Your call is important to us
They lay together after making love, Alan respectful and paternal, and continually stroking her stomach, ‘that was nice,' he whispered, 'is this the moment when I tell you about my childhood traumas...how my cousin peed on my hamster...' but he was already drifting off. Men always did that, they drifted off while you were warming up to some playful revelation and then they conked out and you were left alone in someone else's flat with all the casual mementos that might one day acquire meaning: the post-it notes, the ironic Toby jug filled with feathers and broken biros while their sperm trickled down your leg. Their need to sleep was something you no longer took personally. Sasha wasn't sure about Alan's pictures, the vintage cars. 'Every young man should drive an aston martin,' he had said over carrot cake in the cafe. She had laughed because men liked you to find their jokes funny, she didn't mean to cheerlead but lots of women did it. It was ingrained in her to be amenable to men. The photo montage of his children, now grown up, looked generic and anonymous like everyone else's children. Maybe it was the same photo everyone had.
Sasha's attention was focused on Alan’s lips, she liked to trace their fat contours with her fingernail until she floated off too into the day's walks and conversations. Alan was intuitive and asked her lots
of interested questions but it might be a mistake to imagine Alan actually felt anything. He was a liar in the way that nice people are liars, their show of interest and empathy is a trick. A trick they might
not even be aware of. Alan was so smugly asleep, deeply satisfied and Sasha became more alert, wishing she had gone home. Things in the room were pressing down on her. The little closet, the sort that might house a hot water cylinder, was lit up fiercely from inside, white light blazed at the cracks in the corners. Now she had noticed it she couldn't stop noticing the brightness and worst of all Alan had started to snore. What had drawn her to him was his ease and confidence, his unflappable good humour, he was laid back and managed to seem open to suggestion but was quietly dominant. Was he a bit of a bore? Did all his polished anecdotes amount to little more than diversionary gabble. I mean what did she know about this man.
And then in the hallway the phone started ringing. It must be half one. Alan didn't stir but held her tighter, in a way she wasn't used to. Only a lover or ex-wife or current wife would call at this hour. This hour reserved for sleep or loneliness or special intimacy. Now she was really waking up and Alan's sleep was the refuge of a scoundrel. Maybe Alan had a stalker, or one of his grown children had been fatally injured in an Alpine resort. Maybe the call was for her. She kept thinking about the white light creeping out of the closet and a film she'd seen where a female mountaineer falls in love with the Yeti. It was trite stuff, the Yeti learns about romance, how to cook pasta in their mountain cabin without compromising the power of his great silky loins. They go at it amid scenes of avalanche and pine trees being swept down the mountainside but when he starts baking cakes and wearing an apron she leaves him, mumbling something about the light not being good and the right person at the wrong time. Thankfully the phone has stopped ringing but things aren't right and she's glad he fell asleep before she began her half-hearted confession.