Sick a la Americana, Part Two

23 10 2012

I can’t wait to get out of here to call everybody.

“ I’m not anorexic!!!! No, it’s not anorexia that has fucked me up.”

The reception area is empty.  What, when did it turn after five?

At three or so, I handed my insurance card through the window. When a human hand picked it up at the other side, I was shocked. Not about the five-inch plate glass between us – grumpy cancer patients with nothing to lose could cause security risks, I suppose, but that there was a hand, a real looking hand with a human attached that can speak!

During the last three weeks I have placed roughly 70 calls to this office. But an automated menu hangs up every time before I finish my message, no matter how fast I hop on the beep and rush through my line.

So I planned another strategy:  What if I don’t call at all anymore? Somebody has got to notice the sudden lack of frantic attempts to get through, miss being wanted and end up calling me!

Why not?

I was aware of a could-be glitch in my otherwise clever plan: the likelihood that my surgeon’s answering service was not programmed to act like a typical guy was a possibility, but I had to at least give it a try.

Well, nobody called.

That’s when it finally hit me: There’s no reasoning with an app.

A cyber-office is just not human, period.

I’m stubborn in matters that don’t matter at all.  Give me resistance or ignore me and I will fight, even if I don’t care for the price I win – once it is mine, you can have it. This challenge however, was the first one I remember that I could have sat out without a dent to my pride.

Was it not for several “Sowhatsupwiththeresultsofthebiopsy?” nags day after day, I’d have left it at losing to an app for cash strapped and awkward surgeons.

But naturally, the first time an ex-man called the very same number, the doctor himself picked up.  At the very first try.

Now I’m inside the elevator I don’t remember I called and stare at the buttons. There are three parking levels, three! Why can’t I ever write this shit down? It even says so on the ticket!

Damn, the ticket I should have had validated.

I cannot deal with this right now.  But since I can’t locate it, nor figure out where to look for my wallet, it’s just as well that I didn’t validate.

A yellow-haired lady cased in piggy-pink stretch-velvet fills every cubic inch inside her parking booth and is resting her eyes over a brand new US-Weekly. A spit bubble wobbles in the left corner of her lower lip. It bursts when I brake in front of a wimpy stick of brightly painted plastic, down in clear barricade mood. One of her lilac eyelids opens slowly and waits. She smirks and points to a slit in a box, very much next to my face.

“See that? That’s where the ticket goes. Thank You.”

“A ticket? I don’t have one, I mean, I might have had it but now I can’t find it, I think.” I say and hope I sound sweet.

With both eyes open now, her blue-pink-silver shaded nails – if you can call something twice as long as the hand it belongs to nails – draw my eyes to a sign spelling it out:

“Lost Ticket Pays Max – 28$” it says in English and Spanish.

“Cash or Credit.” She yawns.

I look in my purse, under the seats and tap my pockets, appropriately frantic.

“Can’t find my wallet either, I’m sorry”

She rolls her eyes. “ Pull over there, you’re blocking traffic.”


My car is the only vehicle in the whole building.

“I said pull over there. Or pay. Whatever”, she barks, as if this was her own business. “I’m having to need to call the supervisor. She’s out for lunch and she ain’t going to be back here today.”

That stick blocking my way, is no match for my German engine. There won’t even be a scratch. The speed with which she shoots up and rolls out of her container takes me by surprise, but that’s a sight already in my back view mirror.

‘Chill. That’s why your boss has insurance’, I think.

I step on it, around the corner onto Hollywood Way and even though there is no reason, I speed up once I hit Riverside.  A yellow light ahead turns red. I argue with myself and calculate for a moment. But since I’m usually a good person, I stop.

My hands-free microphone is tangled up in knots. No matter if I roll it up with care or throw it as it is inside the glove compartment, that’s how it looks when I taake it out. How it ties itself is one of those miracles nobody will ever be able to explain.  But without my glasses, I won’t be making that call, I can’t tell what’s my phone or my ancient Chanel compact.

I will never get used to not seeing everything I want to with perfect 20/20 vision or with not beeing young anymore, no, not without my contacts.

They’ve worked for years. But after this storm last year, when electricity was restored after four days, either my eyes or my contacts started to act up.   Even fresh out of the package, they were spiked with thorns – on better days, they made me think of sand-schnitzels. After a few hours in a bar or party, the first thing to do, was peel them from my stoner-red eyeballs. They were suddenly useless. And expensive: I wasted two two-week-supplies every day.  My eye-doctor in Santa Monica – the sight-god of Southern California’s aging visual-art A-Listers – wondered if I ate them. Hahaha, that was funny. But two days later I found another year’s supply of lenses in my mailbox.

This is just one of the reasons my credit card statements don’t make it out of the envelope. No, I never throw them out! No way! I keep them in a folder for later – in a clutter-free box of folders. Two years and never-missed-a-meeting in an anonymous program for people like me – people who look at money as a drug that always runs out – was not for nothing!

Always a sucker for public shaming I had an open mind and was prepared for a percentage of crazies. Even when everybody who shared sounded like a sales-pitch for  “The Secret”. Even when none of this added up – and, oh really, The Secret? Ouch.

However,  by the time we held hands I was sold. Twenty years of other ‘rooms’ fell off me like my jeans from last year. This was the real thing. I was in and cool with everything. Nothing could keep me from those weekend retreats in a rented two-story buiding , hidden in a monastery by Santa Barbara.

When I wasn’t rolling on the floor in giggles or tears, I power-walked through the lush gardens to the meditation park.

I clearly  had finally reached the root and the answer to all my problems.  Sometime during childhood, I must have entered into a fucked-up agreement. Part boarding-school guilt, part romantic sainthood, mixed with early hippie- dogma and with  what I picked up at home, I had chained myself to a screwed up mindset of deprived poverty, regardless of how much I was paid for my ideas.  Those things alone guarantee depression and constant anger, but I spread this believe out to every inch of my life. Money was only the visible tip of an incomprehensible chaos inside me.

Always late, time had long ago turned into my enemy. Never enough, always running out, yet not able to enjoy a free minute, I had not the faintest idea what comfort was supposed to feel like. Massages made me impatient, a TV was for couch-potatoes and forget doing nothing!

Suddenly I saw another connection:   my  bulimia –  behind me for more then a year then –  even its utter wastefulness, was  proof of my never ending productivity. Since I somehow didn’t deserve to take time out and read Vogue, I mean, not without something to show for,  I made sure that I had plenty to show.  Empty boxes and crumpled bags, dirty dishes and collapsed shopping bags justified wasted time somewhat, but the toilet bowl full with vomit, myself empty again provided a feeling of accomplishment I had not yet replaced with anything equally effective.

So I related and connected with everyone, even the reallly crazy Urban Campers –  the few who snagged a scholarship for the retreat – the New-Age priests and the competitive over-spenders that had of course hoarded all the good magazines while we others were at dinner. Leaving  only AAA-Westward and lame golf-magazines to harvest for our vision boards, they all left the retreat with wall-sized and intricate visions, but I forgave them.

Even when the wedding to my long-term sweetheart fell on a Friday,  day one of another retreat, I arrived at the ceremony with my own car, packed and anxious to leave as soon we were declared man and woman – hey, whatever one puts in the path of recovery will be removed anyway….

I can’t find my glasses  without my glasses.  Of course, those ones, carelessly stuck in my bag are not the ones I need. They are at home. After I capitulated the battle with my contacts, I went in to get glasses to really see with. But being able to focus wasn’t pretty. Noticing chewed-up nails, unnecessarily magnified, I returned them to the stylish box they came in and set my Word-program to Times 16 and up.

If only that was possible with seams and other details I need to see for my work.  Even if it’s all about delegating, the way my eyes are acting crazy, I’m gonna be way more confidant once I’ve met a blind fashion designer.

Damn! One minute at a red light is enough to scramble the simplest plan.  My mother is right. I must see to it that I get properly medicated for this ADD thing. Everybody else has it!  I bet I could up- (wo)man-ship everybody with the quantity of my distractedness and that’s without getting into the quality of it.

The light jumps to green. I’ve missed my chance to prepare for this. I haven’t even dialed a number with my glasses still on. I pull over to the curb, detangle the cord and start over. But suddenly, it hits me:

What was I thinking? This stupid line about anorexia is just the opening act, but then what?

I have to keep this to myself! At least for now.

Because if I tell friends or my family what the doctor just told me, the people pleaser in me will also hope – at least a little bit –  that I don’t have to take that back. I know myself by now. I can’t stand the idea that even one single thought  about me could be that I cried wolf or worse, that I enjoyed the pity and attention.  Oh yes, somebody will think it.  I will always wonder and search faces and hearts. The way I turn everything over until I find an unkind idea about me in others, I will surely discover plenty. So what if I end up not dying, after all? That’s easy: I will look like a pathetic attention-hogger.

This conflict will encourage those crazy out-of-control fucker cells to spread out, if they haven’t already. What if they start to rush? Empowered by my desire to be right,  Cancer will know that I would rather die soon  then be looked at as a liar.  It will spawn and nest with new energy!

I hit END on the call.

I can’t take a chance with this now, because I do want to live, I have to. Until this, until cancer, my life was the best it had ever been, exciting, beautiful and even at times comfortably peaceful and sweet.

What the bleep do we know about cancer?

Showroom of Perfection NEW DELHI – THE BLESSING Chapter 34

11 03 2011


A slight man in an orange robe, dripping with beads enters Aroona’s factory. Everybody bows and steps aside. Aroona whispers a hectic command to her servant and a few seconds later, a bowl with fruit sits on her desk. The robed man bites into an mango and eats it without peeling it. All that is left is the pit. Then he attacks a papaya the same way.

Aroona and me watch in respectful silence as he scarves his way through oranges and bananas and a few more mangoes. He pushes the plate away, grunts and leans back.

Aroona and the fruity robed man talk in Hindu. I can tell they exchange polite chatter, but after a while, he looks at me and I squirm.

This is the holy man she has invited to tell me – us – about my future. I don’t believe in this kind of thing, but I have agreed to be a polite guest.

I need Aroona. I need my Indian and Chinese factories. I need to be polite and I need them to like me or my career as a successful fashion designer is at stake. When I travel to my factories, I am popular, they all love me. Mostly because I eat whatever they eat. They all admire my adventurous appetite, my fearless willingness to eat everything from snakes to suspicious mushroms and lots of MSG.

“You are so refreshing, it’s such a joy to eat with you. All the other Americans who come here, they are too scared, too American to eat with us. Always on a diet, always scared. Hahaha. You are great!” Mr. Johnson in Hangtzou tells me at every meal.

“I know. Those Americans are so worried about their figures and their health. Well, not me. Bring it on”, I laugh and tuck into another browns sauce that has little brown frogs floating in it.

Little do they know. Little does anybody know. I am the only one who knows why I don’t care what I eat, how much, how gross, how unhealthy. I’m fearless alright.

But now, this guy’s luminous stare makes me wonder. Is he going to find out what I do after I people-please my hosts at all those tables all over the world?

He points to my laptop and Aroona translates.

“Find a picture of you and your husband” she says, excitement in her dark voice.

As soon as I open the pcture, he stares in silence, but only for a moment. Then he speaks in rapid-fire Hindu and Aroona’s face looks concerned. She asks him something, but Sari-Man only nods. He checks me out, head to toe and turns back to her.

She looks skeptical at first and I chime in.

“What? What are you guys so weird about?” I inquire nervously, even though I already know.  The picture I pulled up shows Payne with his arm around my neck, not nice, as in his arm around my neck as a gesture of affection. He squeezes my neck but I laugh in the picture. Clearly, because I have no other choice.

“He is fucking with you” , Aroona translates haltingly and I know she’s telling me only half the words the guy tells her.

“And he will fuck with you way more. He’s a bad guy for you. He will make you want to die. He loves you but he screws around right now.You are no match for him. You are way too nice. He is a sick and twisted man and he will cause you heartbreak. Leave him or you will die”

Aroona does not want to tell me this. She’s much rather tell me something that would make us all happy. We have become friends over the last ten days. But she knows that Sari-Man is always right. She continues to translate his rants.

“He has other women. Many other women. Many. Not just a few. He wants to love you but he needs to prove that he’s  hetero sexual because he is not. He needs you. He loves you, but he is not faithful”

After another silent pause he looks at me with pity.

“ He is not married to her.”

Aroona looks at me.

“Is this true? You said he is your husband. You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?”

“Well actually”, I stumble, “Actually, we are technically not married, but after 13 years together, we always say we are. I mean,…”

“Whatever. That’s your private matter.” She says. But I can tell, my trustworthyness to her has dropped a few degrees.

“ He will marry her because she will do something for him that only she can do .”, the man interrupts our girl-talk.

“ But he will go on fornicating with other women. I see a black girl, a troubled and sick black girl he loves and tries to save. She is very ill. She will die soon. And there are others, many others,”

He stops to look at me again. His green eyes tear into me and for a moment they lose their sparkly luster.

Aroona gets up and spreads her prayer carpet on the floor. She sits down cross legged and starts to chant. Not a good sign. They both chant now and the picture of Payne and me stares back at me, ominous and dangerous. I click it shut.

“What about my career?” I ask.

Aroona nods to me and points to the prayer rug. I will have to wait. I flip through a Vogue Magazine and rip out pages of inspirations, designs I want to get done before I leave here. So far, the results of our labor together does not satisfy me. I know it will not make a splash and Philippe and William, my sleazy business partners will use this to get out of their contract with me.

I see Philippe’s face in front of me and the spittle that flew out of his mouth when he yelled at me last time I showed him new designs.

“You are not giving me your best. It has no soul. I know it’s there, why do you hold on to it? Why don’t you give me what you have?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m trying. I’m working so hard and it just doesn’t come out right.” I mumble.

“You have to trust me”, he sighs. “William will withdraw the money and we will lose this company. All because of you. You’re acting like a beautiful women in a bar with horny guys. You’re hiding because you don’t want to be raped. I understand.”

“No, you don’t” I sob. “You don’t know how it feels to give my best just to see it copied by big companies I can’t compete with”

He lights another cigarette and I think about pliers, how I would snip off his big and yellow hare-teeth and set them straight. I always have this imagine when I talk to him. He sticks his hand down his pants, the way he does it and scratches his ass.

“I’m not gonna have your designs raped and stolen. I will get them produced and sold. Haven’t I proved this to you by now?” he takes another drag fro his cigarette and stomps it out on the side walk.

“I know, Philippe. Let me go to India and I promise you a collection that will sell” I beg through tears.

The friendly old man behind the News Paper Kiosk glares at Philippe. Philippe is a sight to hate: Five feet and fat, a chain smoker who showers once a week, he is rude and arrogant to everybody except to his elders at the Kabbalah Center. And to his wife. He cowers in front of his wife.

“I’ll talk it over with William. India is expensive.”

I ran upstairs and lock myself into the bathroom and cry.

Aroona folds her prayer mat and sits back down at the table. Sari man stays on the floor. His eyes bore into mine and suddenly I know that he knows. He can see my deepest secret. I also know that he has no words to describe what he sees. My secret, my bulimia has no Hindu word. He doesn’t know what he sees, but he knows it is bad.

He exchanges more words with Aroona and she haltingly translates.

“You have a huge rock rolling down the hill and you need to stop it. But you don’t have the strength. You could stop it and roll it back up, but only with a part of your mind that is closed off to you.”

He closes his eyes and speaks in a trance.

“ You are using your power against yourself. Do you abuse drugs or alcohol?” she translates.

“No!”, I protest “No, I’ve been clean for 20 yaers”

“Then it is something else. Something destructive and sinful against nature. I have medicine for you, but it will not help by itself.”

“What? What are you talking about?” I ask nervously. Because I know exactly what he’s talking about and I feel hopeless and desperate. If he only knew what I’ve done already to cure myself. Rehabs, therapy, 12-step programs, hypnosis, Kabbalah, books, tapes, Marianne Williamson….oh god. I’m hopeless.

He lays his hand on my forehead and prays. I feel his energy from the tips of his fingers penetrating my brain. Cells rearrange themselves, my thoughts stop and I lose myself.

When I wake up on the floor, he is gone. Aroona fans my face and leads me to the couch, where I fall asleep.

Back in my hotel room, I call room service and order six dishes. My food comes with six settings of cutlery and napkins.

“You expecting guests.” The very young and polite waiter states.

“Yes, they will be here shortly, yes over there on this table would be great.”

I watch him set the table for my imaginary dinner party, shame creeping up inside my throat. I’m used to this. It’s a scene played out over and over in hotelrooms all over the world. This is what I do. This is who I am. A lonely bulimic girl with feelings I don’t have names for.

He leaves and I’m alone with my drug, my secret love affair and I cry. Deep sobs that come from a place I have closed off for 19 years. The food looks delicious, but I can’t even look at it. I must have food poisoning. I cannot eat. It still sits there untouched when I wake up early to pack. I am leaving today, back to LA.


I am so sick, this must be food poisoning. My stomach hurts like hell.

“Throw up and get rid of this poison” I whisper. But somehow, I have no idea how and why, I don’t do it.


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