Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

The Rest

Since some of you have asked, nicely, I'll provide the remainder. Bear in mind A) that this was written as a work of fiction; B) that I didn't write it; C) that I've spent the time it took me to type out the text importing Cure CDs into my music library.

Two Languages

(A Fragment)

She is frantic. With one hand she is holding the receiver, and with the other she is punching the buttons on the phone pad. When the dial tone begins to purr in her ear, she picks a pen up and begins to doodle nervously. She draws arrows and circles. It's eleven at night. Where could he be? It rings fifteen times. Maybe's he in the shower? Listening to the radio? She cannot let it ring all night, although the idea is appealing to her. There is something infinitely hopefully about the sound of a dial tone because someone could always answer it.

Once Jong called her when she was spending the night at another man's house and let it ring all night -- five hours. Her roommate told her the next day: "The phone rang all night." She knew immediately that it must have been Jong. Only he would be obsessive enough to let it ring for five hours. As she puts the receiver back into its cradle, she remembers for an instant the taste of Jong's skin, and the way it was smooth, hot, and without sweat. When they made lovce, it was always her sweat that covered them.

She wanders directionlessly around her room, picking up books that she should be studying and then leaving them unopened. It is past midnight now, and she is beginning to worry. David should have been home hours ago. She desperately wants a bit of marijuana to calm herself down, but her pipe is at David's. And David isn't home. Punching in the number again, she listens as it rings endlessly. She feels as obsessive as Jong. Still holding the receiver, she presses the button to hang up the phone and quickly punches in Jong's number. She knows he will not be there; it is spring vacation, and he is visiting his parents. There would have been nothing to say to him anyway.

She met Jong in high school on career day; she had been talking to the woman in the booth for lawyers, asking if an English major were a good choise for law school. Jong, mysterious and handsome, passed by and caught her eye. He seemed dazed, as if the sunlight were alien to him, and he wore a sweater in spite of the heat. She said: "Hi. What booth are you looking for?" Jong's curving eyes blinked expressionlessly at her, and he replied: "I want to look for a welding booth. I like welding."

The first time they kissed his lips were so soft and so warm that she nearly cried. His body was tiny and light, like a bird's. She could lift him and carry him over her shoulder. Although she was four inches shorter than he, she weighed ten pounds more. Jong made her feel clumsy. Two years later, he admitted to her that he was unable to keep himself from coming the first time they kissed. He came right into his underwear.

Each time the phone rings, she feels as if someone were stabbing her. David could not possibly be doing something past one in the morning. The fact that no one at all is answering the phone reassures her somewhat, for perhaps he is out driving with his roommate Jake. At least then he would be safe. If David were to die, she could not imagine what her life would be. She forms a detailed picture of David in her mind, trying to erase Jong's suspicious, Oriental face with David's smiling one. David is always laughing or smiling, and his blond hair combines with this quality to make him seem to her a gift from the gods. For every darkness in Jong, there is light in David. The phone continues to ring. Her hands are freezing.

If he's dead, she thinks suddenly, he will have died without having made love to me in the past week. He barely kissed me goodbye this morning. My last memory of him will be of his back as he climbed up the hill to the subway station, then of his arms as he waved. She holds the phone, not expecting an answer now, but listening for one nevertheless. It is so dark outside that she can no longer see the flowers in the tree that hangs in complicated curls outside the window. On rainy nights, she listens for hours as water drips from its leaves. When David is with her, they talk and listen to the rain. Jong listens to the rain as well, but he never talks. Perhaps there are words in him somewhere, crashing into each other and screaming to be let out, but he never lets them. He remains immobile in bed, staring unblinkingly at the ceiling.

"What are you thinking, Jong?" she asked him once, as they lay in each other's arms, his flat stomach pressed up against the slight bulge of hers.

"It's hard to explain."

"Try. Don't worry about being grammatical." Jong, in spite of having grown up mainly in the United States, still spoke haltingly in English. He often claimed his Korean was just as bad, but it was impossible for her to tell.

"I am thinking about rhapsodies," he replied finally, "Rhapsodies are just like fucking."

"I like the way you say that word."

"He answered the best way he knew how. With his tongue, he traced half-moon shapes on her nipples, almost as if he were forming words upon them. His small fingers traced unfinished letters on her back and sides. When they made love, his eyes came to life and he spoke fluently for an instant, as if the pleasure that he felt released him from his own mind. "Emma," he would whisper, "Emma fuck me. . . harder. . . you feel so wet. . ." And then he would come, pushing inside her but never completely filling her, never completely speaking to her.

The phone rings at one thirty. She knows it is David, and although she wants to be understanding and fair, she cannot keep the anger out of her voice.

"Where were you all night? I've been calling since seven thirty! You were supposed to come over and spend the night!"

David is sick, and she can hear it in his voice. His nose is stopped and his voice hoarse. He went with his roommate into San Francisco and had a couple of drinks. She knows he is completely drunk, for when he drinks he refuses to stop until he can hardly walk. He claims he learned to drink during his year in Germany, and now he misses it so much that whenever he gets around alcohol he has to drink a great deal. The excuse infuriates her, but she remains calm.

"I left my clothes at your house, and I need them for tomorrow. My parents are going to be here at ten and I need that pair of pants. You agreed to come over this evening and bring them back. How could you go out?"

"I didn't know I was supposed to come over." He sounds hurt.

"You said you would," she replies, knowing all the while that he agreed to no such thing, that she told him he couldn't spend the night tonight, and promised only that she would call him around eight. Either he doesn't remember, or he realizes that it is useless to argue.

"I thought you said I couldn't come."

"I didn't say that. I said I would call you and tell you when to come over. Don't you remember? I said, 'I'll call you at eight and you can come over.' I came home exactly at eight to call you and my parents were furious. They wanted to see a movie with me but I told them I had promised to call you. Now my parents are pissed as hell and you weren't even home."

David agrees and apologizes. It is two in the morning and he wants to ride over on his bicycle to bring her pants. She knows he is sick, but wants to feel his warm back so badly that he consents.

David was in her German class last semester. She found him uninspiring upon first glance, but when he spoke she became fascinated. He spoke perfect German, and as he gestured in explication, his light brown eyes lit up. He obviously adored speaking, and having had only Jong's silent, melancholy words for the last two years, she became attracted to David's obvious love of language.

"Where do we get the text for this class?" he asked no one in particular after class.

"I know where it is. Want me to show you?" She had never been able to find such a valid excuse to meet anyone before. David's eyes were wide and bright, his hair hung in touseled blond curls, and although he at times seemed to feel awkward, his ability to speak made him seem as graceful as Jong was when he made love. She had never before seen someone's eyes glow with intelligence, but David's did. Jong seemed some dark, inexpressive animal in comparison with this speaking man.

She hears a tap at the window, and David materializes out of the darkness. It is strange to see the face she has just been dreaming about. He comes in looking bewildered and, as he often does lately, somewhat ashamed. She understands the look and it makes the guilt she has been feeling for weeks rise up and engulf her. It makes her cruel.

"Jong called," she says.

David is visibly surprised, but does not respond. He wants some aspirin and decongestant for his cold. With coffee. When the coffee is brewing, he finally says, "What did he say?"

"Oh, just talked about San Diego."

"Did he say anything about me?"


David looks stricken, and she begins to stroke his blond curls. She is remembering the last time Jong flew up to San Francisco to see her and met David. After meeting him, Jong made love to her so many times that his arms shook and her legs ached. But even after coming inside of her six times, he was still hard. He had to masturbate in order to go to sleep. The memory makes her shiver.

The phone is ringing. She answers it and Jong's tiny voice says hello to her in Korean. "Yabo sayo," she replies. It is an old joke with them, one of the few verbal exchanges that he understands and finds amusing. He laughs at the sound of those Korean words on her clumsy American tongue.

"Who is it?" David asks, already naked in bed.

"Jong," she answers, knowing what his response will be, and dreading it.

"Let me talk."

She hands him the phone and undresses for bed. When she climbs between the sheets and snuggles against David's back, she can feel the vibrations of his speech against her breasts.

"Yes. . . yess," he is saying. "Yes, she's alright. When are you coming up again? I know. I know you do. Okay, here she is."

"I love you, Emma," Jong says to her when she takes back the phone. It is still warm from David's hands.

"I know. I know you do." And she hangs up.

The lights are out, and she says something to David which makes him moan and roll over.

"Wanna fuck?" she repeats, directly into his ear.

She is on top, David's hands guiding her up and down as quickly as she can go. His head is thrown back and his teeth are clenched. He cannot speak when he makes love; he does not know the language that Jong knows. And yet he fills her entirely, his cock touches the very back of her cunt when they make love, and when he comes she can feel him throbbing and trembling all through her body. When he comes he moans deliciously, clutching at her wet back. Panting, she whispers in is ear, "What were you thinking of?"

"The way it looks when you make love."

"What else?"

"Emma, you know what I meant."

"No, what? Tell me in detail. It turns me on."

"I was thinking of Jong." And she cannot listen as he continues, his beautiful, articulate voice speaking the language that Jong has tried to speak through his body for twenty years.

"I love you, Emma," he whispers later, stroking her hair.

"I love you too," she says, trying to push the words into his chest and fill his heart with them completely. She wants the words to be so huge that there is no room for any other language in his body; she wants him to hear her "I love you" in his sleep insteand of feeling those strange finger-letters that Jong can trace into flesh.

At night she dreams it all again, and awakens with David in her arms, snoring and still. In the early morning, it is still grey outside. She can hear nothing but David's snores and her breathing.

Somewhere in San Diego, she knows Jong is awake, remembering everything for the thousandth time. He can hear her voice in his head, saying, "David, come to bed! Come on! Come to bed!" And he can see her getting up, naked in the darkness, reaching out to the figure on the sofa whose heart is beating so fast that he can hardly breathe.

Her mouth tastes salty, and she is reminded suddenly of the beach in Southern California, where she and Jong grew up. She held his small hands on the pier once, and said: "Your hands are so beautiful." Through his fingers she saw the waves. Sea spray flew in her face and made her long hair wet. He did not reply, only brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. She was suddenly warm in the cold wind, knowing that this meant that he loved her, that he would love her forever. He could not speak to her mind, but he spoke to something. He did not make her laugh, but he made her a part of him, as if her hand were now connected to his mouth as much as it was connected to her arm.

David is a daisy, she thinks sleepily, and Jong is a dark red rose. She has never liked roses much, although she finds them beautiful. Daisies fill her vase constantly. She can almost here them talking and giggling among their bright petals.

Her hands smell of sex. It reminds her of David, of her parents coming at ten, of that night when she said, "Come to bed, David," and he came. He got in bed with her, with Jong, with that same smell of sex. He felt them as they made love, and then he too thrust into her as Jong's eyes watched greedily. Each of them was suddenly able to speak, while she became mute. David and Jong gave each other eloquence, and although her body was in the middle, their hands passed over her to each other. She


Tags: "roman à clef", archive, nostalgia, passagework

  • Redefining Need

    "Can a society which is incapable of protecting individual privacy even within one's four walls rightfully claim that it respects the individual and…

  • Trump the I

  • Weekend Update

    I frequently feel like writing something longer and sometimes writing it here. Unfortunately, my windows of opportunity these days are five minutes…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.