Tell Me You Love Me
Minardi backed up against the wall of dark-stained bookshelves, causing the small framed pen drawing of Albert Einstein, a gift for his sixty-third birthday, to fall from its propped-up place.
"I thought you were dead!"
"I am dead. It feels rather strange, you know, since most days I can hardly believe it. Nevertheless I couldn't resist the temptation to come on board to be with you."
Minardi noted that even in death his former teacher gave thought to his stylish, impeccable appearance.
"By the way, that was a nice party your wife gave for you last weekend. The smoked trout was delicious!"
Weingeist clicked the heels of his bench-made calf suede shoes and tossed his phosphorescent mane of curls back, laughing and baring his teeth like a horse while fading into the wall.
In the meantime Minardi was in the midst of being seized by a lust enough to drive him insane. One bad night to the point of sneaking remedy in the downstairs toile-themed powder room. His poor unsuspecting wife passing by with several items draped over her arm that she felt an urge to place in the washing machine suddenly, heard the muffled summoning through the door and instantly hurled herself in admirable pursuit to determine whether or not he was feeling all that well. And now Weingeist was back on his back.
She burst into his life via Sam Lesser's office when they called to say they were sending over what might be a corneal abrasion, right eye. After his last case walked out the door, he waited for almost half an hour before she arrived one-eyed and tense like a disoriented little bird that had mistakenly flown into the flash of a window. He found himself thinking, I'm so glad you flew in here.
"There was so much traffic," she said.
After Weingeist's disappearing act, Minardi locked his office door. A favorite Rachmaninoff piece heard on the radio that morning while shaving kept playing around in his head, while he fantasized drifting paradisally with her hand in hand over pristine mountaintops and fluffy white clouds, and unnoticed through the lobby of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel.
Here he is in the bathroom again, this time naked and gazing into the full-length mirror of the newly-expanded one upstairs. No doubt his broad tight shoulders will be the last to go, as well as his well-formed legs helped along in their genetic destiny by at least a decade of soccer and some marvelous years of downhill skiing.
Surrounded by an artillery of jars and bottles, the stack of monogramed hand towels, and the orchid, his attention is drawn to his neck. The top of his head is beginning to look like the moon.
When did all this happen?
In the early morning hours while making rounds, between room visits and reports from ace nurses, he would pause to picture for the umpteenth time her performing the mundane tasks that an angel like her would render endearing, such as soaping up in the shower, shaving her legs, and even sitting on the toilet.
It was too soon to know what would happen to the mouth with the too large teeth in ten or fifteen years, but he could not imagine the rest of his life without her.
One day she sat motionless in the exam chair with sapphire-colored stockinged legs and in what might have been a new dress. A cheery white-coated assistant rushed into the room brandishing a pair of blunt scissors.
"Let me tell you," the woman started in right away, "it's not easy."
With close minty breath, she kept on going..."Those tears rolling down his cute little cheeks this morning killed me but I told him if he wants toys, Mommy has to go to work!"
After she removed the patch and tossed it in the waste can, she exited as fast as she could to tend to another patient.
Some drawn out minutes passed before Minardi entered to see the small flap of tape left dangling from her eyebrow.
"Allow me," he said cavalierly before tearing it off with exquisite hallelujah abandon. Then he lasered into her with a look that could have sliced through steel.
Weingeist was being annoying, swiveling back and forth in Minardi's chair.
"It's not what you think."
"For god's sakes! What are you saying? I'm a well-known respected physician! You of all people should know this!"
Minardi looked like he was about to yank what was left of his hair out of his head.
"Calm down, boy. Haud ignota loquor. I happen to know she has a lot to lose if it ever got out about you two. But what did you expect her to do after you came on like that? Should she have jumped all over you like a prostitute? She's a lady, you idiot!"
Weingeist floated over to fondle the knobs of Minardi's phoroptor.
"Someone came into my office once. It was a Monday and you never saw such rain! The subways had ceased running and still we had a full office plus the usual emergencies. She had a slight touch of dacryocystitis most likely caused by her untidy habit of never cleaning her contact lenses. I used to tell her a thousand times. Brackup and I invented that operation. You can read about it up there, top shelf to the left..."
"I watched you perform it many times," Minardi said despondently, glancing up at the spines.
"She and I recognized each other immediately."
"And our romance was never revealed, Minardi. Would you like to know why? Minardi! Are you listening?!"
Minardi could see through his old mentor to the other side of the room.
"Because we knew who we were."
Suddenly Weingeist's demeanor changed from his usual ambiguous transparency to something more human.
"On Fridays we would go to lunch at The Gloucester House on Fifty-First Street. It's long gone now. They served the most wonderful bisquits! Afterwards she would curl her arm around mine while we walked and I would be wearing my beaver hat if it was snowing. Ah! And in summer after being up at the Cape for too long and missing her terribly, she would be waiting all brown and lovely. Did I mention to you, Aldo, that her eyes were the color of beer? La, tree la, dree la..."
"So what happened?" Minardi asked with his head down, massaging his aching temples.
"The eye looks great. See me in four weeks."
"Listen...," she said, sitting forward in her chair and trembling.
Weingeist was hovering near the ceiling, his tickled-pink Pucci tie dangling like a tether.
"I didn't respond to you the other day when you gave me that look because I was too nervous with everybody coming in and out and stuff but..."
Minardi's lips turned white. "You shouldn't pay the slightest attention..."
"...I want you too."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Minardi said fast and mean, "I'm sorry to disappoint you but I have no feelings. I don't know what gave you the impression..."
"But I had a dream. And I think about you all the time."
"Isn't she brave!" Weingeist exclaimed red-faced, clapping his hands then joining them together in prayer.
Minardi held on to his command mute and immovable, while the sound of her high-heeled boots left clicking down the hall.
Some weeks later after stopping short on the street to verify whether he remembered to pocket a certain note handed to him by his nurse before leaving the office, he caught sight of her strolling arm in arm with an older female, a favorite aunt perhaps, and standing out among the passing throng.
Weingeist was there, feeling out of sorts in knowing for certain he was dead. With a heart-sinking feeling of departure, he stomped his bare feet and screamed to no avail.
"Tell her you love her! Oh for cripes sakes! Tell her you love her!"
Denise Falcone is a writer who lives in New York City.