An overweight brunette wearing a burgundy skirt smoked a thin little joint outside of my house. “Do you want a hit,” she said, holding in smoke.
“No,” I said.
“Pussy,” she said.
“So, how much is it worth?”
“Your house?” she said.
“My house,” I said.
She was my real-estate agent. She was stoned most of the time and raised three kids by herself. We had sex because I felt pretty bad for her. Now she stood outside of my house getting high, barely able to balance on her heels.
“You need to clean your siding,” she said. “It looks like crap. And that hose-nozzle needs to be replaced. You expect some old fart to want to buy this shithole if he’s got to struggle twisting the connector-thingie on and off the hose-nipple thing?”
“You really know some words,” I said.
She tried to pass me the joint again. I didn’t like drugs, but she did. Oxies and benzodiazepines coursed through her blood like a good cocktail. I knew this because the night before I was Adonis and she was a limp piece of waterlogged licorice.
“I really know some things,” she said. “I really know some assholes.”
“I can’t afford to fix the nozzle,” I said.
“I’m a human radio,” she said.
“You really think the siding needs to be scrubbed?”
We looked at it together. She tilted her head to the side.
She said, “I think the world’s probably going to end.”
“I’d like to sell my house,” I said.
We didn’t talk for a few minutes. In the morning in my neighborhood, nobody cared if you smoked pot out in the front yard. A sprinkler clutter-clacked away, a metronome of the working class. I needed to mow my lawn but thought that maybe the taller grass made me look more exotic and devil-may-care.
“I think I’m pretty tired,” she said.
“Then sleep,” I said.
“Fuck sleep,” she said. “The world doesn’t have long left.”
Whatever. Everything with her was whatever.
“I sort of want to hit the market when the time is right,” I said.
* * * *
A few weeks ago I’d ejaculated prematurely. She’d barely gotten started. I soothed her with a Jack and Coke and we talked about all the strange things we thought about.
“I want to have a child who knows astrophysics,” I said.
“You’re stupid,” she said, laughing. “You’re so stupid.”
“Like what you think is any better.”
“It is,” she told me. Then she looked at me quite severely, trying not to burp. “My brain picks up radio waves.”
“Bullshit, bullshit,” I said.
She told me all about what she heard: swing music; an occasional pattern of buzzes and hums. I asked her if they were Morse code but she said they weren’t. Too Russian, she said. “Twenty-five, sometimes twenty-six buzzes in a single minute,” she said. “It comes through my fillings and vibrates in my skull and I think the world is going to end and I hear it and everything is wrong. Only the Russians could pull that off. Only the Russians.”
“Then take some pills,” I said.
“Sometimes I’m afraid to live like this,” she told me.
“You’re fine. You’ll be fine,” I told her.
* * * *
After she finished the joint we went inside. I didn’t have furniture. My real-estate agent had sold it all for pills. I’d subsidized her habit for months. I liked helping people in hard spots.
“I hear it,” she whispered, breath acrid from the pot. “Buzzing, tapping.” She thumbed against her jaw, then pointed to her temple. “A fucking Mack truck horn blaring inside my skull, screaming things at me.”
“Do you think I need to do any repairs,” I said as we sat there in my living room.
“It’s never going to stop,” she said.
“I should fix the gutters.”
“My teeth ache. My brain feels like a ladle full of mashed potatoes. The buzzing doesn’t stop. It never rests. I never rest.”
“What will you do,” I said.
Three weeks later she swallowed a bullet in my basement.
I scrubbed for two weeks but the blood and brains refused to come out of the wood. Can’t sell a house somebody died in. Can’t sell a house without a real-estate agent. The father took the children and they buried my real-estate agent like she was fairly important. She was. She was a human radio. I was the only one who ever knew.
I guess that means the Russians won.