He didn’t know exactly what the word meant, but it kept turning up in his mind, bouncing about, circulating like a shard of glass caught in a roulette wheel. It must have had some kind of importance but he could tell it wouldn’t help at all to look it up, because then he would have to keep using it, he wouldn’t have a choice, it would be cemented into his vocabulary. Now it was merely residing there.

But it stayed there, just outside of his thoughts. Stayed there for weeks. Maybe it was his resistance that kept it going.

He would be working, staring at the computer screen while his right hand clacked at the numeric 10-key pad (he was in data-entry), and something would make him think of it again, and then it would be all he could see, all he could hear and it was almost a joke but really it wasn’t, and his hand would keep moving and his eyes would keep staring. If he were speaking to someone, his mouth would keep moving, but the subject of conversation would become less important than the subtext, avoiding the word, whatever it was (where had he heard it first? He couldn’t tell you).

Is there a solution to a problem like that? Can you talk about it? Wouldn’t that make it worse? He couldn’t think it away, that’s for sure. It was like a Chinese finger-trap: the more he struggled the worse his predicament. Could he accept it? Maybe. But that too would be some kind of defeat. When he was on a date with Jeannie on a Saturday night the word churned up again and he knew that she could see it, and then it was only a matter of time before she started not saying it too. They fucked later that night, and it was better than it had been before, but that scared him. She had a weird light in her eyes, and she moved in a weird way, like she were thinking about something she’d never thought of before, like the word made her think she could do awful things if she wanted. She was even not saying the word when she came. Over and over again, and then when he pulled out of her and rolled onto his back, breathing hard, staring up at the ceiling, he felt the familiar relief and release and satisfaction, but it felt sick, like he hadn’t earned it. Now he resented Jeannie. The both of them sweating, breathing hard, thinking about something outside, something they couldn’t confront because they couldn’t explain.

Now, when they did not speak the word to each other, they were negotiating a course of action. They discussed, one to the other, and again and again. Argued even, but nothing helped. They only wanted to get back to the lives they used to live, and they felt that if they kept making that clear to the other then eventually things would get back to normal. But of course, they were wrong. After all it had been he who had not said the word first.

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