imageJudy Clement Wall
Graphic: Terryl Dunn

Jack doesn’t love me, though he likes to say he does. I think he likes to hear his voice wrapping around the words, velvet soft and sweet. He says he likes my hair, the way it looks spilling over my shoulders, lying against my naked back. I don’t laugh when he talks like that, the way I would if anyone else said it. His poetry’s become part of the exchange – goods and services – only when he talks like that, and I close my eyes, it’s his voice that enters me first, his voice that courses through me and lets me imagine that this is something else. Or maybe just that it could have been something else. In another place and time.

He tells me he loves me, and he says my name, over and over, like a prayer. He whispers it, chants it like music, Verdana, Verdana, and we move in rhythm, part of the song. Verdana, he whispers, again and again. Verdana. It’s quiet now, dusk, and he’s gone – back to his home, his wife, his two children. Before he left I took his hat. He reached for it but I put it on my head and he just stared at me, almost smiling. “Keep it,” he said finally, and just before he left, “only wear it for me.”

I don’t think about Jack very much when he isn’t here. I don’t think about any of them. What purpose would that serve? But I’ve got his hat, now, a reminder. I put his money in a box in the closet with everybody else’s, but not the hat. I lie down on the couch and pull the hat over my eyes. I try to imagine how Jack talks to his wife.

I’ve seen her. She owns a beauty shop downtown called Urban Allure. She has short, spiky hair, jet black, very chic. It doesn’t lie down on the top of her head, much less her back. She has pale blue eyes, air-brushed skin, a carefully painted smile. She looks like she’d laugh at him if he waxed poetic with her. I’ll bet, with her, he just gets down to business. He’s got a job to do.

I could be wrong. Maybe she’s a lot of fun, but I don’t think so. We never talk about his wife. That’s why he comes, I think, because we talk about what Jack needs. I know what Jack needs, what they all need, better than they know themselves. If I could, I’d sell it in a bottle, over the internet. No visit required. Give me your credit card, baby, and I’ll make you whole again – only for an hour, but it’s worth every penny. Trust me.

To feel human again, important, connected, however temporarily. To feel like a man. How much is too much?

I push the hat back on my head, stare out the window at the rising moon. I could satisfy a lot of men over the internet, just give me the bandwidth, honey, the fastest possible connection. Pleasure at your fingertips … freedom at mine. I take off the hat, hold it in my hands, offer it to the moon.

I imagine myself as someone else. An internet Goddess, a business tycoon. Jack instant messages me. “Please,” he says, and I can't help myself. I let him come see me in person because I like the way he says my name. Praying, singing, chanting. Verdana. Verdana.