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 8

This One’s for You, Pat

 

It was the day of Patrick’s funeral. I had to find something to wear. I am not one of those people who will just wear anything to funerals and weddings. I find that  disrespectful. I finally found in the back of my closet a black dress, a little short, and some would say a little flirtatious, but quite elegant. Robbie would love it. Then I found a perfect hat to go with it.

At the funeral were a few of our department colleagues, with whom I did not mix much, since they think they are superior, being full time instructors. After the very short service, we gathered in a reception room. There was an abundance of wine at the bar, around which hovered Pam Cadell, the department know-it-all and alcoholic. She was wearing a slightly louder version of her everyday jumper-type outfit, which Robbie called “the pinaform” (a word he had coined from pinafore and uniform.) Her dreams of becoming a lawyer having been squashed by middle age and lack of brains, she contented herself with torturing her colleagues with political announcements and unsolicited legal advice. She had already put away several drinks and when she saw me, she said,

“Fancy dress! Isn’t that a bit expensive on a part timer’s salary?”

My friend Doreen, whose free and expressive use of profanity I’ve always admired, would have responded with a hearty “Now that’s none of your f***ing business, is it?”

All I could manage as my voice rose higher was, “Ha-ha thank you my mother made this dress yours looks very practical with the red flowers to hide the wine stains in case you spill it and with those big pockets you could carry out grapes crackers sausage cheese just kidding ha-ha.”

“Francine, my dear, you look divine,” Robbie said when he saw me. Robbie looked strangely relaxed, and when I commented, he admitted that he was relieved that the ordeal was over. It had been very sad and stressful for him, caring for Patrick while he helplessly watched him suffer. Robbie’s and Patrick’s gay friends were mostly elegant, except for one, whose loud handbag caught the attention of both Robbie and me at the same time.

“Cow skin? Really?” Robbie gasped. “With a leather jacket? Should I say something?”

“You know you won’t,” I said. And we comforted ourselves by shuddering and saying “Ugh!” a few times.

People kept coming, and the little reception room was getting quite crowded. The line at the bar was a twisted mess; drinks were being spilled on the nice gay suits; napkins were on the floor, some wet; but I noticed that the disorder did not bother me a bit.

I met Patrick’s young sister, Jane, and had a very nice conversation with her. She rejoined a group of their relatives, and I could see that I had caught the eye of an old man among them. He was a tall, thin, really old man with a thick shock of white hair. And he kept raising his glass to me every few seconds.

People were leaving and I wanted to say goodbye to Robbie before I left, so I went into the room with the coffin where I thought I’d seen him go. But there was no one there but Patrick, with his colorful silk ribbed tie in the Windsor knot, a beautiful contrast against the pale pink shirt. Suddenly I heard,

“I’ve been admiring your lovely chapeau…”

It was the white-haired man. I’ve always liked men complimenting my attire, even when it’s not sincere. I think it shows attention to detail and dedication to craft. And the use of the word “chapeau”, common with the gentry of the early part of the twentieth century was refreshingly cute.

“Merçi,” I replied.

“I could buy you several hats like that,” he said, “if you’d marry me.”

I looked at him, amused. I could tell that he must have been pretty hot in his youth. His body was still straight, relatively tight; he had nice teeth (not the original, certainly), exquisite clothing, and very likely, plenty of money. Half a century too late.

“I’m just guessing,” I said, “but I think we’d have only a few years together before I’d be left a grieving widow, and I don’t think I could stand that.”

“But what wonderful years they’d be,” he said, smiling, and looking deep into my eyes.

Just then, a woman about the same age as my admirer appeared at the door.

“Are you coming, Al? Jesus Christ!” She said, and downed the rest of the contents of her glass.

Suddenly Al’s shoulders dropped and the twinkle left his eye. He did bow to me, though, whispering “Adieu!” Then, mumbling “Yes, dear,” he went to join Mrs. Al outside.

On my way out, I overheard Pam Cadell say, in her most drunken, sanctimonious, over-indulgent voice, “He didn’t deserve to die.” And I thought, now, that’s just stupid. Nobody “deserves to die,” or “doesn’t deserve to die.” Death comes to everyone. And when is not a matter of merit. Otherwise, you would not still be here, Miss Pam Cadell. It certainly was sad, and it was nice that so many people had shown up to comfort Robbie and Patrick’s family. But from all the talk from those who’ve had NDE’s, the other side is pretty awesome, because they never seem to want to come back from it, what with the bright warm light full of love and everything. We, the living, are the ones who are left to suffer. So, we just have to deal with it and hope that time really does heal us quickly.

(I am going to tell you about the wedding in the next blog post as I don’t like to make things too long.)

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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