The Trouble with Telling
By Jennifer Duval
The therapist had a nasty and rather pronounced eye twitch. She noticed this right away but let her eyes mingle more on the left corner of his mouth as they began the session. Adaptable and adept at conversation. She found herself passing smiles and flirtations blinking while waiting to get to the matter. He was late forties with some tell tale signs of heavy drinking and an ex- perhaps sometime smoker. Small purple veins marbled across his nose and his eyes were slightly bloodshot. He seemed to be in the process of over the counter tooth whitening. A deep brown outlined every bottom tooth. He motioned toward a candy dish offering her some broken cornucopia of sugar. She declined with a small gesture of eyes closed and shake of her head.
"So I see here you've been on Cyntab for...three years?" He looks at her then. Left eye twitching.
"Yes. I've only recently started taking 2 milligrams. A day. Before that only one." Smile.
"Any side effects with this Mrs. Raines?," eyebrow arched slightly his pen clicked into action.
"It's Ms., I'm divorced. No...no side effects..."
She lifts both eyebrows. Innocently. Almost inquisitively and makes a small frowning smile. He closes her file and places it delicately on his expanse of desk. His penis, she thinks, this oversized ridiculously smooth surface, an extension of nether regions. She knew he rode this desk like some men and their big trucks. Expansive hoods. Boats. Cigars.
It hasn't always been this easy. She thinks. She always had a knack for what her great aunt Hazel called "knowing." Just small things. Cheap cologne on a salesman. The bedraggled look of a woman with a disabled child. She once met a stranger in a bar downtown, and after three beers knew that he was here to work the season with his cousin. Came from Alabama. He thought it must've been some sort of joke and cautiously paid for her beer before moving away from the bar.
The therapists fingernails were short but not from nail trimmers or an emery board. He honed those down carefully, bit by bit, with his teeth. Trying not to smoke.
"...and you were raised by your single mother?"
Interested now. Feigning interest . Same story, different medicated woman small indefinite details to await.
Keep asking, she thinks. She needs time to study his choice in clothing. Khakis. Cheap but neatly pressed. That and a wedding ring. Wifey doesn't work. She doesn't like to iron but feels useless sending his cheap things to the cleaners while she watches Oprah and plans the outrageously detailed ingredients for the cocktails at the next book club meeting. Last week it was very expensive lime infused Vodka with kumquats and raspberries. Laura had gone to Russia three months prior with some of the ladies and hasn't crawled out of the bottle since.
Shoes. Big one. Once she broke it off with what was shaping up to be a perfect male for her because of his taste in shoes.
He was bright, funny and terribly easy on the eyes. Then one afternoon when they had planned a leisurely drive down the coast and lunch on the waterfront, he had shown up wearing these terribly out of fashion dirty Nikes. The old ones. She spent the day embarrassed and ashamed at her embarrassment and couldn't decide which was worse. He called her for two weeks, even showed up at the bank, but it was regrettably over already for her.
Now this one- Plain. Flat soled black dress shoes. Not too pointy. Certainly too dressy with the khakis. She is quickly diverted back the twitcher. She finds that she is already answering a question with the normal "I'm OK, you're O.K." lilt in her voice.
"So then after Raphael, I left D.C. and decided to come home."
Raised eyebrows. Waiting.
"This is home for you?? Does your family live here?"
Small smile. Not trying to be too intrusive. Too bold.
His wife didn't want children. Something about their lifestyle wouldn't be good for a child. His regret was cloying. Tell me why I'm right in choosing not to do this to my own...He is begging her for this.
"My mother lives in Trapton-also an aunt. Uncle. My grandfather lives near the coast in a retirement home..."
She wanders off there. She needs more time. There is some dried flaking skin around the gooseneck flesh of his collar. He shaves with soap. He colors his receding hair with lemon juice and drunken hours on the beach. That twitch...It hasn't stopped in the thirty-six minutes she's been here. It doubles up after every question and gives his face a small contortion that is painful if only momentary.
"Are you close with them?
Again, raised eyebrows. Large expansive desk. The smell of lemon oil and the thick layer of laquer. To preserve. To keep it useful if only to lay files upon.
She had had an abortion after moving back. After the mess. The terribly oppressive summer. The sickness she had first attributed to food poisoning being something as biologically perfect as pregnancy. She saw the child with a pessimistic clarity. The cruel eyes of Raphael. It had been easy.
"I am close to my family. My mother and I speak daily..."
"Your father?" - Interested. Formally now.
"I've never known him."
She lets him digest this tidbit as she readjusts the hem of her skirt modestly just past the knees and reaches for a red candy in his cheap cut glass bowl.
"You should have children Dr. Sumner. Convince her."
She quietly opens the wrapper, small crinkling, deposits it into her mouth It is fifty-five minutes now and she searches out her checkbook.
"Your receptionist told me seventy-five?"
Eyebrows raised, a hamster like bulge of candy in her left cheek.
Wide blood shot eyes. Pleasant. Not twitching at all.