every drug I knew I’d ingested in the previous three months.

“Did I put ibuprofen on there? A little of that. Otherwise, no. Not for several weeks.”

“And the last time you drank?”

Shit. Who knew time-sense was going to be so important? “Also several weeks, I think. Three at least.”

She frowned. “Okay, tell me more about these paranoid delusions.”

“I had convinced myself that my boyfriend’s manager…” And, god, the word boyfriend was wrong but I had to call him something… “had orchestrated things so that I’d have to play guitar for his tour of Japan.”

“Mm-hm. That’s an interesting one.”

“Um, the boyfriend, his manager, the guitar, and the tour of Japan are all real. It was them forcing me to do the tour that was my delusion.”

“Ahhh, okay. So you’re that kind of musician.”

I wasn’t sure what “kind” of musician she thought I was, but I guess the kind that goes on international tours was good enough. “Yeah. I had been getting more and more paranoid for a couple of weeks but I don’t know if the Valium flipped a switch or what.”

“And how much do you crave the drugs?”

“I don’t really crave them at all.”

“Symptoms of withdrawal?”

“I was crampy and cranky while trying to get off Flexoril, but that seems to have died down.”

“And booze? Do you think about it often? Plan when your next drink is going to be?”

“Not really.”

“Do you engineer social situations to allow you to drink?”


“Do you drink alone?”

“No. I’m not really tempted to. I’m kind of sick and tired of it, honestly.”

She clicked her ballpoint pen in and out several times. Then she asked me a bunch more questions, some of which were on the questionnaire but she worded them a little differently each time. The frown was still there.

I finally said, somewhat jokingly, “I feel like you’re about to give me detention or something.”

That startled a smile out of her. “I was a junior high gym teacher for a while. Sorry, don’t mean to seem disapproving, but you’re not turning out to be what I expected.”

“I’m not?”

“Did you have a substance abuse problem? Yes. Did you develop a physical dependency? Yes. Are you an addict, though? Looks like no.”

“What? That can’t be right.”

“You’re telling me you’re addicted? To what?”

To approval from lion-toothed women, that’s what. “You seem disappointed I’m not, that’s all.”

“Not at all. Just means I have to adjust my game plan. Why don’t you tell me a bit more about your relationship with your boyfriend.”

“Okay, well, first of all this.” I held up my hand to show her the wedding ring. “It was my subconscious’s idea, which his aesthetic director picked up on somehow, and I wasn’t even totally aware of what I was doing until I dragged him to a jewelry store and proposed.”

Her smile was still there. “Now you’re getting interesting.”


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