Excerpt 19

When I was a counselor-in-training, it was my job to clean all the toilets in camp. It took hours. Lye, water, and mops were my weapons against an onslaught of urine, feces, and menstrual blood. Additionally, I was responsible for scrubbing the floors of the infirmary and the apartment where the Wagners lived. Mrs. Wagner, with wrinkled, sun-splotched hands on hips, supervised and critiqued my cleaning.

Also, it was my responsibility to shovel coal into the outdoor furnace several times a day to provide intermittent hot water for the group showers.

Today, I love luxury more than anything. I am a sybarite whose religion is hedonism.

“Rather than a tale of greed,” writes Alain de Botton, “the history of luxury goods may more accurately be read as a record of emotional trauma. The legacy of those who have felt pressured by the disdain of others is the perceived need to add an extraordinary amount to one’s bare self in order to signal that one also may lay a claim to love.”

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Excerpt 18

The psychiatric male nurse rifled through my small canvas bag. With a black magic marker, he wrote “Smith” on the crotch of every pair of my white lace panties. Trembling, I stood silently beside him. Would I spend the rest of my life in this god-forsaken hellhole in the wilderness of New Jersey? Would a bored psychiatrist give me a shot, so that I would become just another inmate doing the Thorazine shuffle? Another Frances Farmer?

I have never been so scared in my whole life.

I got married six months ago.

Would my husband divorce me? Would I become a homeless woman sitting beside overflowing garbage bags on the streets of New York?

I felt like an astronaut floating in space whose umbilical cord to the spaceship that would return him to Earth had just been severed.