How Many Of Us Must.
During the past week of news consumption, obsessive and overwhelming, I stumbled upon an article about a woman who was found partially mummified in her home in northern New Jersey. She went missing months ago and a search ensued when her landlord came demanding months of unpaid rent. After an excavation, she was discovered. They described her as a hoarder.
Reading the article I knew one thing about this woman that the article failed to mention. She, too, had seen Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
We all have. It’s something that makes us equals. It is something that has ruined us all. How many people must die at its hands?
You know the scene I’m discussing. Ariel is twirling about in her cave of collectibles. She is addressing her obsession over each and every one. She wants more. She cannot stop. She is obsessive. She, at sixteen, understands there will be no end to such madness and the absenteeism of her family allows this to bubble and fester.
The materialism. The obsession. The want to posses. The never ending lack of fulfillment.
How does this situation resolve itself? She marries a prince. Thank goodness. Only he can afford to provide for her and her endless wants. She can fill rooms with forks; every type of fork. She married for love, of course. But I am certain that their marriage would have ended in divorce had this man not been capable of satisfying exorbitant perceived needs.
As I shuffled through my sentimental belongings this morning, the playbills and the photocopies of recent accolades and the trinkets and the scraps and the empty matchbooks and my rock collection and my Star Wars action figures (an incomplete collection) and my commemorative coins and plates and my old cellphones and the empty boxes that will be useful for storing things when I’m ready to remove them from the piles on the floor that showcase them, I began to sing. I sang “Part of Your World.” I understood. It was embedded. Every word and the message therein. What does she want? What did the hoarder want at the expense of her own life?
She wanted to understand the world where so many wonderful things are made. And then she wanted each and every wonderful thing, forever. The commodities of her undersea home and her life as a limited princess were not enough to fulfill an obsessive desire to have it all.
I understand. I understand because I saw The Little Mermaid when I was five years old and my mother cried and we were moved. With everything shackled into one message I now fear that for me, it is too late. All I can do is shuffle the piles and be reminded of what I have and what I still need.
It’s why I went to the doctor.
I wouldn’t have sex with them but I couldn’t stop touching them. Maybe that’s a more accurate description of why I went.
I’d slap the ass of a stranger. She’d frown or call the police. I’d politely request to touch the breast of a friend’s friend. She’d consent, but confusion would erupt when I would then make out with or date her younger brother.
As far as making blanket statements go, I feel incredibly comfortable with saying that women are smarter than men. I will openly admit that the female body is beautiful, designed with grace. Yet, I have no desire to date women and I have even less desire to engage in sexual relations with them. At times it is a grade A bummer. Have you ever felt breasts? My goodness.
I went to a doctor that accepted my insurance. It’s tough to land the best doctor that way but it was court requested (the real reason why I was seeing a doctor) so I did some googling and found a guy.
It said he worked from home and I liked that. Not only did his website say that it took my insurance but it also promised free gifts and drug samples. Furthermore, it promised password access to his WebMD Pro account.
I called to book immediately.
His receptionist told me there was a two week wait. I told her it was a court mandated visit. I heard her shout across the room.
“He has to for court!” she said, before following it up quickly with “he could be good.”
I didn’t hear the response.
“We’ve got a cancellation tomorrow. Come over then.” She hung up.
No time was specified. Just tomorrow. I called back a few times. At first no one answered and then I received only busy signals.
I was out of work (pertaining to the court ordered doctor visit) so I just assumed I’d arrive first thing.
My dreams that night were of owls. They hooted in the darkness. Hoot hoot. Hoot hoot. They didn’t stop. I finally managed to silence them and get comfortable when I realized I was sleeping on breasts. Hundreds of them. Startled, and terrified I’d crushed someone, I woke up.
It was the next day at least so I dressed for the doctor. I selected my least crazy clothes. I wanted him to see I was of sound mind. I decided to walk the seven miles to his home office after I realized, mathematically, that this would get me there exactly at 9 a.m. — doctors’ offices must be open then.
The walk turned out to be primarily uphill. The effort at least produced heat in the cold. By the time I arrived at the doctor’s I was sweating and angry. I had torn my pants hopping a fence to pee and blood still trickled down my leg from the wound that accompanied it.
The doctor’s apartment building door was open so I walked four flights to his front door. There was a small placard specifying his trade: Dr. Frankie Swift, Psych-.
No one answered. The blood was puddling in my sock.
I knocked harder.
No one answered.
I banged so hard the door burst open. There in a tiny studio was Dr. Frankie Swift (I recognized him from his website photo) naked in bed with a woman.
“What the fuck?” he asked. “Woah! Woah! Woah! We don’t have any money here, bro! I take insurance!”
He looked terrified. He was a little handsome.
“I called about an appointment. You told me to come today.”
“Is that true, Bonnie?” He asked the woman who I also noticed was naked.
She raised her head from the pillow and looked at me.
“Court ordered?” she asked.
“That’s me,” I told her.
I moved closer to her in case I had to fill out any paperwork before talking with Dr. Swift. His diplomas were on the wall above the bed. They seemed real. I sat down beside Bonnie.
“What brings you here?” Dr. Swift asked.
I thought about it. I wondered if this was a trick. He knew the courts made me. Or was he asking about how I found him? Or did he notice the sweat and the blood and actually mean ‘did I walk’? My feet? United Oxford Insurance? Plaintiff versus defendant?
“I’m a non-threatening homosexual male but I inappropriately touch women” happened to be what came out.
“Really?” Bonnie said, rolling onto her back and flashing me her breasts. Before being able to help myself I accidentally grazed them. It was almost a light cupping really but so fast! If she had been reading a very engaging book she wouldn’t have even noticed.
“Holy shit, this guy is a grabby hands!” Dr. Swift said.
The pipes in his apartment began to click and clack as steam entered and metal expanded and heat was emitted.
I waited for him to follow up but no words came out.
“Do you watch TV?” Dr. Swift asked. Bonnie just kept staring at me. I tried to ignore her by remembering that Dr. Swift was also naked.
“Yes,” I told him.
“What’s your favorite prescription commercial?” He asked.
“Allegra the allergy medicine and the illustrated Prozac commercials,” I shared.
“Amazing!” He said. “You’ll find both of those in the big trash bag under the sink. Take a sample box of each. Follow the directions on the box.”
I tried to touch Bonnie’s breasts again but Dr. Swift slapped me.
“Totally Grabby Hands,” he said while nodding. He knew. I was impressed that he was able to diagnose me so quickly.
I went under the sink and pulled out an industrial sized trash bag. After fishing around for a few minutes I found what I was prescribed.
I showed Dr. Swift and he gave me a thumbs up.
“Photocopy his insurance card,” he told Bonnie. She stepped out of bed and walked toward me. I fumbled in my pockets for my wallet, anything to occupy my fingers so that I didn’t grabby hands her.
I handed Bonnie the entirety of my wallet and as she turned away and walked to the copier I slapped her quite firmly on the behind.
Dr. Swift looked alarmed. “Go back under the sink and pull yourself out something that sounds like a sedative,” he instructed.
I took some Cialis because it sounded like clouds over the ocean. He gave me another thumbs up.
Bonnie returned with my wallet. I shoved it and my hand into my pocket.
Dr. Swift looked me up and down before telling me to leave and call, when the boxes were empty, to make another appointment.
I asked about the WebMD pro codes. Dr. Swift told me there actually was no such thing. It was a marketing gimmick.
“Bonnie,” he said, “went to school for marketing. They had classes on the Internet.”
Dr. Swift could tell I was disappointed so he gave me his email address. “I’m your WebMD now!” He joked. It was alright. He kind of was.
I had medicine. I had been diagnosed with Grabby Hands. I had the good looking doctor’s email. It was a win. The courts would be pleased. And it all cost me nothing, to my knowledge, thanks to the wonder of insurance cards.
These were the first steps to overcoming it all. I took one each of all three pills and commenced the walk home, a better man.
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Featuring Art by Chris Tucci and design by Crissy Fetcher.
We Have Come to Expect.
We have come to expect that as New Yorkers we will never be whole.
Our home is a trading post. Bits of our identity, our personality, our desires are exchanged among transients and passers-through.
Curiosity feeds on it and them.
Furtive looks. Furtive affairs. Conversations with strangers. Chance encounters. A pursuit. The acceptance of pursuit.
To be a real New Yorker is to be insatiable. To engage in all this.
Sure, to lament or chastise (or praise) the engagement once complete, but always to consent to it or the thought of it.
And bearing sensitivity or not, one must accept that with a life of engagement in a city of non-residents, there will never be finality.
Your lover will escape to Shanghai. Your dearest friend will move to London. A year of your life will situate itself in Paris. Your every day will make its way clear across the nation.
Some will return, only to leave again, each time carrying heavier portions of you away like cargo.
As New Yorkers, we regenerate. In a way, having adorned our people, we set to constructing anew, well aware that what we make will be traded off yet again in exchange for memory and experience and emotion.
This isn’t a negative judgment. It is an observation. It is a lifestyle that we cannot live without.
Walt Whitman, a New Yorker, put it best, clearly embracing this contradictory cycle of gain and loss: “I am large — I contain multitudes.”
This is a truth. We are. We will.
As expected, the poem I’ve called forth this quote from is titled Song of Myself. For only a New Yorker would write such a selfish, self-obsessed poem and only a New Yorker would write what you’ve just read.
All in search of explaining his loneliness. All in an effort to make his personal experience a universal one. Solace, in a shared acceptance, a mutual consent, that we will never have every seat in our home filled.
Because we shouldn’t.