Parallel Lines 2007

Joseph Sylvestre woke up one morning to the satisfying sound of a car slowly driving away outside his third-floor apartment window. It was 11:30 AM. He cleverly chose a robe from the eight or so forming his bedroom floor, threw it on, and immediately checked his e-mail. Lo! He quickly found what he sought, and as a mysterious force began to play upon his heartstrings he read.

Dear Joe,

Thanks for suggesting the film “The Parlor”. I enjoyed watching it very much, and the ending in particular was a surprising twist. It reminded me of an O. Henry short story. I know you don’t like to read very much, but perhaps you could try “The Plutonian Fire”.one of my favorites. I’ve found that our communications.these e-mails in particular.have become an increasingly important part of my life. I am still uncomfortable meeting you in person.many of my other friends are unaware of my situation.but perhaps we can arrange something for next Saturday?

Your friend, Leonard

The last sentence was the instantiation of Joseph’s most heartfelt desires. He immediately sent a reply to Leonard, noticed that he was characteristically tired, and decided to go back to sleep.

* * *

Leonard Champagne returned home at the typically late hour of 9 PM. He was proud of his work but preferred to do it at unusual hours. Because of this skillful maneuvering, his bosses had continued to pay him no special notice. Leonard preferred it that way. What would he say if they invited him to a social dinner and asked him about his family? He didn’t even have any friends to speak of, though he would never admit this.

He turned his key softly in the lock to his apartment, and stepped in. As he expected, it was dark. Though he lived with a roommate, he couldn’t recall the last time he had seen the poor fellow. Leonard knew he rarely went out, and suspected that he was alone in his room, most likely toying with his computer. While Leonard appreciated their worth as tools he would never admit to an unhealthy affection. He strolled across the stained burgundy carpet, turning on lights until the place felt homely.

He was about to sit down with a glass of beer as he suddenly had a thought. Joseph! Though he was hesitant to admit it, the man was his only friend. Leonard went to check his e-mail, and couldn’t resist a smile when he saw that one had arrived. It read

Hi Leonard,

I’m so happy you’ve agreed to meet with me. I know the perfect place. Do you know that sweet café overlooking the lake with the swans? I think it’s called “Birds of a Feather”. Let’s meet there Saturday at 7 PM. If that sounds good, I’ll see you then.

Excitedly yours, Joseph

Leonard was stuck. He’d have to go.he owed Joseph that much, at least. And he had no one else to turn to. He only hoped no one would recognize him, but what were the chances someone from work would show up to a place like “Birds of a Feather”?

* * *

Saturday, at 6:45, Joseph Sylvestre strolled across the park. He was often late but there was no way he would be late for this.not when the stakes were so high. In fact he had rushed out so quickly that he accidentally grabbed his roommate’s worn-out beige trench coat. It was no matter. Leonard didn’t appear to be so superficial as to be threatened by rough clothing.

He arrived at the café exactly on time, and asked the friendly girl at the counter for a table. He hung his coat on a nearby rack, and sat down to wait for Leonard. Meanwhile he took one of the magazines available to patrons and skimmed it.the cover article was about the difficulty of living with a mental disorder. Joseph wasn’t interested.he felt he had enough problems without also worrying about his mental health more than he already did.

A few minutes later, a waitress came by to take Joseph’s order. He asked for a coffee with light cream and no sugar, and waited.

The girl returned with the coffee, and Joseph still waited.

And waited.

* * *

Dr. Jay Gravner was a therapist with three plaques on his wall, four children to his name, and five divorces to his credit. One of those was the reason that Joseph had been seeing him for a dozen years. Dr. Gravner knew that Joseph had a recent infatuation with a man he met on the internet. Yet he didn’t realize just how swiftly that had turned into heartbreak. Joseph began their weekly session in tears.

“Jay, he … he … didn’t show up! I waited for over two hours and he never showed up. Why would he do this to me?” Joseph said.

“Wait a minute: you asked him to meet you? And he agreed?”

“Yes, yes! Oh sweet oatmeal raisin cookie yes! I asked him to meet me at a romantic spot near a lake, but he never came.”

“Didn’t you say that he was afraid of his coworkers finding out? Perhaps he met one along the way. In any case I think he has bigger problems than just this. I would suggest to him that he see a competent therapist, such as me.”

“Oh, Jay, that’s a great idea. I’m sure that you can sort things out for him. He’s probably just confused… oh I shouldn’t have been so forward. But yes, I’ll definitely tell him.”

“That’s very good, Joseph. Now, let’s return to your mother…”

* * *

When Leonard read Joseph’s long e-mail, he decided that he definitely needed to see a therapist. For one thing, he completely forgot about their meeting, even though he had been thinking about it throughout Saturday. It was very unusual for Leonard to forget so suddenly; he suspected it was because of stress from work. His annoying colleague James had been irritating him.questioning his odd hours and comings and goings.

He shook the thought from his mind. Dr. Gravner’s office was just a brisk fifteen minute walk from his apartment, and from what Joseph had said about him he was an excellent therapist. Leonard arrived exactly on time, and checked in with the receptionist. While he waited, he hung his worn-out beige trench coat on the rack and browsed a magazine article about psychiatric disorders. It seemed uninteresting to Leonard. He wondered what would cause someone to pursue such a career.

Finally, the receptionist asked him to come to Dr. Gravner’s room. Leonard took the elevator up to the 13th floor, and walked across the hall to room 164. He knocked on the door, and a friendly voice asked him to come in. The door swung open with a squeak and he saw a short man with a strange expression on his face.

“Hello. You must be Dr. Gravner. My name is Leonard; my friend Joseph referred me to you. I’ve never tried therapy before, but I think I might give it a shot for a few weeks. May I come in?”

The doctor’s expression quickly turned to horror.

“Joseph, I think you’re going to have to see me for a lot longer than a few weeks,” he said.