The next time Victor gave one of his talks was a few weeks later, in April, 2005. By then I’d had half a dozen sessions with him and the arthritis in my hands had disappeared. I felt and looked better, too, my hair thicker and darker, my skin smoother, with less of those little red veins visible at the cheeks. By then I’d also glimpsed a number of Victor’s “oddball” clients either in his waiting room or in the parking lot and was eager to meet them and find out who they actually were.
Margot and I went to the talk together. We’d been friends since I moved to Austin in 1991 but in all those years I’d never discussed her weight issues with her. Fat was – and is – as unmentionable as a secret addiction to pornography or kinky sex apparatus like butt plugs or whips. All I knew was she was a large, kind, sensible lady who hid her extra pounds in flowing tops and bottoms from CP Shades and Avenue. But in the year since she’d been working with Victor, she’d dropped nearly sixty pounds and had opened up on the subject. “I’m going to be a size 12 in a few weeks,” she told me as we got out of the car.
“I haven’t been that size ever.” Her face glowed and I noticed how pretty she was in a sexy navy blue dress that brought out the blue of her eyes and the just-right curves of her body. We walked across the lot towards Victor’s office. He greeted us at the door, looking very cheerful in his usual white linen suit and pastel-colored button down shirt. “Please take a name tag and go to the meeting room in back,” he said, pointing in the direction of the hall. “I hope you enjoy the ceremony.”
“What ceremony?” I whispered to Margot, who shrugged and told me she’d only been to one or two of these things.
In the meeting room classical music filled the air and the conference table was covered with a white damask cloth, pads of paper, a beautiful vase of lilies, and a rather elaborate tea set. Platters of sandwiches, fruit and cookies lay on a side table along with plates, glasses and bottles of water. Five or six people sat at the table, quietly talking. Two more entered with Victor, who turned off the music and began his words of welcome. “I am so glad to see you here this afternoon. I know this may sound strange to you, but we are about to do something that hasn’t been done before and so you should consider yourselves brave participants rather than detached bystanders.”
“What the hell’s he talking about,” muttered the woman on the other side of me. I glanced at her covertly. Her pre-printed tag said “Alicia.” She was very pretty with sleek auburn hair and a shrewd, take-no-prisoners face. She must have been in her mid-forties. On her left hand was a glittering engagement ring.
“Just be patient, honey. You’re gonna enjoy this,” murmured “Emil,” the man on her other side, presumably her betrothed.
Meanwhile Victor stood at the head of the table, explaining that we were about to have a tea ceremony. “Only this is no ordinary tea,” he said, smiling. “Its leaves are handpicked from herbs in my garden and I can promise the effect will be extremely unusual.”
“Like what?” said Alicia.
Victor’s smile deepened as he looked at her. “Why don’t you wait and see.”
To be continued…
Cover photo ~ Tea Time, Catherine, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/