I’d have the charges billed to my telephone, while Margie dialled the same number, but never paid a fee. Much like at nightclubs, it's harder to get ladies into the room, so women would call the number and register, then punch through recorded greetings from guys waiting to talk.
One of those men, was me. Twenty-one, horny and incapable of getting a real-world date. Margie and me liked each other's voices enough to keep calling back. We'd make appointments for the next ‘meeting’, and then call the line. We spent two years having phone sex and, eventually, speaking to each other off the line, but we never told each other our real names.
Why was I doing this? I was in college and weighed 158 kilos. I was as big as an estate. But here's the thing: I was charming. Well read and well spoken. Observant and even kind. In other words, I was kind of a catch. As long as you couldn't see me. Margie lived alone. She had retired because she got sick, but she'd saved her money, so she had enough in the bank. During the day, she ran errands. At night, she entertained her gentleman callers.
I told her I was tall, broad and mixed race. She said she resembled Gina Lollobrigida. Both our exaggerations were probably true enough. I did have one black parent and one white parent. As for Margie, I felt sure she was at least a woman who had brown hair. Anyway, when we found each other on the chatline, all suspicions fell away. Our rooms so dark we could imagine each other — and ourselves — exactly as we wanted.
Margie and I were ‘together’ for about two years. After the first year, she gave me her home number. Sometimes we talked about visiting each other. But we never would. She was a 50-year-old woman with some undefined illness that had forced her to retire 15 years early. If she did, how could we ever fantasise?
I convinced myself that Margie was helping tether me to the ‘normal’ world of relationships. I knew what we had wasn't complete, but at least we were two human beings sharing some kind of real affection. I still felt this was infinitely better than the alternative: have you ever known men or women who don't get any kind of love for years? They get weird. The women become either monstrously drab or costume themselves in ways that are unreal. The men are worse. Their anger becomes palpable. Lonely women destroy themselves; lonely men threaten the world. With that fate in mind, I felt truly grateful for Margie.