I’m sitting in Susan’s office like I do every Wednesday. Everything is the same as it is when I visit—the fabulous fashion magazines, Harper’s, some issues of the New England Medical Journal, photos of her boyfriend in trendy frames, watery iced latté from Starbucks clutter her desk along with the keyboard and gigantic monitor. She likes her Vogues, lattés, and boyfriend, but I think reading the New England Medical Journal is a chore for her, that she’s in the wrong job. I overheard her say to another medical student that she came from a family of doctors and she was doing what was expected of her. I don’t think she’d tell Dr. Souza this. I know Susan is jealous of the Gold Lady, even if she wouldn’t admit it.
I ask Susan if I could use the phone to talk to the Gold Lady and she says, “No, I have accommodated your fantasies long enough. You need to talk by yourself, and you need to talk to me.”
For the past few months, she has been acting as if the Gold Lady exists, listening to me and writing things down. Susan would look at my drawings and sketchbook writings as well. Susan and I would talk in the little office time left, and every once in a while, she would say something about “normal people reality.”
Susan takes a lock of her hair hanging by her shoulder and twists it around her finger. After reading Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, Susan should want to do something radically different with her hair. Perhaps she would like to cut her hair short or put it in glamourous waves. Or she could shave it all off and be as elegantly bald as the Gold Lady. Hair comes and goes, but the Gold Lady’s smooth head is timeless; she has no need for long hair, curly or straight. She is not restless like Susan.
As Susan continues to twirl her hair, she asks me what I’m going to do when I grow up.
“Grow up? I’m twenty-one years old.”
“I know. What I mean is what would you like to do for a job?”
Susan seems to be on the offensive about “normal people” reality today. I think about it for a second and tell her I want to get paid to draw the Gold Lady and her dresses.
“You can’t get paid to draw the Gold Lady,” Susan replies. She pauses to think and she tells me being a fashion designer or cartoonist would be a good job for someone who likes to draw, someone like me. “Have you thought about that?”
I don’t answer right away. I have thought about it but I don’t want to give Susan that satisfaction. I think about the people who make the Gold Lady’s dresses—Issey Miyake, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent, Donatella Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, etc.—and if I were a fashion designer, then I can make some cool dresses. I the Gold Lady wears them, which I know she will, then I will become very famous. I nod as if Susan just told me something new and insightful. OK, I played her game, so I think it’s fair that Susan lets me talk to my friend on the phone. But she says, “No, you should think about finding your place in society and what you want to do. Going on about someone who does not exist is not going to get you very far.?
I’ve been reading The Little Prince lately, so I ask her, “What about Antoine de St. Exupery?”
She tells me it’s a book and it’s simply make-believe. She just doesn’t get it.