The Story Expanded [for my one reader, T.J.}
She leaned forward in the leather chair, her preferred seat, facing the man in 3/4ths profile, as if looking in the distance for something, someone, perhaps just escaping his questioning gaze.
“I don’t know why. It’s just every time I close my eyes, no matter how tired I am, I feel his closeness, smothering…like his presence fouls the air.”
The woman turned to face the man directly, wrenching her hands, then dropping them to her lap. They were soft, delicate, a very light tan, fingers pink ended, now grasping at the hem of her skirt, as if to gauge her worth by its warp.
Sitting in the swivel chair, the man uncrossed his legs to lean towards her, a gesture of concern. He didn’t speak but looked intently at the woman, waiting for her to gather her thoughts. Like a priest behind his screen, sitting in the dark, open to all, accepting of pettiness and depravity, the man seemed capable of weathering time.
“I feel his lips at my throat, then a sharp pain, as if I was getting a needle. I fall into a dream where I’ve become a river, rushing downhill, gorged by winter meltoff, widening my banks, opening myself up. A wolf comes to my side where he may drink and stares at himself in my reflection of him. He drinks of me, then howls, turning his muzzle to the rising moon.”
The woman is flushed, lips and hands shaking and quivering, She beseeches a reply from the man, who remains concerned but impassive.
“Is there more?” he asks, never moving.
“Just the ending. The same as all the others. I wake up in my room to see a shadow leaving through the window. I can hear a dog howling and I feel the puncture wounds in my neck. And the blood on the pillow.”
The man leaned back in his chair, as if to relieve the atmosphere of its tension, his hands folded in his lap, willing a deep breath from her. He closed his eyes on the room, breathing rhythmically, waiting patiently as he must always wait, absorbing her nervousness, feeding on it. “When you close your eyes and perceive that scene, what comes to view?” The man knew from many hours spent with her that the woman was a visual person; her thoughts presented themselves almost as videos, as if on a movie screen, the better to negate their emotional charge. “I don’t know…I see a room, this room. A safe place, like a sacristy, back and forth, this room, a church, …a man. That’s all I see, Doctor. Everything fades away….it’s darkness.”
Looking within himself, the man recognized feelings of boredom, could feel himself stealing away, abandoning his charge. He suppressed a smile as he mused on boredom’s importance in his work. It was one of the signposts he depended on, as a migratory bird can sense from his relative position to the celestial constellations that he remains on track. As always, he tried to estimate how much longer it would take for her to recognize the truth within her, to allow herself the terrible knowledge that she is human, that her dark hidden secrets are not hers alone, but part of the burden God has placed with us.
“Does that place bring anything to mind?”
The woman’s eyes seemed feral, over alert, as if guarding her children, swiveling to the room’s dark corners, daring her fears to present themselves. “When I was a child, I always felt especially safe in church. I’m still moved by the scent of incense and candles burning, but I no longer feel comfortable especially, I just enjoy the atmosphere, the incense furling around me, the candlelight flickering…..I always felt I looked my best in candlelight…or moonlight.” She leaned forward, uncrossing her legs, presenting herself. “Do you think women are more alluring in candlelight, Doctor?”