Can I Call You Tonight?

by Elliot Pope

 

It is 1:18 in the morning on a Tuesday night and Saint Catherine’s College is quiet. It was supposed to be a waxing gibbous moon tonight, but storm clouds had rolled in that afternoon and smothered the sky. The campus is in anticipation of rain, and the world feels still and abandoned. The doors locked hours ago, the stores closed at 10. After all, who would still be awake at 1:18 on a Tuesday morning?

Kit sits at their desk, vintage lamp turned down to the lowest setting. They type furiously on their laptop, pausing every so often to highlight sections and delete them. A small portable radio croons out some 80s love song. It’s not the music Kit usually prefers to listen to, but it’s almost 1:20, so they can’t change the station. They sigh and delete more text. This paper is due tomorrow afternoon and Kit knows they need to finish it tonight. But’s hard to focus when they’re anticipating-

“Good night Saint C’s! I hope every eighty minutes of this fresh new day have been wonderful for all of you night owls. I’m your usual Tuesday insomniac, playing whatever I want because it’s 1:20 A.M. and no one really cares. Up first today: ‘Out Like a Light’ by the Honeysticks. If you have a class earlier than 10 to get up for, I hope this one inspires you to put down whatever activity has you up this late and hit the sheets.”

Them. The DJ for the local college radio station, only on Tuesday nights from 1:20-2:20. And occasionally Thursday evenings, but this is their main time slot. Kit hasn’t figured out why the college radio would even have someone in at this hour, but one late-night cramming session had led them to discover this particular pocket of airwaves and they’ve been a loyal listener ever since. There’s just something about the host that has Kit staying up much too late; their scratchy yet clear voice, their broad and eccentric taste in music, their tendency to go on rants about the most strange subjects. The first night Kit had listened to the show, they had gone on a tangent about how Pride began and how trans people had been essential to queer liberation back in the 80s. Kit had felt so seen. And that’s the biggest thing that brings them back every Tuesday. That connection. 

Kit rewrites the last paragraph of their essay as they listen to song after song, occasionally interrupted by the host’s commentary on the lyricism or facts about the album each came from. Kit enjoys music, but doesn’t give much thought to anything besides ‘if the song is pleasing to them.’ But clearly, the host puts effort into understanding music. It makes Kit wonder if they’re a music major of some sort. That’s something they think a lot about during this one hour: who the host could be. They clearly love music, and Kit knows the college station often hires people in majors focused on music and music theory. But the host also knows a lot of strange, obscure historical facts, evident from the one time they ranted about the different periods of French architecture. 

“And that was ‘Boyish’ by Hippo Campus. If you enjoyed that song I recommend checking out the rest of their discography, they’re one of my favorite bands.” Kit scribbles down the name of the band on the pad of paper they keep next to them. Even though staying up till 2:20 messes with their sleep schedule, at least their music taste is improving. “This next song is dedicated to the very attractive person in my Thursday PoliSci class. I am incredibly socially awkward and I do not know how to flirt, but if you’re out there listening somehow just know I stare at the back of your head every day and daydream about holding your hand. This is ‘ur so pretty’ by Wasia Project.”

The song is soft and slow, unlike what the host usually plays. The singer muses over a love they don’t wish to lose, and Kit sits back in their chair and listens. Something in their chest twinged when they heard it was dedicated to someone. It’s not like they’re in love or anything, but Kit can’t deny the little crush that had begun to form on the host. It was stupid, really. They didn’t know each other, let alone have a conversation. But Kit just feels like if they could meet, they would click. Maybe it’s for the best that they’ll never meet. Even if Kit likes the host, they probably wouldn’t have liked them back. 

By the time the song ends, it’s almost 2:20. “Thank you all for joining me on this early Tuesday morning. It’s been a pleasure to play my favorite songs for my little audience. Remember: there’s always someone who cares. I’ll be back this time next week with more music and stories. Sleep well, friends!” A final song plays, but Kit shuts it off before it’s done. They just want to get to bed.

They brush their teeth in their tiny dorm sink and turn on the fairy lights lining the ceiling. Their paper is finished, so they attach it to the assignment before plugging in their laptop. Kit tosses and turns for a bit, but sleep refuses to come. All they can think about is the host. Their facts, their detailed stories, their meaningful song choices. Kit wishes they knew who they were, wishes their paths would cross. They wonder for a second if they’ve already met, but push that thought away. Kit would know if they had met the host. They’re sure of that.

 

On Thursday morning, Kit arrives at their PoliSci class at exactly 8:30. Swinging their messenger bag into the seat next to them, they sit down just as the professor begins explaining the assignment for the day. Kit vaguely hears something about a project as they’re pulling off their headphones when someone plops into the seat next to them. Kit startles. They begin to stand and grab their stuff, rambling. “Is this your seat? So sorry, I must be in the wrong row-”

“Oh, no, not at all!” The person places a hand on Kit’s shoulder and then quickly drops it once Kit’s facing them. They flutter their hands apologetically. “Sorry for startling you. We’re partners for this project the professor just assigned, I thought you had heard.” 

Kit stares. The new person looks and sounds vaguely familiar, with dark skin, a curly mullet dyed a complimentary red shade and large golden glasses. Their lips turn upwards slightly and Kit’s heart does a weird fluttery thing. They are very, very attractive. “You’re ok. I’m just out of it. Two late nights in a row makes my brain go all fuzzy.”

The person giggles slightly. “Tell me about it. I have a bad habit of staying up too late, too.” They hold out a hand, which is quite endearing. “I’m Winnie. They/them pronouns, most of the time.”

Kit takes their hand. It’s warm, and they have calluses on their fingers. “I’m Kit. Same on the pronouns, actually.” 

Winnie grins, revealing a little gap in between their top teeth. “Cool. It’s a relief to not be paired up with some white cishet taking this class for brownie points.” Their words sound like Kit’s own thoughts. It’s so refreshing for someone to understand. “So, Kit, how well were you paying attention to this unit? Because I must confess I spend most of this class doodling in the margins of my textbook.”

Kit and Winnie spent the rest of the class attempting to figure out what the project entails. During this time, Kit learned that Winnie is a History major and wants to be a historian when they graduate. Kit told Winnie about their journalism major and how they want to be first the transfemme senior editor in a big newspaper. This had made Winnie smile their crooked smile again, and Kit wanted to keep making them smile. But the class had ended, and they had said their goodbyes and split up to go to their next classes.

Kit walks to the library to try and finish some reading before Writing 101. But as they sit down and pull out their textbook, their mind is not on “crafting the best setting”. The only thing flitting around in their brain is a gap-toothed smile and curly red hair. Winnie is witty and kind and seems to just get Kit. There’s also something so familiar about them, but they don’t have any other classes together. So there shouldn’t be a reason that they fill Kit with such a strong sense of déjà vu.

Curled up in a library chair, Kit thinks and reads and stresses, and soon enough it’s time for their next class. They pull on their headphones and press play on their Liked Songs playlist.  An unfamiliar, poppy beat plays faintly, and Kit pulls out their phone from their pocket to try and place the song. “Bad Dream Baby” by Hippo Campus. Kit turns it up a bit and puts their phone back. 

They’re almost to the English Building when it hits them. Hippo Campus. A band recommended by the host. A familiar voice. A familiar laugh. Winnie. Winnie’s voice. Winnie is the host.

Kit freezes. Winnie is the host of the Tuesday morning slot from 1:20-2:20. Winnie is the host. The host likes someone who sits in front of them in their Thursday PoliSci class. Kit sits in front of Winnie, who is the host, in their Thursday PoliSci class. 

Kit is an idiot.

It has been five days, and Kit feels less like an idiot. Just a little less. But they have a plan now. Sure, it is a little complicated and overdramatic, but it’s romantic. And hopefully won’t scare the host–scare Winnie–off. That’s the goal.

Kit sits at their desk and turns on the radio at 1:00 A.M. They don’t want to miss a thing. The past few days have been a mess and they are grateful for this moment of peace. Ever since Kit figured out that Winnie was the host, their brain had spiraled and hadn’t reeled back in. They alternated between wanting to make a big gesture or just typing their name into Instagram and sending a DM. But the romantic in their heart won, and now they are tapping their pencil nervously to another cheesy 80s love song. They should be focusing on their graphic organizer, but they can’t stop thinking about all the ways their plan could fail. Winnie could not pick up, they could think it’s a joke, they could just simply reject Kit, they could-

“Gooood night Saint C’s! I hope every eighty minutes of this fresh new day have been wonderful for all of you night owls. I’m your usual Tuesday insomniac, playing whatever I want because it’s 1:20 A.M. and no one really cares. This week has been a long one with exams approaching, but I have some good news for those two nosy people who DMed me after last week’s show: I finally talked to my PoliSci crush! Well, we were paired up for a project but I still had a conversation with them! Our future is bright, I can just see it. And in honor of conversations, here is ‘Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat’ by Del Water Gap.”

Kit exhales and sinks into their desk chair. It’s true. Winnie is the host. And Kit is the attractive person in their PoliSci class. They listen to a bit of the song, something about the singer not wanting anybody else to touch their lover like they do, and they’re sure. They can do this.

They pick up their phone and dial the radio station number after two minutes of the song, hands shaking slightly. It rings and rings, and Kit starts to think that this is a stupid idea. But on the fourth dial tone, the call connects. There is silence, then a questioning “Hello?”

Everything Kit wants to say flies out of their brain. They manage to croak out “Yes, um, hi.”

More silence. “Hi? Do you want to request a song or something? I’ve rarely gotten calls, so I sincerely hope this isn’t some weird prank.”

“No! No, no it’s definitely not.” Kit’s voice is high-pitched and squeaky, and they clear their throat. “No, uh, yeah. I want to request a song. And dedicate it to someone.”

“Do you think this person would be up this late?”

Kit grins, small and private. “I know they are.”

“Oh, awesome! Here, I’ll put you on the air so you can shout them out yourself. Turn off your radio if you’re listening so there’s no echo.” There’s a click, and hold music plays through the cell phone. Kit switches off their radio and waits.

Not even a minute later, their phone clicks again and Winnie begins to speak. “Once again, that was ‘An Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat’ by Del Water Gap. The next song is actually from a caller, which is crazy. It’s so late that sometimes I forget I’m not just speaking into the void. Ok caller, you’re on! What would you like me to play this morning?”

Kit closes their eyes and opens them again. They can do this. “‘Can I Call You Tonight?’ by Dayglow. Dedicated to the attractive person who sits behind me in my Thursday PoliSci class. The one with the curly red mullet and impeccable taste in music.”

Quiet. Winnie doesn’t say anything, doesn’t start the song, and Kit begins to worry they screwed up. They really should’ve just found them on Instagram- “Kit? Is that you?”

Or maybe not. “Yeah. Yeah, it’s Kit. I love your radio show.”

Winnie lets out a little laugh. “Oh my God, I can’t believe it. You’re a listener? Why are you up this late on a Tuesday?”

“I’ve been a listener since… September maybe? I just found you one late night and I was hooked. I’ve tuned in ever since,” Kit says into the phone. It’s a little embarrassing to admit they listen every week, but Kit wants Winnie to know they aren’t just someone random.

“Wow. That’s insane. God, this is insane. You heard last week? About… the PoliSci crush?”

“Yeah. Though I didn’t realize it was me and that you were you until after class. It was because of Hippo Campus, actually. I started listening to them after you recommended it.”

“You actually take my music recommendations?”

“Of course I do. I- I love listening to you.” Kit cringes slightly but keeps going. “I’ve always thought we would get along if we ever met in person, and then we did and I didn’t even know it. And now I want to get to know you better. So… I was wondering- no, hoping, if you would want to go on a date with me?”

There it is. Kit said it, said their feelings live over the radio to someone they’ve been pining after for months. 

It’s radio silence for less than a second. “I would love to, Kit. Really. I can’t believe you asked me out over my radio show.”

“Me neither, if we’re being honest.”

Winnie puts on the song then, so they can exchange contact information and make plans. Winnie laughs at Kit’s stupid jokes and Kit can’t stop smiling. It is 1:35 on a Tuesday morning, and Kit had never felt more awake.