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Loud and Feverish Dialogue

Loud and Feverish Dialogue

A man and a woman lean across the window table. Their voices hover just above the ambient soundscape of shifting chairs and espresso machines. Ed’s beginning to ask questions. He’s getting suspicious. The man vocalizes shrugged shoulders. I told you how it was going to be from the start. A jacket rustles, someone checking their phone, a period of silence. I’m trapped at the neighboring table thinking about jamming a pen through my eye.

Do I escape this dime store conspiracy? Throw everything in my backpack, send the chair screeching across the floor, excuse me, pardon me, carefully step over a purse and weave around elbows, find a table on the other side of the room. Spare my reddening ears this badly scripted torment but subject the back of my neck to suspicion.

No, I will sit and I will play deaf. I will wonder why sordid details of two strangers churn my stomach and pound in my chest. It’s going to get easier, the man says. A spoon hits porcelain, a glass slides over the tabletop. My pen hovers over paper in pursuit of a single thought while lips meet behind me. Look up and I will be exposed, a voyeur pretending to be hard at work while hanging on your every word. It’s not a choice I’m making. Your delicate plotting, the lies neither of you believe, an ability to blame others for your own actions, the next round of perfunctory kisses have all destroyed my ability to carry on. Life really is this terrible.

The woman collects her things and brushes past. The man waits for a minute, pokes at his phone, finishes his coffee and heads for the door.

* * *

Wild jabbering chases me down the street as I try to enjoy a sun-break on a sodden day. Cackling and retort grow louder, gaining vehemence and coherence with each step. I turn to spy these street sheet lifers pushing shopping carts on a mission beyond human comprehension but find a pair of bicyclists. You don’t see my kind of lunacy in this town. You usually see lycra, but these two are wearing sweatshirts and jeans; she’s buried her tangled locks beneath a baseball cap.

He rides ahead in the street while she pants and wheezes along the sidewalk. It’s impossible to say whether cheeks are red from exertion or from their loud and feverish dialogue. Fuck you dude is a favorite of both. He accuses her of giving too much attention to another man. She attacks his insecurities and masculinity. Each rabid outburst forces him to stop and twist in his seat. Each retort causes her to stop pedaling long enough to snarl back.

A gulf opens and widens, forcing them to scream louder and louder to be heard. Maybe you need help. Be a man. Shut your stupid cunt face. Fuck you dude. Red cheeks have bruised into an unhealthy liver glow, obvious from fifty feet as he stands waiting at the next intersection for her to catch up. We’re turning here.

* * *

A young cell phone junkie sits on the hood of a car, head convulsing to either side in search of someone. Facing away she can’t see the car’s owner appear, her preoccupation so consuming no sixth sense can penetrate and cause her to to turn. Driver’s side door open. No response. Rummaging of the seats. No response. Stands back up. The girl whips around and there’s words flying back and forth over the car, arms flailing in all directions.

I’m so sick of this finally catches an updraft to land on our third story balcony. She turns away again keeping to the hood. He gets in the car and slams the door.

The door is thrown open and a purse and flimsy jacket gets thrown on the trunk. No response. He stands in front of her and she turns, stares at the hood for a moment, then finally gets up. Not a word, just one foot ahead of the other towards her things, then right past them and into the car’s open door. She slams it shut and crawls into the back seat.

He throws the door open to yell over the headrest. Everything’s always got to be about you. You’re such a drama queen. The stubbornness seems to be taking effect, the refusal to lose this tired game with grace and pack herself in a flimsy jacket to catch a cab, the quiet retorts too weak to be heard at our height are all working. He’s raving now, rolling back and forth in the driver’s seat and hitting the steering wheel. No response. He turns to passing cars, implores them to get a load of this. He turns to passing pedestrians, can you believe this shit?

No one looks. No one stops. No one wants to hear your shit.

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