Dispatch 17 (Oct. 24, 1998)
Soo, Ginas Amazing Disappearing
Roommate, wasnt home as usual when I arrived at the co-op and also wasnt
present when the tape was made, Gina told me.
When I got there, Gina looked as if she could barely
contain her excitement. She had the regular-sized cassette tape in a rectangular tape
recorder, one of the old bulky kind that sit on your desk and have a big orange
"REC" button that you mash down along with the "PLAY" button. To be
discrete, she must have hidden it behind some books or under the bed. It would be hard to
miss such a big hunk of metal in such a small room.
"Im gonna go put in a load of laundry,"
Gina said, loading up her plastic basket with beige and yellow towels. "Go ahead and
listen to it and Ill be back in a minute."
She left the room and I approached the tape recorder with
a mixture of dread and fascination. Shed put the recorder at the center of the bed.
I lay down next to it, staring up at the ceiling as my hand reached for the play button.
Im transcribing now, but during the first listen, I closed my eyes, trying to
picture the scene as the sounds provided the narrative. This is what I heard.
* * *
"No, come on!" Its Gina, giggling and
distant, her voice probably coming from the farthest point in the room, the doorway.
Muffled footsteps on the floor and then the door closes behind Gina and her guest. His
voice is soft when he speaks.
"Shes not here?" he asks.
"No, shes gone for the weekend. She goes to
visit her boyfriend a lot," Gina says.
"That must be great, having the whole place to
yourself." His voice is annoyingly earnest, eager to grasp on the barest hint of a
"Its nice to stretch out," Gina answers.
"I can make a mess and I dont have to worry about it until Sunday."
"It doesnt look messy," Conversation Man
says. "I wish my place was this nice."
"Do you want something to drink?" Gina asks.
"I have some rum and some tequila. How about tequila shots?"
"Are you serious?" the man says, sounding
amused. "You have some tequila?"
"You dont like tequila?" Gina asks.
"No, I love tequila, but I didnt know you had
any," he says. "So, sure, tequila shot sounds good."
Im starting to get a little impatient, wondering
where this might be going. Gina answers that question for me as I hear a rustle of drawers
and then the clink of a tequila bottle tapping glasses.
"So youve only been here six months? Are you
dating anyone or what?"
Gina: Winner of the Most Direct Question of the Year
Maybe its because Im only hearing voices and
maybe I wouldnt have noticed it in person, but on tape, it sounds as if our
unidentified male friend hesitates here before answering. "I go out," he says
finally. "Not really dating anyone seriously. I dont really know too many
"What about back home?" Gina asks.
"No, not really. I had a girlfriend, but we broke up
before I moved here."
"Oh," Gina says. "Heres your
The clink of shot glasses. I cant hear them take the
shots, but I imagine it.
"What kind of music do you like?" Gina asks.
"Everything. Except country, I guess," he says.
The sound of footsteps and then the tiny bass
"pop" of Ginas stereo being turned on. A few seconds later, something soft
and slow and Spanish is playing.
"Do you want to dance?" she asked him.
"Uh huh," he said.
For a few moments there was nothing as they presumably
danced in the rooms limited space. Then, barely out of sound range, he whispered,
"Youre so beautiful, Gina."
"Youre a good dancer, Andrew," Gina
The unmistakable sound of kissing followed briefly. I was
beginning to get angry. I understood that this was part of our arrangement that
Gina was trying to do me a favor here by allowing me access to her private life. But who,
exactly, was she performing for? And who was this Andrew guy? Was she lying when she said
she loved Juan? This, I thought, must be what Gina calls devotion.
There was movement again and then creaking as one or both
of them hit the bed. More kissing. The music seemed to swell with the moment and I was
getting nervous. My finger hovered above the "STOP" button, ready to cut it off,
but some part of me was still giving Gina the benefit of the doubt.
"Hold on a second. Ill be right back,"
Gina said. "Do you want to get undressed?"
"Uh huh," Andrew, The Man of Few (if any) Words,
A door closed. I wasnt sure which, maybe a closet or the main
door. I heard the shuffling of clothes and then silence for a bit. No, I take it back. Not
just silence the sound of shallow breathing broke it.
A few seconds later, the door opened again. Footsteps and
then giggling. From Gina.
"What? What is it?" Andrew asked, sounding as
nervous as I felt listening.
"I cant," Gina said, her continued
giggling framing her words. "Youre too
"What?" Andrew asked again.
Gina stopped laughing, but the trace of a smile in her
voice remained. "Youre too small, Andrew. Im sorry. I cant.
Its not, you know, enough."
"Are you serious?" Andrew asked, his voice
seeming to shrink along with his prospects.
"Yes," Gina said, sounding as polite as if she
were discussing her favorite color. "I cant do that with you. Did your
girlfriend back home ever complain about the size?"
Silence. If air, and the silence that hangs upon it could
speak, I think it would have screamed from the twist of tension in that moment.
Andrew didnt say anything else. The sound of
rustling clothes came back along with the creaking of floor boards as he must have shifted
from foot to foot, putting his pants back on.
"Im leaving," Andrew said in a small,
pitiful voice that seemed to come light years away from the confident tone of just a few
"Okay. Im sorry, Andrew. Take care, okay?"
The sound of a slamming door marked his exit. Gina took a
deep breath in the empty room and then giggled again.
The clatter of the tape recorder being turned off marked
the recordings end.
I pushed "STOP" and waited for Gina to come
* * *
"What the hell was that?" I asked as she
walked in, holding an empty laundry basket and a jumbo box of Tide.
"It was a practical joke," Gina said.
"It was cruel," I said.
"No, I didnt tell you the whole story!"
"I cant wait," I said.
"I just met him that night, but I already knew who he
was. He was from near my hometown," Gina said.
"You didnt tell him that?" I asked.
"He was the boyfriend of one of my best friends back
home. But hes been cheating on her ever since he started going to school here."
"How do you know all this?" I asked her.
"Letty, my friend, told me. We set him up. I ran into
him outside his dorm and let him ask me out. Then I brought him here," she said,
smiling a proud smile.
"I dont get it," I said. "Your friend
knew about this?"
"It was her idea to tape record it," Gina said.
"She wanted to know once and for all if he would cheat on her. And he did, so I
I didnt know what to say. The idea, the planning of
it, numbed me. I thought it was a stupid thing to do, but also justifiable in a strange
"What if he got angry?" I asked. "What if
he attacked you or something?"
"I had pepper spray in my pocket just in case. But I
didnt think hed do that."
"Because hes a coward," Gina said.
"Hed rather lie than just break up with Letty and be honest about it. A guy
like that is afraid that someone will figure out his lies. So he wouldnt date a
really strong woman. Hed be too afraid."
"So Lettys not strong like you?"
Gina paused for a moment before answering. "No,"
she said finally. "But at least shes getting rid of this guy."
"You kissed him," I said.
"I had to," Gina said. "But it was just
acting. Like being in a play or a movie. Better than that, because it was for a good
"Oh," I said, because that was the extent of my
vocabulary at that moment. I knew why she did what she did, but not how she could do it.
How she could kiss someone she obviously disliked and then try to hurt them through some
sort of second-hand revenge.
But I couldnt help thinking of this Andrew guy, this
pathetic person whod broken some girls heart back home, and who left Gina with
his (undersized) tail between his legs unaware of what had really transpired.
I thought about guys who have dicked my friends and me
over. The ones who dont call or the ones that call too often or the ones who
cant commit because it would get in the way of their next conquest, and most of all
the ones that just lie, not because they have to, but because its easier than being
I began to see beyond the immaturity and coldness of the
tape into something cathartic and a little bit amusing. I must have laughed without
realizing it because the next thing I knew, Gina had an arm around my neck as she sat next
to me on the bed. She was beaming.
"See?" she said to me as I finally returned a
smile. "I knew youd like it."