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"It makes me nervous when you do that," Maureen says, unfolding her legs, which have been crammed beneath her on the overstuffed chair in my office, and leaning forward.
"Do what?" I say.
"Write stuff down during my session," she says.
I tell her I only write down key words, to refresh my memory later when I'm reviewing her case, and not to worry.
She doesn't really have to know the only words on the pages about her are stuff like this:
Breath - Strawberry Pop-Tarts
Green sweater, faded jeans
Breath - Graham Crackers
Blue sweater, dark-wash jeans
I tell Janice it's not my business what she auctions on eBay. I applaud her initiative. I'm secretly thrilled she'll pay cash for her sessions.
"You don't care that I sell my unclean panties?" she says. "Some have Oreo crumbs in the crotch, from when I sneak cookies outta the kids's lunchboxes. But I note that in the description. I don't want buyers thinking I'm trying to pass off chocolate crumbs and white Doublestuff as ... other stuff."
Later I give the six-pack of Oreos in my purse to my receptionist.
"But these're your favorite!" she says.
"Not anymore," I say.
I may have to become a daily list-maker. Take a little tip from an email newsletter I subscribe to and start making TO DO lists, so I won't keep forgetting not only to do important work-related stuff, but to pick up aluminum foil and Splenda and cat litter and paper towel. Oh, and to eat, too. Yes. Mustn't forget to eat.
Then I can experience the spine-tingling thrill of taking a liquid gel ink pen (black ink) and ticking off each item as I accomplish it, all the while humming in concert with the rest of the happy, peppy listkeepers!
My dog blows perfect smoke rings into the space between us and tries to hide his eye-rolling in the smoke.
"What's that for?"I say.
"What's what for?"he says.
"You just rolled your eyes at me,"I say.
"No, I didn't,"he says.
"Yes, you did,"I say.
"Oh, maybe I did,"he says, and I watch as his long cigarette ash threatens to fall onto the floor. "I guess it's just automatic. You probably said something ridiculous.-
I tell him he's the ridiculous one and to just shuffle the deck and deal already.
"As soon as I saw her in the lobby that morning,"Tom says, "I knew I'd get her number before one of us got off the elevator.-
And get it, he did. That afternoon, he took the elevator down to Joanna's floor and met her in the stairwell. She sat on a step, lifted her skirt (no panties!), and gave Tom an eyeful. Within seconds, he gave himself a handful.
I tell Tom he's not making any headway with his sex addiction. He giggles at "head"and tells me he'll "have something even better"for me at his next session.
Rosalie was used to spending entire evenings communicating with Charles via instant messages. After they met in a chat room, she began declining invitations from what few real friends she had, even on weekends, in favor of computer time with Charles. "I have a date tonight,"she'd say, and hang up before anyone pressed for details.
After six months of online courtship, Rosalie and her beloved met in public. Neither was thrilled with the other's appearance, but neither was repelled, either, so it wasn't too bad. Their text message dinner conversation, though engaging, hardly sparkled. Their emoticons smiled in desperation.
He rushes to our table and says hello. He's there to give my friend something. He does, and leaves.
I don't say what I'm thinking. My friend would disagree vehemently.
"What was that?"she says. "He looked hot!-
"You think so too?"I say. "We're not supposed to think HE'S hot.-
He's her ex-roommate who flings floss around the bathroom. Lets butter congeal on kitchen counters.
She reminds me that he still has a purple-fleshed stomach riddled with stretch marks after losing tons of weight.
"Eh. I'd just make him keep his shirt on,"I think, but don't say aloud.
The last time I heard screams like this coming from the street below, I damned their perpetrator and beseeched him to shut the fuck up from behind closed windows. Several minutes later, I learned that those screams were not the contribution of a random jackass bent on disturbing the relative quiet of a residential neighborhood, but the depressing consequences of what happens when a motor vehicle kills a person's dog.
This time, at 5:35 a.m., the screams are hosted by a random loudmouth jackass, for no apparent reason, and I pray a motor vehicle forever relieves him of that ability.
Richard uses a horrendous Spanish accent during the first ten minutes of every session. Although it's extremely annoying, it's not as terrible as it was in the beginning, when he was "Ricardo"for the entire hour.
"Who're you supposed to be?"I once asked. "Ricky Ricardo?-
"Ahhh-eee dooo not ahhhderstand,"he said. "Thees eez hooo Ahh-eee ahhhm.-
"Cut the shit,"I said. He told me there was no shit to cut.
One day I used the worst Russian accent I could muster, to show him how annoying "Ricardo"was. He applauded. Raved that I was the best therapist he'd ever had.
Catherine tells me she is a "calendar girl-. I tell her that's very nice, but to please sit down so we can discuss something worth the rather considerable sum her husband pays me every week.
"I will,"she says, "but not until you agree that I look great as Miss January." She mimes a slalom. "Shuuuuush, shuuuuush!-
"You're avoiding the issue,"I say.
"Or am I better as Miss August?"she says, tossing her hair, bending from the waist, and pretending to hold up a gigantic beach ball. "I won't sit until you choose.-
She stands for the entire hour.
Your ignoring me is small potatoes. Very very small, tiny, indeed MINUSCULE potatoes. Don't you know that I have been ignored by men who are way more good-looking, talented, sexy, funny, well-read, well-bred, and intelligent than you? Men who have better hair and bodies and clothes and shoes and cars and apartments and sob stories? Men who are better kissers and other-stuffers?
Please don't flatter yourself into thinking that your ignoring me has made that much of an impact on my life. You are a tater tot compared to the super spuds who've come before you.
I apologize. Profusely. I know I promised I wouldn't do it again. I gave you my word and swore on my honor and the graves of pretend relatives that I wouldn't do it again, but baby, I just couldn't help myself. I couldn't.
See, I just don't like eating at a regular table. It just doesn't feel right. I like eating wasabi rice crackers at my desk, where I feel most at home. I'm sorry if you suffer the crumby consequences, but please know that I don't mean to hurt you.
Forgive me, baby?
All my love,
As much as I love this apartment, I cannot live up to it. It needs much more elegant treatment than I can afford it. Someone who dines rather than eats, slumbers instead of sleeps, and lingers rather than loiters.
Although real estate types would call this apartment "sprawling-, I do not think that means that the person living in it should be the kind of person who sprawls on the floor next to her dog, picking at edamame in an earthenware bowl.
Give me back the brick walls, skylights, and "bohemian"feel of my old place. There, I'm at home.
I hate when people say that something is "like pulling teeth-. First of all, how much hands-on experience does the so-called average person have with tooth-pulling? Maybe it's really not that hard to pull a tooth. Maybe most dentists are girly-armed weaklings, and tooth-pulling is a lot easier than it's cracked up to be.
I mean, come on. How hard can it be? Doesn't the new-fangled technology of this supersonic modern world extend into the dental profession? There must be ways to pull teeth that don't involve leverage, pliers, and elbow grease. What about pneumatics? Magnets? Robots? A computer program?
"What is THIS?"Amy asks, reaching into the wastepaper bin next to the umbrella bin next to the potato bin next to the lost-and-found bin. She holds up an empty can, crushed, of Red Bull.
I don't have to defend my occasional need for super-caffeination to anyone, but I feel compelled to do so because during her last session, I told her she may want to lay off the coffee and switch to herbal tea.
After explaining myself for a full two minutes, she stops me and says, "Chill, Doc. I was just wondering why you didn't get the sugar-free.-
Martha's breath smells faintly of mustard every time I see her. Whether she's just eaten a hot dog from a street vendor, or spooned the stuff directly from the jar into her mouth, I cannot say. It is difficult to discern the type of mustard (French's yellow? Gulden's spicy brown? Grey Poupon? Honey dijon? Plastic packet from Chinese takeout?), especially when all I can really think is "Mustard Mouth Martha"and how it would be just neato if she married a man named Karl whose breath was redolent of ketchup, and they spawned little Ricky Relish and Helen Hot Sauce.
Does it say more about me or the books I read that, about a week or two after I read them, I can't remember how they ended? And, in some cases, can't even remember what they were about. Is this the equivalent of going on a few dates with someone, and then, sometime not long thereafter, forgetting not only the conversation but the sex? I shudder to think that perhaps this phenomenon will extend to food someday, and I won't be able to recall the thrill of every plate of french fries I've ordered. What's to become of me then?
I hate MySpace. I hate yourspace on MySpace. I hate going to MySpace and seeing yourface staring out of my monitor, trying its damned fucking hardest to be sexy or coy or flirtatious or soulful or playtful and pretending the whole time that this isn't a pose and that this the way it and you look all the time. Your lists of books and movies and music that your band sounds like, your lists of "Friends"and the inane comments they leave you, all leave me with an overwhelming desire to invade your space and your face with my fist.
Every Friday, at the beginning of his session, Ronnie slides a large egg from a purple velvet pouch he keeps in the inside pocket of his suit jacket.
"Hard-boiled or not?"he said two weeks ago. As always, I told him not to make a mess.
"I take it that's a Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœno',"he said. He smiled, held the egg's narrower end against his front teeth, pressed it against them, and gasped when they met with white egg-flesh.
Last week he arrived without an egg, and when I mentioned it, he said he had no idea what I was talking about.
My 3:00 calls at 2:35 to say she won't be making it. Ordinarily this would rankle me like hell, because I could've scheduled someone else in that slot or made other plans, but today I don't really care. Today I'm exhausted, so I use that hour to curl up on the overstuffed chair my clients prefer, and try to catnap.
It's impossible. Their neuroses seep through the upholstery. I gasp with this one's panic attacks, flinch with that one's childhood beatings, and drool with the doughnutty desires of my token anorexic. I leave the chair and play sudoku online instead.
I see Michelle on Mondays and Thursdays. Every Monday, she brings a video of the prior Friday night's "What Not To Wear"and pops it into my VCR before I can protest. I've stopped protesting, though, so there's no need for the rushing.
"It's my session,"she's said, "and I'm paying. So if I want to watch a makeover show for 50 minutes and cram my whining into the last ten minutes, who's gonna stop me?-
I should, but don't. Because this way I'm killing two birds with one stone and don't have to worry about recording the show myself.
One of the first things I tell new patients is that they are not permitted to eat in my office. Some of them look at me as if I told them I only accept payment in the form of cat corpses.
"Not even french fries?"Darlene asked, blinking back tears.
"Especially not french fries,"I said. "French fries are not permitted anywhere in my office.-
I had to laugh, though, when Carl, during his third session, sat with a baked potato on his lap and stroked it like a lapdog. "Don't worry,"he said, winking. "I won't eat Papa Papa.-
No matter how tempting it is - in fantasy, at least - to chop off my hair and become gamine-adorable and pixie-perky, there's no way I'd go through with it. If I did, how would I hide? What would I look through out of the corner of my eye when I don't want someone to know I'm looking at him? What would I use as a buffer between me and subway dregs, construction workers, and sated "lovers-? Without the ubiquitous hair blanket, I'd have to install some sort of curtain or veil around my head. Utilitarian, sure, but hardly adorable or perky.
"We were so poor,"he says, "that we used to boil stains out of the tablecloth and our shirts every Sunday night to make soup to last the whole week. That's all we ate.-
"But if that's all you ate,"I say, " then what was there to leave these stains in the first place?-
He pulls deeply on his scratched-up pipe and stares at me, watery eyes narrowed, through cherry tobacco smoke. After what seems like ten minutes, he peers down at the "clicker-, and changes the channel to "What's My Line?" We watch game shows in silence until bedtime.
Offer for the Boys: I'll come to your house, blow you while you're Googling or eBaying or DrudgeReporting, ask for nothing more than the use of your "facilities-, a bit of paper towel (preferably Viva or Bounty - or, if you want to be extra nice, a washcloth), and a cold drink, and then be on my way. Also: I respectfully request that you refrain from looking at porn (internet or otherwise) while I've got your cock in my mouth, because for the ten minutes I'll be under your desk, I want you to love me me me and only me.
I cannot put Louis-Ferdinand Celine's "Death on the Installment Plan"down. It's keeping me from taking a shower because I don't want to get its 600-plus pages wet. Quite a sacrifice. I'm a filthy, greasy, Medusa-headed scumbag thanks to this book.
Celine is a dirty, pud-pulling bastard, and what makes it even more insanely delicious is that he wrote this thing in the '30s, when it was scandalous to do so. I want to exhume his worm-ridden, eyeless corpse, refashion it into some semblance of a living human being, dress it in finery, and take it out for tea.
Tanya always smells like cereal. It doesn't matter what time I see her, she still smells like either Cap'n Crunch, cornflakes, or, infrequently, frosted mini-wheats. And I don't mean her breath. That, oddly enough, is always benign, and actually quite pleasant, a mild blend of green tea, black pepper, and fennel.
I have no idea why a person's body would smell like popular breakfast cereal. All I know is that every time we have a session, I have an overwhelming urge to pour milk over her head, slice strawberries and bananas onto her body, and tap her with a spoon.
Gee. You're so unique. You're so free-spirited and quirky. You and your colorful funfunfun sneakers and wackykooky braids on either side of your head and look-at-me, happy snappy sunshine attitude. Wow. Your striped shirt, just a taaaad too short, affording us a peek-a-boo (whoopsie!) at your tumtum. Your goofy mugging at the camera as you romp and piorouette and frolick through a field of wildflowers. Oh, and is that a ... piercing? Ahhh, yes. It is. How delightful, on someone half your age. Maybe.
Too bad your forced, contrived adorability wore thin with your husband. Good luck in divorce court, dipshit.
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