The phone rings and I answer it. The voice tells me to talk and this time I do.
“I like the color blue,” I say. “Also, ravioli.”
The voice says nothing.
“My dad used to make it for me,” I say. “When I had a dad.”
The voice says nothing.
“I used to play basketball,” I add quickly. “I was on a swim team. I know how to sew. And how to start a fire.”
“Girl Scouts,” I explain.
“I can drive a stick shift. I have one brother. He’s older.”
“Classic little sister, right here.”
“We don’t talk any more.”
“He’s an alcoholic.”
“He spent all of our mom’s money on rehab,” I say. “Then he got out and crashed her car.”
“He was drunk,” I say. “He killed someone. She was in high school and it was prom night. Kidding. About it being prom night. Sorry, that wasn’t funny. At all. But he did kill someone. And she was in high school.”
“I got a tattoo of a star on my hip when I was in college. I regret it now, but it was fun then. I did it to impress a boy.”
“It did,” I say. “Impress him.”
“I have a scar on my shin from when I crashed my bike into a rock wall when I was eight and needed 13 stitches. I grew up in Massachusetts. I’m a Masshole. I drive like one, too.”
“I’m a nurse,” I say. “I used to want to be a singer, but I’m a nurse. I sing in the shower now, that’s it. Sometimes Mariah Carey. Or Whitney Houston. She’s still the best, even though she’s dead.”
“I get scared in the woods. One time when I was a kid, there was a rabid raccoon that went all around our neighborhood for weeks. It bit my friend’s dog and the dog bit my friend and they had to put the dog down and my friend had to get lots of shots and now I think all animals want to bite me. I could never have a pet, not even a bird.”
“Especially not a bird,” I say.
“I live in Minneapolis now.”
“I guess you know that,” I say. “Area code.”
I look at my phone. Still 561. Still Florida. Still the same voice that wants to reach me for reasons I don’t know about and I don’t care about except it’s a voice that wants to reach me.
“Is it true,” I ask, “that you have a hotline there that you call to get alligators out of your yards?”
“I think that’s true,” I say. “I read it somewhere.”
“I wish we had a hotline for the raccoons. And squirrels! Oh my God, the squirrels. There are so many of them. And the mice that come into our kitchens in the winter.”
“I wish we had more magic and voodoo priestesses. You have those, right?”
“We had the Salem witch trials, in Massachusetts, but that was in the 1600s. I used to read books about it when I was a kid, and I always thought I would be called a witch if I lived then because I always misbehaved.”
“Like, my report cards always said I was a good student but I talked too much to my neighbors?”
“But now I realize I wouldn’t be. A witch, that is.”
“I behave,” I say. “I do what people expect of me.”
“I’m not technically a nurse,” I say. “I do work in a nursing home though. I serve food there. In the cafeteria. A lot of mashed potatoes… ”
“But you also have a ton of drugs down there, right? Meth and stuff. Like that stuff that made someone eat someone’s face that time. What was that called again?”
“Hey, who are you anyway?” I ask.
This time the voice speaks.
“It’s not important,” it says.
“Who you are is important,” I say.
“Or maybe it isn’t,” I say. “I mean, I guess it’s not. Important, that is.”
“Bath salts!” I say. “That’s the drug that makes people eat people’s faces. Did you know that?”
“What else do you know?” I ask.
The voice doesn’t speak.
And I don’t speak.
And there’s silence.
But it’s the kind of silence you can hear. I sit with it. I sit in it. I listen until the silence begins to vibrate in my ears, until it engulfs me, until I’m sitting on it, then floating in it. Until it sounds like everything in my life that’s disappointed me, a connection to something but only tenuously so—like it’s the before, and also the after. Until the crackles of the silence are the crickets on a late August night in childhood when it’s darker than seemed possible just a week ago and the grass is cool enough to feel wet on your bare feet and you’re wearing a sweatshirt over your t-shirt that smells that smell of a sweatshirt that’s been shut in a drawer for too long, and it feels good to have your senses heightened like that, even though you know it means that school is approaching. It’s going to start again, the time is tumbling closer, and you can’t stop it, and this moment is the best moment you’ll ever have. You’re on the peak, and there’s only one place to go from the peak. And all the freedom you’ve had, all the hopes, all the feelings—the sensation of being so close to something you want, but not being able to hold onto it, washes over you again, then again. You think you can will your desires into being, then they slip from your fingers, because you can’t grasp hard enough, or you grasp so hard that you force them out, because your thoughts are one thing and your life is the opposite thing and you can only be what you are, which you can’t distinguish from what’s already been. And the best you you can be is the one reflected in your stories, your myth, your perception of the being you’d like to be, but aren’t—or that you are, but don’t want to be.
The silence breaks.
“What do you want me to know?” the voice asks.
“Nothing,” I say. “I want you to know nothing about me.”
Kelly Marages lost her beloved dog Coco in the summer of 2015. She had three legs. (The dog.)