Vox

Vox by Nicholson Baker Page A

Book: Vox by Nicholson Baker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nicholson Baker
think. What am I saying, that’s what it
is
like.”
    “Ooh, I love you, you tell me everything.”
    “I do seem to, don’t I? It’s very unlike me.”
    “It is?” he said. “God, I’m a compulsive confessor. But it’s rare for me to cast my bread on the waters and have it return tenfold like this.”
    “Tell me the rest of what happened with your friend Emily.”
    “Why? No, no, it’ll make me seem like too much of a type.”
    “You
are
a type,” she said.
    “You’re right, I am.”
    “Don’t feel bad about it—I am too. I just want to know what you’re like when you’re physically holding a woman. As opposed to calling up catalogs and strangers named Klein and that sort of thing, worthwhile pursuits though they may be. What did you and Emily end up doing?”
    “I never actually held her, that’s the first thing I’ll say. So it’s certainly going to disappoint you. It’s a very common story, really, and I’m starting to want to impress you a little.”
    “Impress me with your candor—that seems to be your style.”
    “Well here’s what happened, anyway,” he said. “After I showed her my cock tracing and all that, it marked some kind of conclusion, and we were more reserved with each other. After all, what was there to say? I’d laid it right out on the table and she’d basically rejected me. But then there was a big good-bye party for somebody, and at it Lee flirted with her in his perky cool way. Boy I dislike the way he funnels peanuts into his mouth. He’ll never see forty-eight again, and yet he throws his whole head back after he’s been asked a question, drops in a hopperful of nuts, and then he answers the question while he’s crunching. He tries to be sardonic eating peanuts! This is some TV convention that has gotten people in its clutches. Of course there are times when you are so full of something you want to say that you talk with your mouth full, I have no problem with that. What I find fault with is when you are deliberately using the act of talking with your mouth full to demonstrate just how totally relaxed and spontaneous you really are as a conversationalist. It’s from growing up watching all those salted-snack commercials. Bugles. So I hate him, clearly, and he’s at the party, and midway through, somethingbad happens between Emily and him, basically it’s just that he makes it clear that he likes flirting with her but forget it, he’s married. She tells me about it in the parking lot, she’s near tears, and then she squats and holds on to the side mirror of my car and looks in it and she says, ‘Well well—
I
look convincingly haggard.’ That was her best line—in fact it probably makes her seem more vulnerable and lovable than she really is. That’s not fair—she’s very nice. So anyway, for the next full week I talked with her about Lee and talked with her about Lee, every possible angle on the situation, though I avoided telling her that I found him repulsive and childish, but otherwise we ventilated the topic fully. Finally I couldn’t stand to talk about him anymore, and I said, ‘Look, I have to ask your advice.’ Because what she obviously needed was to have her mind off her own troubles. It was six, we were again leaving work. And somehow, by pure luck, this was the perfect exact
second
to ask her advice: she just about crumpled with relief and helpfulness, and she pointed to a café across the street and she said, ‘Why don’t we go in there?’ So over a pair of up-signal caffè lattes, I told her the problem. I pulled out a piece of newspaper, and I unfolded it, and I looked at it, and I looked at her, and then I looked at it again, and then I told her that I was thinking of running a personals ad requesting something
very
specific. And she was politely curious about this, so I said, ‘This is what I was thinking of saying,’ and I handed it to her. It was the personals adform, which I’d filled out. The ad went—this is going to

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