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Phone Tag

"Don't you want to talk?"

"You called me."

"What do you want, then?"

"To die in my sleep."

"What a shitty thing to say."


"What do you mean, 'Why'?"

"I mean, 'Why?' What's shitty about it? We've already established that you will not give me anything I want. You only ask me what I want so you can tell me I can't have it. Well, you can't give me what I want."

"Don't be so sure!"

"Tonight! Now! You're fifteen hundred miles away. You'd have to charter a plane to get here before sunrise. Bullshit."

"Why are you like this?"

"I'm not like this. I am this. I'm sick of it. You, Leona. Women. You know what the one redeeming virtue of women is?"

"You hate women."

"They aren't men."

"So witty."


"... What are you doing?"

"Lying still."

"I mean besides that."

"Playing your mind like a spinet. Plink. Plink."

"Like a harpsichord?"


"All you think about is sex."

"Right. I'm lying here thinking about your bony ribs, the smell of your hair, the soft inside of your mouth...."

"Stop it."

"Sex in the head."

"You make me sick sometimes."

"Don't blame it on me."

"I don't have to listen to this."

"That's right. Hang up. Go away. Leave me alone."

"Don't tempt me. Is that what you want?"

"I want you to love me."

"Besides that."

"No besides. Now you've got what you wanted. Go to bed. Go to sleep."

"What are you going to do?"

"What I do is my business. For you, it's just gossip."

"Why are you so mean?"

"I'm old. I'm tired. I'm lonely. You touch matches to me to see if I flinch."

"You're sick."


"Stop it."

"I want to stop."

"I need to sleep."


"Are you going to be all right?"

"I haven't even been half right, for three years."

"Stop it!"

"Hang up."

"Why don't you? You obviously hate me. You hate to talk to me. Why don't you hang up?"

"I want to hear you laugh, but I don't know how to be funny any more."

"Why won't you be nice to me? You used to be nice."

"And you sucked it out of me like a vampire. You don't give anything back."


"Truth. It's after midnight. Pumpkin time. Woof."

"Why don't you talk to me? I just depress you. Why don't you call Leona? Beg her to come back. You love her."

"She's dead."

"She is not!"

"The Leona I love is dead. There's a woman who looks like her in Ohio somewhere. Columbus, I think. Coincidence."

"God you're a bleak bastard."

"Cancer is bleak."

"You don't have cancer."

"Psychomelanoma. Untreatable."

"You are so melodramatic. It's tiresome."

"Love is monotonous."

"You don't love me. Her."

"Both. Love is cumulative. And irrational. I love you like heroin. My addiction."

"Maybe you should just end it all then."

"Too much trouble. I'll wait."

"For what?"

"For nothing."

"I can't stand you sometimes."

"Then go find someone you can stand. Take the clown suit; make sure it fits."

"You hate me."

"I love you. That's a curse."

"Why can't we be like before?"

"Water. I need food."

"You can live a long time on water."


"I know what you want."

"No, not sex. If you loved me, I could live without ever seeing you again."

"So pretend. What do you need me for?"

"Pretending to believe in God is the opposite of believing in God."

"You are so blasted cryptic."

"I believe in wings. I can't fly."

"Will you please stop it?"

"This is who I am. What do you want?"

"I want you to be nice."

"Sara, if I dreamed, I'd want to dream you. Your hair smells of apples and a spice I'll spend the rest of my life identifying. Your laughter fills me with joy. You are the eyes I see with, the hands I write with, the blood that pumps through my heart. My fingers would know your skin if I were deaf and blind."


"Nice enough?"

"Oh, fuck you."


"Come to Vancouver."

"Never. What for?"

"I want to see you."

"What for?"

"Just to see you again."


"I thought you wanted to see me."

"I didn't say that."

"What do you want, then?"

"Is this a loop?"

"Please stop."

"Go to bed."

"I'm in bed, Andrew."

"Sleep then."

"I'm sleepy."


"What will you do?"


"Will you call me?"


"Yes, you will."


"Why not?"

"What for?"

"If I call you, will you talk?"

"If I'm here."

"I need to sleep."


"Goodnight, Andrew."

"Goodbye, Sara."

The click of the phone was like a shell chambering. He held the phone to his flank like a useless tool.