Day and Night

by David Vengel

Night and Day

1.

The cycles of emotion Alisa runs through in one short conversation are extraordinary. Overripe with passion, eyes shining, I wait for stars and universes to explode out of her. She speaks beautifully and flirtatiously asking me if I miss her, if I worry about her, if I want to touch her. She waits and listens, smiling, relishing my uncomfortable answers.

I can easily talk to Alisa at work on Skype. It's late at night where she is. When our conversations end she tells me to have a good day, I say good night. We often get confused about this. I put my headset on. It is the first time we have spoken in a while.

"Hello?" I say.

"Hello?" She says in a sweet little accent.

"Can you hear me?"

"Yes" she giggles. "So strange to hear your voice..."

"Ya" I say smiling. "I've missed yours."

There is a pause and for a moment I can't visualize her. I don't know what to say.

"Are you shy to talk to me?" she says. I can hear the smile. An image of her face. Relief.

"Are you used to this type of behavior?" I ask

"Yes, maybe sometimes."

We both laugh; hers genuine, mine... almost.

"Tell me about your life." She asks, seeming very aware of the differences. I don't know what she thinks about my life but I can't imagine hers at all.

"My life? There's nothing to say about my life... Nobody would find my life interesting... I plan my life; I'm always planning my life. I can't take action now because I'm planning."

She listens and there is a quite pause. She knows I joke. "And are you interested in your life?" she asks.

"Yes."

Suddenly I notice a presence beside my desk. It's Cassandra. She hands me some papers that are to be filled out and ready for Mr. McAllister to sign. I look over them briefly and notice that Cassandra is still here beside me. I look up at her. "The receipts?" she says, as if repeating herself. I abruptly open the small drawer to my left, take out an envelope full of receipts, slam the drawer, and hand it to Cassandra smiling sarcastically, which she returns.

"Hello, Alisa?"

"Hello" she says. "Who is this?"

"It's someone from work. Her name is Cassandra."

I can hear Alisa smile again. She is thinking. There's a pause.

I will think about Alisa as she talks to me and after we get off the phone; When I go to sleep at night and while I'm with other girls... often getting lost in my head during whatever it is that I'm doing. I will hear about Russia in the news, frequently bad things. Neither of us has connections with the social circles of one another. I knew no other Russians. Our relationship is based solely on our will to continue it.

"I can't believe we live so far away" she says

"Me too" I reply, but I can tell she has a much better grasp of the situation than I do. She says it with such wonder. I know there is an eleven hour time difference between us. I know it's five degrees Fahrenheit in Moscow, and I know she has a Russian accent. Other than that things seem normal. I can relate to her.

Maybe if I try to actually see her. If I could feel the energy it takes to actually touch her... Regardless, I'll feel the significance eventually, probably when everything is over, when it wouldn't even matter any more. If it were only a few generations ago our relationship would cease to exist, the wars, the Stalin's... un-invented technology would inhibit us from ever meeting let alone maintaining a relationship.

"And how is your friend..?" she asks.

"Which friend?"

"Your Russian friend"

"Oh yeah" I laugh. I am surprised she remembers. "He's good" I think. "He's actually Ukrainian."

"Ucch... Ukraine is not Russia"

"So tell me about Moscow" I say, smiling

"It is very cold. Now, negative 15 degrees. There is snow everywhere."

"Do you like it?"

"Yes, all Russians love, it is very beautiful. But sometimes it is very difficult. It is very... harsh place. You will understand when you come here."

If Alisa was a stranger passing me on the street I don't think she would notice me. I imagine turning my head to watch her pass and seeing the next man do the same and the man after that... and the man after that. I met her high on Xanax, I'll admit that. Practically ignoring her, she came to me. But what does that mean? And what do I do now that she has me on a reel? Will I ever feel that I deserve her?

"So, how many marriage proposals this week?" I ask jokingly

Alisa Laughs. "This week... five" Even she can't believe it. She is the perfect age for marriage, the definition of an eligible bachelorette.

Men are different in Russia, much different that anywhere else she tells me. If she goes anywhere alone, men will ask if they can walk her to her destination. "It's because you're hot" I tell her. "No" she says. "This is for any girl."

"One boy will not stop calling." She says. "All day, hundreds of times".

"Who is he?"

"I have met him recently" She pauses adorably with an um. "A friend of a friend, Anna. We go to some shows with him and some other things."

"And he won't stop calling you?"

"No, I am scared." She says like a frightful little girl, perhaps mockingly but I'm not sure. "I have told Anna. She will talk to him." Right then her phone rings in the background. She sighs "Hmm. It is him. Can you hold one second?"

"Sure."

I listen to her talk to him. She sounds firm. Although it's in Russian, I listen for flirting. I don't believe I've heard her speak to another man and I want to know what she sounds like. She periodically pauses for short periods, listening I presume. That language coming from her voice, it's fascinating. She speaks with the same passion that she does in English but it's far more eloquent. Then she comes back on with me.

"Ethan?"

"Ya, everything ok?"

"Yes. It is fine."

"What did you say?"

"He was in tears. He wanted to marry. I told him that I would offer friendship and I tried to help him."

"Help him how?" I ask bewildered.

"Just to not be so angry, I think he is a good person but his actions are not acceptable."

Just then Mr. McAlister walks in. I completely tune out for a moment, whipping the emotion and redness from my face, I nod to Mr. McAlister. It looked as though he were coming over but at the last second just returns a nod. Just in case I open my bottom file drawer and bury my face in it pretending to scour. When I look up he's gone. I shift the head set around, tightening it, and I return to a silent line, a pause.

And then she says "I hope that we can meet soon." so wishfully that It seems true. It feels like this might actually happen.

"I hope so too... Do you think we will?"

"If we wish it, we can do it." She says slowly, thoughtfully.

I think about this. "If we wish it, we can do it... I like that." And as usual she seems to take no pride in my approval or compliment.

I know that when I am with Alisa people will see the beauty, intrigue, and intelligence that radiates from her. I will be left standing in the dark and when they finally look up and notice me I will receive a polite smile.

"Maybe in the spring." She says, exciting herself.

I will meet Alisa anytime, anywhere. A week with Alisa? It's like the grand prize on a game show except I pay for the trip and they throw in Alisa. I keep my cool the best I can. "I would love to meet you somewhere." I say.

"But that is so far away. I wish you were here. Will you come to Russia?" She asks.

I think she's joking. She loves to make men uncomfortable. She owns men. She'll help men with the suffering she has caused. I laugh. "I don't think I'm ready to meet you in Russia Alisa. I want it to be just us, the both of us meeting somewhere new."

"Yes. I think so too." She agrees. "If you come to Russia you will die..."

There's silence on my line. I think about the things she's told me.... I will freeze to death... Russian men will beat my ass...

"Are you scared?" she asks.

"Yes." I smile.

2.

On my way home I stop at Phoenix Park to play some basketball... to get out of my head. It helps me sleep at night. You can smell the testosterone. It helps them play better. The anger helps them win, makes it worth their while.

I save mine for when it's needed; when I'm in bed with a woman or god forbid I ever need to kill a man. I don't like to shoot in people's faces or run people down on a drive to the hoop. I like fade ways. I like putting the ball back up. I get rebounds on defense. I take open shots.

I watch them start fights on the court. They play better this way, taking their shirts off, making controversial calls, talking shit, and never showing weakness. They win or loose and wait for a heated rematch; the match they came for. Every man wants to be better than the other. And man can those black guys dribble... One of them sees me open under the hoop and bounces it to me between two defenders. I put it up strong.

Back in my car I'm dripping with sweat but loose. A text message from Courtney reads "Are we still on for tonight?"

Reading this message aloud I imagine Antelope on their toes, an elderly man having trouble stepping up a curb. I find the pity I feel to be unacceptable. I need a girl to make me nervous and not the other way around.

I call Courtney and politely tell her that I am canceling the plans. I don't tell her I have no intention of rescheduling. You don't just tell a girl like Courtney that.

I get home to my apartment just after 9pm and masturbate to vicious women screaming at men, making them do horrible things. I put a can of steak soup on the stove over low heat and take a long hot shower. I sip my soup with sourdough bread in front of the television, watching the news hoping for anything... another hurricane Katrina, a mass shooting, a presidential affair. Nothing.

I take a small hit from my bong and wash the dishes and tidy up my place with piece of mind.

A text message from Nathan reads "Wanna chill?"

"Sure man, come over." I reply.

"Na man... you should come over here." replies Nathan after a few minutes. I don't respond and our conversation ends there.

The rest of my night is unremarkable. I take two 10mg Xanaxs and read for an hour while I wait for them to slow my brain. My mind runs like a horse at the track; often needing to reread paragraphs and pages of anything, rising midsentence to do pointless things. But now the sentences run smooth and the story flows nicely, how it should.

Enjoying myself I'd prefer not to know the time but reluctantly twist my body and look at the clock anyway. Like some sort of programmed thing, I feel that I must go to sleep, and that I will be anxious if I don't. The Xanax will help. You have to go to bed at a reasonable hour to function in a society that rises so early.

3.

I can't describe the detail to perfection but when I'm here it's all so clear. I'm taking LSD with Alisa. We take it in my room; little pieces of paper we put on our tongues. It's the first time for each of us. I comfort her when she begins to worry about the effects and we sit as talk, drinking tea until the drugs slowly begin to work, almost seeming to forget about the impending trip. Slowly we move closer to one another and our conversation grows more passionate. We talk for an hour, maybe two, about my parents, her parents, what each of us wants in life... until we finally just stare in silence at one another... in wonder. Who is this girl? God, I think, give me the strength to make her mine. And the way she looks at me makes me think she is.

Slowly we begin to take off each others clothes and our bodies fill with excitement and warmth. It's like seeing a woman naked for the first time. I laugh when I see her pussy and lick it like it's my sexual invention; Feeling like Adam and Eve, having to figure it out... slowly.

After of what seems like hours of pressing, shuttering, and rolling; squirming and shivering, I fall beside her drenched in sweat, the bed damp, her hair wet. We just lie there breathing heavily and then softly until we start kissing again. Alisa and I, still tripping, take a shower together. Then, dressed in layers of warm clothing, go outside and take a walk in the snow.

And just when I start to think that Alisa is a fictional character; when that fog quickly rolls in and I can't focus on anything but the sadness; I look at a picture of the two of us together and I feel better.

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