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The Very Charitable Mrs. Wertheimer
Mrs. Wertheimer gently replaces the receiver of the rotary phone in its cradle and remains standing at the antique marble-topped table in the foyer, motionless except for the thoughtful horizontal movement of her blue-grey eyes. No, she won't do it. Today is Davis's day off, and he's spending it with his ailing, elderly mother in Larchmont. Even
not so heartless as to demand that he return to Manhattan to drive her to her afternoon appointment. Perhaps in the past she would have done so, but today Mrs. Wertheimer is feeling charitable. Very charitable, indeed.
Mrs. Wertheimer's hand remains on the receiver long enough so that when she finally removes it, the mouthpiece is no longer warm. This is her custom. She can only make important decisions if she stands completely still. This way, the mayhem inside her head does not have to compete with the movement of her body. After all, that sort of madcap arrangement used to get her in quite a bit of trouble, back in the day.
Emancipated from cradling the phone, her right hand now cradles her chin, thus indicating that Mrs. Wertheimer is in the deepest sort of reverie.
Ten minutes pass. Mrs. Wertheimer's face relaxes into what passes for a smile. Her right hand pats a non-existent stray strand of hair back into place on the side of her chignon. Her eyebrow arches (why is it arching? is she immune to the Botox injections?), thus signifying that the decision-making process has come to a close.
With a sigh more tremulous than empowered, Mrs. Wertheimer steps away from the telephone table, and peers at her reflection in the mirror above it. This is the last time she will see the face of a woman who's never ridden the subway.
We'll return to the premiere of "The Very Charitable Mrs. Wertheimer"(starring Mary Tyler Moore as she looked apres her eponymous television show and before her current incarnation as a plastic surgery buffet to which she's made way too many trips, New York City post-"9/11" as itself, and the hideous "2" subway as itself) after a few brief words from our sponsors.
Crinkle, twinkle, twiddle, dee!
Blippity blop blop, fliminee flee!
Clopper zop zopper, wisk wah way?
Mooma kah blooma bah, yay yay yay!
Zoloft! Paxil! Prozac! (Yes! Yes! Yes!)
Tide! Wisk! Cheer! (Clean up that mess!)
Mrs. Wertheimer gazes at her reflection. She regards a face that has, at various times, been called "luminous-, "stunning-, and "flawless-, and which, over the past few years, has been referred to as "handsome-. Although she does not appreciate this adjective, she supposes it is better than many of the unattractive alternatives that could have been used had she not been fortunate enough to receive Botox injections before anyone else in her circle ever even heard of the stuff.
She practices her smile for the subway excursion. After all, she doesn't want to appear out of place among these people.
Mrs. Wertheimer has heard stories - horror stories, actually - about the subway. From what she's gathered, it's the public transportation of choice for all manner of hooligan, juvenile delinquent, gypsy, street person, drunkard, junkie, and working girl. A filthy coagulation of the city's downtrodden, poor enough of pocket not to be able to afford a better way but poor enough of spirit not to be able to do anything about finding a way out. A shame, really, for these people.
Mrs. Wertheimer practices her "compassionate"face, removes her three-carat diamond ring, and replaces it with the one-carat. There. That'll do it.
The ladies in Mrs. Wertheimer's social circle would be shocked enough to learn that she knew where to find a subway entrance at all. But to learn that the wife of one of the city's most prominent physicians would actually descend the slimy stairs into the gurgling, churning bowels of Manhattan, and to place herself in such proximity to relentless filth - voluntarily! - would have stunned them to their beige and ivory linen core.
Mrs. Wertheimer imagines Bitty French's jaw dropping, the shock so overpowering that it reverses every Botox injection. She smiles to herself, and steels herself for her excursion.
Although Mrs. Wertheimer takes care not to touch the handrail as she lowers herself down the stairs, her prudence is thwarted when a young man - dressed in obvious hand-me-downs (the crotch of his pants is down to his knees! his hooded sweatshirt is gigantic!) and a fair amount of what Mrs. Wertheimer has heard referred to as "bling"- clambers past her with such haste that she's forced to steady herself by grabbing the rail. She quickly reminds herself she has a travel-size bottle of Purex in her handbag. Mrs. Wertheimer is equipped to handle a crisis!
So far, so good.
"Excuse me, Miss,"Mrs. Wertheimer says to the lumpy girl in the tollbooth, "but how much does a token go for these days?-
Mrs. Wertheimer is proud of herself for knowing of this thing called a "token-.
The girl's ornately decorated, many-ringed fingers continue to disappear into a small bag of barbecue potato chips, the thumb and forefinger acting as pincers, the remaining three fingers spread like a delicate fan. This is the only grace the girl possesses. She smacks her lips. Her heavy-lidded black eyes stare into Mrs. Wertheimer's carefully-lined grey ones.
"No tokens no more,"the girl mumbles.
"I'm sorry, I don't quite understand,"Mrs. Wertheimer says. "Are you trying to tell me you ran out of tokens?-
"We don't use tokens no more,"the girl says through a mouthful of chips. She swallows, runs a claw-like index finger between her upper gum and lip, and sucks a load of potato chip residue off of it. With the same finger, she points to a machine near the turnstiles, and says, "Gotta getta Metrocard.-
Someone standing behind Mrs. Wertheimer mutters, "Fucking tourist!" She feels her face growing warm. Tourist? She's lived in Manhattan for all of her 48 years!
Mrs. Wertheimer is rooted in front of the Metrocard machine. For a fleeting moment, something akin to panic takes residence in her heart. Here she is, with her advanced degree from Columbia, her name in the Social Register, her face and figure legend in every top salon and spa in the city, and she can't even figure out how to buy a Metrocard.
"If Bettina were here she'd know what to do,"she thinks. Bettina takes the subway from her casa in the Bronx to Mrs. Wertheimer's Upper East Side townhouse every morning. "And she doesn't even speak English!-
"It's not a fucking vending machine,"another voice says behind Mrs. Wertheimer. "Stop trying to find the goddamned Reese's Pieces and move the fuck outta the way!-
Mrs. Wertheimer's neck prickles at such language. And also at the thought that someone would accuse her of buying candy, especially something as common as Reese's Pieces. She doesn't even give that stuff out at Hallowe'en! All the cherubic boys and girls in her neighborhood get Godiva, at the very least!
Still, she steps aside for the impertinent thug behind her, and actually wishes for a piece of chocolate to calm herself down.
Mrs. Wertheimer has been living in Manhattan for 30 years. First as a student at Barnard, then as the devoted wife and mother to Charleses II and III, and then, years later, as a Columbia grad student. She left only during her undergrad years, for family summers in Cape Cod.
Except for that one "lost weekend"a few years after Charles III's birth, when she hired a car to take her as far away as possible, and she landed in the arms and bed of Alejandro Esteban.
Before today, that was the last time anyone said "fuck"directly to her.
We regret to inform the viewing public of
The Very Charitable Mrs. Wertheimer
that due to circumstances beyond our control, we are not in a position to air the remainder of the program at this time. As of the time of the publication of this NEWS FLASH, we cannot provide any further information. Our lawyers have ordered that we refrain from entertaining any questions and to "not do so much as toss those hungry lions even the stalest of crumbs-.
In light of this latest development, we will substitute alternate programming for the duration of the month.
Clarence K. never missed his weekly sessions, even when, as he admits, "I have nothing good to say today.-
Today wasn't one such day. Today he dropped a bomb which, quite frankly, surprised me, because he never seemed to have real "issues-. His most explosive revelation ever had been that "Sometimes I think I am truly in love with my cat.-
So today when he revealed that every week he'd come to my office an hour after shitting in his own pants, I didn't know whether I was more disturbed by the act or the fact that I never noticed.
When Marjorie was 14 and had yet to even kiss a boy outside an occasional game of "Spin the Bottle-, she read in some magazine -
, she's pretty sure -- that many women, when having sex, don't even think of the guy who's doing the doing. Marjorie thinks that's just terrible.
When Marjorie is 38, and Peter's doing his best impression of fucking her, she thinks of the following:
* Nutter Butter Peanut Butter sandwich cookies
* Doing all the laundry in one load rather than separating it
* "Dick Tracy's jaw was really very square-
* "Chinese water torture must be ... torturous!"
Corinna has never dated a well-dressed man. She tells her friends, "It rankles my ankle!"because, as they know, she puts a lot of thought into assembling her own outfits.
Here are several sartorial crimes committed by a few of her recent dates:
* Pleated khakis, cuffed and creased, and a short-sleeve work shirt with a Britney Spears concert "T"underneath
* All white - white terrycloth mock turtleneck, blinding white "tennis shoes"(what was worse? that he wore them at all or that he called them "tennis shoes-?), and white "slacks"tinged with yellow (pee?)
* Red clown shoes with a black-tie tuxedo
He's still raving about that night in Key West two months ago. The night that I can't remember thanks to my overindulgence in champagne and a subsequent blackout, which I didn't even realize until the next day, when he referenced sexual activities that I'd apparently performed.
I don't want to ask, because I don't want him to know I have no memory. I just hope the next time I'm with him, he doesn't squat over me and take a shit on my chest, and when I start to protest, say, "What gives? You were fine with it in Key West!-
The last day of math class, after I'd already secured my "A"for the semester, the instructor offered me a ride home. I accepted.
I used to describe this beyarmulked, short-sleeve dress shirt-sporting and nondescript slacks-wearing guy as "Woody Allen's father-, so I was a little put off when, as we pulled up in front of my building, he asked me out. "Does the fact that you have a boyfriend preclude you from going out with others?"he said with what I swear was a twinkle in his eye.
I already had my "A-, so I declined that revolting offer.
"You know what you should get?"he says on our first date. We're in a bar/restaurant that obviously caters to so-called "20-somethings"with way too much disposable income to waste on short skirts, tight shirts, and cans and cans of spray tan.
Neither of us has seen 29 for at least a decade.
"A tattoo on your lower back,"he says. "That's so hot.-
I audibly cringe.
"And a belly ring,"he says.
My cringe shatters the sound barrier.
I close my eyes and wait for him to suggest breast implants, but he doesn't.
So I sleep with him.
We're at the "Dylan"concert, in the third or fourth or fifth row, but we still have to stand to see what's going on because everyone in the rows in front of us is standing. I don't want to stand, but I do anyway, not because I think I'm going to miss something if I remain seated, but because I want my "date"to think I'm as into the concert as he is. I want him to think I'm cool enough for the show, even though I secretly think the show blows.
Truth: I'd rather be home doing 100 Words.
Marvin leans forward in his chair and tells me he has a confession. Last week's confession was that he secretly prefers plain chocolate ice cream to Rocky Road. And the week before? "I'm really not too crazy about Evian water.-
But maybe this week will be different. So instead of groaning inwardly the way I've done all the other times, I lean toward him, elbows on my knees, hands clasped together. My classic "therapist who's open to whatever you have to say"pose.
"Spill,"I say in my best encouraging tone.
"I love graham crackers!"he says.
Jesus fucking Christ.
Stephanie tells me she just can't stop eating off the floor. "I get all happy when someone drops, like, say, a potato chip on my kitchen floor, but doesn't realize it,"she says. "Then I pretend I'm reaching down to, like, tie my shoe, when really I'm scooping up the chip and placing it in my Floor Food Baggie for snacktime on Saturday night!-
Here's what she had in last week's "FFB"(which she pronounces as "FuuuhFuuuhBee-):
* four pumpkin seeds
* one asparagus spear (broiled)
* six potato sticks
* two ounces of ground round
* squashed dandelion from bottom of her running shoe
For forever, Simon's really loved making pies. Boston creme, lemon meringue, cherry, key lime, rhubarb, and so on. You name it, he's made it.
However, when he graduates college and wants to start a business, he's wary of opening a pie shop because the thought of being called "Simon the Pie Man"makes him sick to his stomach. So he changes his name to "Sawyer-.
And wouldn't you know it, invariably some pie-eating dolt remarks, "It'd be a hoot if you were a lawyer!-
"No, THIS is a hoot!"Simon/Sawyer says as he throws a pie in the person's face.
Carrie's not too crazy about this business of drinking eight glasses of water a day. She hates water for its blandness, its nothingness, its lack of any mouth excitement at all, and every time she forces another glass of the stuff down her throat, she fantasizes about a glass twice as large of Mountain Dew.
Carrie's no dummy, though. She's figured out a way to get around the daily drudge. On the first day of each month, she drinks an entire month's worth of water in one day. Needless to say, February 1 is her favorite day of the year.
Do you still want to fuck him when all you've had to drink is a can of Diet Coke? Do you still want to blow him when the strongest thing that's passed your lips is a mocha latteccino frappamundo bandito? Do you still want him doing anything between your legs when you're in complete possession of your senses?
If the answer is YES, then by all means, go on and have sex with him. Really. But if the only way you really "want"him is when you're three sheets to the wind, don't get anywhere near his. (Sheets, that is.)
Your wife is dead not three months, and you're putting your dick in my mouth. Your wife is six feet under ground, in a sealed box, in an outfit selected by you, her eyes closed, her hands folded, her every fiber still and rotting, and here you are, your hand on the back of my head, telling me to suck your dick (as if I need prompting) ... and I'm doing it. Out of respect for her, I should stop. Or at least out of respect for myself. But I don't.
Now I hate you even more than I hate myself.
We've been corresponding by email and communicating via instant message for three years, and finally he leaves London to visit friends in NYC. I am one of those friends.
We spend the most enchanting four-plus hours together, and when the time approaches when he must take leave of me, we both panic and confess that we're going to miss each other something awful.
"I could make you hate me,"I say. "I could put a cigarette out in a SQUIRREL'S FACE! No! No! I didn't mean it!"
Instead of making him hate me, this only makes him pre-miss me more.
It appears as if I've been casually sitting around the house, occupied with other activities rather than preoccupied with the anticipation of his arrival. It seems if I threw on faded jeans and a double layer of T-shirts, did little to my hair, and wore only a swipe of lipgloss. This is the image I want to portray to HIM. He doesn't have to know it took half an hour to choose this ensemble. Or that it took longer to make my hair look undone than it takes to actually "do"it. The lipgloss ... well, that's the only easy part.
Every morning on my way home from the gym, the bus stops on West 72nd across the street from a Bikram yoga studio. I torture myself by turning my head to see several rows of too many too-white, scantily clad bodies, slick with thick sweat. Like I need this after seeing, in the gym locker room, a series of literal assholes winking at me as their cheeky owners bend over to dry themselves off or put on their thongs, tits and twats a-gogo. Like I need more flailing body parts. Still, I look, even as I tell myself not to.
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