The end started with a phone call at night.
I was wasting the day for this one because the verdict was in the hands of this girl—the apple of my eye. Hallucinations of ringing sounds ebbed and flowed, but mostly flowed in all directions the whole day and the whole night, even.
Finally she called at three in the morning, from a payphone.
I picked up and answered nonchalantly. I said, “Hello?,” like I didn’t know who it would be.
There was a pause. “Chuck? It’s me.” She sounded like she was somewhere loud, and I knew her well enough to know that the shake in her voice said more about her state than she would.
“You got any beer?” she asked.
“Can you pick some up?”
“It’s 3 a.m., baby.”
“Fuck.” She paused. “Do you have any weed?”
“Yeah. Just two, though.”
And she hung up.
Three thirty came and so did she, with eyes puffed, mascara running from sweat and fatigue; but not from tears because she’s not the crying type. Her hair looked like someone had teased it mercilessly and she smelled like another man’s cologne hiding the scent of another man’s body.
“I had a rough night,” she said, swaying, beer breathed, cigarette scented.
“Yeah? Me too.” I asked her what happened, even though I knew it didn’t matter. She was here, she was with me.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“We can talk about it later.”
She started undressing like it was nothing, like it was just in her nature to be scantily clad. Like I wasn’t even there. Walking past me, she slipped her dress down from her shoulders, letting it rest on my floorboards.
“What are you doing?” I asked. I just wanted to tell her how perfect her sweet cream skin looked in black lace.
It didn’t matter.
“I’m just getting comfortable.” She came back to me and pressed her breasts against my chest. After a second she brushed me away and walked toward my record player, sitting beneath the window, the blinds all up. But she didn’t care that her flawless body was exposed for everyone on the streets to see. She shuffled through my records, standing there, tossing records that weren’t according to her tastes on the floor.
Finally she put on Blondie. She’d left it here last time she was over, the last rendezvous. She stepped toward my bed like a dancer, embraced me. We fell slowly and she stayed on my chest, wrapping her ballerina legs around me. Rapture played in the background.
“Toe to toe, dancing very slow, barely breathing, almost comatose. Wall to wall, people hypnotised, and they’re stepping lightly, hang each night in Rapture.”
“Where’d you come from?”
“Does it matter?” And it didn’t. She whispered it in such a way as to suggest that our conversation should be had without words.
“Is it all done and over with, at least?”
She didn’t answer for a while. Eventually she said, “Everything’s gonna be okay.”
A pause. “No. I don’t know. No.”
We let the record player do our talking for a bit. Blondie played on. “Face to face, sadly solitude, and it’s finger popping, 24 hour shopping in Rapture.”
“Fuck it. Want a cigarette?” I asked.
She smiled and inched up me until we were face to face. She spoke softly.
“How about giving me a reason to smoke, for starters?”
This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 18, published January 11, 2011.