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\"Time's up.\"

These were the two words I had learned to fear. Both from my psychiatrist, and the women I keep trying to convince myself I do or do not love.

My name is Simon Schlegel, and I am an idiot-a-holic. I do stupid the way other people do cocaine or alcohol. Ask anyone. My boss. My shrink. The women in, and inevitably out of, my life. This is not to brag, though I must admit pride in a job well done. Which, if I am to be honest, is a brag, and an illustration of the problem, the addiction. The acknowledgement is also an accelerant, more fuel for my fires. And my stupidity burns brightest where women are concerned. When my first real relationship crashed and burned, I headed for the safe harbor of my parents to tell them Torrance had broken up with me. I dialed the phone while huddled in an armchair in my apartment.

\"Hello?\" answered my mother. And the simple clear sound of that voice was the lever opening up the sluice gate to my tears.

I croaked out a \"hi\" and immediately started crying, my shoulders rising up and down violently.

\"Simon, what's wrong?\" my mother asked in that firm, fast voice that comes out in emergencies.


I tried to say but only cried harder. It was both a relief to let go and an indictment of my own worthlessness that I was 27 years old and still running back to Mommy.

\"Simon,\"my mother repeated, \"what's wrong?\" She sounded panicked now, and I tried to stop crying.

“Torrance broke up with me,\" I managed to squeeze out. “I'm not handling it well.\" I then collapsed into tears.

“Simon, honey, you'll be OK,\" she said with conviction, her words laid down like a bandage until she could get me real help; her presence, perhaps my old bed and satin-edged blanket.

“I don't think so,\" I managed to croak. I had been dragging myself around Manhattan for two days, crying and allowing myself to be soothed by friends, but only now did I really feel the hopelessness of my situation.

“Where are you?\" my mother asked.

“In my apartment.\"

“Your father and I are coming in to get you. You'll stay with us over the weekend.\"

I felt the rush of salvation, but at the moment of being soothed, I also felt the semblance of adult pride trying to surface. I was not going to have my parents pick me up like I was waiting at the nurse's office in elementary school.

\"l'll take the train,\" I said instead.

The weekend at my parents'led to Monday, when I called in sick. And Tuesday when I called in sicker. I sat for much of the time on the living room floor crying, and this must have really set off alarms because my parents not only handed me the number of a psychiatrist, someone one of their friends had used to get past a divorce, but they also told me they would take care of the bill. I took the number and offer of payment with gratitude, without argument or any bitterness of accepting help from my parents; something was clearly wrong with me.

Torrance was everything I had dreamt about. Tall and sexy, a body both athletic and lush, the product of Amherst skiing and crew. A personality refined through a dual theatre and biology major. A sense of social confidence brought about by popularity throughout her youth and polished in college at school events and parties. The girl equally at home doing Jagermeister shots at backwoods taverns and sipping good wine at Martha's Vineyard gatherings. Torrance was perfect; I had no right to expect her to be mine, and yet something in me had risen to the challenge.

The first time I saw her I did the uncharacteristic thing: I approached her directly. Uncharacteristic because here was a woman -- leaning into a bar at an East Village party, tilting her body over the table and surveying the bottles -- tall and fantastic-looking and physically poised in sexy jeans and a clinging multicolored short sleeved shirt, managing to look like a blonde sex symbol as well as someone's daughter, interesting-looking, bookish even, while not exuding a forcefield warning off the casual observer. Many women with this beauty, or even half or a quarter of it, walked with a “Do Not Disturb\" sign around them. But not Torrance. And that's what normally would have inhibited me. She was real, and that was scary.

“I'm trained in the field,\" I said to her as I found myself walking behind the table exhibiting the crowd of bottles. I was all action, no dickering, no long-drawn out thought. I was an athlete performing a task, pure and simple, detached and brilliant with execution. “I think I can help you.\"

“OK,\" she said with a smile, straightening to her full height, just inches short of my own six feet and change.

“Close your eyes and visualize,\" I told her. “Think about what you see coming in your mouth.\"

She had closed her eyes but flicked them open momentarily at the words “coming in your mouth.\" But then she again dropped her lids, a small smile forming, I thought, and she waited.

“What do you see?\" I asked. “Don't think, just respond.\"

“A watermelon,\"she said.

“OK,\" I answered enthusiastically, “we're getting somewhere. What is the quality of that watermelon?\"

“Sweet and juicy,\"she replied without hesitation. “Cool and wet.\"

“You may open your eyes,\" I instructed, reaching for a carton of lemonade and the Midori liquor. “That was almost too easy.\"

I began to mix the drink. “Lemonade to tame the sweetness of the Midori, a shot of grenadine to simulate a sunset, and a squish of lime to brighten that sunset and let it bloom in the mouth,\" I said as I moved my hands over cup and bottles and fruit.

As an afterthought I tipped some unexpectedly good vodka into the mixture. “To really fuck you up,\" I said, presenting her the cup.

“Nice,\"she said in response to my comment, and took a sip.

That was the beginning.

Submitted: April 28, 2007

© Copyright 2023 Ken. All rights reserved.


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