call me (2001)

At twenty, I would stare down the phone, the door, the windowsill, willing a ring, the creak of an opening, to bring him to me. I'd whisper, again and again, "Call me," like a mantra, like a prayer, like a siren singing a sailor offshore.

And he'd call. Always, he'd call.

The dented door isn't easy to open, but if I lean on it just right, and jiggle the handle, with a creaking sound I can slide under the steering wheel to the front seat and wait.

The upholstery is an aromatic history book: the smoke of his Gitanes, the spilled coffee of each morning's haste, the spicy-sweet aroma of Bay Rum, splashed on in a rush where droplets of it remained to glow amber on the edge of the white porcelain sink. Sweat -- I can smell sweat in his headrest if I press my nose to it tightly and breathe deep.

Turn the car on, let it run until it purrs, let it warm up until I can turn the heat on and amplify the scents that live inside. The engine rattles a little, even when warm, rattles like him, keys in hand, wedding ring tapping the edge of the counter with the anxiety of the late, ever annoyed at my perpetual tardiness, but not enough not to find it charming. Just enough to take his own car in the morning and run out without me in a flurry of papers and worsted wool.

When I press the play button on the car stereo, I grit my teeth a bit as his usual musical selection bleeds through the speakers. I call it his circus music: the slightly cacophonous modern bossa nova he listened to, a jarring jumble of viola, guitar, pump organ. I've never cared for it, I always felt that something about it reeled me in, but kept me slightly off-balance -- every time I almost sank into it and absorbed it, some pause, some slow whine of a high violin or a falling accordion stopped me, interrupted my flow. Which is why it is his music in the first place.

I close my eyes, I always close my eyes. I hypnotize the very air; summon him, whispering "Call me."

The music is frenetic as ever, it brings a tightness to my heart and my chest, but it surrounds me, as his scent surrounds me, as knowing I am in his place surrounds me and casts its spell. We hypnotize one another with a spell of music and history and passion that's worn a bit thin at the seams.

I remember the glove compartment: a well-handled box of English butterscotch, one always nestled in his right cheek. I'll open it, slide one over my lips, let it settle over my tongue, let its buttery sweetness leave that thick film it does, and I'll taste him.

His kiss will be a dead giveaway: I can feel the roughness of his beard the second before his lips meet mine, flavored with toffee, smelling slightly of smoke and sweat and anxiety. My head feels light, and immediately a heat and a feeling of familiar heaviness rises between my thighs, and it makes me hungry and wanting.

I'll open my mouth wide, take in his tongue, suck the toffee out from inside his mouth as I did when we were younger, when we routinely filled cars with the smell of sweat and love and fear and hope and dreams.

I'll let my head drop back, following that feeling in the neck that had you tilting your head and mouth open like an infant bird knowing it will be fed by a dutiful mother. My fingers will grab a handful of thick black hair, going white at the temples, and I'll subvert his attempts at presentability by tangling it sloppily in my fingers, and pull his face so deeply into mine that I can't feel his breath or mine as they mingle.

And his hands: his hands will travel as they always have, their strong compass needle pulling south, fumbling with the strap on my robe until it loosens and gives his hands the warm weight of my breasts. He'll knead both nipples at once with his hands, pulling them playfully as they harden beneath his fingertips. I can hear my own sigh amplified in his mouth like a warm cavern.

His knee will press slowly, rhythmically between my legs and I will arch to meet it. I can feel how wet I am, not because I feel wet, but because I feel warm, because the warmth pulses in me and rises up into my belly as we slide back on the front seat. His hands will slip above me and I know I will hear what I always hear, the gentle click on the passenger door lock, the slight squeak of the window as it is rolled down to let the heat out, because he's hot. He'll want to turn the heat off, and I'll balk, wanting the warmth, wanting to smell the sweat and the salt strongly, wanting to feel overheated and too large for my skin.

And so the heat will be left on, and the window rolled back up when I reach and tap his elbow with my hand. We know this subtle language well, and are practiced conversationalists in the art of language which hasn't words.

Underneath his jacket, underneath the arms of his laundered and pressed shirt there will be half-moons of moisture that will smell like salt and molasses, and I'll move my head to press my face there, taking it all in. He'll smile at my peculiar habits, with his eyes closed as we pull off the jacket, help him wiggle out of the shirt like Houdini, open my robe, unleash his belt, undo his zipper and press our bodies together feeling in them years of history -- remembering when his chest was hairless and my stomach was flatter, remembering when sex still left the insides of my thighs sore and bruised for weeks afterwards and we never let the bruises fade.

We'll stay like this for the longest moment imaginable; his face buried in the hollow of my neck, the tobacco-tinged rasp of his voice whispering my name, whispering "Hold me, kiss me, fuck me, I want you to fuck me, I want to feel myself inside you, become you."

That moment never ends, it goes on forever and forever and overlaps all others, and those words waver and pulsate like the turning tangos of the viola on the speakers, like the circus music of his I love and despise all at once; loving it because it will always be his music. Despising it for the same reason.

Without warning, his fingers will slide over the curve of my stomach, part my thighs brusquely and his thumb, out of hungry habit will press into the peak of my clitoris as his fingers greedily push into me, and he's going to be grinning -- he's always grinning as I bite my lip to keep from crying out too loudly forgetting there are none to hear. My knees buckle, my sides shudder. He'll bring his hand back up to my mouth, sliding it between my lips, giving me a taste of the salt-sweet that I am under his touch.

He will slide inside me right before I am about to beg for it, order it, tell him to fuck me before I explode. He'll do this because he knows -- he knows the feel and the need of me as I know the feel and the need of him, as we know the feel of our own skins that stained backseats in college, that christened carpets and bathtubs in our twenties, that created children in our thirties, that we began to wear as comfortably as worn jeans lately, when we laughed about our scars and our wrinkles and our gray hair and our histories we found sordid, but knew others would think commonplace.

He will pierce me again and again, following the pulsing but imperfect rhythm of the music as I slide my hands down his back to hold his backside in my hands and press him more deeply into me because it can never be deep enough. I won't hear the whizzing of the traffic anymore, I won't hear the blare of the horns, I won't hear anything but the soft scraping of his body against mine; the bossa nova of his breath and his calls and cries which mingle with mine and recreate Babel on threadbare upholstery inside steamed windows.

I can feel my body tense; I can feel that moment when if he stopped moving and pushing I'd pull him strongly into me or threaten his life if he disobeyed the order of my body, the hard reverberations of my cunt as my head felt heavy and giddy. I can feel that strong warmth that tickles and tingles as he'd thrust with more force, and I become a drum as the back of my head batters the door again and again and I'm sure it hurts, but I never notice. I'll pull him harder into me as his low voice betrays him and he coos high, like a baby, like an uncertain boy, like a mind overwhelmed with what the body is capable of. And I will feel him come in the warmth of my cunt, by the tremor of his thighs, by the stilted thrusts and parries of his torso as he collapses unto my chest, spent.

I remember now what the soft crook under my shoulder is there for, and whose home it always will be. I remember the smell of him post-coital, and our chests rising and falling against one another, always a beat apart. I inhale deeply, pulling it all in, the smell of sweat and love and fear and hope and dreams. The smell of days and years, of milk and blood, of life. Of death.

He'll whisper in my ear that he's late, and I'll whisper back that he is always early, and for this once we will agree.

He'd kiss my cheek and grasp my sticky hand in his and though my eyes are closed, I'd know he is looking at me deeply, counting the lines around my eyes and memorizing them, tracing the curve of my smile, watching a tear swell up and trickle down my cheek as his fingers slide from mine.

I lie with my eyes closed, I don't open them.

I don't need to.

I know what I will see. I can feel how the sunlight filters strangely onto my face because of the intricate spiderweb of a harshly cracked windshield. I can smell the strong scent still of his blood and his fear, ever captured here. I can taste the bitter worry of being late to a meeting to which he never arrived. I can hear all too loudly the blaring of horns, the high screeching of tires and the whirring, whizzing apathy of the freeway on which lives come, go and sometimes expire without fanfare or notice. And I can see him, rushing out the door in a hurry, laughing at my perpetual lateness and waving a hasty goodbye, neither of us knowing it was goodbye at all.

And I can hear my voice at twenty, staring down the phone, the door, the windowsill, willing a ring, the creak of an opening, to bring him to me. I'd whisper, again and again, "Call me," like a mantra, like a prayer, like a siren singing a sailor offshore. And he'd call.

Always, he'd call.


© 2001, 2004 Heather Corinna. All rights reserved.