He's looking at me across the desk and if this was a poker table I think I would fold.
There's not the hint of a smile or a frown displayed across his countenance, no sweat glistening on his brow, no flicker of movement that would render some humanity to his features.
His face is an emotionless mask with nothing to read from it.
If he were to blink I would either sigh with relief or jump in shock.
While I ponder this I can hear a clock ticking somewhere, and the sound of the second hand is a repetitive and thunderous assault on the vacuumous silence that fills the room.
It's all rather strange that I can hear the clock, hear my own breathing, but nothing else.
Is he even breathing?
Should I say something, or is it better to wait for him to speak?
As each second stretches into the next, the point where I could have said something, anything, seems to fall further behind.
Christ it sounds like the clock is hooked up to an amplifier that's turned up to the Spinal Tap eleven.
There's a chance that if he does speak now I'll not be able to hear him over it.
The ludicrous idea of jumping up and shouting BOO into his face nudges into my head and acts as a catalyst for a smile to nervously jump to my lips.
I tighten them to hold back a hysterical giggle and in that moment when my attention is distracted, that tiny increment of time, I hear a sigh escape from him.
A sigh that is apparently the signal that the meeting is to commence.
'So you have been sent here for an assessment. Do you understand what this entails?'
His voice is soft and sounds cultured, but there's a shade of an accent at the end of each sentence that give it away that he wasn't always one of the old school tie boys.
Elocution lessons, some repetitive course of language tapes maybe.
A desperate need to hide his roots a certainty?
'No. I don't know why I'm here.' What else could I say? There's really nothing more to it.
'I was taken from the hospital directly to this room and then I was asked to take a seat by the orderly and...and well here I am.'
'Do you feel well?' His lips barely move and the words float across the room at me.
'Maybe we should define what you mean by well.'
'What does well mean to you?'
'I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure that I used to know what it meant to me, but that was a long time ago and things change.'
He looks at me again, lets the time stretch out between us.
There's something about his eyes now. The blank unfeeling stare has left and curiosity has taken residence.
'Are you ill' bursts from him in a surprising change of tactic.
It's delivered rapidly and with force, but still barely rises above a whisper. For a moment I feel words rising to blurt from my lips, but I quickly bite down on them as I understand that this is part of the game.
I give him 'do the doctors say I'm ill?' and watch closely for a clue, a small hint as to what he is thinking.
He glances down at the paperwork in front of him and his eyes flick from one side of the page to the other.
I imagine that if there was some force behind his attention then there would be little indentations appearing in the paper like a trail of tiny footprints left by invisible feet
'The doctors opinions are irrelevant. We make the decisions.'
As he hasn't raised his eyes to mine I'm not sure if the comment is directed at me, or if he has unconsciously aired a mantra that he clings to.
I wait for some indication of what it could be, but nothing is forthcoming.
His index finger of his right hand begins to rise and fall beating out a cadence on the rich, dark, and so very shiny mahogany desk next to where he has sat my file.
My file is positioned centrally, and it's entirely believable that if the expanse of wood was measured from corner of sheet to the precipice of the desk on each side that it would be exactly the same to the millimetre.
'Is there a point in time when you could enlighten me as to when you felt that you no longer fitted in?' This time he is looking directly at me.
'I wasn't aware that I didn't fit in until you mentioned it. So my realization of this only goes back as far as that.'
Then in a voice that I hope sounds nonchalant I add 'two seconds ago.'
He rises from his chair swiftly at that, and turning his back on me takes a couple of steps to the bookcase that has been looming over him.
I notice for the first time that there's nothing on the spines.
Each are identically bound in red leather, but it looks like they have chosen one and cloned it to fill the rest of the bookcase.
As he seems to be in no hurry to continue conversing I use the opportunity to quietly lean forward and move my file an inch to the left.
The long drawn out gaps in the conversation, and the minimalistic interaction from him, is a glaringly obvious play on increasing the tension in the room.
He turns and gives me what I would presume is a look that is supposed to convey disdain before walking around the desk and standing behind me.
His presence out of sight feels slightly threatening, and it takes a monumental effort not to turn around and keep him in sight.
I begin to count the books, but after twenty my eyes start playing tricks and I'm no longer sure of how accurate I have been so I start again only to lose track around the same point again.
It's difficult to keep it straight in my head as there is nothing to differentiate them from each other so I give up.
'Did you move your file?'
'Are you sure'
He leans in so close to my ear that I can feel his breath caress it and says again slowly and emphatically 'did you move your file?'
I turn quickly and say 'No' directly into his face and he jumps back from his crouched position and stumbles slightly before regaining some partial composure and returning to his chair behind the desk.
I ask if he is finished and he nervously glances about before muttering that he is.
All the emotion that was previously absent has taken control of him. His lips twitch, droplets of perspiration break loose from the pores on his forehead and his eyes hold no secrets.
As I rise from my seat he looks pathetically hopeful when he asks if he has passed.
There's no point drawing it out for him.
'No. I'm sorry, but you just haven't got what it takes to be an health assessor. I could point out your failings, but there's just too many to mention. The balance is all off. In hindsight I think you will come to accept that there was no point that you were in control, and being in control really is everything.'