Hacker and Harmony were a few minutes early for today’s meeting with Zarin, so were waiting on the leather two-seater just outside the doctor's office. This was Harmony’s first visit; she and Hacker had agreed to Zarin’s recommendation that she join her boyfriend for a no-holds-barred session. Hacker was not looking forward to the experience—"another Titanic in the making" he called it—and was even more morose than usual.
"This feels like season three of The Sopranos," Hacker lamented.
"Right," Harmony shot back. "We're doing this together, because you've been agonizing over whacking everyone who owed you a license renewal fee your idiot nephew ultimately collected at gunpoint, and I'm the enabler, coz I spent two weeks shopping and drinking champagne in Paris on blood money. You need your head examined, Mr. capo di tutti. Oh, yeah, I forgot…"
Luckily, Zarin's door opened before Hacker could return serve. "C'mon in," Zarin twirped. He was standing in the doorway with one arm swinging back and forth like a crossing guard. "Let's get this party started, why don't we?" Harmony gave Zarin a disapproving look as the couple entered the office.
"Well, first let me offer you a hearty welcome, Harmony," Zarin began. "It's so nice to finally meet the poor soul who keeps this guy from jumping off a bridge—and I don't mean a proverbial one." Zarin laughed at his own lame attempts at shrink humor while pointing at his patient, slumped down on the couch and wanting to disappear.
Harmony was not amused. "Dr. Zarin, with all due respect, I agreed to cancel my afternoon book to come here, and I would hope you'd be—how should I put this?—an actual professional. At the outset let me just say that I honestly don't think that pumping my boy full of pills just so he's more apt to play along with your psycho nonsense has been much help to either of us. And by the way, my sister's beau, Panko, didn't exactly come out on the other end of your journey together smelling like roses." Then to Hacker, "Sit up straight, honey. You're here to figure a way out of the mess you're in. Remember, my oozing feet are killing me, and I'm hungrier than a grizzly in March."
Hacker hoisted himself up, and anxiously paced the room with his head down. He pulled out his iPhone to download the latest batch of emails. As they poured in he noticed that they were all flagged URGENT by the senders. It felt like the world was closing in on him again, and it was only Tuesday. He broke out in a cold sweat, and stared out the window, thinking, "I wonder if this floor is high enough."
Harmony's hostility was not something Zarin was prepared for, given that Hacker had never even mentioned it before. It was definitely something worth exploring, but Zarin knew that confronting it directly would be reckless, so instead he'd have to rely on characteristic finesse. "Hacker, my friend, why don't you rejoin us and tell me what's troubling you today? How do you feel about what your lovely girlfriend, Harmony, just said?"
"Ok, doc, let's see. First, on the one hand I feel like my numbness is going to waste, because I can still hear the blood rushing through my brain. On the other, however, I've noticed that my fantasy life has really skyrocketed nicely. I've graduated from the mundane dullness of midday threesomes with anonymous party girls in the mall parking lot to the thrill of high-jumping in the Special Olympics. The drugs you prescribed are nothing less than medical marvels. Can't thank you enough."
Zarin stared at the wall clock, silently cajoling the minute hand forward towards that magical 10. Then gesturing with his arms to bring the couple together on the couch, he tried to diffuse the ticking time-bomb situation confronting him. "Now while I am a bit disappointed with Hacker's response to the meds—keep in mind, after all, that this is a trial-and-error process, so we'll keep plugging away until we're able to bottle the perfect brew for Hacker—on the basis of his confession alone I must say that I do believe it's working…good." No way could Zarin admit that he'd just borrowed a lyric from Pink Floyd's classic, Comfortably Numb. "How apropos," he thought.
"That's it?! That's all you have to offer a man in a near-constant state of panic?" Harmony was already making mental notes for her next Disharmony column.
Zarin glanced at the clock again, and noticed that it was mercifully 50 minutes past the hour. "Sorry, time's up for today, folks, but before you go I wanted to ask Harmony about my hairstyle. In your professional opinion do the chicks still dig the tight buzz cut I'm sportin?"