Transcript of 9th Session between Dr. Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Phylis Birch, Monday, November 11th, 1996 at 12:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello Phylis. I'm glad you were able to make it this week.
Ms. Birch: I'm sorry Doctor. Sometimes time just gets away from me. And now...I'll try not to let it happen again.
Dr. Balis: So how have you been doing? How is Jack?
Ms. Birch: Skeletal evidence mounts to prove syphilis was taken by sailors from the New World to the Old World not vice versa.
Dr. Balis: Excuse me?
Ms. Birch: It was in The Grab Bag last week. The S.F. Chronicle?
Dr. Balis: Oh right on Sundays. I don't always get through the whole paper.
Ms. Birch: I was just thinking about that bit of trivia. It's interesting, isn't it? We always blamed the Europeans for everything and now it seems that at least some of the ill came out of the people of this continent. Unless it's revisionist history. We see a lot of that nowadays.
Dr. Balis: So why did that particular piece of trivia stick with you?
Ms. Birch: I don't know. It caught my eye. And I've been thinking about those kinds of diseases lately. Doing some research.
Dr. Balis: For yourself?
Ms. Birch: For myself. I've been thinking about exactly what happened that awful night with Joe. I still don't have a perfect picture from beginning to end, but what I do remember certainly is enough to give cause for concern. I've had some tests done, just for peace of mind you know? He was a pretty sleazy character. I thought I saw him again at work today.
Dr. Balis: Really? Was it really him?
Ms. Birch: No. In fact, I'm sure it wasn't. There must be guy who looks like him at the company. No, no. I would have chased him down and done some major damage had I believed that it was really him. I'm hallucinating. Or paranoid. Or both. The very idea of seeing Joe, or anyone else from that part of my life, at SII is highly disturbing.
Dr. Balis: What about these tests? Have you received results or had any disturbing symptoms?
Ms. Birch: Symptoms! I wish it was as straight forward as that. Many of these kinds of diseases do not have any symptoms, only permanently damaging results. Something like herpes, for which there is no cure, is impossible to detect outside of an outbreak. Of course you can only get it during an outbreak, but who was looking? The moment I was able to think straight, I jumped off the bed and fled. I even forgot to put on my underwear. The creep is probably still masturbating with it! And even if I had looked, which I wouldn't have, I would have simply used a condom. Herpes is hard to tell even with an outbreak. A girlfriend of mine has it, from when she was a stupid teenager in heat, so I asked her to let me see. She said that most of her outbreaks are very small so I had a hard time recognizing it.
Dr. Balis: Oh.
Ms. Birch: Did you know that there is an epidemic? Or at least herpes is on the rise again. Apparently something like one out of six people have it. Or was that one out of every six men? At any rate, the chances are high that Joe had herpes or was at least a carrier. I read up on some other goodies too. Have you ever seen cauliflower-shaped vaginal warts?
Dr. Balis: No I never studied gynecology.
Ms. Birch: What about long, thin warts, almost like hair?
Dr. Balis: No.
Ms. Birch: Well anyway, you can imagine how thrilled I am at the prospect of getting something like that. And what exactly should I tell Jack? 'Gee, Honey, I've had them for years, you just haven't noticed.' Or perhaps: 'Warts, what warts?' followed by a swift change in subject matter. Maybe it would be possible to tie a thread around it, so that no blood could pass through. My grandmother used to say that is how people used to get rid of them. They'd just dry up and eventually fall off. I bet she would die to hear me talk about this in regards to vaginal warts. It would be hard to do to all of them. There are supposed to be a bunch, if one gets the stuff. Besides, it wouldn't work too well on the cauliflower ones. They are impossible to see on men, you know. It's entirely possible that Jack has them and I'm just not susceptible to them. Apparently the way to test for them is by putting a special wash over the area that is suspected of being infected, and then looking under infrared light, or maybe it was ultraviolet? Some special kind of light. I guess the wash emphasizes the temperature difference between healthy and diseased tissue.
Dr. Balis: You're getting lost in speculation here. What have you actually found out?
Ms. Birch: Nothing. I went to the Berkeley Women's Health Center since I couldn't see my regular doctor, Jack would see the bill you know. It's a wonderful place--clean and pleasant. If someone can't afford to pay, it's free. And they just take your word for it. No official checking. I hated having to pretend that I was broke. It was taking advantage of the policy and that health center deserves better but what could I do? Maybe I can make a donation later. The point is, they said that they can't test for herpes. They can only tell you what it is if you have an outbreak. So I talked to the nurse who gave me some advice and she told me to take an AIDS test in six months. In the meantime, I should just relax. I hate that.
Dr. Balis: The six months?
Ms. Birch: Yeah, having to wait. I'm scheduled for an AIDS test next week.
Dr. Balis: But you understand that what happened to you recently will have no impact on the results?
Ms. Birch: Yes I know that. I'm not totally clueless. I just want to know. Maybe I'm already HIV positive and don't know it. I haven't always been as practical about my approach to sex as I am now. I've had a pretty wild past if I do say so myself.
Dr. Balis: And then you'd test again after the six months?
Ms. Birch: Hmm. There's another thing that I need to test for.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Birch: Chlamydia. People don't talk much about it, though I don't see why not. Have you heard of it Dr. Balis?
Dr. Balis: Yes I know something about it. It can leave a woman sterile, I believe.
Ms. Birch: Exactly! It scars the uterus to the point of infertility. And not just in women. I read somewhere that 40% of the female koala bears in Australia are suffering from chlamydia. Forty percent! Do you realize the catastrophic effect that this is going to have on their population?
Dr. Balis: Sounds like it would be significant.
Ms. Birch: Damn right. As for treatment...I can't imagine that there are good gynecological clinics for koalas. Well at least it's treatable if detected early. That's why I'm going tomorrow.
Dr. Balis: It sounds like you've been spending quite a bit of time on this. How have you managed to fit it into your schedule?
Ms. Birch: It's been fun. Jack is feeling better and he's doing some work at home. And when he's busy we have less time to nit pick about each other's schedules.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad to hear that Jack is doing better. Is he still on bed rest?
Ms. Birch: Officially, yes. But he's stubborn. When his ribs were really sore, he listened to his doctors. He didn't really have a choice. But now that he's little better, he's not the perfect patient that he used to be.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Birch: I brought something for you.
Dr. Balis: Really? What?
Ms. Birch: Three photographs I took recently. As you've pointed out, the demand on my time has been great lately, so I haven't had the chance to be in the darkroom. I hope that I can get you a couple more next week.
Dr. Balis: Well may I see the ones you did bring?
Ms. Birch: Sure. That's why I brought it up.
Dr. Balis: Thanks.
Ms. Birch: What do you think?
Dr. Balis: They're very interesting. Could you tell me something about them?
Ms. Birch: I'm not used to explaining my stuff. Normally one just puts it out there and the audience, whoever that may be, makes up its own mind. Sometimes people even find meaning where there was none. That's always entertaining. Some people are so pretentious. They think they know everything. Of course it's also possible that a stranger gives you insight into yourself. I've had that happen to me. But never in an art gallery. A couple of times in a bar, once in a strip joint, but never at a gallery opening.
Dr. Balis: Who is the woman in the rain?
Ms. Birch: It's not rain. It's motion blur, an effect of how I took the picture. And it's not a real person, but a statue. Though none of that is really the point. I wanted to portray a blurring of lines, an uncertain state. Maybe a melancholy feeling as well. To me she's floating in space. I guess similarly to the way in which I'm currently floating in space. You look a bit confused.
Dr. Balis: No not confused. I'm just waiting for you to give me a real story.
Ms. Birch: You think that I'm just spewing artist's dribble?
Dr. Balis: I don't know, are you?
Ms. Birch: Thanks a lot Dr. Balis. As I've said, I'm not used to talking about my work. I'm trying.
Dr. Balis: I appreciate that.
Ms. Birch: Should I go on?
Dr. Balis: Please.
Ms. Birch: Okay then. Let's see. The one with the flag, it's the election day special. My politics have been as confused as I've been lately. I voted though. Did you?
Dr. Balis: Yes. I always do.
Ms. Birch: Good for you! I won't ask who you voted for, that's your business. But I'm glad to hear that you did vote. All around the office I heard "I'm too busy," or "I don't care about politics," or "Clinton is going to win away, so what's the point?" It drove me crazy. There's nothing worse than apathy.
Dr. Balis: I agree that voting is important.
Ms. Birch: The one with the dog is the home of a friend of mine. He's totally insane, but I love him. He's the perfect bohemian--lives day to day financially, smokes like hell, drinks like a fish, is better read than anyone I know, and can talk the pants off the president. Any president. He's a bit of a perve, but aren't we all? In any event, when I saw his dog laying there, surrounded by paintings and sexuality, with a "no visitors permitted" sign I was kind of jealous. They say it's a dog's life, but what do they know? She was beautiful, well cared for, and she looked happy. Oh hey, I can stop incriminating myself--our hour is up.
Dr. Balis: Unfortunately that's true.
Ms. Birch: That's my exit cue Doctor. Next week?
Dr. Balis: Same time. Will you come?
Ms. Birch: I think so. As you know, things are a bit hectic with me now. Lets say that I truly look forward to seeing you, so I'll make every effort to be here. If not, I'll call.
Dr. Balis: Okay. I'll schedule you for an appointment, but if you can't make it please at least call and cancel. Take care of yourself Phylis.
Ms. Birch: You know it.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye.
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