DR WHIZZ-BANG MAHONEY'S
YOUR SOUR DISPOSITION TURNED SUNNY
OR YOUR MONEY WASTED
That's really what it said. Right there in the back of the glossy women's magazine he was holding. There amongst the adverts with "before" and "after" pictures of tits and noses. Ten minutes ago I wouldn't have believed it, but now?
I didn't want to talk to him. When I saw him walk into the bookshop I dived into an alcove and furiously studied a shelf full of books on yoga positions which ease the pain of menstruation. He must have already seen me. His grinning head appeared above a huge pile of the northern realist psychobabble hit - Men are from Leeds Women are from Bradford. "Hello!" he exclaimed. I winced at his condescending tone.
"Fancy meeting you here!"
"Well I only work just across the road so, you know, in my lunch break, oh gosh!, is that the..." He broke into a grin at the sound of my feeble excuse, he was shaking his head.
"No need for the old excuses, I've changed." He placed a firm hand on my shoulder, "Come and have a drink."
"Really Tim, I must be..."
"Look. I know. I know you don't like me and I don't blame you, I did used to be perfectly loathsome, if this was me sixth months ago I wouldn't blame you, but I've changed, well actually I've found somebody else who has changed me."
Oh Jesus, God no, please! Please don't let him tell me he's got religion! I don't think I could bear it. Or wait a minute, he couldn't mean a woman could he? Don't tell me he's stopped his tom-catting at last. Surely not. Was it that that I hated about him most - his unfathomable, inexhaustible attraction to women? Or was it his casual cruelty to them? How many tipsy and tearful gorgeous girlies have I listened to on the stairs at parties telling me about how shy and sensitive he is? Yes, there is some jealousy there no doubt. But what about his homophobia? And his racism? His narcissism? His sudden discovery of an all-consuming passion for football? No. I suspect what makes me really loathe him is his god-awful dunder-headed condescension.
All this running through my head and Tim still talking, but I'd learned long ago that the only way to survive exposure to Tim, whilst avoiding lengthy periods of silent rage and noisy indigestion was to smile benignly, nod from time to time and pay not the slightest attention. How did I get to know him anyway? Ah yes. He was her ex-boyfriend wasn't he? The one she was trying to get over. Sudden tears in the middle of snogging sessions, it's not you it's me etc.. Was he still sympathy-fucking her on the side? Probably. Ouch, ouch! Why did I have to have that thought? Let me out, I've got to run away. Hasn't he shut up yet? What can he be possibly be talking about for so long without the slightest encouragement? Ah yes,
"... and I was! I really was a changed man," - himself!
"Haven't heard a word have you?" Tim was grinning broadly.
"Well, you know Tim, lot on my mind, and I really do have to be..."
"But that's what I've been trying to tell you. You don't have to be like this with me any more. I've changed. I've had my personality surgically altered."
"Surgically altered?" And that's when he showed me the advert and told me all about it. The brief chat with Dr Mahoney, the sudden blow on the head. Two hours later he woke up £5000 poorer and a changed man. "Go on," he said, "try me." So I did. And I must admit I was impressed. He was erudite (it occurred to me now that I'd never see Tim in a bookshop before "The Operation") and witty as we covered all those previously cringe-making no-go topics of conversation. I found myself admitting that I didn't have much to do that afternoon and taking up the offer of a drink. It was a very strange sensation, the same voice, the same face, but I was enjoying his company. Hours had passed when he finally looked at his watch. He looked a little nervous, could it be? Possibly, unsure of himself? They really had given him a complete over-haul. "Gotta go mate, hot date tonight."
"Haven't lost the old magic with the women then?" For the first time that day he frowned.
"Well, that's the funny thing...."