I’m always woken up by the sun baking my legs inside my duvet. We don’t have curtains in our bedroom, me and Alan, because Alan gets cold easily and likes how hot the sun feels through the glass.
Alan doesn’t work, because of his back, but I do. He always sleeps facing away from me and isn’t good at making eye contact with people. He’s big and round-shouldered and he stoops, his head hanging in front of his chest like he’s asleep or dead.
I normally skip breakfast and head straight to work. Alan will fry himself something in the kitchen while I do my makeup. I know the house will still smell like whatever he’s cooking by the time I get home.
I work in a call centre. We’re a sort of hired gun sales team, usually selling office supplies for different manufacturers.
When I talk, the words get clumped together in my mouth like chewed up food; they come out wrong and ugly. On the phone I am someone else, someone quick-witted and clear-spoken, like a newscaster.
We work quickly and without looking at each other, me and everyone else at their cubicles in rows and rows of pattering voices and the beetle-click of fingers on keyboards. If we make less than ten sales our pay is docked. More than ten and we receive small bonuses.
I normally smash my quota, I can talk people into buying anything, but only on the phone.
After work I’ll always get a call from Alan as I’m going to Samaritans. He’ll want to know where the fuck I am. He always forgets that I do Samaritans every Wednesday and Thursday, sometimes Monday, too.
Glenn is the team leader at the Samaritans near the call centre. He’s a black guy, short and muscular with a moustache and tight crop of black guy hair. He’s perhaps in his early thirties, too young for me.
He always smiles when I come in, a big beaming smile. He’s really well-spoken for a black person, not like the ones in our block, who let their kids play football on the stairwell and cook weird, sulphurous meals that stink so bad we can smell them from our living room.
He’ll sit me down at an available cubicle. It’s a really similar atmosphere to my job; everyone chattering in low murmurs and no eye contact, but it’s because we’re doing something important so it doesn’t feel as sad as it does at the call centre. It feels exciting.
My mouth comes alive when I talk at Samaritans. Sometimes I even make them laugh, the people who need my help. Glenn calls me a godsend. He’s very religious.
Sometimes there are people who are so ill or hopeless that they need me to tell them not to kill themselves and I do. Every time. I put down the phone and I’m not worried. The others say that they always worry for hours afterwards that maybe the person changed their mind and hurt themselves or killed themselves, but not me. I know I saved their lives.
When I get home I cook for Alan and his head hovers over his plate as he shovels whatever it is into his mouth and I’m forced to just stare at the bald spot at the top of his head. The house will still smell of bacon or pork chops but Alan gets cold easily so the windows stay closed.
When we get in bed, Alan will turn me over onto my side or my front and I’ll hear him spitting onto his palm to grease up his dick but it still hurts when he goes in. When I try to tell him to stop the words all clump together in my mouth like chewed up food and make no sense, or sound wrong.
I sometimes wish that Alan would call Samaritans and, through some fluke, he’d be put through to me. Maybe he’d recognise my voice, or maybe not but it wouldn’t matter. I’d be able to save him too, I know I would.