Outgoing Calls

“When I was Thomas, no, when I had Thomas, no, when Thomas spoke with my eyes, when I didn’t have any of the sneakers, he wasn’t, it was just because of the injections, did you know that Ballantine was something like a father figure but not in the sense you’re thinking of. She dreams of alleyways too narrow for cars to fit down, too dark and wet but it doesn’t matter because the headlights sweep through and she’s struck, cut down by it each time, every time, and John finds her, John finds her because he finds her, because it was he who lit the candles and he who summoned the things that rendered her to nothing more than a slab of stone and cold flowers. He apologized but all the same I knew it wasn’t his fault so much as synchronicity. He was the one who gave me a shirt and twenties in the pocket and felt responsible when I wandered off,” she said, smiling as though she were in the middle of a birthday party, beauty and balloons and sugar all around her.

The other woman watched her, smoking, chewing her lower lip and wondering if she should bother pouring the scotch or just upend the bottle into her throat.

“There’s a kind of magic to the way he dances on the kitchen tile, swinging around and around, laughing. He’ll never be that young again. He’s caught forever in freeze-frame moments where you remember the smell of his hair or the curve of his cheek. He’ll never be that young again, either. It’s all right though because for all this linear experience, you have to remember how precious those once-moments are. You can’t have them outside of memory. You can’t, but I can, and no matter what you say, what you do, it’s stay or leave, I want you not to go, did you always have that place in you where you stole from other people just to fill it? The Echo wasn’t yours. All of the brilliance you have, when it gets peeled open to the outside, when it’s shown, how much of it will be revealed to belong to someone else? Don’t go home. He knows. Go home. She’s waiting. Run. Run quickly. Run now,” the dark-haired woman said, rocking on her heels, back and forth. She would pace, now and then, her face switching back and forth between comedy and tragedy masks.

The other woman’s face paled, and her navy eyes widened just a little. Run? Now?

Half an hour ago, the dark-haired woman had produced a Fisher-Price phone out of nowhere. Just now, she offered it out, saying, “It’s for you.”

Trying not to flinch back, the younger woman took it, and put it to her cheek. Plastic red though it was, she heard the sound of an old long-distance line, the hum of a trans-Atlantic line in the background. She pulled it away from her ear and looked around, frowning, then stared at it. She put it back to her ear. It hummed. She shrugged, and took a deep breath. “You have to come home,” she said, shaking her head, her hair a violent outburst of riotous color, swishing ribbon, clacking bead. “You have got to come home, because she said I found her because it was time. She insisted you’d know. She’s wearing a blindfold because she said my light hurts her eyes, but I don’t know what she’s talking about and anyway, I don’t think it’s doing anything, because she’s walking around the apartment like she owns the place. Fuck fuck fuck, you have to come home,” she said, her voice trembling. “I’m scared, okay? Please.”

The phone clicked.

The dark-haired woman whispered, “Bye-bye.”

“Whoever was on the other end must’ve hung up,” the other woman said aloud, and then winced at the absurdity of the statement. She decided she didn’t need the glass, after all.

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