"Hey, it's Nick, BUT I'm not here. Leave
a message and I'll get back to you later!"
I hate your answering machine. I never told you that when we were dating,
but I really fucking hate that answering machine. It teases me sometimes, when I really need to hear your voice and you're
not there. I can hear you, but it's not the real you, and so I trick myself into thinking I'm not alone even though I feel
so damn empty inside.
It's funny, the things we do for love.
When I was younger, I used to hear horror stories
about broken promises. I used to hear tales of how lovers got lost in trying to believe the lies that their significant others
were telling them, how people got tricked because they'd believe anything to keep themselves from being alone. And so, when
you said you'd call, I believed you. For days, months, years, it wasn't a broken promise. You did call, and I called, and
we could talk to each other about anything and everything. Occasionally, there were periods of silence, but we could both
satisfy ourselves with the knowledge that the silence wouldn't last forever.
It's not exactly silent anymore. I can
still hear that damn message, playing over and over in my head like a broken record that I can't bear to part with, even though
it serves no purpose anymore. I need to hear your voice, need to feel like we still have a tiny piece of what we used to have,
so I keep calling, and I keep listening, and I keep cringing whenever I hear the message.
Well, not so much the message as the tiny beep at the end. You know, the
part that means I have to start talking. Because, when it came to you, I was never good at talking.
argue that I never really had anything to say, but you'd be wrong. Even now, there's so much I need to say, so much that's
bottled up inside me ready to explode, but there are no words. The words escape me. Words add definition, and definition is
frightening and final. Once I give my feelings definition, you can find a way to twist them, and I won't get to listen to
the calm, detached tone you use in your answering machine message.
I miss hearing the emotion in your voice, miss that
tone of reverence that I was blessed with every so often. I don't miss the anger, though, or the skepticism, and so I hang
up before I can say anything else. All of the blank messages are mine. If you knew me, you would know why I leave them blank
and what I'm trying to say by saying nothing at all.
Maybe that's the problem. You do know me, but you don't know me
well enough to pick up the phone.
When you said you'd call, I believed you.
When you didn't, I decided that
maybe I should call instead. When the days began to collect like fallen leaves, I decided that maybe you weren't going to
call. I figured that maybe I should seek you out.
I'd forgotten just how good you are at hiding.
I'm not exactly
sure where I made mistakes, but I know that some of them undoubtedly have to do with the neon numbers on the keypad and the
shallowness of my breathing as I waited for you to pick up the phone. Each time, I called to hear your voice.
say I don't know you, but maybe it is you who doesn't know me.
I lost count of the days when they turned into months,
and I started leaving the phone on the kitchen counter in hopes that you'd call. It became like a pet, following me everywhere
and molding to my fingertips like a lifeline. I wouldn't leave the house for fear that you'd call and I would miss you.
down, I think I knew that you'd already forgotten your promise. After all, I've always envied your ability to forget.
Tonight, it has been a year since you said you'd call. Once again, I'm
sitting on my bed with the phone in my hand, prepared to dial the numbers just so I can hear your voice again. I allow myself
the hope that you'll actually answer the phone, but I know you won't. For all I know, you aren't even home anymore.
remember a time when you didn't know where home was, though, and so I dial your number again. I press the phone to my ear
delicately, trying to calm my racing heart when I hear your voice on the other end.
"Hey, it's Nick. I'm not in, so
leave a message, and I might just call you back." Beep.
I realize that you've changed the message, and my heart stops.
All this time, the words I left unsaid have been sitting on your answering machine, playing into your ears and in your hair.
All this time I have been calling, you have been home. I turn the phone off quietly and dial your number again, addicted to
your voice like you once were to mine.
I miss knowing that the messages you leave are for me.
I wait patiently
to hear your voice again. After four rings, five rings, six rings, I sit and wait, hoping that the answering machine will
come so that I can drink you in for a moment that will never be enough.
It's funny, the things we do for love.
the phone keeps ringing, still I listen. I sit, and I wait, and I clutch the phone to my ear in case your voice has grown
so soft that I might not hear. In reality, I know that I will hear you. Instead, it is you who does not hear me.
at long last, my eager features fall and I close my eyes. The steady ringing tone is in my ear, burned into my skull. But
you do not hear me calling, and so you cannot see me cry.
With a sigh, I hang up the phone, praying that, somewhere
else, you are listening to a dial tone.