Ana said, “I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping.” She sat with one leg bent so that her foot was tucked in her lap. She stared at her bent knee, twitching the hem of her skirt.
I said, “How come?”
I knew what her fingers were doing to her skirt, so I fixed my gaze on her throat. I could look at her eyes, but when I’d stared at them long enough for it to become odd, I’d glance at her collarbones. No lower. Delicate collarbones, gold brown.
She said, “I can’t stop thinking. I try to sleep but I have thoughts. They won’t leave me alone.”
I said, still guilelessly, “what kind of thoughts?”
“Well,” Ana looked me in the eyes. “You know.”
I frowned. I didn’t see where this was going.
“I try to make myself too tired to think. I don’t wear, you know, pyjamas in bed. I touch myself. I stroke my, you know. I lie back and put my head under the pillow in case I make any noise. Do you think that’s wrong?”
“Um, Ana, I don’t think you should…” I was going to say, “tell me this sort of thing”, but I stopped. I wasn’t sure I should tell a client not to tell me anything.
Maybe she should talk to me about masturbation if it troubled her. What if I was her only source of advice? Ana had watched while I hesitated. She said, “You do think it’s wrong!” She sounded stricken.
“No, of course not. It’s not wrong at all. I didn’t mean that.”
“You thought I shouldn’t talk to you about it!”
“No, of course not. It’s nothing embarrassing,” I was blushing ferociously, of course. “Everybody wanks.” Ana looked at me. I said, “Even probation officers.”
“Then I’m glad we can talk about it,” said Ana. “I trust you.” And while I took that in, she wriggled, then lifted her other leg, a process I refused to let myself watch, until she sat, cross-legged in her chair, facing me. She smiled triumphantly.