Missy, part 5

18 Jul

Probably this is one of those things that make me look bad.

Unwisely, I’d taken her call, and Missy had been talking rapidly and at high volume for seven or eight minutes. Neal wore an expression of profound discomfort. The facial expressions for “I immediately need to find a toilet” and “I immediately need not to be listening to this conversation” bear marked similarities. He stood up.

“I’m getting a beer,” he said. “Do you want one?”

I wanted one. Also another one. And, I suspected, the one after that. We kept all the beer in the refrigerator, two convenient rooms away from me and the flood of recriminatory invective spewing from my phone. Neal fled to the kitchen, returned with a tallboy, and left again, closing the glass door behind him, leaving me alone with my phone. My active participation didn’t seem completely necessary, so I cracked open the tallboy and drank it.

She abruptly interrupted herself. “What’s that noise?”

“Nothing,” I said. “It must be some static.” Slurping sounds like static, sort of, except insofar as it sounds like slurping. She began to chew me out again and then stopped. She hung up. I sighed heavily and drank.

Sometimes, when someone says something terrible to you—like when someone dumps you unexpectedly—you don’t know what to say right away, but then something clever and crushing occurs to you later. Most of us decide that the moment’s over. Some people replay the incident obsessively, splicing in the frame where what they should have said is what they did say until the way they want to remember it is as real as the way they do remember it. Other people save the comeback, wrapping it carefully and storing it somewhere easily accessible, to be used when a similar situation recurs, as it almost certainly will.

Timing was nothing to Missy.

A few minutes later, let’s call it ten minutes, she called back. I answered the phone. She’d made me a nice birthday dinner, so I decided to let her say awful things to me for a few more minutes. I wanted to be sure I’d burned off that karma.

“All my friends said you weren’t good enough for me, and I defended you. I told them you were a writer. You don’t even have a job!”

Her account was accurate, and I told her so. She hung up. Another sigh, and my beer ran out. I crumpled the can and bounced it off the patio door. Neal opened it.

“Is everything all right?” he asked.

“Yeah. Can I have another beer?”

As it turned out, I could have another beer. I sat on the couch between Neal and his roommate. They finished up a grainy VHS of Tango & Cash and then switched to an even grainer copy of Alphaville. I drank more. Missy called back. I considered. The week before, she’d bought me concert tickets. I went back to the porch to answer the phone.

“I’m a catch. I’m hot! I can’t believe you’re dumping me. You’re making a mistake. You’ll never see me in my flight attendant’s uniform. That’s something men dream about!”

Less accurate than last time, but it was still roughly factual. I thought about her lips. I thought about her bookshelf. I thought about how I thought about anything else at all while I was with her. Out loud, I agreed with her again. She hung up.

Back inside, I collapsed bonelessly on the couch. The movie had already started. Whatever was happening on the screen was subtitled and incredibly French, but I had trouble focusing on more than that. Somehow I’d gone from sober to hung over without any interval of drunkenness.

Missy called again, and Neal looked at me. I decided that I didn’t owe her anything else that particular evening. I turned off the ringer.


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