I went to the window, peered through the curtains—the parking lot was dark and still. Maybe so, but I was just that bored and lonely enough to play along."Well," I said. We made these shirts for our rec-league basketball team. Not that I was opposed to it—it was just one of those things that never came up. I'm pumping in and out of you, like, well…well, like an oil derrick! I'm the sword, baby, and you're the scabbard! We burned from one city to the next in a 1999 Dodge van we'd bought on e Bay."I've got on gray mesh basketball shorts with, let's see, three thin white stripes down each side, and a Bell's Pizza T-shirt." I was quiet for a second, then rushed to fill the silence. I guess it had always seemed sort of strange and silly to me. And in times when that was hard to come by, well, that's what the stack of Victoria's Secret catalogs crammed behind the books on my bookshelf was for, along with a 1988 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition with Elle Macpherson on the cover and battered VHS copies of 9 ½ Weeks and Basic Instinct (my good stash had been lost in a move). "Finally, I grew less bashful and got into it for real, and in a few minutes there was a happy ending. The basketball game on the TV had ended long before, and I had no idea who'd won. Mostly, we crashed on sofas and floors at friends' houses or stayed with folks we'd met that night at our show, though sometimes we'd take turns driving through till dawn while the other slept in the backseat, which folded down into a bed. She said her roommates were sleeping in the next room.Inevitably, one of their new beaus calls back to say, "Hey man, I got your message.
She was as curious about my life as I was about hers.
Then, one day, her number was no longer in service. A few months ago, my van broke down on the freeway near my house, and as I waited for a tow and the bitter cold edged in, I started playing that game I play when I'm feeling lonely, the one where I review all of my prior relationships, marveling that so many sweet, smart, pretty girls have come into my life and that I've found a way to fuck things up with every one of them.
This game usually ends with me calling two or three of my es and leaving miserable voicemails on their cell phones or their machines at home.
Nicole's dirty talk was both ridiculous and oddly arousing. It was actually so comfortable, a lot of nights I chose to sleep out in the van rather than on a stranger's sagging couch. We chatted for a few minutes, then got into the phone sex again. This time I went Shakespeare: "Oh baby, wherefore art thy labia? Now that we'd had sex a couple of times, I wanted to know what she was all about—I wanted to know where she worked; I wanted to know what she was into (besides having phone sex with strangers); I wanted to know what kind of person calls hotel rooms to have phone sex with strangers.
But I couldn't shake the thought that this was all being recorded, that in the parking lot, staked out in the back of an ice cream truck that had been pimped into a mobile surveillance unit, friends of mine were listening in, wide-eyed and gleeful, headphones clamped to their ears. Once a month or so, dusted from the road, we'd splurge on some sad-sack hotel, like that Motel 6 on the outskirts of Austin. " Afterward, she was about to hang up, but I said, "Nicole, that's so impersonal. She told me she'd studied psychology at the University of North Texas and that now she worked as a nurse at an old-age home in Waco; she'd just been down in Austin visiting friends.