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CALIFORNIA STORY [Short Fiction]

Things I Want Back From You

April 02, 2006|Elizabeth Bernstein | Elizabeth Bernstein is the founder and editor of the Big Ugly Review, an online literary journal.

1. My cellphone case. It's blue with white sequins, and I left it on the dresser by your closet. My carpal tunnel has completely flared up because it pinches my ulnar nerve to hold the phone when I walk and talk. I need the phone case back right now.

2. My instant dog-bath washcloths. Jenny is stinky and I think it is bothering her, and it is definitely bothering me and I won't have time to give her a bath until Saturday. You know she produces more oil when she is itchy and it is flea season. The cloths are in the drawer above the dishwasher.

3. The photos from the Gualala trip. Please burn me a CD. I don't want to have to download them, so please don't send them via e-mail. I want them all, not just the ones I took. I was there and I want to have them all.

4. My black backpack. It's on the floor of your office. Please just put it aside and don't dig through it. Please have some respect for my privacy. It's just my papers from work, but I have signed client confidentiality agreements and I would appreciate it if you would honor that, even though you didn't honor any of our other agreements. Perhaps a legally binding agreement such as the ones I signed with my clients will mean more to you than the promises you made to me.

5. In the bathroom, on the shelf above the sink: my eyedrops. I have to put them in every night or I wake up with scratchy eyes, and I have not been sleeping well so my eyes are even drier. I can buy more, but I don't see why I should have to when the bottle is only half used. Also on the shelf: my saline solution. (Please stop using it if you have been. Use your own.) My glasses case. And on the windowsill, I left a ChapStick.

6. If you're not going to use the exercise ball, I would

like to have it. You can keep it if you are using it.

7. My black felt pen. It's on your desk next to the computer, or at least it was when I left. It's my favorite pen and I can't remember the brand, so even if you think this is petty I do want it back. If you are using it, I would appreciate it if you would stop, or at least make sure that the cap is on securely when it is not in use.

8. This is something you will probably not agree with. But I want some money for therapy. I have been talking about you for six sessions straight now, and I don't think it's fair that I should have to pay for it. If you had not slept with Marlene, I would not be racking my brain trying to deal with you and all the pain you have caused me, and I could be working on much more productive things in therapy, things that benefit me, not this crap that is all about you.

I have endured so much stress over this, I can't even tell you. It has consumed my waking hours and I don't even get any relief when I go to sleep because you visit me in my effing dreams, and I wake up and before I know it I am thinking about you again and again. I have not been able to do any work and my rent is due in three days and I don't have the money because I have missed two deadlines--something, as you know, I have taken pride in not having done in my whole professional career. I am widely known by all my clients as someone who is trustworthy and reliable, and I take great pride in these characteristics. And you have made me break that lifelong pattern. I have let people down, and I have let myself down, and you are off with Marlene and you are not taking responsibility for the breadth of the harm you are causing. So. I anticipate that I will be over you in approximately four weeks. I already get a discounted fee of $80, and I am willing to pay for half of it. As I said, I have already put six weeks into this, so that is 10 weeks at $80 per hour, or $800. I would like to leave the end date open, but I would like at least to agree on $400 from you to start.

9. I know that I can't ask you to move, even though I don't think I should have to bump into you and Marlene. Even if I don't see you or one of your pseudo-intellectual, pretentious, underemployed "friends," I shouldn't have to stress out about it and worry and look around. I would like you to try to consolidate your errands so I can at least organize my day in a peaceful way. And if you want to leave for a while, I think that it would be generous of you, to give me a break. I know that you are not a generous person, although you can be when you choose to, and I would ask that you look into your core and try to remember when you used to care for me and be nice to me and try to remember what those feelings felt like, and tap into those feelings, and think about leaving town for a while.

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