I can still remember the weather, it was your weather, as the whole day was yours as well.
You called me Tuesday lunchtime. I tell you this so you might know who I am. I expect you call many people on a Tuesday lunchtime so I am nothing special to you. The cup-a-soup chicken dust was in the mug and particles were floating about in the light. The kettle flip was down and the water was just at that bit, post bubbling before the flip kicks up again to show it’s done. Butter out and open, ready and still messy with crumbs like some cross section of limestone showing its history. I could smell the toast was nearly toasted too. Everything was coming to a head, even the clock was crawling close to the exact hour. All these processes were funneling back together into one task, like streams regrouping in a river. I was focussing hard enough that I could feel seconds, and that is when you called.
“Hello, is this Mr. Innes-Jones?”
You said it in one of those recycled voices, and that hurt. I could already see your eyes in my head, I'm a fast visualiser, but with the way that you spoke, scripted, I couldn’t see any life in them. I could see your finger wrapping and unwrapping itself in the phone chord and I could smell complimentary coffee on your breath.
“Speaking,” I said, muting the television, cutting the talk show’s announcement short as to who the father is. He put his head in his hands and the woman opposite stood shouting and pointing downwards at him like a dictator, which, on this program, usually means he, is in fact, partaking in the wonderful adventure of parenthood.
“Are you the homeowner Mr. Innes-Jones?” God, if you could only call me Andy. If only you could say my name as if you were asking me what’s in the fridge, or telling me to move my legs so you could get in close on the couch. I know it’s two syllables but it’s still not too difficult a name to say and in my wildest dreams, sigh.
“Yes, I am and call me… tell me what this call is in regards to.” I’m sorry to be so rude and direct, it still kills me that I may have cut some of your voice from my life by getting straight to the point but I realised it was far too forward for us to be on a first name basis, when, to you, I’m a stranger. I was like a car that swerves and then has to control itself. You could hang up any moment and lose a sales deal, but I could lose you.
“Of course sir.” Sir is worse than Mr. Innes-Jones.
“My name’s Christine.” Christine. You said something else afterward about solar panels but I was still stuck there. Stuck there wondering whether you looked like your name, as some people do, or if you transcended it and it paled in comparison to you, just like when a star is named a number. Christine. Maybe your parents are people of faith and their conservatism in your upbringing has given you a bashful streak. Might you turn in your rotating office chair and blush in the face of a wink or a half smile? Are you a Tina in the world off of the phone? Or Chris? this is important, what is it about you which might influence people in that decision.
I focused back into your voice. I could always leave wondering for later. I’d most likely have my whole life to wonder and knowing how the memory would fade, how I would eventually have to fill it in with my substandard vision of your voice, tone, and intonation, I couldn’t let any more of you slip into static, the hum of space.
“Might you be the homeowner sir?”
“Yes, I am indeed” I wanted to ask the question back and delude myself that this was a conversation and not an interrogation, but I didn’t. The saddest three words right there.
“And you make the decisions there, correct?” “Yes, certainly do.” I’m sure that women like a man of the house, our house, though I doubt your imagination was working as hard as mine. I was still finding it hard not fall into it.
My silenced program finished on the television and you went into my electric bill. The women in the adverts disappointedly displayed their appliances, fell off ladders, came in suits to save people who did, and a myriad of other things, but they all spoke in your voice, spoke to me. Some were called Tina, some called Chris, depending on which name suited their faces. It was funny, I felt that I slightly loved all of them, in different ways, as they attempted to be you. Like this woman with the wonder-mop for example. She had a checkered shirt, and despite still being quite pretty, time had separated her jowls slightly from her chin, so I decided on the more androgynous name Chris for her, Chrissy at best, she has a life away from wonder-mops. She doesn’t spend her days in perfect lighting demonstrating to her husband and kids how, however hard you shake the thing, it still retains it’s liquid. Though I expect she probably gets one for free. I hope she does, they look quite good.
“Sir? Sir?” Chris on screen tells me, like some kind of backward echo getting louder and more real. I gave you my attention back and bear in mind I always will. “Sorry?” “I said, are there any large trees nearby your house that may obscure sunlight to the panels?” “No.” “Any tall properties nearby to the same effect, sir?” “Can’t say so.” In my mind you were asking me for something in that way that wives do, establishing with a series of questions that there’s no real reason why we can’t have solar panels, so why don’t we. A really subtle supplication, and I played along and allowed it, just for you. I kept it to myself that I live in a basement apartment and the only light I get is when no one is walking over the grate above the front window.