Telephone Line

My second attempt at a love story. Inspired by a friend who asked me if I thought real love ever dies. I said I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love before, but I knew I’d trodden in it a few times. Writing this short story was a way to avoid the good slapping I no doubt deserved.

I could hardly get the words out; I was so choked with emotion. I know I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t cry; I didn’t want her to see me like this, red-eyed, gaunt, lost without her. My heart was broken. I thought it’d be forever, and there was nothing I could do to ease the pain inside when I found out she’d gone.

“Hello? Jess?”

She must have heard it in my voice. I cracked, and at that point it was all I could do not to break down completely and beg God that she’d somehow come back to me.


“Hello, Simon.” She sounded so far away; the distance in her voice was more real than any physical distance and, regardless of the plans I’d laid and how I’d rehearsed my lines, when the reality hit it all just flooded out of me. I was a mess.

“Simon, its time for you to move on. We can’t get back what we had. Please, just let me go and be done with it. Don’t keep us stuck here.”

With those few simple words, my heart broke. Everything that had been pent up in me rushed out in a torrent. I pleaded, I begged. There are some kinds of silence that are best never experienced. She was gone.

I staggered outside into a day that at any other time would have been beautiful, but on this day and at this time its beauty felt like razors in my eyes. Passing people looked at me as if I was a crazy man, and I suppose I was. If you’re lucky, very lucky, you will meet one person in your life that you instinctively know is the one you don’t need to shield yourself against; the one who is on your side even when you’re not. She was that for me. We had our moments; everyone does, but we had days and weeks and months that were the pinnacle of our lives.

I had asked her to marry me; she said yes. Her answer was so enthusiastic that I wanted to throw on a clown suit and join a circus. We told everyone; we invited everyone. And then one day she was gone, without a word. Our home had changed from somewhere two people shared to somewhere only one person survived; I was devastated.

I shuffled across the footpath, looking neither left nor right as my foot left the kerb. Head bent and muttering to myself, I was in a world of pain that even the screech of tyres and the blasting of horns couldn’t have penetrated, even if any cars had been close. I walked for a long time, a young man suddenly grown old.

Home; and I cried without stopping, great wracking sobs, until there were no more tears to lose. I never knew the human body could produce so many tears. I can’t really recall if I ate or not. I’m not sure if I had a shower, and I don’t know if the knocking at the door was real or imaginary. I didn’t go to work and I didn’t call, either. Someone had come in but I don’t know who or when. The place, usually so clean but later dirty, was spotless again. There were smells of food and tea but they made me nauseous. My clothes had been washed and put away. And then it hit me: Jess! She had come back! I raced out of my room, stubbing my toes badly on the doorframe but hardly registering the pain. Jess! I went through every room looking for her but she was nowhere to be found.

I found the note she’d left. It was Merrill, one of our dearest friends. She’d come over and knocked for hours, she said, before calling a locksmith and telling some lies to get him to open the door. She had done all this, and she would come back later to see me and have a meal. I felt my eyes filling with tears, my throat knotting, and my lips quivering. I stood there and screamed Jess’ name as loud and for as long as I could. There was no safe place to move; everything was pain. My soul was beyond redemption, and I can’t even say that I had decided that this was enough.

Merrill had obviously been ahead of me. There were no razors or sleeping pills. In fact, she’d taken everything that could have possibly been useful and she didn’t even leave me aspirins. Under normal circumstances I’d have felt ashamed that I had come to this; now I was just numb. What I knew was that I couldn’t face Merrill like this so I left, without even changing the clothes I’d been wearing since … when?

My feet betrayed me. I wanted to go anywhere but there yet it seemed that no matter what direction I tried to take all paths led to the same place. I knocked on her door and saw a disapproving look on her face as she opened it.

“This isn’t going to help, you know. Its time for you to move on.” I just stood there and looked at her, saying nothing.

“You can come in” she relented “but please don’t make me regret it. It’s difficult enough as it is.”

I swear I did my best to hold it together. I prayed and I tried and I bit my lip until the taste of copper filled my mouth. I sat there, just staring at her, not saying a word and not trusting myself to say one. I could see she was uncomfortable but I had to ask, no, beg, for one more chance. My head down and my hands shaking I said softly: “Please.” I heard her sigh and I knew her next words would lacerate my heart one more time.

“Okay” she said, with a voice full of regret. “We’ll give it one more try.”

Her voice was hoarse, too hoarse she said, to speak, and with that she took out the Ouija board and said: “Jess is gone, Simon. After this one last try we’re going to let her rest in peace.”

–June 2007–


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