"I don't want children."
"I don't want to hold my own child. I don't want to hold any child."
"Is there something else you want to add? You do know you are saying the same thing -been saying the same thing - since you walked in. What else do you want to add?"
The woman shrugs, saying nothing. So, the room feels cluttered, with books about religion and addictions and hope. So the windows are opened but the curtains closed, sunlight streaming through clenched fists. So the woman who lies on her back in the room, twisting her hands and pushing her nails into the skin of the sofa says nothing. And maybe she doesn't know.
"Tell me, Quinet. Why don't you want children?"
So the therapist who looks partly exhausted and who holds a pen that usually doesn't see pages from books sighs deeply. So she rings for coffee and offers her patient a cup. So the woman who lies on her sofa, chewing her nails with mist in her eyes takes the cup and asks for biscuits. They give her and she replaces her nails with the biscuits.
"Now tell me. Why don't you want children?"
"I don't want to."
"What did the doctors say?"
"You already know."
"Tell me what you want."
"I don't want anything."
The therapist gets on her feet and cleans her eyes with the back of her palm. Her eyes stay wet with tears of exhaustion and yet she wants to know everything about Quinet. The file on her desk tells her: Quinet Blu. Born in 1990. Nigeria. Moved to Canada in 2008. Married. Divorced. Married. Widowed. Married.
But in the long run, some things needed to be said.
"Tell me something. Why are you scared of being happy?"
"I am happy. I don't want kids. They take up all the time."
"What does Reuben think of your decision?"
"I don't know, doesn't matter. We've only been married for a year."
"Two? I didn't notice."
"Reuben says you've changed. What are your thoughts?"
"Do you need to bring him up? We are here for me."
"Then tell me everything. I don't want to bring him up if you don't want."
"I don't want kids."
"Why is that? What's wrong with children?"
"They die. Don't you know they die?"
The afternoon sun carves out circles on the sofa and dances like a dizzy waitress in the eyes of the therapist. They meet each other's gaze and while Quinet wants to turn away, the therapist keeps staring hard.
"Why do they die?"
Quinet almost doses off. So she sits fully on the sofa and raises her hands skywards.
"Why do they die?" The therapist asks again. "I cannot help you if you don't talk to me. Why are you here if you don't want to talk?"
"You have the best view of the city. And I like the photographs on the wall."
"Is that it?"
"I want to sleep at night."
"Then talk to me."
"Now let's pretend we haven't taken up an hour going back and forth over the same thing. You know what you've been doing. I will ask you this. Why don't you want kids? And I want you to tell me everything."
"They die before they grow up. He was just a child. Five years. What could he have done wrong?"
"Who are you referring to?"
"My son. He died, can't remember why. He was healthy, as best as healthy can be. And he died in his sleep. Tell me, why would you love a child so deeply and watch them die?"
"Is that why you don't want kids?"
"I don't want to cry again."
"What about Reuben?"
"He does not know."
"Why haven't you told him?"
"He wants a family. I want him."
Perhaps in Brazil or in a country far away a man in a shirt is walking his dog. An old woman with wrinkles of the world on her arms sits outside of her home, watching the pale sunlight on her porch and knowing that the grasses are overgrown. A child groans. A woman yells.
"Tell me about your first marriage." The therapist says.
"Ah!" Quinet exclaims laughing, "He really isn't worth mentioning."
"He had nice hair and really great teeth. That's the only thing good about him. I spent six years of my life with him and had a son that died."
"Don't you have fond memories with him?"
Quinet closes her eyes and with a gigantic belch, she wanders, lost, taken, into the filth inside her mind. Slowly her eyes open and she is standing by a train station. The man is saying, "Don't follow me, please."
She is saying, "Don't leave me."
The ride is repetitive, the words barely audible in the slightly crowded station. He tells her one thing, she answers him with a firm belief, one shrouded by fear of being lonely.
So the therapist sighs again and drops the pen. So Quinet wakes up and smiles diligently. The empty cups rattle as a faint breeze escape the curtains and quickly, the sun picks a frame and settles there.
"That woman smiles a lot," Quinet whispers.
The therapist looks back at the photograph and sees herself - no, not the forty-two-year-old weakened lady with an anorexic husband - smiling broadly.
"You were so young, Kim. Twenty? Probably more. It's the first picture I noticed when I walked in. It's probably the reason I'm still here, pretending to be sane enough to understand what happiness is like."
"When I asked you to tell me about your beautiful memories with your first husband, you closed your eyes. You thought about it, you saw something. Tell me."
"The only memory I had of him." Quinet's voice is low, shaky. "I remember him leaving. That's my favorite memory, the only one I have. I never liked him anyway."
"He was your husband for six years. When he left, didn't you ever try to ask him back? Didn't you ask him to stay?"
"Then you must have loved him."
Quinet smiles, genuinely. The smile widens like a blooming flower until it gets cracked up like snow in the ocean.
"Haven't you pleaded with someone to stay not because they mean something worthwhile to you but because when the night comes, you will need someone to keep you warm?"
"Reuben loves you. He says you've changed since you came back home. You were gone for a month, disappeared they say. Where did you go to?"
"To the ocean." The reply was simple.
"I will tell you this, Quinet. You have kept the secret from Reuben for too long. Perhaps that's what's eating you up because you know you love him, because you know he's the first one you've loved. And he threatens you with his love. You are afraid he will find out you lost a child and he will find out you've been taking too many pills."
"I am not scared."
"Then why haven't you told him yet?"
"He doesn't need to know."
"Your life is being ruled by fear. Now everything you do is controlled by uncertainty. It's not that you don't want kids. It's just that you don't want to lose another child."
"I don't want kids, Kim."
"He should know that the doctors say you are killing yourself with the pills."
"He doesn't need to know."
"You see that photo on the wall? The one where I am smiling like a child? That's happiness. You see me now? That's pity."
"You are a therapist. You help people, you help yourself."
"I was a human long before that. I keep my personal life at home. This is strictly professional but for the first time in a long while, I will be a friend and tell you to admit that you're scared of fucking up."
Quinet says nothing.
"We all die. One way or another, we will die. But the world doesn't stop because of that. You loved your child and you're stifling the pain. Let it out and tell him. Then tell yourself the truth."
"Perhaps I should."
So the patient lies back on the soft sofa and presses her hands against her eyes. So the therapist sits on her chair and twirls the pen around.
So Kim asks, "How do you feel?"
And the patient replies, "I feel...pity?"