Holes

“How can you be so heartless?” He asks as she digs into fresh earth, tossing shovelfuls over her shoulder and onto the unbroken ground. She rams the spade into worm-infested dirt, arms sweat from her brow, and frowns up at him standing at the edge of the hole she’s been digging.

“How can you be so ignorant to ask me that?” She says leaning all her weight on her left leg, and holding onto the rounded end of the shovel with her right hand.

He crouches at the edge of the hole she’s been digging, arms resting on his thighs while his hands dangle in front of his knees. “People care about you, you know.”

“What makes you think I’m unaware of that?” She asks, and goes back to digging. Nothing will slow her pace again.

“You’re digging a grave,” he says, as if she isn’t aware of what she’s doing.

“Yep,” is all she says in response. Talk tires her more than digging.

“So stop digging!” He says in exasperation, standing up and placing his hands upon his hips.

“No,” she says, digging still.

He stands beside the hole in the ground watching her dig like a woman possessed. His mind is racing. He doesn’t know whether to jump in and physically stop her; he assumes it’s the only way she’ll abandon this foolish errand. At the same time, he’s as afraid of her as he would be of a strange dog; she may bite if he hops into that hole. He weighs his options and comes to the conclusion that it would be suicide to join her in that hole, so he sits down at the edge of the grave and waits for her to finish her task.

 

Finally, the grave is dug. She plants the spade into the earth and leans upon it for support as she arms sweat from her brow. Hard labor always makes a body tired, but it works wonders for the mind. Something about the simplicity of narrowing one’s focus to a single straight line produces perspective that makes it easier to live with the cacophony of voices rattling around inside one’s skull like loose marbles.

“Now what?” He asks, sullen.

She smiles. “Now I add the body.”

“I can’t talk you out of it, can I?” He says, defeated.

“Cheer up, it’s not for me.” She says, still smiling.

He looks at her puzzled. “Then who’s it for—“ he starts to ask as she grabs the shovel and swings it like a bat. It collides with his face, sounding like a gong when it connects. She feels the impact rattle all the way up her arms and into her shoulders and jaw. She’s gritting her teeth when the spade connects with his face, laying him out flat. She tosses the spade onto the ground beside him and crawls out of the grave she dug.

“For you, stupid.” She says, swiping dirt from her overalls. She bends and hauls his limp body into the hole. His body rolls over the lip of the grave and lands face up. His eyes are white and glassy, his face dusted with dirt. She picks up the spade and begins shoveling the dirt she dug out back into the hole. When this job is done she’ll be okay again. That’s what the voices in her head have told her. Those voices that only seem to shut up when she’s digging holes.

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Coward V2.

You can read the first version here: Coward.

What if he’d turned to look at her, and seen the truth etched into the lines of her face?


 

“You’re a chicken-shit coward, you know that, right?” He says.

“Yes, I’m very aware of that.” She says.

“And somehow that’s okay with you? No qualms with that?” He asks, befuddled.

“Nope. None.” She says, then adds, “Not a one.”

He shakes his head, bewildered. “How can you say that? How can you be okay with being a coward?” And before she can respond, “I would hate myself.”

She smiles. It’s a wintry smile, it turns her blue eyes into ice chips. “I never said I didn’t.” She says.

Silence spirals out between them for a long, tense moment. He opens his mouth to speak, appears to think better of it, and closes his mouth again. He takes a sip of his beer instead, and wipes the foam from his upper lip. Instead of carrying on the conversation, he glances around the bar and sees everyone else talking and laughing easily. His eyes settle upon a game of pool, where a group of friends are chatting and laughing as if everything in the world isn’t going to hell just outside the bar’s front door. He becomes engrossed in watching them, longing to be a part of that group. Anything would be better than sitting at this table.

She’s watching him watching the other patrons. If he looked at her right now, he’d see the same longing look in her own eyes that he has while gazing at the pool players. If he turns back to her right now, she’ll have betrayed everything she came here to do, everything her brain tells her must happen if they both are to go on with their own lives. Her heart screams against it, however. She’s got him in her crosshairs, but she doesn’t want to take the shot, even though she knows she must. A single tear escapes her lashes, and it’s at that exact moment when he unexpectedly turns back to face her.

They are both instantly disarmed; he by her tears, and she because she never expected to be caught showing emotion. She hurriedly wipes away the tear, and takes a large gulp of her vodka. In her desire to look anywhere and do anything other than face the reality they both just witnessed, she chokes on her drink. It burns for multiple reasons on the way down. Her eyes water, and he mistakes her discomfort for an emotional response. He opens his mouth to speak, but there are no words. Absolutely none. Bewilderment has left his mind a blank canvas. Eventually rational thought will resume, but not before she excuses herself from the table and disappears in the women’s restroom.

His gaze falls upon the scratched wooden table as the wheels in his mind begin turning again, slowly at first, then faster and faster—until his brain feels like an engine cycling up to speed. Had she really been crying? It was a single tear, don’t read into it! Sheesh! But it was real, wasn’t it? Of course, it was. So, she’s not a heartless bitch? How could you ever think that about someone? Do you know he shit she’s done to us? Yes, but—but nothing! She’s the frigid ice queen, remember!? Don’t be fooled by a single crocodile tear! But you aren’t even certain that’s what that was! Oh, boy, you’ve got it bad for her still, don’t you? Poor fool. Poor, defenseless fool. She’s a walking, talking cunt; nothing more! Stop thinking of her as such!

Oh, the arguments we have inside our heads. The cruel voices we pretend we don’t hear. The things polite society would chastise us for.

She hurries to the restroom, head down, and nearly gets brained by the restroom door as a woman comes out at the same time she’s reaching for the door. They exchange apologies, and once she’s safely tucked behind the restroom door, she feels safe. Of course, first she must take stock of anyone lurking in the restroom. No one. She’s alone. Good. Standing before the water-stained mirror, she takes a mental inventory of herself.

He saw it, don’t try to deny it! He saw you defenseless! How could you let that happen? What happened to having the upper hand? Is there an upper hand to be had in this situation? Is there really? Yes! Of course, there is! There always is! Get it together, girl! You came to win this one last final battle! Don’t let this destroy your resolve! You know what you must do, so do it! But she couldn’t, not yet. She closed her eyes, meditating on shutting down the cacophony inside her head. She was succeeding when the restroom door burst open, breaking her concentration. Go get ‘im, a voice in her mind growled. She put her battle mask on, and went.

When she returns to their table, everyone is wearing their armor again. “Sorry about that,” she says.

“No problem,” he says. “So, where were we?” he asks, gently smiling, as if they were simply two old friends who’d been in the middle of a lively conversation about a recent television program, rather than scorned lovers.

She looks from her drink across the table at him, her ice chip eyes confirming his not-so-secret assumptions about her. That look wipes the smile from his face as succinctly as the bartender wiping down the counter after someone has spilled their drink—absently and without ceremony.

“We’re done,” she says. Two simple words, packed with powder and lit like a cannon—blasting through his war-time defenses as easily as cutting through bread.

“That’s it, then?” He asks, his jaw tense, clipping each word off neatly—like severing wires with the snip of scissors.

“That’s it.” She says succinctly, her mind in total agreement while her heart rails against the bars of its prison, screaming to be let out, screaming to be set free. Don’t let me die down here!

He polishes off the last of his beer, and she takes little hurried sips of her vodka. Now that the nasty business is finished, they both want to be out of this bar as quickly as possible. It’s better to be outside in the city, blending in with all the other digits—anonymous. He pulls out his wallet and slaps his money down on the table. She’s digging through her purse deliberately while he takes his leather jacket from the back of his chair and puts it on. She’s giving him time to make his exit before her. The only thing exchanging more words can do now is irreparable damage.

He takes a final swig from his mostly empty beer bottle. He doesn’t know why he’s stalling, but his own heart is screaming not to let it end this way, but what else can be done? They’ve agreed it’s over. He looks at her one last time as she’s rummaging through her purse, knowing that she too is stalling, there’s not enough room in that purse for her to lose anything, especially not a wallet. She feels his gaze fall upon her, and looks up unconsciously. For the briefest of moments, he sees her prisoner heart clearly in those clear, blue eyes. For a single second, he sees the woman he fell in love with, but then she’s gone; swatted back into her prison cell by the woman she’s become, and he feels his heart crack along a fault line. There will always be earthquakes now when he merely thinks her name.

He starts to say something, then once again thinks better of it, turns, and walks toward the door, through the throng of bar patrons. She watches his retreating back, a tsunami of conflicting emotions. She starts to call him back, but then decides the damage is done—let it all be done, her mind insists. As he opens the door she pulls her wallet from her purse and pulls out her change. While she’s looking down at her money, he looks back over his shoulder one last time. In the glow of the bar lights her blonde hair resonates with light, just like it did the first time he met her. He takes that final image of her with him as he leaves.

She looks back at the door just as it closes, and thinks, I am a terrible coward.

 

Liar (alone & lonely)

In a room, all alone, but never lonely. No, never lonely. Not for as long as I have His presence waiting at the back of my mind; always waiting there to catch me when I fall. Oh, but what I didn’t understand then when I sold Him my soul. What I didn’t understand was what I was running from. I didn’t have a conscious understanding of what was causing my pain, and so, assuming I could never escape the inescapable, I sold Him my heart and soul, because He promised to protect me. He never lied, not about that, but He knew why I was running; what truth I was running from. He knew but He never told me.

 

“You could have told me, you know.” She says, watching her reflection in the mirror. He, her One Whole & True, appears over her shoulder hooded in black, and puts his hands upon her shoulders. His fingers are long, pale, and skeletal; the skin stretched over the knuckles like a tarp pulled taut over a machine too large to be covered.

“You didn’t want to know,” He says. His lips don’t move when he speaks. His ruby lips and prominent chin are all she can see from inside the darkness of His hooded cloak.

“You had no way of knowing that,” she says, her shoulders tensing beneath His fingers.

“But I did, love.” He says, massaging her shoulders. She shrugs out of His grip, and turns to face Him. His hands are held up in a ‘don’t shoot!’ gesture.

“No, you didn’t, because I never told you,” she says.

“Not with your words, no,” He says, lowering His hands to His sides.

“What does that mean?” She asks, glowering.

’You know me better than I know myself’” He quoted, “Do you remember saying that?” He asks.

“I never said that to you,” she says, the frown line on her forehead deepening.

“No, you didn’t, but you said it; only you meant it towards me.” He says.

“If I never said it to you, then I never meant it towards you!” she shouts.

“I have known you all your life. I know you better than you’ve ever known yourself. I kept your secret to protect you from yourself,” He says, attempting to take her hands. She pulls away from Him, and walks across the room, thinking hard.

“I understand your anger—” He starts to say, but she cuts him off.

“Don’t!” she says, turning back around to face Him, anger burning inside her eyes. “Don’t pretend to know me—to understand me! You don’t know anything about me!” She yells.

He steps forward, and she holds out a hand to keep Him in his place.

“You lied to me,” she says, her voice and arm shaking slightly.

“To protect you from—” He says, but she cuts him off again.

“Don’t justify it!” She yells, “You lied! YOU LIED!” She screams. Her voice cracks and tears spring from her eyes. She wipes them away hurriedly, with disgust.

He steps forward again, and she jerks back in response. He stops, holding His hands up in surrender.

“I’m sorry,” He says. Words she never thought she’d hear coming from a demon.

“Go away,” she says, wrapping her arms about herself.

“What?” He asks, perplexed. A tone of voice she never expected would come from a demon.

“I said go away! I need to think!” She yells.

“Let me comfort you,” He says, and she pulls farther away from Him.

“I don’t want you near me,” she says, tears coursing down her face freely now. What a fool she’s been. Oh, what a terrible, stupid fool. Trusting a devil. Trusting anyone.

“Let me hold you,” He says, raising His arms, the black feathered wings unfolding from His back at the same time.

“GO AWAY!” she screams, and in a puff of black smoke, He does.

Now, she’s in a room, alone & lonely.

Coward

“You’re a chicken-shit coward, you know that, right?” He says.

“Yes, I’m very aware of that.” She says.

“And somehow that’s okay with you? No qualms with that?” He asks, befuddled.

“Nope. None.” She says, then adds, “Not a one.”

He shakes his head, bewildered. “How can you say that? How can you be okay with being a coward?” And before she can respond, “I would hate myself.”

She smiles. It’s a wintry smile, it turns her blue eyes into ice chips. “I never said I didn’t.” She says.

Silence spirals out between them for a long, tense moment. He opens his mouth to speak, appears to think better of it, and closes his mouth again. He takes a sip of his beer instead, and wipes the foam from his upper lip. Instead of carrying on the conversation, he glances around the bar and sees everyone else talking and laughing easily. His eyes settle upon a game of pool, where a group of friends are chatting and laughing as if everything in the world isn’t going to hell just outside the bar’s front door. He becomes engrossed in watching them, longing to be a part of that group. Anything would be better than sitting at this table.

She’s watching him watching the other patrons. If he looked at her right now, he’d see the same longing look in her own eyes that he has while gazing at the pool players. If he turns back to her right now, she’ll have betrayed everything she came here to do, everything her brain tells her must happen if they both are to go on with their own lives. Her heart screams against it, however. She’s got him in her crosshairs, but she doesn’t want to take the shot, even though she knows she must. A single tear escapes her lashes, and she brushes it away hurriedly with the heel of her palm. She takes a sip of her vodka to steady her nerves and steel her spine against the inevitable.

He turns his attention back to her just as she’s setting down her glass of vodka. She’s composed herself again, and there’s no trace of that longing look lingering in her eyes. They’re blue ice again. She’s the frigid bitch he’s accused her of being in more than one argument. It hardens his heart against her further. Somewhere deep in his subconscious he can hear a thick, wooden door slamming shut, and the click of a deadbolt. He’ll never let her in again, and he’ll struggle the rest of his life to let in others. He will always sit in bars and glance around the room, feeling envious of everyone else and the ease with which they trust.

“That’s it, then?” He asks, his jaw tense, clipping each word off neatly—like severing wires with the snip of scissors.

“That’s it.” She says succinctly, her mind in total agreement while her heart rails against the bars of its prison, screaming to be let out, screaming to be set free. Don’t let me die down here!

He polishes off the last of his beer, and she takes little hurried sips of her vodka. Now that the nasty business is finished, they both want to be out of this bar as quickly as possible. It’s better to be outside in the city, blending in with all the other digits—anonymous. He pulls out his wallet and slaps his money down on the table. She’s digging through her purse deliberately while he takes his leather jacket from the back of his chair and puts it on. She’s giving him time to make his exit before her. The only thing exchanging more words can do now is irreparable damage.

He takes a final swig from his mostly empty beer bottle. He doesn’t know why he’s stalling, but his own heart is screaming not to let it end this way, but what else can be done? They’ve agreed it’s over. He looks at her one last time as she’s rummaging through her purse, knowing that she too is stalling, there’s not enough room in that purse for her to lose anything, especially not a wallet. She feels his gaze fall upon her, and looks up unconsciously. For the briefest of moments, he sees her prisoner heart clearly in those clear, blue eyes. For a single second, he sees the woman he fell in love with, but then she’s gone; swatted back into her prison cell by the woman she’s become, and he feels his heart crack along a fault line. There will always be earthquakes now when he merely thinks her name.

He starts to say something, then once again thinks better of it, turns, and walks toward the door, through the throng of bar patrons. She watches his retreating back, a tsunami of conflicting emotions. She starts to call him back, but then decides the damage is done—let it all be done, her mind insists. As he opens the door she pulls her wallet from her purse and pulls out her change. While she’s looking down at her money, he looks back over his shoulder one last time. In the glow of the bar lights her blonde hair resonates with light, just like it did the first time he met her. He takes that final image of her with him as he leaves.

She looks back at the door just as it closes, and thinks, I am a terrible coward.

The Arsonist

The Arsonist

“Burn it.
Burn it all.”
Says the Arsonist.
“Burn it to the ground,”
He says.
“Burn bridges. Burn it all down.”
“Leave nothing left alive
that can’t breathe smoke,
and writhe inside the flames.”
His announcement goes unnoticed,
but the fire cannot be ignored.
It rages, it writhes;
it inhales oxygen,
and exhales devastation.
Let the cleansing begin,
and burn it all. Burn it down.
Burn it all to the ground.
Leave nothing left alive.
Let fire thrive.

Never Happy

Here are the previous two parts to the series, if you want a refresher: TherapyExpression is Therapy.

 

All around them was the drunken chatter of singles hoping to get laid, and from the jukebox came the latest pop hit, but in their small part of the bar conversation had ceased. She stared into the amber depths of her bourbon as he took sips of his vodka tonic between furtive glances in her direction. Her conscious mind kept count of every time he looked at her, but her unconscious mind couldn’t be bothered with him, and it was in those unconscious waters that she was drowning.

 

“We can take this to my office, if you’d be more comfortable there.” He said trying to open conversation once again. Twenty minutes ago he’d been furious when he’d walked in and found her sitting at the bar in his usual spot, but the look she’d turned to him had silenced that anger in an instant. He’d seen several patients over the years with that haunted look, and it never bode well.

 

She finished her bourbon in one gulp and turned to face him. “Let’s do that,” she said now properly inebriated for conversing. She slipped from her stool and stumbled. He reached for her and grasped her by the elbow but she shook him off and steadied herself. He finished off his vodka tonic with a grimace and then followed her out into the busy night air.

 

Thirty minutes and one eerily quiet cab ride later he was unlocking the frosted glass door to the outer office. He held the door for her and glanced into the corner where he was spied by the round red circular light of the surveillance system. He latched the front door and then made his way past her to unlock the inner office and turned on the lamp beside the couch. There was an overhead fluorescent, but he liked to keep the office feeling homey, and less like a doctor’s office. He took his seat in the plush and overstuffed arm chair as she flopped into her usual spot on the couch and stared at the floor.

 

He considered going to his desk for a writing pad, but his gut told him to keep this one off the books. They sat in tense silence for a moment with him watching her watch the floor. He felt a crazy urge to start laughing. Nothing about this situation he found particularly funny, but all the same he felt the laughter burning in the back of his throat.

 

“I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me,” he said after composing himself.

 

Slowly she turned her gaze to meet his eyes, and he felt himself locked into place, as if her gaze commanded attention. “Talking won’t help,” she said as she began to unbutton her blouse.

 

“What are you doing?” He asked simultaneously panic-stricken and aroused.

 

She cast her blouse aside and stood up so she could unzip her skirt. “We both know this is what we want,” she said standing before him in her bra and panties. She yanked on her ponytail and her long, wavy brunette hair came tumbling free, brushing against the soft skin of her shoulders.

 

He sat dumbstruck as she crossed the distance between them and climbed into his lap and took his face in her palms. She kissed him once, closed mouth, and then he found himself responding despite the accusations his brain was screaming at him from his subconscious. After a while that voice disappeared entirely.

 

Afterwards they lie on the floor, arms and legs entangled. She was beginning to doze off with her head resting on his chest when he spoke.

 

“I’ll have to erase the tape,” he said anxiety filling his voice now that the blood had returned to his brain, and the acrimonious voice of reason had begun shouting in the center of his head once again. She responded with a low sound like a throaty hum and nestled closer to his warmth. They had nothing to cover them but the clothes they came in so body heat would have to do.

 

“Are you happy now?” He asked bitterly. “You’ve compromised me.”

 

She turned her head up to face him, and those eyes caught him like a bug in amber. She smiled softly. “I’ll never be happy,” she mumbled and then kissed him.

Expression is Therapy

He was in the middle of a session when his secretary lightly knocked upon the door and poked her head in. He and his patient, a plump, brunette woman in her late forties, turned to look at her. The woman on the couch was wiping away silent tears. His secretary turned a light shade of tomato.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but we have a problem out here,” his secretary began, and then the door was being pushed open and she came barging in, the only patient who ever challenged everything he believed as a therapist.

“I need to talk to you,” she said authoritatively, then glanced at his patient on the couch. “Sorry to interrupt,” she said. Her tone said she wasn’t really sorry at all. His blood was up, but not just because he was frustrated. However, he sounded calm, cool, and collected when he spoke.

“Then go back out to the lobby and make an appointment with Martha,” he said.

“No,” she challenged, her eyes dancing. “I need to talk to you now.”

“I’m in the middle of an appointment, it’s going to have to wait,” he said.

She sat down beside the plump woman on the couch and said, “I can wait.”

A serious of conflicting emotions ran through him at the same time: frustration, appall, humor. He fought to keep his features composed. “Please, go wait in the lobby. I’ll be with you shortly.”

“But you have other patients to see—“ his assistant began, but quit when he silenced her with a quick, dark look.

“Yes, right this way,” Martha said grabbing her by her elbow, and ushering her into the lobby. She let herself be led, but she gave him an unreadable look as she walked sideways out the door.

Fifteen minutes later she was back in his office and sitting across from him on his couch. Now that she had his attention she didn’t quite know how to begin. Funny how what seems so urgent can get clogged up in the throat when it really needs to come out.

“So what is so important that you had to talk to me right now, today, and couldn’t make an appointment with my assistant?” he asked twiddling with his pen.

She looked at him and smiled. It was a broken, humorless grin. Any hope he’d had at the initial sight of her vanished.

“Well, after our last session I knew I didn’t need therapy, but I needed to come tell you why,” she said.

He put his pen down in anger and laced his fingers together in his lap, to keep from doing anything rash with them, she supposed.

“And why don’t you need therapy? Since I have other paying patients waiting on their own appointments because of you,” he said icily.

“That’s not my fault,” she said, eyes widening in defense, “you could have refused to see me.”

“You barged through my fucking door!” He said angrily, leaning forward, before he was even aware of what he was going to say. After the words were out he was certain his secretary and waiting patients had probably heard him. His face flushed with color. God, she was aggravating.

She was smiling at his outburst, and leaning forward. “I like you when you’re angry,” she said with a chuckle.

“Get out!” he said pointing to the door. “Get out and don’t come back.”

She laughed, “You can’t send me away, because I’m leaving on my own, after I tell you why I don’t need therapy.”

He looked at her stunned. He’d never faced someone so baldly, blatantly difficult before. It was crazy, insane, but he found it attractive. A terrible thought to be having about a patient, or former patient, or whatever she was to him.

“Then tell me why you don’t need therapy so you can leave,” he said resigned, sitting back in his chair, and taking up his pen again.

She looked at him, chin lifted, as if she had some amazing revelation to share, and said: “I don’t need therapy because expression is therapy.”

Silence lengthened between them for a moment.

“That’s it?” he asked in disbelief. “That’s why you came all the way out here? You could have e-mailed that to me!” he said finding anger and latching onto it again. It was an easy crutch to keep within reaching distance, once you got the habit.

“That’s profound!” she said angrily, rising from her seat. She looked down at him like a petulant child, and did that pouty look turn him on? Of course it did. He had to cross his legs to keep that fact from becoming apparent.

Her eyes darted to his crotch and his crossed legs. Both of them pretended they hadn’t noticed. “Fine. I’m leaving, and never coming back,” she said childishly, and turned and walked from his office, slamming the door behind her as she went. He heaved a sigh of relief after she left, but was there also disappointment there? Of course there was.

After a moment Martha poked her head in. “Are you ready to see Ms. Smithson now?”

He smiled wanly, “Yes, send her in.”

Credit where credit is due: my thanks to ohellino for the line “expression is therapy.”

Therapy

Therapy

They sat in the office listening to the clock tick away the hour. She sat on the plush couch by the door, gently tapping her foot and fidgeting with her hands. He sat across from her with his right leg crossed over his left at the knee, casually leaning back into the armchair he sat in. He studied her over the tops of his eyeglasses. Her eyes were downcast so she could stare at the floor. There wasn’t a speck of dust or dirt, and she found this fascinating, but maybe that was only because she was supposed to be talking.

“We can spend the hour in silence, but the only way therapy helps is if you’re willing to talk,” he said.

She looked up at him slowly, her jaw tense against whatever she really wanted to say. He noticed this, noted it on the pad in his lap, but waited patiently. They looked at one another for a tense, silent moment—he knew she was weighing his words against everything life had taught her, especially about the usefulness of therapy. She looked back down at the floor and her feet before speaking.

“I don’t know where to begin,” she said.

“How about answering the question I asked you,” he said, pencil poised and ready to take notes. He was hopeful.

She glanced at him again, “that’s the problem; I don’t know where to begin with the question you asked.”

“It’s a simple question,” he said.

She shook her head as she looked back at the floor. “No, it isn’t.”

“I asked you to tell me about yourself,” he said, a little exasperated. He didn’t want to be, and he hated that he heard it in his voice, but he couldn’t help himself. Unlike his other patients she frustrated him. That was new.

She laughed, it was cynical and jaded, there was no real humor in it. “It should be simple, yes,” she said, and he could see her building steam. Maybe this wouldn’t be exactly what she needed, but it would be a start. “but it’s not simple; it’s never simple. Do you have any idea how many people, after twenty-five years, have asked me that question? That’s the basis of every first date; ‘tell me who you are’, and do you have any idea how difficult that is? I should know myself better than anyone else, but I’m the one who struggles with introducing myself. I can’t write an “about me” section on a dating or social website without agonizing over it first, and usually I settle for something basic: ‘I’m 5’3”, brunette, and I enjoy writing’ or something along those lines. And that only covers a few aspects of who I really am, but that’s the trouble isn’t it? That we can never succinctly describe ourselves, and we try so hard…” she said trailing off.

After a moment of silence where he studied her studying the floor, he said: “What do you think makes it so difficult?”

She pulled herself from her reverie and looked at him incredulously. A sad, humorless smile cracked her lips. “The most important things are the hardest to say…for want of an understanding ear,” she said, “I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of what he said.”

“What who said?” he asked.

“Stephen King,” she said.

“You’re a writer, so of course you read a lot,” he said, “how do you think that affects you?” he asked.

Her face broke into another humorless grin. She was keeping eye contact with him now. “How should I know? You’re the therapist. You tell me,” she said.

He faltered at that. It wasn’t the first time a patient had been difficult, or turned on him. That was par for the course, but he found it difficult to find his usual response under her gaze.

“It’s only your first session, part of therapy is first getting to know one another, and learning that we can trust one another,” he said.

She barked laughter to the ceiling at that; it was as cynical and jaded and humorless as her smile. “I’ll never trust you,” she said.

Her laughter and her dead-pan response angered him. How was she getting such a rise from him when other patients couldn’t? “Then therapy will never work for you,” he heard himself say before he was even aware he meant to say it.

She smiled her humorless grin again. “That’s all I needed to hear, doc,” she said as she rose to leave.

“I didn’t mean that,” he said rising in response, absently casting aside his notepad (there weren’t many notes on it, she absorbed his attention and made him forget to write anything down), and reaching for her.

Her grin attached to her face like a lioness attaches to a gazelle that’s going to be dinner. “No, you did. It’s the first honest word you’ve spoken since I walked through that door, shook your hand, and you told me your name,” she said and walked out the door.

He stayed where he was listening to her discuss payment with his secretary. His knees felt weak, but also locked in place. He felt dizzy. It was odd. He couldn’t move until he heard the front door close behind her. Slowly, like a man waking from a dream, he went out into the lobby. His receptionist turned to him, expecting him to speak. When he didn’t she returned to her computer. He stood in the doorway of his office and stared at the glass front door through which she’d left.

“Did she set up another appointment?” he asked after a moment of silence.

His assistant turned to him, “No, she didn’t. She left early, as well. Is everything okay?”

“Fine,” he said automatically, and turned back to his office and shut the door.

 Author’s Note: Maybe I need to write about not writing in order to write. Hmm.