Dialogue is dead. Good conversations are hard to come by. My girl Tina gave it pretty good, but sometimes you just gotta get it from somewhere else, you know? Sometimes you want it raw and dirty and from the lips of a stranger.
The conversation worker I requested was supposed to be androgynous, but they sent someone very masculine. A tall, burly guy walked into my apartment. Not bad looking. But not exactly what I was in the mood for. “My man,” I said. “You’re not what I was expecting.”
Unfazed by my comment, he asked, “Are you Kaya?”
“I am. What should I call you?”
“You can call me Grice.”
“Hmm. So what can you do for me, Grice?”
“One hour of dialogue for a straight hundred. I can sing to you, tell you jokes, tell you a story. Hell, I can just sit here and listen, if that’s all you want. You name it. I can even yell at you. That is, if you’re into that sorta thing.”
“Oh yeah? You can give me a good tongue-lashing? I bet you’re good at that.” I pulled a hundred out of my purse and handed it to him.
“Sure, just nothing too personal. Like, I won’t pretend to be your dad or anything. I’ll role-play, but none of that Freudian shit, okay?”
“Fine. Here, start with this.” I handed him a copy of Leaving Las Vegas by John O’Brien. “Consider it foreplay. Read it nice and slow. If I like your voice, then we’ll talk a little more. If I catch you checking your phone even once, I’m getting my money back. You hear me?”
He cleared his throat. “Nice and slow. I hear you.” He began reading in a steady unselfconscious cadence. His voice was a smooth, golden baritone.
I walked over to where he was standing. I took his hand and guided him to the sofa. We sat together, and I rested my hand on his leg as he continued reading. I interrupted in a sultry whisper, “Oh, that’s good, you big slut. Now put your hand around my neck while you read the next paragraph.”
He did, but gripped me harder than I expected. “Don’t call me a slut. I’m a ‘locutor. A professional. I make more in an hour shootin’ the breeze than you prolly make in a day.” He released his grip, but his warning resonated.
“Okay, easy now,” I said. “Let’s put the book down for a sec. How much for you to tell me about your childhood? Your parents?”
“Sorry, only my wife gets to hear about that. I’ll talk about anything, but not about that stuff. It’s too personal.”
“Well, I bet I’m prettier than your wife. I bet I’m the most attractive woman you’ve ever talked to.”
“Not even close,” he said.
“How come you don’t say the full word? It’s interlocutor. That too hard to pronounce? Didn’t you finish school?”
“School,” he shook his head. “You’re a legit smartass, arent’cha?”
“Come on, I’m not paying you this much to take shortcuts. Don’t give me this abbreviated slang stuff. Did you grow up in Jersey or something?”
“Stop asking me how I grew up. I already told you. You ain’t my wife. One call — that’s it, lady — ask me about my childhood one more time, and I’m outta here. I’ll call my boss, and you won’t be able to get another one.”
“All right. No need to get hasty. Keep reading then, sweetheart.”
He continued for a while, and damn, this guy was good. I reveled in his divine locution. The deep, rich tone of this stranger’s voice gave life to every syllable that spilled off his lips. It made my toes curl.
“You almost there yet or what?”
“Not even close,” I said.
For most people, “there” doesn’t necessarily mean orgasm. For some it means crying. For others it’s all-out laughter. Could be any physical climax, really. It all depends on the context. Good conversation moves people in different ways.
After he threatened me, I could have laughed and called it a night. But I paid a lot of money, so I had to pace myself. I wanted to see how good this guy was. I’ve had some workers put me to sleep, which can be just as good, especially if you’re all high-strung like I am. “Continue reading,” I said.
“You really like this kind of stuff? This literature with all these complicated words.”
“Oh yes. What can I say … I love a guy with a big, throbbing vocabulary.”
“Suit yourself. I just don’t get what kind of person gets off on being read to. There’s so much more I can do for you.” He coughed a little before starting the next line.
“Be patient, babe. You’ll get your chance. Do you want a glass a water or something? I bet your mouth gets real dry.”
“Got anything else?”
I took the bottle off the shelf. “Let’s take this to the bedroom,” I said. “I’d like to lie down while you have your way with me.”
I took my clothes off to get more comfortable and invited him to do the same. The best conversations always happen when you’re naked. “Like I said, nice and slow. Okay? There’s no rush. I have the money.” I reached into my nightstand drawer for another hundred and handed it to him. He tucked it in the pocket of his pants that were now hanging off the bedpost. “Your tip in advance, in case I fall asleep. You’re better than I thought you’d be. Now, show me how you … shoot the breeze.”
A little while later, as I was dozing off, I heard the sound of the front door being unlocked.
Dammit, I thought. She wasn’t supposed to be back so soon. In a frenzy, I threw the covers off and jumped out of bed. “Here’s your pants. Put them back on now. Where’s the book?” I asked. “Come on, hurry.”
As he rushed to put his pants back on, I strained to open the window. But before I could even tell him to jump out, the bedroom door swung open.
It was Tina. Her face was filled with emotion. Instead of screaming, though, like I would’ve done, she remained calm. She looked at Grice, as if expecting him to say something. But he was silent. Then she turned her gaze to me. I stood there motionless, watching the tears grow in her eyes.
“He’s leaving,” I said. “Maybe we can talk about this.”
She hung her coat on the bedpost where Grice’s jeans were just a moment ago. Taking the book from his hand, she examined the front and back cover. “No, Kaya. I think you’ve done enough talking for tonight.” She walked out of the room, and for the rest of the night, not another word was exchanged.
The next morning I woke up to the smell of pancakes and fresh coffee. I walked into the living room to see an empty Kleenex box and balled-up tissues scattered all around the couch. The pillows and blankets were still strewn about. “Hey sweetie,” I said, entering the kitchen.
“Hi, love.” She smiled and handed me a mug.
“How are you feeling?”
“I feel amazing. Thank you for last night. That was one of the best climaxes I’ve had in a long time. I haven’t had a good cry like that in forever. You’re the best girlfriend. Now, sit down and tell me all about the fun you had with Mr. — what was his name?”
“Grice — his name was Grice — and damn, could that man talk …”
Franco Amati is a writer of speculative fiction from New York. You can find more of his work at francoamatiwrites.com