The Phone Call - Part I

by Eric Payne

The dating game has become such a drag. I can't afford to get sucked into it. Spending money here and there will kill my wallet. I'm not one of those slick cats, the players, with those flashy clothes and cars. I'm a nice guy, who wants to earn an honest living and do right by my family and friends. Am I wrong for that? Of course I get no answer. Who am I asking anyway? Oh right, I'm asking that plant sitting on my bookshelf over there. The one I haven't watered in about two months. It looks just about as dead as I feel.

In the solitude of my tiny studio apartment, my mind unwinds and then recoils, debating realities, measuring quantities, wondering if I can make it to tomorrow. Then it skips and spins and then slows down, conscious of the darkening hours outside my window. I look around me and see no one here to share my space with me. No one to help keep the chill of loneliness off me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hard up or anything like that, but I do have certain wants. One in particular is for a special someone, a woman, who has no need for me. If that makes any sense. But yet it does make sense in the caverns of my mind because I want a woman who has herself together. One who's independent and has no particular need for me, but instead wants for my company as a compliment to her life, as well as my own.

The wind rushes across my window screen. The sound makes me think of a woman's hair lifting with the wind, as her sweet smell pierces the midnight air. The wind reminds me of my desire. My desire is for her, but she doesn't know it runs that deep for me. There's just something about her that turns me on. I can't put my finger on it, but on an occupational, social, and spiritual level, she really comes across like she's got her act together.

I haven't spoken to her lately, though. Originally we spoke every other day. Now it's nothing, as if she's a stranger to me. She just dropped off the face of the Earth. The last time we spoke, she told me she had a lot on her mind and that's the last I've heard from her. I called to check up on her, but she wasn't home. I left a message on her answering machine, and she never called me back. That was two weeks ago.

Did I play myself?

That's the question I keep asking of myself as I consider the possibilities. I'm not her man, so I guess I have no claim to her, but I thought we were building towards something meaningful. I remember how her eyes sparkled, and how she said "hi," when we were first introduced.

I've got to admit that my ego is bruised. We were really getting to know each other. Now I'm beginning to fear the worst. Maybe she heard something about me. Maybe she asked around, or spoke to someone that I used to date. Maybe I said something wrong the last time we spoke. Maybe I could do this all night and drive myself crazy. The best way to know --- the only way to know ---- is to call her. Why should I have to call her? I made the last effort to communicate. On top of that, one of my friends saw her at a party the other day. Now I'm thinking things must not be that bad if she's hanging out at a club. I hate knowing things that I shouldn't. My life was much easier when ignorance was bliss.

My head hurts from the indecision. What do I do? I stare at the telephone as it sits stoically on my coffee table. I'm angry because I know I'm going to pick it up despite the protests of my pride. I question my motives. What do I hope to accomplish? What do I need to know? Two weeks have passed, and her silence has already given me a clear enough answer as it is, but I do it to myself anyway.

I don't take the time to look at the numbers or to think anything. The phone is ringing. My throat tightens slightly in anticipation when she answers.

"Hello?" whispers a sleepy voice.

"Hi." I pull as much bass into my voice as I can possibly muster. She recognizes my voice and calls me by my name. "How are you, Shannon?" "I'm fine. Actually, I was calling because I was wondering about you. It's been a while since we last spoke."

"Oh, everything's good." Her voice cracks as she stretches. I assume she's in bed. After all, it is kind of late now that I take a good look at the time. I hesitate, "Really? That's good I suppose. Well look, I didn't call to talk long, I'm sure you need your rest. But I was curious. I called you a little while back and you never returned my call. So, I guess I'm just wondering...did I do or say something wrong the last time we spoke?"

"No, of course not Shannon, don't be silly," she playfully scolds. "I've just been going through a lot lately that's all.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I ask, even though I really don't want to know.

"Well, I'm kinda just coming off a relationship, and you know how things are when it's over but the arguing hasn't stopped yet?"

"Yeah." Funny thing, she never mentioned this to me before, but it's none of my business anyway.

"I've been very depressed and I didn't feel right talking to you or anybody know?"

I say I understand, but I know that I don't. Maybe I could've helped her. Maybe I could've said the right thing to make everything all right. She never gave me that chance.

"So is that it?" I ask, wanting her to say something more, maybe about me.

"Yep, that's my story," is all she says,

Do I tell her that I'm upset that I haven't heard from her? If I do, then I risk exposing my heart to her. She just told me about some other man. The ever-present other man that dominates a woman's life, preventing her from moving on to me. How can I compete with that? I can't. I need to just stop because I'm making a fool out of myself. This disappointment throbs against my skull. Once again I'm faced with my expectations being doused at the hands of someone else's past...story of my life.

I should've just left our conversation at that, but we speak a while longer. I make her laugh. I can hear her smile through the phone. Time has passed, and she has classes in the morning. I say goodnight, feeling happier than I did when I picked up the phone, but none the surer of where I stand with her. To think that she was the one is a little premature, but I know I'm not the one for her to drag along while she figures out what to do with her ex-boyfriend. She ain't over him, so screw it. I guess that's what I get for wanting.

I used to think that what I want is simple. I want her company, her comfort, her caress, and concern. I want her to tell me what she wants from me, so I can look forward to seeing her beautiful smile of satisfaction upon receiving it. But like I said, I guess that's what I get for wanting.

She didn't even apologize for the two weeks of silence. That's cool though. She doesn't owe me anything. She did a good job of proving that to me. Maybe I just need to be a little more patient. She did say she was going through a tough time. When the time passes, and if I'm still around, maybe she'll want to come to me since I've been speaking with her so far. I shouldn't give up just yet. Or maybe she'll come to think of me as a friend; that awful term that no man wants to hear from the woman he's attracted to. Maybe I need to stop wondering. I put the phone down next to me and sigh.

To be continued...

The Phone Call - Part I by Eric Payne

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