Futon was the only thing she'd let her warm tearful tan face touch, after we snatched the cradle from her boney three-year old hands. It was where she watched, garbage men dissemble her cradle and the childhood it contained, and that's how she got the name. As she got older, she was kaka to the eight year old boy who courted and divorced her at the beginning and end of each school day. She was just ka to her schoolmates, and Ms Chapman to the 3rd grade teacher she spent detention with. Kardera Layla Chapman when her parents, Charlie and Sandra, banished her to the basement where she could hear their arguments through the vents. Layla when they fought and exploited her love to prevail in their childish games against each another. And lastly Dera to all the men who were allowed to feel her skin with their chapped lips. But to me she was always futon, the only word she knew before mama, dada, and fool entered her vocabulary. It was the place she sat to call my hotel room when she found out the numbers. Even at my last glance of her face, through her fake purple contact lenses I could still see the gray-eyed three year old futon alive, doubting its existence
As soon as I dialed his number, I suddenly remembered how much my voice bothered him; the malevolency in the sigh he gave after he heard it made it painfully obvious. To him I was like raindrops intruding on an otherwise sunny day, like a passing truck spurting diesel on his morning run, somewhere before hell and after tolerable is where I stood in his eyes, and he never let me forget. I reminded him of all the phantoms he had stuffed in the pockets of old coats, and shoeboxes lying on the floor of the attic. Memories of his mother’s cold body hitting the floor, her fingers still clutching her chest, and his father’s last hug before he dumped him at my house when he was ten; the room Ma and me lent him that smelled like mustard covered feet, and a mattress that felt like toenails; the cockroaches that marched like ants lining the ceiling of the room before sunset, and the broken window that allowed snowflakes, the size of ice cubes, to soil the decaying red-wood floors; my mother’s cigarette buds at the edge of every seat and the loud bubonic cough she gave as she served dinner; lastly the one who waged away his virginity at disco bar beginning and ending all his hopes of sexually infidelity that his inexperienced mind had began conjured.; I reminded of 22 years he’d rather forget but wouldn’t allow me too.
“Hello,” He answered nonchalantly, his voice sounding so crisp, “Hello?”
“Um…” My voice barely made it above the threshold of audibility.
His sigh was sudden like brakes streaking on concrete when a squirrel appears in the middle the road, and he let silence flow through the phone like water in a engine.
“So… Charlie? How you been? Good I hope,” My tone almost joyous.
“I’ve been….” He dragged it out leaving my heart to anticipate the chance of a real answer, only to be disappointed.
“Well… how’s Kadera?”
“She’s…she’s been…” He dragged on again.
“Well that’s good. I mean you know…” I said trying to conjure all the words I knew to sustain the neutrality of this conversation.
In the back round I heard a tiny voice demanding ice cream with hazelnuts and my lips curved into a smile. I could hear Charlie’s hand desperately trying to cover the phone.
“Who’s that?” She shrieked loudly, “Who you talking to?”
“No one” He answered swiftly, “What are you doing up? Its 4am! Back into your room.”
“But I can’t sleep,” she groaned,
“Well… ice cream isn’t going to fix that is it?” He tried to reason with her ten-year old mind.
“I guess,” she reluctantly conceded, “So are going to tell me?”
“Tell you what?” He asked.
“Tell me who you’re talking too?” She said dragging out every word in the question.
“I already told you, no one, now you should go back to bed, school starts in a few hours and you need your rest,” He reasoned once more.
“If I guess will you tell me?” She proposed.
“Kadera, go to your room!” His voice full of resolute.
“Is it uncle?” She whispered secretively.
“No, and he’s not your uncle. Now, Kadera, go to your room.”
Then there was a brief struggle for the phone, Kadera came on and cleared her throat.
“Um…hello?” Her voice filled with holes of uncertainty and doubt.
“Futon…” I replied.
“It is you!” She screamed my ears begged for mercy, “Daddy said it wasn’t you. He lied.”
“How are you?” I asked.
“Good but daddy is making me get off the phone, maybe I could talk you later you know…” She said hoping for a number.
“Well I’m on payphone right now, but as soon as I get a hotel I’ll tell the number.” I answered crushing her hopes, “Okay futon? Lots of love, I need to speak to daddy ok?”
“Love you uncle,” she cheered letting her lips smooched the phone loudly, “Goodnight.”
Then a different mood took over as Charlie snatched the phone again, he let silence drift in, but allowed his presence to be known.
“Um…” I started, “She’s great.”
“Yeah,” He answered.
“I called to…”my voice started to break as I began stating the purpose of my call, “Because I um…”
“How much this time?” He finished my thought.
“You see um… the museum I was staying at…well more like outside of…the secure guard was a bit of prick. Threw me out, well he paid 5 bucks first but um… he didn’t really give me a choice you know? I didn’t know where else to turn…I mean not that the museum was nice but it’s hard to be out here… at least there, there was a guard you know?”
“No, I really don’t know,” He answered callously, “Nor do I really want too.”
“Charlie I wouldn’t ask unless I…” I began.
“Really needed it” He finished my sentence, “When do you really not need it? One of day these days you got to call me and tell me how much you don’t my money. It’d be nice.”
“What?” His voice sounding exhausted, “Tomorrow meet me at the church near your ma’s place.”
“Okay…thank yo…” but before I could finish the line went dead.