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Lunch

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"You're wasting your time."

The patronizing tone of this statement made the hairs on the back of Tony Soprano's neck stand up. He made a mental note to have the hairs trimmed, then mused about how he'd arrived at a station in life where it was so unbelievably annoying to have lunch with Tom Cruise. The two men had met years earlier when Cruise followed Soprano around for an hour as part of his research for his role in "Eyes Wide Shut." Ever since, they'd have lunch whenever Cruise came to New Jersey. Now Cruise was in town before heading off to Newark to fly off and shoot a his next film, "Apocalypse ASAP."

"Psychotherapy is just bad science," Cruise went on. "I've done the reading. I have an old copy of Freud's 'The Ego and the Id.' Did you know I collect third editions?"

Cruise flashed that big smile that seemed to Soprano like the smile of someone who's perpetually just had his braces removed.

"How should I know what you collect?"

"Tony, my point is, the id and the ego are myths."

"Hey, my id bought me 25 acres, a swimming pool and more hookers than you can shake a stick at. "

Concerned, Cruise said, "You shook at stick at a hooker?"

Soprano imperceptibly shook his head. (Usually, when Tony Soprano imperceptibly shook his head, it would be the last gesture his lunch companion would ever not quite see. But this was Tom Cruise. Icing an actor who could once open a movie had its problems.)

"Believe me," Cruise said with an air of smug inferiority, "the way psychiatry and psycho-pharmaceuticals pollute our world today, Freud must be looking down and laughing."

"Freud's not looking down on nothing. Freud's dead."

Cruise nodded in enthusiastic agreement. "Yes. Freud is totally dead."

"Look," Soprano said, glancing down at a fly on the table. (Usually when Tony Soprano said "Look," and glanced down at a fly on a table, his lunch companion's enrollment in the human race was suddenly precarious. But, you know, Tom Cruise...) "Therapy is one of the best things that ever happened to me. It's the only hour of my life that's truly mine. You ever been in therapy, Tom?"

"No."

"Great," Soprano said. "So, when did ignorance become a valid point of view?"

"Oh, about five years ago," Cruise said, triumphantly.

The waiter came with their orders. Soprano had the stuffed shells, Cruise the Sashimi Platter. Trying to lighten things, Soprano said, "Maybe therapy ain't for everyone but I had serious depression and panic disorder."

"No you didn't," Cruise responded. "That's just what the medical profession wants you to believe. It's like Sybil. They told her she had 16 personalities but I have it on good authority she only had nine.."

"Get outta here," Soprano said, leaning back in his chair. (Usually, when Tony Soprano said "Get outta here," and leaned back in his chair, someone was about to unwittingly become raw material at a ground-breaking ceremony for a new sports complex with sky boxes and a retractable roof. But, again, Tom Cruise....)

"You know, Tony, we're both from New Jersey. We have a lot in common."

Soprano shot back: "Brooke Shields went to college in Jersey and you jumped down her throat because she got that post-partum depression."

"But, Tony: There's no such thing as post-partum depression."

"What are you talking about? My mother had it for 55 years."

"Look, I love Brooke but my religion teaches you to be skeptical."

Cruise looked to the next table where 24 advisors from the Church of Scientology sat and observed. It was their job to accompany him on all non-show business-related lunches. Cruise asked them, "So what do you guys think?" All 24 advisors shrugged, then asked Cruise for three million dollars apiece. Tony snorted. Cruise coughed. Then suddenly, nothing happened.

After a few moments, Cruise said, "Believe me Tony, if you joined Scientology you'd have higher low self-esteem than you ever dreamed possible."

"Hey, I got Dr. Melfi," Soprano said,. "Do I pimp her out on you?"

"I don't need her," Cruise said. "I'm probably the most well-adjusted person in show business."

"That ain't the most competitive category."

Cruise smiled. Again. "You just have too much pride to open yourself up to a new way of thinking. Remember Tony: 'Pride cometh before the fall.'"

"Fuck that. In Jersey, summer cometh before the fall."

Cruise's eyes widened. "That's an interesting take," he said, adding, "Do I have something stuck in my teeth?"

Soprano rolled his eyes, took out a dental mirror from his inside jacket pocket and told Cruise to open wide. He looked around. "There ain't nothing stuck in your teeth."

Cruise heaved a sigh of relief. Soprano sensed his opening.

"Look," Soprano said, "Seeing as how you're the only person I know with less education than me, let me explain something. You don't know anything about anything. If you did, you'd know that psychiatry is classic motherfucking dialectic. A neo-quasi-pseudo-ergo-dynamic exploration of the sub-conscious. In other words, it works. So as Carl Jung would say, just shut up you dopey, pan-sexual dwarf."

Suddenly, Cruise turned beet red, leapt up and pulled a nine millimeter semi-automatic Baretta out of his waistband and pointed it at Soprano. (Usually when Tom Cruise suddenly turned beet red, leapt up and pulled a nine millimeter semi-automatic Baretta out of his waistband and pointed it at his lunch companion, it didn't mean anything. This time was no exception.)

Cruise picked up the check. Soprano went home. Brooke Shields' daughter had a happy life.