Saturday, September 25, 2010


By Michael

Joe Kozmarski, my fictional PI, has a hard time talking about his feelings . . . as sometimes does the man who created him. We both grew up in the Midwest where feelings are an embarrassment and so we generally pretend that we don’t have them. That often leads to trouble. At least it does for Joe because despite his tough exterior he’s an only semi-dormant volcano of emotions, and every now and then he vents and lava hits one of his friends or lovers in the eye. And, as anyone who ever has been hit in the eye with molten lava will tell you, it stings (which is a Midwestern way of saying that it fucking hurts).

So, in the interest of Joe’s interpersonal relations, I’m sending him to a psychologist today.

Joe arrives on time, fills out the paperwork, and the psychologist invites him into his office. All’s well until the psychologist asks Joe to lie down on the couch and Joe says, “Thanks, I’d rather stand.”

“Okay,” the psychologist says, and he asks Joe to tell him about his fears and his loves.

Joe says, “Death and pierogi.”

The psychologist asks, “Can you explain that in more detail?”

“Nope,” says Joe.

They go back and forth like this for a half hour until the psychologist says, “I have the feeling that you’re not very comfortable opening up, are you?”

“Nope,” says Joe.

“Let’s try an experiment,” the psychologist says. “I’ll leave you here alone with a pen and a piece of paper. I want you to write a poem about your fears and loves.”

Joe raises his eyebrows and says, “A poem?”

“Yes,” says the psychologist. “A sonnet, an ode, an epic, whatever you want.”

“I’ve never written a poem,” says Joe.

The psychologist smiles, says, “Here’s your chance,” and leaves Joe alone with his thoughts and the pen and paper.

Fifteen minutes later, the psychologist returns and finds Joe standing exactly where he left him, the pen and paper still in his hands. “Did you come up with anything?” he asks.

Joe hands him the paper, and the psychologist reads:

“My Fears and Loves”

I’m very scared of cottage cheese

And clerks who try too hard to please –

Dick Cheney, George Bush, Barbara Streisand,

Manatees, small dogs, rats, and mice and

I’m scared of my kidneys, too, but why

I can’t explain. I could defy

Anxiety with Lexapro

Or Xanax or Celexa, though

A glass of whiskey does the trick

– But too much whiskey makes me sick –

And so, to treat my phobias,

I think of women in lacy bras,

’Cause I love women in lacy bras –

And leather boots! They give me pause,

They calm my mind, they make me glad,

And I forget the fears I’ve had.

The psychologists considers Joe’s poem. He stares at Joe awhile. He reads the poem again. Then he sighs and says, “This has gotten me thinking, Joe. Maybe there’s some value to uncommunicative repression.”


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

I've fallen behind in reading some of my favorite blogs and decided to fix that this morning. I am so glad I did! Michael, this piece is just priceless.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Kaye -- It's always great to see you, virtually and in reality.

Gabi said...

As a fellow Midwesterner, I understand the no outward emoting gene (it is not limited by gender) as well as the passion for pierogi.

I'm sending "Joe" a Victoria's Secret catalog. It's cheaper than any of the drugs and it sounds like it really works to keep that volcano from erupting.

Michael Wiley said...

The Midwestern personality is a cliche, but there's something to it. As for the Victoria's Secret catalog, Joe considers it fine reading. His tastes are much more expansive than his poem suggests, but he knew that the psychologist was coming back and had to finish.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Very funny, Michael. I was going to put an exclamation point there, but didn't want to scare Joe with my effusiveness.

Glad he brought the psychiatrist around to his point of view. Saves time for everyone.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Rebecca. I figure that even psychiatrists occasionally have to throw up their hands and say, "This one's a lost cause."

(Joe appreciates your refraining from the exclamation point.)

Kelli Stanley said...

I love the ode to repression, Michael! :)

And I completely understand the pierogi thing. I'm half-Polish. ;)