The phone rings in the middle of the night.

“He’s asking for you,” a low disembodied voice says. I ask for directions, splash water on my face, and go. I’ve been hoping for this moment, it’s down to the wire, hours to spare. My hands shake against the steering wheel, I stop at a 24 hour gas station for a pack of Marlboros.  It isn’t a far distance, maybe only 20 minutes, but I drive slowly.

It isn’t difficult to find the house, it’s the only one on the block that has lights on in every window and a yard full of parked cars. I drive around the block twice before I get the nerve up to stop. As I start to press the accelerator to make a third pass, someone runs out of the house and waves me down, thinking perhaps that I’m lost.

I stub out the end of the cigarette, twisting it out with my foot against the gravel driveway. Everything feels hot and damp, the night, the trickle of sweat oozing from between my breasts. Someone that I don’t know opens the door for me, leering savagely.  When he asks to bum one of my cigarettes, I recognize his voice from the phone. I shake one out, hand it to him, unsure of what to do next. Appraising me with a drunken smirk, he lights it, then leans coolly against the wall.

Tom walks out of the kitchen, holding a sweaty brown bottle of Bud. He’s peeled off half the label. Little sticky bits of red and white paper cling to the front of his shirt.  Tom gestures towards the stairs with the bottle. “Andy’s up there,” he scowls, “second door,” then turns back towards the kitchen. I walk through the dark living room. There are five or six guys in various states of consciousness scattered across the couch and the floor, watching a home shopping channel. A middle-aged blonde woman models a red bathing suit, one of the guys mumbles “Fuck it, I’d do her.” No one looks in my direction.

I climb the stairs and find the second room. Andy is sprawled face first on the bed, shirtless, one shoe dangling from his foot. Empty beer bottles litter the floor. I sit next to him and gently shake his shoulder. I whisper his name, and think if I left now, he would have never known I was here.

Andy sits up, looks at me with blurry red eyes, then registers my presence. We look at each other for a long time, then he kisses me. I kiss him back. I let him undress me and I lay down on the bed. “I can’t believe you’re here,” Andy whispers. His body is wet with stale beer sweat and his hair smells like cheap cigars. We rut against each other, bodies sliding slick in the heat. I cling to him and we fuck slow for a long time, the rocking rhythm lulling us into a trance. I dig my nails into his back and it interrupts the tempo.

He reaches forward to steady himself with the headboard, but grabs part of the curtain by mistake. The curtain rod clatters down on top of us. Tom knocks on the door a moment later, asks if everything is ok. We lay twisted in the curtain, kissing. Andy mumbles something, I ask him to repeat it. “I love you,” he says. Andy tells me that he’s loved me this whole time, that I didn’t have it wrong, he didn’t just know how to tell me. I bite my lip so I don’t cry. Then Andy tells me gently that this doesn’t change anything, he’s still going through with it. I tell him I never expected him not to. My throat tightens, I feel like I’m going to lose it, so I kiss his forehead, I tell him I’ll see him tomorrow and I leave.

I call my friend Marissa when I get home. “I fucked Andy,” I tell her, “at his bachelor party.” Marissa shrieks and slams the phone down, then calls back a minute later. I hear her take a long crackling drag from her cigarette, I do the same.  I tell her Andy said he loves me, and she says it’s been pretty fucking obvious for awhile.  Marissa says I should have called her before I went over there, but she wouldn’t have talked me out of it. “You needed to know,” she says, “and now you do.”

One thought on “The phone rings in the middle of the night.

  1. I realized, while reading this yesterday, that another reason I’ve a tough time commenting is that you’re portraying reality, and I’m more comfortable pummeling fiction (where all the levers are up for grabs).

    That said, here comes the heat:

    I found The use of time elements in the first paragraph a bit jarring – moment/hours/20 minutes (all night gas station, maybe?). It wasn’t a big deal, but I was momentarily confused about just how far you were having to travel.

    There’s also the occasional unnecessary adjective. It isn’t terribly excessive or anything, and I doubt anyone who doesn’t regularly have to kill their own young would notice, but to me ‘crackling drag on her cigarette’ is just as effective as ‘long crackling drag’.

    Oh – sorry, also, there might be one too many ‘Marissa’s in the final paragraph.

    All that said: it’s another fantastic piece. It opens on a nice skeezy/nervous-energy feeling, and has a great closer. It moves like a bullet, and the peeling of the information onion is spot on.

    I don’t read many other bloggers, or online writers of any stripe, who I’d actually lay out money for a collection from. I hope you’ve got Lulu, or similar, in mind once you’ve hit the 80k word count.

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