Sunday, November 28, 2010

Forgetting Mrs. Bezman

I saw Sheldon Bezman's mother, naked. She was naked, not me. I was helping Sheldon load some boxes into his mother's attic, and he was all the way up in the cubby hole. I was in their hallway, handing the boxes up the ladder to Sheldon when his mother emerged from the bathroom, stark naked except for a pair of faded blue house shoes. She passed within three feet of me before retreating into her bedroom and closing the door. Sheldon didn't see any of this and doesn't have the slightest inkling of what took place. And I'm not telling him, as it's likely written somewhere in the friendship code book that it's forbidden to see a friend's mother naked under any circumstances, accidental or not.

Mrs. Bezman has always been kind of focused and may not have been aware of my presence. I'm not saying she discounts me, but I've been friends with her son for thirty years, and she still refers to me as "what's-his-name," so I think I'm kind of invisible to her. Regardless, the naked secret is safe with me. But the episode is a bit troubling. It's not like I haven't seen naked people before (I've been to a couple of French movies) but never a friend's mother.

And, I probably shouldn't say this, as time and gravity will undoubtedly take their toll on the best of us, but Mrs. Bezman never has been a model for physical fitness. In all the years I've known her, she's been dressed in a variety of wildly printed muu-muus, the tent-like dress that has the ability to hide what lurks beneath. But now I know what lurks: a pair-shaped, white lady with drooping breasts resembling two change purses with a single penny in each. One day, I too, will likely fit the same description (hopefully without the change-purse breasts), and I've vowed to make a concerted effort to stay away from any kind of accidental exposure.

The unforgettable image of Sheldon's naked mother was beginning to cause some trouble. It popped into my head when least expected, and when it did, it stayed there for quite awhile, no matter what. Even conjuring up the alluring apparition of Valerie Harper's Rhoda wouldn't make it disappear.

Before the problem got any worse, I consulted the Chicago Reader, the hipster newspaper where cures for a variety of quirky maladies can be found. Madam Mooska's ad, "The hypnotist who can cure anything for $33.95," seemed like a bargain too good to pass up.

Madam Mooska worked out of a basement apartment on the Northwest side of Chicago, on a dead end side street. Several bunches of faded plastic flowers were stapled to her door, along with the hand-written reminder: "Wipe Feet. Mooska is Not Maid." Before we sat down at her wobbly old card table, she asked me for the $33.95. I gave her thirty four dollars which she grabbed and stuffed somewhere under her clothing (reminding me to handle all future crumpled bills like medical waste).

Madam Mooska was not especially old, probably in her sixties, but her Romanian accent gave her an old-world air of wisdom. She held a silver medallion studded with red gems on a piece of string and began swinging it in a pendelum fashion in front of my face. She began chanting, "Meeska, mooska, no more fear, Madam Mooska now is here." (The cadence was reminiscent of the 1950's Mouseketeer rhyme: meeska, mooska, mouseketeer, mouse cartoon time now is here).

--Me: Will this be covered by my insurance?
--Mooska: Mooska not concern.
She kept swinging the medallion.
--Mooska: What troubles you?
--Me: I saw my friend's mother, Mrs. Bezman, naked.
--Mooska: You sneak a peek?
--Me: No, no, it was an accident.
--Mooska: What is problem?
--Me: I can't get her image out of my mind.
--Mooska: Maybe you have love for her.
--Me: No, no. No love. Disturbing.
--Mooska: You want forget?
--Me: Yes, forget.
--Mooska: Mooska help you forget.
She put the medallion in her pocket and placed a bottle of vodka and two shot glasses on the table.
--Mooska: First one, free. Others, two dollars. One for you, one for Mooska.

Five shots a piece and twenty dollars later, Mrs. Bezman was a faded blur. I got to my feet and Madam Mooska helped me to the door.
--Mooska: You go now and forget old lady what's-her-name. She invisible to you. No speak her name. To you, she is "what's-her-name."
--Me: Thank you, Mooska.
I hesitated in the doorway for a moment, wondering if I should be so bold as to inquire about the familiarity of her procedure.
--Me: Pardon me for asking such a thing, but are you acquainted with The Mickey Mouse Club?
--Mooska: In my little village in Romania, one TV for whole village. Kids gather 'round every Friday to watch the mouse show. A special day; we live for that day.
She grabbed my arm and showed me the medallion cupped in her hand. It was a silver-dollar-sized coin bearing a portrait of Mickey Mouse with two red glass eyes. She whispered in my ear.
--Mooska: I tell you something true, Mooska not forget that little mouse.