Archive for September, 2010

Katie, Part 6

29 Sep

Anyway. I think I was talking about asshole Katie’s asshole boyfriend.

He was on the phone again. My head felt thick with sleep. The numbers on my clock read 4:02 in that hateful, fuck-you way that digital clocks have in the early morning.

“Who is this?” I asked. This is always a stupid question.

“I’m Omega.”


“I end things.”


“You stay away from Katie. I’ll kill you. I know where you live. I’ll eat your fucking liver.”

He had a heavy voice, mouth-breathing and very punchable. In the background, I could hear the sounds of the unending party. Also I could hear female laughter, airy and vicious. It sounded like Katie. I pressed the end call button on my phone. It rang again. I pulled out the battery and fell to sleep.

In the morning, I checked my messages. There were several, progressively longer, drunker, and more rambling. Music and voices filled the background, as did laughter. I called Katie. She didn’t answer. Neither did Kevin or Anna when I called them. I left messages with each. That evening, Omega called again. He called the next night and the night after that. Eventually I faced a choice: either change my number or call the police. Typically, I dislike asking armed strangers for help, but changing my number felt like surrender. I called the police.

Unless you’re calling 911, when you call a police department, you end up talking to a recording. Imagine calling the customer service line of a company whose customers are legally compelled to pay them, even if they never buy anything. Eventually, after three or four minutes of menus, you can get to the menu for harassing phone calls. If you select the menu option for phone calls involving death threats, they’ll send a cruiser to your house to take a report.

A uniformed officer showed up to my house around 8 a.m. I greeted her and invited her inside, acutely conscious of how my house and I seemed. She smiled impersonally and took two half-steps forward, standing on the threshold without actually entering. Our house was cluttered and smelled faintly of cat. My clothes were rumpled and smelled faintly of cheap wine (I hadn’t been able to get back to sleep after the last call from Omega, and wine helps to pass the time). At the time, I couldn’t understand why the cop didn’t come inside and sit down, but in retrospect it’s probably because she didn’t want to see anything that she’d have to arrest me for. Not that I kept any contraband in the living room, but ours was the sort of neighborhood that saw cops standing on porches fairly regularly. Sometimes indigents wandered up and down our street, trespassing on porches in order to pick tobacco from ashtrays so they could roll their own cigarettes later. Sometimes our neighbors smoked lots and lots of marijuana. She started taking a report, but she stopped as soon as I told her that the number was a Dayton number and I didn’t know conclusively who it belonged to. In order for a report to matter, she said, there needed to be a suspect. I needed to know whose phone had called me.

I called the Dayton police. They did not seem happy to hear from me. They politely suggested that their problems and my problems did not intersect.

Frustrated, I rode my bike downtown to CPD headquarters. They did not seem happy to hear from me either, but they let me file a report. Given the circumstances, it felt like an accomplishment.

Four days passed. I started leaving the battery in my phone again when I went to sleep. This was a mistake. The next night, another early morning phone call awakened me with moist and flaccid threats, but with one difference. This call came from Katie’s phone.


Katie, part 5

19 Sep

Anna had already left for work by the time I made it back to her apartment the next morning. Kevin puttered around the cluttered kitchen and bedroom, exchanging pleasantries with me and keeping an average three-foot buffer of uncomfortable space between us. On average, conversations per se hold almost no semantic value. By that I mean most people, most times, say things of only vestigial meaning to one another. The conversation’s value lies in function. I designed this particular conversation to renegotiate my relationship with Kevin and to express the hope that although as far as he knew, I had spent an evening of mammalian sensuality with a girl who’d lately expressed her most sincere desire to rub up on him, he and I were still cool, right? Right?

Mostly I chatted cheerfully about people, potential new friends, who I felt an intoxicating and unwarranted closeness to and who, until the night before, had been his friends and not my friends. Kevin found ways to face the wall, tidying untidy stacks of books, addressing caches of unclean dishes that had been left until the right time to address them. Just now they served as a convenient focal point for attention. He did the dishes. I talked to the back of his head. He responded to me in listless monosyllables. He didn’t seem pissed, exactly, but clearly something was different.

“Hey, where’s Anna?” I asked.


“Oh, okay. Well tell her I said goodbye, all right? I’m sorry I didn’t get to see her this morning.”


“Thanks for inviting me up. I had a really good time.” As soon as I said it, I cringed at my choice of words. Innuendo is inherent to the phrase “really good time.” But then I thought, What does he care? And then I thought, What if he does care? He had a girlfriend, after all. Maybe he was pissed that I didn’t come home with him to defuse the fight. Maybe he was just tired.

“Sure thing.”

I left.

The ride back home to Columbus forced me to stop and buy more gas. For some reason, my credit card company believed that I was thousands of dollars creditworthier than I was. While I spent my bank’s money, I texted Katie.

Text messages are the preferred medium of an uncertain relationship. They are brief, direct, immediate, and may be ignored indefinitely in the short term without breaching etiquette. I like them. Immediately she responded to tell me that I should call her later. I continued driving, flush with pleasant anticipation. To me, she seemed like a genuine person.

Later, when I called, a thick, syrupy male voice answered her phone. His voice sounded the way someone with a concussion looks.

“Um, is Katie there?” When you are confronted with a confusing situation, the most overwhelming human instinct is to ask stupid questions. I had texted Katie earlier using this number. Of course she was there.

“Who is this?”

“My name’s Dan. I’m a friend of Katie’s. Can you put her on?”

The pause stretched for slow and greasy seconds. “Who are you?”

I started to answer again and stopped. My stomach turned. “Fuck you. Who’s this? Put Katie on.” The line went flat. It rang again, Dayton numbers I didn’t recognize.

I answered.

The same sluggish voice spoke again. “You stay the fuck away from Katie.”


Katie 4

12 Sep

Katie and her roommates lived in a large house around the corner from one of my old apartments. Before moving to Columbus, I’d lived in Dayton for a couple of years during graduate school. In this neighborhood, stray cats outnumbered people. The neighborhood itself had been posh until sometime around 1930, but now litter and cat shit covered most of the lawns. The city had tried to build and rebuild the neighborhood to preserve its historical character, with uneven results. A semi-antique mansion, rebuilt in the 70s with tan bricks, failed to qualify as historical, but the iron fence surrounding it claimed state protection. Across the street loomed Ohio’s biggest, pinkest funeral home. A block or so down the street, Katie roomed with maybe seven or eight miscellaneous hipsters in a tall ramshackle house with endless porches, windows, and Corinthian columns.

By virtue of her nearly painful physical beauty, a girl named Hadley reigned over the warren as queen of the eusocial hipster hierarchy. She seemed nice enough, benignly wandering the after party with her consort, a dimly lit bulb named Timothy, who followed her, forlornly attempting various gestures of physical courtship. Below her the social order scrambled. Dylan, a frustrated vegan lumberjack of a man, torqued a wrench on a fixed gear bike while watching Kim, the nymphomaniacal pixie object of his affections, compound his agony by rubbing herself mercilessly against every man present not named Dylan. He had calves like overinflated footballs. Kim, a drunk and pajamaed sophomore who’d only lately realized she was hot, had not yet worked her way through the novelty of unlimited available and willing penises. Siobhan, the token non-white girl at the party, offered me a beer from the fridge and asked me my name. Everyone else looked at me incuriously or ignored me completely, milling slowly about me, pursuing individual goals. Some of them had paired off; everyone had a drink. Gradually, I realized that the after party wasn’t a party in the classic sense. Everyone just lived there, and this happened more or less every night.

Katie pulled me to an overstuffed couch. Someone had a guitar, much in the way that someone always has a guitar. As male props go, a guitar approaches perfection. It is phallic, suggesting virility; expensive, suggesting wealth; and artistic, suggesting sensitivity. Katie asked to borrow it and began to strum an indie-rock sea shanty about sex and revenge. We had a sing-along. I sang. I don’t usually sing. She threw her legs across my lap and nuzzled my shoulder. As soon as she’d made sure everyone had seen us together, she led me upstairs to her room.

A large, frameless double bed strewn with afghans dominated a room otherwise bare of furniture. Gentle drifts of laundry pushed up against the large bay window of the far wall. Ambient outdoor light lit the room in a way that struck me as romantic. She invited me to sit on the bed, and I sat. We talked to each other. We talked about our childhoods. We talked about high school. We talked each other out of our shirts and spent the long hours of the evening making out in a groping, adolescent way. Our thighs and hips pressed together with slow, needy friction. We drifted into semi-sleep, occasionally rousing enough to wake each other with fretful kisses. Downstairs, half a dozen people who knew that Katie had a boyfriend fell to beer-soaked sleep on easy chairs and beds. When I woke the next morning, Katie had already left.

Late the next evening, my phone rang with an unfamiliar number.


Katie, part 3

07 Sep

“You’re giving secret kisses. That’s not fair.” Katie spoke indignantly, but she didn’t finish the sentence before pulling away and thrusting her face back towards Kevin. As far as I knew, she did not yet know my name, but as someone who did not know where his next kiss was coming from, I’d decided to make each kiss worth my time. Kevin turned away from her, giving Katie a face full of unaffectionate beard and happening to look up the steps. Anna stood at the top of them.

“Kevin. I need you.” She pivoted on a vintage-booted heel and stalked, all rage and fluttering scarf, back inside the bar. Kevin shoved his chair awkwardly backward. “I’ll be right back.” Here is another rule of internet dating: whenever a person says “I’ll be right back” immediately before going to follow an angry girlfriend, that person lies.

Immediately my palms began to sweat. Not only was Kevin the only person I knew at the table, for the evening he was the Fountain of Long Island Iced Tea. No one paid any attention to Kevin’s clumsy departure. Probably things like that happened a lot. I looked around the table, trying to assess the interest of the other women present, but Katie’s apparent pursuit of me as an ersatz Kevin had the same effect as a colonial flag. Wrongfully, I assumed Katie had such prestige that her claim on me would discourage competitors. In the actual world I lived in, her touch worked like a quarantine marker.

Anna returned towing Kevin; the two held hands aggressively. They each consciously faced us, not looking at one another. Anna wore a shuttered and predatory expression. Kevin looked at me, noticing Katie’s new seat next to mine. His expression became one of calculated gratitude, the sort of expression you wear when you pick someone to take a bullet for you. Deliberately, they both remained standing. Even the possibility of the bottle picking one of them out would have been enough to explode their fragile truce and shove the loud and abusive disagreement that undoubtedly lay in their future forward into the present. For the moment, they preserved decorum.

Anna coughed loudly. “Hey Dan,” she said tightly. “We’re pretty tired and I think we’re leaving now. Are you coming with us?” Coming with them was assumed. All my things lived at their apartment and I didn’t know anyone else there well enough to ask for a ride, let alone a place to sleep. I smiled and began to unsteadily stand, intending to make my goodbyes. Drunkenly, I lost my balance and sat down hard. Katie put her hand on my arm.

She spun the bottle, stopping it with her fingers so it pointed toward me. She kissed me again. “You’re a good kisser.” At this point, etiquette suggests that you return the compliment. Annoyance suggested otherwise. She hadn’t yet asked my name. “Yes, I am,” I replied. Another kiss. Katie took my hand, forcing her fingers between mine. “You should come over tonight. We’re having an after-party.” I decided that it probably didn’t matter whether she knew my name. She’d heard it, at least. Eventually, she’d have to learn it.

I turned back to Anna. “Actually, I’ll catch up with you guys tomorrow, if that’s all right.”

Katie squeezed my fingers, smiling placidly at Anna. Anna turned away, tugging Kevin behind her.