To work and to love

I escaped to my lover's lips and then took a trip to Freud's couch.

Published October 25, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Oct. 21, 1999

Tuesday morning, September 7

My romantic weekend with Matt was a blessed escape from Friday's
nightmare revelations -- I turned all the ringers off, stashed my
cell phone in the dresser and buried all thoughts of johns,
government snoops or talkative girlfriends. I was glad Matt didn't want us to hang out in the Hamptons with his sister.
We both felt smug about avoiding the mosquito-menaced Labor Day crowds.
Gazing at Matt through the toasty glow of two pomegranate
margaritas at Rosa Mexicana, I smiled at the thought that I have
a secret lover -- Randy -- who intends to ravish me later in the
week. For an entire dinner, I forgot that I am also a hooker with
worries and responsibilities -- a weekly quota to meet, clients to
maintain, an IRS agent questioning my colleagues.
My universe regrouped itself
around just two guys -- an attentive boyfriend with a future and
a delicious young lover -- and me. When Matt made love to me, I was
reassured by his long, hungry kisses -- as if some mysterious force was driving
him to re-possess my body.

Then I spent Labor Day Monday, boyfriend-free, in a soul-searching
funk -- wondering who I can really trust, besides Jasmine. I could
feel her closing in on me when I told her about the messy,
incomplete tax records sitting in my vintage hat box. "A charming
hiding spot for your infantile secrets," she said, rather acidly.
"Now I know what you and Allie have in common -- more style than
substance. Let me see what you did with 1996 ... Where's 1997?"

Shades of Mom -- demanding a detailed account of my financial
practices, which I vainly attempted to fudge when I couldn't
remember how much I spent on shampoo (a "necessity" according to
Mom's system) or fan magazines (a "frivolity"). Along with my new allowance, Mom had provided me
with a neatly organized list of Personal Necessities, School-related Expenses (like bus tickets and notebooks) -- and Frivolities. I've never forgotten how tiny and
forlorn was the amount allocated to "frivolities." I tried to argue
that I had spent most of it on sanitary pads and Clearasil but didn't have
enough of a stockpile to show for it.

"You can't go near those IRS thugs without getting your paperwork
in order," Jasmine was telling me. "God, I wish they'd come after
me instead of pestering the bimbos and cowards of this town."

Yes, if you could volunteer for government harassment, Jasmine
might actually sign up -- she has developed an unnatural interest
in Tom Winters, even going so far as to comb the residential
phone listings for the snoop's whereabouts, starting with Manhattan.

Tuesday night

I met Allison this afternoon on the steps of the Jewish Museum, where the Freud exhibit is about to close. There was a small mob forming in the
foyer when I arrived -- Allison, decked out in her museum-hopping gear, was, for once, on
time for a social encounter with a girlfriend.

"I got us tickets for the guided tour," she said eagerly. "You're

"No," I corrected her, "You're on time."

"Why are you so ... tense?"

"I almost threw your book in the East River today," I blurted out.

Allison's face went pale with panic.
"You what?! Where is it? I'm going to need it back, Nancy!"

"It's right here," I urged her, patting my bag. "It's not safe for
me to hold it anymore."

She glanced at my bag as though it were a dear lost relative. What an irony! Just two months ago, she was asking me to burn it -- to appease her boyfriend,

"What do you mean -- not safe?" she asked. "Did Matt find out
something -- about your business?"

"Allie, I don't let my boyfriends meddle with my professional life the
way you do," I snapped. We were heading for the elevator. "I'll
tell you later."

With miffed, averted eyes, Allison stood on the other side of the elevator, but when we
reached the second floor, she changed her tune -- I had zeroed in
on a spot near the docent, who was gearing up for the guided tour.
An irate woman with a cane gave us both a dirty look as Allie
shoved her way toward the front. The docent, motherly and middle-aged in
a cotton pantsuit and glasses, gestured toward the home movies of
Sigmund Freud playing on the wall behind us. After shepherding us through his early years, she added, "Questions? Don't ask me any
questions!" in a self-deprecating tone. Allie gazed at the great man's couch --
"It's so small!" she whispered, reminding me that other people's
couches have become her specialty these past few months as she
waits for her subletter to move out.

"Now, Freud never set out to cure anyone," the docent was telling
us. "This is a misconception. He once said that he was very happy,
he considered himself successful, when a patient was able," she
paused and said, in a firm, gentle voice: "to work -- and to love."

A hush stole over the crowd, as the docent clasped her hands
together. I felt Allison's hand on my sleeve and, when I turned,
she was weeping quietly, searching in her handbag for a tissue.

We walked down Fifth Avenue toward Liane's apartment -- we were
both wearing our museum-friendly flats, after all. Somehow, the
trees in Central Park looked so much greener. There were small
groups of fresh-faced Carnegie Hill schoolgirls, wearing bizarre,
incomprehensible ensembles, walking in pairs and threes.

"Is it the first day of school?" Allison asked in a dreamy voice.

"I had no idea," she added, quietly, "that I was a Freudian

I was tempted to say something flippant but stopped as the tissue-
rummaging began again. We stood in front of the Frick while Allison
dabbed her face. When we got to Liane's building, I handed Allison her
client book, neatly packed and sealed in a new envelope. "Don't worry,"
she assured me, "I won't do anything stupid with it. I still love Zack --
and I wanted to change for him -- but he's never coming back. Even if I
stopped hooking, forever, he would never believe me. So what's the point?"

When I got home, I checked all my messages -- one from Milt, on my
business line, very playful, confirming tomorrow's appointment --
and another from Randy, more businesslike, on my personal phone. I
guess his boss was hovering when he called. I changed the water in
the flowers Matt sent after our weekend together, and snipped the

And then I cried at the thought that I might be -- like Allison --
just another Freudian Success.

By Tracy Quan

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