John Lewis and Helen Whittaker

“Be Like Jesus”
Song by John Lewis

Be Like Jesus

By Helen Whittaker
Inspiration piece

Hey, buddy, is this seat taken? Mind if I sit down? Thanks. Is that the time? Can’t believe I made it with ten minutes to spare. Can’t believe I made it, period.

First, I’m just coming out my building when this guy asks me the way to the Rockefeller Center. I point out the route on his map. I tell him it’s a long haul, and maybe I should write the directions down. He says he thinks he can remember and then he’s gone. Vamoose!

When I get to the subway and reach into my pocket for my wallet, it’s missing. I run back up the subway steps and make for the corner where I last saw him. When I get there the thieving sonofabitch has disappeared.

Once I’ve got my breath back I start walking, but I’ve only gone about ten yards when a yellow cab pulls up alongside me. The window winds down and this gorgeous woman leans out. She says she’s just come off duty and do I need a ride? I ask her if she’s going anywhere near this place, and she says it’s only a few blocks from her apartment.

Once I’m in the taxi she says she’s just gotta stop off at a friend’s place to feed his iguana while he’s on vacation. I say that’s fine and tell her how grateful I am for the ride. She says, “How grateful?” and looks at me kinda weird. When we stop at her friend’s apartment she asks me to come up with her  ‘in case of burglars’. As soon as she shuts the door, we start making out.

Well, one thing leads to another, and I wake up an hour later: alone, naked, gagged, and handcuffed to the bed. There’s a note on the nightstand. She’s mad because I’ve got nothing worth stealing, and she’s tied me up to teach me a lesson. I’m just trying to figure out how the hell I’m gonna get outta there, when the window eases open, and this burglar creeps in. Now I might be doing this guy an injustice. I don’t know he’s a burglar, I just sort of make the assumption because he’s broken into the apartment with a crowbar. Anyway, when he sees me lying on the bed he freezes.

I do my best to ask for help by grunting and jerking my head in the direction of the handcuffs, and to give the guy credit, he cottons on real quick.

“This your apartment?” he asks, nervously. I shake my head.

He produces a massive set of skeleton keys and unlocks the cuffs.

We reach an agreement. I promise not to inform the police as long as I get first choice of the clothes hanging in the closet. As luck would have it, the guy who owns the apartment is the same size as me. Even takes the same size shoes.

So, who have you come to see? I know, I shouldn’t ask; some people don’t like talking about their therapy. But Dr. Mandelbaum says it’s healthier to talk about things that are bugging you rather than bottling them up inside. I suppose that’s all therapy is when you come right down to it. Just talking. But it’s smart talking. To begin with I had private sessions with Dr. Mandelbaum, but after a couple months I was doing so good he said I should switch to group therapy. Are you here for Group too?

I missed that. What did the receptionist just call out? Dr. Fischbein, Room 4? That’s obsessive compulsives. Yeah, OCD is hell. And I should know. I had a few compulsive behaviours, but my main fixation was with wiping my butt. Every time I went to the bathroom I had to wipe it ninety-eight times; each time with a fresh piece of toilet paper. If I ever lost count of how many times I’d done it, I had to start all over again. A simple trip to the bathroom would take me over two hours. It got to the point where I had only been out of the bathroom a few minutes and I would need to go again. I’ll tell you, buddy, your life kinda falls apart when you spend sixteen hours a day on the john.

Oh darn it, I keep missing it when she calls out. Guess I’m talking too much! What was the room number? Room 2? That’s Dr. Harris. He runs the drug misuse support group. He must be nearly up for retirement now. Nice old guy. Helped me with my drug problem years back. It all started when I was four years old. Everyone was always telling my parents what a good-looking kid I was and eventually they thought, what the heck, and signed me up at a modelling agency. I did lots of work, mainly for clothing catalogues. Well, the modelling led to a few minor TV roles and by the time I was nine I was on the books of a movie agent too. That’s when I landed the audition for E.T. I read for the part of Elliot, but I didn’t get it. I guess you’d already figured that. The rejection hit me hard and I guess that’s what got me into drugs. You start off innocently enough, drinking half a can of root beer after softball practice, and before you know it you’re up to your eyes in debt and snorting coke out of a lap dancer’s belly button.

You know, between you and me, I don’t actually need to be here today. Dr. Mandelbaum told me last week I don’t have to come to group any more. I’m cured. But I feel like I gotta come or I’ll be letting the others down. They need me. I’m sort of like Doctor Mandelbaum’s unpaid assistant. I’m as good as he is at listening to people, and I’ve spent so much of my life talking to shrinks, some of the lingo’s rubbed off on me. I’ve even led Group once or twice, when Dr. Mandelbaum couldn’t make it.

Did she call Dr Mendes’ name just then? Oh, she’s great. That’ll be her phobics’ support group in Room 3. You know, I’ve never had a phobia. Did know this guy once, though, Joel Persky. Developed a fear of the air. I know what you’re thinking: in this city maybe that’s not such a crazy thing. But Joel lived on a farm in New Jersey where the air was as clean as a new dime. His phobia came on real sudden. One night he went to bed as right as rain and the next morning he woke up to find he was terrified of breathing. Couldn’t stand it. The feel of the air as it moved through his nostrils and against the back of his throat made him gag, and the taste of it made him wanna throw up. He tried to stop breathing, but that didn’t work, and he started to panic, and as he got more and more freaked out, he started hyperventilating. His wife found him with his head in the fish tank, trying to breathe water through his ears. But it’s amazing what a trained psychiatrist can do with enough dedication, patience and one-hour sessions at three hundred dollars a pop. Thanks to Dr. Mendes, Joel’s got his old life back. Almost. Apart from the fact that he lives underwater in his back yard swimming pool. He can breathe without freaking out now, but only if he’s sucking pure oxygen through a mask.

I heard it that time: Dr. Mandelbaum, Room 1, compulsive liars. That’s me. Better not keep them waiting. I’ll see you around, buddy.

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