[I’m taking an online flash nonfiction class. First assignment this week: 10 minutes on the prompt: The telephone rang.]
The telephone rang but I didn’t answer it. I thought I knew who was calling but figured I’d only know if the phone rang again. It did. It rang again, long and hard, until the caller gave up, waited a few minutes and then called again. There were ten more calls and ten more times the caller gave up after many rings. The whole while I sat on the sofa across the room, smoking cigarettes and calculating the odds.
Was he calling to ditch me or was he calling to tell me he’d ditched her?
I eventually figured a man wouldn’t be so persistent just to deliver bad news. Heck, most men I knew then wouldn’t even bother to call, that’s how they’d send the message. Disappear. A man who called eleven times in a row and let the phone ring and ring was on a mission. I decided that he was on a mission to tell me good news and I ought to be brave enough to pick up the phone and hear it.
I wasn’t that brave nor was I ready to call him back because, after all, it could have been someone else, a bill collector, an old boyfriend, my parents thinking I was dead because I didn’t answer. There was no voice mail then so telephones had magic and mystery. You never knew anything for sure unless you picked up.
The next night he showed up at a small party I was giving for fellow students in my graduate program. He wasn’t a student but he brought a jug of wine and sat on the floor with us, listening to our stories of lament and overwork. And at the end of the night when everyone else left, tired and talked out, he stayed. He is still here thirty-five years later. Sometimes he leaves messages but mostly he texts.