The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Hello. This is Jane. by Judith Arcana

The May morning is already bright but Denah and Eli are deep in sleep; it’s maybe six when the phone rings, startling them awake. The phone’s on his side of the bed.

Hullo? Huh? Yeah, just a minute. He hands the phone to Denah, rocking her shoulder and mouthing silently, It’s for Jane.

Denah sits up to get clear. Hello? Yes, this is Jane. Who’s this?

Her voice gets stronger. What’s happening? Where are you?

Denah sits all the way up, against the headboard. Ok. Now, wait, please stop talking for a second and take a few deep, slow breaths. She breathes into the phone, a model. Then, suddenly, she throws herself across the bed, across Eli, and slams the phone down.

Omygod, Eli! Get up – there’s a woman, across the street at Grant, she’s there right now, she went there to miscarry. Some doctor has been threatening her, and she’s hysterical – he grabbed the phone right out of her hand just now – yelled at me – says he knows where I am! He said, We know who you are. We know where you are. He says they’re coming right now!

Eli sits up fast and says, Let’s look. They jump off the bed, rush to the front window, the side of their building that faces the hospital. The street is empty, silent. 

Denah is wild-eyed; Eli is calm. He puts his hands on her shoulders and says, Let’s get out of here.

Yes! And we have to get the Jane stuff out! Jesus! Eli – I have everything! The cards, the file, the phone machine, the beeper – it’s all here.

We’ll take care of it. He’s getting dressed as he talks. We’re going to put everything – all of it – in my golf bag. I’ll go out like always, down the fire escape. You go out the door, walk toward the lake on Webster. I’ll meet you in the car at the corner of Clark. In the car we’ll figure out where to go.

They’re both dressed now – cut-offs, t-shirts, glasses; she pushes the Jane gear into his bag, he slides in a couple pairs of socks and stuffs a jacket on top. They’re out of the apartment in less than four minutes, at the corner of Clark Street in less than two more.

Eli drives south on small streets, zig-zagging like a Jane on a work day. They stop at a gas station past Roosevelt Road, so Denah can call Allie.

Allie opens the door of her Hyde Park apartment wearing a bathrobe and long sparkly earrings. Her face is puffy from sleep. When they’re inside, she goes to her front window and

looks out.

Nothing. I think it was a bluff. He didn’t really know where you were, or who you are. You weren’t her counselor – she just called you Jane. Why did she even have your number?

I said Rita could give it to her for backup, in case Rita couldn’t deal with whatever she needed when labor started. You know, the kids or something. So she gave her my number and just told her it was another Jane. But here’s the thing – if they have that number, they can get the name & address from Reverse Information – I don’t know why they didn’t, or haven’t. Or maybe they did. Maybe they have – by now.

Eli says, Well, maybe she didn’t have it written down. Maybe she memorized it.

Denah and Allie look at him. Allie says to Denah, More likely she dialed before he came in, so the number wasn’t sitting out there when he busted in on her and grabbed the phone. If he had that number, maybe he would have done what he said; they’d’ve been in your apartment before you were out of it. I think he doesn’t have it. He doesn’t know. He can’t know. Who he is and how he thinks, every day of his life, keep him from knowing who we are and what we do. Guys like that never know these things because they can’t – lucky for us – imagine them.

Eli dodged around on the way here – we didn’t take the Drive. I’m sure nobody followed us. But I want to leave everything here for a while, Allie. At the next meeting we can decide – if

nothing’s happened – where it all should be, whether it’s safe to keep it at my place again.

In the car on the way home Eli says, It’s not safe to have that stuff at our place, Denah. It never was, and now for sure. How much closer do they have to be – I mean, that hospital is across the street, forgodsake.

If nothing happens, I think Allie is right – he was bluffing. There’s no reason to change anything.

There is silence in the car. Then Eli says, How about this for a reason? The end of June’ll be five months, you’ll be starting to look pregnant, easy to spot; maybe it’ll be harder for you to move fast. And there’s me, too, Denah. My place in all this, what I think, my feelings – my law license! That’s not a reason?

Let’s see what happens. We don’t have to decide anything right this minute.

They are quiet again, driving along the lake. It’s maybe seven now, and the light on the water is turning to gold.

Then Eli says, Ok. Ok. So – was she wearing those earrings while she was sleeping? Those long earrings, at six-thirty in the morning? I mean, did she wear them to bed? Or did she put them on when you called, because we were coming over? Or what? What about that? I mean, you gotta wonder.


This selection comes from Hello. This is Jane., avaible from Left Fork Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Gokul Prabhu.

Judith Arcana writes poems, stories, essays and books — including Grace Paley’s Life Stories, a literary/political biography; Announcements from the Planetarium, a recent poetry collection; and, now, Hello. This is Jane, a fiction collection, linked stories seeded by Judith’s pre-Roe underground abortion work in Chicago. Visit juditharcana.com.

Gokul Prabhu is a graduate of Ashoka University, India, with a Postgraduate Diploma in English and creative writing. He works as an administrator and teaching assistant for the Writing and Communication facility at 9dot9 Education, and assists in academic planning for communication, writing and critical thinking courses across several higher-ed institutes in India. Prabhu’s creative and academic work fluctuates between themes of sexuality and silence, and he hopes to be a healthy mix of writer, educator and journalist in the future. He occasionally scribbles book reviews and interviews authors for Scroll.in, an award-winning Indian digital news publication.

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