Since you asked, here I am, and there they are. Don’t worry, I won’t sleep with them in there like that. The can of beer is another story, ha ha. Like a baby with its bottle, my beer can and I. I enjoyed talking to you today. But I hope our little chat didn’t get you into trouble. If your boss complains, that petty tyrant I have just dreamed up and grown to hate, tell him I paid for my tech support fair and square. There’s no rule that says we had to talk about my broken internet the whole time, is there? Well, maybe there is. But a girl like you must get tired of telling dummies like me to turn my modem off and on again, and then describe the pattern of lights. You have to do something to fill the silence while we’re waiting for it to crank back up. In any case, it was nice of you to ask about me. I couldn’t believe the racket when I knocked over that shelf trying to unplug the cord behind it. You must have thought my house was falling down. And I was touched that you cared enough to ask if I was okay.
Did you care, Cerise? Or is that just another indicated-action box in your little problem-solving flowchart, stemming off from a box that reads, “Caller clumsily upends entire shelf full of antlers in inept attempt to reach a plug”? Was your apparent concern just the product of Training Module 10.14.2a? I can’t help but wonder now. I’m thinking back to your tone of voice at that moment. Was it genuine alarm? Or a calm and even canned response?
But I know I’m just being paranoid. After all, you asked. You wanted to know what I was doing with all those antlers. There’s no check-box on your root-cause-analysis form for that. And there I was, without an answer. You laid bare my soul with one question, Cerise. And all I could say was, “I don’t know.” I couldn’t tell a complete stranger, who I was paying by the minute, about the mysterious draw of these objects, how they just seem to find me when I’m out walking in the woods, practically leap into my hands and beg to be taken home, and then sit there pointing at me all day long, demanding to be given a purpose, a reason to exist, and receiving nothing in return but dust.
If you want to know the truth, as I stared down at them all over the floor in that moment, I hated them all. They looked like failure. I pictured my body free-falling onto them, being perforated by their points. I felt relief picturing the blood rushing forth, flooding the constellation of pain.
But then you brought me back with your delicate laughter, fuzzed as it was by the spotty connection. It bounced off the satellite and tinkled like a chandelier. If you hadn’t laughed like that and asked to see a picture of my collection, I may have actually begun to cry. Instead I laughed with you, and felt a jaunty new sense of direction as I wrote down your info and saw my internet connection magically sputter back to life. As you bade me goodbye and passed me on to the rating bot, I gave you a “5 for excellent,” hung up and arranged all my beauties for you on the bed. I hope you don’t mind that I put myself in there with them. Sometimes a man just needs to be seen.
Joan Reilly is co-editor of The Big Feminist BUT: Comics About Women, Men and the IFs, ANDs & BUTs of Feminism, now in its second printing from Alternative Comics. She has written and drawn comics for various anthologies, including Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation (The New Press), I Saw You: Comics Inspired by Real-Life Missed Connections (Three Rivers Press), and the upcoming Flashed: Sudden Stories in Prose and Comics (Pressgang). More info: joanreilly.com.