Amy was in a mood. First the DJ dumped her from a full moon party in the desert before she had even washed his scent out of her sheets, then her psychologist cleared his throat and dropped her mid-session. Sure she had been flirting with him again but still.
“I don’t think this is working for me,” she relayed Dr. Ted’s words to her sister Gwen over lunch. “That’s exactly the same thing the DJ texted to me!”
“Look,” her sister started. “There’s a reason I wanted to have lunch today.”
“I thought it was for my birthday?”
“That’s a component for sure.”
The waitress came over to fill their water glasses and compliment Amy on the yumminess of the baby propped in a high chair between the women, gnawing the table cloth.
“Yummy for sure but it’s her’s.” Amy leveled a breadstick at her sister.
“You just gave birth? No way! You look amazing.”
“Hold it,” Amy said through a mouthful of breadstick. “She looks amazing and I look like I just gave birth?
“You look like… you need more ice-tea,” the waitress called over her shoulder, walking away.
“Seriously?” Amy mimed knifing the waitress with a new breadstick. “And why am I the only one eating these breadsticks?”
“So like I was saying you need to find someone. I’m worried you’re drifting into spinster territory.”
“What?! You weren’t saying that?
“Well I was delicately winding up to it.”
“Maybe I’m fulfilled by my career and friendships.”
“You’re lonely, you hate yourself and your job is shit and I’m your best friend by default.”
Even for her sister this was harsh and Amy told her as much.
‘Those are your words.” Gwen held up her phone to show Amy. “You texted me at 4 am last night.”
The baby giggled. Amy shot it a look.
“Sanjay and I met this great guy last week at a Save the Bay thing. Sanj is going to invest in his start-up. Successful, cute, new in town. His name’s Doug—-
“Doug!” Amy made a face. “I can’t cum with a Doug!”
Around then the cake appeared propelled by the singing waitstaff. It was just a slice really but large enough for Amy to eat and hate herself while Gwen watched. Amy was already attempting to blow it out before the dish was even set down but there were so many goddamn candles.
Gwen held her phone and announced she was live streaming.
“I hate this,” Amy said.
“I know,” Gwen said from behind the phone. “Here’s to wishing you have someone you like better than me to spend your next birthday with.”
Doug was handsome and earnest like a high school civics teacher who knew how to dress or a mayor of a up and coming city who came from money. He pulled her chair out, knew wine and was able to drop that he flew private to Burning Man and had a surf cabin in Nosaro without seeming braggy.
“I know I should play it cool but I just want to say I had a great time.” Later he pecked her on the cheek and held open the door of the private car he ordered her.
Doug was, as advertised, the full package and it bored her. Just thinking of him made her yawn as she walked down the hall of her building that night. Turning a corner she found a gangly homeless-looking man banging on the apartment door opposite her’s. Apparently his name was Spider and he was plant-sitting while her neighbors were in Iceland but had gotten too high and locked himself out. Amy found all this out as they were lying on the concrete floor of her apartment, not even able to make it to the couch before having sex.
“What?!” her co-worker Yuri shouted when she got to that part of the story.
“Keep your voice down,” she said. Heads were already jack-in-the-boxing in their cube farm.
“So a smart hot CEO took you for drinks and you went home and smooshed a homeless stranger on your floor?”
“He’s not homeless, he’s plant-sitting.”
“You’re always saying you want something real.” Yuri clucked his tongue. “Classic Amy.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Lemme guess. Amy ditched a nice guy for another emotionally unavailable bad boy.” Fat Hank a few cubes down huffed and puffed, crab-walking his chair over.
“Like the time she ditched Stewie in accounts for the bike messenger with crystal meth teeth?” It was Krystal her boss joining in.
“Classic Amy,” they murmured like the refrain in a horror movie.
“Classic Amy,” the intern with the ass that had the mailroom boys buzzing agreed as she walked by sucking a Boba tea.
“You just started Monday!” Amy shot up so fast her office chair toppled onto the industrial carpet. “You don’t get to ‘Classic Amy’-me!”
The next date with Doug was, by anyone’s account “a 10” and the following dates even better. He took her to an impossible to get a reservation pop-up yakitori in a refurbished grain elevator downtown; VIP seating to a reunion tour of a riot girl-type band she’d name-checked in passing; he served her creme brûlée on the fire-pit adorned patio of his new ‘loft’ apartment overlooking the arts district while saying all the right things about regretting being part of the gentrification process.
And yet each of those nights ended with her rolling around on her apartment floor with Spider with his stale marijuana breath and uncut toe nails, her phone blinking with one of Doug’s thoughtful “Home safe?” texts.
Amy’s therapist looked surprised to see her back that Tuesday as if nothing had happened.
“I thought we discussed this. That I couldn’t be your therapist—
“Why am I attracted to the wrong men?” Before he could respond she blew through the story of Doug and Spider and the intern with the peach of an ass parroting “Classic Amy.”
“Can you just like help me for once?” she said employing doe eyes and prayer hands. “And I don’t mean talk about my childhood. For real if you bring up my father again I’ll scream.”
Dr. Ted steepled his soft fingers.
“Well… I do have one last idea,” he said theatrically.
He produced a shiny tablet from his desk, opened it wide and dimmed the lights. On the screen Sir Patrick Stewart looked spectacular in a blood red blazer, sitting by a crackling fire with a brandy and reading a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
“His voice is like butter. Is this porn?” Amy said. Dr. Ted shushed her.
Having found the camera, Sir Patrick was talking. “In this age of infinite distractions do you ever wish your heart got a nudge in the right direction? Well, you’re not alone. Extreme Emotional Dysfunction or EED affects one out of every 10 people.”
P Stew held up a red pill with a cupid’s arrow graphic.
“Luckily Adorix™ is the world’s first medication to focus the heart with the speed and precision of an arrow from Eros himself.” Sir Patrick popped the pill and his eyes turned to pulsating cartoon hearts as he started dancing the tango across a marble floor and towards the camera. He was very good.
“A love potion?… Will my insurance pay?”
“It’s in its clinical trial phase so there’s lots of risks—” Dr. Ted cut himself. “Just watch the video.”
Sir Patrick was giving instructions to take the pill 10 minutes before rendezvous’ing with “your special person” and warned against intimate contact with any third parties in between to avoid erroneous bonding. He smiled for the camera while sidestepping a mailman, a nun and a German Shepard before kissing the cheek of an ethnically ambiguous every-woman checking the mailbox of her picket fence’d house.
“Hold it,” Amy said, skeptical. “Am I supposed to believe Jean-Luc Picard is into that butterface?”
“He would never. Look at him. Patrick Stewart fucks.”
“I don’t pretend to understand the science. But I do know even a classically trained thespian like me couldn’t act lovestruck this well!” With a wink, Sir Patrick followed his new love into a picture perfect house as a scroll of side effects sped past.
“The plan is for that to drop at next year’s Super Bowl.” Dr. Ted eased the lights on and raised his eyebrows to acknowledge that yes he knew her mind was no doubt completely blown.
“Well. I’m sure you have many many questions.”
“I get it,” she shot back. “Let’s do this.
When Doug opened his door that night, Amy’s still tasted the chalky reside of the pill. She suprised him with a “bonding” bear-hug, taking in a nosefull of pheromones and eye-stinging cologne. Over dinner, she stared wide-eyed like Doug was one of those 3-D posters you need to scrutinize to spy a dolphin or a rainbow. She was waiting for something to happen and would’ve popped a second pill if Dr. Ted hadn’t been so stingy. She had to sign a mountain of NDA’s just to get one. She was so distracted later she spilled a drop of post dinner port on his beige chaise.
“What in the actual the fuck?” Doug said.
It was his first time raising his voice with her and Amy felt something stir inside her. She filled her mouth with port and made an executive decision to sleep with Doug as soon as the bottle was finished.
That week Amy let everyone know she was in love and, lest they think this was her usual pattern, added in the same boastful breath “and he’s a nice guy.”
“Except for between the sheets,” she gave this jokey addendum only to skeptics like her sister and the intern with the ass to die for. “Then he’s not so nice!”
Equally amazing was the lack of longing when Amy now passed her neighbor’s door. Invariably the key in her lock would trigger a Pavlovian appearance by Spider behind her having just made a pizza bagel or packed a bong or paused a Korean slasher film and inquiring if she wanted to eat, smoke or watch with him.
“I’ve got an early morning,” she would say over her shoulder, imaging herself the star of her very own Adorix commercial.
“You feel the medication is helping then?” Dr. Ted clicked his Adorix-logo’d pen to start writing. “You like it?”
“Like it? I want to marry it!” She was so giddy she laughed at her own dad joke. “Little things about him I once found off-putting, I now can’t get enough.”
Ted rolled a couple fingers for her to continue.
“Like I don’t mind that he resorts to utensils halfway through a sandwich or tugs his scrotum when thinking. The way he farts in bed is endearing even when he tosses the comforter over my head and makes me smell it. If I wasn’t head overs heels I probably wouldn’t be too keen on him turning on porn while we have sex or insisting on silence when he watches golf. But it’s him being vulnerable and showing me who he is, right.”
Dr. Ted scribbled notes. When Amy was done rattling off Doug’s quirks, she held her palms out for that session’s pill like it was holy communion. Amy didn’t want to jinx herself by not taking the pill but she suspected that this was real.
So at her nephew’s lavish 1st birthday when Gwen approached Amy in front of the oyster bar and told her maybe she should consider slowing her roll with Doug, Amy told her to eat a box of dicks loud enough for the party clown to distractedly pop his in-progress balloon walrus.
“Sanjay invested a lot of money in Doug’s ride-sharing for pets app but he hasn’t seen a dime. So he hired a detective and turns out Doug isn’t even his real name and he declared bankruptcy last year and has been married thrice. He may also be an arsonist with genital warts.”
“I knew it,” Amy said. “You’re jealous.”
“I don’t think you know him as well as you think.”
“I know him well enough to be engaged to him.”
Gwen held her hand with its enormous ring up to her mouth in both horror and a subtle dig.
“Well engaged to be engaged. Tonight’s our one month anniversary. Speaking of which he probably has something amazeballs planned. As opposed to this.” Amy motioned dismissively to the yard brimming with amusement park rides and mixologists on mini-ponies. She piled high a cocktail napkin of oysters to slurp in traffic and made her exit towards the valet.
“And thank god his name’s not really Doug!” she yelled over her shoulder.
But that night not only did Doug or whatever his name was not have anything planned, he didn’t return any of Amy’s 28 calls. Around dinner she resorted to cold-texting his friends and family and posting social media updates: “Don’t panic but has anyone seen my fiancee “Doug”?!”
He finally called to say he’d left his phone at the gym and also that he needed more space.
She laughed. Doug’s humor was so dry. Most women wouldn’t get it. Not Gwen. Not that chipper intern with the sic body.
“I feel like this relationship is like a dog that we both once loved but now it’s lame and in pain and the most mature thing to do is take it behind the barn and strangle it.”
“That isn’t what you do with a lame dog but it’s so cute you think that. Also I love you unconditionally.”
“I don’t think you’re hearing me. It’s over.” He paused, no doubt full of emotion. Then Amy heard a crunch like a handful of mixed nuts in his mouth. He was snacking. “It’s been real.”
She begged and pleaded until she realized she was screaming into a dead line.
There was pounding on the door. Amy imagined it was Doug revealing that it was all joke as he fanned a couple tickets to Bali or Jeju island out in his hand. But it was just Spider, brandishing an old screwdriver like a switchblade, wondering if she was being attacked.
“Are you sure you’re ok? I made cinnamon toast. Want a foot rub?”
“Goddamit Spider, stop harassing me!”
Amy was in too much of a rush to notice his wet eyes as she wrenched the screwdriver from his hand and took off down the hall.
Amy showed up at Doug’s apartment a little before midnight. She realized this was a faux pas but so was walking into Dr. Ted’s office wielding Spider’s screwdriver and demanding pills. She’d jabbed Dr. Ted once to get his attention and they had both seemed suprised by how little give his abdomen had.
“Doug!” Having slipped past the front desk, Amy banged on his door for 10 minutes even after he’d yelled through the door he was calling the police.
“Guess who’s not wearing any panties,” she shout-whispered back.
All she needed was a minute alone with him to slip him the medication, screwdriver pressed to his Adam’s apple if needed.
By now neighbors were rubber-necking out ajar doors, pajama-clad arms akimbo.
“I told you I’m busy. You’re really freaking us out right now!”
“Us!?” she screamed. “Are you in there with someone?!”
Silence ensued broken only by grinding of Amy’s back molars.
By the time Doug yelled back it wasn’t any of her business Amy was sprinting circles down the building’s stairwell as responding police were riding up in the elevator. Minutes later Amy was scaling a back alley fire escape, winding her way up floor after floor, each window a mocking diorama of domesticity – couples cuddled on the couch streaming mutually agreed upon content. Her panting breath had barely moistened Doug’s window when she caught sight of him with his arm around a twig of a girl, gorgeous, half-dressed and with sex hair; they struck a perfect-pair pose to the police interviewing them at the door. Amy felt confident she could destroy this girl’s face with a few jabs with the screwdriver.
“I love you Doug!” she screamed, banging on the window. Startled the four of them looked over just in time to see Amy lose her balance.
Head throbbing, Amy woke up in a hospital bed. She was disappointed to find Dr. Ted and Gwen, not Doug, by her side. A camera on a tripod sat opposite her and she didn’t like the look of the armed guard in the doorway.
“Where’s Doug?” she croaked and motioned for a glass of water.
“You’ve been in a coma for three days.”
Her sister buzzed for a nurse and Dr. Ted said he was texting the lawyers. He kept touching himself where she stabbed him.
Amy was disoriented and seeing her sister and psychologist in the same room didn’t help. It felt like a bad network crossover episode.
“I’ve been out three days?” Amy remembered Doug’s face as he watched her slip from view.
“Lucky for you those garbage bags—
“Broke your fall.”
She didn’t like the way they were finishing each other’s sentences and felt ganged up on. She fingered the bandage on the back of her head and caught the guard staring.
“Anyone gonna tell me why there’s an armed guard?”
But they were both talking at her now. Droning on about how the police wanted to take her into custody but Adorix had gotten involved, about how Dr. Ted needed six stitches, how she’d given them all quite a scare.
“I could press charges but Adorix prefers I don’t.” Dr. Ted scratched below his belly button. “I still could though.”
As they kept talking Amy looked around, noticing the room was dotted with flowers. There was teddie bear in a doctor’s coat sitting on the bedside table. The bear’s name tag read “Dr. Hugs.” Classic Doug she thought.
Dr. Ted was still talking about how he couldn’t take hot baths until he got the stitches out.
“Maybe I should be the one to sue you. Your little wonder drug….” Amy hesitated. It was hard for her to point fingers at the drug. “I think the dosage was too high.”
“Amy…” he started to talk in a tone Amy hated.
“Amy…” Gwen said in the same tone.
“The drug didn’t make you do this, I’m sorry to say.” Dr. Ted didn’t look sorry. “It was a clinical trial. We were using a placebo.”
Dr. Ted removed a red pill from his shirt pocket as a visual aid.
“A placebo is a—
“I KNOW WHAT A PLACEBO IS, GWEN!”
Her shout startled even the guard. Gwen and Dr. Ted exchanged glances. Amy didn’t even care anymore if they had fucked while she was in a coma. She clenched the bed sheets to keep her hands from shaking.
“I think what happened here is you fell back into your behavior pattern.” Dr. Ted seemed to be enjoying this. “Your routine.”
“You mean when she goes after a man who’s unattainable and bad for her,” Gwen piped in.
“Is it though?”
“Doug isn’t one of my usual bad boys,” Amy felt on solid ground with this. “He’s a nice guy.”
“That’s what we thought at first. But he’s wanted in five states for fraud. The detective even—-
“But— but—- Look at all these flowers!”
Dr. Ted and Gwen winced like Amy was a lame dog that needed to be strangled.
“Ant brought this stuff,” Dr. Ted said, then crinkled his brow. “Flea?”
“You mean Spider?”
“He seemed sweet,” Gwen offered. “Poor and dirty but sweet.”
“But…” Amy trailed off, feeling her case weakening.
“And didn’t you tell me in our session you didn’t feel attracted to Doug until that first time he snapped at you?” Dr. Ted made a big show of consulting a little moleskin notebook. “For spilling port.”
“That was the pill.”
“You mean the placebo.”
“That was the pill!”
“That was your pattern.”
“I didn’t just do all that on my own.” Amy hoped this whole exchange was some other part of the clinical trial. “I don’t pull screwdrivers on people and scale apartment buildings.”
“You did slash that guy’s tires once,” Gwen offered. “And you can be a pretty stalky.”
“Amy there’s no doubt that you went to unprecedented measures in pursuing Doug.The belief that you were really truly indisputably “in love” justified that. In your mind it gave you carte blanch for egregious behavior.” Dr. Ted was really milking his moment.
“You were back on your old bullshit but on steroids,” Gwen added.
Amy wanted to protest but what was the point. Classic Amy. She sat there while Dr. Ted went on about how there would be an exit interview with a couple Adorix reps later that day. When Amy complained he said it was non-negotiable and exchanged a glance with the guard.
Seeing she had no fight left in her, Gwen went into the hall to track down a nurse. Dr. Ted said something about her getting himself a snack from the vending machines and followed. Neither said anything about being glad she woke up from a coma.
Exhausted Amy lay under the stale sheets in her hospital gown. Had she really managed to cast aside a good guy while in pursuit of another shitheel. Again. Classic fucking Amy.
She looked at the doctor teddie bear blankly staring at her and knocked it to the floor. When it fell, she noticed the red pill Dr. Ted had taken out sitting on the bedside table. The placebo. Maybe he left it behind in case she wanted to get it tested. No bother, she mostly believed him.
But still. In tears she jammed the pill in her mouth and swallowed hard, gagging loud enough for guard to glance back at her. As the bitter taste dissipated, she pulled her knees to her chest and hugged herself tightly, breathing herself in and rocking back and forth, hoping to bond.