Silently, I had to give her credit. It had to take a great deal of self-restraint and composure for her to last as long as she did without asking the question. I was certain that she wanted to the very moment I entered her office. Rehearsed it in the mirror even, ahead of time. I sensed it instantly but it had now been a week since the act itself. I chose to keep my quiet comfort as long as possible. Down time. Besides, there was more ahead to do, then to prepare for.
Shrinks are sometimes at a disadvantage, I’ve always thought. Like the lily-white teachers I had in high school who wanted us to feel privileged for the grace of their presence without actually saying so. Like most of my past male employers, like my ex, the cops...They assume and/or believe that they are automatically smarter than others day 1 merely because of appearance or skin color. This, they fail more often than not to realize, sometimes clouds their judgment or hinders their ability to observe sharply. As I lay back in the moments before, she could not have known that I’d consider her royal blue business suit, especially over that bland grey blouse. Definitely not her to make the statement, TODAY I’M ALL BUSINESS. This woman was never all business and no style. And the missing bracelet made for her by her first grandchild that she gleamed about the day we met, a total giveaway. Even her desk, neater and lacking life now. I guess she figured I wouldn’t remember the faces of her family after two years. Yeah, she saw the local news over morning coffee and was afraid...but she had to come.
And the thought passed through me; it was nice of her to be available on her day off. She had always been considerate of my feelings, sensitive to my situations, as much as her pedigree would allow. When I was sick she sent me herbal teas, during the holidays she always mails a card, and when I can’t make the sessions I could expect a phone call even if I call in advance and leave a message saying why. As if she needs to approve.
Even now, before the inevitable meat and potatoes part of today’s session, and yes, I know it’s part fear, part psychology, small talk and such, she asks how my painting is coming along, about my daughter—if I’ve heard from her, how I am feeling overall. Sometimes we all simply need someone to pretend, y’know? The way we pretend for them. I once heard an ornery ol’ fart say, “The truth is like the proper medication: It’s effective as hell, but you can only take so much of it per day.”
* * *
There I stood at the foot of the bed yet again. Examining. This one I did not recognize so I assumed she was not an acquaintance of my daughter, Kira, but she could not have been much older. He looked so normal. Natural. Lovingly, he looked. I hadn’t seen this from him in quite some time. And spooning. A couple. Their skin matched. Ours did not. Maybe he grew tired of what that entails, or the experiment was now over, and peer pressure’s a bitch—I don’t know. Still, to someone without a sadistic daddy-does-daughter image in their head, they’d look good together. My husband, the financial advisor, was always so image-conscious, it was good to see him like this again; bare and uncensored. So I took a mental picture because...well, it’s what women do. Then I dug in where I stood and refocused. Revenge. We women are big on that, too.
Ah, the possibilities.
The ol’ pillow-covered bullet to the brain. Classic, but no, not on my new Sealy. Poisonous injection? Nah, that too screams of bloody murder. And by the way, this wasn’t my doing. Why should I concede my already-limited freedom so easily? Furthermore, this will affect Kira’s life forever. Bad enough to lose a father even if he wasn’t much of dad. More thought here is required. More creativity. I am, after all, an artist.
* * *
“Mrs. Weisman—uh, Michelle...”
Her slip-up slaps me back into real-time. She could never say my last name with the genuine belief that it’s mine. Weisman on darker skin, even if it’s caramel-colored. But I figure it’s the same as when I’m watching Mick Jagger sing and can’t get past the lips.
Stones fan 'til I die.
I glance at the clock on my phone. Lady doc’s done good; twenty whole minutes she’s lasted, small talk’n all to make me feel at ease when she’s the one that could use a tall stiff one, hold the rocks. In my thoughts I’m bettin’ her a million dollars she can’t go the usual sixty because her head’s starting to resemble pre-party balloon prep.
“The body found in Lake View Terrace...” she added this time, her tone urging me to identify it. I do and with much certainty. Hell, everyone in the city knows its name now. “Did you have anything to do with your husband’s death?”
POP! Brain matter all over her well-displayed credentials. Where’s my million, bitch?
Effortlessly, my gaze leaves hers and floats the length of the room — my last visit, surely— landing briefly on the strategically-placed voice-activated recorder. Ready to accept the consequences or not, it’s the delivery more than the answer I care about. That is where the truth lies in its proper dosage.
“I must have, don’t you think?”
She did not react but I had already noted that her body tightened for this.
“I don’t understand,” she replied, but do say more is what she meant.
“Why, I imagine I must have been killing him for years for him to do what he did to me as much as he had. Men aren’t perfect beings, I know, but would a man intentionally hurt a woman like me? A plain Jane homebody plucked from a small town who married him with the sole purpose of pleasing him and bearing his children?”
I look her in the eyes. Here, I’m supposed to. They are detail-oriented as always, inquisitive, analytical, and currently checking for sarcasm. Mine are filled with the passion of truth though I harness it carefully. Show passion but not rage, my imaginary future defense attorney has already firmly advised.
“Yes, I’m sure it must have been murder to live with such a woman. He was, after all, ‘a good man’ and ‘going places.’ ‘A great catch!’ I was ‘extremely lucky to have him.’ Just ask any of our acquaintances here or back home. Females, of course. They all tried or were trying to land him or fuck him and change his mind. I honestly can’t fully grasp why they failed. Natural blondes. Blue, hazel eyes. Porcelain skin, whatever that means. The right pedigree, the backing and demographics. I was a bank teller and all I had to offer was the perfect home-grown tan for the place he was headed. California. A new life in another world.”
A world too fast for me I suppose. I don’t fit in—couldn’t and didn’t want to. All his friends’ wives sound like screaming squirrels chasing golden nut sacks and reminded me of that game at the fair where you smack rodents with a hammer every time they’d appear. Oh, how I wish...
I extend my anguish, real or otherwise, by whining about how the women in L.A. can be so indifferent regarding their self-worth. How I could never see myself gaining fifty-plus pounds in a depressed state. Nor could I turn cold, bitter or heartless and grow content to jump from man to man for dick or bank account without the emotional tie of souls. That closeness that says, Yes, there's a god and he's made us so much more than animals. Hell, I'm near shedding a tear when...
"I remind you, anything we discuss in this office is guarded. Doctor-patient confidentiality—" blah, blah, blah.
She doesn't sound like the woman I thought I knew, my preliminary assessment of how this would go was correct. She sounds a lot like detectives when questioning a murder suspect, trying to get the poor schmuck to do their work for them. She sounds better than—smarter than me...again.
"Have to go now, Doctor. Treatment today, remember?" I say with a quarter of the hour remaining and watch her body language go from quiet confidence to Flaming Chihuahua mode while she searches for that perfect day-saving thing to say.
“Tell me,” I stop to say as I take in the entire lay of my chosen outlet one last time on the way out. “How’s that son of yours? No longer a rookie on the force, right?” One of the photos missing from her desk. Yes, it’s the delivery I care about and I deliver my perfect day-saving line with a look that I hoped would announce, SMART COMES IN EVERY COLOR. Junior will have to earn his shield at someone else’s expense.
My husband, only because divorces have to take so much damn time, is a bit of a blur to me now. The last time I saw him I mean. I had things going on in my system. Like wars being fought and all sides were bad. Poisons, drugs and alcohol.
What kind of man files divorce papers after being told his wife of nearly twenty years has cancer? What kind of a man hits on a young nurse's assistant in the hospital where his wife is getting chemo? Fucks that little slut in the same bed at their home? Anyone? I’ll tell you. The kind that doesn’t deserve to outlive his victims.
Did I kill him?
If it were you would you answer? Or...would you relish in the newfound power? People, not knowing how to act around you now or what to think when they always thought they had you figured out, suddenly somewhat afraid. Hell, it's kinda like how some treat people with darker skin anyway, only with the arrogance in check. And why is it that the ones with big intrusive voices usually say the least worth listening to and the soft-spoken aren't heard until you suspect them of something? It's not the fear I need, it's the need to be taken seriously—this nice girl from a small town. How much could I possibly have to say worth listening too? How could I really expect to land and keep a man like that in California? What was I thinking? Abstract, like some of my art. He could do whatever he wants—a man like that. How much harm can someone like me really cause? Seriously?
My ex-husband. Lady Doc. The delivery guy lately...Faces of change. Hmm.