A Secret Grave 43: Emil’s Secret

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“I don’t know whether to laugh about this or to cry,” Alicia said, after I’d crossed pinkies with her. “He told me Emil has an addiction to gambling.”

“You’re kidding!”

“No. He told me it’s quite serious.”

Holding the dog in her lap, she began to talk at length about Emil, providing me with a whole history. Here’s the gist of what she said ….

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thumbnail_Emil S dealing

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When she met Emil almost twelve years ago he was on the eve of great success. He’d just written a book, “The Dark Side of Adolescence,” that became a big hit with parents of teens because it had so much practical wisdom. All of a sudden he was in demand on the talk show circuit. Oprah interviewed him. So did Dr. Phil. Because he was comfortable in front of the cameras and very funny, he was included on panels about all sorts of things – drug addiction, bullying, gender confusion, body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety, mood disorders to name a few. He started to become something of a celebrity. He had a recognizable look: white dress shirt, no tie, khakis, white sneakers. Simple and accessible. People began to approach him in restaurants or even on the street, asking for autographs. He loved every minute of it.

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But then came the second book, the sequel. He’d written a handbook for the twelve to seventeen-year-old crowd entitled, “Managing the Adults in your Life,” that had done well, so no one thought his next book, “Even Darker,” would be a problem. And it wouldn’t have been if he hadn’t unexpectedly developed a block. He couldn’t write. He’d sit down at his desk every day and nothing would come out. By then he was married with a young daughter. He had college tuition payments for the sons of his previous marriage, mortgage payments, car payments, an expensive wife whom he wanted to impress, lots of bills, lots of tsuris as he himself put it, using the Yiddish word for “trouble” or “woe” after a tree fell on the Shusterman house and they needed a whole new roof. He’d received a six figure advance for “Even Darker” and he began to spend it. Things seemed to continue as normal, with Emil going to the office every day, seeing clients, paying bills, flying to New York, L.A., Chicago to appear on talk shows (which paid nothing, only flights and accommodation). He put on a good front and so, until her session with Gharith, Alicia had no idea of what was really going on. “Apparently he won big a few times at roulette, but now ….” She shook her head unhappily. “It doesn’t look good. In fact, it really kind of sucks and I’m not sure how to talk to him about it.”

How do you talk to a therapist about his problems? I wondered. That was something Victor could do, but Victor was long gone. I studied Alicia who sat on my studio couch with her red curtain of hair covering the despair in her eyes. I didn’t know what to tell her… at least not just then.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ Writer’s block, shira gal, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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