How I Feel About the Dinosaur
by Carolyn Kegel
She was already drinking and thinking bravely from the sofa. That cat gave up on her when she got like this, but it was necessary. A glass of wine simply smoothed out the edges. Marriage. Work. And floating above the mayhem was really an extension of the control one has. These things do not break away like tectonic plates.In fact, the cat was just about all she could handle in the way of strings because she had so many things to do, like lying about near naked in the flipping heat, listing all the men who would come out to see her, even now, this moment, ten p.m.
Three, she counted. "God, you're good," she thought, reaching aimlessly for the telephone. "You could never be this cool if you had children."
She called up Dr. Townsend. "Hello, Steve," she said.
It was a dreadful risk, calling him at home, but she was drunk, of course she didn't care.
"Who is this?"
"Rebecca," he said, almost annoyed. He was very nearly annoyed.
"I was wondering if you might explain something to me."
"This is not the time." He was quick, tight-lipped.
"Can you tell me why you're so fucking self-referential?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Everything I say reminds you of yourself."
"Don't call this number anymore. I'll see you Tuesday, Rebecca."
She heard the line disconnect. She thought about him, the man, disconnecting, about how she had entered his brain and how his thoughts of her would make him uncomfortable and how these thoughts were dangling there in his mind. One rope, pushing on another. One thing always leads to another.
She got dressed. She knew this was crazy. Certainly one could assume by her actions, if anyone bothered to connect the dots, that she was out of her mind, that the dots did not connect, there was positively no reason to go anywhere, she already had alcohol, and she might conceivably smudge the lipstick onto her teeth before she left the apartment, she simply couldn't stand it, she couldn't stand being there in that place. So she slipped through the hallway and all the way down the staircase, until she was out on the street.
Things had been droning on like this for a long time now, since long before the wedding bombed and the line of boyfriends traipsed around the apartment complex, until gradually they all went away and she found herself alone and getting older. Her face was now white with anxiety and she was so drunk and cynical, perched upon her usual barstool, that it was difficult to maintain conversation.
"What's up, Bec?"
She held up two fingers, a play on words, meaning, peace brother, make it a double, but everybody could tell she did this because her voice was so slurry already in the evening, she couldn't take a chance on speaking before she got served.
The bartender looked annoyed.
Everybody was annoyed with her lately.
But he was a cool guy. She'd slept with him a couple times six or seven months ago.
He appeared to be co-operating. He scooped up ice into a tumbler then poured a long stream of vodka into the glass, holding the neck way up in the air for her to witness.
Proof of the proof.
Once or twice she had accused him of being stingy with the stuff. And it was that kind of thing precisely, she realized, that kept him annoyed with her.
But hey, you gotta speak up.
He kept things neat. He gave her the drink and started wiping the counter.
She knew Dr. Townsends's home number because he had called her from there once to cancel a session and her caller I.D. had picked up the number so she copied it down for just this kind of situation. She also knew his address because she had paid $14.99 to an on-line agency to investigate the good doctor, and they had fortunately been successful.
She picked up the vodka cranberry and gulped it. A warmth spread over her chest and up her neck and reddened the little apples of her cheeks. She took another drink.
The thing about Dr. Townsend was she was absolutely in love with him and she was absolutely positive he was in love with her, although he would never admit anything. He would only peruse her figure like some hungry animal as she walked through the room, crossing his legs, shifting in his chair. His face would blanch when she spoke of things like sex or celibacy as he said, "Go on."
A throat cleared.
There appeared to be someone next to her. Human, from this awkward vantage point, so she turned her body westward. Male. Late-sixtyish. Older than her father. Up there with her grandfather.
She said abruptly, "Dr. Phil says there is no reality, only your perception of it."
He looked into her eyes. He was game.
"What does your perception tell you?"
She polished off the beverage and set the tumbler down with a clank. Then she raised her chin as she looked at him, letting her long black hair fall back on her shoulders. "That I don't matter," she said.
"That's a tragedy." He was standing up with one hand on the bar and one hand in his pants pocket. "But no one is important to everyone. Not even God."
Rebecca was unable to process whether or not he meant what he said.
"Don't feel sorry for me. Really," she patted his clammy hand. "I have a fabulous job," she said, getting giggly, "and a fucking PhD., if you can believe it."
The bartender picked up her glass and whisked it away. He came back and stood still, as if to be a part of this fascinating conversation.
"All I basically have to do is show up and be semi-prepared. Occasionally I give my point-of-view and then all I do is get the hell out of the way for those with actual work-related ambition."
"Are you hungry?" the old guy said.
"No, I'm drunk. What I'm saying is, all my problems are all bananas. You know, the world is so much bigger than me, and there are people with problems so much worse than mine. People who are hungry."
"Come on, I'll take you to Burger King."
"No, I want to stay here and drink."
"You're being cut off, my dear."
Her spine slumped as she lowered her face. She put her face in her hands. She seemed to sink into the barstool. "Oh." She did not want to move. "I don't want to go home," she said.
"You don't have to go home," he said, brightly.
She peeked out and looked critically at his clothes. Every thread was at least twenty years old.
"There's Burger King," he said, even more brightly.
She looked vaguely at his face. She did not know this man. "I don't know you," she said.
"I'm Owen," he extended his hand.
She didn't take it. "As in?"
"As in, I'm owin' you a hamburger?"
"You know what a tragedy is? My wife used to think I was funny. Now she only thinks she's funny."
Rebecca managed to get up off the barstool. "Go home to your wife," she said.
He took her arm. "What about you?" he said. He tried to get her to look at him.
She straightened up. Her mind, which was ever so excellent, was rifling through strategies to get herself up to Dr. Townsend's place. It was a long way uptown and of course there would be the toll booth to pass, which probably would not go well. That doorman would be linked to some security network.
"I'm fine," she said. She was not listening to him, she was not even considering what he had to say. She was thinking about Dr. Townsend and his poor, sad eyes. He wanted her so much.
"You know the Buddhists believe the universe is inside you," he said.
She grimaced. "I wonder what they make of the dinosaur."
"Where are you going?"
There wasn't any way she was going home. That cat didn't need her. Some stupid cat could always find a friend. The light reflecting on the door was so shiny, she had reach it. She had to at least try.
"Oh, Owen," she said, already moving forward. "You know where I have to go."
Carolyn Kegel's work can be seen in Pank, Bartleby Snopes, Wilderness House Literary Review and more. She lives with her family in New Jersey.