Thinking about getting engaged this Christmas? Snap out of it.

cakeI’m not anti-marriage–not even anti-gay-marriage or anti-pet-marriage. If you want to commit to something for the rest of your life, how about eating chocolate? Showering? Breathing? Unfortunately, you are blinded by momentary bliss. You won’t listen to me. You’ll stand at that Tiffany’s counter and order the $20,000 noose.

I’ve been married. I know. It wasn’t awful, but neither was that wide-collared nylon shirt I wore in the late 70s. So, why would I campaign against such? Because they don’t work. Sure, there will be a honeymoon phase with many an orgasm. Do you honestly think that will last until the days of parallel plots? It won’t. In between, you get to deal with all sorts of annoyances including things left where you don’t want them and the desire to penetrate or be penetrated by someone else.

We’re biologically programmed to desire variety. This fucks with us.

Try to think of something you have that you only want one of and will never want another. You can’t. What’s that you say? A penis? Oh, bullshit. I have one, and I can think of a few instances where a spare would come in handy. There are also times when I’d like a different one, which would inspire a phrase I’ve never heard: “You want me to put that massive thing where? Impossible.”

If your woman is pressuring you to take that step “or else,” agree, have sex with her, then leave. There are other women who will have sex with you without demanding Princess Cut Kryptonite. True, some of them will be older, less attractive, or married. Still, it’s like that mid-morning candy bar–it gets you past the urge to do something silly.

By this point, married readers are ticked. They’re similar to that friend who insists you try the latest DVD exercise series, invest in a penny stock, or test drive a Kia. Misery loves commiseration. If you are a happily married person, congratulations. I bet it won’t last. Don’t be angry. It’s a free country, and I can place my bets as I like. The odds are in my favor.

Sometimes I’m accused of being a bitter recluse who is destined to die in wrinkled clothing and be eaten by his cats. Right. You know what won’t cause my death? Stress from:

  • Snoring bed-mates.
  • Being caught masturbating.
  • Toilet paper issues, including shortages, wrong-direction installation, and balled up wads of … “Fuck, I didn’t want to see that. Couldn’t you flush it?”
  • Annoying offspring carrying none of my genetic wonderfulness.
  • Credit card statement shock caused by line items regarding various salon procedures.
  • Nosy in-laws.
  • A bathroom counter overtaken by lotions.
  • My being enlisted as the home’s chief technology officer who must give daily lessons on such complicated things as “How to Record a Program without Erasing All Previously Recorded Programs.”
  • Having to say no to once-in-a-lifetime, legendary vagina, which just happened to throw itself at me because the fucking planets aligned or she thought I was a rich someone else.

Tell that overly-medicated pusher behind the counter you’re not interested. Leave immediately. Go buy some foot lotion, an electric blanket, or, if you’re feeling extra generous, a Coach bag.

Doctor O: Beth – Session Eight

I met her; I almost love her. There’s a connection with Janice that my predecessors recognize but could never define beyond instinctual. Guess our DNA must mesh. This isn’t anything I want or need at this point in my life. The kicker? Her husband’s uncle–the divorce attorney–is someone I’m all too familiar with (Matt Landry), and the hate between us runs deep. The women I attempt to rescue often get dragged under by this beast as he exclusively defends scumbag, deadbeat husbands.

I’m not sure how much of my history with Landry or my actual relationship status I’ll share with Janice. Women share everything. Beth would feast on the news. This is a treacherous road, but I’d love nothing more than to rescue Janice for my pleasure while delivering a grand “fuck you” to Landry.

“Gee, doc, you seem to be glowing. Are you pregnant?”

“Very funny.”

“How was your get-together with Miss Janice?”

“Fine, and we’re not going to speak any further on that matter.”

“Suit yourself. She says you’re a great kisser. I knew it.”

“Beth, …”

“I know. Fine. What you wanna talk about?”

“Did you have any dates this week?”

“Mm, hmm.”

“One? Two?”

“Four.”

“Four?”

“Yep. I actually had two in one night. How ya like me now?”

“Any keepers?”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: My cell phone is vibrating in my pocket. Third time in the last five minutes.

“Oh, I’m definitely keepin’ one around, maybe two.”

“Well, that’s not bad–two out of four.”

“I know. I gotta tell you about this one guy, though. Man, what a trip! I met him for coffee, we chatted, and he was nice enough so we exchanged numbers. Guess what the fool sent me less than an hour after he got my number?”

“A proposal?”

“Almost. A naked picture of his silly ass. He had these tight underwear on and I could see his package … shit, let me go get my phone, and I’ll show ya.”

“That’s OK. I’ve seen a few packages in my time. Tell me about the keeper.”

“Bartender. He has no hair on his body at all. At first it was strange, but I got used to it. Lord, was he lovin’ my girls, if you know what I mean. He had this thing where he wanted me to hold them together while he got busy.”

“You enjoyed that too?”

“Sure, whatever gets it hard. He has a great one–got this banana bend in it, so it hits me just the right way.”

“Can you see yourself dating him?”

“Dating? Hell, no. He just texts me late-night, when his shift is done. I unlock the door and wait for him to come have his chocolate.”

“So, you’re just going to be sex buddies.”

“Yep. Works for me.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Now, someone’s knocking.

“I’m sorry. Let me see who this is.”

Ronnie is at the door and he insists we talk immediately. It’s not like him to barge in on me. I tell him to give me a minute.

“Beth, it seems I have a bit of an emergency to deal with. Would you mind if we cut this session short? I won’t charge you for this one.”

“You OK, doc?”

“I’m fine. A friend needs my help.”

“Ah, no problem, darling. I’ll see you next week.”

“Thank you for understanding.”

Ronnie enters, agitated.

“Dude, you can’t interrupt a session.”

“Was that John’s wife?”

“Yes, why?”

“Great timing. Seems our suspicions about our friend in blue were justified.”

“He took the money?”

“Yep.”

“How’d you find out?”

“He took a little trip to the casino yesterday. Blew it all on poker, a one-hour companion, and a bottle of Maker’s Mark which accompanied him into a guardrail.”

“Shit.”

“Here’s the kicker: His fellow five-o from one town over are not big fans of our local boys. They cuffed him, tossed him in the back of the squad car, and then searched his SUV. Guess what they found.”

“Drugs?”

“Worse.”

“His gun?”

“Worse.”

“What, Ronnie?”

“A driver’s license.”

“So?”

“Not his license–the license of one recent suicide victim.”

“Fuck.”

“Exactly.”

“You think he’s going to talk?”

“Rick’s a smart guy and a good liar. My bet is he either clams up or comes up with something. Let’s hope they buy it, because if my name comes up in this, it won’t end well for him.”

“Is he still locked up?”

“No, he got out this morning. I’m going to pay him a visit next. Just wanted to check with you first to see if you have any ideas.”

“He got the fucking money, that should be enough. I can’t believe he would take us down.”

“Like I said, that’s not going to happen. He’ll be swimming off the same fucking bridge.”

“Jesus, Ronnie. This was supposed to be so easy. Beth’s husband triggers the trap, pays the price, and goes away quietly.”

“Well, he went away with a splash, and our greedy friend blew all the fucking money.”

“Any chance it wasn’t John’s money?”

“The pit boss said he was betting five hundred a hand.”

“You should go see him and find out where his head’s at. Maybe now that he’s caught, he’ll take the hit.”

“He’s going to have to explain why he has John’s license.”

“What if he says he found it at the jump site? When he called me from there, he said he told the chief he was investigating the scene.”

“I guess that could work.”

“Straighten his ass out–obviously, nowhere around me.”

“Oh, I will.”

Diagnosis: I need to screen my partners better. Having a badge in play is key. I’ll payroll another. Meanwhile, if I’m implicated, I’m fucked. The smart thing to do would be never see Beth or Janice again.

Treatment: I need a strong drink and a long vacation with a certain woman.

Doctor O: Beth – Session Seven

My colleagues told me it was inevitable. It’s all a matter of how the therapist deals with it once it happens. It won’t matter if the therapist is married or pretending; eventually, hormones will override logic.

“Hello, Doctor O, this is my friend Janice.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Janice is late 30s and absolutely stunning. This isn’t good.

“Janice, it’s a pleasure. Come on in and have a seat. Guess you’ll have to share the couch. You both realize this is very unconventional, right?”

“It’s not a problem, doc. I told Janice how wonderful you are. She’s a little shy so you’re going to have to pry a bit. Ain’t that right, Janice?”

“Well, I’ve never been to therapy,” added Janice.

“All right. Janice, tell me about your situation.”

“It’s similar to Beth’s–I mean, the way hers was. We’ve been married going on ten years and the romance is pretty much gone. He had an affair a few years back, and I can’t seem to get past it.”

“So, you haven’t forgiven him.”

“I have, but it’s always there in the back of my mind. I don’t trust him.”

“Can’t trust any of them,” Beth interrupts.

“Beth, behave. Janice, how were things leading up to his affair?”

“Not the best. We went through four years of infertility treatments and that seemed to take its toll.”

“Yes, it typically does. So, you never had children?”

“No. Turns out I’m pre-menopausal. We spent a small fortune on all the procedures.”

“Did you consider adoption?”

“Not really. You know, doc, I’m not the typical woman who feels incomplete if she can’t bear children. It’s just not meant to be for me, and that’s OK. My husband, Roy, was looking forward to parenthood. Me, not so much. I love my sleep, and I’d just as soon keep my flat belly.”

“Amen to that. Not that I’ll ever have a flat belly,” adds Beth.

“So, in the midst of trying to make a baby, you lost the romance.”

“Yep.”

“Nothing worth saving there?”

“Nope. That’s the problem, though–he won’t leave. He insists we stay together and I can’t talk any sense into him. It’s like Beth’s situation. I have a successful business, and Roy doesn’t want to walk away from it.”

“That’s where you come in, doc,” Beth insists. “You need to make Roy go away.”

“Jesus, Beth.”

“Serious. I mean, you don’t gotta kill him, but he needs to go.”

“Are you insane? Beth, I’m not in the sniper business. John committed suicide.”

“I know, darling. I’m just teasing you.”

“It’s not funny.”

“Can’t you just scare him off?”

“No, Beth. Janice, I don’t know what she has told you, but I don’t employ any strong-arm tactics. I’m just here to advise and guide you free from a relationship you’re sure you want to leave.”

“Good, because I’m positive; I want to leave,” Janice reassures.

“OK. Have you spoken to an attorney?”

“Yes. Nothing there. I make more money than he does, and Roy’s uncle is the best divorce attorney in the county.”

“I’m tellin’ you, doc …”

“Beth, stop it. Janice, is he still having an affair?”

“I have no idea.”

“Let’s get together–just the two of us–next week and talk about this. I have investigators available. I need to know what I’m dealing with before I can help you. OK, Janice?”

“Fair enough.”

“Now, can you do me a favor and let me have a few minutes alone with Beth?”

“Sure, I’ll wait out here. You two behave yourselves.”

“Don’t be jealous, girlfriend. I’ll make sure there’s some leftovers for you,” Beth teases.

“Janice, it was a pleasure. I look forward to seeing you next week. Here’s my card.”

“Can’t wait.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Beth is giving me that look.

“What were you thinking, Beth?”

“Huh?”

“You told Janice I would have her husband whacked?”

“I did no such thing. I just said you’re an expert and rescuing deprived wives.”

“You can’t even kid about that. I don’t need people snooping around here suspecting I’m up to no good.”

“I know that. Stop being paranoid. I was just teasing. I did see the way you looked at her though.”

“You didn’t see anything.”

“Mm, hmm. If you say so.”

“Beth, …”

“She pretty, huh?”

“Yes, she’s pretty. And pretty married, as am I.”

“So? Maybe you both on the way out, and you can like run the beach into each other’s arms.”

“I’m going to help her, not sleep with her.”

“Bet you do.”

“Bet I do what?”

“Both.”

“Beth, … ugh! You’re remind me of my sister. She was always teasing me.”

“Ha! Maybe I’m channeling her. Yep, I can feel her now. She says you should tear open Janice’s blouse and make sweet love to her right on this here sofa.”

“You’re too much. Enough about Janice. What’s new with you?”

“Nothin’. I’m good. I got my dating profile up. Man, there are some tasty young men with big black woman fetishes. Did you know about that?”

“No, I wasn’t aware.”

“Yep. Bet they can’t handle all this, but I’m gonna give a few test drives. Why not?”

“You haven’t found any men on the site who might be more appropriate?”

“Sure I did. First, I want to have fun. Those other guys can wait. I’m gonna cage me a few of them cubs.”

“If that’s what you’re feeling, go right ahead.”

“Yep. I’ll report back next week. I’ll have some juicy stories, I hope. Meeting one tonight, in fact. You and me can exchange sexy tales.”

“I’m not hooking up with a patient, Beth.”

“She ain’t your patient yet. Maybe you should keep it that way. If she don’t pay you, all is fair.”

“Beth, I’m married. If I fool around with her, not only would it cost me my career and marriage, it would make me just like the husbands you two can’t stand.”

“I’d give you a pass. You cute. Plus, you don’t want no babies, right? You two’d be perfect.”

“Stop it. Now, get out of here, and quit the crazy talk.”

“Fine. It don’t matter, ’cause she gonna tell me everything anyway.”

“Go!”

Diagnosis: Beth actually does remind me of my sister in a strange way. I miss her so much. Still, I need to make sure Beth doesn’t go overboard with the young men, and stops the silly talk about getting rid of Janice’s husband.

Treatment: Have Ronnie run a file on Roy. When Janice calls–can’t believe I’m going to do this–meet her … not here.

Doctor O: Beth – Session Six

Fortunately, the coroner ruled it a suicide, but I still have my doubts. Ronnie insists Rick took the money and tossed John’s sorry ass off the bridge. My hands are tied. I need Rick. I’ll consider the money an investment, if he took it.

Beth seems to have calmed down. Time heals and brings about more logical thinking.

“How did you react to the coroner’s report, Beth?”

“Before we get started here, I do want to apologize.”

“It’s OK. No harm here. I understand your suspicions, but I hope you realize I’m not the sort of animal who would do something like that.”

“Guess I never realized how far gone John was. They found crack in his system.”

“Sorry to hear that, but I’m not surprised.”

“Worse part of this is we get nothing from his life insurance. Guess it don’t cover suicide. Sucks for the boys mostly. I wouldn’t want that money anyway.”

“Any news on the money you gave John?”

“Nah, I’m sure he paid off his bookie. I ain’t about to go snooping around them sorts. I’m just movin’ on.”

“Good.”

“I was surprised at all the people who showed up at his service. For being such a loser, he sure had lots of friends. The girl he was messin’ with at my place up and quit. Said she didn’t feel right working there no more. Shame. She was a good worker. Told her I didn’t care none about her and John, but she insisted.”

“How is business?”

“All good. Lots of regulars stopped in and offered condolences.”

“So, what are your next steps?”

“My boys are packing his shit up, so I don’t have to deal with that. I don’t know. It might look kinda bad for me to start seeing other men so soon.”

“Whenever you’re ready. Don’t worry about what people think. You’re entitled to move on.”

“I know. So, I was wondering–what got you into this business anyway?”

“Why? You thinking about changing careers?”

“Oh, hell no.”

“Because, I’d trade with you in a heartbeat.”

“Can you cook?”

“Nope, but I can hire someone to cook.”

“Come on, doc, help me get my mind off this nonsense. How’d you get into this?”

“I like to help people.”

“Certain kinds of people, it seems. You like to help women.”

“Well, sure. Guess I don’t respect men as much. I seem to connect with women.”

“Why do you think that is, doc?”

“Maybe because I was so close to my mother and sister.”

“Was?”

“Yes. They’re both gone.”

“I’m sorry. Mind if I ask what happened?”

“My mother lost a battle with breast cancer and my sister was killed by a drunk driver–her husband.”

“Jesus.”

“It was years ago, Beth, but I think about them every day.”

“I’m sure they’re both proud of you–smiling down from heaven.”

“Thank you.”

“What about your father? You close to him?”

“Not so much. He’s in a senior facility, rotting away like he should.”

“Damn, that’s cold. What’d he do?”

“Once my mother was diagnosed, he left. I was all she had left. I watched her suffer and disintegrate. He’s a coward.”

“Men.”

“Right?”

“I appreciate your sharing, doc.”

“I don’t usually do that, Beth. It’s best for me to keep my personal life outside of these walls.”

“I understand, but this helps me understand why you’re so motivated to help us ladies.”

“Good. Let’s get back to you now. How do you plan on meeting men?”

“Janice says I should do that online dating thing. I don’t know. I hear half the guys on there are lying and the other half are just out to get laid.”

“I’ve heard it’s a numbers game. It’s worth trying. It will get you out meeting more people. Sure you’ll come across a few clunkers. No big deal. Keep your standards high and your expectations low, and you might enjoy it.”

“It would be nice to meet new people, anyway. Heck, maybe I’ll hand out dinner coupons. I can use it as promotion for my restaurant.”

“There you go. You need help filling out your dating profile?”

“Damn, you do that too?”

“Well, I can give you some pointers.”

“Shoot.”

“Have some professional pictures taken, be honest when describing yourself, and keep it short because most men don’t read anything past the first sentence anyway.”

“Lazy asses.”

“We’re visual beasts, my dear. If I’m attracted to you, I can deal with all kinds of personality quirks. If I’m not attracted to you, nothing you write is going to change it.”

“What if I write that I make a killer lasagna, enjoy waking up my man with a good-morning blow job, and I have courtside seats for the Lakers?”

“Damn.”

“I just got pretty, huh?”

“Beth, you’re pretty without all that.”

“I know. I’m gonna work all I got, doc. I ain’t dealin’ with any shit like I did with John. My next man is gonna support me, and I’m gonna rock his world.”

“I like that attitude. Maybe you should put that in your online dating profile.”

“Thought you said men don’t read. I’m just puttin’ up a pic of my cleavage. That should do it.”

“You’re funny.”

“So, I was thinking–how about I bring my friend Janice in here with me next week? We can pick your brain, and you can give us a two-for-one special.”

“I don’t know …”

“Come on, doc. She goin’ through similar shit. I’m sure you can help her.”

“Fine. Why not? Bring her with you next week.”

“I appreciate it.”

“So, your homework this week is to get your online profile ready. I’d like to review it. You OK with that?”

“Sure thing. Don’t you be winkin’ at me; we can’t be mixin’ business and pleasure, you know.”

“All right. If you insist. I’ll see you next week.”

“Thank you.”

Diagnosis: She’s healing and loosening up again. I don’t like sharing my personal life, but it’s an effective way to build trust.

Treatment: Insist she begins dating. Women sometimes open up further when a friend is close by. I’m OK with her bringing Janice. She might become a new client.

Doctor O: Beth – Session Five

It’s time for damage control. I prefer to be paving my patient’s road toward newfound love, but I often find myself filling in potholes. I can’t do it all myself, that’s why enlist the help of valuable players as I strategize. I’m a great coach. It also helps to be a good liar.

“Beth, I’m so sorry to hear about John. That’s horrible. How are you doing?”

“Why do I get the feeling you heard about this long before I did?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you going to sit there and tell me you didn’t have a hand in this?”

“How could I? It was a suicide.”

“They haven’t determined that yet.”

“I thought you said he jumped off a bridge with the money.”

“Maybe he was pushed.”

“Beth …”

“And, what money?”

“They recovered the money, right?”

“Who?”

“The police, I assume–whoever fished him out of the river.”

“There was no money, doc.”

“Where is it?”

“I assume John used it to pay whoever was threatening him. Eh, hem.”

“Beth, I hope you don’t think I had anything to do with this. I never met John, and I was nowhere near the river when he jumped. I was having dinner at Duke’s around plenty of witnesses.”

“So, his bookie killed him and took the money, right? How much was your cut?”

“Beth, I don’t …”

“He didn’t have to fucking die! What kind of animal are you? He was a shitty person, but he’s still the father of my children.”

“I had nothing to do with this. The timing was just coincidental.”

“Man, what kind of fool do you take me for? I can’t even go to the authorities about this because they’re gonna think I hired you to kill him. This is some fucked up shit right here. You’re a hit man and a therapist. They oughta make an HBO show about you.”

“That’s crazy talk, Beth.”

“OK, if you weren’t there, who did it?”

“He jumped. Look, I have some contacts downtown. I’ll try to get more information. Maybe the money floated away or sank.”

“I ain’t worried about the goddamn money. Don’t you dare say I’m better off now, because this just ain’t right. Rest of my life I gotta live with the thought that I had a hand in this.”

“You didn’t. I have people who can find out what happened. Maybe his bookie was involved. Who knows? Are they doing an autopsy?”

“Yep, we had to postpone the funeral. Bet they find your fingerprints. How you gonna explain that?”

“I wasn’t there, Beth. I had nothing to do with this. Stay calm and wait for the autopsy reports. I think you’re overreacting.”

“Overreacting? I tell you my life would be better without him, and two weeks later he’s floating face down on the river. Maybe I should go to the police before they come to me.”

“And do what? There’s no way to implicate me.”

“… without implicating myself, right?”

“It was a suicide. Let these paranoid thoughts go and move on.”

“I don’t know what to believe anymore. I just want to make food and find a man who won’t take advantage of me. I’m starting to think the second half of that is impossible.”

“It’s not impossible. You’re a fine woman with so much to offer. Once they finish the investigation, you’ll be OK.”

“How am I going to explain the fact that he signed over his share of the restaurant and the fifty-thousand dollars I gave him? They’re not gonna think something’s fishy?”

“Tell the truth. He came to you needing money, you offered a way for him to get it, and it was all signed and witnessed. It wasn’t like he was forced to do anything.”

“Except jump off a damn bridge.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I don’t even want to walk into my business. It feels dirty now.”

“If you don’t go about business-as-usual, you’re going to spiral down into depression. I know you loved John and certainly didn’t want anything like this to happen to him. He was an unstable man. He drank heavily, and mixed with dangerous people. He got himself into some trouble, which you tried to help him out of by giving him money. He couldn’t handle the pressure and snapped.”

“Jesus.”

“For your own sake, get rid of these crazy thoughts that either of us are to blame. John did this to himself. You’re not responsible. I’m not responsible. Nobody wanted it to happen this way, but he is totally out of your life now. You can either begin building the life you deserve or wallow in unjustified guilt.”

“This shit is gonna drive me to drink. Our sons are flying in this weekend for the services. I don’t know how I can even face them.”

“You’ll be fine, Beth. Once you hear from the coroner, you’ll see that your suspicions aren’t justified.”

“Let’s hope.”

“I’m going to prescribe something to calm your nerves. Get this filled and follow the instructions. You’ll be fine. Call me the minute you hear from the coroner, OK?”

“Fine. Doc, I like you, and I really hope you’re telling me the truth here.”

“I am. I promise. Go get some rest. I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Bye.”

Diagnosis: As expected, she’s distraught and suspicious. If there’s an investigation I may be exposed. I need to find out where the money went. Could Rick or Ronnie have taken the money and thrown him off the bridge? I trust these guys, but people do funny things when there’s large sums of money involved. I need to bring them both in to get to the bottom of this. Rick said he saw the money floating next to John. Can’t imagine he’d be so greedy. Ronnie would probably kill him–badge or no badge.

Treatment: Stay on top of this and make sure Beth keeps quiet. Have Rick check on coroner. Crucial that this comes out as a suicide. May need to call in more favors. I’m losing leverage with some of my teammates. Not good.

Doctor O: Beth – Session Four

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you put yourself out there with all the right intentions–trying to help people who genuinely deserve help–strange forces work against you? Often, the hand extended to rescue the victim is slippery. Occasionally, it triggers an avalanche.

Beth files for divorce and gets the papers from the attorney that would allow John to sell his interest in the restaurant to her. Naturally, when she presents the papers, he foolishly remains indignant and spiteful. Pity.

The set up is simple: Beth’s husband, like most men, is easily led around by his penis. The plan is infallible: Place lovely bait near John, wait for him to bite, trap the rat by his tail, and keep him squirming until he can buy himself free by letting go of Beth’s restaurant.

My teammates in this little exercise include Ronnie, who knows how to follow without being seen, and twist an arm, when necessary. In blue, I have my friend Rick–guns and badges are mighty persuaders. The bait is Claire, a young prostitute, who owes Rick a favor.

John frequents one of the seedier establishments in town, and all it takes is a smile from Claire to bring him sniffing. It amazes me that men don’t suspect anything when women out of their league approach them. The blind ego foolishly assumes the attention is well-deserved.

In minutes, John buys her a drink and falls into our trap. Claire flirts; she’s a pro. A few drinks later, they’re in his Cadillac behind the club, sparking a pipe. Rick and Ronnie stand by. John slides over to the passenger seat. Claire straddles him. As soon as her panties hit the floor mat, my men make their move.

John’s fucked.

Claire is only seventeen (twenty-two, actually, but seventeen is a more useful number). She’s intoxicated, and what’s that scent? Ah, contraband. This won’t end well for John … unless, that is, he comes up with, say, fifty-thousand reasons for my men to look the other way.

“What’s that? Oh, no way to get that kind of money, John? Tsk, tsk. Statutory rape, solicitation, possession, drugging a minor–hope you like metal toilets, buddy. Ah, I see. You have an idea, do you? Get the money from the wife? My, my. There’s a wife involved? Well, that’s not good. I doubt she’ll be signing any checks when she finds out about our young friend here. Tell you what, pal, we’ll hang onto your driver’s license and give you 48 hours to come up with the funds. Meanwhile, we’ll deliver missy back to her parents, and hope her father doesn’t find out what this bad man did to his little girl. That would be tragic. Gosh, let’s hope he doesn’t have a shotgun. Good thing he doesn’t know where to find you. Oh, that’s right, it says right here on your license where to find you. We’ll try to keep that secret between us, for now.”

Worked like a charm.

John crawled back to Beth begging for the money. She did as I told, and required him to sign the business over. They made two stops: one to the notary to have his signature witnessed, the next to the bank to get him the money. John’s a decent liar. He told Beth he needed the money to pay a gambling debt. Beth, I’m sure, suspected I was behind it all. She didn’t care. Whatever got him away from her baby is worth it, especially if she never knew the details.

John contacted Rick and met him on the river overpass. A few hours later I got the call.

“Doc, we have a problem.”

“Did he show?”

“Yep.”

“With the money?”

“Yep.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“He jumped.”

“What?”

“He jumped off the bridge with the fucking money.”

“Shit.”

“They’re fishing him out as we speak.”

“Dead?”

“Oh, very much so. He was whacked out of his mind when he showed up–crying and ranting. I should have shot him. Would have saved his sorry ass.”

“Where’s the money?”

“Floating down there right next to him. No way for me to get my hands on it.”

“That’s OK. I’m sure they’ll figure out where it came from and return it. Have they notified Beth?”

“No. They’re pulling his body out now. They don’t have an ID yet. What should we do?”

“Jesus. Just play your role calmly. Don’t worry about the money. I’ll take care of it.”

“I know, man. Did you know this guy was so unstable?”

“Never met him.”

“You’re going to have some damage control to do when you see Beth.”

“I’m not sure how she’ll react to this. She pretty much hates him.”

“Isn’t she going to suspect you had a hand in this?”

“No doubt.”

“She’ll probably think you tossed him off the bridge.”

“Nah, I’m covered. There will be no signs of struggle and I’m sitting here at Duke’s with plenty of witnesses. Did anyone see you two speaking?”

“I don’t think so. A few cars drove by, but it’s dark up here. I told the chief I’m investigating the jump site. It’s a clear suicide.”

“All right. Do your thing. I’ll wait for Beth’s call and act surprised when she tells me.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Diagnosis: Sucks losing the money, but at least it will go back to Beth and she’ll be free. I actually feel sorry for that scumbag John.

Treatment: All depends on Beth’s reaction and how suspicious she is of my involvement.

Doctor O: Beth – Session Three

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “give a man enough rope and he’ll eventually hang himself with it.” It’s true. Men especially seem to grow brasher as they stray and get away with it. To trap one, all that’s required is scattered bait and watchful eyes. Beth’s husband is one hungry rat about to be trapped.

“Hey, Beth, nice to see you.”

“Nice to see you, too. Guess what?”

“What?”

“I did my homework and spoke with the attorney.”

“Excellent.”

“Yeah, not so much. He says I’m basically fucked. I either sell my half to John or convince him to sell it and split the profits. Either way, I lose what I’ve built. He said I should cut bait and open another restaurant. Man, he has no idea what it takes. I can’t start over again.”

“I figured that was what the attorney would advise.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“Yes, I know. Is there any other way you can think of to get John to sell his half to you? Don’t you have any leverage at all with him?”

“Nope. He’s a loser, but a slimy one at that. I save my share and he spends his, then he has the nerve to ask me for more. I say, ‘At least pick up a bar rag or something. Make yourself useful.’ No chance. The most he ever does is answer the phone. Probably his damn bookie callin’ anyway.”

“Does he borrow money from anyone else that you know of?”

“Nope. Just to be clear, he ain’t borrowin’ anything, because borrowin’ assumes there’s repayment. He has no intention of payin’ me back.”

“OK. We need to create a situation where he needs money desperately. Then, he’ll have to come to you for it. That’s when you make it contingent upon the money being payment for his half of the restaurant.”

“What kind of situation we talkin’ about?”

“He has a knack for getting in trouble, then getting out of it. We need him to get into that kind of trouble that only money can get him out of.”

“I probably don’t want to know, do I?”

“You don’t. Just remember, when he comes asking you for money, that’s when you make your move.”

“If you say so.”

“Now, let’s talk more about you.”

“My favorite part–sexy time!”

“Beth, do you think you’ll ever fall in love again?”

“Of course I will.”

“Yet, you never speak of romance when we talk about relationships.”

“That shit’s overrated.”

“Really?”

“If I got a healthy sex life with my man, I don’t need him to be bringin’ me flowers.”

“What about when you’re not having sex? Don’t you want someone funny and fun to hang out with?”

“Sure, I do.”

“You can take long walks, travel, go to the movies, …”

“Yep, all that stuff is fine as long as I’m gettin’ in on.”

“Beth, it has been so long since you dated. I don’t want you ripping the clothes of the next man before the sorbet hits the table. You know?”

“Thought you men like aggressive women.”

“Most of us say that and, yes, sometimes it’s nice to be with a hungry woman. Fact is, most of the time, a woman like that disqualifies herself from any relationship beyond a physical one.”

“What do you mean?”

“The first thing a guy thinks when a woman is super-aggressive is that she does it with lots of men. That’s fine, but we don’t want to know. If you’re awesome in the sack, we appreciate it as long as we never meet your trainers.”

“Got ya.”

“So, when you find the man you want to keep around for more than one night, you need to dial it down.”

“I can do that. But, once we’re start fuckin’ …”

“Yep, have at it. Just try not to scare him away.”

“Oh, I have other ways to keep my man happy.”

“Yeah, I know. You’ve certainly kept me happy. That pulled pork sandwich I had last week nearly had me in tears.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Tell me a little about your friends.”

“Which ones? You lookin’ to have me set you up?”

“No, thank you. I’m married.”

“Shame.”

“Your close friends–what are they like?”

“Tammi manages for me. We hang out after closing sometimes. She’s a doll. Skinny white bitch. And, you should see what she eats. Lord. Must be the yoga. She’s always tryin’ to get me to take classes with her. That ain’t happenin’.”

“Is she single?”

“Nah, married. Just had a baby. Cute as can be.”

“Anyone else?”

“Janice is a chef down at Woody’s. We hang out sometimes. Usually, we run into each other at Starbucks. It’s nice having someone to commiserate with.”

“About the business?”

“Yeah, and our deadweight husbands. She’s been tryin’ to leave her man for three years now. Caught him cheating. Similar shit, you know. Only good thing is he works, so he ain’t hangin’ around her store much. Heck, maybe I’ll give her your number. You could probably help her.”

“I appreciate referrals, Beth. As long as you two don’t commiserate about me.”

“Nah, you good.”

“We’re running out of time today. Have your attorney draw up the papers for John to sign over his interest. Present them to John. I’m sure he’ll refuse. Later, when John comes begging for money, pull out those papers again; you’ll hear a different tune.”

“One can only hope.”

“Hang in there.”

“Thank you, Doctor O.”

Diagnosis: Love this woman. She’ll be free soon. I’ll keep my eye on her by visiting her restaurant often.

Treatment: Ronnie has the set-up in place. Need to contact Rick and call in a favor from my man in blue.

Doctor O: Beth – Session Two

My favorite people are the ones who know exactly what they want and are not afraid to ask for it. It’s much easier to help these people rather than guessing as they vomit what they think I want to hear. There’s not much I’d shy away from when it comes to Beth.

“How’s my favorite artery clogger today?”

“Ha! I’m fine, Babydoll. Still have that annoying slackass hanging around, though. At least having him there keeps the employees from stealing.”

“Doesn’t he work?”

“Nope. Quit his job at the utility because the long hours cut into his drinking time.”

“So, you’re supporting him.”

“Yep. Once we split, I’ll be stuck paying his sorry ass alimony. Fancy that.”

“We’ll see. I’m working a few angles that could solve that problem.”

“Ooh, do tell.”

“Best you stay out of it. Did you speak to an attorney this week?”

“No, I’ve been too damn busy. I’ll do it next week. I promise.”

“OK. So, you had a busy week. Anything you want to talk about?”

“You want another sex fantasy from me? Bet you told your boys about my last one; probably got their dicks real hard.”

“I’m sure they’d be amused, but everything that comes out in here, stays in here, Beth.”

“If you say so.”

“What type of man are you most attracted to?”

“Next time around I want a big daddy; not a skinny ass like you-know-who.”

“Age range?”

“Shit, I don’t care. As long as he can get it up.”

“Race?”

“I’m not so good at racing. It’s my knees.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Don’t matter.”

“You want the next man to be financially independent, right?”

“You know, I don’t mind being a provider as long as it’s appreciated. Sure, it would be nice to have a Mr. Big kind of guy who can get us around town in his limo. I met my share of rich assholes, though. I guess it all depends.”

“Some men are intimidated by successful women.”

“That’s just stupid. You can’t please men. If you broke, they complain they gotta pay for everything. If you loaded, they complain ’cause they feel useless … or, they just steal from you.”

“Well, I’m sure you heard this before but you need to let the man be the man.”

“Fine by me. Can we get back into the sex thing?”

“Sure. What’s on your mind?”

“Do guys like it when women play with their balls?”

“Um, define ‘play.'”

“You know, like rolling two hard-boiled eggs around my palm.”

“How about raw eggs?”

“Ah, you mean you like it gentle. Charlene told me her man likes when she bites his sack. That’s just strange if you ask me.”

“Yeah, don’t do that.”

“How about nipples?”

“What about them?”

“Not mine, yours.”

“Yes?”

“Y’all like them bit and sucked?”

“I’d say most men do, within reason.”

“How about a finger in the butt?”

“Some men enjoy that.”

“But, by the face you just made, I’m assuming you ain’t one of them.”

“Again, my dear, I enjoy ravioli.”

“Funny.”

“OK, what else?”

“How about threesomes?”

“Again, it depends on the people involved and how secure they are in their relationship and sexuality. If you’re the jealous type, it probably won’t turn out so good.”

“Heck, I ain’t jealous. Besides, once I get my hands on that next man, he ain’t gonna have enough energy to go cheat on me. I’ll keep him busy and happy.”

“Good.”

“You ever used toys? You know, like vibrators and stuff.”

“Toys can be fun.”

“Yes, they can.”

“Let’s chat about John. Has he ever been violent with you or the children?”

“Nah. He has a temper, but he usually just rants for a while and then crawls in a bottle of whiskey until he passes out. Half the time he don’t remember what he was mad about.”

“How’s his relationship with your children?”

“They boys are grown up. They moved away–have their own lives. I usually see them around the holidays. John isn’t close to them, mostly because they don’t have any money for him. One of them gets signed by the Yankees and you can bet he’d be all up in it.”

“What does John do all day? He just hangs out at your restaurant?”

“Most of the day. Rest of the time he’s at another bar or playing penny slots.”

“What does he love?”

“Besides drinking, I’d say his car would be number two on the list. I don’t know how that fool gets away with driving. Shit, I have that third glass of wine and I can pretty much guarantee I’m gettin’ pulled over. His drunk ass swerves all around the neighborhood and I swear the police look the other way.”

“So, he loves his car.”

“Yep, he even named the old Caddy. Calls her Emma Lou after his grandmamma.”

“What else does he love?”

“Shoes. He must have twenty pair of alligator and snake skin shoes. Crazy man polishes them every night before he goes to bed.”

“What was it about him that made you want to marry him and have his children?”

“He was different back then. He didn’t drink as much. He was charismatic–you know, the life of the party. He worked hard too. I don’t know when or why he became so damn lazy, but it’s a shame. He’s gonna drink himself to death, and I, for one, won’t miss him. I’m done pickin’ up his pieces.”

“Understandable. Beth, I just want to make sure there’s nothing worth salvaging there. I’d hate to see us head down a path, then have you begin doubting yourself.”

“I’m done with him, doc.”

“Fine. See what advice the attorney has this week. I’m moving forward with my plans. Let’s chat same time next week. OK?”

“Yep. See you then.”

Diagnosis: Concerned about Beth’s hyper-sexuality. Will she be able to connect emotionally? John should be easily persuaded to do the right thing.

Treatment: Time to let go of Ronnie’s leash.

Doctor O: Beth – Session One

Profile: Chef, 50ish, married forever, now separated, empty nest.

Issue: Husband won’t give up his share of the business. He’s a drunk.

While there are similarities and consistencies among the women I see, I’ve come to expect something new each time the wounded walk through my door. Luckily, I have a well-stocked medicine bag and a high tolerance for the bizarre.

“Beth, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“You’re not one of them crazy fans are you? I’m not going to autograph your chest, sweetie.”

“Actually, I am a huge fan. Your mushroom risotto is to die for.”

“How will we ever keep this on a professional level if you insist upon flattering me?”

“We’ll manage, as long as I’m allowed to continue visiting your establishment.”

“Of course you are–that is, as long as my asshole husband doesn’t fire me.”

“Can he do that?”

“Technically, we’re partners. It’s a balancing act–I do all the work while he drinks all the profits.”

“He’s a heavy drinker?”

“A heavy drinker of hard-to-reach bottles, if you know what I mean.”

“I do. One of my favorites is up on that shelf–Macallan 18.”

“Excellent choice.”

“So, after twenty-six years of marriage, two children now grown, and a thriving restaurant business, you’re ready to move on.”

“Oh, I’ve been ready for years. The problem is I can’t take the love of my life with me.”

“Who?”

“My restaurant.”

“Why not?”

“He refuses to part with his half. I swear to you, he never so much as picked up a damn broom there. For him to claim ownership is ridiculous.”

“But, if you file for divorce, he’ll be forced to settle, won’t he?”

“He said I can sign over my half, but he’ll never part with his half. It took me five years to get the place into the black, and now that I can finally reap some of the benefits, he’s blocking me. He’s so vindictive and resentful. He’s not the same man I married.”

“Do you think it’s the alcohol?”

“No doubt. Other things too. I’m just over him. He makes my skin crawl.”

“Has he ever sought help?”

“For his drinking? No. He insists there’s no problem. I wish he’d just go away. We already live in different houses, and he has been fucking one of my servers. The jackass thinks I don’t know.”

“Ouch. Why don’t you get rid of her?”

“Because she serves a purpose for me as well–she keeps his slimy hands off me.”

“All right. What, to you, would be the ideal resolution to this?”

“John would meet someone new–like the bumper of a speeding bus. Anything short of a dirt nap, and I’m stuck with him.”

“I’m sure we can find a less drastic way, Beth. If he were out of the picture, what would you do?”

“Spend less time babysitting his drunk ass and more time having orgasms, for one.”

“Are you seeing someone now?”

“Nope, but I’m looking. Know anyone?”

“I might.”

“It takes a certain kind of man to handle all this, you know.”

“So, you’re quite a handful?”

“This pussy has been on lockdown far too long, doctor. I’m sorry. Jesus. I don’t want to offend you.”

“Beth, you’re not going to offend me.”

“Look, I’m a big woman. I make no apologies for what I am, and I ain’t goin’ on any damn diet. I love food, and I’m going to eat. Mr. Next is going to have to love all two-hundred-forty pounds of me and my Snickers pie.”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

“You don’t understand, doctor. I’m a wild animal in the bedroom. There are things I want, and things I know. Let’s just say I leave most of my men limping.”

“But, you said you’re not seeing anyone.”

“I’m not. I’ve been fantasizing and practicing a lot, though. I’m ready.”

“Since we’re on the topic, what are some of those fantasies?”

“I love anal. While my man is fucking me hard, I need my hair pulled. The more he pulls, the wetter I get. Ooh, then, while he’s plowing me from behind, he needs to bite my neck and call me a nasty whore. It drives me wild. I can’t get enough. You getting all this, doc?”

“Um, yes.”

“I’m not turning you on, am I? Now, that I refuse to apologize for.”

“What else, Beth?”

“Blowjobs. I am the fucking queen of blowjobs. It’s all in how much spit you use. And, you have to get both hands involved. I love when he forces himself deep and makes me gag. The real slippery stuff comes up then. When I sense he’s about to shoot, I squeeze the base of his cock and make him beg. When I finally allow him to come, I drain every last drop–kind of like getting that last dab of toothpaste from the tube.”

“Right.”

“I’m also going to try a few lesbian encounters. Guys suck at eating pussy. I need a woman to get me off a few times. God, I love having a tongue slapping me around the clit.”

“I see.”

“How about you, doc?”

“How about me, what?”

“What kinds of kinky shit are you into? Or, do you get off just hearing us women talk about it? Tell me what you love.”

“Well …”

“Yes?”

“I love ravioli. Have you ever served butternut squash ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce? Divine.”

“Ha! You’re a fucking pisser.”

“I’m serious. I love ravioli.”

“I’m serious too. I love taking it in the ass.”

“OK, darling, let’s find a way for you to keep your love-of-a-lifetime business and remove the deadbeat patron.”

“Sign me up.”

“Do me a favor and speak to an attorney this week. See if the lawyer has any options. I have some ideas, and I’ll place a few calls. Let’s regroup next week. Same day and time?”

“You bet.”

Diagnosis: Kinky, but smart woman. Knows what she wants. More than two handfuls.

Treatment: Ask Ronnie if he can help persuade deadbeat to step aside.

Doctor O: Alexis – Session Eight

On the couch, things rarely go as planned. When dealing with wide emotional swings, it’s best to be prepared. As I stare at the unfamiliar man on my monitor, I anticipate the inevitable, then rise to answer the door.

“Hello, can I help you?”

“That’s your job, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but you need to have an appointment. I have a client scheduled in a few minutes.”

“Right. Alexis.”

“You know Alexis?”

“Obviously, not as well as I thought. I’m her husband, Mike. May I?”

“Where’s Alexis?”

“She’s not coming. I’d say she’s healed. Your services are no longer needed.”

“Mike, you haven’t done anything foolish, I hope.”

“If you’re referring to the health of my soon-to-be-ex, she’s fine. I told her you left a message saying you needed to postpone your session. Figured I’d take her spot, since it’s paid for. Now, may I come in and sit down?”

“I’d like to call her to make sure she’s OK, first.”

“Fine. Sit quietly. I’ll call her.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: He’s angry, but doesn’t seem aggressive or dangerous. He has her on speaker.

“Hi, Alexis. I was just checking to see if you need me to take Jack to soccer practice.”

“No, Mike, his friend’s parents are taking him.”

“OK, good. Gotta run.”

“Bye.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: She sounds fine.

“Happy?”

“Mike, I don’t know you. There are crazy people around. It’s natural for me to take certain precautions. Alexis always speaks very highly of you.”

“Oh, bullshit.”

“She does.”

“That’s why she’s already out playing cougar.”

“I hear you’ve been having some fun as well.”

“Actually, that’s what I wanted to discuss with you. How did you know?”

“About?”

“My thing.”

“You confessed it to Alexis. She told me.”

“Bullshit again. Whose idea was it to hire the investigator?”

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

“Doc, a private investigator has been snooping around my affairs. Who hired her?”

“Her?”

“Really? We’re going to play this game for the full hour? The woman who has been following Christine and me around. Was it your idea?”

“Mike, when a client hires me, I do everything in my power to help them heal. My tactics may not be conventional, but I assure you, they’re legal. I’m very good at what I do.”

“So, you hired her.”

“Why does it matter? Your marriage is over, Mike. You’ve fallen in love with Christine, and Alexis is ready to move on. She deserves to be in love as well.”

“Ah, yes, Christine. She suspected someone was watching us for weeks. I told her she was paranoid. Things finally come to a head with Alexis; I confess and move out, and, guess what?”

“I have no idea.”

“I’m quite sure you do. Christine no longer wants to see me, and she has threatened to go to HR if her husband finds out. She insists we never speak again. Isn’t that fucking lovely? I risk everything, including losing my wife, kids, and job for this woman, and now she hates me. My wife hates me, my mistress hates me, and my kids are all kinds of confused. Great job, doc!”

“You’re blaming me for this?”

“Fuck!”

“Mike, all I am doing is trying to keep Alexis calm so that you two can part in the least painful way possible. There’s no need to hurt each other or your children. Right now you’re thinking I’m ganging up with her against you, and that’s untrue. There’s a place we can come to where we can minimize the damage. If you let this escalate, she’s going to get lawyers involved, and then your bad day begins. Believe me.”

“Oh, I know.”

“Here’s what you need to do: Get past the Christine thing. Avoid her at all costs. Be kind and cooperative with Alexis. Don’t slack on your paternal duties. Finally, don’t tell Alexis we spoke.”

“You make it sound so methodical and easy. I’m in love with this woman.”

“Alexis?”

“No. I mean, yes, but … ugh, Christine.”

“Mike, Christine is married, and she’s a coworker. You had your little fun, now put that behind you before it destroys your career.”

“You wouldn’t want that to happen. Then, I couldn’t pay as much alimony and support. Then, she wouldn’t be able to afford the amazing Doctor O.”

“I’m not out to get you Mike. I honestly believe that, as much as your confession hurt Alexis, she knows you never intended anything malicious. It was a selfish thing you did because your marriage was failing. It happens–more than half the time. You’re fortunate that you’re at an early stage, and you still have time to decide to finish this amicably.”

“Great. I’m the odd man out. I’m sleeping on my buddy’s sofa.”

“Get your own place and start rebuilding, Mike.”

“What if she decides she wants full custody?”

“I’d advise her against that. Your children need their father.”

“After all this time, now I have to start dating again. This sucks.”

“You’ll be fine, Mike.”

“I’m going to go now. I need a drink. Promise me you’re going to keep her from screwing me over. I made a mistake, and I’m sorry.”

“You need to tell her that.”

“I will.”

“Hang in there, Mike.”

Diagnosis: Genuine regret on his part. This could resolve smoothly, after all.

Treatment: Hire a new detective. Put off seeing Alexis for three months, then revisit.

Doctor O: Alexis – Session Seven

Although I rarely meet the husband, I usually have a good idea of the type of person he is, and how he’s likely to react to his wife on her way out. Also, it surprises me how often both spouses are oblivious to certain signs that friends, family members, and I see clearly. If one spouse is unhappy and tempted, it’s most likely the other is as well.

“Doctor, I’m sorry about this but I really needed to see you.”

“It’s OK, Alexis. What’s going on?”

“Like we planned, I took Mike aside and we had our talk. Guess what his reaction was?”

“I have no idea.”

“He agreed, packed his bags, and moved out.”

“He didn’t resist?”

“Not at all. You know why?”

“Because he’s seeing someone.”

“How the fuck would you know that?”

“Is he?”

“Yes.”

“Interesting. How long has it been going on?”

“Six months. Here’s the best part: you’ll never guess this.”

“I probably could.”

“Try.”

“He’s in love with her.”

“Have you been fucking meeting with him? I don’t believe this shit.”

“Alexis, no.”

“You’ve been scheming with him behind my back.”

“I promise you, I’ve never spoken a single word to him.”

“Then, how could you possibly know? Are you bugging my house?”

“What? Don’t be silly. Alexis, you’re not the first neglected wife I’ve met. What did he tell you about the woman?”

“It’s someone he works with. She’s married, naturally. What an asshole he is. I’m going to nail him to the wall.”

“Wait a minute, Alexis. You’ve had a few flings yourself.”

“Right, but I’m not in fucking love with them. It was just sex.”

“So, that makes it OK?”

“No, but at least it’s temporary. You know? It’s like getting a massage. Ugh. I hear myself say these words and I sound stupid. How do you fall in love with another person when you’re married? How did he find the time to have something like that develop?”

“You said he works with her. He probably spends more time with her than you.”

“Plus, she’s fucking married. I wonder if her husband knows. Oh, and naturally she’s younger.”

“Why does her age matter?”

“Oh, please. You know you men. You hit a certain crisis age and then you go after sports cars and young women to cling to youth while your hairline recedes.”

“So, you think all men are alike. You think I’m like Mike.”

“You probably are. What do I care? Heck, go for it. Maybe I’ll chase a few young men myself.”

“Let’s get back to Mike. Did you tell him about your affairs?”

“No. I almost did. That prick. He doesn’t deserve to think I sat home taking care of his children, waiting for him while he took advantage of a coworker. Six months! He got away with it for six months! Worse yet, he was sleeping with me while he was sleeping with her.”

“He told you that?”

“I asked. I told him he had to come totally clean or I was going to wipe out our accounts and make sure he never saw his children again.”

“I bet now you wish you hadn’t gotten some of his answers.”

“He told me everything. He said the most attractive thing about her is the fact that she’s totally into him.”

“But, she’s married.”

“Exactly. She has children, too.”

“Has he met them?”

“I have no idea. What a scumbag.”

“Alexis, he has done some awful things, but you need to find a way to not take them so personally.”

“What? They absolutely are personal. He cheated on me for months. He doesn’t love me–his wife. He loves her.”

“Like we discussed, your relationship faded for both of you. The things you both did, you did for selfish reasons, not as an attempt to hurt your partner. I’m sure he didn’t intend to hurt you.”

“I’m not so sure. He was pretty cold about the whole situation. He had no problem leaving.”

“Where did he go?”

“I have no idea. He texted me saying he’ll stop by tomorrow and get more of his things. I told him we need to figure out how to explain this to the children. I mean, I can’t just tell them ‘Daddy is going through a mid-wife crisis and decided he’d rather spend time with his secretary than his children.”

“I’m so sorry, Alexis. I know this is painful.”

“Really? Is your wife in love with another man?”

“No. I hope not.”

“Ah, but you don’t know, do you?”

“This isn’t about me. My relationship isn’t the same place yours is. Now, if you allow anger to cloud reason, you’re going to make this a long, painful battle. Is that what you want?”

“Of course not. But, he should fucking pay. He didn’t even apologize to me. Ugh. I should find out who she is and let her husband know what a whore he’s married to.”

“Stop talking craziness. You two need to somehow put it behind you, find a fair way to split obligations, and move on.”

“Yes, I know. Pay my kids or pay the lawyers.”

“Right.”

“That fucker.”

“Stop running it through your head, trying to justify what you did because what he did was more serious. This is what happens when relationships end and people cling. Desires and emotions cause infidelity and dysfunction. You’re not going to change what happened or repair what’s broken. Give him his space, and let’s get together next week and create a plan to resolve this. The sooner this is behind you, the sooner you’ll meet up with that wonderful man who is waiting for you.”

“Really? What’s his name?”

“How should I know? Something European. Bertrand, perhaps.”

“You’re funny. I can’t believe you made me laugh. I still want to chop off Mike’s balls.”

“OK, don’t do that. Find something fun to do tonight to get your mind off this, and rescue your weekend. That’s an order.”

“Yes, sir.”

Diagnosis: As long as she can remain quiet about her indiscretions, she’ll have an advantage.

Treatment: She should use her leverage to end things quickly, yet fairly. Advise her to continue improving her appearance and attitude to attract the next man.

Doctor O: Alexis – Session Six

People ask me all the time what it’s like being a therapist. I tell them it’s hell. They ask why I do it. I say because I’m addicted. There’s nothing noble behind my reasons. Sure, I like to see happy people and fix things, but in order to fix my patients, I need to absorb some of their pain. I also need to fight the social pressures around standing by a commitment although the circumstances have changed. I’d rather be fishing.

“Hello, Alexis. What’s this?”

“It’s a little something I thought you’d like: gourmet coffee from Hawaii.”

“Wow. Thank you. That’s really not necessary.”

“I figured you’d get more from that than the traditional apple.”

“Good call.”

“I’m so embarrassed about our last session.”

“Don’t be. Tell me about this week. Any developments?”

“Well, I didn’t screw any clients, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“No, that’s not what I’m asking.”

“I know. Again, sorry. I started thinking about how things would be if Mike and I split.”

“Good. What did you envision?”

“Ideally, he’d move out, we’d share custody–every other weekend to myself. You know.”

“So you feel fifty-fifty is fair.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Great. That will make things easier. Do you anticipate challenges around finances?”

“Actually, no. Mike’s a generous person, and I’m sure he wants to take care of his obligations.”

“Let’s hope so. How do you anticipate moving forward? ”

“I’m not sure. I can’t just kick him out and say our marriage is over.”

“You can, but you’re right. Do you want to role-play with me?”

“That might help. Can I be Mike?”

“Sure.”

“Really?”

“You bet. Ready?”

“Yep.”

“Mike, let’s talk.”

“Can it wait until halftime?”

“No, Mike, it can’t.”

“Fine, grab me a beer. What’s up?”

“Mike, are you happy?”

“With what?”

“With us. Our relationship. Is this what you signed up for? Are we happily married?”

“Jeez, honey. What’s going on?”

“Answer the question: Are you happy?”

“I’m fine. Sure, we have our disagreements, but we’re fine.”

“Are you attracted to me, Mike?”

“Of course I’m attracted to you. Hey. Are you having an affair?”

“No, Mike, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not happy and I know you’re not either.”

“You can’t tell me how I feel.”

“Mike, we lost that fire somewhere along the way and we can’t seem to get it back. We both deserve to be completely smitten like we were when we first met.”

“That’s unrealistic.”

“It is unrealistic between us because we can’t undo all the time and memories–not that they were bad. Mike, we just don’t seem to mix anymore. It doesn’t suggest there’s something wrong with either of us; the combination doesn’t work like it used to.”

“Then, maybe we should take a vacation, or go see a marriage counselor, or something.”

“Or, maybe we should part as friends, for the kids’ sake, and move on.”

“You’re giving up. I can’t believe this. I’m not leaving. You’re not taking my children away from me.”

“Mike, I would never do such a thing. I want us to do what’s right for the kids and each other. We’ve spent a significant portion of our lives together. There’s no reason we can’t minimize the damage and do this right. I understand if you don’t want to move out. That’s fine. I’ll start looking for a place.”

“What? No. I can’t let you do that. You need to be here with the children. Are you sure you’re not seeing someone else?”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: She’s done well with this. Maybe it won’t be as painful as these breakups usually are. I’ll stop the role-playing now.

“OK, Alexis. Let’s return to patient and doctor.”

“You certainly handled that well. It’s like you know Mike or something.”

“I assure you, I know Mike, the type, not Mike, the person. It seems from our exercise that he’s going to suspect there’s another man.”

“Isn’t that natural? Well, plus now there have been other men.”

“I realize you feel the urge to be completely honest with him, but I’m going to insist that you leave out the details of your trysts, for his sake and yours. Alexis, men have huge egos. If you tell him that you allowed another man to have you and give you feelings Mike can’t, he’ll be devastated. Remember, you did what you did for you, not to him. Once you split, all is fair, but maintain discretion about your affairs, or you’re going to have a major problem to deal with, and I guarantee it will affect your children.”

“I understand.”

“Good. Before our next session, I want you to run the scenarios through your mind repeatedly, and make an appointment with your husband with no distractions. You need to have this discussion with him. I doubt he’ll react exactly the way we predicted, so be prepared to handle him with care. As always, you can call me if you need to talk. Sound like a plan?”

“It does. Thank you.”

“Thank you, Alexis, for the coffee. Good luck.”

“I’ll see you next week.”

“Goodbye.”

Diagnosis: She seems to have settled into the realization that it’s time. I predict Mike will resist, but agree, once he calms down.

Treatment: Support her decision to stay or move. See if attorney-free settlement is plausible. Discuss next steps.

Doctor O: Alexis – Session Five

It’s an epidemic. There are droves of women abandoning expired relationships. I don’t know if it’s good or bad; it depends on the man’s situation. Will children suffer? Where are we heading? Sometimes I think no relationship is best. I am becoming a recluse.

“Alexis, welcome back.”

“Hi.”

“How was your week?”

“You’re married, right?”

“Yes.”

“So, why does it seem you’re pushing me toward abandoning my marriage while you remain in yours?”

“Alexis, I think you’ll agree that each relationship has its own set of circumstances. I just happen to be at the point of my relationship where there is mutual happiness.”

“Or, so you think.”

“What are you getting at?”

“How do you know your wife isn’t out having an affair? How do you know that, while you sit here trying to help me, she isn’t out helping herself to something you can no longer provide?”

“I have faith she wouldn’t do that. I doubt she’d jeopardize our relationship. I’m not sure what you’re suggesting.”

“I fucked a client this week.”

“You what?”

“I did. I risked, not just my marriage, my career, because I met an attractive man and I wanted to prove to myself that I could have him. And, that’s not all. You know what else?”

“What?”

“He’s engaged. How sick is that? Next month, that son of a bitch it going to marry some poor unsuspecting woman who thinks he’s her soul mate. He fucked me. No condom either. He wanted me so desperately that he nearly came before I had his pants down. What a loser!”

“Alexis …”

“Oh, please. Don’t you dare fucking lecture me.”

“I’m not going to lecture you. I want to understand what happened and why.”

“Really? You don’t know, doctor? I had sex with a strange man because my husband doesn’t do it for me any longer. While this guy’s sweet, little fiancé is registering at Macy’s, her future husband is plowing his real estate agent–and this is the best part–in the dream home they’re about to move into. Yep, one month before he carries his bride through the doorway, he will have had his way with me in their fucking dream house. It’s sickening. Why get married?”

“Maybe you should have confronted him with those questions.”

“What? And ruin the moment? Hell no. I wanted him, and I had him.”

“Are you seeing …”

“Jesus. No, I’m not seeing him. It was just a pre-closing walk-thru. I’ll see him at the signing, then never again. He’s a piece of shit.”

“You had sex with him.”

“Then, I’m a piece of shit too.”

“Alexis, why are you so angry? What’s happened?”

“Nothing … everything … I don’t know, honestly. Things are crumbling around me. I’m thinking this may have all been a huge mistake. What am I doing here? Christ. ”

“Alexis, seeking help is not a mistake. Your marriage is obviously failing, or you wouldn’t even consider doing something like that.”

“Or, maybe it’s my expectations that are out of whack. Maybe this is what marriage is: ups and downs and riding out the storms when they come around.”

“Some marriages are worth saving.”

“Mine isn’t?”

“If you’ve been honest with me up to this point, I’d say no, you’re marriage is over. Your shenanigans with a client doesn’t change that. If anything, it supports my assessment.”

“Well, fuck you and your assessment.”

“Alexis.”

“Maybe I don’t want to lose what little I have left. Maybe I don’t want to have children on Xanax. Maybe I don’t want to spend night after night hiding the signs of my times, trying to present an attractive, middle-aged divorcee for some poor man to put up with.”

“Alexis, you have a lot to offer. No man would regret getting to know you.”

“Bullshit. What man wants a woman my age with all this baggage?”

“Lots of men. You think men come without baggage?”

“Great, so we have twice the baggage to deal with and half the time to do it.”

“Alexis, please, just stop, take a breath, and let’s talk about this calmly.”

“I don’t want to do this.”

“Do what?”

“This. In here.”

“Why?”

“It’s not helping.”

“What were you expecting to get from our sessions?”

“I don’t know. Answers? Reassurance that I’ll be OK?”

“You’ll be OK.”

“Great. Thank you. You’re the best.”

“Seriously. You’ll be fine. This is natural. It’s like going through stages of mourning, Alexis. Fear, anger, regret: they’re all natural and expected. You need to pass through the pain to heal.”

“I slept with a fucking client.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: She’s breaking down, crying hard.

“We need to talk about that, but not right now. It happened. You can’t change it. Let’s hope it’s the last you hear about it. It’s important that you don’t become self-destructive, Alexis. You need to resist any urge you have to make yourself evil to help justify your split. You’re a good person and a wonderful mother. You have a job you enjoy, and you don’t want to lose it. You have a father of your children who will be involved with you for the rest of your life. You don’t want to hurt him and make this more contentious than it has to be. If this continues, you’re going to basically take money away from your children’s future and give it to attorneys and me. Is that what you want? A battle? Do you want to go to war with your spouse?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then, you need to stop this nonsense now, put what happened behind you, and never mention it again. We need to discuss a way for you to leave this marriage with minimal peripheral damage. There’s a way, Alexis; it’s not complicated. You need to respect and love your husband and children, be generous with them, face anger with kindness and tolerance, and find a way to part as friends. The alternative is ugly–horribly ugly. Trust me.”

“God. I know. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“That’s OK. This is natural. You probably haven’t been sleeping, have you?”

“Sleep? What sleep?”

“I’m writing you a prescription that will help. Stick to the recommended dosage as it’s easy to become addicted, and we don’t want that. Meditate, do yoga, do whatever it takes to clear your mind so we can get you through this. I’m your friend, Alexis, and I’m here to help. I can’t have you self-destruct and waste all the progress we’ve made.”

“Progress?”

“Yes. I realize you’re unaware of it, but you’re coming along just fine. This is new to you. I’ve been through it hundreds of times. You’re fine.”

“Thank you. I’m so sorry …”

“Don’t apologize. It’s all right. I’m here for you. Now, go get this filled, and call me if you need me before our next session–any time, any day.”

“OK.”

Diagnosis: Unfortunately predictable behavior. Questioning at the end. She’s trying to get caught. Not good.

Treatment: Sleep will help. Next session I’ll alleviate her fears by sharing similar cases. She needs reassurance.

Doctor O: Alexis – Session Four

My job is dangerous in some respects. I walk a thin line; I’m aware of that. There are always physical and financial threats looming. Still, I can’t stop.

“How are you, Alexis?”

“Fine. You?”

“In desperate need of my third coffee. Would you like one?”

“I’m OK, thank you.”

“So, have you spoken to the man from your night with Tonya?”

“Jesus, no. That was just a fling.”

“You didn’t exchange numbers?”

“No. I mean, why bother? It’s not like we could have an actual relationship.”

“I see.”

“He’s too young and lives a continent away.”

“… and you’re married.”

“Ah, yes, then there’s that.”

“Any regrets?”

“Yes, I regret that I am not having any regrets.”

“So, you expect to feel guilty.”

“Yes. If one of my friends did that, I’d be shocked if she didn’t have any remorse.”

“Well, you didn’t sleep with him.”

“Maybe I did.”

“You told me you didn’t.”

“Regardless, the way I felt that night–I don’t know how to explain this. Shouldn’t I have those feelings with my husband?”

“Ideally.”

“But, it’s unrealistic, isn’t it?”

“I’m sure you’ve felt that way with your husband at times.”

“Sure, early on. It just faded, and that sucks.”

“Don’t you think it sucks for Mike too?”

“Well, if it does, he certainly hides it better. Naturally, he sensed a change in me this week, and he has been putting in more of an effort. He’s overdoing it. It’s actually a turn-off.”

“Wait. I don’t understand. Mike’s trying harder, and that’s pushing you away?”

“Exactly.”

“OK. What is he doing?”

“He brought flowers home, which he never does. In bed, he was more attentive to my needs.”

“Meaning?”

“He kissed me more and, you know.”

“Gave you oral pleasure.”

“Yes.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: She’s tearing up. There’s the regret.

“Why did that push you away?”

“Because I fantasized about Fabrizio when he did it; that’s the only way I could enjoy it.”

“You miss Fabrizio?”

“No. I miss the feeling I had with Fabrizio.”

“Can you envision yourself ever having that feeling with Mike again?”

“No.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: She’s crying.

“I’m sorry it makes you sad. Are you OK?”

“No, I’m not OK. I’m fucking angry.”

“At me?”

“No, at me.”

“Why?”

“I feel like a shitty person. I have children to consider, not to mention Mike’s feelings. He’s a great father and a good person.”

“You think they deserve better.”

“They absolutely deserve better. I don’t even know how we got here–to this place where we’re numb to each other. He has never cheated on me. We just drifted over the years. I wish I knew what caused this.”

“Is it possible that time caused it?”

“Marriage is supposed to be forever. It says so right there in the vows.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Now, she’s visibly angry.

“Yes, still, most don’t last and, of those that do, many are clinging to dysfunction out of fear.”

“Well, then that fucking sucks. Whatever happened to commitment and dedication. You know? Through thick and thin; for better or worse. Nowadays, people just give up. They leave wakes of broken hearts and damaged offspring. It’s fucking greedy. I hate that I feel this way.”

“Alexis, as with life, relationships run their courses from exciting beginnings full of promise to death. Some are short; some are lengthy; some end tragically; some end amicably.”

“Great.”

“If you’re not happy in your relationship, it affects your spouse and your children. Mike deserves to have a woman in his life who loves him completely. He deserves to be someone’s Fabrizio. He longs for that, believe me. A man can sense when his woman drifts. What he did last week, whether consciously or not, was reach desperately for something slipping away.”

“So, why would that push me away?”

“Two reasons: You have some guilty feelings about your night with Fabrizio. You feel unworthy of Mike’s attention and uncomfortable about where your mind wanders. Second, you don’t want to save your marriage.”

“Wow.”

“You don’t … and that’s OK, Alexis. This is your life we’re talking about here. You deserve to have all those feelings you miss. It’s not practical–though many people try–to have weekend trysts to satiate your urges. You’re putting a Band-Aid on an infected wound. Eventually, people playing that game get caught, and that’s the tragic ending I referred to. How would Mike react if you told him about what happened?”

“He’d be devastated.”

“Anger? Sadness? Violence?”

“He’s not a violent person at all. He’d be hurt.”

“How would you react if Mike confessed a weekend tryst like yours?”

“I’d be disappointed but, honestly, I don’t think it would hurt. In fact, it would probably help this whole crazy situation if he had an affair. It would convince us both that our marriage is over, and we could move on.”

“Interesting. You wouldn’t feel jealous if another woman were relighting Mike’s fire?”

“No. As long as she’s a good person, and she treats him and my kids properly, I’d be fine with it.”

“If you truly loved Mike, wouldn’t you expect his having an affair to bother you?”

“Of course. But, I do love him. It’s just different now.”

“So, what will you do?”

“Hey, you’re the doctor. You’re supposed to help me out of this fucking mess. Isn’t that what you’re paid to do?”

“I’m paid to help you heal and improve. Your healing may cause short-term pain to others. There will probably be resentment and anger. Some of your friends and family may consider you to be evil, heartless, or greedy. I hope you didn’t expect a simple solution like, ‘take two of these and all will be fine tomorrow.'”

“Right.”

“So, let’s work on you, and if an exit is what you decide upon, let’s find a path that will cause the least peripheral damage.”

“OK.”

“I’ll see you next week, Alexis.”

Diagnosis: Reality is setting in. She knows it’s over.

Treatment: The anger and pain is natural. Next week, discuss possible separation.

Doctor O: Alexis – Session Three

I spoke to Tonya. She was pleased with patient’s progress. Initial introduction to Gary’s man went as planned.

“Wow, Alexis, something looks different; I can’t put my finger on it.”

“Interesting choice of words, Doctor.”

“You seem to have a bounce in your step too.”

“First, thank you for introducing me to Tonya. She’s wonderful. Second, I’ve had a bit of a ‘tune-up’ as she called it.”

“What did that involve?”

“Every woman’s dream: We went shopping.”

“Ah, yes.”

“I tried on ten outfits and we selected one. Then, we visited an aesthetician, who worked wonders knocking a few years from my face.”

“You are glowing.”

“Thank you. The best part was afterward when we stopped by the Hilton’s cocktail lounge.”

“How so?”

“Tonya spoke to me about carrying myself more confidently, and it worked, instantly.”

“Yes?”

“We weren’t there for fifteen minutes before a nice gentleman sent drinks our way. At first, I thought he was interested in Tonya. I mean, she is gorgeous.”

“… and married.”

“Right. But, then he came over and spoke with us. He was old for my tastes, but kind. He made it apparent he was interested in me.”

“Were you wearing your wedding band?”

“No. Oopsie.”

“OK, continue.”

“He was too aggressive. He kept insisting I have dinner with him. I thanked him, but let him know I was with a friend, so I couldn’t. That didn’t dissuade him.”

“Oh.”

“He was overdoing it. Anyway, Tonya came to rescue, saying we were waiting for her husband and my boyfriend.”

“Good strategy.”

“Like you said, she’s an expert. Still, he wasn’t giving up. Then, something bizarre happened. Wait, have you spoken to Tonya?”

“No, not at all.”

“OK, well, out of nowhere this guy comes up and steps between us. He says, ‘Hi, Baby,’ grabs my hand and plants a kiss on me.”

“A friend of yours?”

“No. A complete stranger. He was stunning. Tall with short, dark hair and ebony eyes.”

“You let a stranger kiss you?”

“I know! Anyway, it worked. The creeper walked away.”

“I don’t understand. Where did this guy come from?”

“He was standing with friends behind us, and he overheard us as he watched the other guy hit on me. He said it seemed like I could use a lifeline, so he stepped in.”

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Well done, Fabrizio. Surely, the creeper was Tonya’s husband Chad. Brilliant!

“That was nice of him.”

“Right? It turns out he was here for a conference. He’s European and gorgeous. He wore a suit. Had the top button undone and his tie loosened. He winked at me and returned to his friends. I was worried I had lost him. Tonya insisted I flirt. She even instructed me on how to do it.”

“How to flirt?”

“Yes. Tonya said there are subtle things we do when we’re interested that signal our mate. Most of the time women don’t realize they’re doing them and men don’t realize they’re reacting.”

“Makes sense. What subtle things did you do?”

“I glanced and smiled at him. When I felt his eyes, I flipped my hair, exposing my neck to him. Little things like that. Tonya kept prompting me and it worked like a charm.”

“Worked how?”

“Well, he bought us a round and kept stopping by and kissing my neck and ear each time he arrived. He whispered to me that he’d have to do that often since the creeper was still in the vicinity.”

“You didn’t mind.”

“Oh, God, no. There’s something about European men. He smelled amazing too. He’d place a hand just above my hip when he greeted me. I have to admit, he stirred up something naughty within me. I guess mixing in a few Lemon Drops didn’t hurt.”

“How did the night progress?”

“We ducked into a janitor’s closet and he fucked me hard from behind.”

“What?”

“Kidding. But … um … something did happen.”

“Something?”

“Look, I’m a married woman. I shouldn’t be entertaining these thoughts and actions. Should I?”

“That depends.”

“On?”

“Whether those thoughts and actions improve you.”

“Short-term bliss could have long-term consequences.”

“Are you here to save your marriage or here to find happiness? I ask because it seems apparent to me that you probably won’t be able to do both.”

“I don’t want to hurt Mike.”

“The things you did last weekend you did for you, not to Mike.”

“I doubt he’d accept that explanation.”

“Is he aware of what happened?”

“No. Heavens, no. I’m glad we were thirty miles away. Even so, I was paranoid. Especially when I got home on Sunday and he, like you, remarked that something was different about me.”

“How did you justify the new you?”

“I said I was refreshed by spending time alone with a good book by the pool.”

“Do you want to tell me more about what happened with …”

“Fabrizio. Well, as it turned out, Tonya’s husband called and she had to leave, so I had another drink with him. We flirted and played.”

“Did anything happen?”

“I spent the night with him.”

“Interesting.”

“Is it?”

“Yes. It’s especially interesting that I don’t detect any regret.”

“I know. It’s weird. I thought I would feel regret or embarrassment, but I don’t.”

“Did you have sex?”

“Actually, no. Almost. We kissed and touched and played, but I couldn’t take that final step.”

“How did he react?”

“He was cool about it. He didn’t force things at all. I think I was the aggressor. God, what a body on that man. Ugh. You have no idea.”

“Ha ha, OK, good for you. So, what was the most exciting thing about your little adventure?”

“I’d have to say that it felt great to be noticed, pursued, wanted, and ravished. It made me feel like a new woman.”

“Excellent. Alexis, you’re coming along nicely. Let’s break here. I’m curious to see how you feel about this episode after a week goes by.”

“Oh, me too.”

Diagnosis: Confidence improving.

Treatment: See if guilt arises. Gauge husband’s reaction to the new Alexis. Suspicion?