We sat at opposite ends of the couch, the numbness between us thick as pudding. Across from us, the counselor sat in a chair in the small basement room, waiting patiently as we gauged our surroundings. One window in the room provided enough light to warm bamboo in a pot, but it was not generous enough to offer a view. The books on the shelves sat just above a little fan oscillating toward me and then toward him, as if undecided, judiciously allocating portions of cool air in fair and balanced proportions. We were both trying to look normal enough, though Jake already showed signs of cracking, his eyes reddened, his breath held and then released in an unnatural rhythm.
Sayid was soft spoken and gentle, searching our faces to see if we could make and sustain eye contact, waiting to see who might speak and what might be said. I could feel his silent assessment, see him processing us. How bad was it? Did we look like two people about to break apart? Did we look like we could be saved? It was hard to tell. His eyes were open and clear, reflecting my gaze, absorbing my silent questions without judgment.
Jake spoke first, rolling out the thin crust of his anger. He had waited for this turn, the opportunity to say it all out loud. He threw out words like divorce and custody and leaving, and I flinched but didn’t interrupt. I watched Sayid observing, understanding, letting him get it out into something wide and surveyable. When he finished, Sayid nodded.
When it was my turn, I didn’t deny Jake’s accusations. Instead, I reached deep for the words that would explain, and it felt good to give confusion a forum, to lay it out in front of him. It felt right to accept the blame, to give in to the questions. I hoped Sayid would translate my words into something calmer and more rational, something bigger and more important, something reassuring and reasonable. I wanted Jake to see us honestly. I desperately wanted him to accept that we might be holding each other back.
What worried me in that first meeting was that deep down, I sensed a truth, quiet and unwelcome, waiting to be acknowledged, stirring. Something inside me, opening like an album, sticky with childhood fears. I didn’t want to explore it here, in this room, with Jake. In this room, I wanted to be strong, focused. Tears would not fall, and I would not break down.
I watched Sayid watch me until I could no longer meet his gaze.
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