Another Spin With Corinne by Jacob Aiello

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, May 4th, 2017

"She didn’t say another word until we were both done and zipped back up..."

Jacob Aiello Fiction Nailed Magazine
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She called late yesterday afternoon, Corinne did, asking when should she pick me up from the airport and how happy she was to see me after so long. It wasn’t the words she was saying that were baffling even though I haven’t seen or spoken to or very rarely even thought of her in three years, but the tone of her voice, the curvature of her syllables, as if she very frequently thought of me with affection that nearly broke my heart. Those three years had been short on kindness. Did she know how much I’d changed? That I’d gained ten pounds? That I’d failed to vote even once?

“Hey,” she said. “It’s me. I can’t wait to see you,” she said to me on the phone. “Did you bring me back something? You better have brought me back something amazing!”

I tried to steel myself to the reality of the situation. Three years. Ten pounds. I said, “Corinne? Corinne,” I said, “this is me. Do you know who you’re calling? It’s me,” I said.

“Don’t tell me,” she said. “Don’t tell me what it is. I want it to be a surprise.”

I tried to explain to her the timeline. I explained that Iceland is really a misnomer to discourage would-be travelers. “I’m not going to be at the airport today because I’m home,” I said, “and I’m not going anywhere and I haven’t been and Corinne, what are you talking about?”

She didn’t say anything immediately, and after a while I thought maybe she’d hung up. “Corinne?”  I said, and then again, a little louder, “Corinne? Are you still there?”

“So then you don’t need me to pick you up from the airport?”

That was late in the afternoon, and since then I’ve been trying to call her back to say I’m sorry, though it’s an apology that’s come too late to matter. It must just be some kind of misunderstanding, I think, a brief and unfortunate case of mistaken time and place, like waking up from a nap. Is it dusk? Is it tomorrow morning? Have I been asleep for an hour or a day or three years, by which I mean has she? That can be a frightening experience and it’s this I want to apologize for, without any onus on myself, like when someone says they don’t feel well or they’re having a bad day and you say you’re sorry, or their spouse, parent, child or relative has died and you say you’re sorry, and you are sorry but not for anything you’ve done. Sorry for it happening to them instead of you or that it has to happen at all, I guess, like that. That’s why I want to say I’m sorry.

I call all night and get the busy signal, which only reinforces the idea that she’s existing in an alternate timeline since who doesn’t have voicemail by now? I’d like nothing more than to step into her timeline, when voicemail wasn’t so prevalent. I have never missed a call that was better served by voicemail than a busy signal. I listen to it for minutes on end and feel, when I hang up, like I’ve lost time. I fall asleep and don’t dream of anything, or if I do it’s nothing I remember, and it’s not until the next morning while I’m getting ready for work that the telephone rings. It’s Corinne again.

“Okay,” she says. “If you want to come over and do it you can do it if it’ll make you happy, but I’m not going to like it,” she says, what she said months and months before, three years before, the day before I left for the airport. “If you want to do it you can do it, but I’m not going to like it,” she said, then pulled down her pants and bent over and read a book on the floor while I did it, Player Piano by Vonnegut if I remember right. I remember wondering how she could focus on the words, if she was that invested in the plot or the characters or if she was really so bored or if she wasn’t reading at all but just pretending to read to teach me a lesson, to tell the truth that she really wouldn’t enjoy it, enjoyed it so little that she decided her time would be better spent also trying to read a book despite how difficult it was bobbing up and down on the words like that.

She was angry at me and she had reason to be, but also not. I had some things to work out back then. Ten pounds worth. In less than 24 hours she was going to drive me to the airport and say goodbye, and this was my fault. We’d just returned from breakfast. I’d always said going out to breakfast was a waste of money, that the ingredients are so cheap and it takes forever to get a table and anyway I love cooking breakfast, that it provides me opportunity to crack the eggs one-handed on the edge of the bowl which I love doing and have wasted more cartons of eggs practicing on than is dignified. But she said it was worth it not to dirty the dishes and already I was leaving so I agreed, yes, breakfast.

Corinne was standing under the archway between the kitchen and the living room where I was sitting on the couch, digesting, and she was staring at me like she was trying to work out some kind of problem. Like she wasn’t actually looking at me but like the space I was occupying just happened to be in the line of sight necessary to solve her problem. “Okay,” she said then. “You can do it if you really want to do it, if it’s going to make you happy, but I’ll tell you right now I’m not going to like it.” She pulled down her pants and bent over with the book.

I’d like to say that I didn’t like it, that it didn’t make me happy like she’d said, her bent over like that with her pants down around her ankles, Kurt Vonnegut on the floor. That more than sex it had become some kind of exorcism, a thing we both just had to do even if neither of us especially wanted to, saying goodbye with our bodies, a keepsake to remember the other by but certainly nothing we wanted to do, not like that. But the truth is I enjoyed it tremendously. Weeks of coital abstention had me seeing only soft skin and right angles, circles and triangles and parallelograms, which is to say if she was hoping to induce guilt I saw only geometry. She didn’t say another word until we were both done and zipped back up and then, whatever she said, like the punchline to a joke.

“Okay,” she says now. “If you want to come over and do it you can do it if it’ll make you happy. But I’m not going to like it,” she says, and then hangs up again without even waiting for me to answer as to whether or not I’m actually coming over. How presumptuous, I think, that she thinks we can just start over from where we left off, from before where we left off, presumptuous even if she’s right, I’m coming. I pick up the phone again and call my job and tell them I won’t be in today, which they accept without explanation because I’m usually otherwise very responsible and if I’m calling in now, they think, it really must be some kind of emergency.

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Header image courtesy of Zak Smith. To view a gallery of his work, go here.

Jacob Aiello Fiction Nailed MagazineJacob Aiello lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, dog and three cats. In the past ten years he has amassed a collection of short fiction and creative nonfiction. Some of these stories have been published or are forthcoming in decemberBig LucksSpryKnee-JerkSmokeLong Quarterly,  Drunk Monkeys, and The Portland Review, among others. More of his work can be found here.

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Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).