January 15, 2014
Mirsky put down his glass of Black Opal Cabernet Merlot and picked up his menu. The combination of the small writing, subdued lights, and his being smack into the throws of middle-age vision trauma prevented him from reading it. Frustrated, he closed the menu, looked around the table and saw that his wife and all of his friends except Lenny had half-glasses hanging off the end of their noses. "I'm underdressed," he thought. Lenny, the other glassless person, was at the wall end of the table with his menu stretched out at arm's length held under a wall sconce.
Mumbling that he was going out to his car to get his glasses, Mirsky pushed back from the table. As if choreographed, the four women at the table whipped off their glasses and held them out to him. "Thanks, no," he said. "I finally remembered to bring them and I'm going to use them tonight."
"Before you go, tell us one more joke," Louise giggled.
"When I get back," Mirsky said, turning and walking out.
He took the back way out of Mangia, etc., and walked to his car in a buoyant mood. Good friends, hopefully good food, fun conversation, and a little slap and tickle before leaving the house made Mirsky feel good. He smiled to himself thinking of the story he would tell Louise and the others when he got back. This was a blusher and the kind of story that keeps popping back into one's mind for the rest of the evening.
The parking lot sloped left causing Mirsky to walk unevenly. As he walked back he began to feel like his Uncle Harry. Uncle Harry had one leg shorter than the other and walked with a pronounced gimp.
Mirsky knew that this was his turning point. He could shake off Uncle Harry and stay in his own mind, or allow himself to continue the feeling and absorb Uncle Harry and briefly become him -- somewhat akin to the early impersonators who turned their back to their audience so as to "get in character" and then when they turned around they took on the look and feel of Cagney, Kirk Douglas or whoever.
He let himself go on. First he felt as if he were in Harry's body and next it was Harry's rattlesnake disposition engulfing him. Mirsky was angry over leaving his glasses in the car -- in fact he was unhappy even having to wear these drug store cheaters. By the time he sat back down at the table he was in an Uncle Harry frame of mind.
"Well, Mirsky, we've been waiting," Louise's husband Lenny said. "What's your story?"
Mirsky glared at Lenny and snarled, "Who am I -- your fucking court jester?"
Uncle Harry would have been proud but Mirsky's friends were taken aback and, sensing that he was in one of his moods, talked around him. When it came time to order, the waiter took the brunt of Mirsky's lip while the others held their menus open in front of their faces.
While the rest of the party was ordering, Mirsky got up and announced a little too loudly that he was off to "water the porcelain" and left the table. Walking through the lounge to get to the men's room, he stopped and listened to the band and watched the drummer playing softly using only the brushes. The drummer was smiling dreamily -- thoroughly enjoying what he was doing. Pulling up a bar stool, Mirsky sat and listened and watched. Mirsky kept beat with a nodding head, tapping shoe, and quietly snapping fingers. He was no longer feeling Uncle Harry in him and in fact he had begun to feel like Guy, his younger brother, when he first heard the smoothness of the drummer. Guy was always up -- happy go lucky, and also played drums in a band. When the song was finished he went on to the men's room.
Mirsky came back to his table humming and smiling and saw a somber group. "Who died while I was gone?" he asked. "You know, Louise," Mirsky continued, returning to the old Mirsky, "I was having lunch in the new Chinese restaurant in town the other day, and when I went to the men's room there was a sign that read, all employees must wash their chopsticks before leaving. Bah da boom." Mirsky smacked the table in a mock rim shot.
Mirsky considered his ability to slide in and out of others people's personas a talent and not a liability or a problem. It wasn't a frequent occurrence, anyway. Mirsky never told anyone he could do this. It was his secret. Not once did he think of it as offensive or schizo as his friends might have.
At one of his annual Casket Sellers' conventions he had met a woman who had the "Power" also. Stella was a petite brunette, well built, with a top of the line smile. She was number one in the Southeast Region in sales and he was number one in the Northeast. Each noticed something in the other that led to their discussing their similar talents, Mirsky and Stella agreed to let themselves go past "the turning point" each time so they could appreciate another's persons experiences. The only problem was that Mirsky had wanted to get it on with her, but their personality changes kept clashing. Each evening they would hang out in the bar talking and joking, alone or with others, having a great time. When they were alone they often spoke of their "Power" or as Stella called it, her "Talent." Each evening as they strolled lovey-dovey from the bar or patio to one of their respective rooms, one or both of them would end up taking on another personality that turned the other off, so the tryst never took place. One night Stella turned into her mother as they were mid-kiss and almost decked Mirsky for not keeping his tongue in his own mouth. Another night, Mirsky, so excited at the prospects of getting laid, began to feel like his six year old nephew Kevin, and started to sing and skip and run up and down the hall in front of Stella until she caught him and reached down his pants, grabbing his cock. Mirsky, in his Kevin persona, said "phoo," and "yuk," and ran off to his own room.
It was two weeks following the restaurant scene when Lenny, Thomas, and Alan stopped over to talk to him about his "problem." They were old and dear friends and genuinely concerned. They handed him a paper with a psychiatrist's name and phone number. While his friends were talking to him about his mood swings, he felt himself slipping into a Lenny persona and started to imitate his actions, but somehow quickly pulled out.
Finally, Mirsky decided to chance it and explain to his friends. "I'm not sick, guys. But I do understand why you think I am and need help. Truly," he said, "you are good friends to come and talk to me instead of just writing me off. Let me tell you what is really going on."
And Mirsky told them about the "Power," and they looked at each other and at him and he could tell by their silence they thought this was another Mirsky bullshit number. "Nice try, huh guys. OK. I'll make an appointment in the morning," Mirsky told them.
Relieved, his friends opened up and spoke of the times his personality changed and laughed over some of the more embarrassing and outrageous ones. Suddenly, Mirsky knew how Rabbi Silver felt during one of his counseling sessions. Becoming Rabbi Silver, he steepled his fingers, held them to his chin. nodded appropriately, and spoke softly. He treated his friends as though they were the troubled ones, and thanked them for coming and shook their hands as they left. Then, still as Rabbi Silver, he went upstairs to his bedroom where his wife Elaine was in bed reading. He undressed and as he did so he said a prayer aloud in Hebrew, then dove under the covers saying, "Oymen," as he pushed her nightgown up.
Mirsky had to make an appointment to keep his friends and Elaine happy, but he knew the shrink would have no better understanding. She would tell Mirsky that he had blah blah syndrome, maybe prescribe medication, and insist on weekly visits until her new boat was paid for. Mirsky would go through with this shrink charade, but he would work real hard on turning this into his advantage.
Dr. Alice Meyer-Mayer was a few minutes late greeting Mirsky in the waiting room. She almost caught him ripping a coupon for Depends out of Modern Maturity. He had planned to mail it to Lenny. Dr. Meyer-Mayer was tall and thin with high cheekbones and an overbite that Mirsky found sexy. She reached out to shake Mirsky's hand as he stood. "I'm Dr. Mayer-Meyer," she said.
"Then I must be Mirsky," he announced while admiring her green eyes.
He smiled at his own wit and she stared at him - then turned and went into her office. Mirsky followed her in and looked around. Couch, two swivel chairs with ottomans, desk, plants, pastel pictures of pseudo-European cities and a bookshelf with a clock tucked neatly to one side. "Yep," he thought. "It's all here."
"Sit anywhere you're comfortable, Mr. Mirsky," said Dr. Meyer-Mayer. Mirsky walked over to the desk and took her desk chair, turned it around, and straddled it, putting his arms on top and staring at the Doctor. "Just call me Mirsky," he said.
"OK. Mirsky, any seat but that one, please."
"But you said sit where I was comfortable."
"I did, but I didn't mean my desk chair. It makes me uncomfortable."
"You ought to see someone about that," he said.
They both ended up on swivel chairs as Mirsky knew they would and Mirsky said, "Dr. Meyer-Mayer, I was just giving you a hard time. I do that when I'm nervous."
"Are you nervous often?" she asked.
"Are we starting now?" Mirsky figured her for mid-maybe late thirties.
"Would you like to start now or would you like to wait?"
"That sounds like we've started. You can tell me."
"Mirsky, we started when you walked into my waiting room," Dr. Meyer-Mayer said, her voice a bit on the husky side, but very feminine.
"Does that mean my fifty minutes began then?"
"It's only forty-five minutes and no, your time starts when we are in this office."
"OK. I just wanted to know the ground rules because I'm often early and I'd hate to be sitting reading for forty-five minutes and have you come out and tell me my session is over."
Dr. Meyer-Mayer laughed. "You are a very funny man," she said. "Are you always on? And don't ask me if this is where we begin."
"Just tell me why Meyer-Mayer? For one vowel - you make such a deal?"
"I was a doctor before I got married, so my diplomas and license are in the name Meyer and I couldn't just take my husband's name."
"Why didn't you just keep your maiden name?"
"We thought it was too confusing," she said.
"I think we ought to change seats," Mirsky said.
"Enough about me, Mirsky, tell me why you are here."
So Mirsky told Dr. Meyer-Mayer all about his "Power" and his friends' concern. "I wouldn't have any problem if I could control its coming and going," he said. "But it comes on suddenly and sometimes I let it go without even realizing it. The mood swings have my friends and family thinking I'm a schizo."
"Does this only happen when you're walking?" the Doctor asked.
"Mostly. Sometimes if I'm standing in the right position and realize that I'm standing the way someone I know stands -- then it can start. It can also start with a gesture.
"If I make a gesture, shrug a certain way, or catch myself making an expression the way someone I know would, I can take on that person's persona."
"What about other positions? Sitting, lying down?"
"It's happened to me while driving several times. I've turned into my brother Louis, who only has middle fingers when he drives. I try to fight that one off, but he's a strong personality and it's tough."
"How much of a role does someone's strong personality play in this?"
"I never gave it much thought, but I guess the stronger the personality, the more I have to grasp on to."
"And you say your brother Louis has such a personality?"
"I come from a family of strong personalities."
"Can they all enter you? Can you become anyone? Explain it."
"I tried to become my brother Harry once because I was taking a test and I knew he would know all the answers, but I couldn't do it. Although I have done Harry before. I would like to do this on demand as opposed to having it suddenly come upon me. I'd love to be able to control that aspect of The Power."
"Is this an all male thing or do you do females also?"
"You make it sound like Vaudeville."
"So do you."
"Tushy," said Mirsky.
"Don't you mean touché?" Dr. Meyer-Mayer corrected.
"No," Mirsky said. "I don't speak French."
"Mr. Mirsky, our time is up for today."
"Don't you mean my time is up?"
"No, I meant that our time together is up. Would you like to schedule another appointment?"
"Do you think I need it?"
"Do you think you need it, is the question."
"It's not the question," Mirsky said. "It's another question."
"Same time next week," stated the doctor, holding her appointment book and filling out an appointment card.
Mirsky, head down, hands jammed into his pocket, was walking across the Green to his car when he let himself become his kid brother Guy again. Mirsky's face untightened and he wore a half-smile. As Guy he was thinking about what a beautiful day it was which wouldn't dawn on Mirsky unless someone mentioned it. He looked for his car and saw a park bench and sat down. Leaning back, with his hands clasped behind his head, Mirsky breathed in the park air. A few minutes later, eyes closed, thinking Guy thoughts, he took another deep breath, only this time the fresh air was mixed with perfume.
"Is that a magic wand in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?" asked Louise, sitting down on the bench. Mirsky looked over and smiled. Guy was gone. Louise had her brown hair pulled back tightly and tied with a yellow ribbon, and she wore a tight yellow blouse and an impish grin.
"Both," said Mirsky.
Louise took his hand and led him from the bench across the street to the back door of her fabric shop, which was closed for lunch. "Let me show you some new silk I just got in," Louise said, unbuttoning her pants. "Don't forget the wool," Mirsky laughed. "I'd rather see your wool." When Mirsky lifted off Louise's yellow blouse, she was braless as he knew she would be, and he gave each erect nipple a kiss. Then he undressed and they made love between a bolt of pink taffeta and a purplish gabardine. He made love as Mirsky, only eight years younger and even then without inhibitions. When they finished, Louise lay in Mirsky's arm as they both leaned against a Harris Tweed, which Mirsky found a little itchy. "Larry told me about you and the shrink," Louise said.
"Yeah, well, no problem," said Mirsky.
"Were you goofing on the guys or can you really become other people?"
"What do you think?"
"I think we ought to try this next week and I'll be Camille and you can be Prince Charles," Louise laughed.
Happily, he was able to stay in his own character the whole time,
Mirsky continued his weekly sessions with Dr. Meyer-Mayer and also tried to act Mirsky-like when he was with his friends. Strangely enough, it did end up having the side effect that Mirsky had always hoped for. The next week he told Dr. Meyer-Mayer about it.
"I've reached my plateau, Dr.," Mirsky said, swiveling around to face her.
"And that plateau is?" Dr. Meyer-Mayer asked.
"Well, I'm very excited. You've done me a world of good. This whole experience has helped me beyond my wildest dreams, and my wildest dreams are beyond most peoples' wildest imagination - as you well know. I owe a debt of gratitude to my friends and especially to you."
"Mirsky, I'm really happy that you are so excited, but I don't feel that we have accomplished what we set out to accomplish. You have not rid yourself of this transference problem - all you've been able to do is mask it more successfully."
"No, Dr., you're wrong. First, it's not a problem. It's me, and it's all because of you. It is what I do, what I want to do, and now finally I am able to understand the Power and keep it coming or tune it out - all because of you. I can do it my way and if that's not cured my name's not Frank Sinatra. Secondly, who is anyone to say that if I choose "The Power" over stamp collecting as my hobby that I'm either wrong or sick? I'm happy and everyone around me is happy. So what's so wrong?"
Her private phone rang, and Dr. Meyer-Mayer picked up the cordless and walked into another room that Mirsky thought was her bathroom. He got up and poked around on her desk and read snatches of a letter to her from her sister. He came to a sentence that piqued his interest so much that he read it three times and then picked up the letter and sat back in the swivel chair and read the entire thing.
"I'm sorry, Mirsky," Dr. Meyer-Mayer said upon reentering the room.
Mirsky swiveled so his back was to her. She sat down and said, "So where were we?"
Mirsky folded the letter and held it on his lap, swiveled the chair around to face the Dr., and stared at her. She realized immediately that he was taking on another persona. He worked at gestures and movements and adjusted his position in the chair and finally stood up and walked over to the Dr., hovering over her, almost menacingly. His lip curled a little, his eyes semi-drooped, and he said with the slightest of lisps, "Of all the shrinks in all the shrink offices in all the world, I had to pick this one. Listen, Red," he said throwing the letter down on her lap, "you played me for a sucker once and left me holding the bag, but it'll never happen again. I have no more feeling for you than I do for that bird." With that, Mirsky reached down and grabbed Dr. Meyer-Mayer by her arms, hauled her to her feet as the letter fluttered to the floor. He kissed her. He kissed her long and deep, and when he finished, pushed her back down in her chair and said, "So long, Red. You're somebody else's problem now."
Dr. Meyer-Mayer reached down, picked up the letter, and, with the only strength left in her body, reread the part asking if she still had the Bogart fetish and had she finally been able to convince that prude of a husband to play act the Bogie scenes that so turned her on.
Dr. Meyer-Mayer's notes to Mirsky went unanswered. Months later, he called for an appointment. (Reluctantly, she gave it to him.] He stood looking out the window in her waiting room and in a few minutes her office door was pushed open and Dr. Meyer-Mayer said, "Come in, Mirsky." He walked in and she was standing with her back to the door, arms folded, looking out the window. Without turning around she asked how he was doing and whether he was using the "Power."
Mirsky said nothing.
Dr. Meyer-Mayer turned around and Mirsky was standing there, in a trench coat, collar up, wearing a snap brim fedora, and dangling an unlit cigarette from the corner of his mouth.
"Mirsky," said Dr. Meyer-Mayer with great surprise.
Mirsky took the cigarette out of his mouth and flicked it across the room. "See here doll," he said. "I told you never to call me Mirsky."
A tear trickled down the doctor's cheek, and she ran to Mirsky and hugged him.
"Listen, Red. Don't go getting all mushy on me," Mirsky said as he flipped his fedora on to her desk. "And remember, this is my regular time from now on. Got it?"
"Got it," said Dr. Meyer-Mayer.