I’ve actually written since my last writing update, so I thought that you’d like to read an excerpt from my story Late Night Poetry. It’s still unedited, so forgive any mistakes.
The tagline for the story is A love story told in answering machine messages. Enjoy.
Monday October 22, 1990
“Hi Sully. It’s me. Um…Lou. But yeah, you can hear that of course. I…uh…know I shouldn’t call you, but…I just had to hear your voice, even if it’s just your answering machine message. I’m…”—deep sigh—“I’m so fucking sorry, you have no idea. I wish I was brave like you but I’m not. I’m so sorry for letting you down. So, so sorry.”—Sob. Long silence—“I…guess I should hang up. I just… I love you, you know? I guess I’m like that Donne fellow you told me about. Two kinds of fool? But instead of being in love and talking about it in a poem, I’m letting the one I love go. That’s gotta be worse, huh? Take care, Sully. I…uh…”
My legs turn to jelly as I listen to the message, and I sink down on the chair and lean my forehead on the kitchen table with a loud groan. When the machine beeps, I rewind the tape and listen to the message again. And again.
I just love you, you know.
I bang my head against the table repeatedly as I listen to it a fourth time, my heart aching more and more for every repeat.
“Ouch,” I yelp after a too hard thump, and rub my sore forehead with fingertips still stiff after the outdoor chill. “And you just had to quote John Donne to me, you dickhead,” I mutter and shove my hands under my thighs so I won’t replay the message a fifth time.
I didn’t even know he paid that much attention to me when I read poetry around him. He’s the kind of person who prefers beer over books and paintball over poetry. He’s constantly in movement even when he’s sitting; legs jiggling or fingers drumming a tattoo on his leg, or he’s tossing and catching with his ever-present baseball.
So to hear that he actually listened to me when I read out loud around him—and poetry no less—prickles my heart. I always thought he was in his own world, not paying much attention to me. He never mentioned it after he caught me doing it the first time.
“You’re reading out loud.” He’d found me with my coffee, a lit candle, and whatever poetry book I’d checked out of the library, the first time he spent the night in my tiny apartment.
He startled me, but I nodded. “Yes. I like to hear the words out loud. Does it bother you?”
“Nah,” he said and kissed me on the mouth, morning breath and all since the sleepover was unplanned and he hadn’t brought a toothbrush.
After that, I continued reading the poems out loud around him, thinking he tuned me out and didn’t pay attention.
Seems I was wrong.
But it wasn’t the only time I was wrong. I also thought that when someone said “I love you,” it meant that they wanted to be with the other person, but that was obviously wrong, too. At least if the person saying the words were named Lou Hillman.
Abruptly, I stand and slam my hand on the delete button, strip out of my running clothes, and jump into the shower.