Francine’s Guest Blog 9

Wedding Warps, but then…Cake

 

From Patrick’s funeral, I rushed to the wedding.

Normally, I would have felt quite out of place at a gathering where I know only a handful of people, but for some reason, I did not. Grace and I had been roommates at university and though we kept in touch, we did not really mingle with the same crowds. Grace’s dress was beautiful, very lacy, and strapless. The dining hall, which did not have formal seating, was elegant, and the guests were mostly well-dressed. I found a seat next to a couple I knew vaguely.

Halfway through the meal, I looked up to see a familiar figure, which I quickly realized was no hallucination: Mr. Wrong, with the tramp in tow. He saw me before I could bury my face in my food and we both stared at each other in embarrassment. He hastened to introduce me to Tracy as “the girl I told you about”. It turned out that Tracy was connected to the groom in some roundabout way. Wrong had never met Grace, so he had no way of knowing I’d be there, so I forgave him for that. In fact, I forgave him for everything (in my mind) on the very spot, mostly because of Tracy. She was drunk again, and was dressed in a rather decent peach colored dress, which looked nice with her skin. Unfortunately, she was wearing flip-flops, which totally cancelled whatever elegance the dress had managed to convey.

I don’t understand how flip-flops became an acceptable accessory for formal attire. I don’t care how many sequins they put on them, they do not belong in a wedding, unless you’re 6 months pregnant. And the other thing is that if your feet look like two tired trout, you need to show as little of them as possible. And not waste money on expensive manicures either. I’m just saying.

The servers had placed huge pieces of cake on every table, and I was planning on taking some home, but not openly. So I went into the restroom to rearrange my purse. I came back to the table to find that the couple had left, and two guys, one of them really loud, had taken their place. I caught the end of the conversation, which I assumed was about the valet.

“…the idiot had parked my Benz next to a beat-up blue Toyota,” said the loud one. “Of course, I made him move it…”

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The cake was still there, so I sat down, but turned and looked at him. If there is one phrase that describes my car to a T, it is “beat-up blue Toyota.”

“I thought you said there weren’t any attractive women in here,” he said to his friend, when he saw me; then to me, “Are you married?”

Not thinking fast enough, as usual, I said, “No,” and thought about the most sarcastic way to phrase a response to the affront on my vehicle. I wasn’t quick enough.

“Got any kids?” he continued, leering.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” I said, and showed him the pictures of the Somalian and the Syrian. “Different fathers,” I explained, smiling. And suddenly they both had to go talk with the groom’s father. The cake was delicious. Moist and compact, with a light strawberry filling.

My phone rang, and I went outside to answer it. It was Sam the detective!

“I may have a lead,” he said, “but you’ll have to meet me for dinner to discuss it.” My eyes were popping out of my head when my mouth sputtered my acceptance. I vowed not to pursue the bread bandits. Without them, I would not have met Sam. It was fate that led me to remember that I had books to sell that day, and it was fate again that pushed me to go to the police, when I didn’t even want to.

I had had enough of the wedding, and as I floated to my beautiful “beat-up blue Toyota” I reflected on how far I had come since my last encounter with Mr. Wrong. The insignificant dent that he made in my life is all but forgotten. I can move forward with this business of life. I can’t say that any one thing helped, but that everything did.

According to my mother, time is the undisputed healer of all emotional pain. One of the ways to help Time, I’ve discovered, is to fill your days with meaningful things, to be grateful for the things you have; to be generous. And to forgive.  Apart from those early days of the break up, my days have been full of activity and incidents, some good, some bad. Without them I think I would have spent a lot more time feeling sorry for myself. And getting fatter. Lots of people have worse lives than I do. As it is, I feel better about myself; I can sleep through the night; I’ve got a romantic prospect, and…

I cannot end this blog without showing you the dress I’m wearing to dinner with Sam. Robbie says it’s “the bees’ knees.” That means it looks super awesome.

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Francine’s Guest Post 7

Be Still, My Beating Heart

But I couldn’t get the bread out of my mind. And not the bread itself, but the bread bandits. It had become a compulsion, which I recognized as completely out of my range of compulsions as it went against my normal live-and-let-live philosophy. But something was telling me to pursue it.

WWTC is across the street from the courthouse and the Nth Precinct, which, besides being very convenient for some of our students, is a comfort to us, knowing that help is always close by. I decided to report the robbery. Who knows, these people may be a lot more than just bread thieves. When I inquired, an officer came to explain how to file the report, but very quickly, she was called away by a coworker, who came to replace her. He was dressed in regular clothes and quite good-looking, so I had trouble remembering all the crime details, in which he seemed very interested.

After a few questions from him, I couldn’t remember any of the details at all, nor did I care about them, so I just started to make stuff up. Then I was feeling so bad about reporting the poor people that I gave him the address for a totally different bakery. I have no idea what that will do. I did give my correct telephone number though. I wish I could show you a picture of him, so you can understand. All I’m going to say is that his first name is Sam and that he’s a detective. Don’t worry, I’m not planning to rush into anything. One thing I know for sure is that he has a real job.

Robbie sent me a text to say that Patrick had died and that the funeral was on Saturday. My friend Grace is getting married the same day, and I will have to attend both events.

I Stumble Upon a Scientific Discovery

Thursday afternoon I saw Dr. G again. I was debating whether to keep the appointment, and yes, I had to look at my pro and con list again. I got to her office and there were no chocolates. I made a mental note to add this to the con list.

“So, how have those exercises been working?” Said Dr. G., after a few grunts.

“Exercises?” I said. “Oh, those! Yes, working quite well.”

You probably know I have not been doing any exercises, but I didn’t want to disappoint her. Who can keep track of exercises when stuff keeps happening all the time? People dying, people getting robbed…. She asked me about improvement in my symptoms, and surprisingly, there was quite a bit. I was getting more sleep, not losing things, hardly thinking of Mr. Wrong….

I read something somewhere about a scientific experiment in which one group of people played basketball while the other group of people imagined they played basketball, and guess what? When they measured them, both brains reflected similar activity, and they had comparable improvement in their physical skills. This could be what is happening here. If I pretend to do the exercises long enough, I could indeed see significant improvement.

There were no calls from Young Grizzly during the session. I assumed she had put him in check. Good for her! Sad to report, though, she was wearing the same outfit, except the blouse was a little different.

She continued with her questioning and gave me some more exercises, which I promised to do, (wink, wink.)

Some guy outside of Whole Foods was selling goldfish, already in the bowl, so I bought one, in another attempt to add more generosity and caring to my life. He has a florescent green color, with red stripes, and very delicate fins. Very cute. I named him Phillip.

For some reason, I felt like eating salmon for dinner. Can you tell me what it is with the fish people who refuse to skin your salmon when you ask them nicely? They’re in this exclusive environment, made for skinning fish, surrounded by an array of sharp knives, running water, garbage receptacles…and, yet…

“Well, no…. we don’t really…” or

“We-ell…, I could…but it’ll take a while….” It takes me 30 seconds at home if the knife is sharpened.

Some have the nerve to say, “The skin comes off easily once you cook it.” And I want to reply, “Yes, with all the flavor that I seasoned the fish with, and what do you know about cooking fish? You’re a fishmonger; it’s not a given that you know anything about cooking fish.” But I don’t, because I’m polite.

I was in bed that night when I realized I had no food for Phillip. The fish seller did not sell food, only fish. In my pantry, I found a box of bread crumbs and gave him some of that.

A Mournful Morning

Well, Phillip was floating in the bowl when I woke up this morning. I was horrified. We had had such fun the day before, him darting back and forth in the water. I began to wonder about the cause of his death. Either I was sold a defective fish, or…. I went to take a careful look at the box of bread crumbs I had fed him, and my worst fear was realized: it wasn’t just plain bread crumbs, but seasoned bread crumbs, with onion, garlic, and the dreaded cayenne pepper. Life must go on, I told myself, and flushed Phillip down the toilet. At least he went quickly and before I became too attached to him. I also vowed not to buy fish from ambulant vendors.

Francine’s Guest Post 4

Night-time Musings

Well, I did go back to the gym. No disguise either. The gym-Bobs saw me and smiled and gave me water, and I smiled back.

I decided I would do everything – exercise, diet, mental and emotional therapy, everything. I’m going to begin by eating half of what I normally eat. That has to do something, right? My mother says my body looks fine and that I’m imagining all kinds of symptoms. Mothers always tell their children they’re beautiful. Well, at least I don’t have a thick neck like that Tracy chick that Mr. Wrong is running with now. There is nothing you can do about a thick neck.

I suppose I should also be grateful that I don’t really have serious problems, like one leg, or weird back-fat producing genes.  That would be awful. God, what if I have that body dysmorphic syndrome that’s going around?  Oh, enough, Francine! Here’s an opportunity to practice that gratitude thing from The Secret. I’ll transfer this to my Gratitude Journal later. I am grateful for my long legs, which draw attention from the horizontal spread behind be; I am grateful that I was able to get rid of Mr. Wrong before he caused any serious problem, like get me kicked out of my house for non-payment of rent, or like get me pregnant. That’s something to be grateful for! Also, I did notice that since I’ve been going to the gym, I lost a ½ pound. I’m grateful for that, even though, you know, sometimes you think you’ve lost it and a couple days later it just shows up again, because it was just hiding? And ending this section on a positive note, I’m grateful that I have three part-time jobs.

Morning Decisions

This morning I woke up to see the mail that I had neglected to read yesterday. In it was a letter from the health insurance announcing some new benefit that was practically free: mental health treatment from the professionals at St. Margaret’s hospital. All I would have to pay is $20 per visit for five visits. Should I? I said to myself several times. Well, I ended up calling and making an appointment with the only doctor who had availability. Serendipity brought the letter… it was supposed to happen.

I’m a little nervous and excited about the appointment as it’s my first time seeing a psychotherapist. I’ve always wanted to take one of those mysterious Rorschach inkblot tests. Maybe she will even give me something for the insomnia. I will resume writing, dear readers, after I’ve seen the doctor. I am looking forward to telling you about my visit.

May I have Some Inkblots, Please?

I’m going to tell you right now that I don’t think that I’m cut out for picking doctors. I will call this one Dr. Grizzly. You will see why in a moment. What was I thinking when I took an appointment on the ides of March?

When the secretary ushered me into the doctor’s office, it took a few seconds for my eyes to get used to the dim light. I understand that they do this for its anxiety reducing effect. Not such a good idea in this case because it just emphasized the creepiness of things. Dr. Grizzly had a giant head, I suppose to hold all that doctor knowledge, huge gray hair, glasses, a weirdly anachronistic face, and jerky movements. Oh, and clothes from the seventies. I was not born yet, but I’ve seen pictures. Anyway, so you don’t have to take my word for it, I took video.

She greeted me and offered me a seat, grunting all the time, very disconcerting – may have been a medical condition, or allergies. My grandmother used to grunt when she had seasonal allergies. She claimed it helped clear the itching in her throat. I’m going to write most of the conversation, but also my thoughts during, so you can have an idea of the experience, in case it is something you want to try.

I told her about my problems – the insomnia, the racing thoughts, the break-up, Mr. Wrong appearing in random places…

“Just now I was checking my Instagram, and there he was, with his nasty girlfriend,” I said.

Grunt. “Instagram?” She looked puzzled.

“It’s like Facebook. I deleted him right away.”

“You deleted – ”

Just then, her cell phone rang.

“Sorry, I have to take this,” she said, and rushed out into a little antechamber, where she shut the door and started talking. Well, you know how you think you shut the door, but you didn’t? I think that’s what happened. Still, I couldn’t make out much, except the tone – angry, but controlled, half-whispered, and I’m pretty sure I heard the F word three or four times.

“So sorry,” she said when she came back two minutes later. “So you saw his picture on Face Time.” Grunt.

I didn’t bother to correct her. They were probably still using manual typewriters when she graduated from college. I just added that concerning Mr. Wrong, I was angry at myself for having chosen badly and that I felt stupid and ashamed for having let myself down.

“Oh, that’s all very normal,” she said, and wrote in her notebook. “Normal feelings.” Grunt.

“I don’t know if those feelings have anything to do with the fact that I’m forgetting things and obsessing about things. Yesterday I found my keys in the freezer after searching for them for two hours.”

Grunt. “That could be from the lack of sleep, losing things,” she said.

“Yes, about the sleep, I think I need some help with that, like pills.”

“Oh, I’m not able to prescribe medication,” she said, “but we do have a psychiatrist on staff who I can refer you to, if I think….”

Oh, here we go again. A wasted trip. Apparently, there are laws, established by God knows who, that separate the pill-prescribing doctors from the mind-treating ones. Then she told me about “creating an ideal sleeping environment.” I was getting annoyed now.

“What makes you think you’re obsessing about things?” She continued. Okay, reader, just feel free to insert a grunt either before, during, or after each utterance of Dr. G’s.

“Well, in the elevator coming up here, this guy kept saying “Installation” over and over to himself, but really loud.  So I asked myself, is he trying to remember something he needs to tell his doctor? Why doesn’t he write it down? Maybe he doesn’t have a pen. Was he practicing the pronunciation of the word to use it later? Why was the word so important to risk public ridicule? No, the question was, why was it so important that I know? And I know it’s going to come up later, and I’ll be thinking about it again, probably at night, trying to figure out why. Is that normal? Also, I find myself unable to tolerate deviation from order, or sloppiness. Like, if I’m waiting in line somewhere, and the people ahead of me are not making a straight line, like you can’t tell who’s ahead of whom, I want to push them to straighten them out. I want to say, “Move to the left, move to the left!”

“And how do you feel at those times?

“Tense, annoyed.”

“And what do you do about those feelings?”

Questions, questions, I need some answers here.

“Nothing. I curse internally. My sister sings when facing such stressful situations.”

“Oh? Do you think that would work for you?”

“No.” If I thought that would work for me, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be saving $20. Because singing is free. . And I just noticed that I involuntarily used alliteration four or five times in a row.

She continued writing.

“I may have obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I’m wondering if it’ll turn into Tourette’s syndrome,” I said aloud.

Grunt. Like a negative grunt. Then more writing.

Like right now, I’m looking at your hair and trying to help. A curling iron, a stiff brush, some hair gel? Something. And is that masking tape on your glasses?

“Well, we will look into all those issues in time,” said Dr. G.

And who were you talking to on the phone? (Must be the husband. He’s probably a jerk.) But you might not be a peach to live with either. (Or it could be her adult child. He’s living with her and using drugs. Or even selling them. Yeah, probably selling them. And she wants him out!)

Then she wanted to know about my family – normal. And my childhood, which I admitted to her, was perfect. Yes, I loved my father, and he adored me. Yes, he died ten years ago. Yes, my mother and I have a very good relationship, my siblings too. Nothing there.

“When do I get to see the Rorschach inkblots?”

“Oh, I use cognitive behavioral therapy exclusively. Situations such as yours can be addressed with something called exposure and response prevention. Here’s a leaflet that explains it. In the meantime…..”

“Oh.” Really? Foiled again?

Then she explained and wrote down some exercises, among them, breathing. I was only paying half attention to this.

And you would think the inkblots would be more her style, wouldn’t you?

I left Dr. G’s office and saw that Whole Foods was right next door. You didn’t even have to leave the building. I bought a chocolate rugelach and sat down in their café and ordered some tea. First I wrote down everything that happened and tried to analyze it; then I amused myself by making my own inkblots.Eventually, the question arose: Would I return to Dr. Grizzly’s den? I listed the pros and cons so far:

Pros                                                                                                              Cons

-the secretary has dark chocolate                                       -there are no inkblots

almonds in the waiting room

-it’s right next to Whole Foods                                           -she is not easy on the eyes

-the parking is underground and free                             -does not give pills

I will add to this as ideas come.

When the attendant served my tea, he said, pointing to the rugelach, “Do you know you could get a whole box of those for $4.99?”

Now, that’s my idea of helpful therapy.

Do think this looks like a cat with fake eyelashes?

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Francine’s Guest Post 2

Pizza, Thighs, and Exercise

Well, no one objected to the cheese, so it remained in the box with the clothes. Grendel did give me a sour look when I passed by her cave yesterday. I don’t know if the exterminator truck parked outside had anything to do with it. Rats are known to like cheese. Anyway, I’ve got bigger problems.

I seem to be running out of clothes that fit. I’ve been trying to convince myself that they’ve been shrinking.  Well, that may work for the knitted items, but not for polyester or silk.

How can a slice of pizza – okay, two slices – make your thighs rub together overnight? I’m never eating pizza again.

At lunchtime, today I decided to go to the gym after work. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, says the Internet, it increases energy, improves your mood, and helps you sleep. I need all of those things.

On my way to the gym I stopped at a restaurant to get some healthy food for afterwards. I did not want to be so hungry that I would stuff myself with anything I could find in the fridge. While waiting for my food at the counter, I heard a commotion behind me in the restaurant.

“I got a seat for us, Tracy! Where’s your man?” I turned around to see that the drunken loudspeaker was Mr. Wrong’s cousin, Tim, the recipient of those nightly phone calls. I remembered hearing that he lived in a rooming house with a bunch of male and female roommates. The girl he was talking to was one of two busty, scantily dressed women, also drunk. I concluded that they were part of the group home.

“He’s parking the car,” slurred Tracy, as she lurched into the seat, gulping from the beer bottle she was holding.

I grabbed my food and slipped outside. Not twenty feet from where I was standing, I recognized Mr. Wrong’s car maneuvering into a parking space. Well, suddenly, a few things became clear. The cousin had been a decoy. No wonder he insisted that I check his caller ID every time he called Tim. Then Tim would give the phone to Tracy the Tramp and I’d be none the wiser. Slick. Well, he’s neither gay nor incestuous….and he’s still a slug.  I hurried down the street to my car, thinking how stupid they all must have thought I was.

Better her than me, I finally said to myself. Now she’ll have to deal with the freeloader. Or maybe they’re all freeloaders, living off each other in that rooming house, hiding from creditors, on that precarious raft of deceit and depravity.

By the time I got to the gym, thoughts of Mr. Wrong had completely left my head. I was very excited about this new gym-venture. I had been there before, and I had undergone their little presentation, because who wouldn’t, for a free three-day trial? This time I was determined to give it my all. So I allowed Bob, and his fellow trainer, whose name was – guess what? – also, Bob, to show me around and explain the machinery. Well, it didn’t take me long to start yawning, and I was getting pretty annoyed. I mean, after all, I did come there to exercise, not to listen to some boring information about how machines work.

“I came here to tighten up my behind,” I said to the Bobs. “Can you just lead me to the machine that’ll do that?”

Grudgingly, they did, and I was on the machine for a good twenty minutes, working myself into what felt like a sweat. Oh, I’ll increase the resistance, I thought, and pulled what I thought was the resistance-increaser. Well, it obviously was not the resistance-increaser, as everything felt really loose after that. But at that very moment I thought I saw Mr. Wrong walk into the gym, so I whipped my head around, lost my balance, heard a loud clang, and ended up in a most embarrassing and precarious position.  Fortunately, the Gym-Bobs were there in seconds. The two of them disentangled me, to the great amusement of all who were pretending to concentrate on their weightlifting,

The picture below was taken from the video surveillance camera and given to me by the gym boss, who was delighted that I agreed not to sue them.

I’m pretty sure I broke their machine.

The guy I thought was Mr. Wrong turned out not to be – much better looking.

It’ll be a while before I go back there, of course. Unless I can find some different gym clothes.  And a wig.

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Francine’s Guest Post 1

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

or

Should the Cheese Stand Alone

The idea of a blog came to me after the break up. Mr. Wrong and I had not been seeing eye to eye for quite some time. But after I threw him out, things did not get much better.  Don’t get me wrong; the freedom I felt after I closed the door on his lying, despicable face was indescribable. It’s just that I can’t seem to settle into a comfortable place no matter what I do. I keep judging myself, I have constant internal monologues, and I have trouble sleeping. My mind is a hopeless tangle of what-ifs and I-should-haves. As a temporary solution, I decided to follow the advice I often give my students and use writing for the clichéd catharsis and self-discovery that it produces. So, my dear readers, you will be receiving weekly reports (more frequent, if I can manage) of my journey out of what I am beginning to suspect may be a depression.

So that you may have a glimpse of what goes on in my life, and in order to ensure that everything I write reflect reality, I have installed a video camera in strategic places in my home. Hopefully by the end of this blog, the cloud will have lifted, and I will become myself again.

In the video above, you can see an example of what I do when I come home from work. I lie in bed, drink tea, read, (yes, I sometimes read without looking at the pages), take long baths, and generally sulk.

I don’t think I’ll be able to write much about Mr. Wrong right now, except to say that I should have seen the signs. Here are two of the most salient:

  • What grown man over thirty does not have a bank account or a credit card?
  • Who calls their cousin at ten o’clock every night “just to touch base”?

Anyway, I packed the rest of his belongings in a box, and took them down to the office of my apartment complex for him to pick up because I told him that I’d rather not have any contact with him as I didn’t want to be responsible if I SNAP at the sight of miserable face.  The idea of removing from my home every single item he owns appealed to me immensely, and I relished packing them in the box: some clothes (including his favorite sweater), some books, his Spiderman thermos, and of course, his precious cheese. Yes, Mr. Wrong is a connoisseur of cheese. The riper the better.

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So here is the dilemma: I hate soft cheese, almost as much as I hate Mr. Wrong, but I also hate waste.  I decided not to throw the cheese out. It is a brand new, very expensive Camembert. The thing is, I had only one box, and so it was packed quite tightly, very close to the favorite sweater, as I remember. It was only later that I found out that he wouldn’t be able to pick up his items for two days. And I had already taped up the box and left it with Grendel, the Keeper of the Gate, whose idea of a response to “Good morning” is “Unrghh!”

I have done the research. I know the cheese will survive at room temperature for a couple days, but what about the clothes? Will they survive? Should I have double-wrapped the cheese in plastic? But wouldn’t that make it sweat?

On the other hand, am I putting too much effort into accommodating the needs of this vermin with whom I wasted two of my precious child-bearing years and who contributed only to my awareness of evil and my ability to withstand adversity?

Readers, I place the fate of the cheese in your hands. If in the next two days I get one request, just one, to walk down to the office and separate the cheese, I’ll do it.

I definitely did not foresee this dilemma.

As I write this I see that I may be a little obsessive.

See? Already this blog is working. Fantastic.