“Where are you?”
The voice was distant, blurred with sobbery, but I could tell it came from Tanya.
“Downtown,” I said. “What’s going on?”
Silence. For 2 minutes. Have you ever heard dead air on a radio station? It’s not that you hear nothing; you hear the absence of nothing. It’s a padded cell in a condemned mental institution in an evacuated city. So was this silence.
In response, my mind became a staff writer at a soap opera production meeting and within 2 minutes he had pitched some screwball ideas: Tanya is trapped in a burning building that is about to collapse and her leg is pinned to the ground by a steel girder; Tanya has been pushed in front of a Greyhound bus, or a Badger bus, or some kind of beastly bus; Tanya has been murdered and the murderer is listening to my helpless hellos.
I hung up. I called back. She answered: “Sorry, I lost you.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “What’s going on?”
“I’m driving to the emergency room,” she replied, sober of emotion.
“What did you do?”
“What did you do.”
“I met someone on craigslist. It was stupid. There were so many red flags and I ignored all of them.”
“What did he do?”
“He slapped me really hard. Although, to be fair, I slapped him first. But that was because he threw me on the floor.”
“Did you call me while he was doing that?”
“No. After I left. Anyway, I’m almost to the ER,” she sighed, “and I – I just don’t want to be alone.”
“Is that an invitation?”
“No. You’re downtown, and I’m in Brookfield, and gas is so expensive.”
“I wasn’t inquiring about gas prices. I was inquiring if you want me to come.”
By now I was short of breath. Not from suspense, or grief. From being on the treadmill for 20 minutes. But I would not stop until 30 minutes. Not for this. This was our routine. And I don’t mean the ER and I don’t mean the treadmill. I mean our credit card sexuality, with which we shop around, hoping for approval, dreading decline.
The ER receptionist betrayed her title and rejected me. Repeatedly. So I spent two hours in the lobby, where the floors matched the wallpaper which matched the chairs which matched the lamps and I worried if I stayed there too long I would match too. Law & Order was on the TV and some actor said, “God told me to do it.”
We got back to Tanya’s friend’s place where she’s staying while he’s out of town. He bought it so he could restore it. He’s doing all the work himself, a little at a time, so little you hardly notice.
Laying on her bed, we looked up the guy’s record. “Evictions, small claims, domestic abuse,” she laughed. “Why didn’t I look this up before I went to his house?”
It was 12:30 AM. I was laying my head behind the laptop screen. She closed it. “Are you okay to drive?” She asked. “I’m not that old,” I replied. “I am,” she said.