You’re back in the habit of listening to podcasts for the first time in years and find that it makes for pleasant company at bars. Kevin Smith in particular. If gab is a gift, he’s got it. You listen to his stuff when you’re sober and marvel at how seamless he is, moving from topic to topic, and how he just takes off, soon as he’s prompted, and talks without cease and with so much energy, urgency, humor, comfort. Then you drink and he gets funnier.
You wish you could do this. Talk so well.
Start thinking about talking and about the friends of yours who are good at it, and don’t you even sometimes find a bad speaker interesting? Sure. Often. You cross paths with a few of them at work or the coffee shop. They speak in cliches and they’re the bad kind of vulgar and they’re narrowminded and short on vocab — but they’ve got energy. Character. You’d like to hear them talk with an option to pause, and without actually having to engage.
It’s one of those weeknights where everyone at the bar is by themselves, dressed for work, scrolling their phones. Smirking at something they read. Place feels alive with the lighting and the music and the twelve TVs on blast.
Takes a minute, coming up from the podcast, to realize nobody’s really actually talking.
Which is fine. To have a place where you can go and relax and be respected without having to talk.
The maitre’d points you toward a narrow door you hadn’t noticed when you first came in. It blends in with the wall. Ask him where it goes and he gives you a tough look, hands you a card, walks away.
Cross the lobby and go through the door and inside there’s a phone on the wall.
On the card there’s a number. 0424. Dial it.
Phone rings twice and then, on the other end, the loveliest voice: