The Neglected Breast

He
couldn’t help glancing at her legs. It wasn’t just that they
were long and slender and perfectly tapered, or that she had swung one
over the other and now tapped the air with a sling-back stiletto, or
that they were smooth and tanned and flawless, but that they were bare.
Like so many young professional women down here, she did not wear stockings
and for a man of his age and tradition, he found that slightly crass
and sexy as all get-out.

She
had dark eyes and olive skin and over-the-shoulder black hair — too long,
he felt, for a marriage counselor, although she usually had it in some
kind of bun or twist or something that held it up. Today, she
was wearing a pencil skirt, navy blue, a white silk blouse, and
black-rimmed glasses. He fancied her tossing those glasses on
to her desk and in one fluid motion, reaching back and releasing that
bounty of hair. But hell, he thought, even if she had, what would
I
do about it?

"Mr.
Raffort? Mr. Raffort, do you agree with what Mrs. Raffort just
said?"

"Art,"
Mrs. Raffort said. "Doctor LaMetti is speaking to you.
Arthur!" she jabbed him.

"What?!"

"Mrs.
Raffort says your affection for her has waned."

"Aw,
Jesus. Do we have to talk about everything?"

"I’m
trying to help you understand each other, Mr. Raffort. I’m not
asking these questions out of idle curiosity."

"Right.
How old are you, anyway?"

"I
don’t see the relevance of that."

"What
difference does it make, Art?"

"I
want to know. For the last month, we’ve been answering every
little thing she’s asked about us. Can’t I ask one question
of her?"

"I’m
thirty-seven."

"See?
I told you. She’s not even Mimi’s age. I’m not going
to sit here and discuss our love life with a total stranger, especially
one who’s not even as old as our youngest child."

"Mr.
Raffort," she said, taking a breath. "Is it true what Mrs.
Raffort said about your affections waning?"

"None
of your business."

"It
is, Doctor. He hardly ever makes love to me anymore, and when he
does, he never touches me. Not like he used to at least."

"What
are you talking about? Of course I touch you when we’re having
s– Aw, geez, can’t we just get out of here?"

"Mrs.
Raffort, would you like to tell Mr. Raffort what you mean by ‘not
touching you like he used to’?"

"No,
she wouldn’t."

"Well,
for one thing, he never touches my left breast."

"My
God, Helen."

"Well
you don’t!"

"Do
you have anything you’d like to say to that, Mr. Raffort?"

"Yes.
‘Goodbye.’"

"Please,
sir. Sit down. Go ahead, Mrs. Raffort."

"Well,
that’s it, really. He touches the right one, but never the left
one. It’s as though he’s intentionally neglecting it."

"Oh,
for Christsake."

"Ever
since I had that lump removed."

"I
didn’t want to disturb the sutures."

"They
were taken out over a year ago, Art."

He
glared at his wife, his face reddening.

"I’ll
be in the car," he said, and against their pleas, he walked out.

The
heat rose visibly from the blacktop as he crossed the parking lot, never
mind that it was the dead of winter. This was Naples, Florida
and if it wanted to be 85 degrees with 90 percent humidity in mid-February,
then by God, that’s what it would be. He opened the car door
to a plume of hot air, reached inside for his cell phone and saw that
he had a message. It was the call he had dreaded, or at least
it had been before he’d had these few days to try on the possibility.
He pressed ‘call-back’ with an air of acceptance.

"I’m
sorry, Art."

"You’re
sure."

"Yes.
You’re free to get a second opinion, but–"

"No,
I figured as much. Well, shit."

"We
need to get you in for surgery right away. It’s just on the
edge of the pancreas, so there’s a chance–"

"No,
I’m not having any surgery. No chemo either."

"But–"

"I’ve
already thought this through. Look, my wife’s coming.
I’ll call you later. Not a word of this to anyone, you understand?"
and he flipped the phone shut.

"Well,
that was the rudest display of behavior you’ve ever exhibited,"
she said as she approached.

"I’m
sorry, I just can’t– Why are we doing this anyway? All these
years, we’ve been able to solve our own problems and now you want
to share our most intimate moments with some kid who’s not even–"

"She’s
not a kid; she’s a woman. And she’s trying to help us."

"She’s
a kid. She says like all the time and sooo.
‘I’m like sooo proud to be like
working with you.’"

"She
does not. She never talks that way, and even if she did, so what?
Every generation has its idioms. God knows ours did."

"I
feel as though I’m talking to the grandkids, to Billy. When
I disagree, I half expect her to say, ‘So sue me.’"

"Quit
being ridiculous. Besides, none of this excuses your rudeness."

"I
said, ‘I’m sorry,’ OK? Let’s just go home."

"I
have to pick up my medication."

"All
right. I’ll browse the liquor store."

"We
have enough booze."

"I
said, ‘browse.’"

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