Iris felt as if she had been sitting in silence for most of her working life. More often than not, her clients remained enmeshed in their own silent Gordian Knots for much of their allotted fifty minute slots too. Whilst she believed in the process, whilst she stressed to the buttoned-up men and women that it was they that needed to ‘do the work’, and if that meant silence with their thoughts, then so be it, more and more these days, she was finding it hard to prevent her own thoughts from ruminating on her own troubles.

Forty seven years old and not a sniff of a relationship for eight years. Was there something wrong with her? Did the men she met every now and again find her too strong, too professional, were they afraid of her chosen career? She sometimes looked in the mirror and saw shades of Lilith from Frasier staring back at her. Same severely drawn-back dark hair, same black suit, same eyes that could wilt a flower at a thousand paces (her ex-husband’s words that had remained, eating away at her since the bitter divorce). Oh, she had continued with her own psychoanalysis as all good mental health professionals should, but after some time she had used her own silent fifty minutes to mentally redecorate her apartment, to compile shopping lists, to think of the ballet she had so enjoyed last night. She wasn’t, it was fair to say, doing the work.

Don, the jailbird, was waiting in the wings. Just as soon as he got out from his stretch inside for a string of tax infringements, he’d be at her door, smiling and expectant. Much as she enjoyed writing to him and visiting him when the penitentiary allowed, she wondered if their relationship was doomed to failure. His idea of her was of a downtrodden divorcee, a poor shadow of a woman who needed a strong, capable man to protect her. He adored her sweet, feminine ways, or at least the ones she portrayed to him in her letters and on her visits. Observing her female clients over the years had given her plenty of material on which to base her alter-ego. She though of herself as a thief, no better than Don really. She stole people from themselves, and was paid handsomely for the privilege.

Iris stepped out of her court shoes, sighing at the relief of stockinged feet flexing on the shag pile carpet. Shaking her hair loose from its tightly knotted bun, she stared at herself in the mirror. She could do faded, timid, eager to please, if it meant having Don’s strong, capable arms holding her close every night, if it meant that she would no longer be on her own. Hell, most of her clients came to her because they were making compromises every single day of the week, and saw her as their safety net, their place to accommodate all that accommodation. If they could do it, so could she. Anything had to be better than sitting at home in silence with only her thoughts for company.

She checked her calendar, counted the days until Don’s release. Twenty seven. Time enough to hang up her psychoanalyst’s metaphorical hat and reinvent herself. Time enough to learn domesticity. She checked the small ads in the local paper and found just what she needed. ‘How to be a Fifties Housewife: Cookery to please your Man’.

She picked up her phone, found who she was looking for and waited to be connected. “Hello Darrell? It’s Iris here. Yes, I need to resume my sessions with you. Tuesdays at 3pm? Perfect. Looking forward to seeing you then. Bye.”

Fifty minutes of constructive silence once a week was hers once more. ‘Worth it for true love,’ thought Iris.

Wasn’t it?


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