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He was supposed to call. I can’t even look at the phone. It’s right there next to the switchboard. I avert my eyes while I raise my Dr. Pepper off the desk. Bobby, what’re you doing right now? Are you playing guitar on the edge of your bed? Are you eating popcorn? Are you working your fine pecks? Are you jacking off? Do you ever think about me when you jack off? Or are you just sleeping? If I called you would I wake you up and get you irritated? Will I sleep with you? Will it get better if I do? I want to. I would tonight if you’re still awake, though maybe I shouldn’t.
I should probably figure out how to finish out the hour, got another forty minutes to fill, so, so, so… Keep it upbeat I think. Smiley Lewis? What’s happier than Smiley, right? What Smiley do we have?
I pull the three-disc greatest hits off the shelf and scan the track listing. I scratch the sunburn I got at the zoo on Wednesday and the skin flakes off. I don’t want it to. I want that day burned right there on my skin. On that day I was almost sure about him. Today I can’t tell, when we were lying around in his dim basement room with the movie playing and a brush of skin and a kiss here and there and he said he’d listen to the show tonight and call and request something, but he didn’t call and he didn’t request so I’m probably playing some music he hates and he’s not even listening.
He’s probably sleeping. I wish he wasn’t and he would call. I hope I can see him tonight. He’s working and practicing tomorrow. I’m afraid the next time I see him will be next Thursday or something and then the feeling will be gone and we’ll go to dinner and feel like strangers and then maybe I won’t even want to kiss him. My arm will be done peeling and look brand new and all I’ll have left of it all is the wax mold monkeys he bought me at the zoo. He said he’d make a request but maybe he didn’t mean it, maybe he just said it.
The Smiley CD’s are still in my hand and I got to pick a track. How about… da-da-da-da-da… Down Yonder We Go Ballin’ (way down yonder on the farm we go ballin’ with Doctor John)? Yeah, that will work.
The station phone bleedeledeleeps. I tighten. The line one light blinks. It’s him. It might not be him. The phone bleeps, the red light shines and winks out. My hand hovers over the receiver and I try to loosen my throat muscles so I sound relaxed and before I’m ready the phone is on its way up to my ear. “Hello, this is Ginny. You like what you’re hearing?” There’s no answer and my hope stretches out over the silence. “Hello, you there?” There’s breathing and faraway static that I’ve heard before and my hope sinks into the fuzzy connection and I make myself sound chipper as I say, “Hello, Hello, you’re caller number four so you won a chance to tell me who the fuck this is calling. Hello.” There’s nobody there or what’s worse there is somebody there, but they’re a blank. “I don’t know who this is, but you can talk to me. I picture you like No Face from Dick Tracy, but you can tell me who you are.” No answer, but I hear The Models under the fuzz and I think that’s a cat whining. “If you’re not going to talk, then please stop calling. Okay?” Nothing. I hang up and leave my hand on the receiver.
I want to talk to him. I’m gonna be putzing all day tomorrow if I don’t see him, don’t talk to him, I’ll be thinking on him and thinking on him. Fuck it. I yank the receiver back off the cradle and clasp it between my head and shoulder. While dialing I cue Smiley up on the stereo. I’m a multi-tasking machine. It rings. I’m gonna put on my sexy DJ voice for him. It rings. I’m gonna tell him that I’m coming over tonight. It rings. I’m gonna show him my body tonight and I’m gonna see his. It rings. I’ll rock him tonight if he lets me. Fuck next Thursday.
Smack! Something just hit the other side of the wall. What the fuck was that?
Ring. God damn it, voicemail. Did he ignore my call? “Hi. It’s me, Bobby Hendershot.” Is that Spanish Key in the background? “Leave a message. Thank you.”
What the hell was that smack? It was like something cracking. An egg? It was too loud. An egg fired out of a canon? That makes sense.
I turn away from the wall and try to be cute and say, “Hello, Bobby. It is me. In case you don’t know who me is, it’s me, Ginny Holzkorn, and I am calling you because my show is almost over and I’d like to see you afterwards as long as you are awake.”
My head starts to tingle a little. God, is it that big a deal? He can’t make me dizzy, can he?
“Even if you aren’t awake, I still want to come over and you know, watch you sleep.”
I’m really lightheaded. It’s like I smoked an instant blunt in the last fifteen seconds. I shake it off.
“Not that I enjoy watching cute boys sleep, but I fear that you might have sleep apnea and unfortunately the only way to diagnose that is to watch you sleep all night and count the number of times you stop breathing or something.”
This is weird. I tingle all over and the edges of the room dim.
“Though one time stopping breathing really seems like enough, but still I have to count them all night and if I happened to get into the bed with you then that is clinically uh clinically beneficial for reasons too complex to go over on this voicemail message, so give me a call back, Bobby. I’ll be seeing you.”
I drop the phone. My hand is too weak to hold it. My fingers dangle from my palm. I can’t move. What the fuck is happening? Snap out of it, Ginny. Snap the fuck out of it! My head lolls forward. I feel like I’m on top of a mountain and about to fall off of it. Oh God. Am I dying?
There’s a rattling somewhere under me. It’s my legs, spazzing like a marionette’s limbs. A seizure. I’m only, only, only, only twenty-two, I can’t have a seizure. Oh fuck! What’s happening to me? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here.
I topple off the chair. Bend Me, Shape Me ends and nobody is there to push the button for the next song so it’s silent except for my legs and arms rattling against the desk’s legs. The receiver dangles off the desk and over my head. I hope Bobby can’t hear this. Why can’t I just know if he likes me?
Darkness smothers my eyes and I choke on spit and the whole world squeezes my head. I hear a grotesque gargle. It’s a sound that old people make, that echoes in hospitals and nursing homes and back alleys and third world countries, around sick people, dying people, not to me, not to me, I’m young, I want my mom, oh Jesus I want my mom, spit floods my lungs and darkness seals my eyes, I’m going to die, I’m going to die, no, no, please no, no. No. no.
I cough spittle out and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. My hand is soft and small, my lips are soft too. Up on one elbow I check myself out. I look good, modestly cute, the polka dot bra under the tie-dye v-neck seems innocent, kind of adorable. I fall on my back again and cough. I have to concentrate to get the coordination down. Prop myself up again, grab the table edge, hoist up, plop down into the chair.
I hang up the phone and sip the opened Dr. Pepper next to the switchboard. It tastes really good. It’s so quiet in here, it’s an Edward Hopper night in the city still life with the half-eerie, half-magical dimness and quietness. It must be wonderful to be a night DJ. But there should be music playing, no? I fucked up her show. Oh god.
The CD player blinks the arrow and parallel lines, play/pause, “3 0:00.01.” Everything is synched up, just need to press a button and the show goes on. Boop. And there it goes. I snap to the beat. I sip the soda-pop, so good. I don’t suppose she smokes. Rifle through her purse and, oh yes, American Spirits, the turquoise kind, two left, one flipped for luck. I put one in my mouth, not the lucky one, and it tastes good just sitting there. At the bottom of the bag I find a Bic. I withdraw it and torch my smoke. I pull it in and it smacks my lungs and wow, incredible feeling. This is why exus come back to Earth, I suppose, just for the tastes. They don’t have that in the astral villages, I guess.
Another drag. Mmm. I need something to cut with. There’s a pen, but I’d have to jab it right through the skin, better to slice with something. The sharpest thing in her bag is keys. Paper cut, no, that probably wouldn’t do it. There’s a 45 sitting right there. That might work. I pick it up. “SEA OF LOVE. PHIL PHILLIPS with The Twilights. Khoury’s Records.” Looks old and in good condition, hate to do that to her, but I don’t have all the time in the world to go hunting around the station for a blade.
I crack it over the table edge, little wax droppings dribble to the carpet, I like the sound of that, and I’m left with two jagged semi-circles, one in each hand. I slice the tip of each finger, first the left hand, then the right. One of the dials on the switchboard has a masking tape label that reads, “MICROPHONE.” I slide it all the way to the top and put every bleeding fingertip against the metal grating of the microphone. Thank you, Ginny. Oxalá, thank you for again allowing me to pass from this body and through your realm on my journey.
Here we go. I force myself to the fingertips and… I’m still here. I sigh. Okay. I take one last drag off the cigarette and put it out in the Dr. Pepper can, no distractions, let’s go. Oxalá, my head is yours, I humbly beg you to let me pass out of this body and pledge to repay you with one hundred offerings for your blessing.
Nothing. I need more exposed area, that’s all. I cut the tip of my nose, the tip of my tongue. That smarts a little. I’ll have to find a way to repay Ginny. I’ll send her some money from Brazil. I’ll send a nice gift box with a pack of American Spirits and some new 45s. She’ll like that even if she won’t know what the fuck is going on.
Deep breath and push out, out of the fingertips, out of the nose, out of the tongue. Breathe in, push out.
Still here. I slash my forehead twice, making an X. I spit out blood. Come on, come on. Oxalá, thank you for allowing me, a humble man, into the other realms, thank you for allowing me to travel the paths of the gods on my way between forms. Please allow me to continue doing so for only a little longer and then I will serve you. One thousand offerings for you to let me out of this body. Thank you, thank you.
I shrink my consciousness down to one dimension, pure, simple, ready to float out of her and into the microphone. But I still smell that cigarette steaming out of the can, still feel the stillness of the empty radio station.
What is the problem? It worked fine with the bird. I was out of it and in Ginny within seconds of hitting the wall. I didn’t even barely have to pray. It died and I was free.
It died. Oh no. I don’t want to do that. I don’t have to do that. There must be another way. I could stay in Ginny, fly to Brazil. And what if she doesn’t have enough money? What if she doesn’t have a passport? I only have four days, four days to get to Bahia and perform the ceremony or it’s all over. Who knows how long it will take to get there even if I go the direct route? But I can’t do that, I won’t do that. I’ll just have to figure out something else, like… I could…
I wipe the blood out of my eyes. Damn it. I can’t kill her, it’s not fair. She seems nice, she’s so young. I could do something else, I can do… something else like… fuck.
Just do it, before you can think another second, just – I drive the corner of the broken record into my neck and slash it across my throat. Oh my god. The pain is bludgeoning my nerves but I just need to keep myself on the chair and by the microphone. Oh god. The blood falls over my breasts like a sheet, I fall limply against the chair’s back. I can feel the record wedged into my neck as the blood bubbles around it. This is agony, at least I spared her this, at least she can’t feel it, she’ll just be gone. Oh god, don’t let me just be gone.
Oxalá, father of gods, Oxalá, my head is yours, Oxalá, protect me and let me pass through the dark realms, Oxalá, please don’t let me die, please Oxalá, please don’t let me die, Oxalá, please, Oxaláa, please.