He woke me out of a dead sleep.
“I can see you’re going to be a problem,” he said. “What would it take to make you stay home for the next month or so?”
I sat up. I was on my living room floor, on a deep pile carpet in a shade of violet at war with the lavender walls my friend Hubie considered the last word in decorating. The voice on the phone belonged to the man with blue eyes. The tall man. I recognized it easily now. “No power on earth,” I said. “Why? What’s it to you? And-”
“Then how about taking a vacation?” he said. “You don’t have to leave the continent; the East Coast, maybe. Or Canada. Thanksgiving and Christmas in the snow. Consider it.”
I considered it. I thought about Doc wanting to take me to Boston for the winter holidays, this year or one of the next fifty years we’d planned on being together. I’d never go to Boston now. These thoughts made me cranky.
“There are so many things,” I said, fully awake, “that I wonder about, like who are you and how’d you get my phone number and how do you know the routes I take and why are you following me and are your eyes really that blue or do you wear contacts-all these questions burning a hole in my brain, yet you don’t hear me waking you in the middle of the night”-I looked at my watch-“or, okay, eight-thirty at night and harassing you.”
“I don’t see how you could, since you don’t know my name or number.”
Funny how easy it was to talk when he wasn’t in front of me, that clean, well-dressed, six-and-a-half-foot body, the eyes. “Well,” I said, settling back against a sofa leg, “I could just randomly-”
“Hold on,” he said, “there’s my other line-”
Surrounding me on the floor were frog photos, color plates in books, photocopies from the library, one of which was crumpled, having been used as a pillow. I straightened it out. An oak toad. Bufo quercicus. He looked lonely. Frogs and toads nearly always live alone, dating only when forced to by the imperative to procreate.
“What I want,” he said suddenly, “is for you to live a long life. I want you to stop looking for Annika Gl"uck.”
My heart started racing. “Do you know where she is?”
My heart slowed back down. “See, that’s my problem. Have you ever thought you were going to die?”
“Yes. But what if you thought no one would miss you, no one would look for you, no one would ever know what became of you? What if you were dying, and that’s what was going through your head? And what if you were right?”
There was silence at the other end.
“Her mother,” I said. “Annika’s mother, Mrs. Gl"uck-at first, I was doing this for her, a… proxy. Now she’s stopped calling. I’m not saying she doesn’t care anymore, but she’s not returning my calls. Her mother. You see?” I didn’t know where I was going with this, what I needed him to understand about it. “And now her boyfriend.”
“Damn. My other line again. Hold on, Wollie.”
At mating time, male frogs may sing out all at once, a cacophony of bleeps, chirps, croaks, hiccups. I wondered what it was that called to a female frog, which particular sound reached her heart and made her leap up and take notice. Her name, maybe?
“I have to go,” he said, coming back on the line. “I’ll answer any questions you have, but not now.”
“Answer one.” I was standing, looking out the apartment window, down onto the street, a new habit.
“What’s your name?”
“Simon.” I pictured him smiling. “That was quick; I’ll give you another one.”
I thought of all the mystery surrounding this man, the myriad questions running through my mind, but only one popped out. “Are you married?”