(co-written with Oscar Martens)
She asks me what my phone number is and I tell her I don’t know. There are few acceptable excuses for not knowing your own phone number, and I can only think of two as I look down at my new shoes, one of which, I seem to remember, squeaks: I have undertaken a series of secret identities lately, like that guy in the Talking Heads song; or, I am completely losing my mind and/or long-term memory. In any case, I like the way she is touching me, over-familiar for a stranger and very relaxed, lingering.
“Well, what’s your name then?” she asks.
“Whatever you want it to be.”
“Right. Because you can’t remember it, or because you’d prefer to role-play a little? You know, be Napoleon or a famous rock star or something?”
I mimic her gentle touch, hoping that will do for an answer. She smiles at me, looks down at my hand.
“David, I think,” she says. “Yes. You mentioned it before when we were talking about your sister. Your name is David.”
The careful release of one or two facts just makes her more curious. A better strategy is to fill her with fictional trivia about my mother’s house in Philadelphia, the perennials which appear every spring, where they are located, her amazing sense of color. After a very deep breath we’re on to my father’s long, slogging rise to the middle of an insurance agency. And speaking of insurance …
The thing is, I don’t remember saying David. The name—the word, when examined for too long, becomes untrustworthy. The “D” part is passable but “avid” seems exotic, archaic—part of a Greek structure? It reminds me of “ovid”. What can you say about a name that ends in “vid”? Would you want your daughter dating someone whose name ended in “vid”?
“David,” I think, and then say out loud, to her, to no one in particular, “David”.
“It doesn’t sound right,” I say.
“What doesn’t?” she asks.
“David. My name. The one you called me. It’s not me. It just doesn’t sound like me.”
“Well, I’m just repeating what you told me. Just now, when you were touching me. I like you, David. I’d like to hear more. Tell me some more about yourself.”
“I don’t like loud music. I don’t like dancing. Did I say that already?”
Some pyscho is staring at me from across the bar. He won’t look away. The challenge of wills ends when I realize it’s my reflection. I scratch my nose to make sure, a little shocked by my glowering face. The woman next to me does not seem to notice that she’s talking to a guy who looks like he’s on his way to kill someone. Fun, happy people give us plenty of room.
“OK, no music, no dancing,” she says. “So perhaps this place wasn’t the best idea?”
She turns to look for something—an exit? a bathroom? something to slap me in the head with and put herself out of her goddam misery?—and I see her back muscles in the mirror, smokily, one bra strap, purple, showing, one ear exposed, her dress that kind that only quite beautiful people can bring off, not new, perhaps even bought second-hand, something that would hang frumpily off the shoulders — oh, those exquisite shoulders—of anyone else but her.
“My apartment is 4 minutes and 30 seconds from here,” I say. “Out, then left, then right, right, then there it is in front of you.”
I don’t wait for consent. My hand is on her lower back and we move toward the door, past the bouncers and the coatcheck, into the street. It’s pushy but pushy seems like the way to be—it has resonance. I know how to get to my building but have to check the vehicle registration for the apartment number. Luckily she doesn’t ask me to explain this.
This whole day has been like standing in front of a room of people and singing a song without knowing for sure if you can sing until you hear the first few notes. I got lost in a parkade this morning—really lost. I noticed a car that looked like something I’d buy—not something I’d want to own but something I’d end up with. When the key wouldn’t turn I almost panicked. The second key on the ring worked and I relaxed slightly, thinking that I might eventually make it out of this intact.
We enter the apartment. There’s a longish hallway leading to what looks like a living room with some pretty ugly furniture in it. A kitchen on the left. A closet full of someone’s clothes on the right. I lock the door behind us and accidentally drop the keys on the floor, but decide to leave them there. I turn around and she is staring at me, smiling.
“Leslie, I think,” I tell her. “Your name is Leslie?”
“Some girls would be really insulted. Doesn’t even remember my name. A guy should pay more attention if he hopes to get lucky.”
“Some girls would be insulted—but not you. It’s Leslie, right?”
“Right, Lisa. Listen, Lisa, I’m sorry. Things aren’t making a lot of sense today. I’m just a little tired, I guess.”
“Maybe you’re too tired,” she says, picking up her purse and turning to go.
“No, not that tired.”
Lisa pauses, hesitating. I reach out and pull her hips toward mine, brush a light kiss onto her lips. When she excuses herself to go to the washroom, I go to bedroom and find it messy, covered in books and magazines. I grab the bed cover and send them all flying.
I hear her unlatch the door and crack open the deadbolt. I race to the door and put my hand against it to block her escape.
“You can go, but tell me what’s upset you first?”
She leads me to the bathroom and points to three pairs of black panties, hanging from the shower rod.
“You’ve got a wife, girlfriend, guest for the weekend, or you just like to wear women’s underwear. Which is it?”
I alternate my slack-jawed staring between her and the panties. Yes, they’re black. I touch them, perhaps not a good idea given the circumstances. They’re dry, even a little stiff.
“David, I think,” I say. “I think David put them here.”
“But you’re Da—you know, I’ve had enough of this shit.”
She turns, walks out of the bathroom and out of the apartment altogether. The door closes oh so softly.
“Leslie,” I call after her. “My name is Leslie. But my friends call me Les.”