The telephone becomes an instrument of torture int he demonic hands of a beloved who doesn’t ring. When Chloe called a few days later, I had rehearsed my speech too often to deliver it correctly. I was caught unprepared, handing socks on a rail. I ran to the bedroom to pick up. My voice carried with it a tension and an anger that I might more skilfully have erased from a page. Authorship becomes tempting to those who can’t speak.
‘What a surprise to hear from you,’ I said unconvincingly. ‘We must have lunch some time.’
‘Lunch. Goodness. I really can’t this week.’
‘Well, how about dinner?’
‘I’m just looking at my diary, and you’re not going to believe this, but that’s looking difficult too.’
‘No problem,’ I said, in a tone that strongly implied its opposite.
‘I tell you what, though, can you take this afternoon off by any chance? We could meet at my office and go to the National Gallery or something.’