Friday, September 6, 2013

Excerpt: The Strange Year of Vanessa M. by Filipa Fonseca Silva



“Tedium, that’s what I feel, weight that invades my soul and devours my willpower. With every minute that passes, it’s turning into impatience, a gnawing anxiety that constricts my respiration in direct proportion to my accelerating heartbeat. ‘What’s the matter with you’ ‘Nothing.’ ’Why are you sighing then?’ ‘Because I feel like it. Why? Can’t I do that either?’ Just as well he doesn’t answer. After fifteen years of living with me, he’s finally understood there are times when it’s better to keep quiet. Why are you sighing, he asks. He’s got the nerve. He must be completely oblivious of everything that’s going on around him and very self-centred. Maybe it’s because he’s a man. Is life really that much easier for men? Obviously he doesn’t have to worry about cellulite, broken fingernails, hair. As if he wasn’t lucky enough already, being able to take a piss standing up wherever he wants to; he doesn’t have to worry like I do about eyebrows, creams, makeup, laddered stockings, hiding my breasts so I don’t look flighty but not so much that I look a prude. As long as he’s got that just-out-the-shower smell about him, a man with dishevelled hair and unshaven chin is sexy. A woman with dishevelled hair, with no time to wax her legs, is a slattern who ought to be ashamed to show her face in the street, even if she has that fresh-out-the-shower smell about her. So why can’t women start work an hour later than men, for example? That’s what I feel like asking my boss when he gives me that reproachful look whenever I arrive after nine thirty, with his ironic “Good afternoon! Thanks for coming.” What’s the matter with me, he asks. Where do you want me to start, doctor?”

The analyst looked at his wristwatch and all he said was, “Sorry Vanessa, you’ll have to start at the next session. Our time’s up.”

“But I…”

“Now Vanessa, you know the rules. Write down everything you were going to tell me, arrange everything by topic and we’ll talk in our next session.”

Furious, she grabbed her handbag and coat and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. After almost two months of therapy, she still didn’t understand why they always had to break off the sessions like this. Just when she was beginning to open up. The first twenty minutes hardly count. Does anyone manage to pick up a conversation exactly where they’d left it at the last session? What she felt last week and what she felt now were two different things. She had to think, organize her ideas, pick up her notepad and try to remember everything she’d said last time. Plus she had to try and forget the bad appearance of her analyst. Sweat on his upper lip, fingernails that needed trimming, check blazer shiny at the elbows, and yellow teeth. It wasn’t easy.

Some help, he was, costing over two hundred euros a month. Just thinking about all she could do with that money made her feel ill. It wouldn’t be so bad if she paid him directly. She could pick a different doctor, a less expensive one, and spend the rest of the money on more interesting stuff… But she didn’t have that option. The judge had been very clear; forty psychotherapy sessions with an analyst selected by the court, after which she was to undergo a test administered by an independent laboratory, which would determine whether she was fit to live in society. And she’d only done eight sessions so far.

Vanessa M

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Genre - Contemporary Fiction  

Rating – PG13

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