Iskra’s height was about 163 cm. She was wearing a kaki camouflage vest. Her hair was up, and she had golden glitter shoes. The military dress didn’t match her vibe. John knew her as a caring mother who was trying to keep a friendly connection going between her and her ex husband, even though he’d left her for an other woman. Then again, she had been a professional boxer in Bulgaria. There was a sadness about her that immediately jerked its teeth in John’s bones. He was confused though. Was she sad, nervous, scared or completely not attracted to him? Maybe just tired. Maybe all of those things.

They met in a bar, about half an hour before sunset.

She’s was in the mood for cake, but when she found out that John didn’t want cake, she decided not to. A younger John would have ordered cake just so she would have felt comfortable eating cake, but John had learnt over the years that being a people’s pleaser wasn’t doing anyone any good.

They drank tea.

On Tinder she had been positive about him. ‘You look superhot’, she had written. John had used pictures where his was slightly younger, pictures taken before his world had come crashing down. He was still recovering.

She was a bit distant. John had suggested to go and sit outside in a park, but she preferred to be inside. ‘It’s too windy.’

Iskra was close to forty, but could pass for younger.

Her big moist eyes told a story of someone who’d been through a lot of sadness. Several times John thought she was crying, about to cry, or fighting hard not to cry. Maybe she just had big, sensitive eyes.

She mentioned she had lived everywhere, and that Slovakia wasn’t her favorite place to settle down in. She had a job at some multinational that did business with Bulgaria, and the department dealing with Bulgaria was located in Bratislava. She had wanted to be a physician, in Bulgaria she had been a nurse, and she was about to study to be a doctor, but then her father got ill, he lost his job and the money ran out.

She’d also been in law school, but realized all too quickly that she didn’t have the right connections to really capitalize on a law degree.

‘I’ve been to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Memphis. Los Angeles was the worst, and Seattle was the best.’

According to pick-up rules John wasn’t allowed to be impressed, but he was so fascinated by the US that he couldn’t help but show a lot of interest.

‘You didn’t like Los Angeles because of the traffic?’

‘Yeah, the traffic is a nightmare there. And there’s gang violence. I didn’t feel safe there.’

‘Seattle is different. They have a progressive mindset.’

John thought of Kurt Cobain, Nirvana and the so called grunge scene, but he didn’t want to sound like some nerd.

‘Yes, they do. But I saw a lot homeless people there. The most from any city. If you lose your job and your house in the US, you’re done for. Lots of army vets that nobody cares about.’

‘They have no social security system.’

‘No, they’ve destroyed their middle class.’

‘The best get rich and the rest get squished. That kind of mentality.’

‘Exactly. Memphis was dangerous. Lots of racism. You could feel it.’

John said his phd was connected to that. Again a wrong PUA move, because that came across as though he was trying to qualify himself. And maybe he was.

These kind of topics were not PUA territory, but John thought – fuck PUA material.

John saw himself as this sex obsessed guy, but in reality so many other things trumped his sexual drive, every time. Perhaps something else was behind his obsession to be around attractive women all the time.

She had ended up in Slovakia because she had a child here. A daughter. Kindergarten age.

‘In half an hour I will have to leave, because she can’t fall asleep if I’m not around.’

‘If we only have half an hour, we can do some psychological exercise.’

She laughed. ‘And what’s going to be the result? That am crazy? That I need prozac.’

‘It’s gonna have to be something stronger than prozac.’

For some reason women like it if you suggest they are crazy.

‘So you’re in a desert. What do you see?’

‘A sheik on a camel.’

‘Ok, I’ve never heard that before. Is there water?’

‘No.’

‘Wind?’

‘No.’

‘What are you doing there?’

‘Nothing, I don’t want to be there.’

‘Is there an oasis?’

‘Maybe. If it’s not a fata morgana.’

‘Are you looking for that oasis?’

‘No. I just want to go. Get out of there. Let it pass.’

‘Ok, you continue and you see a cube. What’s it like?’

‘It’s green. The material is soft. It’s made up of different kinds of materials.’

‘How big is it?’

‘It changes in size. It shrinks and expands, from very big to very small.’

‘Is there something in it?’

‘No, I don’t see it.’

‘What kind of feeling do you get when you look at it?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Do you take it with you?’

‘No.’

‘Ok, you continue walking and you spot a horse. Describe the horse.’

‘It’s black. It’s shiny. It has long hair and big eyes. It’s wild.’

‘Does it have a saddle?’

‘No.’

‘Is it tied down?’

‘No.’

‘What do you do with it?’

‘I want to touch it.’

‘Do you want to ride it?’

‘Yes.’

‘Where to?’

‘Away from there. To some forest.’

‘Ok’, said John. ‘The desert is how you see life. And you’re not happy. You don’t want to be in your present circumstances, you want it to pass. I get the feeling of apathy. The oasis is your ideal situation, how your life could look ideally, but you don’t see it and you don’t even want to look for it. You’ve given up.’

For the first time Iskra showed enthusiasm. ‘This is very, very fascinating.’

‘The cube is how you see yourself. It’s maybe green because you are wearing green. Or it could symbolize hope. Its changing size suggests that sometimes you’re very self-confident and then at other times you come crashing down.’

‘That’s very like me.’

‘When you look at it you feel nothing, so again there’s this apathy, this distance, this resignation.’

‘Very fascinating.’

‘You don’t want to take the cube with you, so you don’t accept this situation. But at the moment you have, like, shut down.’

‘Yes, right now in my life, yes.’

‘The horse symbolizes your attitude towards relationships. If you do this with a young girl, she will probably see a white unicorn with wings, so she has very romantic ideas about love. You are close to the other extreme. You don’t believe in romance, you want passion.’

‘True.’

‘It doesn’t have a saddle and it’s not tied down, so you’re neither jealous nor controlling or clingy.’

‘And you expect life to be a bit better with a partner, the horse takes you to a forest, but it doesn’t take you to the oasis, as a lot of people say. A partner can’t get you your ideal situation in life.’

‘That would be a silly thing to expect.’

The exercise opened her up. She got papers with poems out of her purse and showed them to John.

The poems spoke of passion, sex, sadness, separation and a deep longing for closeness.

‘These are about your current boyfriend?’

‘I don’t have a boyfriend. I had a thing going on with a guy, sex once per week. I know he’s having sex with other women, though he won’t admit it, but that’s not my problem. My problem is that I noticed I was sitting around waiting for him to ask about my day. I don’t want to be attached.’

‘So what do you want?’

‘I don’t want a relationship, but I want more than just one time of sex every week. If I’m going to be someone’s whore I want a full contract.’

Then she had to go.

John walked her to her car, and she said that she’d given up on Tinder.

‘Those guys simply have nothing to talk about. And I got very tired of finding dick pics jump at me in the morning? How can they even think it would turn a woman on? I’m really mad at several of those guys.’

She offered to drop him off, but John preferred to walk. Mostly because he wanted to be in control of his movement.

He wouldn’t have minded comforting her more, holding her, maybe give her a night of sex focused on her, but he didn’t make any move in that direction. He’d accepted that he simply wasn’t the pushy time. PUA doctrine didn’t agree with him.

He had mainly wanted to comfort her, as he had picked up on her sadness in her messages on Tinder, even though she had tried to mask it.

If it would have to come to sex, she’d have to give him loud and clear signals. Women do take a lot of initiative when they want sex with a guy. He simply was more calm about it. He’d been very pushy with Z when they had first started going out together, with success. But right now it would just make him feel sleazy.

He walked home in a pensive mood, wondering if this womanising thing was more a weird spin-off of his therapeutic calling.

For someone supposedly seeking sexual intimacy with women, he was doing surprisingly little to get there. Perhaps it was because his need wasn’t big enough, after all, he and Z did fuck like bunnies on steroids.

He was open to sex with Iskra, the lady who’d given up on her dreams, but he -perhaps wrongly- was convinced it was somehow disrespectful.

His friend Vicente went berserk when he heard John’s reasoning.

‘Disrespectful? Man, disrespectful is NOT leading her to sexual pleasure.’

John fell asleep thinking about an empathic woman, working in some administrative capacity, in a country she didn’t particularly like, who had wanted to be a doctor, and who just wanted a minimum of loyalty and genuine care, not even that much. She was bright, insightful and observing, reasonably well-read, nurturing and blessed with a disarming smile, but somehow life had been a very rocky boat to her. John wondered if they could mean something positive to each other.

John clearly had more talent for being a therapist than for being a PUA.