Long Distance

He tries to catch his breath but it’s Wednesday afternoon and there’s no chance to do anything but answer the phone and answer the phone again. No one ever thinks twice before calling, and the phone line is always busy, even when all he wants to do is close his eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine a Wednesday without phones, without interruption.

He feels like his office used to be bigger; used to be more than just a desk and a phone. It seems to him that people used to come in just to talk to him, and he looked forward to their visits. But they stopped coming around when the phone started ringing, and then it started to ring incessantly, even when he wasn’t there to answer or, more often, when he was there, wishing he didn’t have to.

It used to be that whenever he answered the phone the person on the other end was always someone he knew; someone he could count on to be calling him about something he could do something about, something he could fix, something that mattered to both of them. These days, though, most of the calls were from strangers making impossible demands in gibberish. It seems to him that such calls have become more frequent, considerably less coherent, far more insistent, and somehow more threatening.

There was really only one voice he wanted to hear.

He thought about her every time the phone rang; thought about her voice and how it had always soothed him. He did not dare to let the phone go unanswered for fear of missing her call—even though she had never called him at his office. He always picked up on the first or second ring, and he was always disappointed.

At home, she thought of him often throughout the day; thought of him sitting in his office, listening to the phone, trying to make sense of the doubletalk and gobbledygook, wishing he were talking to her instead. She considers calling him, but she never does. Even if she did, she tells herself, he probably wouldn’t do much talking, would probably just sit and listen, occasionally tell her how much he likes her voice, how far away she sounds.


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