I watched the trickle of sweat slide past the nosepads of his horn-rimmed glasses, like a lone leech making its way down the hull of a PBR. As he re-crossed his legs, he glanced down; he was obviously checking out the crib sheet written on his hand, but I wasn't going to call him on it—this wasn't one of the standard interview questions, and the sweat had certainly long since washed away his hastily-scrawled ballpoint reminders. Finally he looked up.
"Th-th-at one means you're in love, right?"
I realized that I'd been holding my breath, and let it out. "Goddamnit. If I had had hearts popping over my head, then I'd be in love. But I had bubbles! Bubbles, for chrissakes! So I—"
"Drunk, drunk, I remember now," he stammered, a little too quickly. "Can—can I have another one?"
I gave him a long look then, looked over his shitty four-dollar haircut, the dark stains in the armpits of the shirt that his mommy had probably ironed for him, the two inches of ankle showing between his black socks and his blue slacks. Eight hours ago, I would have told him to scram, but it was almost quarter of five, and the waiting room outside was nearly empty. I sighed.
"Okay, kid, you get one more." I closed my eyes and concentrated, hard. They didn't come as quickly as they had thirty years ago, but within a moment, I could feel the helix rising slowly from the top of my head. I'd seen a guy in Michigan once who used a mirror, to make sure that he got the results he wanted, but this was the mark of a rank amateur. I was not a rank amateur. I watched his face carefully.
"You... you..." He didn't know. If you look into their eyes, within three seconds you can tell they either know or they don't know, and he didn't know. The guess would come, of course, and when it did—"You're angry?"— I slammed the folder in front of me shut with a loud "bang".
"For god's sake, kid, that's gotta be in the first chapter of your textbook! The spiral line rising from my head represents my dizziness. Anger is a black cloud. Jesus fucking Christ."
I could see him shrinking into his chair, and I softened a little. "Okay, look. I like you a lot, kid, but you just don't have it. Go home, study up, see me in ten years and we'll talk. But you just don't have it. I'm sorry."
He got up slowly, and walked away from the chair, not looking me in the eye. I called out to him before the door swung shut: "Hey, kid?"
He turned around, hesitantly.
"Have a nice life."
He gave me an awkward half-grin and walked out. Through the open door, I could see the waiting room: the chairs empty, the lights dark. I took a long pull from my hip flask, only to discover that it was empty.
God, I hate this job.