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Page 2

Mark Haines

Fiona must go through this monthly ritual to tick the boxes, to ‘satisfy the Department’, to ensure necessary accountability, to ensure agency funding, to satisfy professional standards, to absolve society from thinking about her, Rachel, for another twenty-eight days. But she, Rachel, is starting to resent these sessions, these predictable yet probing questions needle her, box her in, rob her of any power she may be slowly gaining. She has long ago concluded that too honest an answer will only be used to undermine her, invite more intimacy, describe, define and dismiss her more quickly. But the mix of mounting resistance, felt impotence and rising restlessness may not be able to be hidden much longer, and both know it. Rachel would like, quite often, merely to leave the room, go into the street, wait for an hour, catch a train to a distant town, wake up with and live under a new identity, one she can create, did not inherit, and was not inflicted on her.

Meanwhile she does her best in the present setting, covering the moment with what must be admitted, firmly suppressing the urgent, important and sincere.

So far, today has obeyed the usual pattern, and Rachel watches Fiona’s thick fingers type her terse replies into the required box, onto the eternal blue screen. Fiona’s posture, never good, is slowly declining with the weight of duty, responsibility and exhaustion, and she must make a frequent, conscious effort to correct her attitude, in every sense. Rachel sees the dogged worker as a superior, an overlord, but one caught in the binding system as much as she is. But then Fiona, out of turn and out of character, today says, all of a sudden, ‘Well, we’re not getting too far, are we? Not making much progress…if there is such a thing’. And her own words surprise and deflate her by their abruptness and resignation, and she wonders if it really is time to go elsewhere, do something rather than follow this career of futile, demanding attentiveness, an attention without change, or the prospect of it.

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