I see her every Tuesday and Thursday,
and every Tuesday and Thursday are the days I
grab my coin jar and count the pennies.
I sit on the floor and separate the new from old,
the new ones to my left and the old ones to my right.
And if the right side has more pennies than the left,
which it usually does, covering the floor in
a muted luster, I scoop them back into the jar,
and then I write a letter to Penny.
Penny, I’ve seen Penny, Penelope Dianne Jenson,
for the past five years and I swear I only know her name.
Well, and that her husband divorced her because
she wouldn’t get rid of the orange tabby cat that
can’t use a litter box and that now she has a preference
for women anyway, and that she graduated from UCLA
with a Ph.D in clinical psychology and she only went to California to
get away from the Midwestern snow.
I know she has a dark brown freckle on her right
pinky sometimes covered up by the pink opal ring her
mother gave her before she passed and her hair is the
exact same color as coffee without creamer and her
voice gets a little louder when she’s lying.
And I know when she’s lying.
How I know, well,
she tells me these details as if I’m her confidante,
cluing me in on how she feels each session, I guess my
power is radiant, my eyes laser beams deriving the truth
from the deepest parts of her mind when she tells me
words only someone who,
I can’t say the word yet, it’s too early,
but words only someone who words me would say,
listening back to my stories better
than my ex Jennifer ever did.
Each session, she says things like ‘‘David, I’m sorry
you’re going through this. You’re not alone and I’m
proud of you for sharing this with me.’’
But she tells me, when I ask her if she’d like to
discuss this outside the office
she tells me she’s only allowed to see me there.
She tells me she can only keep our relationship professional,
as if I wanted anything less of her, maybe a
professional conversation over some lattes or a
professional hike in the woods at night.
And I know it, I know she can’t say it,
but she makes that same crooked smile when I
walk through her door,
she stands in the corner of the room
playing with her knit sleeves and fiddling with her split ends,
probably to look good for me,
and sometimes has the therapist next door, Juan,
sit in with us, because she couldn’t can’t resist me alone.
And deep in her heart, I know she feels it,
and I know when her face scrunches as if she’s
eating a lemon during every word I speak it’s because
she can’t let it spill out to me.
So, every Tuesday and Thursday after sessions
I go home, splitting the pennies I find
from the mall fountain.
And I write her that note, burdened with the truth, and
then I let it rot in my pocket through washing cycles.
Because, unlike anyone else, Penny is paid to love me.
And, if I told her how I felt about her,
maybe she’d stop.
That’s why she can never know it.
Plus, I could only imagine the tears she’d cry when I
tell her I only see her in a professional way.
Julia Rubin is currently an undergraduate student at the University of South Florida, majoring in English — Creative Writing and minoring in Psychology.