You don’t need textbooks and degrees to see she’s fucked. It’s all over her face. Burnt into it. She sits opposite you, legs open, sliding down in her chair.
Does she want to talk about her feelings? What does she want to talk about? How does the weather make her feel?
The words come out of her like boxers blood, spitting and gritted. You cross and uncross yourself, let the book fall beside you like it doesn’t matter. She’s talking, you think. It’s good she’s talking. That’s progress. Your smile must give you away because she stops, clams her mouth up like a dogs arse. One of your bollocks starts to itch, and you squeeze your legs together to try and catch it.
What about you?
She asks, folding her arms over her belly.
Why don’t you tell me about your wife?
You smile, spread your hands out.
I don’t think that’s relevant,
You hear yourself say.
We’re here to talk about you.
You hate Summer. That feeling of sweat pooling in your lower back, smell of other people. The itch gets stronger and you wonder what her mouth would do if you scratched it on the corner of your desk, like a dog. A fly lands on your hand. You flick it off. It lands on your head. You shake it off. It migrates to the other end of the room, moving in slow, boxy squares. Round and round and round, it’s drilling hum lapping into the extractor fan, the hum of silence that isn’t quite. You scratch your nose.
My wife is…..small
You open, bringing her in.
She likes bread. Making cakes. Dogs.
She makes a noise down her throat, lets her hair fall down the back of the chair. The movement sends out waves of something you can’t identify, something spiced and warm, but not sickly. Some sort of perfume.
You pick your book up, stretch it across your lap. Itch your bollock. Her mouth doesn’t move but her eyes are on you, so strong that they squeeze the water out of you. Your breath feels stuck, blocked down in your windpipe like a piece of food that won’t budge.
You say, coughing it up.
Time. Time’s up.
Nothing in her moves. You feel wedged in, like when you used to climb into the airing cupboard and read books with the heat.
Is that really your voice out there? So pitchy and panicked? You want to scoop it out of the air and put it back in, but you can’t. You stand too quick, and hold yourself against the sick coming up from your belly. The room smells like a burp.
She stands up too, kicks her chair back. Swings her bag over her shoulder and smiles.
See you next week.
Maybe it’s you that’s fucked.