Radio Talks to the Lonely
this about jazz radio, because one day it will be gone, just as
fireside stories and finely bound books are gone. Remember that
once upon a time, jazz radio talked to the lonely.
Harry Licht stood at the uncurtained window of his sixth floor
loft, watching the woman in the neighboring building fix pasta
in her underwear. His left hand gripped an iced tumbler of Scotch,
while his right was thrust down inside his trousers. WBRX Cleveland
was on the radio, the last decent jazz station in town. That
was Miss Julie London’s take on ‘Cry Me A River’ ... sul-try.
Next up is the Duke’s ‘Satin Doll’ -- definitive ... if it needs
be said. So kick back, pour yourself a stiff one, and be assured
that you’re in the hands of ... WBRX-FM, Cleveland, Ohio ... your
safe harbor in the storm.
The woman looked to be expecting company. That had to account
for the matching salmon colored panties and bra. It was Saturday
night, after all, and only old maids and shipwrecked fools like
Harry were drinking alone. Shipwrecked was the way he felt. He’d
taken the loft because after the divorce, after losing everything
except his reflection, he hadn’t wanted to return to anything
remotely bourgeois. To have rented some little apartment in his
old neighborhood would only have begged comparison with what he’d
lost. And so, at the age of forty-one, he’d gone Bohemian, moving
into the city and leasing one of those converted old factory floors
in what used to be an industrial section of town, letting the
rest of his life drift away like so much flotsam and jetsom. The
place was as austere and cavernous as an abbey, unfurnished except
for a couple of bookshelves and a couch. A fitting St. Helena
for his vanquished Napoleon. He hadn’t even had the will to put
up curtains. Thank Christ for WBRX. Jazz radio told him it was
o.k. to feel bad, o.k. to walk the wet streets of melancholy.
by the body, she wasn’t more than thirty-two. Her breasts still
filled the brassiere nicely; her ass swelled the panties as if
inflated by gentle breath. Her stomach was round but contained;
her auburn hair was long enough to pin up. The thing, however,
that kept Harry coming back to the big window, that made him unashamed
to stand there with his cock in his hand, was that she had no
No curtains, and yet the place was fully furnished in ersatz
Italian. Not tasteless, but maybe a little too showy for the neighborhood.
The chrome on the stove gleamed, the striped loveseat looked anything
but comfortable, and the track lights were aimed so as to leave
nothing in shadow. Even the toilet seat was buffed to a high gloss.
No curtains, and yet now she stooped over the stovetop to taste
the marinara sauce with a long-handled wooden spoon and, satisfied,
wiped the spoon clean on the back of her panties. Harry felt his
cock swell into his palm. It felt good. After the divorce, he’d
wondered if he’d ever have a hard-on again.
He set his drink down on the low, paint-blistered sill and went
to turn off the last lamp. That left only the cold light from
the kitchen to spill his way, to outline his form, and this was
fine. He felt sure she wanted to see him, and he wanted to be
seen. To be seen was to matter: maybe that’s what drove perverts
to expose themselves in city parks. The loft district on a Saturday
night was a bleak stretch of town, unless you happened to be eating
mussels in one of those trendy bistros with the exposed ductwork,
and Harry hadn’t realized until now how acute his loneliness was.
He might have raped for the nearness of human flesh. He might
have killed just to have a corpse for company. He picked up his
drink and crunched the ice between his teeth.
Naughty, naughty, naughty ... That’s Miss Ella singin’ the
praises of her ‘Wubba Dolly’ ... a hit in ‘36 and still too hot
for this burg. Let’s cool it down with Brubeck’s classic break
song. Hold tight, soldiers of the night, and keep it right here
on WBRX Cleveland, 9-1-1 for the soul.
woman’s doorbell rang. That is, Harry knew it had rung because
she raised her head like a gazelle sniffing danger, the tendons
in her long neck taut with anticipation, the wooden spoon still
in her hand. The thought struck Harry: do beasts of prey have
an affinity with their predators? Can a creature seek out pain
as an innoculation against fear? The woman opened her door for
a well-groomed older man with gray in his sideburns, who wore
a derby hat and a long black coat and carried a bamboo cane. She
offered her cheek, but observing her state of undress, he scowled
and brushed past her without pleasantries. He went right to the
largest window, raised his eyes thirty degrees, and with a mouthed
epithet, pointed his cane straight at Harry.
Harry stepped back, as shamefaced as a schoolboy. He’d been caught
red-handed. And yet, there was something baldly, almost archly
theatrical about the routine which attenuated his panic to just
the right pitch; within seconds, he was even more aroused. The
man turned from the window, shaking his cane sternly, and the
woman cowered responsively. Abjectly, she offered him the wooden
spoon, but he tossed it aside, ordering her instead to bend over
the striped Italian loveseat, heels planted in the carpet and
palms flat on the cushion. She made only token protest. He tucked
the cane under his arm, and in summary fashion, rolled her panties
tightly over the mounds of her ass as if he were a no-nonsense
pastry chef making a jam-filled crepe, binding her legs and exposing
a tuft of tawny pubic hair. He prodded her feet apart with his
boot, dropping her center of balance and opening her more rudely.
Harry could see the folds of her labia and the rosebud of her
anus, flushed as pink as the panties girdling her thighs.
The man in the derby drew back and raised the cane above his head.
His face was as blank as a surrealists’s banker, his pin-striped
trousers revealing nothing of his own passion. The woman turned
back once with what seemed genuine apprehension, but this melted
to a penitent’s lascivious agony the moment the first stinging
blow landed. Her punisher was artful. He paused between each stroke,
arm cocked, cane still, to allow the last whack to sink in, and
soon her buttocks, a hatchwork of welts, began to rise in anticipation
of the next. Harry squeezed the thick base of his shaft to stem
the orgasm which threatened to spill out of him.
the peak of the caning, the man’s zeal seemed momentarily to exceed
the permitted bounds of the game, and the woman flashed her eyes
and flared her nostrils as angrily as a spurred mare. Harry guessed,
though he was no expert in this sport, that some threshold between
good pain and bad had been violated, but even this was part of
the ruse. For her impertinence, the woman received one more bruising
smack. Before she could object further, he took hold of her corded
panties, slipped the polished cane between her thighs, and began
to stroke her damp sex with the cane, at first gingerly, then
as deliberately as if drawing water from a well, the ribs of the
bamboo beating roughly against her swollen clitoris. With muscles
taut as bowstrings, she pushed fiercely against the cane, wanting
it tight and hard and inside, until finally, with yelps of pleasure
that penetrated two plate glass windows and the city street between,
she and Harry came.
Harry stepped back, observed the evidence he’d left on the window,
and went to fix himself another Scotch. Oh, yeah ... that’s
Benny the Good lickin’ that licorice stick ... I’ve Got It Bad
‘n That Ain’t Good ... bring it down, Benny, it’s hot in here!
When Harry returned to his spot, the woman had slipped into a
satin robe that matched her underwear, while her guest had shed
his derby and seated himself at the table for dinner. The lights
had been dimmed, though only by degree, and candles lit. Harry
watched as she ladeled the steaming spaghettini onto his plate
and dressed it with marinara. She filled two wine glasses with
Chianti from one of those bottles with the straw nest, took a
seat at the opposite end, and lit a cigarette, her own plate left
empty. Harry pulled a chair to the window, just outside the light’s
hard boundary, and sat down to watch. He finished his Scotch,
then had another, and all that time not a word was exchanged between
the woman and her elegant visitor. When it was over, the man rose
from the table, retrieved his hat, and followed her to the door.
She turned her cheek to him for a kiss, and in the same fluid
motion, raised her eyes to Harry’s window. Her lips moved. Harry
felt sure that the words she’d spoken were, “Thank you, Daddy.”
Harry dropped his gaze to the street and waited for the man in
the derby to exit the building’s lobby. For whatever reason, Harry
wanted to see that he was gone, see whether he jumped in a taxi
or hailed his chauffeur. Maybe Harry was nursing nascent thoughts
of paying his neighbor a visit, sharing a bottle of Scotch and
listening to jazz ’til the sun came up to bleach his loneliness
away, but he couldn’t admit that even to himself. For ten minutes
he stared at the double glass doors, but not a soul came out.
A squad car rolled slowly down the street, a group of weekend
bohemians staggered out of the chic corner bistro, and a puff
of steam escaped the building’s rooftop vents. That was it.
Harry kept his eyes trained on the empty street for a few beats,
aware of the tingle of apprehension he suddenly felt about returning
his attention to the woman. When he did, his pulse rose into his
throat. She was at the window in silhouette, and she was on the
phone. He couldn’t see her face, but its very obscurity suggested
that she might be turning him in. With the dread that preceeds
rational thought, he waited for the patrol car to come cruising
back down his street, and the fear stayed with him until she slipped
her hand inside her robe and began playing with her breast. Then
he breathed, and it seemed to him that she grinned in the shadows.
dropped the phone to her side, turned, and walked into the livingroom,
stopping to pull the chain on a table lamp. Then she turned on
the hi-fi and settled into a leather arm chair, throwing her bare
leg over the side as thoughtlessly as if she’d been facing a flickering
TV screen instead of an uncurtained window and a persistent voyeur.
The panties were gone, and Harry’s privileged angle of view allowed
unobstructed surveillance. Okay, he said to himself. Okay. I‘m
in the game. And the radio said: This one goes out to the guy
in the loft on Erie Street ... little Miss Sarah Vaughan in her
salad days, swingin’ Gershwin’s ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ ...
keep watchin’, baby ... it’s a long night and I’m a lonely girl.
She put her fingers lightly to her lips and smiled wickedly, then
let the hand drift like a leaf down to her sex. She began to masturbate.
Oh, my, said Harry. Oh, my, my.
For a few minutes, Harry just sat and watched her, stoned; grateful.
The jazz was good, his head was filled with a warm, boozy fuzz,
and the lady was enjoying herself. Then the urge came over him
to make it all real, to climb her stairs and take her in his arms
and kiss her hard and deep. But the urge passed with reflection,
just as the fear had earlier. She knew he was there; she’d spoken
to him through the radio. In some way, that made things okay.
In some way, that meant he wasn’t alone. Harry unzipped his trousers
and played his own sonata.
you, Miss Vaughan, and thank you, Miss Lonelyhearts, for that
lovely revery ... it’s now officially the wee small hours ‘n all
you little lost lambs can rest easy, because WBRX, Jazz Radio,
Cleveland, is watchin’ over you. WBRX. Radio that talks to the
lives in Los Angeles. His first novel, a supernatural thriller
entitled Enoch's Portal (ISBN 1-891400-59-2) was published in
June 2002 and acquired for motion picture development by Paramount.
A screenplay, Little Black Book, a comedy about a modern-day courtesan,
is currently being shopped to studios and actresses unafraid to
soil their reputations. More info about Hill and his alter-ego,
P.I. Stephan Raszer, can be found at www.raszer.com.
A.W. Hill online at: www.awhill.net
Talks to the Lonely
© 2003 by A.W. Hill