Chapter 1: Matthew 5:28
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
“Do you ever think about how cliche all of this is?” she had asked. “I mean, really, does anyone actually lie down on this couch anymore?”
“Well, you are now, and yes, some still do; it’s entirely up to the client.” He straightened his tie and re-positioned the horn-rimmed glasses, eyebrows disappearing, raised index finger accenting his words.
She re-positioned herself so that she sat upright, facing him, the leather of the nail-head couch protesting her movement, her gray sweatsuit yielding to the curves of her body before resettling and hiding her. She began a sardonic laugh as she pointed at the picture behind him.
“Are you kidding me?” The Titanic, really? The fucking Titanic? You’ve got a picture of a disaster as the centerpiece in your office. What is that, a metaphor for your esteemed clientele?”
“You’re just seeing that now? Is that how you see yourself, a disaster?” He stood up and made the short walk to his desk where he lay down his clipboard. A family picture, a rolling calendar, and an empty vase competed for attention, and he absently fiddled with these items, elevating, inspecting, and repositioning them precisely where they had been. These were rooted, familiar, unchanging, a still life steeped in responsibility, no roses to stop and smell.
Her eyes followed him as he walked back to his chair, a tall, slender man, who if his age were to be guessed, might find estimates separated by a decade or more in either direction. She looked at him curiously.
“So how old are you anyway?”
“Two boys, ten and eight, but I thought I’m supposed to be asking the questions.”
Her eyes moved over him as though they were studying a menu. His hair might have been black, maybe a dark brown, parted to the side, short. All was banal, all conventional, like his blue pin-striped jacket laid over the desk’s chair, folded and evenly draped.
“You know a lot about me, why I’m here, just thought I could find out a little more about you if we’re really going to talk, I mean really going to talk.” She emphasized the last ‘really’ and fixed her eyes upon his until his turned away.
“You sound like you’re ready to open up a little.” He fiddled with his watch, repositioning the steel band so that the watch would rest on the top portion of his wrist. “What is it that you want from these sessions?”
“Honesty,” she blurted out immediately. “If this is going to work for me, I want to cut through the bullshit so that you’re not a complete stranger.” Her eyes began to well, and she dabbed at their corners, then absently clenched her fists, the right one visibly shaking.
“And what is your vision of making this happen?” He looked at her fists.
She exhaled, fists unfurling and blossoming into elegant hands. She looked away from him, finding the family picture before returning with a gaze. “How happy are you? Your kids, are they pains in the ass? Do you ever resent them? Your wife, does she still have a body you can stand to look at? What’s your definition of family, of being a family man?”
He looked toward the sterile popcorn ceiling momentarily and wondered what imperfections laid underneath. He thought of the boys and cub scouts, and baseball, and homework, and the stress of life, and gravity and his wife’s body. He had lost track of the relationship between himself and time, himself and her.
“You’re not answering me because you don’t like the answers. Isn’t that right?” She began tapping the heel of her right foot into the carpeting. There was an upturn at the corners of her mouth, not unlike those drawn with clown’s make-up.
“It may be a little too personal and not in-keeping with the doctor/client relationship, to be frank.” A bead of sweat detached itself, sped down his back, and crashed into his waistband.
“So, I tell you everything about me, and you get to keep your life secret. Is that how it works? Is that a relationship? How is that supposed to help me?” She folded her arms, crossed her legs, right foot jiggling.
“What would you like to know about me?” He crossed his legs folded his arms, and watched her foot.
“I want a simple yes or no for a few questions.” Now, she looked through him, still sitting cross-legged, and rattled them off in succession. “Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be with a twenty-year-old girl just one more time, run your hands over her body, smell her skin? What it would be like to go down on her, taste her? When I leave this office, do you fantasize about me? Do you imagine fucking me?”
He felt his face flushing and the beginnings of a stirring that he hoped his crossed legs would quell, and he stared at the family picture as it competed against the imagery she had offered.
She occupied several empty moments by taking in the crimson of his cheeks and smirking. She unfolded herself from the couch and began tying the laces on her sneakers.
He watched her through shimmering waves of shame undulating from his spine to all points north and south on his body. She still did bunny loops; she still tucked her hair behind her ears to keep it out of the way; she looked ready to jump rope or play hopscotch. He desperately wanted to help the little girl but knew he had to ignore the woman.
“Please!” he said loudly, then caught himself. “Please stay.” This came on a whisper. He stared at the outline of her behind as she reached for the doorknob, remembered to breathe again as she turned around and walked back.
The antique couch was an ill-fit for the room, a cavernous space with tiered seating for about sixty desks, all of which were occupied by male and female art students, most of whom were freshman. The hum in the room was one of nervous anticipation as they awaited her arrival. The heavy door opened, a creak turning attention, and she entered wordlessly, nodding toward the professor, a diminutive man that was dwarfed by her passage. Her long hair rested on the shoulders of her robe but settled along her back when she untied the belt, the terrycloth traversing her shoulders, pausing along her bottom, and dropping to the floor. God had entered with her to unveil his creation, and there was a collective gasp which gathered all the oxygen and defined the ensuing silence as she stood before them naked. She turned with grace and settled her body onto the couch, melding it into her curves, resting her head on her hand and affording them the sideways view of her long and graceful body. She turned toward them, and pens became paralyzed at their starting lines, cameras waited focusing, and paintbrushes remained dry.