Sex and the Sopranos XV

Just a Rat in a Cuter Outfit

“So Caroline—should I call you Caroline?”

“Carrie is fine. That’s what everyone calls me. That’s what gets printed in the paper, for work, wedding announcements… Hardly anyone calls me Caroline; one would be forgiven for believing my name is actually Carrie.”

“I imagine there would be a sense of betrayal for, say, someone who also has a nickname for a first name and believed you were a kindred spirit, then learns your full name is Caroline Marie Bradshaw. Almost like finding out your imaginary friend has been lying to you.”

“Or has other friends besides you.”

“You seem bitter about something.”

“It’s probably just my main character energy. I really thought my three best friends would always be my loyal sidekicks, but one just up and moved to London.”

“I see.”

“And it’s a shame, because I really could have used her PR expertise to—once again—deal with the cover of my new book, but it turns out, I was just an ATM to her.”

“You were paying a friend to handle your public relations, is what I’m gathering from this…”

“Well, I mean, she took me on as a client—pro bono, at first, but once I hit the New York Times Bestseller list, and married an extremely wealthy man, I started paying her. Her actor boyfriend had the same arrangement until he made it big in Hollywood.”

“This woman—”

“Her name is Samantha, Samantha Jones.”

“So what you’re telling me is that this Samantha runs a PR firm that handles movie stars, and you believe that your brand as a writer is so valuable that she moved out of the country over losing you as a client?”

“Well, I might have been a little bitter about the New Yorker review of my third book.”

“Yes, that explanation did sound a bit flimsy. I truly hope you two will work it out, but you have indicated that you would like to spend our time here today discussing grief. Is that correct?”

“Yes, I’ve recently experienced a…Big death.”

“I see.”

“My remaining friends have threatened to cut me off, so I’m undertaking a shit-ton of therapy, although I do think this framework is a little trite.”

“Many have found it to be very successful.”

“I dunno. I remember watching one episode of a show that everyone swore was the greatest television ever made, and the therapist had some cheesy breakthrough about a dog with heavy jowls representing her client in her dream after she was raped. A slice of Sicilian vengeance, if you will.”

“Yes, that rape storyline was rather tropey.”

“A bit of a detour, right? Imagine if that was the only episode you’d seen. You’d be forgiven for not revisiting the show until the pandemic.”

“Given that particular client’s tendency toward fever dreams of talking fish and frequently swapping out women’s heads and voices in his sexual fantasies, I’m not entirely sure the rape even occurred.”

“That would make a better show. Like, I was veering toward a “mafiosa story with a twist/To Wong Foo Julie Newmar hitch” reference, that the therapist is just a rat in a cuter outfit because he’s an undercover FBI agent, à la my high school boyfriend in that show with Charlotte’s first husband, but I think we’re not handling the gender spectrum very well and I’m afraid to go there. I just can’t get that song out of my head every time I work on this piece.”

“What piece?”

“Oh, I write about everything I experience. I don’t exist if I don’t write about my existence.”

“We might need to unpack that.”

“Why? It fits in my Vuitton luggage so perfectly!”

“Fair enough. Your tendency toward exposition is actually a little clunky.”

“Trust me, I’m working on it. I think I rely entirely too much on scaffolding and references to other works. I’m exhausting myself at this point.”

“I would imagine.”

“Like, I’m kind of seeing this guy, and I recommended a book to him that all us girls were passing around, even Natasha. In fact, Stanford’s last words to me (in person, not counting his lost Bronte sister letter) were “Great bangles all around,” which I am fairly certain was a reference to the main character in this book. She wore a lot of bangles; one character commented that it was like built-in applause.”

“Where are you going with this?”

“Just that he hated the book, and he let me know his ex hated the book too. Then I start backpedaling, like, did ever really like the book? Did I just want to read it because everyone else was? Did I only like it because it generated some ideas for polyphonic narrative voices? How hard should I fight this battle?”

“You’re a big proponent of libraries, did you check this book out?”

“Yes, in ebook and audiobook, because he listened to the audiobook, and I wanted to get his experience.”

“That seems like overkill.”

“You’re telling me, sister. I’m also convinced this therapist I’m seeing is not very good at her job, because she learned something at a dinner party that completely changed her relationship with her client. Ended it, in fact, since I’m now entirely certain he died in the diner. And it was just some reference to an article in a magazine, not even a scholarly journal for practicing psychiatrists.”

“I remember that dinner party.”

“And was our mutual friend there?”

“Who is that?”

“Well, I never learned his name, because Big forgot it that time we ran into him in the street and I thought he was ashamed of me, but they went skiing together in Aspen.”

“Oh, ha ha, that guy. No, he wasn’t there, but his name is indeed hard to parse. When I dated him, he was known as Nils and then Eric. He’s the one who pointed out my well-connected client when we first started seeing each other. The client got us a table at that restaurant where the hostess wound up being way more crucial to the story than any of us ever realized.”

“Another rat in a cuter outfit.”

“Lots of leopard print there. That’s why everyone believes she came back as a cat.”

“Baciagalup, another pejorative kitty name, like my friend Miranda’s big orange cat, Fatty.”

“Good way to catch a rat.”

“Also featured in a memorable CGI scene, but we’ll allow it because it’s one of my favorites.”

“Our time is almost up, but there were a few more connections you wanted to explore…”

“Yes: the guy at Gray’s Papaya who gave me a free hot dog after my book launch, and the guy Charlotte met at her man regifting party who ended up hooking up with his ex on her bed.”

“Who were they, respectively?”

“One I don’t know, but he’s the real-life son of Don Squirrel-Leone, and the other somehow became a Muslim terrorist. Oh! And let’s not forget Big’s driver, Raul. And apparently one of the groomsmen from his wedding with Natasha was also an FBI agent, but who wants to revisit all that?”

“I certainly didn’t. Not for an entire episode. Though I did appreciate the coffee-spill callback.”

“One last one. The actual rat, the one your client offed on his daughter’s college trip—he once catcalled me from a truck while I was running to ring the stock exchange bell.”

“Does that about sum it up?”

“No, there are lots more in my spreadsheet, but these are the ones I jotted down in my notes, which I’m about to burn because it’s time to jettison this clutter.”

“Are you looking for a new place to live?”

“I am, even though I have had the perfectly worn cashmere sweater of living arrangements at my disposal for the past 24 years. Still, I’m going to agonize about it for an entire episode—even buy a whole new apartment only to change my mind days later—while people who genuinely do not know where they are going to live stare at the screen in disbelief.”

“Are you pleased with yourself?”

“God, no, I just wanted to get this done. I had one more joke I was going to shoehorn in, about none of the FRIENDS knowing what Chandler Bing did for a living because he was heir to the racketeering fortune accumulated at the Bada Bing, a sort of “Chandler Bing, of the New Jersey Bings” gag, but I never really watched FRIENDS and can’t do that joke justice.”

“So, have I helped you with your Big grief? What can we focus on for next time?”

“Oh, doc, this was a one-off thing, like Samantha’s nude portrait or your rape—we’re never going to revisit this again.”

“Fair enough. Can I say it?”

“What, ‘Suddenly I realized…’?”

“Nope. ‘…And just like that, our time is up.”

“Needs work, but as one of my journalistic subjects once told me, no one reads this anyway.”

“You’ll get my bill.”

“Good thing I’m so inexplicably rich for a writer.”

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