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She wasn’t taking me seriously. Forget that I have a doctorate in mumbo jumbo, forget that I was trying to look out for her best interest.

“I looked back to when she moved in next door. The minute you two met she started putting those little white boxes around her pictures like you do.”

“You’re snooping on her Instagram? That’s not creepy at all.”

“I’m looking out for you,” I countered. “You trust too easily.” This was going downhill fast. Jolene could make sane logic sound crazy with her gift of words.

“Okay, so she followed me and liked my style.” She was rolling away now, my neck forgotten.

“You post your workout sneakers, a day later she posts her workout sneakers. You eat at a restaurant, a day later she eats there.”

“I just want to go to sleep,” she said, reaching to turn off the lamp on the nightstand. “Let’s not call Fig a stalker just yet. You just met her.”

“Stalker,” I whispered. “Stalker … stalker … stalker…”

I tapped my Bic on the yellow notepad I held and stifled a yawn. It was Monday, and Susan Noring was the patient of the hour, or as I liked to call her, Susan Boring. Mid-thirties, dishwater blonde hair, thin villainous lips; she didn’t even provide anything fun to look at while she droned on in her flat monotone. She was wearing her brown loafers. With Susan there were only two shoe options: brown loafers, or the white Keds, and the worst thing about the Keds was that they didn’t have any marks on them. Perfectly white, even their soles were spotless. That was the essence of Susan Noring the boring. She didn’t go anywhere, or do anything, or make a single decision that could potentially add color to her fucking Keds. She came to see me once a week, lingering in the reception area long after our session was over, drinking the same cup of coffee she walked in with. I wondered if there was something other than coffee in there, but I’d never smelled liquor on her breath. My receptionist thought she was nosy about my other patients, but I think coming to therapy was the highlight of her week.

It was my turn to talk. “Why do you think you feel that way?”

The question that beat all other questions. It had the potential to keep them talking for ten minutes, eating the rest of the hour. Two more clients after this and I was cruising toward the weekend.

“I feel judged—whatever I do, however I do it,” she said. She was wringing her hands, something she did every time the subject of judgment came up. I had doubts about the validity of her stories, after all, there was nothing for Susan’s peers to cast judgment on. Interesting people nicked open the veins of judgment; people like Susan hardly went against the grain. But it wasn’t my job to doubt her, just to listen and prompt.

“What do you feel judged in regard to?” I asked.

Susan wrung her hands and gazed at me with large watery eyes. Her eyes always looked startled, they reminded me a bit of Fig’s. Susan wasn’t as clever as our new neighbor, it just showed that a little imagination could go a long way.

“I feel as if I’m never enough. It’s the way they look at me, the things they say.”

“Is it possible that you are projecting your own insecurities?”

We’d had this discussion before. She’d even admitted to it and managed to change perspective for a while, but the healthy didn’t need a physician, did they? And it was harder to root out personality disorders than it was to catch Santa Claus coming down the chimney.

“It’s true,” Susan said, looking dejected. “I never feel like I’m enough.”

“Who do you need to be enough for?” I asked, crossing and re-crossing my legs. I refrained from too much movement during a session. It distracted the clients and set them on edge. Psychologists were supposed to have a calming nature, but in general, it was hard for me to sit still.

“Myself,” she said.

“That’s right.”

I looked at my watch and smiled like I was sorry our time was up. My watch didn’t have a battery; it was a prop—a good one. Susan looked like she was sorry, too. She took her sweet ass time standing up, searching her bag for her car keys, and walking over to the door. I wondered how many times she’d touched herself while thinking of me, her long pale fingers pushing inside her boring vagina. All I would have to do was offer and she’d spread open for me like a flower. Maybe it would even mark up her Keds a little. I’d be doing her a favor.

“Here’s my personal number,” I said, jotting it down on a corner of my notepad. “You can text me anytime you feel as if things are getting too much.” I jerked my head up like I was suddenly concerned. “Is that okay? I don’t want to presume-”

“No, no, no,” she said quickly, not taking her eyes from the four scribbled numbers on the notepad. “That would be great.” She was worried I wouldn’t finish, worried I’d change my mind.

I finished jotting down my cell number and tore off the corner, handing it to her. Her fingers were greedy little pigs as she took the paper from me and stuffed it into her front pocket. She wouldn’t lose it, she wouldn’t accidentally wash her jeans with the number crumpled inside. She’d walk to her car, her heart racing, and take out the paper, fingering it with excitement. Then she’d program the number into her phone, planning out her first text. It would say something like: thank you so much for trusting me with your number. Shooting you a text so you have mine. She’d erase it and type it three times over, rewording and agonizing about how to sound nonchalant and casual. How to send something that would get a response from me. Then after I fucked her, she’d feel interesting and would care less about the moms at her son’s T-ball games judging her. She would be a woman with a secret, and they liked that—to have secrets and feel mysterious. I liked that, too. I saw Susan out and spotted Lesley in the waiting room looking ruffled and tired. Lesley was fun. She had great fucking legs and big juicy tits that I’d often imagined my mouth on. I was just about to call her in when I got a text. It was Fig.

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