By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
"Why are the good ones always taken?" Dina groans, poking at a lemon wedge in her diet coke with a straw.
"Because men don't leave," Maya says, as if by rote, quoting her own overused quip. "And women don't leave quality men."
"Yeah," Dina sighs in agreement. "Just my luck."
"Who's it this time?" Maya asks, picking pieces of crushed walnut out of her salad with her fingernails and placing them on the edge of her plate.
"An amazing guy," Dina says, shaking her head as though in awe and disbelief. "I've never met anybody like him."
"That's what you said the last time," Maya reminds her friend. "Right before the police came and took the sleaze-ball away."
"That was different," Dina insists. "This one is smart and sensitive and charming and handsome."
"He must be gay, then," Maya laughs.
"Worse," Dina says, discarding her straw and sipping her drink carefully, so as not to smudge her lip gloss. "He's married."
"Well, we know one thing that's wrong with him," Maya says, munching on a lettuce leaf.
"And what would that be?" Dina asks defensively, annoyed at the very suggestion.
"That he cheats on his wife," Maya answers, matter-of-factly.
"And how, exactly, do we know that?" Dina challenges, tapping on the table.
"By the evidence," Maya says, shrugging.
"What evidence?" Dina protests, pouting. "You don't even know this man."
"Come on," Maya says, reaching over and touching Dina's hand affectionately. "You and I wouldn't be having this conversation if he hadn't hit on you."
"He did not hit on me!" Dina says, feigning indignance to veil false modesty.
"Uh huh," Maya says, sarcastically. "So, who is he and where did you meet him?"
"He's a healer," Dina says, with the excitement of a woman on the verge of telling a tale with a romantic twist.
"Another one?" Maya asks, with the curiosity of an envious girlfriend.
Dina pauses for a moment, with a puzzled look on her face. Then she gets it. "Oh, noooo," she whines. "That last one was a dentist!"
"Right, I forgot," Maya says, stabbing at a cherry tomato. "He was the one who felt you up while working on your teeth."
"That's not how it was," Dina snaps, anxious to erase the embarrassing episode she wishes Maya had forgotten. This would be impossible, of course, because Maya had been the one to phone her the day the article appeared in the paper, so that she could have a glorious "I-told-you-so" moment.
"Excuse me for being imprecise," Maya says. "He was the one who drugged all those other patients and committed indecent acts on them, before charging them an arm and a leg for root canals."
"Never mind that now," Dina begs. "I can't stand to think about it, let alone discuss it."
What she means, but does not voice, is that it pains her to contemplate the fact that a man she believed was head-over-heels in love with her turned out to be no better than a sex offender. And a serial one, at that.
That he was tried and convicted without her own name ever emerging was as much of a curse as it was a blessing. Dina's humiliation at discovering that it had not been her personal, special, specific allure that had caused him to lose control was matched only by her desire for revenge.
For molesting all those women who had been at his mercy while under the influence, he got a hefty prison sentence. Had Dina been the judge, she happily would have handed him the death penalty. No one makes her feel pathetic and gets away with it. The dentist had done so like a real pro, however. In her case, he hadn't even needed to use drugs to intoxicate her into submission; it was enough for him to tell her how gorgeous and irresistible she was to make her comply. And come back for more.
"SO TELL me already," Maya says, impatiently, "about your healer."
"Well, he's actually a reflexologist," Dina begins excitedly. "But he completed an advanced course of study in reiki."
Seeing Maya's eyebrows raise slightly, Dina hurries to get to the point. She recounts how it was, in fact, her regular physician who recommended this particular practitioner of alternative medicine, as he is recognized by her health fund.
She details the symptoms she has been experiencing of late - headaches, lethargy and unaccountable bouts of tears - that brought her to the doctor in the first place.
Maya listens intently, not interrupting to point out that if a lover of her own had been caught out as a criminal, she'd be feeling pretty ill herself.
Dina continues: "I can't tell you how improved I was, even after a single treatment."
"What did this treatment consist of?" Maya asks, relieved to have something concrete to query.
"Opening my clogged creativity chakra," Dina says. "And then I showed him the entries in my diary, and we both wept. He said our souls connected, and he's never had that happen to him before."
"How did he 'open your chakra' exactly?" Maya asks, trying not to let her facial expression reveal her thoughts. Something about this story is ringing serious bells.
"Well, first he applied pressure to the balls of my feet," Dina says, encouraged by her misreading of Maya's response. "And then he made me take off all my clothes so he could release the blocked energy he felt in my womb and below."
"Oh my God," Maya gasps. "Is his name Rami something?"
"Yes," Dina says, hesitantly.
"He's under investigation, Dina," Maya wails. "Apparently, a number of women came forward to complain about his methods."
"What?" Dina cries. "Are you certain it's the same guy?"
"It must be," Maya says. "I mean, chakras and soul mates and all that."
"That son of a bitch!" Dina screeches. "He's going to pay, and not with any plea bargain, I can tell you that."
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