Dragon's Breath Magazine, April '92

Breath Entry
by Misha

A man around 40 is slumped in the conversation pit of his Boston apartment. He stares at the phone with hatred, then he dials it. In an apartment in New York's Greenwich Village, the phone rings and is answered by a woman in her late thirties, exhausted by exercise.

SHE: Yeah?

HE: I can't do this anymore. I can't have a long-distance relationship. We won't speak on the phone anymore. We won't see each other ever again. We'll pretend we never met and that we never knew the people who introduced us.

SHE: Okay.

HE: You're not angry?

SHE: No. I hate long-distance relationships. A form of modern torture. I find myself waiting to talk to a voice instead of people who are in three dimensions. I'm in love with a fantasy instead of a reality. Last time I saw you...

HE: Yeah?

SHE: ...you looked nothing like what I envisioned. I was expecting Vaclav Havel.

HE: But I'm short and Italian.

SHE: I forgot that. On the telephone your voice sounds Czech.

HE: I'm sorry.

SHE: Hey, don't be sorry. Modern life. It's raw and rough. I'm lucky I'm alive. I could have been gunned down by a murderous French Canadian whose wife made him do the dishes one too many times. Or pregnant and shot in the stomach by a husband who wanted my insurance. I got off easy. I know that.

HE: I appreciate you taking it this way.

SHE: I'm not going to be depressed when Eastern Europe is free. When there's light over Poland again. When Hungarians are smiling for the first time in 40 years. I'm not selfish.

HE: The phone calls were too much pressure.

SHE: Absolutely. Too much pressure. Gorbachev couldn't take that kind of pressure.

HE: You're making fun of me.

SHE: No. No, I'm not. Every time the phone rang, I felt like I had to be happy. It made me want to destroy myself. You just don't know me. I'm funny that way.

HE: I really don't want to have a relationship with anyone.

SHE: Me, neither. Before you came along I had three dates. Together they made up one perfect man. I liked that.

HE: I'm happier alone.

SHE: Me, too. I always feel responsible for other peoples' behavior. For example, I still feel guilty about the McMartin preschool trial.

HE: Guilty that the jury didn't convict?

SHE: No, that it took so long.

HE: I just can't handle having to call you.

SHE: I understand. I feel the same way. Having a boyfriend in another town breeds hate. You feel deprived all the time. It's like living under Nicolae Ceaucescu. Do you know that not only did Ceaucescu outlaw abortions and birth control, but he made women take routine pregnancy tests at work to make sure they didn't do away with unwanted pregnancies? In spite of him, there were one million abortions a year, many of them performed by women on themselves. The Nazis outlawed abortion and birth control and forced women to give birth. State control of the woman's body is a totalitarian tradition. ... Hello? ... Are you still there?

HE: Yes, I agree.

SHE: You know what they did with the orphans?

HE: The orphans?

SHE: In Romania, because of this policy, women abandoned children they couldn't provide for. Orphans were either sold to Europe for adoption or raised from birth to be secret police. Now, you tell me!

HE: What?

SHE: Is it hard to be a woman in this world or what?!

HE: It is.

SHE: It's so hard to be a woman in this world, it makes me weep. [She weeps. Through tears...] Holding your baby, dying of starvation in Ethiopia. Inducing your own abortion in Eastern Europe. Looking down the muzzle of a gun as your husband shoots you in your eighth month of pregnancy for insurance money. God! [She weeps.]

HE: Don't cry.

SHE: I'm sorry. Having a relationship can be a nightmare. I'm sorry you reminded me.

HE: I'm sorry, too. Hey -- how does Gary Hart talk to his wife after sex?

SHE: How?

HE: By long distance!

SHE: [Laughing in spite of herself. There is a beep.] Oh, the other line. I gotta go. I'll call you tomorrow.

HE: Okay. Bye.

SHE: Bye.

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