The Art of Noise

By David Accampo

Allen talks, a little too loud, a little too fast. A little too much. He’s telling Dawn something, and she’s listening, really she is, but more to the rhythm and cadence, wondering if he’s going to stop and take a breath. It may sound annoying, but Dawn doesn’t mind; she doesn’t really want to contribute to the conversation, and Allen doesn’t appear to require any collaboration.

Allen leans forward on the couch. He’s trying to lean closer to Dawn, but she’s in another chair, separated by a glass end table containing a lamp. He’s peeking around the shade. He sips his vodka, the vodka he brought, and he sweeps back a sheaf of longish hair that Dawn doesn’t quite understand because Allen is balding, and who at the age of 39 in 2009 attempts a comb-over? She smiles a little at this, not because she doesn’t like the baldness but because she can’t fathom why he doesn’t just shave his head. It wouldn”t make him attractive, but it would make him less of a caricature. Allen catches her smile and increases the speed at which he’s telling his story. He thinks he’s got her hooked.

Dawn knows Allen likes her. She knows he won’t leave until he’s asked to leave. It’s already after one in the morning, but he’ll keep talking until she says she needs to sleep, and he’ll either pretend he’s had too much vodka, wait a few seconds to see if she offers him the couch, or — if he’s really optimistic — her bed. She knows this because Allen is a nice guy, and he does that thing that nice guys do when they’re trying to get laid: they persist. They stay as long as they can in the hope that when she’s drunk enough or tired enough, that one moment will present itself, that one moment that — in their eyes — will change everything. She’s gone to bed with a few of these nice guys. It never works out. She feels bad about it, but right now Allen’s telling her something about the different kinds of high definition video, and that’s just fine with her.

Her phone rings, hopping slightly on the glass table as it pelts out “Your Heart is an Empty Room‚” by Death Cab For Cutie. Allen notices it mid-stream, tries to work it into his conversation with barely a breath, shifting suddenly from his insight into HDMI cables to noting, “…and oh hey someone’s phone is ringing, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah.” He even laughs like a child firing a machine gun.

“Yeah‚” says Dawn. She doesn’t look down at the phone, just stares straight ahead, “I’m not going to answer it.”

Allen pauses for a moment, glancing down at the phone, then back to Dawn. He smiles. His front teeth are crooked, but it’s not a bad smile. “Okey-dokey‚” he says, and then resumes his conversation.

Dawn takes a long drag on her cigarette, watches the tip flare orange. The phone goes silent, but Allen does not, and she lets the sound wash over her as she exhales.

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