Feeling slugglish all week. And more in ‘life is a prison I can’t wait to escape from’ mood than usual. I tell Zuzana I’m supposed to see a lady – the mermaid in the title – today, but that I feel like I should sleep 24 hours straight after teaching. She says: ‘No, you are definitely going. You always feel a lot better when you meet women. Especially her.’

So off I go, knowing she’s right. I get flowers for the lady and we meet near the Danube. We have this symbolic theme going on that she’s a mermaid. She’s stabile in her values, but so fluid in her moving through life. Half bound to earth, half at home in water. All with a very sensual vibe. (The short explanation as to why she is a mermaid).

We walk along the Danube, and talk about attraction, couples, business, her childhood, children, the layers in human communication, and what one learns when you run from company to the next teaching some language, the striking differences between Austrian women and Slovak women (Austrian women take a lot more initiative, are usually wittier and a lot more fun to talk to, as a general rule, with plenty of exceptions of course).

She tells me all our actions arise from our fundamental feeling of ‘not being enough’, and we talk about suffering, and that we will always suffer, then we learn something, and some new suffering comes along. It never stops.

The autumn sun makes it more pleasant outside than inside. The light bouncing off the Danube seems to wrap us in a bubble that keeps us more present. No checking of cell phones, no distractions.

I tell her things you don’t tell just anyone, things I don’t even put so clearly to my therapist.

At some point I realize that this conversation is bringing me out of a six week state of paralysis.

It will fade later, but for now it’s good, it’s very good. This lady has a way of taking my misery into her hands and use it like clay to shape something useful or at least insightful out of it.

When I come home late in the evening after some more teaching, Zuzi sees me: ‘Well, I told you, you look a lot better already.’

‘But isn’t it weird that only women can make me feel better?’

‘Oh, who’s to say what’s weird? It’s certainly better than an alcohol problem, and it’s certainly way better than seeing you suffer, if it works, it works.’

So, saved by a mermaid.

At least for today.