Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
The woman’s lips locked as soon as she sat down on the couch. Clearly someone has lost the key. But as I read him I wondered, “Has he done anything to find it?” He sat rigidly next to her. Though “next to” gives him too much credit. The sleeves rubbed ever so gently. It reminded me of my morning bus ride to work, when the unkempt passenger boarded and my prayers went unanswered as he sat his filth down on my right.
Is this a reflection of their entire marriage or just a current mêlée? Their posture matched the picture their daughter had sent ahead when she referred them. Oddly enough, they wore the same clothes from the picture. I caught a whiff of manure mixed with hay that stuck to his left boot. I imagined it only a sliver compared to what probably stuck to the cab of their Ford.
“So, what would you both like to talk about this afternoon?” I asked.
I waited on one of them to speak, to offer some sign of life. His gaze-a cross between a puppy and a mute POW-burned into me like a laser. Her eyes remained averted. Without them to look at, I glanced down toward her shoulders. How could he could breathe in the collar that hugged her neck? I struggled to find some ounce of desire in either of them. Had her heart been neglected for so long that she’d forgotten? I guessed both fed off repressed anger and loads of fear. But of what? I needed a story. Who would break the ice?
The silence continued. I could hear the second hand on my clock ticking their money away. Well, their daughter’s money actually. Only forty-five minutes remained in their session when my mind began to wander. Perhaps she’d coaxed them to come. My gut told me bribery of some kind. Not money, but perhaps a free cow milking.
With thirty minutes to go, I resolved to play guessing games with myself: How many cows did they own? How many horses? How many lonely grand kids? Finally I decided to speak the truth, hoping to stir things up, “Well, this sure is awkward.”