He started his session by talking to the therapist about eggs.
“When I was a child,” he began. “My mother once reprimanded me at a restaurant for not knowing how to properly order an egg.”
The gray gentleman therapist in white leaned forward. “What’s all this talk about eggs?”
“Like I said, when I was a child, we were at a restaurant, just my mother and me. We were having breakfast and I wanted an egg, just a fucking fried egg. When the waitress asked me how I wanted my egg I said: ‘Fried.’ My mother lost her shit, but mostly on the inside. She looked at me with that fake smiley laugh and said something like: ‘But how do you want your egg fried?’ I didn’t understand what the hell she was talking about, so I repeated: ‘Fried. I want my egg fried, Mother!’”
“I remember her scoffing and tugging her white gloves off and slapping them down on the table. She looked up at the waitress, shook her head, and told her with a hand half shielding her face: ‘Over easy.’”
“I was confused. My head moved to my mother and then to the waitress and then back again. After the waitress walked away my mother scowled at me: ‘You’re such an embarrassment, Mildrew. An absolute embarrassment.’ I asked her what I did wrong, and she told me that I had no idea how to properly order an egg. We were in a fancy restaurant. It was one of those restaurants where people drank champagne with their pancakes and smoked cigarettes attached to long filter sticks and laughed out loud but not too loud. I might have been wearing a little suit for boys and possibly a wool cap. It was winter in New York. That’s where we lived then.”
The gray gentleman therapist leaned back in his chair and sighed with amazed wonder. “So, you feel you were traumatized by this event?”
“Of course, I was. To this day I cannot order for myself at a restaurant. I always must tell whoever I’m with what I want to eat, and they order for me.”
“Always?” the gray gentleman therapist repeated in question form. “But what about when you’re by yourself? Who orders for you then?”
“I don’t ever go out alone.”
“So, these other people who order for you. Are they friends?”
“Sure, I guess,” Mildrew answered. “But also, co-workers, dates, my priest once. I got him to say ‘fishsticks.’”
“Wait… Dates? You have dates order your meals for you?”
“Yes. I have to.”
“Do you ever have second dates with these women?”
“No. Not ever.”
“Mildrew,” the gray gentleman therapist began. “This whole act of having other people order for you must end. You’re a grown man. You’ll never be able to maintain a relationship with a woman who has to be your mother.”
“But… I just can’t do it. I have way too much anxiety.”
“Let’s go back to the original event… Did your mother do anything else to you for not knowing how to properly order an egg?”
Mildrew looked down at the floor. “When we got home… She beat the hell out of me.”
“She beat you?”
“Yes. That’s what I said. Aren’t you listening?”
“I’m sorry. Go on.”
“She beat me with her soft white knuckles. They were so damn clean and tender and feminine. Then she tied me to a kitchen chair and threw eggs at me. One after the other they hit me in the face. I was covered in broken shells and tears. I was spitting runny egg slime out of my mouth so I wouldn’t gag and stop breathing.”
“How many eggs?”
Mildrew looked up at the ceiling and thought about it. “Two or three cartons worth.”
“And then what happened?”
“She untied me and made me clean up the whole mess while she sat there and smoked cigarettes and listened to a Johnny Mathis record at high volume. Chances are, ’cause I wear a silly grin the moment you come into view… She would laugh at me, too. She called me an ‘idiot.’”
“That must be a very painful memory for you, Mildrew… But I’m glad you’re talking about it.”
“You know something, doc?”
“Did you realize that if you put a break in the letters of the word therapist, you get: The rapist?”
Dr. Micah Schism, the gray gentleman therapist, sipped at a silvery chalice of iced water with a lime wedge attached to the lip of the glass. He reached for the lime wedge and squeezed it over the water. Droplets dripped. He glanced over at a nervous Mildrew sitting across from him. “Are you ready for our exercise today?” he asked him.
“No. I’m thirsty,” Mildrew complained.
“And you’ll get something to drink when you order it for yourself.”
“Can’t you just say ‘Orange Fanta’. Just this once?”
“No,” Dr. Micah Schism said with a stern grin. “I won’t. I don’t even care if you die of thirst.” He took a deep gulp of his lime-squirted water. “Mmmm. That is very refreshing.”
“You’re being mean,” Mildrew said. “I don’t like this at all. I want to go home.”
“I’m not being mean, Mildrew. This is therapy. I’m trying to help you by forcing you to face your fears head on… Now. Here comes the waiter again. Do it.”
He was tall, young, and thin, and wore a pleasant smile. “Have you decided on a beverage yet, sir?”
Mildrew trembled. He looked over at Dr. Schism who was nodding his head in a gesture of go on. “I’ll have an Orange Fanta!” Mildrew loudly sputtered.
The young waiter’s shoulders sank. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir. We’re out of Orange Fanta.”
“Fuck!” Mildrew screamed, and he got up from the table and ran outside to the palm-tree lined street of a boisterous Los Angeles heavily clad in traffic and smog. He leaned against the outside of the building and began to weep. Dr. Schism came scurrying out and reached for Mildrew just as he began to slump to the ground.
It was weeks later and Mildrew sat on the soft lawn of the vast, rolling cemetery and stared at his mother’s tombstone. The sun was shining, and he was wearing dark sunglasses over his aching eyes. His clothes were wrinkled. His hair was mussed. He hadn’t showered in days. He lost his job. He wrecked his car. His cat died. He was on the verge of being evicted from his apartment. Dr. Micah Schism had given up on him completely. He was a hopeless case.
Mildrew stood and reached down for one of the three cartons of eggs he had there. He opened it. A dozen white, shiny Ork orbs poked up at him. He took one out and threw it at his mother’s gravestone. It made him giddy. Then he threw another and another and another until the entire carton was empty. He picked up the second carton, reloading himself like a war gun, and these too he violently threw at his mother’s now egg-caked tombstone. The engraved name of his mother, Arianna Shmoke, was glossed over with yolk and dripped with it.
After he emptied the second carton, he reached for the third and final one. This too he unloaded on his mother’s final resting place with a great fury, and he yelled out, “This is all your fault! All my problems are your fault! I hope you choke on eggs in hell!”
Once he was out of eggs and spent and panting like a dog, Mildrew collapsed back down into the grass and looked at the cranage he so artistically created. “It’s all your fault,” he mumbled one last time.
Mildrew got on a bus bound for Phoenix, Arizona. He took a window seat near the back. Once fully loaded, the bus coughed its black lung goodbye to LA and headed east out of the city.
The day was crisping over in a blue bruise sort of darkness mixed with orange and the opening act of stars in the sky when the bus pulled into a diner near Blythe so the travelers could get out, rest, and eat.
Mildrew stepped off the bus and walked across the graveled parking lot and into the diner. He took a seat in a booth by himself and pulled a menu out of a silver rack. It was sticky. He flipped through it. He didn’t even think about it, really. He was just moving and breathing and living and he suddenly didn’t care anymore if he was scared or embarrassed or even dead.
A waitress with large intelligent breasts came to the table and smiled at him. “What can I get you, honey,” she breathed in the tick-tock of dusk time.
Mildrew smiled at her without looking at her. His eyes went out the window and in the direction of a new life. “I’ll have a cheeseburger, medium-well, no tomato or onion. Crispy French fries. A chocolate malt… And can I get a silvery chalice of iced water with a lime wedge nestled into the lip of the glass?”