Chapter 13, Debbie Wilkinson
Another dateless Friday night, Debbie thought, plopping into her overstuffed couch. It didn’t go with anything else in her townhouse, but it was so damn comfortable she’d decided to keep it anyway. “You’ll be my date tonight, won’t you Mr. Wiggles?” she said, cuddling her tabby, scratching under his chin. His real name was Virgil, after the poet, but in private she called him by his nickname, given to him for incessant wiggling when she tried to hold him close and cuddle. She’d brought home another not long ago thinking he might like a friend to socialize with during the day while she was at work. But Virgil would have none of it. And after the third cut in the new-friend’s ear and umpteen dollars in medical bills, she had to give the little one away before it was beaten to death by Mr. Wiggles.
“You don’t want to share mommy do you Mr. Wiggles? You want her all to yourself.” As if on cue, the big tabby began to squirm and wiggle to win free from her smothering clasp. She held on for a few more minutes, to the point where she knew from personal experience that he was about to get nasty, then let him go. He took off like a cheetah, racing across the tiny living-dining room and jumping to the window ledge, his favorite spot, where he proceeded to wet his paw and groom himself.
“Alone again, not even the cat will have me.” Debbie found the remote and switched on the television guide to consider the options of entertainment for the evening. Not that she needed the damn thing, she pretty much had it memorized. “Nope, nope, nope, rerun, nope, I don’t think so, nope, rerun, base-ball – great big nope,” she giggled. “The West Minster dog show. Not in this house right Mr. Wiggles?” She looked to the cat sleeping on the window ledge, ignoring her. She flipped the channel again. “Nope, rerun, what’s this? Peoples fifty most beautiful people – what do you think Mr. Wiggles, should we watch what the blessed look and live like while we eat ice-cream?” She thought a moment, shuffled off of the couch towards the fridge to get them each a bowl. Not that she was fat, not really, more like chunky. She looked okay in a business suit which is how she dressed for work, though at home was far more comfortably with her choices. Hell, she would even shoot herself a passing glimpse when she went to and from Dr. Reichmann’s office. He had that enormous wall mirror in there, said it made his office look bigger. It did, but she wasn’t buying that as the only reason, not after she’d caught him talking to himself while staring at it and on more than one occasion. Either way, it gave a great profile and she had to admit – she looked good some days. Not Pamela Anderson good, not even Rene Zelwigger good, but good or okay at least.
It was when she got home and took the suit off that it hit her. “Yuck!” She didn’t so much take the suit off as explode from it. No, her mirror didn’t lie. Unlike Dr. Reichmann’s, hers showed every roll and stretch-mark, her somewhat knocked knees, flat feet, overgrown bush because she ran out of breath trying to trim it. Besides, no one was going to see it anyway. Not that she wouldn’t want them too, God only knows how badly she would like a little attention down there, but hey, who was she fooling? Her sagging tits and double chin, which was slowly creeping up to her cat’s-eye glasses, which the guy said made her look like a sexy librarian, which she bought like a junkie jonesing for a fix. Only to realize after she purchased them that he’d only been telling half of the truth, at best. Oh, she did look like a librarian alright, just not a sexy one, not by a long shot. More like the old, mean, pickle up her ass Mizz Shrenople that she remembered and feared as a little girl in grade school. The problem was, she couldn’t afford to replace them and was stuck with the stupid things as without them, she couldn’t see to the end of her outstretched, clearly unsexy, hand.
The other thing she couldn’t see when she took them off was her roots. As a young girl, she’d been blessed with mousy brown hair – at least that’s what her father always tried to convince her of. She hated it. Hated herself. Hated her whole stupid, frumpy, body. School was cruel of course and she had suffered with some eating disorders but that was all in the past, mostly. The root’s, however, even though they were partially grey now, were a continued reminder of those dark days and she did her darndest to get them covered with the blond she thought suited her best. She knew she couldn’t afford it and that it was the wrong color for her, but she couldn’t help herself. It was her one indulgence and she went every month. She smiled thinking of it while unconsciously rubbing the mousy brown-grey stripe down the middle of her scalp with the tips of her fingers. Tomorrow was her special day.
Returned to the couch, pillows just right, bowl of ice-cream in hand, she turned up the volume on the television. “And now back to our scheduled program, ’People Magazines Fifty Most Beautiful People, of 2003.”
“What? That’s eight years ago for Christ’s sake,” she said, reaching for the remote.
“Taking the fiftieth spot is actor, Steve Martin!”
“Oh, this could be interesting,” she paused a moment, remote in hand. “Let’s just watch a little bit Mr. Wiggles. After all, I’m pretty sure they have a better go of it than we do. Well, me at least, you don’t look to be hurting much.”
“It’s very hard being one of the most beautiful people. Having this kind of beauty is actually a burden. Sometimes I go to a party and not one of the other forty-nine most beautiful people is there. That makes me feel very solitary and alone because it means I am the most beautiful person in the room.”
“Oh my God! Did you hear that Mr. Wiggles?” She let out a snort, dribbling ice cream onto her sweat-shirt. It says Juicy on it, so she makes sure she only wears it at home.
“If I’m going to a party where I know there will be less beautiful people, I try to dress-down in order to hide my beauty. But this seems to have a counter-effect of actually making me more beautiful. I guess me and dungarees are a pretty potent combination.”
Another snort catches Mr. Wiggle’s attention. He has finished his ice-cream and now leaps from the sill to share in hers.
“I try not to lord my beauty over others. This is very hard. I try not to mention that I am one of the most beautiful people, but somehow it always comes out. I will usually only bring it up when I’m asked to do a task, like open a garage door. People seem to enjoy my beauty and are genuinely happy for me, because after I mention it they always say, ‘How nice for you.’”
“You little thief! If you wanted more, all you needed to do was ask. Now look at me, I’ve got ice-cream all over me and you’ve tracked it all over the rug.”
“At number forty-nine, Mark Feuerstein. He has true hazel eyes, a healthy outdoor glow, and a luminescent smile. But friends say that Mark Feuerstein looks his best when he’s at his worst. “When Mark’s not beautiful, he’s adorable…”
“Give me a break. That’s so cute it makes me gag.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm while down on her knees, topless. She used her soiled sweatshirt to clean up the worst of the ice cream, her breasts clanging like the Clacker’s she owned as a girl. Just two glass balls on a string but man they could do some damage if you weren’t careful. An image of what she must look like caught her funny bone and she began to laugh making them clang with hearty ardor.
“I bet your Momma could get a date if she advertised these babies, eh Mr. Wiggles?” glancing up towards the sill again where the tabby took refuse after the ice-cream incident.
She hadn’t closed the drapes as he liked to look outside. Well that and the fact she hadn’t expected to be crawling around on all fours, dangling to and fro, cleaning ice-cream paw-prints from the rug – so she was more than a little surprised to catch a glimpse of what looked to be a face in the glass. She wasn’t certain as the light from the kitchen caused some reflection, but it scared her all the same.
Clutching the wet sweat-shirt across her chest, she got up as quickly as she could and ran upstairs to her bedroom. She searched out the curtains to see if they were shut and sighed with relief, only now noticing that she was shaking from her knees up. She was surprised when the tears started but could do nothing to stop the flow as she crumpled gradually down the wall towards the floor. Too afraid to open her eyes, she strained her ears to pick up any sign, any proof that the vision she’d caught a glimpse of was real.
“Fey follows a simple skincare routine – cold cream and sea-breeze. And while she prefers plucking her own eyebrows, ‘for everything else, I’m salon bound,’ she says. ‘I’m half Greek, so there’s a fair amount of waxing that goes on.’ So delightful.”
Despite herself, she had to laugh, “See, everyone’s got problems.” She sniffled, pulling herself together to face the rest of the evening.