You kick me out of the house for the afternoon and tell me to call you when I feel scared about something. “You’re so calm,” you say. “I want to hear what you’re like in distress.”
I go to the boxing club that we always drive by on our way home from Saturday breakfast. I watch two sweaty men going full throttle on each other in one of the rings. They look like chiseled boulders with tattoos. One of them lands four alternating punches to the other’s ribs. Left right left right. I imagine my ribs getting punched like that. Four blows in one excruciating second. I feel my bones caving in, stabbing my lungs. The winning fighter is now taking a wide swing at the other’s head. A red mouth- piece flies through the air and lands, sliding across the ring.
I expect the losing fighter to spit blood or a tooth. But I wonder if they’re supposed to spit. If my mouth was ever full of my own blood, should I spit or should I swallow?
I walk down the street and find an alleyway to call you. When you answer the phone, I start screaming like I’m being beaten, like I need you to call 911. But I’m not saying words. I’m just shouting in a way that says, Hurry up! I am going to die!
I hang up the phone and start walking home.
Twenty minutes later, you call me and start screaming too. It is a horrible sound, full of fear and violence. But then you’re laughing. It sounds like you’re wheezing. “Wait. Let me try that again,” you say. You hang up and call me back, screaming again. You sound less convincing this time. Your motivation is suspect. I’m disappointed in your acting.

Kevin Sampsell lives in Portland, OR and works at Powell’s Books. He’s the publisher of Future Tense Books and the author of several books including the memoir, A Common Pornography.