Case III: Chapter 2: Cat Scratch Fever
Dudley was unaware of the verbal hissing, scratching and clawing that began as he left the dining room.
“I find that man disgusting,” said Mary Thomas. “I knew him when we both worked at Sandia Labs and he was just as offensive and vulgar toward women then. “
“He’s really harmless”, said Dolores Waverly. “You shouldn’t take him so seriously. I think he’s kinda cute in a funny sort of way.”
“He’s certainly not MY type,” said Carmine Felicio. “I like the “tall, dark and handsome” ones, but he’s way too old for me.”
“From the ones I see following you home, hissed Mary, Cesar is too old two or three times over.”
“I can’t help it if I meet attractive younger men when I go out to jog”, Carmine snipped back.
“Jogging or trolling?”
“I agree with Dolores”, interjected Estelle-Elena Varela Caballo, trying to prevent the situation between Mary and Carmine from escalating. “You have to admit, ladies, that “clothes make the man” and Cesar certainly knows how to dress. I particularly like the way his tight shirt shows off his muscles and his tight pants don’t hide his “main asset” either. I’d like to get my hands on that mucho gordo burrito he carries in his lunchbox, if you know what I mean.”
“That’s rude and crude, Estelle, even for you,” said Carmine.
“Well, I’ve had plenty of chances to compare ever since my first experience the night after my quinceanera. And prom night was pretty good, too. I know what I like.”
“OK, but that was how many years ago and it looks like you’re still wearing your prom dress. Now who’s “trolling”?”
“At least I don’t go out jogging and think that every young guy I pass wants to get into my running shorts!”
“Well, many of them do.”
“Ladies, ladies, ladies,” blushed Dolores. “Can we get back to our card game? Who’s turn is it, anyway?”
“I think I’ve had enough card playing and “stimulating conversation” for one day”, complained Mary as she pushed herself away from the table and began to wheel toward to door.
As Mary continued her difficult journey to the elevator and back to her room, she was engulfed by a series of emotions, most of them negative. She resented much of the conversation with her “friends”, but they were her only means of socialization and she refused to become totally isolated. The wave of emotions which continued to dominate her mind became increasingly troubling as she entered her room. She decided that a small glass of wine would help her relax and clear her mind. It had the opposite effect, however. The wine made her relax but opened up to her mind to a flood of emotions.
Before her accident, she had actually been everything that these women claimed to be. She was attractive and athletic and had a position of increasing professional responsibility at Sandia Labs. Unlike Carmine’s fantasy, many men in her cycling club had frequently remarked about how well her Spandex fit and complemented her athletic figure. Mary took this all in stride and its primary effect was to strengthen her self-confidence. Despite all of this genuine male attention, Mary remained faithful to her husband. And unlike Estelle’s fantasies, their sex life had been varied and exciting. But everything changed with the accident.
Her injury was truly an accident. No one was at fault. No one did anything stupid or dangerous. Her bike skidded on some loose gravel and she fell. She had fallen many times before and had a few “trophy scars” on her knees and elbows to prove it. This time she landed in an awkward position and had severed her spinal cord. From that moment on she was paralyzed from the waist down. She remained optimistic throughout the early stages of recovery, but soon realized that this was an irreversible condition. Her husband’s support began to fade and she often heard him whispering with her nurse just outside her room. She initially assumed that they were discussing her condition and simply didn’t want her to hear, but soon realized they were making plans to meet secretly. Her husband became more distant and visited less frequently and eventually stopped coming altogether. Ultimately, a lawyer arrived and presented her with a divorce petition. She did not contest the situation and moved into one of the better suites at La Vida Aureo with the proceeds from the divorce. She continued to try to develop a positive outlook but was frequently overcome with anger and frustration.
Despite her need to maintain contact with a few women, she found so much of their conversation to be irritating and full of hypocrisy. She knew for example that Estelle’s overt flirting and promiscuous talk was simply a cover up. Estelle may have had sexual experiences with the boys after her Mexican “coming of age” party and her high school prom, but Mary knew that Estelle’s interests were now focused exclusively on women. She didn’t know if these early experiences had been unpleasant or whether Estelle refused to accept a subservient role after having been treated as a princess for much of her youth. Mary learned the truth about Estelle when she overheard two young cleaning maids discuss the situation. Estelle preferred her sexual adventures with women and she liked to seduce the young women working at La Vida Aureo. The two maids openly discussed Estelle’s behavior and giggled about how much fun it was to play “dress up” and enact various fantasy scenarios, always based on Estelle’s quinceanera ceremony or prom. Estelle always played the part of the handsome boy in these fantasies.
Mary noticed that her glass of wine was finished and that her emotions were moving into high gear. She decided it was time to get serious and let her emotions completely loose. She opened the bottle of expensive rye whiskey she kept in her bookcases and poured herself a full glass. It burned as she felt its warmth throughout her body reminding her of more pleasant times before she lost much of the feeling below her waist.
As the whiskey took effect, Mary’s thoughts turned to Dolores. She simply could not figure Dolores out or why she seems to be so happy about everything all the time. Maybe it was just an act on her part. Maybe Dolores spent a lot of time alone with her “electric toothbrush” and that kept her in high spirits. Or, it was possible that Dolores was one of those born-again types who believed she was blessed and that Jesus was taking care of everything for her. She never talked about much of anything or gave any clues and she always had that Cheshire cat grin on her face. It just didn’t make sense; nobody was that happy all the time.
Mary noticed that she had finished her drink and poured herself another. Her emotions were now in full flight and she turned her increasingly intense thoughts to Carmine. That situation was particularly frustrating for Mary because Carmine was living the life Mary enjoyed before her accident. Like Carmine, she had had her pick of men but chose simply to accept their attention and remain faithful to her husband. In her prime, Mary appreciated these compliments rather than being resentful and angry as Carmine was. Despite the fact that she routinely invited young men to spend the night with her (she really was “trolling” when she jogged), Carmine was never satisfied. She remained unfulfilled, always searching for something. Mary was becoming increasingly jealous. Carmine seemed to have everything Mary had lost but did not appreciate just how fortunate she was.
Mary descended into a state of self-pity, drained the last of the whiskey, slumped forward in her wheelchair and fell into a troubling and fitful sleep.