Radio Talks to the Lonely

by A.W. Hill

Remember 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.

Judging 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 curtains either.

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.

The 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.

At 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.

She 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.

Thank 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 lonely...


A.W. Hill 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

Visit A.W. Hill online at:

Radio Talks to the Lonely
© 2003 by A.W. Hill






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