Issue Thirty-Eight - Summer 2021

Watch Me/ Say My Name

By John Brantingham

Watch Me
Cali is out of work for three weeks before it looks grim enough that she talks her sister into designing a website where for a price men can message her to do anything that they want her to do. In four days, the sisters understand that “anything they want” is predictable enough that they can have a menu with set prices. What keeps the guys coming back, and they do, is that she always says their name while she’s doing what she does, with a little lilt at the end, the way she would say her boyfriend’s name when he was on top of her and moving in her.

In a week, her sister tells her they’re going to have to double the prices if they want to make rent. Cali asks, “Are guys going to pay that kind of money to watch a stranger?” It doesn’t seem realistic. She thinks about all of the pornography on the web for free. She thinks about the quarantine and how many people are out of work. She thinks about how many girls are prettier than she is.

Cali’s sister comes up with the idea of spreading a rumor. Cali graduated high school six months ago. Her sister says, “Think about the guys who wanted to date you. Think about the teachers. You still have your cheer outfit, right?”

And of course, she does. Her sister says that rumors are easy. Her sister says that it’s better than Uber. Her sister says that at least this way she won’t catch the virus. Her sister says that she looks hot in her uniform. Her sister says that the quarantine won’t last forever and neither will her looks. They practice saying guys’ names together, making it sound just right. They say them over and over until her sister says she’s got it just right.

Say My Name
Six days into being isolated, just him and COVID alone in his bedroom, and Jason’s fever hasn’t broken, and it’s just him and the computer and his parents fighting out in the livingroom about the rat infestation that’s broken out in the attic, and he gets the text from a buddy he used to go to high school with letting him know about a website where Cali, the girl who sat behind him in math, will do anything you ask her to for money. Jason holds out for five hours listening to the passionate lives of the rats above his head and to the fight in the next room that has gone into a new phase where his parents seem to be just putting away the dishes very loudly as he surfs the net and watches reruns of shows before his time. He thinks about how he would listen to the music of Cali’s voice when she answered questions or the feminine noises she made and was probably unaware of until he breaks down and logs on and uses Paypal to see her again. He finds that he’s weeping when he types in what he wants her to do, and he closes his eyes when she starts because what matters is that she’s saying his name. He types, “Say my name again. Please, say my name.”

Copyright 2021 Brantingham