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HE’S USING A LANDLINE by Cyndie Randall

He tells me he’s touching himself. His breath is so dense, I wipe my ear and shift to obedient, a gargoyle holding fast, sparing the temple’s body from storm water. My thoughts answer inside like a limb jerk: Why would I be touching myself? No nothing is happening in my panties. I don’t use that word.

How many people and objects is he betraying by calling me from work? One, his wife. Two, his buddy’s office where he’s hiding at three in the morning wiping semen from the buttons of the keyboard. Three, the keyboard. Four, his parents, who had him baptized. Five, his kids, who may as well be bastards. And six. I am always six. Six and stone. My face, erased.

The rivers are running, mouth muttering yes from the dust-ruffled bed where my teddy bears are stacked. I say it when he asks if my hand is down there and I say it when he asks if I feel good and if I’m a dirty slut or a bad, bad girl.

He has come to taste and see like the parched sinners do. Liquid is pouring from his mouth corners and spattering down his panting chest. This is not the Savior’s body and blood given for him; It is mine, taken. I will myself into stale and acidic. The wall is playing recordings of Jeopardy. I listen for the waiting song as he gulps and digests me. The world says my tight red dress does this to him, and also, to smile. Sugar and Spice for 1000, Alex.

I gait the line as a good mare does. See exits and visions of going rogue, but I know there’s no food out there in the desert. Dreaming is the real living for a co-ed held hostage by a washed-up rock star twice her age. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Do you sing to Jesus? It’s what The Magdalene in me would ask if she were risen. But my script supplies no questions.

I hear him grunt and grasp and orgasm. The temple cracks up the middle. Her groans pray at me like a psalm: How much longer ’til you slip this wall? Why are your ears crumbling, gargoyle? Is anyone recording this call for quality assurance purposes?

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