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The first thing I see when I enter her bedroom is a black mess too huge and impenetrable to be described merely as a "bush-. "Hedge"comes to mind instantly. There it is, fairly bursting off the canvas, an assault to my eyes and sensibilities.
I'm no prude. I don't mind occasional nudes. Although I'm not their biggest fan, I can understand other people's appreciation. But this is just too much.
"Nice bedroom,"I say. "Great light.-
If I were she, I would tell me to quit beating around the bush and just tell her I hate the damned thing.
We're in Starbucks, and she's presenting her Arbonne nonsense to me with all the carefully planned pep of a Stepford wife. I wonder if the microchip imbedded in her forehead hurts. And if she's turned off nightly by remote control operated by one of the multi-level machinists above her in the Arbonne hierachy.
"It's not a pyramid scheme,"she says, as if mind-reading. But I know she can't really read my mind, because if she could, she'd know to leave immediately and find a victim who didn't sit there thinking, "You've gotta be fucking kidding me"during the entire presentation.
"What I love is that no one's ever used the shower,"the broker says about the pristine condominium my agent and I have just seen. Apparently that's a selling point: no one's naked body has ever (dis)graced the shower with its presence. Other selling points: A toilet that's never entertained an ass, a stove unacquainted with pots and pans, and an attentive doorman.
I shrug, to let him know these are not selling points for me. I want my shower, toilet, and stove promiscuous. And my doorman non-existent, so he won't be tempted to gossip that I am, too.
Apparently Philip is not ready to move on.
"Sss head screwdriver,"he says, flopping into his favorite chair.
I've just greeted him by his first name, as I've been doing for the five months he's been my patient, and he's just given me his stock response.
"Oh, Philip,"I say, without even thinking.
"Sss head screwdriver,"he says, a bit impatiently.
"Listen,"I say. "Would it help if I just called you Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬ËœPhil'?-
"Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬ËœEr up,"he says.
"Excuse me?"I say.
"Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬ËœEr up,"he says.
I want to shout in his face that I've had my "fill-, but I don't dare.
Three youngish guys with cafÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©-con-leche skin arrive to pack my stuff for the move. As each enters the apartment, I think, "Yes!"in response to the unasked question, "Would you Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœdo' this boy?-
Of the three red-shirted boys, I want the one with the Sideshow Bob hair the most. In my fantasy, he pushes me down onto a pile of packing material and does whatever he wants. The other two watch, and then follow.
This would actually be my fantasy, if I had one. But right now I'm so preoccupied with the move that I can barely even entertain it.
Although I took a shower this morning after the gym, seven hours ago, I feel compelled to take another one now. It seems the only options available to me right now, during this lull in the work day, are to take a shower, nap, or coffee and snack break - even though I'm not dirty, tired, thirsty, or hungry.
If I smoked, this would be the perfect time for a cigarette or six. Or drank, an ideal time for a cocktail. Or murdered babies, the right time for a raid of the neo-natal ward at the local hospital. Ahhh, sweet respite.
For as long as she can remember, Marnie has been embarrassed of her toes. She even blushes at the mere mention of the word. Last August, she came to my office wearing a pair of bronze strappy sandals with a stiletto heel.
"Look, Doc,"she said, pointing down at her feet. "Sandals!-
"Nice,"I said. "But what's up with the socks? Do you really think this is progress?-
The socks were as thick as mittens and made her feet look like paddles. I could not discern the toes.
"I don't wear the socks in the shower anymore, though,"she said.
The joke varies, but its meaning is the same, as is its effect on me.
We'll be on the sidewalk or in a car. A police car will whiz by, siren blaring.
"Must be late for the donuts,"he'll say.
"Must be late for coffee.-
It's not funny. It's never been funny. It'll never be funny. It's so unfunny it's not even funny.
Invariably I don't laugh. But he does. And by now I can barely disguise my disgust every time he says it and can't help but imagine myself bludgeoning him with a brick when he laughs afterward.
My little sister and I stomped our Conversed feet into soda cans laid flat on the blacktop, and clomped around the driveway in our tin high heels, elegant ladies out for a stroll on a leafy boulevard.
I tried it without sneakers, and the thin tin conformed to the arches of my soft bare feet and wrapped up around their sides. Sticky warm Tab trickled from the can's mouth. Inside, the pull-tab tongue rattled.
The tin sliced into my feet. Still, I grimaced and continued my hobbled stroll. Fine practice for the torturous shoes I'd inflict on them years later.
Some days I pray for psychosis. That someone bursts into my office threatening to do himself bodily harm with a can-opener or jump off the World Trade Center (so delusional that he doesn't understand it doesn't exist anymore) or take off his clothes at The Four Seasons during brunch and paint his body with butter, orange marmalade, and real maple syrup while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
I mean, can anything be more mind-numbing than listening to Stuart tell me he won't tolerate blind dates who have the nerve to go out with him wearing horizontal stripes? I think not.
From clear across the apartment, through the closed bedroom door, I hear him clipping his toenails. It would be bad enough if he used a regular clipper, but he uses one that looks like it could not only tear its way through eagle talons and tree bark but remove his entire toe without much effort, so the sound is even more gruesome.
Worst, I imagine chunks of thickened, crusty toenail shooting off in all directions, ricocheting off the walls, landing who knows where. And later, when I've forgotten all about it, my own tender bare feet crunching on the detritus.
Cheryl insists on dressing in her finest Ann Taylor get-up to go to a temp position in a downtown office. Her ivory wool gabardine suit is spotless, as is the pale coral silk "shell"underneath. Her floral scarf is tied "just so"around her slender neck. Her pearl earrings shine but do not sparkle. Her slingback pumps couldn't be more demure if they tried.
Immediately the stretch-pantsed, Tweety-Bird-sweatshirted, scrunchie-ponytailed, sneaker-footed secretaries give her the cold fat shoulder.
They don't offer her M&Ms from their desks.
When she asks where the ladies room is, they send her to the mens.
My patients don't have to know that on a recent sunny Sunday, I spent six pajama-clad hours buried underneath a messy mass of ivory down, red flannel, and purple chenille, trying to cast a quick-acting spell on the sunshine to convert it into rain, do they? They don't have to know I snacked on horseradish hummus and wasabi rice crackers while in my puffy cocoon, do they? Or that I keep similar cocoon trappings in my office to seek silent, dark refuge before their sessions? They don't have to know their "shrink"is a bit off her rocker. Do they?
Leslie can't believe I don't appreciate origami. She's just handed me a piece of red paper folded into what looked like a not so reasonable facsimile of a rose, and I've thanked her for "the lovely rose-.
"It's not a rose,"she says. "It's a tulip. Come on.-
She's dying for me to ask her to make an origami rose.
So I don't.
She huffs and makes one anyway.
It looks nothing like a rose. It looks like the flyer a psychic handed me at lunch, which I crumpled into a ball and shoved into the bottom of my purse.
Dear Fellas With A Penchant For Doing "Voices-:
Want to know a surefire way to stay out of my pants and life? Talk like Kermit The Frog.
Do it once, and I'll warn you never to do it again. If you heed my warning, I'll appreciate your consideration and reward you by allowing you to be in my company.
If you do it once, and I warn you, and you do it again, rest assured that you'll find out that just as Kermit says it ain't easy being green, it won't be easy being black and blue, either.
Although I've had a crush on J for a while, and would go out with him in a heartbeat if he were single, I'd never regarded him sexually. My daydreams only involved us laughing at the stupid things we laugh at now, as friends.
So when I saw him from behind at the gym yesterday, bent over the weight rack to retrieve dumbbells, and could see his "package"hanging down between his legs, the fabric of his gray pants clinging to it, I was forced to think of him in a sexual way, if only fleetingly.
I didn't like it.
"I miss the way Mother ironed my shirt-cuffs,"Perry says. "Never creased. They laid perfectly round on my wrists.-
At the office, he took any opportunity to remove his jacket, to admire his cuffs. One afternoon, when old man Madigan suggested he wear his jacket for the 4:00 meeting with the Japanese clients, he knew it wasn't Madigan's sense of propriety dictating this request but deep-seated jealousy of his cuffs.
When I question this motive, he says, "After Mother died and I came to work with creased cuffs, Madigan never made me wear a jacket again.-
He rests his case.
Tanya shows me the picture she's drawn of me. It's just my face on a sheet of white construction paper, rendered in orange, brown, red, yellow, and black crayon. The entire thing is riddled with small punctures, except my right eye, which is almost completely gone.
"That was the bullseye,"she says, expecting a reaction from me.
"What's with the blue around my eye socket?"I say. "I'd never wear blue eye shadow.-
"That's a big bruise,"she says.
I tell her an artist of her caliber should work in fingerpaints.
"That's for babies,"she says. "You know I'm 35.-
I never know whether to play shy or stare back when a guy checks me out on the subway. If I stare, I know he'd think I want to have sex with, or at least blow, him.
With some, I wouldn't mind, and with others, I'd really like to.
If I stare back, maybe he'd be able to see the fantasy reel inside my head, where I'm on my knees before him, his fly unzipped, cock filling my mouth, and neither of us moving too much - just allowing the rhythym of the train to do most of the dirty work.
Dear Mothers On the Bus:
While I appreciate that you're proud of your toddler for learning how to take the Metrocard out of her mouth and hold it out toward the card-reader to be swiped through to pay a fare, I don't appreciate that you're holding up everyone else by letting her apply her newfound skills at rush hour. I just want to get home.
Sure, you've taught your kid a valuable skill, but you're also teaching her that it's OK to act like she's the only person in the world, a skill you have apparently mastered.
When you "IM"me out of the blue and just start chatting like we're standing on opposite sides of a picket fence circa 1950, baskets of clothespins at our feet, our hair pulled back by handkerchiefs, and I respond with terse "yup-s and "ahh-s, you really should pause and ask, "Am I interrupting something?-
I don't want to hear about your laundry. I don't want to hear about your lunch. You know I despise idle chatter in real life, so what makes you think I don't despise it online?
(P.S. Elena, chiquita, I'm not referring to you. Besetes!)
He should always wear suits. If nothing else, this man was born to wear suits. When the obstetrician held him up by his feet and slapped him on the ass, I'm sure he said, "Birthday suit, my ass! This little fella's born for pinstripes!-
His body looks best in suits. His attitude is best when he's in suits. I want to kiss him the most when he's in suits. And that, friends, is reason enough for him to wear nothing but suits. Ever.
Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬ËœCause when he's wearing pleated khaki shorts and a tucked-in polo shirt, it's just not the same.
Lindsay sees faces in everything. In clouds, like a lot of other people, but in many places that you wouldn't think a face could be found.
"I saw Chevy Chase in my toilet the other day,"she says. I don't want to know what he was doing there and what form he took.
"The other morning I saw Jessica Tandy in a bowl of rocky road ice cream,"she says. "You wouldn't think she'd be represented well by chips and nuts, but she was.-
"What do you make of all of this?"she asks. "I can't tell from your face.-
Tiny Nathan Silverman standing at the top of the cement steps leading to the front door of his parents's house (a duplex?), round-faced and pants-free, his spud pud out for me to mock from a few doors down, peeing onto the ground and not flinching.
Wicked envy of red-haired Suzy "Creamcheese-'s leopard-print bicycle seat.
Mom forgetting her keys, and she, I, my brother, and sister, hanging out in her silver car with red seats, drinking warm chocolate milk.
Overdosing on orange-flavored St. Joseph baby aspirin.
These are the only things I remember from the first house I lived in.
It's as if I never lived in the enormous Manhattan apartment with the ridiculous number of square feet and bathrooms and windows and kitchen cabinet space. As if it were all just a dream, a nebulous dream fuzzy around the edges, details thankfully erased.
I lived a stressful life of leisure for way too long. The freedom I had wasn't freedom at all. Independence was a stiff price to pay for the luxury of shiny floors, cleaning ladies on Friday, views from every room, and two bathrooms of my own.
Take it away. Keep it. I won't be kept anymore.
You know it's bad when the mere act of ordering in food on a Friday night makes you cringe from the depths of your soul. When "What do you want to eat?"fills you not with excitement but dread.
When you can't bear the thought of sitting across from him at the table because, if you lift your eyes from your own plate for even a split second, you may see him chewing like he's just learned how, his mouth way too active, eager, and involved. He eats even soft food like it were raw meat gnawed from a bone.
Everyone in the audience is in awe. Whispers, soft as slippered footfall, shuffle around the darkened theater, muffled words I cannot discern. Someone behind me says something about his playing being "sensual-.
I want to turn and say, "If you think he plays that cello well, you should see what he can do with your body." To tell his admirers that the same hand that so gently wields the bow is capable of spanking an ass so thoroughly that it's black and blue for a week. And that his kiss can move a person to tears more readily than music.
You would love my niece, S says.
I would hate her, I think.
This kid lives in a sprawling Park Avenue apartment with her brother and ridiculously rich mother, who is only rich because she married and divorced very well. All she wants to do is act and write and produce, and, oh, the little darling is home-schooled because she just can't bother being around the other kids at regular school. Her tutor is gorgeous, young, and Portuguese.
This kid speaks three languages.
She has lunch with Kevin Kline.
These are all supposed to be selling points.
I'm not buying.
From behind the locked door of my sister's and my bedroom came the shrieks of a terrified young cat as its soft, furry, striped body was repeatedly thrown with vicious force against the walls. The shouts of my stepfather, raw and frightening, were no match for those of the battered cat.
I was supposed to sleep there, among the fresh blood streaks. There, I wailed silently, echoes of the battered cat's screams resounding around my blanketed head.
"Look what that fucking cat did to me,"my stepfather would say the next morning, displaying clawed forearms, evidence of the cat's defense.
When I wear the new red shoes, will I be compelled to cha-cha? When walking down the street, will I break into spontaneous dance? Will I find myself in a flouncy skirt prone to fanciful twirling? Will bronze-skinned boys with melodic Spanish accents call to me from balconies, rush down spiral staircases, and ask me for a dance?
And I will know all the steps. And know them well. And the boys, too, I will know well.
I think I have the answer to my question - "Do I keep the red shoes or do I return them to Zappos.com?-
The Tip Jar