Watch her stroke the arm of your red leather couch. Let her talk. Just nod and stretch your lips and scribble on your pad. Make a to-do list. Think about what you'll do when the minute hand moves to ten. You'll wait for her to get off the couch Jerry gave you as an office-warming gift seven years ago. You'll escort her to the door. You'll shut out her wagging hips and write the shortest case note in the history of your practice. There'll still be light when you walk home. You'll clean the refrigerator, wash a load of whites and sanitize the kitchen sink. You'll cook a chicken buriyani, mild, the way Jerry likes it, and cover the dish with the tea cozy you bought for him in San Francisco.

Watch her big red lips and listen to the words spilling from her mouth. You need to interpret them carefully. Watch her crossing her legs on Jerry's leather couch, and remember the expensive education that prepared you for this lucrative practice. Don't flinch at the name of her man. There are many Jerrys in Palo Alto, and no doubt, several of them are artists and married. Your Jerry likes wasabi seaweed and novels about the zombie apocalypse. And your Jerry doesn't have a nickname. He would never call himself JJ.

Remember how you'd hold his hand over a cold wine glass and ask how his day at the studio went, whose portrait he painted that day. You'd remind him it was worth the time and money you put into your training to be able to support his artistic work the way he deserves. You'd tell him that you had another session with your newest client, and that she has been in love for months—that would be all you could say because you would, of course, respect her confidentiality. But then you remember that there will be no one to hear you. You can talk aloud about your client's problems, even mention her name. Jerry's painted ladies will watch you from the walls, but there will be no need for secrecy.

Let the client talk about how much she enjoys the bath salts in JJ's studio, the drives in JJ's Camaro to Half Moon Bay, the take-out orange chicken from Ho King. When she describes her mornings and the tea she drinks with JJ, stifle the thoughts of the chai tea you bought for Jerry from the Teavana store on Market Street. Observe the way she twists locks of her red hair in her fingers, the way she rubs her forehead, the way she jiggles her legs, the way her eyebrows twitch. You cannot help her with her fear of losing her man. She needs more help than you can give.

Listen to her describe JJ's studio on Embarcadero. Watch the way her bell sleeves fall back when she shows you how big the bay windows are. Watch her toss her red hair back when she tells you the studio's curtains are striped like the trunks of bamboo trees. Don't think about the saris you used to make curtains for Jerry's studio windows.

Take the tissue box from your client's hands, with their French-tipped nails and silver rings. Turn away when you wipe the moisture from your eyes.

When she leaves, silence the phones and lock the door. Give up on keeping your crying quiet. Let go and sob. Don't go home to your empty living room. Turn out the lights and curl up on Jerry's red leather couch until you fall asleep.


Title graphic: "And What Do You Think Makes You Feel That Way?" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2012.