When last we saw Woody Allen, such as we imagine him, he was lying on his analyst’s couch free associating about the major events that populated his world, events that were described one way or another in the media the way the media liked to portray him, as a brilliant, funny, overwhelmed, pedophile, who lacked the ability to change the way people thought about him or how he was presented by the very media that looks for dirt everywhere. And before we got too judgmental about the poor man, I pointed out that, in many respects, we could be on the couch next to him, telling our own tales of the directions we are pulled in, what we want to do and can’t, what we had done and wished we hadn’t, with our thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of our nose in a vain attempt to relieve the stress of our lives that may be as difficult but not as public or colorful as Mr. Allen’s.
The therapist who would be sitting out of his view beyond his reclined head with pad and pen scrupulously taking notes says nothing, but maybe grunts every once in a while to remind Mr. Allen of his presence in the room or to express his dyspeptic discomfort. In this tableau, it may seem hopeless to find meaning for an outsider peeking into a famous human’s worries and conflicts, that is, until an unpleasant rumbling penetrates the darkness, pervading the room.
Mr. Allen jumps. The analyst is startled into wakefulness. “What is that?” Mr. Allen asks in a quivering voice when he at last finds the courage to speak.
Boom! “And Boom! Boom! Boom, Woody! You don’t think you would be lying here holding your head, going on about nothing if not for me. I am your lizard, the very thing that brought you here. It’s not about your success or celebrity, not about how you were abused by your parents or the media, not even about your guilt. It’s about everything that pounds in your brain in the night, the ghost under the bed and in the closet, the loves and lusts you would rather suppress, the horrors that follow a hair’s length behind you throwing your brain into overdrive when you feel you are being watched. You are watched, Woody. I am watching you. It’s not the media. It’s not those with whom you acted selfishly. It’s me, your own personal dragon curled inside your head just below everything you think and worry about in a day. I am the worry, the love, the lust, the laughter, the urges that drive you out of the safety and security of your bed and out into the world. And I won’t let you return to your bed…not until you have satisfied me!”
“So, you’re like the ghost of Christmas past,” Woody asks in a quivering voice.
“Fuck Christmas, Woody. We’re going back long before that. I am taking you back to the caves where you can lie with me under a rock. That’s where we reptiles dwell. In terms of evolution, you have scarcely left it. We can lie there together just like we always do. I am your lizard brain, your own personal dragon. And, if you stop squirming, I am authorized to grant you three wishes.”
“Who authorized it?”
“God, Woody. You remember God, don’t you? Let me explain the conflict, the original, unresolved conflict. God made reptiles, too. In fact, God made us first and you came here through us and we must be fed.” Then, the dragon began licking the horrified man’s feet, taking each of his toes caressingly into his mouth leaving the impression of a fang on every one.
Mr. Allen rolls onto his side to avert his eyes. He closes them tight awaiting the loss of his toes. When that doesn’t happen and when he realizes that his leg that had been surrounded by the inside of the dragon’s mouth and throat was still attached to him, he asked, “When do I get my three wishes?”
“Whenever you like,” the voice growled, rumbling up the length of Mr. Allen’s spine to his head.
“Well, then, I wish you’d stop eating me.”
“Wrong!” The sound of the dragon’s breathing, seldom heard by normal people, was audible in the room causing the analyst to faint. Blood was starting to flow from the star’s leg. “Luke, I am your father. Ha, ha, ha! What wishes would you ask of me?”
“Fearlessness.” Mr. Allen could barely say the word he was shaking so much.
“Wrong again,” the voice rumbled irritably. “I’ll tell you what to wish for. I never realized people were so stupid. Wish for fearfulness. That will keep you alive. Then, wish for clear-headedness. That will allow you good judgment amidst your fear.”
Reassured that he wasn’t just having his leg eaten, but that there was a moral lesson being offered that had good sense and judgment, Mr. Allen was encouraged to ask, “What’s the last one?”
“Did I say three wishes? I meant two.” There was a long moment of tense silence with only the sound of blood dripping slowly from the couch onto the floor. “Just joking. There is a third. Can you guess it?”
“N-n-n-n-no,” Mr. Allen weakly replied.
The dragon let the leg go to speak with all the passion that was in him. “You dumb Fuck. It’s a wonder you were left to evolve at all. Millennia of evolution and you have learned nothing. What a waste of life!”
There was complete silence now as the blood in his leg had clotted.
“I’ll give you a hint. It’s the last thing you would think that I, a lizard, would be capable of.”
“Warm-bloodedness? Chewing? Gestation? Higher math? Star travel? Poetry? What?”
“Empathy, you idiot! Putting yourself in the place of another so that you can feel that person’s joy and pain. It allows you to communicate with others in a way that you call visceral, but I call ethereal. It’s what tells you something is wrong when there is no obvious reason to know it. It orients you to the world around you beyond your puny thoughts, beyond your eyeballs, but with all your senses and instincts. It makes you respectful of the world around you. That will keep you from choosing a cave to dwell in where a bear is hibernating and it will make you want to join with others of your kind overcoming your misanthropy. What you think you have that is distinctly human is born of reptiles. It integrates experience, if you can master it.”
“But, why are you telling me this?” Mr. Allen asked.
“Because you’re funny. And you’re on the couch. I was in your brain listening to your drivel and it excited me to come out, to join with you in your suffering, but in my own way. It’s a terrible thing to hear a comedian in pain. I couldn’t take it anymore. So, it was time for me to have my little joke.”
With that the dragon shrunk down to his natural size and crawled in Mr. Allen’s nose into his skull, along his olfactory nerve, where he curled up below the cerebral cortex, above the brain stem, nestled between the temporal lobes. There he came to rest until the next time he was either bored to death by Mr. Allen’s daily angst or called to action by the sympathetic nervous system. “Until next time”, he said, “when a superhero is needed and is called to action by a world of horrors. Until then, adieu! Hi-ho, Silver…”
That wasn’t a headache, Woody realized. It’s my dragon snoring. Adieu, my friend. Sleep well…and often. You scare me too much.