Incessantly

(1993)

Published in Radiotext(e) issue of Semiotext(e), New York, 1993.

“I need your voice,” she said. Incessantly.

R. knows how to open her mouth. Five hundred and twentythree telephone messages over two years’ time. Twelve letters and seven cassettes. Her mouth full. Six bottles of bee pollen, eight jars of 32 boxes of ginseng, and much more. Her mouth is open, but somehow she keeps the air in. R. opens her mouth to express her passion for me. “I need ice,” she says. Incessantly. The air in her mouth has become encrusted . I answered a few times at first. I fought with her. She thinks I fouled her mouth; I think her mouth had a mouthful already. I asked her to leave me alone. It didn’t work.

She loves me, my voice, my radio show, and hates all those around me: Anglophones, Qu├ębecois, meat-eaters, homosexuals, my friend Bruce, CKUT-FM. Her calls come like a rash, dozens of calls in a couple of days then nothing for a couple of months. Always at the brink of changing my number and then silence. During a rash I’d often sit by the answering machine and stare at it. Whenever my machine could not rescue with an answer, I learned to equate her voice with hanging up. The dial tone, the dead patient, sounds more welcoming than the live perseveration.

Of course, I became just as obsessed. It’s a privilege, in a sense. Somebody has singled you out and you have become more important to them than themselves. You don’t have a choice anyway. Targets are stationary with respect to the shot. That is, once you’re it, you either get caught or you run away. Both are reactions, and this is my response. I refused to respond to her, because no matter how categorical the response was, the calls would not stop. My intention is to perform a regurgitation. To tell you this story. To vomit two years of silence.

Actually, I lie. I reported R.’s latest rashes to friends almost daily. Like wanting my cat to impregnate hers; like being disappointed that the reddish tone of a pubic hair she had found in a cassette I lent her meant it wasn’t mine; like keeping my wisdom teeth in a heart-shaped box under her bed. She had pledged for them during a CKUT funding drive. At first it seemed harmless. We talked when I did my shows. But then she managed to get my home number. And my answering machine was never the same. It took on the role of censor, savior, and confessor. All personas were performed admirably.

I became obsessed with wanting to find out how far it was going to go and, simultaneously, with wanting her to go away. Someone suggested that I fuck her and get it over with. Others were surprised I hadn’t called the police yet. R.’s principal conviction was that the true me was being suppressed by surrounding hypocrisy and cretinism. The true me, of course, was astrologically designed to be with her. At times, I wasn’t sure who I was. I thought, perhaps, I could be her version of me.

The whole thing is also so extraordinarily banal at times. Just a syrupy romance. But there is doubt, and she could have been right: I’m a fool who negates my true nature and she’s my one true love. Perhaps she could be my version of her. I’m not a shell-shocked star who can do the bodyguard brushoff or bite the martyr’s bullet. A killer is not as straightforward as its bullet, nor a word and its enunciation.

So she may be right. But her speech gives her away. Her voice has that twisted tone. As if her breath had consumed her better judgment. Her speech runs away without her. Her dialogues alone, with me silent. Language speaks, I speak language. Which is the case? If you are not the one putting words into our mouth, who is? She wasn’t more than her obsession, rather her obsession was more than her. By definition, an obsession controls you; it’s not a mere indulgence.

We met on the radio. She had my voice from the air. A radiophonic relationship I deserved, I suppose. For radio speaks and I am silent. I try not to answer the call of the broadcaster. I prefer to stumble and contort myself into compromising positions. Entwined into destructive relationships, they end as soon as I hang up.

The on-air caller/host relationship is commonly mired. What is the question? Here’s the answer. What’s your comment? Get to the point. Okay, next. All this repartee suffocates the air. Some callers don’t breathe because they know they have to say it fast. The only thing to look forward to is the prankster who has the itch to swear or is too far gone to make sense. That’s if the delay doesn’t censor us that thrill, but it usually does.

This relationship could not fit into a soundbite, but it certainly has an effect similar to being bitten.

I had another caller. She called me twice. Five hundred and twenty-one tines fewer than R. If she wanted my voice, it was just to play with. She constructed the airwaves as the ideal playground for two strangers to have an intimate conversation. I bored her. “You bore me,” she said. The conversation didn’t go anywhere; like a dance, it twirled and twined. A pas de deux, but with desire to construct an item, a couple, a one out of two. R., on the contrary, was a pas de deux in the sense of its other possible meaning in French: not of two. An insatiable wish to alloy two into one voice, without reciprocity. A truncated conversation situated in a claustral space.

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