by Len Kuntz

We are circles eliminating circles. It’s the therapist’s idea—to recognize priorities, then narrow.

The questions are printed out and fastened on a clipboard. It’s the first time I’ve used a pencil in years. We go from 30 to 20, nearly as slow as we’ve aged those numbers in reverse.

B keeps trying to steal my answers, same as he did in college when I let him cheat on tests and the boorish Prof did, too, because he and I were knocking boots on the weekends, sometimes naked, other times bruised and savage against a wipe board.

Next, we go from 20 to 10. It’s so much foreplay it hurts. My eyeballs feel like glue. My tongue is putty.

B used to cup my face when he kissed me, as if he was holding something precious and unattainable, like a piece of the moon, or a baby unicorn. When his fingers slid down there, they made me swirl until my nerves became confetti. Now that’s a fable for you.

I hope he’s seeing another woman. I hope he loves her the way the oceans love the tide, but I know that’s folly. It’s me he aims to keep drowned.

We go from 10 to 5. Time is like watching sludge drip. My teeth have turned to dust. I should care more, but does the sand care about the beach or which wave will wash it away?

B is tomato-faced, as if he’s taken up the treadmill. I should tell him something truthful, that I’ve been the one who’s running, in place, backward, banging into walls and furniture, stepping all over the cats he detests.

We narrow it down to the inevitable, the one thing that’s most important to each of us. The therapist encourages us to share. He looks ridiculous, gleaming as if he invented the idea of epiphany.

B shares his right away. He spouts genuine tears the size of horseflies, coughs into the side of his neck. ‘I love her so much,’ he tells the therapist, though I’m right here.

Only I’m not. I’m riding a swell, the current pushing me ashore in a land whose language I don’t understand, a land which I’m grateful to have found.

I mash my paper into the size of a testicle. It tastes like talcum powder, but before I walk out, I swallow it anyway.

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, THIS IS WHY I NEED YOU, out now from Ravenna Press.  You can find more of his writing at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.