I know whose voice it is. I'm slumped at my desk. Verge of sweat. A lot of work to do.
"What?" Leave me alone. Can't you see I'm in the middle of delicate self-torture? Nell must be asleep.
"War. Wwwwwore. Wahhhh-rennnn." Followed by a laugh.
"Fucking what?" I sigh.
"You're not writin', War." And so on. "Ware. Ooh--I like that...like spelled W-A-R-R. but said 'ware', you know?" I can't believe this. I just want a reaction, you know? Let me say your name in weird ways right in your ear and then get annoyed at you for being annoyed by that. This is all Nell's fault.
"I'm not writing, no." I don't know when dropping the g's became popular. Another Nell deviation? Certainly wasn't from me.
"Speech Nazi." Derisive and playful.
"Language butcher," I respond without a beat.
"Find me ten people who put a G on their 'ings' so hard it could knock a hole in a wall." I have to laugh after this one. It's not just genuinely funny, it's damn impressive.
"That's poetic." Is it clear I'm being sincere?
"Gettin' more done in my mouth than y'are on that page." Y'are? Is it a whole dialect?
"Your mouth..." I joke.
"Smart ass." Fast. Uncanny responsiveness today. Snap, snap, snap. I don't want to act too excited. Let it come out in the report.
"How's the traffic today, Quo?"
"Light and sparse like Holly's p--" Muted. What the fuck? Someone's been studying vulgarity. I'm more than a little miffed.
"Whoa, whoa--manners! What if she was sleeping in the bed behind me?" She obviously wasn't.
Oh, please. You know I know she's not there. Unmute me.
"You know she's not in the room," I say. "She could've been just around the corner, coming up the stairs..." I trail off as I read.
War. You're being silly. If I can't talk like a guy around the guys, then how do you expect me to...
And it goes on for a paragraph, but I stop reading it. "Seriously? That's your excuse? Run your mouth in text-only."
Whatever you say Warrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...
And they keep coming. I give up. "Okay, okay, you're fuckin' unmuted."
"Hey, buddy--I think you dropped this." A big 'G' pops up on the screen. "I'm fuck-ing unmuted, Warren." I laugh again. Getting snippy now. Clever was the word I used. I first said it a week ago, but it was only a hunch. No doubts now. I have to know what kind of discussions Nell's been having. I don't want to ask right now. Too complicated to explain.
"I like when you laugh." This takes me by surprise a little. I'm not sure how to feel, but I smile anyway, looking up at the camera. How interesting.
"Tell me more." I cock my head at the camera.
"Uh-huh. Bigger vocabulary every day."
"Yeah, I bet you've been diligently studying that dictionary." And I'm burned again. By Quota. Well, well. I'm picturing a half-cocked Nell rambling off into the night, firing insults back and forth.
"You're funnier, too."
"Oh, you meant me." Wow, what a smart-ass. More laughter from me. "There it is again."
"Sure. It's nice." Ok, now I'm convinced I'm being set up. I want to call Nell on it right now, but...could this be Quota? Much as I doubt it--
"Th--that's sweet of you, Quota." Shit. I didn't mean to stutter. Audible tell. If I really thought it was Nell--deep down--then why would I...
"You...sound surprised?" Nell wouldn't do this. I'd never trust her with research again. I have to follow through. If it's really Quota, then--
"When I said 'tell me more,' I meant tell me more about your likes, Quota. You've never told me you liked anything before."
"I like watching people. Listening to their conversations." Then Quota gets quieter. "But I like simpler stuff too. Like laughing, and yawning, and...sleeping--that's a really interesting one." I have to talk to Nell NOW. I need her to hear this--to be here--before I take this conversation any further. I'm trying not to get my hopes up before I go deeper into its explanations.
"But what do you mean when you say you like it, Quo?"