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Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey Read Online (FREE)


What followed, Artemisia sighed, from the psychological perspective, it was a natural progression. She topped off her glass, refilled mine. He began to question me about my whereabouts. To demand that I tell him with whom I spent my evenings and what we discussed and for how long. Now, with cellular telephones, it is easier to demand this kind of accounting. Then, the imposition was more obvious. At that time, I did not even have an answering machine. Just a rotary telephone. And this telephone was always ringing. Often it was ringing when I opened the door to my apartment. And if I did not pick it up it would begin ringing again, ten minutes later. Or five, or three. Sometimes only thirty seconds would pass between the last ring of one call and the first ring of the next. Not always Virgilio. But almost always. During the day, too. When he knew I would be in class. Or at the library. I think he was hoping to catch me in a lie. I tried taking the receiver off the hook, but a couple hours of silence and I would begin to worry that someone else might be trying to contact me, a professor or perhaps even my parents, and I would replace the receiver, and often, not always but often, I would forget then to remove it before leaving for campus in the morning. The phone rang so often that my landlady asked me to speak to Virgilio. And when that didn’t work she spoke to him herself. And when that didn’t work—Artemisia shrugged. She told me that she would not break my lease but that she could not allow me to renew it for the following year. She said she was sorry but the ringing was giving her headaches. She dreamed only of telephones. Still, Virgilio would not stop calling. Only on weekends, when Virgilio and I were together, was the phone silent.


Finally, Artemisia sighed, one afternoon, I found him waiting for me outside my door. This was a weekday. The building was two stories. The front door opened onto a small landing and on the left side of that landing a hallway led to the door of the landlady’s apartment. On the right side were the stairs. Artemisia’s hands were moving as she spoke, sketching. He must have knocked on the front door and my landlady must have heard and let him in because that afternoon I found him sitting on the second floor. His head was bowed and his back was against the door to my apartment. I remember my cheeks were flushed. It was late March but still cold. I think my landlady let Virgilio in out of pity. She would not have wanted him to wait outside. Certainly that was why I let him in. By then it was clear to me that our relationship could not continue. I had not yet decided whether that meant it had to end or if its—its terms, the terms under which we were operating, if they might still be transformed. We had not had sex in months. Not since our first weeks in New York. By choice. By my choice. It wasn’t that he was controlling—that he was trying to be controlling. In the end this is not what bothered me. It was that his desire to control, she paused. This desire, it stemmed not from his power but from its lack. It was his desperation I despised.