Connie sat with two skinny arms wrapped delicately across her stomach in the back seat of a taxi. The yellow car slithered almost effortlessly through late morning traffic. She instructed the driver to drop her off on the corner of Madison Avenue and 21st Street. As the driver rounded Broadway and headed south towards her destination, she carelessly crumbled a twenty- dollar bill and jammed it into a clear plastic tray. Desperate to stand on her feet again and to shift her womb into a much more practical position, she slid payment through a thick bullet- proof partition and shouted, “Keep the change!”
The soon to be Mrs. Landesman was feeling more like herself already. Even before receiving professional mental health treatment, she managed, with her own will power, to put down two cans of an Ensure brand protein energy drink for breakfast. John ate a bagel and drank a cup of coffee and sat next to her in a breakfast nook, holding her hand as he begged her to get something into her system. He was late for work but it didn’t matter. He owned the company. He waited long enough at the house to be sure that she didn’t sneak away to toss out what was ever so slowly ingested through a straw. She thought perhaps it wasn’t even necessary to sit down with a shrink and tried convincing John that his mother, Cora, was just being judgmental by implying that she needed help.
“Please, do this for our child,” her handsome man begged as he ran his fingers through dark black hair speckled with hints of white hair.
“I’ll go see Dr. Krainin today,” Connie promised while placing a white business card with black lettering on a small round table at which the couple was sitting. “Now off to work. Stop not trusting me, John.”
Thirty-two ounces of a vitamin enriched milkshake was an excellent start to healthier eating. A construction worker could survive from such a diet. She burped as she stepped out of the cab– a gastrointestinal reflex that she hadn’t experienced in so long. The milky aftertaste was disgusting. Connie licked her lips covered with just a hint of peach colored lip gloss and treaded on. Already she felt as big as a house. At five months pregnant, she could only imagine what pains her legs would experience come July. She was not in the mood to spill her guts to a therapist.
The sun was shining in the city. Suddenly she felt positive about the future. The once cold, bitter town seemed to glow with a vision of promise. The sky had been overcast for nearly a month. The rays felt warm upon her skin. The baby moved inside her. She hated going to see doctors, even gynecologists. They always gave Connie the willies. How could anyone sit day after day in a stuffy private office and just listen to people’s problems? Connie asked herself as a warm breeze caressed her shiny, shaven legs as she strutted through a crowd of pedestrian traffic. She took a deep breath of the warming air. It smelled and tasted like spring already and it was only March.
Shrinks are the equivalent of critics in the pit of fashion runways, she concluded, trying to imagine what Dr. Krainin would be like. Her closest friends discussed the advice their therapists had given them– little secrets for overcoming huge phobias and worries raging out of control. Why not get one of her own? What was so ingenious about therapy, she had learned from close friends, was that the person on the receiving end figured out life’s problems by simply discussing openly the things that got on their nerves. Bitching! Therapists were professional recipients of bitching. Just go see a therapist. That’s what everyone else in New York does when they find themselves acting like Naomi Cambell, beating down personal assistants for the sheer joy of getting pressure off their chests.
Connie realized that perhaps having someone to talk to without tons of baggage to share in return would cure the hate she had for the way she looked in the mirror. The dainty brunette looked uptown in the direction of the Empire State Building. The skyscraper appeared as though it had somehow been freshly polished by an army of window washers. Everything looked so bright as she headed off to therapy. At $500 for a thirty minute session, Candy Krainin must be a good listener, Connie concluded as she headed into a granite building marked with the address 545 Madison Avenue.
For a moment she wanted to turn back, walk out of the building and forget the foolish nonsense of talk therapy. Her baby was going to be fine. No need to talk about it. She made up her mind, she was going to eat again, no matter how bulky her once glowing, sexy frame was becoming. How much convincing can a therapist do?
Connie’s gay friend Max helped her to take the weight off of her shoulders already. He convinced her to stop being so worried about her physical appearance and look at the brighter side of things. The clever queen convinced Connie that her pregnancy was a godsend. According to Max, all Connie had to do was play along briefly and fulfill the requests of Cora Landesman. John was already in his forties without any kids to carry on a name. Connie was very pretty, despite any possible emotional problems, and besides, the young twenty-one year old small town girl was Cora’s last hope of ever receiving a grandchild. According to Max’s predictions, once the baby was conceived, Connie would have enough money to pay for her NYU tuition plus a full-time nanny– the perfect life for a talented fashion designer in New York City.
Max pulled Connie to the side and into the bathroom when she broke down in tears at a baby shower that Mrs. Landesman was throwing for her. Max convinced her to do what Mrs. Landesman was insisting upon in regards to a psychological assessments by one of New York City’s most prominent experts on human behavior.
“Pull it together girl. It’s not that serious. What the hell is wrong with you? I was only being honest and saying what everyone else out there is saying about you behind your back. They are concerned about the baby, not you. Believe me, those bitches would give every dime they have to look half as good as you, girlfriend. They want a baby in the family. That’s all. But they know you are not eating like an expecting mother should.”
“But you think I’m ugly too”
“I’m just jealous, girl. I was just joking. Look at how beautiful you are. Your maternity glow is stunning. You’re a natural beauty, Connie,” Max said while gently pressing on her shoulders until she sat comfortably on the toilet. “I know it was impossible for us to get along as friends while roommates. That’s behind us, now. You know how much I love you and how fierce I think you are. Now stop this nonsense. All I was saying is that you have an eating disorder. Pregnancy is a time to put personal beauty secrets aside and think only about that little baby that is growing inside of your beautiful frame.”
Connie’s waterproof mascara smudged across her pale, high cheekbones after she rubbed her tiny fists into her eyes, trying to wipe away the tears that Max had pulled from her in front of everyone attending the baby shower.
“I don’t know what I was thinking when I did this. It’s not John’s fault. At the time, I thought I had no choice. I cannot afford four years of school in New York and under no circumstance will I ever go back to Michigan and live like white trash again. I had to do something to salvage my crumbling design career. I never stopped to think about the cost to my beauty by bringing another soul into this world. Just look at my belly, Max. Just look at it. This thing is ruining me. It’s a boy, by the way. There’s a baby boy inside of me. What if he grows up to be straight with no fashion sense?”
” You can mold him, girl, and you better make me the godfather,” Max snapped.
Connie giggled. “John wants to marry me. He said he has no choice now. I told him I’d have an abortion if he wanted. You should have seen the look on his face.”
“You may not need to have an abortion if you don’t start eating. I was serious about what I said. Do you think there will be a big wedding at the Landesman Connecticut estate if there ain’t no baby in you? Honey, I taught you better than that. All you need to do is get through the discomforts of pregnancy is Effexor. Be sure you ask for that drug when you go see that fancy shrink. It’s the rave in the gay community right now. I hear it’s much better than the Prozac of the 90’s,” Max explained, not being totally up front with his girlfriend from college. He was already taking it for obsessive compulsive disorder. It helped him focus in school, especially while studying and he didn’t feel so sorry for himself anymore. He assumed the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor would work miracles on a little girl with image issues, just as it had him.
“Now listen to me closely,” Max said. “Do whatever she says and have this baby. Your body will pop back to normal. Just look at Demi Moore. It’s only nine months. If you marry into the Landesman fortune, I’m coming to work in your showroom, girl. We will be the next Dolce and Gabanna.” Max winked at her. She saw a devilish spark in his eyes.
Connie knew he was absolutely right about playing along in the game of ‘treatment’. Perhaps this baby was a chance of a lifetime. It was time to get over her fear of food and being fat and start eating again. But now, it was nearly impossible. The thought of stuffing herself with solid foods made her nauseous. It had been so long since she had ingested anything besides green tea leaves and laxatives. Even the protein shakes were a little too much to keep down.
She started having intense food cravings that were almost unstoppable; silent screams from inside. It was a telepathic voice attached to a mind that was not hers, yet depended upon her instincts for its own survival. The little creature was yelling into her subliminal taste buds almost every minute of the day. The hunger was unstoppable no matter how desperately Connie wanted to remain beautifully thin.
Getting and staying thin had been a spiritual transition for Connie prior to her pregnancy. Food never crossed her mind. Her self-discipline was impeccable. The joy of fasting was coming to an end with the thought of seeing a therapist and treating what was most obviously, an eating disorder raging out of control. Almost every night for two weeks straight, at 3 a.m. on the dot, she found herself waking up at night standing in front of Max’s double door, steel refrigerator and not remembering how she got there. After wandering around aimlessly three nights in a row she realized that perhaps something was going wrong with her mind. Groggy and stumbling around in a dark loft, lost in a semi-conscious dream state, Connie was sleep waking– dreaming of home and childhood– on an unconscious journey for nourishment.
The pregnant anorexic’s mind had slipped into a delusional state when she slept. She had dreams of her childhood and being back home in Michigan, raiding the ice box in her mother’s mobile home. She helped herself to leftovers– things like meat loaf, fried deer steak and cold mashed potatoes. In her dream, just like she had done as a child, she didn’t bother putting things on a plate or using a fork. A slice of cold meatloaf with large chunks of onions in it was just as good cold as it was hot and could be held effortlessly in her little hands without dropping a crumb. The light of the refrigerator lighting up the darkness of her childhood home made the dream seem so real– such details. She pulled Saran wrap from atop a bowl of left-over mashed potatoes and swiped her finger into the cold, cloud-like, butter drenched potatoes and immediately felt a rush of energy rush through her veins. The moment she stuck a stick of butter her mouth she woke up, realizing that it was just a dream– a dream of food– one that the baby inside her was having. She simply went back to bed without eating and remained motionless, hoping the baby would drift back to sleep and stop pestering her for food.
Connie giggled on her way into the offices of Doctor Candy Crainin, thinking about what Max said to her about controlling the purse strings of the Landesman textile fortune. Effoxor sounded like a laxative anyway.
She carefully stepped from a cement sidewalk that seemed to have microscopic diamonds embedded within the encrustation onto plush red carpet in the lobby of the 545 Madison Avenue. Connie believed there was no real purpose to see a Madison Avenue therapist, even if her future mother-in-law was fitting the bill. If anyone needed to see a shrink it, was Cora Landesman, the mother of the man who fucked her without a condom. Momma’s gonna have to do just a little more for me if she hopes to hold this little gem in her freckled arms, Connie thought as she pressed an elevator button, on her way to the 9th floor.