Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax
{a note about my lovers on the telephone}
  mandee wright

You had a controlled quality to your words, like you were holding them under water. You used as little air as possible to usher out what needed to be said. At times, there would be pauses in our sentences--and I’d hear you swallow thickly. Constantly, in the background, there’d be a din of the television noisily sounding off like someone you refused to acknowledge (an ignored roommate, a yapping pet). In moments of tragedy, the choked quality of your voice sounded identical to when you were elated.

You and I took turns reading our favorite books to one another over the telephone. I cradled the phone to my face closely in these instances. Sometimes you’d go silent, and plead to me: “Tell me things.” I never knew what kind of things you wanted to hear. The trouble with you and me and the telephone was that you could choose when you wanted me to exist.

The first word you said that made me want to love you was when you said Horses. I requested that you repeat it several times. You had a clipped, narrow handwriting that matched the timbre of your voice. I played Never My Love for you, the eager earpiece of the phone thrust toward the turn table. When I returned the phone to my face, you had gone silent. I used a fancy, old style telephone with a turned up, cup-like mouth. It fit perfectly wedged between my shoulder and my cheek. One time you said, snidely, in a cruel way that only a British accent can execute: “Can you do anything but talk about yourself?” After that, I felt too choked up to say much at all.

I don’t remember a single thing about the sound of your voice.

You called me once, back when I barely knew you, and it took me by surprise. We gossiped over the phone for an hour like two fourteen year-old girls. There was a bleating of the sound of birds in the background. I was lounging on my bed; on my stomach, legs in the air, crossed at the ankles. I smiled the entire time, my overheating mobile phone clutched to my cheek.

Once, after some minor debate, you telephoned me--you sounded desperate, harried, lost in the woods. You usually had a timeless voice, full of authority and wisdom--the voice I heard on the phone was quite a disparity from your usual tone. I told you some things in what I took to be a smooth, controlled, motherly inflection. We settled it on my front stoop, the phones disconnected, a springtime gust of wind flying up my skirt.