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    Once Spirit and Flesh were directed to undergo relationship counseling.
    A lifetime of mutual suspicion and often bitter conflict—when they weren’t determined simply to ignore one another altogether—had alienated the pair to the point where the only thing they agreed upon was that this feuding couldn’t continue much longer without destroying them both. Flesh charged Spirit with constantly putting on condescending airs or else drifting off into hazy musings intended to shield it from even acknowledging the existence of Flesh. While in Spirit’s view, Flesh was intent on embarrassing it at every turn by indulging in mindless pleasures, from the inane to the utterly debased. 
    Relations between the two had reached such a pass, in fact, that even finding themselves in each other’s company was an ordeal. And their only relief on those occasions when either party hinted at “ending it all” increasingly lay in sleeping pills for the one and going on a week-long sensual binge for the other, anything that would deaden the pain suffered by both.
    Given this history, relationship counseling was, in itself, risky business. So much could go so wrong so quickly, beginning with the demand each made that the other be thoroughly searched for concealed weapons upon entering the first session. To such a point had trust between Spirit and Flesh fallen.
    Things could have been different. The two of them didn’t have to travel down this road. There’d been plenty of chances early on to get things right. Spirit could have shown a little more understanding, and Flesh could have insisted a little less on its own desires. But like a scab that itches and itches until scratching turns it to a scar, their differences hardened over time into animosities from which there seemed no retreat.
    Now they found themselves on opposite sides of a polished table that each stared down into for a full five minutes so as to avoid looking the other in the eye. While an appointed relationship counselor prepared to do for them what they’d proven unable to accomplish on their own. 
    There sat Spirit, debating internally how to project confidence about the outcome of the process without appearing aloof and insensitive. This effort was more difficult than Spirit had anticipated, and not simply because of the indignity of being in a situation if found demeaning. Matters wouldn’t come to such a pass if the superiority of Spirit over Flesh that so many publicly proclaimed was honored by them in private to the same degree. But no, once the lights were turned out, high-mindedness went dark just as quickly, everywhere. 
    More troubling to Spirit at the moment, though, were the waves of queasiness brought on by a deep but unacknowledged claustrophobia that made it impossible to turn from the gathering threat mirrored in the shiny tabletop as the walls oozed closer and the ceiling sagged. It took all of Spirit’s increasingly taxed powers of self-control to summon a show of sang-froid and keep from crying out, “I must have room to breathe! Freedom to soar!”
    Across the table slouched Flesh in a funk, troubled by growing anxieties over what this compulsory counseling might portend for the two of them.  Flesh was fully aware that the public typically lauded Spirit with glowing terms like “noble” or “sublime” while deriding Flesh’s own gifts as “base,” “blind,” “weak,” and even “demonic.” Yet how thin that regard for Spirit actually was, more honored in flowery praise than in true allegiance. Called to follow Spirit and abandon all their worldly desires for higher rewards, many people wanted to know in advance the “exact value” of what they’d gain by doing so.
    In addition, the preoccupations of Flesh were more or less of a whole by contrast with those of Spirit, whose attention often appeared to be scattered all over the place. Flesh might well have yielded to the temptation to exploit its greater unity-of-self relative to Spirit’s present turmoil, were it not for the worry that any move to gain from this advantage came at the risk of upsetting the delicate balance they’d at least managed to maintain through most of their difficult patches until now.
    The fact was, they needed each other. How would people recognize Spirit without Flesh, since they’d grown accustomed to thinking of the two in opposition? And for Flesh, mightn’t separation from Spirit turn out to be just as dicey in terms of maintaining Flesh’s own sense of self? They had become an “item” in the eyes of the world, whether they liked it or not. Who would take seriously the very existence of either one if asked to accept the other’s reality on mere say-so? These days, being recognized as the real thing was hard enough already, what with all the spiritual poseurs and serial exhibitionists out there clamoring for attention and getting it.
    Spirit and Flesh had long since settled for a testy bond of convenience, there was no denying. And yet neither of them felt seriously hampered by the resulting open relationship, despite their ceaseless friction. Furthermore, whatever others might think about them individually or as a twosome wasn’t necessarily the truth, nor of much importance really. More often than not, what the public saw as “Spirit” and “Flesh” was what it wanted to see, so each was at liberty to pursue new yearnings and new attachments with a view to a more satisfying life for itself and more latitude for the other. It might appear as though Flesh gained most from this arrangement at times and at times Spirit did. Yet time itself was a great equalizer and didn’t play favorites in the long run. Why not leave it to time, then, to sort things out? What need did they really have for this unwelcome mediation session, the pair silently asked themselves simultaneously?
    Just at this moment, the relationship counselor gave both Spirit and Flesh a start with a brusque clearing of the throat, followed by a self-assured: “Resolving this little problem the two of you are having shouldn’t be difficult, I believe.”