Her Number
By Antonya Nelson

Dear Jim Barr,

You don't know me, but I know you. I was given your old number. It's for a secret cell phone, bought to have a love affair. Sometimes, instead of calls from my lover, I get yours.

Like me, you can't be trusted. The angry woman, for instance, who accuses me and then lets loose her barrage of complaints about you. I can see why you'd abandon this number. Those creditors won't give up, either, their flawless Indian-inflected English, the gentle hum of others in the background. Like me, you've made some promises you can't fulfill.

You live in my hometown, your area code from the state where I grew up rather than where I live. If my husband discovers this phone in my underwear drawer, tucked away like a land mine, I can claim it's my mother's.

I looked you up, Jim Barr, last time I was home, just to see where you live. Not far from my mom's, it turns out. You ought to get rid of that broken play pool on your lawn. And the swing set without swings. You got rid of your number, and now it's mine. My lover and I whisper over it persistently. My heart pounds, I want him so furiously.

I'm not you, I tell those calm but persistent 800 operators, them and that angry woman. She is as furious as my husband would be.

This phone is for passion; it ought to be hot to the touch.

Sincerely yours,


Next: Read Anna Deavere Smith's Grace


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