Office Hours: Say What Now?

“What, uh,” Fat’s gaze sweeps from the dessert box in my hand to my waterlogged shorts, “what’s going on, Boss?”

My sandals squeak from the moisture as I wander past the good doctor and put the cake in the fridge. “Co-worker’s birthday tomorrow,” I tap on the appliance door in the direction of the cake on the other side.

“And the drippy nether region?”

“Your words paint an unappetizing picture, you know that?”

Tiny fangs show with Fat’s prideful smile, “It’s a gift.” Her shoulders lift in an innocent shrug.

“The wet shorts are from an unintentional enema at the water park while chasing around Bestie’s kid.”

Fat’s lungs release boisterous laughter. “Classic.”

“The only purpose I serve is to be your jester, Fat.”

My dry compliment has the effect of a triple highball on a cheap drunk.

“Time for a quick session?”

I waddle into the living room and flop on the couch, sandals on. “Sure, what the hell?”

Her green eyes bulge with astonishment. She scuttles after me and jumps on the coffee table. Her phony spectacles are conveniently on the table beside her and she fumbles in her race to log more time in her fake shrink book. “Wet shorts and shoes on the couch?”

I lift my index finger high into the air as though making a grand declaration. “My house, my rules.”

“Very well.” Fat adjusts her glasses so they perch just perfectly across her tiny nose. “It would seem you had a lovely afternoon outside.”

“Absolutely.” I take a quick assessment of my freckled skin. “Not a burn or anything.”

Fat stares at my face, which now also blossoms with tiny freckles across the nose and forehead. “You might want to think about a sunhat if aging gracefully is still your plan. A forty-year-old woman like you needs to take all the precautions she can.”

My face contorts into its best impression of a question mark. “I’m not even thirty…”

“That’s what I said, Boss. Do try to keep up.” Fat clips her words; the sharpness makes me doubt if I heard her correctly. She wastes no time on what may or may not have been said and sets right in on her imaginary work. “Now then, you were at the park with Bestie and her offspring.”

I smile and remember the almost-two-year-old saying ‘sexy’ over and over again because it made me laugh. Kids, they’ll repeat everything.

“Jonah, yeah. I love that kid.”

There is an almost unnoticeable twitch of Fat’s ears as they pick up on something.

“This is your godson, right?”

My declaration finger points again, this time at the porky cat, an inch and a half from her spectacled face. “That is correct, Doc.”

“You given any more thought to having your own wee ones?”

“Sure. I’d love to have a kid or two.”

“Liar!” She shouts over my answer and surprise registers as her expectation shatters. Frankly, I don’t blame her; I usually pretend that kids aren’t something I ever want just to avoid conversations about the path to parenthood. Actually, I’m a little surprised at my own honesty. I scratch my forehead. Fake therapy sessions really aren’t the place to talk about deep-seeded truths. I don’t really know what happened. I look at Fat, hoping she’ll bust out with one of her character-building quips, but clearly I’ve just made both of us uncomfortable.

Fat’s jaw drops and she stares, dumbfounded, while she keeps trying to process what she suspected all along. “Boss,” her green eyes hold disbelief, “did you just open up to me? Was that a moment?”

Both of my hands press hard over my heart as though my sincerity was the equivalent of pulling a pin and I’m bracing myself for an explosion of feelings.

Silence surrounds us. My aorta doesn’t become shrapnel. My cardiovascular system remains intact. I think we’re both astounded. With caution, I lower my hands down to the comforting cushion of the couch.

“Yes, Fat. I think maybe we did.”

“Think it’s time to call this one?”

I nod with exuberance. “I don’t think either of us know how to proceed from what just happened.” This honesty country, it’s a strange place.

Fat bats the plastic glasses off her face. “That was a solid three-minute session. I’m okay with that. Keep your uterus in check until we’re both equipped to have a sincere discussion. Okay, Boss? There are some dust motes I was planning to watch in the bedroom, so…I’m going to…do…that.”

My Life in Limbo: A “Documentary”

“Post break-up, day seventeen. The air remains thick with frustration as well as the rotten scent of old garbage that needs to be taken out. Both camps seem to promote an ever-increasing distance while portraying to the outside world that the situation remains okay. The indigenous peoples of the fuck-my-life tribe remain unaware that we’ve managed to interpret their muted language.”

I explode into the apartment, catching only Fat’s last two sentences as her voice travels from somewhere beyond my line of vision. This phony documentary crap needs to stop immediately. My keys scratch the hall table with a forced landing and with the bowling skill of John Goodman, my gym bag travels recklessly down the hallway. It lands at the base of the scratching post and there it shall remain until I kick it nearer the laundry pile.

Fat’s glowing green eyes stare as I make my entrance into the kitchen, but the obese cat persists with her natter. She sits on the counter eyeing Ex-Boyfriend who’s watching a movie on his computer – oblivious to her monotonous droning. It is unclear as to the length of time her voice has granted sound to her observation. If I were to venture a guess, I would suppose she’s been going on for about seventeen days.

“Houseflies become abundant as both camps neglect showering and housework. They’ve silently entered a competition to establish their alpha standing through stench and decay. The local housecat grows increasingly despondent, and considers stooping to the level of using the bathtub as a litter box.”

“Fat, if you so much as joke about pissing in the tub again…”

“Calm down, boss. You know I avoid places where your gross naked body has been.”

This is true. The places she knows about anyhow. I pat her tiny head and then scratch behind her ears. My stomach rumbles, offering a silent threat that it will make my life absolutely miserable unless I fill it with some kind of carbohydrate.

A thunderous purr comes out of the feline, and her eyes close for the next few seconds until I stop petting her. “I’m just tired of all this transition business, boss. I know you are too. Normal life is impossible until he moves into his new place. This isn’t breaking news to you though.” She eyes me knowingly.

Despite my best efforts to withhold my emotions, a heavy sigh propels out of my lungs. I shoot a tired look over to my – for lack of a better word – roommate.

“You guys walk around each other like you’re both wearing inner tubes around your waists. Tell me how you seem to think this is okay.”

The plastic bag of bread crinkles as I take out two pieces and pop them in the toaster.

“We’re not walking around each other, Fat. It’s the situation we’re trying not to disturb. He’s here for another three weeks and we’ve agreed that we’re going to handle this like grownups.”

“And freezing each other out is the way to do that? We’re all living in limbo here. On a side note, I’m going to take it as a compliment that you didn’t wash your hands between petting me and handling food. Thanks.” Fat’s face leans in when I take out the butter dish. Delight warms her eyes. I flick her wet nose and a paw goes protectively to where she got hit.

“Uh… you’re welcome?” It is gross that I hadn’t considered that. No wonder her hair ends up in my food. That’s my epiphany for the day. There’s always at least one.

I peer into the toaster and see the bright orange lines turning my bread light golden brown. The decade-old appliance buzzes with age. “Breakups are weird, Fat. There’s no definitive how-to manual to deal with things. There should be though. I could write it…” My focus briefly turns inward while I consider the idea.

“Sure. Yeah. It could serve a dual purpose: how to survive a break up while simultaneously decorating your house as a pig sty.” Fat’s tone changes from a winning sales pitch to a balking jerk. “Penning a stupid advice book that won’t sell is one way to go.” Fat’s gaze slips back to the butter with longing.

“And the other way to go would be…?” The toast pops and my skeleton almost bounds out of my flesh. Even though it was expected, I’m still surprised.

“Get a limbo stick and make the best of the situation, of course. It would be great footage for my documentary.”

This is as Tall as I Get, I can’t Grow Up Anymore

“Did I just watch you have a legitimate four-minute conversation wherein you played both the part of yourself as well as that of the comically large mug in your hands?”

I follow the sound of Fat’s voice and see the cat smirking beside the box of cereal on top of the fridge.

My mouth recreates the letter ‘O’ as my body turns to statue. Why do I never think to sweep the area for a mocking cat before I allow the stupid part of my personality to man the helm? This is officially the moment I vow to never again consider it a good idea to put the dishes away; henceforth I shall let them stay in the dish rack for an indefinite number of tomorrows. I grip the handle of the mug tightly. As stupid is already in charge of my actions, stupid continues to make me look like an idiot. Maybe it’s because I saw Tommy Boy a few too many times growing up that acting like a buffoon is ingrained in my head as acceptable and sane behaviour. The mug raises to my mouth and I speak into it as though it’s a megaphone. Just to punctuate the echo, I force my voice into a deeper octave. “You can’t prove anything, unevolved feline.”

“So you are not, in fact, willing to come clean about using the phrase, ‘le hoot. I ‘ave to get zis baret ‘ome to my leetle owling. He love eet.’?” Fat mimics my poor, phony accent rather well. The look she gives me takes the place of two words: Gotcha, Sucka.

Instantly, I lower the giant mug and point at the cartoon birds in a tree. Fat doesn’t seem to get it. “No, see the picture. They’re owls that live in France. Note the Eiffel Tower and cafe in the background. And see this one, he’s looking quite sharp; his neck scarf actually matches his baret–”

“I don’t think you ever left pre-kindergarten. Does the game of pretend ever end with you?” The question isn’t rude – the interruption is – the question, however,  stems from a genuinely curious place.

I return the mug back to the dish rack, needing to adjust it on top of the other dishes so it doesn’t succumb to gravity and kill the French owls. After I’m satisfied the mug will remain in place, I face Fat with my hands on my hips. “Oh please, Fat. You can’t possibly be calling me immature.”

Her head tilts to the side in an I’m-not-sure-you-want-to-play-this-game kind of way.

“Out with it, doc. You seem to have the opinion that I lack the capacity to behave like an adult.”

Fat licks the sides of her mouth as if weighing the merits of saying something or keeping it to herself. “Very well,” she jumps down from the fridge onto the kitchen counter and stares at me with scrutiny. “Are you aware that every morning when you cover up your hideous face with one that looks human, the compact powder brush inevitably ends up becoming a momentary moustache in your hands?” At first I thought it was some kind of freaky below-the-surface Hitler fascination, but the more I observe, it would seem as more of a Charlie Chaplin homage.”

This revelation rings no bells; she’s clearly fucking with me. It seems like it should be a compliment of sorts as Charlie Chaplin was one delicious silent man, but is she accusing me of wanting to be a delicious silent man? I’m rather fond of the fact that my ovaries are on the inside. Crap, I’m letting her get into my head and make me overthink everything. “Fat, I know it’s killing you to have a normal person as your owner, but you need to stop trying to make me think I act like a lunatic just so you can practice your self-appointed shrink business on me. Get a hobby.”

Fat wets a paw with her saliva and rubs it behind one of her ears. “If that is how you choose to see it…” She lets the sentence drift into space.

I lean my back against the counter and the action somehow jostles the mug free of the dish rack and the French owls fly the coop.  The loud sound of the mug hitting the counter makes the small hairs on my arms stand at attention. “God damn birds with your freaky, flappy wings!” I yell as I pick up the now-chipped mug. In spite of this new imperfection, the mug is unharmed and still functional. As I don’t want to take another gamble with gravity and putting the cup in the cupboard is a whole ordeal, I put the mug in the sink.

“Maybe the writer aspiration makes sense after all.” Fat muses as she watches my physical exasperation with the coffee cup. “Fiction, obviously. You, boss, are not meant for the real world – you signed off on practicality long ago.”

As I’m not certain how to take this, I just assume she means it as a compliment.