I go into a phone booth on campus. I pull out one of the heavy phonebooks with its wide, built-in metal spine. I open the white pages and pick any name and put my finger on the phone number. I pick up the phone, dial 0, and say I want to make a long-distance call and charge it to my home phone. Then I give the operator the number of the random person I have put my finger on and she puts me through to my boyfriend’s phone a few hundred miles away.
It is night and cold. The boy and his gravelly voice at the end of the line gives me a thin sense of comfort, this blanket is almost heavy enough to let me relax, but not quite. He offers a delicious warmth that could be snatched away at any second.
This unattainable boy has noticed me forcefully. He says the words “love” and “sex” and “fuck” as if they were ordinary words, as if he has been living them for a long time. I have to pretend they are easy, familiar verbs for me too. He must never see my foreignness, my terrible plainness.
I picture him as he talks to me. He is in that big room with the waterbed in the corner with the row of red plastic milk cartons that hold records upon records upon records, all within reach of the bed, as is the stereo, and the small black and white TV sitting on top of one of the crates, the black push-button phone with its long cord so he can walk into the bathroom if he wants or into that corner that is his kitchen. He talks to me from the comfort, warmth and light of this room where he is lying back, happy, watching TV, smoking pot from the bong. He tells me he ran into his old girlfriend today. He asks me if I am jealous. I say no. The girl I wish I was says no.
I hang up the phone finally and almost pick it up and call again. How to keep the call going forever though even as the call is happening, the voice, the conversation I have been waiting for, even as it is happening, it isn’t quite happening. Not the way that I’d hoped. It is not answering every question forever. It isn’t filling in every hole. It is making new ones, that I smooth over, laying asphalt over sink holes.