When Sandra called from the airport, I was asleep and the brilliant ringing of the telephone clashed badly with my attempts to mend a dream that had already spiraled too far out of control.
"You woke me up," I told her petulantly. Her apology was mostly laughter. Airport security had confiscated a bottle of her favorite perfume, and the singular boredom of an hour spent in hard plastic seats by Gate 14 had surrendered her to her cell-phone. 5:45 in the morning. I was not allowed to complain. If she had been born a crueler, angrier person, she said, she would have woken me two hours before. A hundred pounds of dropped luggage, stilettos on the hardwood floor, all the lights on. But no. She had taken great pains to do everything in relative darkness, the pale yellow glow of the dining room lamp acting as sole beacon to her luggage-laden descent. In a grand show of consideration, she had donned her shoes on the front steps, closed the door without a sound, and gingerly carried her bags to the curb.
"Really," she said, "you should be extraordinarily well-rested by now. All that extra sleep." Her tone was bright and self-congratulatory.
"True," I said, but it wasn't. A sharp jab of consternation had caught me in the chest shortly after 4 AM, waking me just in time to watch her cab pull away. Back in bed, I had suffocated myself with blankets and the knowledge that I was, once again, alone.
"They just opened the doors; we'll be boarding soon." I could hear staccato airport announcements in the background. "So, how do you feel?"
I wasn't sure. Relieved? Rejected? She was really going. I was feeling the need to unload. "I'm just happy to have some room," I said. "I hope they don't sell cheeseburgers where you're going. Go somewhere where they have salads, that's my advice. I hope they got you sitting in the middle on the plane. Listen, Sandy, was there anything else? Only I'm on my own here and it's my first chance in years to have sex with someone who really gets what I need. Oh, and I'm selling that ridiculous buffalo hide sofa of yours, it just reminds me of your mother, anyway."
I woke up for the last time, shivering and blanketless, with winter light streaming under the shades. Sandra was sitting staring at me in her flannel PJ's. "You were talking in your sleep again," she said.
This wasn't looking good.
Opening: Regina.....Continuation: Anonymous