like an idiot i called my mother on my way to job#1*. It's still impossible to tell if she screens her calls or what, because she picks up halfway through my message, every time. doesn't ask about therapy. "are you smoking?" she sniffs. "atty has been asking where his mommy is."

*job#1: a cutesy pie-and-coffee cart in the shopping district where i used to spend ben's money with gleeful abandon. my tips barely cover my newly acquired therapy habit, and now i eye my patrons' birkin bags and judge them for being so stingy. if this is karma, I resent it.

and i wince, because I can hear atty* in the background, the clatter of plastic trucks on hardwood floors, and i miss him so hard that i actually feel a grinding lump in my belly as though i swallowed a whole pan of brownies with lead pellets in them instead of walnuts. ulp.

*yeah, his name is atty, short for atticus, as in finch, and it's bad but better than jayden, aiden, or cayden. at least he's not ben jr.

"how is he?" i ask, but my mom ignores me. i can hear her frowning. on her end, the microwave starts to beep like a detonating bomb.
"i don't see why you need three jobs," she says, for about the millionth time since i moved out of dr. ben's house and got my ass in gear. "why can't you just live with us? no rent. and you could actually raise your son instead of expecting other people to pick up the slack."
i take my phone away from my ear and growl, softly, so she can't hear me. then, a deep breath. is it even fucking possible to have a civil conversation with her? why does she just pick on me all the time? when dr. ben emailed* my parents to tell them what i'd done, she called me right away and, i kid you not, asked why i couldn't just keep my twat zipped. and i quote. one more deep breath.
"mom," i say. "i am so grateful for everything you've done for me. this is a big transition in my life, and your support means a lot. it's not permanent."
but she's not buying it. "maybe you should learn to stop putting yourself first, helen," she snaps. "the world doesn't revolve around you."
"no shit," i mutter, and hang up before i'm tempted to mouth off. she drives me crazy, but i need the help. and the money. i hate depending on my parents for anything -- that's one of the reasons i was so quick to sign on the dotted line and become mrs. dr. ben.

*yes, he actually did this. after he'd read my emails and plundered my phone records, and found evidence of my trysts with david, the jilted wounded and bitter dr. ben composed a tell-all email to my parents, sister, grandparents, and best friends to share the details of my transgressions. can i add: this is before he worked up the balls to confront me about it, or inform me that he wanted a divorce. this is sort of like being dumped by facebook status update. he changed his mind later, but at that point i already hated him too much to go back.

on the upside, compared to my conversation with my mother, job#1 was a piece of cake. latte after latte, dried out pastry. clockwork. also, the upside of working in a coffee cart: no nagging coworkers. so maybe i had a surly look on my face, but nobody mentioned it. plus: although the downside of working a scut job in a trendy part of town is that i do occasionally see people i knew from my dr. ben life, the great thing about physically being INSIDE A TINY SHED ON WHEELS is that i'm basically in a fort the whole time, and yes, i hide in there.

except when, you know, the individual in question* comes galloping up with her new burberry blazer and LV satchel and her horse face, happy to see me (at least happy to see me in this reduced condition) and puts her designer fucking bag on my cart counter and i shit you not she actually fucking GIGGLES and (totally not kidding here) twirls a strand of her fake-ass blonde weave around her manicured finger, pulling it just far enough aside that i can not only see the giant yurman studs in her ears but the matching cocktail ring on her bony finger, and she grins, showing her big bleached horse teeth and whinnies, "helen! OMG! what are you doing in there, girl? drop your cappuccino?"

*her name was kiki, of course. got her MBA from Harvard and now spends all day shopping and sucking dick (legally, of course: they're married). kiki is a dime a dozen in dr. ben world: overeducated, insecure, pilates private instruction, fake tits, trips to bali. urgh.

and i put on my biggest fakest screw-you grin and i'm like "actually i live in here, kiki! i look pretty good for a homeless chick, huh!"
and she gets all confused, still smiling, god her teeth are so long you could like project a hitchcock film onto them, you'd be able to see kim novak falling all ten stories, past jimmy stewart's horrified gawp and the corpse landing somewhere on kiki's bloated pink tongue. and while she's swallowing nervous and uptight, trying to think of what to say, i feel a little sorry for her because i was that dumb just a couple months ago, stuck in the dreamworld, so i laugh in a less cruel way and say "just kidding" and her whole body relaxes and what truly turns my guts is that she actually believed me, at least for a second, and my absence in dr. ben land is recorded and judged by the people i used to know, and i touch my hair, my unwaxed eyebrows, and think, jesus do i look homeless? because 90% of the time i feel i am.

kiki gets kind of shifty, fumbles with her purse strap. "so, uhm, do you have nonfat milk?" she asks, and i'm like, no shit, this bitch is actually going to treat me like a coffee-making servant. but i put on a big smile, imagining a big fat pity-tip, and say "yep!" in my most helpful voice. "like you even need nonfat, girl. you are slim."
she simpers, and then, in the evil robot voice that all people use when they order their fucking high maintenance coffees, she zips out, "quad grande nonfat dry cappuccino, 185 degrees, ristretto shots."
and i don't bother to explain that 185 degree milk is scalded and won't hold decent foam, and that it's impossible to get that much liquid into a 16 oz cup and i know she's just going to dump splenda in it and won't be able to fucking taste anything, but it's this weird ritual people have with their coffee, just ordering it makes them feel like they got what they wanted. so despite my better judgment, i scald the fucking fat-free milk and pull the tiny ristretto shots* and dump the whole thing in a paper cup. it's $4. she hands me a $5. and keeps the one dollar difference. the cunt didn't tip me.

*every time somebody orders ristretto i hear this super-snotty voice gargling out, "you can REALLY TASTE THE BEAN." what crap. they only drink lattes because they like hot milk: basically, this country is a bunch of titty-loving babies, all sucking hot milk out of paper cups.

"it was swell to see you, helen!" she nickers over her shoulder. "i'll be back!"
probably with friends in tow. and their twitter accounts, facebook updates, the whole gossip mill come to feed on my misery. i put my head on the counter. fuck. my pussy is shooting itchy flames through my loins. the tip jar is empty. what could possibly make today worse?

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