Pretend You Can Hear Me: 21 very short stories

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Charles: It’s raining here
Rosa: Here too
Charles: It’s not the same rain
Rosa: I know


Charles: You’re back on
Charles: I was waiting
Charles: Did you go see the movie

Rosa: I just got back
Rosa: I kept thinking I could lean over and whisper to you
Charles: But mine started a half hour after yours
Charles: You would have given things away
Rosa: I could have lied
Charles: You’re mischievous
Rosa: Tell me what you liked about it
Charles: How do you know I liked it
Rosa: I know your brain.


Rosa: Sometimes I don’t believe you’re real
Charles: How could I not be real
Charles: I’m talking to you right now
Rosa: Yes, but it’s just typing
Rosa: I can’t smell you


Rosa: Pretend you can hear me
Charles: I can always hear you
Rosa: Pretend I’m singing to you
Charles: Sing me a lullaby
Rosa: I’m singing now
Rosa: My voice is scratchy, it sounds mournful
Charles: Lullabies are like that
Rosa: I’m getting to the end now
Charles: I’m almost asleep


Rosa: It’s lunchtime here, cook for me
Charles: I don’t understand
Rosa: If you were here
Rosa: Cook for me
Charles: Oh, of course
Charles: There’s a cast iron pan on the stove right now
Charles: It’s got Chantarelles cooking in a little cream and black pepper
Rosa: Mmmm
Charles: Then, pumpkin soup…with chick peas and…escarole
Rosa: I like food that’s orange
Charles: Grass-fed beef, encrusted with pepper
Rosa: I like it rare
Charles: Carrots and turnips with it
Rosa: Do I get dessert
Charles: You always do

Rosa: What if this was all there was
Charles: I don’t get it
Rosa: If we had no bodies
Rosa: No voices
Rosa: Just words
Charles: Ghosts with keyboards
Rosa: Yes


Charles: They need me to stay
Rosa: No
Charles: I can’t help it
Rosa: You could say no
Charles: I can’t
Rosa: Why not
Charles: I’m tired of this, it’s always like this


Rosa: The birds in the linden tree are chirping like mad
Charles: There’s traffic growling
Charles: Someone is yelling
Charles: People are honking their horns

Rosa: The fridge is rumbling
Charles: The maid is vacuuming the hallway
Rosa: Some girls are jumping doubledutch, those chants they do
Rosa: The thwacks of the rope, clapping
Charles: The bed is thumping in the room next door


Charles: I’d put the heel of my hand in the hollow where your ribs meet
Rosa: I’d wrap my hand around your neck
Charles: I’d fuck your armpit
Rosa: I’d untie your shoes


Charles: Remember when we met
Rosa: It was someone’s birthday, that bar
Charles: You said, this bar is awful
Rosa: And you said, I’m leaving come with me
Charles: We walked across the bridge
Rosa: You said, I could talk to you all night
Charles: It was true
Rosa:  And then you had to catch a plane
Charles: By the time we first kissed, it was what, two months later
Rosa: And I already knew you, from your words


Rosa: I’m tired of this
Rosa: The bed is too cold without you
Charles: Did you make a fire
Rosa: No, that’s your job
Rosa: I put on a sweater
Rosa: All my sweaters smell like you


Charles: I can see that you’re on
Charles: Why aren’t you answering me

Rosa: There’s something I never asked you before
Charles: Ask me now
Rosa: When you got off the plane, that first time you came back
Rosa: When you saw me waiting
Charles: You were wearing a brown dress
Rosa: No, it was blue
Rosa: Weren’t you afraid
Charles: Afraid of what
Rosa: That it wouldn’t work
Charles: Why does it matter if I was afraid
Charles: I’m here, I’m with you
Rosa: You’re not here, you’re there


Charles: I thought I saw you in a crowd today
Rosa: That’s impossible
Charles: I know but I wanted it to be true


Rosa: Read to me
Charles: That’s a lot of typing


Rosa: Oh good, you’re still up
Charles: What’s wrong, it’s so late there
Rosa: I had a nightmare
Charles: Tell me
Rosa: I dreamed I was waking up but I couldn’t open my eyes
Rosa: And then it was so dark, and I couldn’t see then either
Rosa: I kept trying to turn on the light but it was broken
Charles: It was just a dream
Rosa: I know
Charles: Do you want me to call you
Rosa: No, just promise me I’m not going blind
Charles: Your eyes are perfect


Charles: I took the wrong train today
Charles: And it reminded me of that time
Rosa: Yes
Rosa: I remember too


Rosa: Now we’re both away
Charles: The house is all alone
Rosa: It feels different talking to you from here
Rosa: Instead of from there
Charles: What does your room look like
Rosa: Hotel rooms all look the same
Charles: It’s foggy here
Rosa: Here too
Charles: It’s not the same fog
Rosa: I know


Charles: I found it
Rosa: What
Charles: The picture you put between the pages of my book
Rosa: Ah, slow reader
Rosa: I don’t even remember which one I chose
Charles: You’re looking at me
Rosa: You must have shot it
Charles: Yes, we were in the park
Charles: You’re looking at me that way you do
Rosa: What way
Charles: Your eyes are warm when you look at me
Rosa: I’m looking at you now


Charles: We won’t talk
Charles: First you’ll close your eyes
Rosa: Yes
Charles: I’ll pick up your hair and smell the air underneath, where it meets your neck
Rosa: Yes
Charles: I’ll rest my head between your shoulder blades
Rosa: No more, stop there
Charles: You want me to leave you there
Rosa: No, not at all
Rosa: I want not to know what’s going to happen next
Charles: You always want that


Charles: What if you had been in the next room this whole time
Rosa: But you know I’m not, I’m here
Charles: But just pretend
Rosa: Well, if I knew that I was in the same hotel
Rosa: In the room next door to you
Rosa: But you didn’t know
Rosa: That would be cruel
Charles: What if neither of us knew
Rosa: That would be beautiful


Annotations and comments

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I'm kind of falling into the wonderful metaphysical puzzle of this rain/that rain, here/there... This opening does a great job of setting off the dilemmas that this piece limns so evocatively. The piece as a whole is a marvel!
It's obvious, I know, but you're catching the call-and-response of sms and the Turing-test nature of chat in a really compelling way here. I want to stay in this uncanny space, where it's never clear who is dreaming.