copyright  1993, 1999 ruth pettis

page two

I start seeing a therapist. The one I pick believes in empowerment. She says I can call her Connie.

I ask Connie why she keeps so many stuffed animals in her office. She proposes I pretend one is Marney and have at it. I assert my "power" and decline the offer. Connie says fine, she won't rush me.

Heather, my financial planner, has some mutual funds she's excited about. They include only start-up companies. "They haven't been around long enough to do much harm, so your money won't be supporting really oppressive interests."

I try to imagine Marney advising me about investments. I see myself coming away with a portfolio of oil spillers and bomb builders. I let Heather use two grand from my savings for long-term growth, another two grand for an IRA, and an extra thousand to win, place, or show.

I've yet to find a masseuse who will work without oil. Jenine, the latest one, tries to reason with me that deep tissue work won't be effective without it. I hate having oily skin. Jenine offers to use more lotion and less oil. I accept the compromise.

She works my back over good, her knuckles ploughing my shoulders. I close my eyes and breathe deep and pretend her hands are Marney's. I don't tell Jenine it hurts because I'm afraid she'll stop.

The gas company sends someone to wrap the water heater. She's a sturdy, grinning, androgynous type who doesn't need my help moving boxes out of the way. I help her move boxes out of the way. The name Jaime is stitched on her overalls.

She goes out to her truck and brings in a roll of pink foamy insulation. It's taller than her by a foot, and at least a yard in diameter. It might not weigh all that much but it must be awkward to carry. I hold the screen door open for her, then follow her downstairs to see if she needs anything. She doesn't. Jaime measures the circumference of the heater, unrolls the insulation partway. She works with a pair of thick shears, like the kind that cuts metal. She wastes no motions.

I wonder how the insulation feels when you lie on it. I want to ask Jaime if she's ever done that. I don't. I picture Marney bending over me as I shift from side to side, getting comfy. I imagine the grin she'd have.

While Jaime works, I reach over and feel the insulation. Sharp fibers get under the skin of my fingertips. I react; Jaime turns, gives me a funny look.

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