Back | Next

Therapy Transcript (1)

(Laughter deleted)

Before the mob burned my house, I had a TV that I loved.

I loved it even though it had only a nineteen-inch screen. I had a twenty-seven-inch before Karen divorced me. She and Lindy still have it. At least, I think they do.

But when it's just you, and you're on a junior-college salary, and you have to budget for child support and Chuck E. Cheese . . . you buy a smaller TV to go with your smaller house. I was only renting the house, though. Karen and Lindy stayed in the bigger house, the one we bought. They're still there. At least, I hope they are.

My new TV sat on a cart so I could roll it back and forth between my bedroom and living room. It was a short trip. But although the house was tiny, it had two bedrooms. That was important because I wanted Lindy to have her own room when she stayed with me. And I wanted it to be in a house, not an apartment. So it would feel like home.

She only stayed two weekends. She had bad dreams because of the traffic noise. And the house smelled different, and the bathroom wasn't where it ought to be—and even though her daddy was right across the hall, she still wanted her mommy.

So I decided to let her spend every night with Karen in our old house, even if it was my weekend. I couldn't stand knowing she was having nightmares. Besides, I still had the daylight hours with her. When it was my weekend.

Anyway, the TV. You want to know about the TV. I shouldn't have used the word "love." I just liked it, okay?

What I liked most was the timer.

See, one of the things I dreaded after the divorce was waking up alone. I dreaded hearing the alarm clock beep, and then sitting up to find that there was no warm wife next to me, and no little girl clambering up to snuggle between us. I didn't want to wake up in a place like that.

But the TV timer helped. With it, the first things I heard every morning were friendly voices, and the first thing I saw was a cheerful glow. And when I sat up, there were familiar faces atop the cart, telling me what was new out in that bright TV world of theirs. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric, or Diane Sawyer, or Bryant Gumbel. Remember when Letterman painted Bryant's ankles orange? That was great.

On weekends, I woke up to cartoons. But that wasn't always comforting, because today's cartoons aren't like the ones I watched when I was a kid. Back then we had Daffy Duck and Yogi Bear, but Lindy's generation has Pokemon and the Powerpuff girls. They just aren't the same. Not that I'm criticizing. To everything, turn, turn, turn.

Sometimes, though, it doesn't matter what's on the screen. Sometimes, all that matters is that something's there. Because whatever it is, it's better than the world outside the glass. It's brighter. Happier. Safer.


This knowledge came back to me after the divorce. I had forgotten it for a while, but once I was alone it became clear again: TV would keep me safe.

That was the first thing I ever learned. In fact, my earliest memory is of the happy light from the TV in my parents' house.

My second-earliest memory is of toddling away from that light into the backyard twilight, all alone in nothing but training pants, and being attacked by the neighbors' bull terrier. It tore open my fat little thigh while I screamed.

I don't remember my mother or father coming to rescue me. So it might have been the neighbor. It might have been a cop. I couldn't say.

What I do remember, though, is being in the hospital, sitting up in bed, and watching a TV that sat on a platform near the ceiling. The Three Stooges were on, and I was laughing. I was just old enough to understand that if something with lots of running, yelling, and falling down was on TV, you were supposed to laugh.

Besides, I was happy to be safe again. When I'd stopped watching TV, a monster had gotten me . . . but now I was watching again, and everything was fine.

So as long as I was watching TV, I couldn't be hurt.

I knew that last Saturday, too. I knew it when Karen called and told me I couldn't take Lindy to the River Festival. Grandma had come to town, and Grandma hardly ever got to see her granddaughter. So I could give up this one weekend, couldn't I? I understood, didn't I? I could go to the Festival by myself and listen to the blues band, couldn't I? I would enjoy that more than taking Lindy to the kiddie rides anyway, wouldn't I?

Karen has always had the power to talk me into anything. So I should have stopped listening once I agreed to give up my weekend. I should have stayed home and watched my wonderful TV.

But Karen said I should go out, and I believed her.

So I left my tiny house and went to the Festival alone. I went to the meadow in South Riverside Park where the blues band was playing. They were good. Good enough to be on TV.

And when people started running, yelling, and falling down, I realized that I had imagined leaving the house. I had imagined getting on the bus and riding to the park. I had imagined walking past the concession booths and kiddie rides toward the music.

Because I was fine. Nothing bad was happening to me. So what I saw in the bright light before me couldn't be taking place in a real park in Wichita, Kansas. It couldn't be taking place where I was standing.

It could only be on TV.

And if it was on TV, there was only one thing to do.

Whether it was funny or not.



Back | Next