La Vie en Plastique

“Have you ever had cosmetic surgery before?” the doctor’s assistant, a well-coiffed blonde man in his mid-twenties with a freshly sun-kissed tan (though this was the dead of winter in New York) asked with sheer earnestness in his voice.

Georgia wanted to burst out laughing. Did she look like the sort of person who would subject herself to such vanity-driven folly? Her pale skin, disheveled hair and blatant frown lines ought to have been a vague tipoff to Ken. Yes, his name was actually Ken, like Barbie’s male counterpart. She bristled thinking about having to endure this line of questioning that would allow her clearance for surgery. She was only here because things had reached an unignorable head with her husband. And even though she giving him plenty of head, he was pulling away from her in more ways than one, and it was because she was starting to visibly age. No one wants a wrinkled mouth attached to them. Though Dorian had assured her time and time again that she was just as beautiful to him as she was the day he met her (the Met Museum, fall of 2000), she could tell what he was thinking when he looked at her now, unwittingly comparing her to the girl he used to be attracted to. She was twenty-two then, freshly out of college and trying to figure out what her next move was: to stay or to leave? To fight the young person’s fight of carving a place out for herself in New York or to get out before the milieu had excised her soul. At the time it seemed lucky, then, that she should catch the eye of wealthy and attractive Dorian, whose name was often a source of jocularity between them because, yes, he seemed ageless in spite of being thirty-seven at the time of their initial encounter. He had jet black hair and olive skin that hinted at Mediterranean descent of some sort, but from which country, exactly, was at one’s discretion. Georgia found out, eventually, that his origins were Greek, Doros, naturally being a hero in one of the many myths centered around the gods. This was around the time he had taken her to Greece, within the first six months of knowing one another. Though Georgia was skeptical of this somewhat grotesque reenactment of Edward Lewisness in Pretty Woman (not, as some might posit, Christian Greyness), she told herself that when love was real, this sort of thing just happened. And the love was real, if, for nothing else, because of its newness. Newness always lends a shine to things that eventually have to become dull. And, for Dorian, Georgia’s shine had clearly worn off. She couldn’t prove it yet, but she was fairly certain that he was having an affair with someone. Presumably much younger than her forty years.

As all these thoughts ran through her head–the assurances of her inadequacy and Dorian’s waning love–she responded to Ken’s question, “No.”

“Why now?”

Georgia bristled. “Is this a therapy session?”

Ken smiled. “I know it can feel that way, but we just need to ask these questions to ensure that you get the safest care.”

She sighed. “My husband thinks I look like shit, so I’m trying to re-create a more youthful appearance. So that he’ll see me as he once did.”

Ken’s expression turned to one of concern. “I’m so sorry to hear that. We have many patients who are influenced by outside…opinions about their bodies. But we usually like to confirm that the patient is, in fact, doing it for herself. It doesn’t seem like you really want to do this.”

Georgia knew she had spoken too frankly, was too naive about the process behind what it took to get to the operating room. She needed to backpedal in a forceful, yet subtle manner. She gazed into Ken’s presumably contact-filled eyes and asserted, “I do want this. For myself, Ken. I want to improve my confidence level and make a few corrections that I think will do that.”

Ken clicked his pen absently before checking a box on the paper. “I understand.” He kept clicking the pen. Georgia wanted to rip it out of his hand. He licked his lips and took a sip from the small bottle of Fiji water on the desk. “I’m sorry Georgia, but I don’t think I can recommend surgery for you at this time. At least not until you see a mental health professional. Once they give me approval, I can go ahead and give you clearance for the, uh, neck lift, eye lift, breast lift and lipo. Okay?”

Out on the cold, humanity-packed sidewalk of Fifth Avenue, Georgia had an aberration. Or what she, at first, thought was an aberration, but, in fact, turned out to be real: Dorian linked arm in arm with just the stereotype she feared: a thin, giggly brunette (Dorian had a thing for brunettes–must have been his Greekness) with the tight skin of a being no older than twenty-four. The sight was the final blow to a day that had smacked the shit out of her ego. Not wanting to be seen, she scuttled up the block, in the direction of Central Park. If she knew Dorian, this had probably been going on for quite some time. He might have been a philanderer, but he was a loyal one. If that made sense. Roaming toward the reservoir, Georgia stopped to buy some cashews from the Nuts 4 Nuts stand. It was a rare indulgence, but now that she knew for certain nothing mattered and she couldn’t even get her plastic surgery, ingesting a higher amount of calories didn’t seem as dire as it formerly did.

And so she sat, like women of leisure do, eating nuts in the middle of the day in the freezing cold part of the park where the frigidity of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis mirrored the current temperature of the reservoir named after her, which was bringing in a more palpable chill. Georgia didn’t feel it though. She was too wrapped up in her memories of Dorian when they first knew one another. After they stopped in Greece, he insisted that she had to see Paris before they returned. That it was essential viewing for anyone who wanted to successfully leave this planet upon death. Georgia wasn’t one to turn down a free trip, so she went with his itinerary.

While they were staying in his apartment in the fourth arrondissement, Georgia quickly settled in to her sudden housewife role. Dorian didn’t know that she could cook, so when she surprised him with her own rendition of ratatouille with the added ingredient of crab, followed by a dessert of crème brûlée, extra crackable, his spirits were raised. In spite of him being pleased with the culinary revelation, something else seemed to continue to plague Dorian’s mind. Georgia imagined it was a work-related matter, and tried her best to keep her distance so as not to aggravate him.

She washed the dishes in the sink absently, and as she wiped her forehead with the back of her forearm, she felt a presence behind her before Dorian pressed his body against hers, in a manner she could already tell was too forceful for her taste. She froze up as she let the water run over her bare hands. Before she knew it, Dorian was smashing the glasses and dishware on the counter and pushing her to the ground, and the shards along with her. Unable to process what was happening, Georgia lay prostrate on the kitchen floor as Dorian crawled on top of her. His penetration was combined with the penetration of the glass throughout various parts of her body.

After a visit to the doctor to patch up her wounds, he took her to a plastic surgeon the next day, the best in Paris. He never explained why, but Georgia knew he did what he did so as to have an excuse to remold her in his image. He would tell her that he was very angry that night over a deal that had gone south with one of the financial accounts he managed, and that he had never intended his rage to bleed (literally) into their sex. She knew better. It was just an ironclad way to reinvent her to his exact specifications. They stayed in Paris for a couple more months after her surgery. In spite of the unpleasant memories that had been made here, Georgia didn’t want to leave. Knew that once she committed to returning to New York with Dorian, she would fully and irreversibly his doll made of plastic. Une fille plastique est necessaire pour la vie en plastique. Perched on the bench in Central Park, Georgia could only now fathom what she had sacrificed for her so-called free ride. What’s more, if this was Paris, she would probably feel a lot more blasé about Dorian having a mistress. She suddenly felt like she was right back there on the kitchen floor in that apartment of the fourth arrondissement, shards jutting out of her at every epidermal surface. This pain was worse though. It couldn’t be fixed by a plastic surgeon.

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