They took in the first batch of contestants and then announced to the crowds left behind us that they had stopped accepting applications for the day. There were more than seventy of us that went in. They had us sit down in a large hall similar to a university cafeteria. A man in a smart suit then told us we were first going to listen to two stories to understand the format of the program. He also spoke about legal aspects of the contracts we would have to sign with the radio station.
The lights gradually dimmed and the hall fell silent, as if it were a cinema. Most of the contestants lit up cigarettes and we were soon enveloped in a thick cloud of smoke. We started listening to a story by a young woman, whose voice reached us clearly from the four corners of the hall. She told us how her husband, a policeman, had been held by an Islamist group for a long time, and how, during the sectarian killings, the killers had sent his body back decomposed and decapitated. When the lights came back on, chaos broke out. Everyone was talking at the same time, like a swarm of wasps. Many of them ridiculed the woman’s story and claimed they had stories that were stranger, crueler, and more crazy. I caught sight of an old woman close to ninety waving her hand in derision and muttering, “That’s a story? If I told my story to a rock, it would break its heart.””
That wasn’t the right way to put it, exactly. More like, he had a way of knowing exactly where everything was at that exact moment in time. There were, of course, some limitations on that ability. He would know, instinctively, just where I dropped my phone, or where my checkbook had disappeared to. He couldn’t, unfortunately, track down where my name went.
Not so much because it was an intangible object so much as it was because that wasn’t something I had misplaced. I’d gone ahead and dropped it, and wherever it’d gotten off to now, it was out of my hands and Mike Kim’s range.
So it wasn’t my name I needed Mike Kim to track down for me right now. We’d tried that already.
"Pick up," I said, banging on his door. Just knocking wouldn’t get anywhere. The doorbell was broken, so that was out. Calling him wasn’t guaranteed to work, either. I figured out, though, after a few months, that calling him while knocking gave the best results. It still wasn’t guaranteed, but it gave you the best chances.
Still no response.
"C’mon, pick up." I kept knocking.
"Hello?" It was his just-got-up voice.
"Dude, it’s like three. You should be up by now."
"I am up," he said, opening the door. He was still on the phone.
He hadn’t shaved. I couldn’t tell if that was because he just woke up, or if he was going for a new look. Or he forgot to shave often enough that it became a new look and he just stuck with it.