Complacency set in and the night devolved into a staring match with the late show’s musical guests: a drinking-aged group of pruned and powdered playboys singing about a relationship that most likely didn’t exist. They mugged and strut about the stage in what I couldn’t decide was either a tribute to or parody of the 60s. I spit onto the floor between my feet. I wouldn’t normally do that.
The AC was blowing nothing but hot, wet air around the room. I didn’t have a screwdriver small enough to open the thermostat. I tried hitting it. I also tried blow-drying it for a while to try and trick it into clicking on. Probably melted a wire or something.
I’d been waiting for this phone call since 9:30. It wasn’t coming, I knew it, and that was depressing enough to keep me from doing anything but wait even longer. I swilled the last of a warm watery whiskey, gagged when it splashed into my sinuses.
For no good reason, I opened the window. The night air was dense, and no cooler than the climate of the room. The streets were mostly quiet. Nothing was happening, and so I noticed the pink curtains hanging in the window directly across the street; all the rest were beige.
Satisfied that I was right to be bored, I returned to the couch and flipped over the cushion, choosing dry crust over fresh funk. The talk show was over and an infomercial for an electric hand saw had begun. A rugged British man was cutting a car in half. It looked like fun. I felt stupid for thinking that, then kept watching, contently mold-like. The salesman’s enthusiasm had me entranced and I had all but forgotten my troubles. When the phone rang I almost ignored it. On the third sound my brain nearly broke in two and I jumped up and grabbed the receiver, answering with my name.
Biff Trickle? the voice asked redundantly.
Yes, that’s what I said.
No, the voice said.
Confused, not yet panicked, I asked, No, that’s not my name? or No, to everything?
I stood there, hole in my face, feeling like a climber who halfway up the cliff remembers he never learned how to tie a knot, and then wonders how he ever came to be halfway up a cliff.
It felt like minutes before I had enough life to speak. When I did, I sounded fifteen years younger.
You made me wait all this time just to tell me No?
You were not made to wait; you waited. Go. Now.
I hung up the phone, stood still for a moment and then I punched the wall. When the AC clicked on I knew it was all my fault. I held my fist in front of the vent for a time, watching bloody rivulets empty into tiny ponds of sweat. I moved to close the window and noticed the curtains were not pink, but lavender.