1x04 - phone call
I shouldn’t be doing this, right now, I should be writing, I have–no offense, folks, but I have better things to do than this. I have a wedding to plan, a book to write, a–
Whatever. Whatever. And I’m not editing that out, Benji. It’s early in the morning and I woke up to record this, so, hey, guess what, I can say what I want.
It’s–it’s not me trying to offend you guys, you know I love all of you, it’s just–this is exhausting. And I forgot how good caffeine was, even though I’m trying to limit intake, so, uh, I’ve only had one cup of coffee so far, so, like, yeah, I’m kinda grouchy. Sorry. Anyway!
So. Hi! I’m Robin, uh, DaBank. No. That’s not my last name. That’s a–that’s a dumb joke that I haven’t told since I was fifteen, um. My last name’s Harper. I don’t know why I opened with that. I’m twenty-four years old, I’m engaged to the coolest, smartest, best woman on earth, and, uh. Both of us have been seeing some weird shit these last few weeks. So, uh, as that implies, I can confirm that some weird things have been happening in my hometown lately.
I–I haven’t been here, for a few years, I, uh, moved to DC for college and I didn’t really think I’d come back, but, uh, my folks said that they wanted me to have the old house cuz they’re moving to the lake house in Maine for some weird reason, and, uh. DC rent’s crazy, and–our plan to travel the world has unfortunately been delayed by how goddamn expensive weddings are, so, uh, Lane and I moved out here. And it’s kinda sweet. Very romantic, to live in a big house by the beach, watch the sunset every night–but. Point is, I haven’t been here for a while, but when I grew up here? Nothing ever happened that was out of the ordinary. It was a pretty boring town. As has been stated before. Like—we have ghost stories, obviously. A few murders, a few freak incidents, y’know, the—the usual small town stuff. But–
Now it’s different. Now it’s like—it’s full time. It’s everywhere. I’ll be walking, and I’ll catch a flash of purple in the sky—stalking me. And unless Lane or one of you guys is with me, it’s—it’s like, I’m the only one who notices. Everyone, everything else freezes. That—that thing, that kept messing with Ben’s recording, it interrupted NPR the other day, like, halfway through this really interesting piece on urban farming greenhouses that also serve as senior dog sanctuaries, it—I found the full piece on their site, but, like—I missed a full two minutes of it because some robot wants to talk to me about where and how I’ll die.
I was catching up with a friend the other day—uh, Penelope Scott, the Dean’s daughter, who graduated from Corielli in my class, and, uh, I mentioned, casually, that I was thinking about going to the next board meeting to catch up on that hot parental gossip. You know. Cuz—I babysat a lot of current students there when they were kids, so it’s fairly reasonable, not the worst lie I’ve ever told.
“What board?” she asked, and she sounded genuine, “We never had one, right? It was–it was student council, no parent liaisons. Because we’re independent.”
Or something like that.
And I can’t remember either way–like, I assume there was a parent board. It was awhile ago. I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, much less-it was hummus. It was hummus. I had hummus for lunch yesterday. It wasn’t great. Like–I can do better. I need to buy chickpeas, uh–I’ll text Lane after this and tell her to pick some up.
So. Anyway. The board maybe doesn’t exist, kind of sort of? Who knows! Not me!
I wrote fifteen hundred words today, of the–of the thing. Of the book, and then I deleted all of them. Because I was so caught up in thinking about this, y’know, like–there’s no room for a Great American Novel when you’re potentially being haunted by ghosts or aliens. Is it even “great” or “American,” though? I–I dunno. I take umbrage with the, like–with the idea of the Great American Novel. But that’s not relevant! At all, it’s–it’s not like anybody’s stayed on topic in their tapes, but, uh. I’m an adult. I–aw, whatever.
There’s something about the beach–this beach, the one I’m recording on, all–all desolate and wintery, all–you know. No one’s here, not even the college kids, cuz they’re scared of it. Cuz it’s probably haunted. Cuz–the boardwalks are worn down, splintery and sand-eroded, and–Lane and I hung a hammock here when we moved in, and we have it all to ourselves and also Douglas. Grumpy old man. Deserves a little cat-sized hammock all to himself. So he can sunbathe without having to jump and hurt those poor hips of his, ugh.
But there’s something about the beach. Something so isolated from the rest of the world, y’know? Not–not, like, when you’re at Ocean City in the middle of August, no, I mean–when you’re alone, and it’s maybe forty degrees out, middle of January, and you’re–maybe you’re listening to some acoustic cover of your favorite 2004 pop song, as is my wont, and–you just feel something. And it’s tugging at you, like, maybe the beach itself is the siren song from folklore. Maybe the beach is telling you to go–to go home, even if you and the beach have different definitions of the word. My definition is–uh. The house. With Elaine and Douglas and the hammock and the fireplace and the messy bedroom and the–the wholeness of it all. And the beach’s definition is the ocean, and the abyss, and what have you.
Except–no. That’s bland high-school level faux-existentialism, and I’m better than that. I promise you. I’m better than that.
But there’s something about the beach. Y’know? Just–just. There’s something. And I think it’s important to all of this, I–Look. Listen. Maybe I was homesick and I didn’t even know it before I came back. I think that’s the thing. I think it’s just delayed homesickness and exhaustion.
Lane and I can’t agree on napkin colors. We argued–not argued, that’s too strong of a verb–about that on the hammock the other night, is–is why that thought comes to mind, and how dumb is that, that we’re worried about that right now? It’s–it’s a lot. It’s–
Sorry, uh. Oh, hi, uh–Angie. God, I can’t get used to calling you that, I’m so used to Angela, it’s–nevermind. What’s–
What do you mean?
I’m recording my thing right now. No, you’re–My mic’s not picking you up, I can–is she–?
How do you just–and then, poof?
That’s–Look, Laney has the car, right now, so I’ll have to walk or–or u–I’ll do something, It’ll–It won’t be the fastest, but I’ll be there ASAP, okay? As soon as I’m done with this. recording, and I will be soon, I swear, hon, okay? Okay, I got you, just. Just–explain the situation as best as you know it, and. I’ll repeat it into the mic. Piece by piece. For science.
[long beat. heavy, nervous breathing. measured, but nervous. whispers.]
Teresa went missing this morning, uh. Angie heard her get up around five AM.
[another long beat]
She went to the beach, she left a note that said she’d be back by nine. She has a class at nine.
Um. Oh God, um. Benji was up, he, uh–he texted Angie that he saw her by the beach around six. And AJ, who was on his way to SAT prep, uh, he–oh God, he’s so old now, what the hell, saw her knee-deep in the water at six-thirty. He yelled across to her, and she, uh–she didn’t respond. She just kept staring ahead, unmoving. Like she was–like she was hypnotized.
[guess what? it’s a beat]
Angie, hon, I need you to breathe–and they say that she just vanished at seven. In a flash of that dumb–that terrible, terrible light, that–an orb of it.
It’s eight-twelve, right now, and she isn’t back, and–Charlotte already knows, Lane still needs a call, but–
Angie hung up. Which I get. I–she’s hyperventilating, she’s–I should go over and check on her, I think I can get a rideshare to campus, but–
Oh my God. Oh my God–I–I just, I don’t–
I thought the worst it would get was gonna be Charlotte–a baby–getting grabbed, and–roughed up a little bit. And that’s–that’s terrible, that’s terrifying, that’s–
But it’s–it’s not entirely impossible that that would happen to any of us anyway. We’re all–it’s more likely, more understandable to get attacked physically than to get bamfed away in an orb of light, y’know? Like–I’m sure, once this is over, she’ll never shut up about it–when I was, like, thirteen, I was babysitting her, and she made me watch Twin Peaks, like–girl was seven? I think, and making me watch her parents’ Twin Peaks season two boxset with her. What a–
She’s gotta come back, if only for the story of it. Sell her memoir to David Lynch, or whatever. She’ll come back, if only to do that. Love that kid. Hate Twin Peaks season two, but. Love that kid.
God. I’m–I don’t know how to–
I have to go. Uh. AJ’s turn is next week, so–he’ll give updates, but, just–oh my God. I’m sorry. I–I have to go help everybody, I’m–
Goodbye, I guess.