The counselors name was Jan Kincaid. She was an overweight woman in her early forties with red frizzy hair and large, square glasses. What made the situation even more unfortunate was the fact that she was wearing a heavy denim dress adorned with a pattern of orange sailboats. Okay, so she was a counselor not a fashion consultant, but still. It was hard to get past her appearance. I had expected someone mousy looking for some reason, though I wasn’t sure why. I was distinctly uncomfortable as I sat down across from her on a leather chair.
She sat poised with pen in hand, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to start or she was supposed to start. What was the protocol? I cleared my throat. She tapped the pen a few times, still silent.
“So I guess you know why I’m here,” I began tentatively. Someone had to say something; it was getting really awkward, even for a psychotherapy session.
“Yes, but I would like to hear you explain it in your own words, anyways,” she said. Her voice was totally incongruent with her appearance: smooth, soft, silky. She spoke like she was five seven and a hundred and ten pounds. I suddenly thought about those sex phone lines and wondered if they were actually manned by a group of equally unattractive ladies with oddly mismatched voices, sitting around smoking cigarettes and eating doughnuts while horny men were scammed out of their paychecks based on the pretense of sensuality.
“ Well, I’ve been thinking about becoming a surrogate for my boss, Cynthia Jacobson,” I answered.
“Tell me more about that,” she prompted.
‘Tell me more’? What else was there to tell?
“Well, I just thought it would be good,” I said. “For both of us,” I added.
“Mmm,” she said, nodding and jotting something down. What was she writing?
“Cynthia’s had so many things go wrong already. I just, you know, thought that this would be something…something important somehow. It would just really be a good thing to do,” I rambled. I knew that I was rambling but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
“Its interesting, Christine, how you speak so objectively. You’re not telling me about how you feel. About what’s in here,” she said, thumping her fist to her chest like Tarzan.
“Right, what’s in here,” I answered with a sharp nod. “Uhm, well I guess I feel, just sort of like…well I’m not really feeling anything right now, actually, but I’m sure that I will. I’ll be happy, I suppose, just to be able to help, assuming that things go according to plan. And I really do need the ‘financial compensation’, which might be a terrible thing to say, but I guess I just look at it like a job. Like I’m getting paid to do a job. Nothing more and nothing less,” I answered. There it was. It seemed cold, even to my own ears, but there was little I could do about it. Those were my true feelings on the subject. If she had been shocked by my words she didn’t show it.
“Do you have a support system?” She asked instead, abruptly changing the subject. She was regarding me with a look of intense curiosity.
“A support system?”
“Yes, friends, family, that sort of thing?”
“Yeah, of course I have friends. And family. Lots of family. Lots of friends and family,” I replied enthusiastically.
“And have you discussed any of this with them?”
“No, not yet,” I replied.
“What’s holding you back?”
“Nothing. It’s just that nothing is really for sure yet. I might as well wait until things are more, you know, finalized.”
She raised her eyebrows, giving a knowing glance and then tapped her pen on the table. “Are you sure that’s it?”
“Well, sure I’m sure. I mean, they’d be cool about it. And even if they weren’t, it’s not exactly their decision is it?” I answered back, feeling defensive for some reason.
“That’s true. How have they reacted in the past to the decisions you’ve made?”
“Oh, they’re usually… just supportive. Very supportive,” I said with a nod. It was true. In a way. Okay, I know that not everyone would consider “What the hell are you thinking? Have you lost your fucking mind” ‘supportive’, but it was just their way. And I know that deep down inside they were supportive of me, but they just didn’t really know how to show it.
“For example?” she asked. Why was she making this so difficult? And what did it really matter in the scheme of things.
“Can we just change the subject,” I asked, really not wanting to get into anything too heavy.
“All right. How about your sex life. How often do you have sex?” she asked, perfectly poised. She posed the question as plainly as one might ask about the weather. But this wasn’t the weather.
It took me a moment to regain my composure. “I don’t see how that could possibly be relevant,” I stammered.
“Everything’s relevant,” she answered, flippantly.
“Well, fine. Easy enough. I don’t have a sex life, satisfied?”
“Are you?” she asked, a smug look on her face.
“Of course I am. My life is very fulfilling. I have wonderful friends. A great family. A challenging job. What more could I possibly ask for?” I argued. I knew I was being defensive, but this lady was getting to me. What right did she have to be prying into my sex life? None whatsoever. Besides, who was she to judge me? What about her sex life? Her apartment probably wasn’t exactly a hotbed of activity, either. I mean, lets face it, there’s not a huge market out there for older, frizzy haired ladies with glasses bigger than their tits. Not to mention the dumpy body. And the attitude.
Perhaps I was being a little harsh. It was possible that there were breasts somewhere under that tent of a dress. It was strange. When she moved it gave the impression that the sailboats were actually adrift on a sea of denim.
“Hm-Hmm,” she said, clearing her throat. Abruptly, I realized I was staring at her chest.
“Sorry, I was just, uh, lost in thought there.”
“Whatever,” she replied tersely, though she looked somewhat flustered. “Let’s talk nutrition. Give a run down of everything you ate yesterday,” she said, again changing the subject abruptly.
“Yesterday. Yest-er-day,” I said while thinking. Visions of coffee, doughnuts, more coffee and a piece of cold pizza washed down with a bottle of wine filled my head. “Yesterday…” I said, stalling now. “Bran flakes in the morning. With skim milk, of course. Lentil soup for lunch with a spinach salad. And for supper… what was it now? Oh, yes, broiled chicken with asparagus, I believe. Yes. I believe that’s it.”
“Pretty impressive,” she answered. “Of course I don’t believe a word of it.”
Outrageous! She was accusing me of lying! Of course, I was lying, but that was beside the point.
“Are you accusing me of lying?” I asked, incensed.
“Should I be?” she responded. She was impossible. How she could get off calling herself a counselor was beyond me. Where did she receive her training- at the CIA school of interrogation?
“Of course you shouldn’t be. I happen to love lentils and spinach.” Another white lie. Truthfully, I probably would not be able to pick out a lentil in the supermarket if my life depended on it.
“Really? And I suppose that’s how you maintain your what…size ten figure? By eating so healthy?”
Was she calling me fat?
“I happen to be a size eight,” I retorted. Another lie. I was a size eight. Before dear fiancé deserted me and left me with nothing but Hagen Daaz and Tostitos to keep me company at night.
“Sorry, my mistake,” she allowed with a slight grimace. “How do you feel about your body?”
“Well, naturally I would like to shed a few pounds. Don’t we all?”
“Some of us accept our bodies, imperfect though they may be.”
And some of us are then delusional, I thought warily.
I only nodded, growing tired of her games. Screw it. I was wanting to do Cynthia a favor, God only knows why, but if she was going to make me jump through hoops for it, then just screw it. I can just as easily go back to my tomato soup and ichiban noodles.
“You say you look at this as a job, nothing less and nothing more?” she asked.
“Pretty much,” I replied, crossing my legs and folding my arms across my chest. Hadn’t I already said that?
“Do you really think that’s a realistic approach? At some point, won’t there be feelings involved? You may be underestimating the bond that a woman feels for the baby she carries,” she said, all nice and motherly again.
“But it’s not my baby to begin with. I won’t bond with it,” I answered with conviction. I could hardly see myself bonding with anything that had Cynthias’ blood running through its veins.
“All right,” she said, writing again. When she looked up she informed me that the session was over. Sweeter words had never been spoken.
“All right, well, thank you for your time Dr. Kincaid,” I said, getting up.
“Oh, no, I’m not a doctor,” she admitted.
That actually explained a lot.
“I was under the impression you were a psychologist,” I probed, perplexed.
“No. Sorry for the confusion. I’m Cynthia’s sister. She just wanted my opinion of you.”