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When I try to understand this place, I don’t. The cups are hovering over the tables, and liquid is suspended in clouds above the cups. Chair legs do not reach the floor. The chair that is opposite mine is empty. I am waiting. Is that my mother? Where is she?
Sit down, I say. The chair is still empty.
The chair is not empty. The police officer is there. My chair is the empty one.
Sit down, says the officer.
I sit down.
Can you tell me exactly what happened? says the officer.
Yes, I say. It happened because I was assumed to be a woman.
Can you tell me exactly what happened? says the officer. Where was it that you got on the bus?
At the stop behind the memorial, I say.
And which route was it? Do you remember? says the officer.
The one that goes to the central station. The night route because it was already past ten, I say.
And where did the person you’re accusing get on? What time was that? says the officer.
Two stops later, I say. By the arches. It was half past ten or nearly eleven.
The chair is empty. The varnished wood is curved in ways that cast reflections of origins I can’t make out.
The chair is not empty. The doctor is there. My chair is the empty one.
Sit down, says the doctor.
I sit down.
Can you tell me what the problem is? says the doctor.
Yes, I say. It’s because it’s assumed that I am a woman.
Can you tell me when the problem started? says the doctor.
I can remember it happening at school, so it must have been at least ten years, I say.
How many times a day? says the doctor.
Usually eight or nine, I say. But the number isn’t really the problem. The problem is the pain and when it comes suddenly.
What kind of pain is it you have? says the doctor.
Like anger, I say. Like swells of rage that aren’t mine but against me.
Does it bleed? says the doctor.
It bleeds with no blood, I say.
The doctor blinks. The police officer blinks.
What happened when this person got on? says the officer.
He didn’t pay, I say. He didn’t buy a ticket.
Where did he sit? Next to you? says the officer.
He went past all the other empty pairs and sat down next to me, I say. There was plenty of space. There was no one in the rows in front of me or behind. There were only two passengers right at the back.
So he chose to sit next to you, says the officer.
He tried to sit on my bag, I say. I was next to the window and my bag was on the aisle seat. He tried to sit on my bag so I moved it.
You moved it so that he could sit down? says the officer.
I moved it, I say. I put it down between my feet.
What happens when it suddenly rages? says the doctor.
It attacks me, I say. It bites from inside.
Does it leave enough time? says the doctor. Or not.
Sometimes not, I say.
And then? says the doctor,
Usually not, I say. Then it’s too late.
Did he touch you on purpose? the police officer says.
I could see his arm, I say. I was turned to the window but I could still see his arm. It was leaning and coming so I looked harder through the window and then I felt his hand on my leg. I was trying to look at the streetlamps and railings.
On your leg, says the officer.
On the top of my leg, I say. And then between.
And then? says the officer.
The organ in question is like a balloon. It fills and has to release, says the doctor.
I know that, I say. But why does it release with the anger it has?
There are factors that can cause it, says the doctor. Many factors. In your case there is no infection and there seems to be no damage to muscle. It may be a nervous effect in your case.
It’s been ten years or more, I say. I remember it from when I was younger.
Yes, says the doctor. I’ve written that. Was there something at that age that caused nervous irritation?
And then? says the officer.
Nothing, I say. I didn’t move or look. I just felt it and waited and then he left the bus.
When did he leave? says the officer. How much later?
I don’t know how long it was. At the stop halfway over the bridge, I say.
Why didn’t you call out for help? says the officer.
I didn’t know what to do, I say. I got off the bus at the end of the line and I waited on the platform at the station for my train. I arrived at home and I went to bed.
You didn’t think to call us? the officer says.
My mother was asleep, I say. I called in the morning instead. I was tired.
Sometimes there are things that a person holds in that grow inside and then burst, says the doctor.
I was the shape of a girl at school and I did things that girl shapes weren’t meant to do, I say. I had thoughts I wasn’t supposed to have.
And it hurt you, says the doctor.
They hurt me, I say.
I wonder why my mother is so late. The lightbulbs are leering unlatched from their fixtures. The hands of the clock are pointing at holes. I wonder why my mother is late, but she isn’t. The chair is not empty. My mouth is open and my words are of shapes. I watch to see if the tea my mother pours will stay in the cups.