Hands On -- reviewed by Mimi Carmen
What to do next? She's emotionally empty, wanting to fix that space inside that she needs to fill, because it has a face, taunting, always there because maybe she's nothing, and it's making her do something, anything at all, and all doors are closed. So on this day she finds herself in the capable hands of Dr. Mellor, the plastic surgeon.
She herself isn't bad looking, just a tuck away from being smooth, but Maggie, the receptionist is better, perfect, as if she hadn't lived, while she herself has lived and now there's the divorce, a big house with nobody in it but her, and of course it shows, not a lot, just a wee bit, but still she thinks, she wants to be herself, not just another Maggie.
Under his skillful hands, looking into his gray eyes, Dr. Mellor sends that thing crawling inside her slithering away, and for moments, she feels at peace. The kind of peace a man can bring to a lonely woman to assuage her loneliness, wanting someone to love her. . . anybody...
Even going to extraordinary measures."I just want to ask you," she says. '"Do you think I'm pretty?" "The question seemed to confound him and it took a moment to recover himself.. "Of course," he said. "Very pretty."' But even with all the stalling from the doctor, even though he squashes her desires with the information he must have Maggie at his side for legal reasons, she throws caution to the wind and starts unbuttoning her blouse, like a monster let loose.
But this story isn't a soap opera, parading raw emotions like a circus, or a snake pit, or just another woman's story. It examines the soul, to look inside, to find itself lacking or not."Hands On," Yes, entertaining, and it's all of that, but don't look entirely for satire in this short story. If you take off your blinders, you go beyond the obvious. Because I feel her pain, and wonder if I'm her. Simply and beautifully tender and sympathetic, it's another facet in T.C.Boyle, and you wonder how the same man who wrote "Descent of Man" could have written this story, how he could capture with his own hands, how he could crawl inside a woman and know how she ticks. And yet, if you look closely, you can see the similarity.