The Call Back

looking at a blank cell phone screen“She said she would call right back,” he mumbles out loud. “That’s what she said, and she always does what she says… well, mostly.”

There is a worried, almost fearful look on his face. He looks at the clock. It’s 5:23. The time on his phone is 5:24. His mind wanders as he tries not to worry. “In a couple weeks that clock will be another minute slower,’ he thinks.

‘This isn’t like her,’ he thinks. ‘Then again it is. Sometimes she doesn’t call when he thinks she will when he thinks she should. Sometimes she doesn’t call for days, and he’s worried sick by the time he finally hears her voice again. That’s when he thinks she should call, when he wants her to call, when he hopes she will call. He would call her, and sometimes, desperate, he does. She almost never answers. Almost never calls back until she wants to talk, until she has something to say, but she always, always calls back when she says she will. Not today, though.

It’s times like this when he wonders if he should love her. She always says she’s busy. She’s got her job, and her family, and all her friends back there. “I love you, baby,” she says whenever he says he was worried because she didn’t call. “I love you so very much and I want to move out there, I really do,” she says again and again, “but it’s so expensive and all. It shouldn’t be more than a year, as soon as I get my promotion. Then I’ll be making a lot more money and I can transfer.”

‘A year,’ he thinks. ‘Already been almost two and it’s not like there’s not enough money, but she has to have her own. “I don’t want to be one of those girls, you know.” Why not. If she really loves me, why not?’

He stares at the icons on his screen as if they’re going to do something as if a new one is suddenly going to appear, an icon for the What-Is-Kelly-Doing-Now app.

Suddenly the phone buzzes in his hand, and his favorite ring tone plays. That phone number and his five favorite letters flash on the screen as he moves to swipe the ‘accept’ button.

“Hi,” he says casually as if he had not been waiting, doing little else for the last four hours. “Just a minute while I put my dinner in the microwave.” He opens the microwave door, acts as if he’s putting something in it and closes the door.

“You’re about to eat, I’ll call you back,” she says.

“No, no, no need. It’s frozen. It can wait.”

“Okay then,” she says, “Sorry I took so long to call, but I’ve been thinking.” She stopped and took a deep breath.

‘She’s coming out here,’ he thinks. ‘She can’t stand not being with me anymore. She’s going to transfer, keep her job, wait for her promotion out here.’

Then she took another deep breath. “I know this is kind of sudden and it’s really hard… but maybe we should stop seeing each other.”

“What?” he says almost moaning. “You can’t…”

“No,” she says, “Not maybe. We shouldn’t… I don’t want to see you anymore.”

“You’re kidding,” he says.

“No, I’m not.”

Before he can protest. Before he can ask why. Before he has a chance to say anything, she hangs up.

Again he is staring at his phone. He thinks he is going to pass out. He feels like all the blood, all the feeling, almost all his breath has been sucked out of him, but one thought keeps going through his head, ‘Why did she bother to call back.’

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