Episode Two: A Younger Man

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Something is happening. Actually, what's happening is something isn't happening. The typical phalanx of impulses and emotions that advance on Brie after she has slept with a new man—fear that she slept with him too soon, tentative remorse, obsessive review of all media communications, detailed phone conferences with confidants, waiting for him to call, worrying that he won't call because she got too sloppy with cocktails or because the light in the bedroom was too bright, then overcoming this doubt by reassuring herself that he is playing it cool, that he really likes her, of course he does, so he is slogging through the mandatory waiting period before sending her a sweet text or email, or jeez, maybe even a phone call to just cut right through the bullshit because, let's face it, we're both adults here and we should feel free to express our serious interest in one another. He could be the one. He's probably the one. He's the one. A fall wine country wedding—no, winter. She'd wear a Reem Acra lace sheath with Grammy Birdie's white fox fur cape (surely you can wear fur on your wedding day!) and the emerald brooch Grammy might just insist that she keep as her bridal gift, and she will glide through the wintry dusk on a sleigh pulled by Clydesda—no, come on, just horses—and her veil, interwoven with infinitesimal Swarovski crystals, would fall across her pale face, newly angular from a stepped up Pilates regimen and high-intensity interval training, and the guests would gather near the great stone hearth sipping rum-spiked cider in warm anticipation of this auspicious union, that will be captured through elegant professional photography so their two children—Chloe and Carter, born in whichever order the heavens deem fit—may gaze at their gorgeous parents on their wedding day and relish the bliss of their origins.

Yeah, so none of that.

Brie woke up this morning with a clear vision of what she wanted to eat for breakfast and nothing else. No tortured reminiscence, no fantasies about the future. Just scrambled eggs with cheese and toast and a big ass cup of coffee. Screw the juice flush.

The day is ablaze in a gorgeous goldenrod light. The lines and planes that compose the scenes of her vision are exacting, the objects they contain ripe with detail. Billboards and buses and windshields and street signs and trees. Brie feels like her life just got LASIK—everything is clear and unambiguous. Is this epiphany or the juice flush talking? She didn't drink anything last night, so she got to bed early and read that terrifying Vanity Fair article about how women are dropping dead from using NuvaRing. She came in early so she could photocopy the article for all her coworkers and clients. A burst of energy and purpose, all from fucking a guy with gray hair.

No, here's the deal. Sex has always been something Brie has bartered in exchange for love. God, it's true. Every single sexual encounter she can summon to her memory (and honestly, there haven't been that many) has been aimed at securing his devotion, but that's exactly what she doesn't want right now. A free agent, leading her own life in search of experience and wisdom to feed her own soul. Is this what men do? This must be what men do. Oh. My. God.

Brie steps behind the counter at The Center and calls up the day's appointments. Lindy Jones is first, which normally might invoke a grimace so early in the day, but today Brie is pleased with the challenge. Look up devastating divorce on Wikipedia and Lindy Jones is probably mentioned.

"So my ex-sister-in-law sets me up with her divorce lawyer," Lindy is saying as she removes her dark glasses and headscarf in the Evaluation Room. "Because just what I need is a man who meditates on the subject of divorce all day. But anyhow, so we agree to meet at Tavern in Brentwood, and he seems reasonably pleased when he spots me at the bar, and everything is off to a good start. We're sticking to worldly topics, I haven't said a word about my own divorce, even though I'm sure the guy would be interested, you know, from a professional perspective. But everyone I know was saying, 'Don't get into it, Lindy. He doesn't want to hear it, Lindy. You'll send him running and screaming just like the others. Don't screw this one up.'" Lindy zips her lips. "So mum's the word and there we sit, just getting warmed up, we haven't even ordered our second drink, and in walks this dragon lady in leather pants and, I swear to God, fluorescent orange lipstick, with hair down to her ass even though she's, like, fifty, not that you can tell with Asian women. I guess they had met at some art thing the week before." Lindy clutches Brie's wrist in a painful sort of way, gritting her teeth. "He invited her to join us. On our date. He and I, having an amazing time, and then, 'Waiter! Can we have an extra plate for these lamb meatballs?' She probably thought I was his sister or something, so she just ninja-hops onto the barstool beside me and talks through me to him like I'm some goddamn window, and the whole time I'm just looking at her face, searching in vain for some visible sign of aging. I've been eating nothing but tofu and green tea ever since. Soy. I looked it up. They say soy is what does it, and come on, you eat sushi, they drench their food in the stuff." Lindy shakes her head, tic-like. "So at some point I excused myself to the ladies room and just walked out the door."

She chuckles painfully, the action revealing a dozen concentric ripples encircling her fair face. "And the guy never called. I mean, I could've been getting ritually sacrificed behind the dumpster at Starbucks and this asshole's sitting at the bar, twirling his mustache, laughing like some baboon at this bitch's jokes. Ugh," she shakes her hands as if to rid herself of the experience. "I hate men. I swear to God, I should've been a lesbian. Anyways, I'm thinking of getting some labiaplasty. You know anyone good?"

Dr. Ranoush gives heavy kickbacks for referrals, but Brie hesitates. "Labiaplasty? You mean, cosmetic?"

"Yeah," Lindy says, making a quick sucking sound. "You know, nip/tuck sort of thing. Anyway, let's focus above the belt." She leans into Brie. "I heard a rumor you could use Juvederm on your cleavage. Could this be true? If so, I'm in. I'm so sick of wearing turtlenecks, you wouldn't believe."

Now, Lindy is what the ambassadors call a Commission Magician. Over fifty, recently separated or divorced, high spendability, low self-esteem, massive anxiety about returning to the dating scene. They also usually have at least one daughter advising them on what is au courant, so they're dressing young and looking for a face and body to match. These women spend ungodly amounts of money to look younger, and in the process rain down magical commissions onto the salesgirls (we're talking the highest rank beneath aging celebrities). You so much as mention a new product or procedure, and they come at you like zombies frothing for your brain.

Brie tilts her head. "Lindy, why are you so focused on dating? Seems to me, this should be a time for you to focus on yourself. You know, get some girlfriends together and go to Sedona or, I don't know, throw some pottery. What do you like to do?"

Lindy stares blinkless at Brie for a spell. "I look that bad, huh?"

"No! I didn't say that. You just said how much you hate men, so I'm wondering why you're so intent on finding a new one."

Lindy puffs a stream of air from her full lips. "Pot calls kettle."

"Actually," Brie says, straightening her posture. "I just broke up with my boyfriend to take some personal time."

"You what? Oh God. Honey, why?"

Brie avoids this line of questioning.

Lindy sighs. "Listen, I'm like the world's biggest pity party. Everybody feels sorry for me, especially my kids. Do you know how awful it feels to be invited over to your kid's house for dinner, knowing they don't really want you there?" Lindy breaks into a spat of compulsive facial exercises to tighten her eyelids and turkey neck. "It's what people do, we pair up. Nobody wants to be alone. Everyone wants to be loved."

The lines and planes of Brie's vision take on a subtle blur. "But what about self-love?" she says, almost pleading.

"You mean masturbation? Come on, at my age? It's not sex that I'm after."

"No, I mean, if you love yourself then maybe you don't always need someone else. Like, if you were happy alone then perhaps people wouldn't feel sorry for you?"

Lindy dons an expression one might use to placate a psychotic. "Okay, I can see that you're working through some issues right now, so let's attack this from a different angle. What's the difference between the Vampire Facial and the Vampire Facelift?"

Brie holds her breath through a bout of hopelessness. "Well," she says, clambering back to professionalism. "The Vampire Facial employs the use of a micropen to aerate the skin, increasing absorption of your own plasma that we harvest and apply, whereas the Vampire Facelift injects your blood plus Juvederm underneath the epidermis, lifting it away from the bone for that plump, youthful look we lose as we age." Brie feels dizzy and distant from her morning self.

"I want the facelift."

Brie jots this down on Lindy's service agenda. "I got one last week," she says, her voice squeaky. She looks up at Lindy and paints on a smile. "I'm like a new woman."

No, here's the deal. Lindy is right. Nobody wants to be alone.

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