The door opens, and it's just a dark apartment. Nothing extraordinary--just lots of background noise. The
cat meowing. The air conditioner humming. The answering machine beeping.
Apparently, I have a new message.
I set the bag of groceries down on the kitchen counter and press a button to stop the beeping.
"You have five new messages."
Which is to be expected, really. I was gone all weekend.
I flip the light on and start to unload the groceries.
"Honey, it's your mother. Call me sometime soon, okay? I haven't heard from you in ages! We miss you.
When are you coming home?"
Never. Well, not if I can help it. I basking in the glow of post-grad independence, thankyouverymuch.
I pull a can of cat food out of the bag and set it on the counter. The cat emerges from under the couch.
Smart cat. A throat clears in the silence.
His voice, once merely a whisper in the darkest recesses of a dazed girl's head, is suddenly all too loud in the silence.
"Didn't expect to hear from me, huh?" A chuckle. A fucking understatement, if you ask me. "I...I'm
in town, actually. Well, I'm not in town, but I will be in town, and I've been thinking a lot about you
lately, and I wanted to see you. Give me a call? The number's the same."
I used to think the digits would be forever inked on the pads of my fingers.
"Hey, it's me again...uh, Nick. Um...listen, I'm...that last message...fuck. I don't know what I was thinking.
I mean, I do want to see you...God, I want to see you...but...I suck. Shit. I...I know we didn't leave things
on such good terms, and I'm sorry. Really sorry. God, I'm an asshole. It took me a fucking long time to
realize that I'm an asshole, but...let's just say that I got a dose of my own medicine and..that sounds trivial, doesn't it?"
It doesn't hurt.
"Fuck. I...I know words like 'trivial' now. That's a change, huh? That's so not the point. I've
just...I've been thinking about you. A lot."
I always thought it would hurt.
"I...I fucked up. I mean...I mean that I messed up. You deserved a hell of a lot more than I gave
you, and...God, this sounds like some pre-scripted chick flick speech."
There's no elation.
"It's not. I swear I didn't get it out of a chick flick. I...I sucked as a friend. I sucked as whatever
we were after that. I...I..."
I always thought there would be elation. Yes, dear God. YES! He noticed me! He called me!
He wants to talk to me and he regrets fucking up!
There's no elation.
There should be elation.
"I know I hurt you. A lot."
There should be something, for God's sake.
"Like, a lot a lot, and I'm sorry for that. I just..."
Why isn't there any fucking elation?!
"You know what? Fuck it. I feel like I could do this better in person, or on the phone, or...just call me.
Ages ago, I would've immediately picked up the phone and dialed his digits.
For some reason, I don't want to.
"Listen, it's Nick again. You know that, right? Do you still recognize the sound of my voice? I bet
I'd recognize the sound of yours. I bet if you called me right now, you wouldn't even have to introduce yourself."
I stare dumbly at the answering machine, wondering why the sound of his voice isn't driving me mad.
"Hell, I bet I wouldn't even have to hear your voice. I bet I'd just know."
Wondering why I don't feel a damn thing.
"I used to know, you know. I used to have a sixth sense about it. Sometimes, I'd know you were going to call
even before the phone rang."
Wondering why I feel bad about my lack of feeling.
"I never told you this, but...it scared the shit out of me. Knowing you that well, knowing that you knew me that
well...it really did scare the shit out of me. You meant a fuck of a lot to me...I mean, you still do. I wouldn't
be sitting here calling you over and over if you didn't."
Wondering why he sounds so unabashedly sad. So profoundly depressed.
"I know I didn't show you any of that. I don't even think I admitted any of that to myself until a few weeks ago.
I just...I was in this relationship with this girl and we were talking about moving in together and having kids and staying
fucking committed to each other and shit, and I looked at her and...and it scared me, because I expected her to be
you, you know?"
Wondering why I feel guilty for making him sound that way, because it wasn't my fault, damn it.
"I don't even know why, but I'd been listening to her talk about the rest of our lives ad the fucking future, and...some
point in the conversation, I'd replaced her face with yours."
It wasn't my fucking fault.
"And it's not like I want us to move in together or get married of have kids or stay fucking committed or whatever,
I just...I...I guess that, when I picture the rest of our lives, I always pictured us spending it together. Platonic
or not. I always figured we'd stay connected."
I should be crying right now, but I'm not.
"I know that the disconnection was my fault. I fucking...I fucking freaked, and I don't even know why I needed
the distance anymore, but I did, and I sat there and let days and weeks and months and years go by and I never even called."
I don't even want to cry.
"I'm sorry. Do me a favor, yeah? Give me a chance to fix this. Give me a call."
I did my crying a long time ago.
I don't need to cry anymore.
"I don't even know why I'm doing this again. I guess I just wanted to hear your voice on the answering machine
message. That's dumb, isn't it?"
I don't even need to hear his voice anymore.
"It's also kind of embarassing. The guys are wondering who the hell I'm talking to. They probably think I'm
rude for never giving you a chance to talk. And they're right."
It's not like I haven't heard his voice or anything. He's been all over the radio, all over the television promoting
the new album with his four brothers. They're fucking everywhere, that group, promoting the shit out of thenew single
and really working the media circuit. They're practically unavoidable.
"They're beyond right, aren't they? I never gave you a fucking chance. Never."
His voice is unavoidable.
"Is this what it felt like? Just dialing the digits over and over? I want so badly for you to pick up the
phone but, at the same time, I'm apprehensive. The moment you pick up, the real conversation begins, and I can ramble
for hours on this fucking answering machine, but I have absolutely no clue what the hell I'd say to you if you actually answered.
I don't think there are any words for it."
"Is that why you left all of those silent messages? Just calling the number, listening, and not saying a damn thing
for at least thirty seconds before finally hanging up? It's tempting, I'll tell you that much. I don't know, though.
I...I kind of like this one-sided conversation. It's therapeutic. Just talking at you, telling you all these
things, being more fucking honest with you that I ever was when I was talking to you. When you were talking
I can't even remember the last time I dialed is number.
"God, I'm an idiot. We...we really knew each other, didn't we? Backwards, forwards, sideways, inside out...we
got each other, you know what I'm saying?"
I haven't needed to.
"Of course you do. I bet you still understand me. I bet you still get me. Hell, I bet you
still get every bit of these fucked-up messages, just like I got all of yours."
I still don't.
"I did, you know. Get all the messages, I mean. Now, I wish I'd responded to all of them, because I miss
you. I...fuck...I really miss you. I miss our dialogues at midnight. I even miss those messages you used
to leave on my answering machine."
Somewhere, in the back of my head, I think that I kind of miss him too.
"Maybe it was better this way, though. Maybe this convoluted one-sided conversation thing makes for a better resolution.
Who the hell knows, right? All I know is that...well...I called because we're leaving today. I hate that I didn't
get to see you or hear from you or anything, but...I almost think it was for the best."
"End of messages."
And the really weird thing is that I still don't have the urge to call him. At all.