Part III

She was calmly walking up and down the room. Her boots were firmly tied, her jeans fitted tightly, her loose shirt did not reveal much more than a hint of her collar bones. Her hair was held back in a tight ponytail which made her face appear open, clean and somewhat austere. She had carefully chosen her guise this morning. There is a right occasion for everything, a right colour to complement a moment, a right smell to emphasize an action, a right sound to accompany a movement. She had learned to predict her clients’ response towards different types. People are superficial – you need to feed their eyes first and allow them to label you according to their own perceived reality if you want to get through to them. You need to get into their comfort zone, only then can the real work begin. For her previous client she decided to dress completely black, for the one before that she wore a bright red and quite revealing suit with matching stiletto heels, for the one before that a conservative costume with pearl earrings. She personally could not care less. Just another mask. Just a different voice. Just a different set of questions. She has always been convinced that there is no such thing as personality. We do not have a personality, even less are we one. With each person we interact our personality changes. We are different people, all the time, depending on the day, time, weather, location and encounter. She has always thought people take themselves much too seriously. All these self-proclaimed searchers for truth, all these questions “Who am I?”, “What am I?” are irrelevant. One day we are this, the next day we are something else. Does it matter? The Ego is just a concept we hold on to because otherwise we would feel we are dissolving into a million particles and disappear into thin air. I am not. I do not exist. But we. We do. And we are many. We are whoever you are creating us to be. We are just a reflection of your ideas. And since we don’t want to confuse you even more in such restless times, we try to match our outer image with your expectation of us. With whatever you deem appropriate. With whatever you wish to see. With whatever makes you the least uncomfortable.

She went to her desk and took out a framed picture of a man in his late forties. She looked at it for a moment, contemplating, then almost tenderly stroked over the frame and put it back into the drawer. She carefully locked it and put the tiny key into her pocket. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sharp ringing of the phone.

“Yes,” she answered.

“He is on his way.”

“Any disruptions?”

“No disruptions whatsoever. Slightly nervous, but it should be interesting.”

“I’m sure it will be.”

“Call me if you need anything.”

“I will.”

Click. She hung up. They had been working together from the beginning. If there was, after all, something like an Ego, her ego would be extended through her. She was the only one who had no preconceived image of her. She was not reflecting anything. She was like a sponge, absorbing everything that was presented to her, she was part of her, almost like an external extension. She knew her inside out. She knew all of her hers. She could detect the single grain that was innate to all of them. And she made sure that this little grain was protected, sheltered, cared for, so that maybe one day it could grow again. For her, she did not need to dress up, she did not need to put on a mask, she did not need to put on a disguise.

She positioned herself on the armchair behind the desk, crossed her legs, leaned slightly sideward, grabbed for a pen, started flicking. No. No this wasn’t it. Not the right position, not for this occasion, not for this client. She got up, closed her eyes and walked around the room. Where should she stage herself? Sofa. Yes, the sofa maybe. She sat down and leaned back. She looked around the room. There was an armchair across the couch table for her client to sit. No. Too soft. Too low. Too comfortable. Too homely. She looked around again, screening the possibilities. No, this room was not suitable. She’d be facing a man of great vanity today. She needed a setting that allowed her to be eye-to-eye. Not too intimidating, but unkind enough to crack the shell. She heaved herself up from the couch.

At the back of the study, next to the heavy bookshelf, she drew a curtain that revealed another door which led to a small kitchen. She usually kept this place private. Offering food or anything nurturing was not part of the agreement. It would give a wrong impression. She was not here to offer compassion. No, her clients were all here for a reason, and what they were seeking was not compassion, nor did they deserve it. Yes, this one would be better: small table, two chairs, stove, fridge. Simple, but not sterile. Intimate, but not familiar. Inviting, but not homely. Just enough to make him feel safe, but not cosy. The right environment for a man who does not allow himself any luxury and yet yearns for comfort, who has lost his sense for beauty yet appreciates the little things. She needed her client fully awake, so she put up a pot of coffee. She took out an ashtray from one of the cupboards, sat down, both feet on the ground, legs slightly parted, and lit a cigarette. Yes, smoking would be right today. She leaned back, deeply inhaled and savoured the taste. The nicotine gave her a slight rush, she wasn’t used to it. She closed her eyes, inhaled, exhaled, inhaled the smoke, puffed it out, inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, exhaled, as if on repeat, nothing else, and waited.

 

…to be continued…

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