Miranda July: The First Bad Man

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Miranda July The First Bad Man
  • Название:
    The First Bad Man
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Scribner
  • Жанр:
    Современная проза / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2015
  • Язык:
    Английский
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    4 / 5
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The First Bad Man: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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From the acclaimed filmmaker, artist, and bestselling author of "No One Belongs Here More Than You," a spectacular debut novel that is so heartbreaking, so dirty, so tender, so funny-so Miranda July-readers will be blown away. Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people's babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women's self-defense non-profit where she works. She believes they've been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one. When Cheryl's bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter Clee can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl's eccentrically-ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee-the selfish, cruel blond bombshell-who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime. Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual fantasies and fierce maternal love, Miranda July's first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic and important voice today, and a writer for all time. "The First Bad Man" is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable.

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Miranda July


The First Bad Man

For Michael Chadbourne Mills

CHAPTER ONE

I drove to the doctor’s office as if I was starring in a movie Phillip was watching — windows down, hair blowing, just one hand on the wheel. When I stopped at red lights, I kept my eyes mysteriously forward. Who is she? people might have been wondering. Who is that middle-aged woman in the blue Honda? I strolled through the parking garage and into the elevator, pressing 12 with a casual, fun-loving finger. The kind of finger that was up for anything. Once the doors had closed, I checked myself in the mirrored ceiling and practiced how my face would go if Phillip was in the waiting room. Surprised but not overly surprised, and he wouldn’t be on the ceiling so my neck wouldn’t be craning up like that. All the way down the hall I did the face. Oh! Oh, hi! There was the door.

DR. JENS BROYARD

CHROMOTHERAPY

I swung it open.

No Phillip.

It took a moment to recover. I almost turned around and went home — but then I wouldn’t be able to call him to say thanks for the referral. The receptionist gave me a new-patient form on a clipboard; I sat in an upholstered chair. There was no line that said “referred by,” so I just wrote Phillip Bettelheim sent me across the top.

“I’m not going to say that he’s the best in the whole world,” Phillip had said at the Open Palm fundraiser. He was wearing a gray cashmere sweater that matched his beard. “Because there’s a color doctor in Zurich who easily rivals him. But Jens is the best in LA, and definitely the best on the west side. He cured my athlete’s foot.” He lifted his foot and then put it down again before I could smell it. “He’s in Amsterdam most of the year so he’s very selective about who he sees here. Tell him Phil Bettelheim sent you.” He wrote the number on a napkin and began to samba away from me.

“Phil Bettelheim sent me.”

“Exactly!” he yelled over his shoulder. He spent the rest of the night on the dance floor.

I stared at the receptionist — she knew Phillip. He might have just left; he might be with the doctor right now. I hadn’t thought of that. I tucked my hair behind my ears and watched the door to the exam room. After a minute a willowy woman with a baby boy came out. The baby was swinging a crystal from a string. I checked to see if he and I had a special connection that was greater than his bond with his mother. We didn’t.

Dr. Broyard had Scandinavian features and wore tiny, judgmental glasses. While he read my new-patient form I sat on a meaty leather couch across from a Japanese paper screen. There weren’t any wands or orbs in sight, but I braced myself for something along those lines. If Phillip believed in chromotherapy that was enough for me. Dr. Broyard lowered his glasses.

“So. Globus hystericus.”

I started to explain what it was but he cut me off. “I’m a doctor.”

“Sorry.” But do real doctors say “I’m a doctor”?

He calmly examined my cheeks while stabbing a piece of paper with a red pen. There was a face on the paper, a generic face labeled CHERYL GLICKMAN.

“Those marks are…?”

“Your rosacea.”

The paper’s eyes were big and round, whereas mine disappear altogether if I smile, and my nose is more potatoey. That said, the spaces between my features are in perfect proportion to each other. So far no one has noticed this. Also my ears: darling little shells. I wear my hair tucked behind them and try to enter crowded rooms ear-first, walking sideways. He drew a circle on the paper’s throat and filled it in with careful cross-hatching.

“How long have you had the globus?”

“On and off for about thirty years. Thirty or forty years.”

“Have you ever had treatment for it?”

“I tried to get a referral for surgery.”

“Surgery.”

“To have the ball cut out.”

“You know it’s not a real ball.”

“That’s what they say.”

“The usual treatment is psychotherapy.”

“I know.” I didn’t explain that I was single. Therapy is for couples. So is Christmas. So is camping. So is beach camping. Dr. Broyard rattled open a drawer full of tiny glass bottles and picked one labeled RED. I squinted at the perfectly clear liquid. It reminded me a lot of water.

“It’s the essence of red,” he said brusquely. He could sense my skepticism. “Red is an energy, which only develops a hue in crude form. Take thirty milliliters now and then thirty milliliters each morning before first urination.” I swallowed a dropperful.

“Why before first urination?”

“Before you get up and move around — movement raises your basal body temperature.”

I considered this. What if a person were to wake up and immediately have sex, before urination? Surely that would raise your basal body temperature too. If I had been in my early thirties instead of my early forties would he have said before first urination or sexual intercourse? That’s the problem with men my age, I’m somehow older than them. Phillip is in his sixties, so he probably thinks of me as a younger woman, a girl almost. Not that he thinks of me yet — I’m just someone who works at Open Palm. But that could change in an instant; it could have happened today, in the waiting room. It still might happen, if I called him. Dr. Broyard handed me a form.

“Give this to Ruthie at the front desk. I scheduled a follow-up visit, but if your globus worsens before then you might want to consider some kind of counseling.”

“Do I get one of those crystals?” I pointed to the cluster of them hanging in the window.

“A sundrop? Next time.”

THE RECEPTIONIST XEROXED MY INSURANCE card while explaining that chromotherapy isn’t covered by insurance.

“The next available appointment is June nineteenth. Do you prefer morning or afternoon?” Her waist-length gray hair was off-putting. Mine is gray too but I keep it neat.

“I don’t know — morning?” It was only February. By June Phillip and I might be a couple, we might come to Dr. Broyard’s together, hand in hand.

“Is there anything sooner?”

“The doctor’s in this office only three times a year.”

I glanced around the waiting area. “Who will water this plant?” I leaned over and pushed my finger into the fern’s soil. It was wet.

“Another doctor works here.” She tapped the Lucite display holding two stacks of cards, Dr. Broyard’s and those of a Dr. Tibbets, LCSW. I tried to take one of each without using my dirty finger.

“How’s nine forty-five?” she asked, holding out a box of Kleenex.

I RACED THROUGH THE PARKING garage, carrying my phone in both hands. Once the doors were locked and the AC was on, I dialed the first nine digits of Phillip’s number, then paused. I had never called him before; for the last six years it was always him calling me, and only at Open Palm and only in his capacity as a board member. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Suzanne would say it was. She made the first move with Carl. Suzanne and Carl were my bosses.

“If you feel a connection, don’t be shy about it,” she’d once said.

“What’s an example of not being shy about it?”

“Show him some heat.”

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