Phone Call

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Waiting for a phone call she never gets, a woman in her early forties has the chance to look thoroughly into herself and try to decode her fears and anxieties.

Submitted: July 22, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 22, 2018




PHONE CALL by Popi Chatzikosta




At forty, one day, she looked in the mirror and saw an alien face. Cast in the shape of an ultimate impossible, she instantly thought. She didn’t have the courage to laugh. She just gazed at it. Its wide open eyes, the gaping mouth, the forehead lines which would probably shape the remaining years. Horizontal lines with a bit of a curve in the middle. She rubbed them off with a sponge. They wouldn’t go away.

 She closed her eyes and lied on the bed. Or it was the other way round. She first lied on the bed and then closed her eyes. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to find her way to the bed. Not that she didn’t know how many steps it was from the sink and the mirror. But things seem to be abandoning their shape today. Her mind didn’t fail to notice that. Yesterday wasn’t much different either. She usually jumped carelessly from one generalization to the other but today is the day of the objects. Concrete things for a change. Pretty definite puzzles such as sizes, dimensions and distances.

 Pretty soon also she had to leave this room. She has lived in it for three years and knows every inch of it by heart. In every detail. But did it ever feel like home? She strongly doubted that. And where is home really? She put aside this last question before it was fully formulated. A bit tricky this one, she said sitting up in bed. Brings you back to abstractions. I don’t know, she said again. And she didn’t know in fact.

 She stood up and turned on the light. Today she just can’t bear the smell of the long summer evening immitating the colour of the night. What if the lamp explodes? She won’t be able to say who she is any more. Darkness is cunning. It diffuses in a minute all familiar shapes, gets hold of the early morning nightmares and hits them against the wall until they become dreams and she’s always hated dreams. Nightmares yes. Nightmares are promising. They force you at least into some kind of an action. Or a game of gradual acceptance and total rejection not necessarily in this order. That’s how it is. She’s always known that and she knows even now. I know as well. That’s why I wrote it down for her. She couldn’t have thought of it in so many words.

  It’s her contradictions she’s afraid of. That, somehow, she may be forced to re-consider some undoubtedly painful ideas. And she doesn’t want that. She just needs to stick on to pain, no matter how insane she might sound to him. Or to the people outside the room. But he doesn’t know her that much. He never intended to, anyway. She knows that of course. I mean, it’s pretty obvious, but she thinks of him all the time, all the same. Whether she should phone him or not. Attachment to something or someone doesn’t have to be a mutual kind of process. It can as well be your own private thing. In this case, it’s his faces she treasures and despises but she has to stop thinking or talking about him. She doesn’t want to make this feeling more trivial than it really is or get trapped in between the tentacles of a cheap romance story written long time ago. Sometimes, when dark is falling, she sticks her ears on the cold wall and gets excited. At times like this there’s no way she can tell what’s going on in the room. Nothing is to be taken for granted. You know that. You’ve been there all your life. Or most of it. There is still time.

 She poured herself the second glass of white wine dry and ran to the bathroom in the corridor in a flash of a second. The flat is so crowded these days and the inside of her head is so transparent she hates to advertise it. If she could just sleep for a change. But that's one of the impossibles we’ve been talking about. When the bottle of wine is empty, there’s this knock at the door, and it’s him returning to her room always at the same time, silent and hesitant, mysterious and distant. She lets him walk on her eyelids, reflect into her eyes, lose his way while crossing her eyebrows. Enough of this. She turns the light on and lights a cigarette. He’s never been in this room before and he will never be. Yet his touch is there, as light as a feather. That’s her definition of the fact. And that she’s run out of cigarettes once again.

 We sat down again on the bed to go on with her story and she picked up the receiver to see if the phone was still working. It was. But it hadn’t rung for the whole day. Not that it did in the past. But today it’s the object day and she’s pretty concerned about the silence. Not even a call for a Betty, a Max, a Lola. To have the chance to say you got the wrong number. Not even that.

 She started hating dreams after watching a film about a dream factory. They sort of recorded human brain while in the process of sleep and then they were able to project the dreams on a screen. It goes that even blind people could watch their own dreams in some kind of way. In front of an audience. But nightmares had managed to resist the recording process. They remained the property of the mind it had brought them forth. That was reassuring.

 He is not a dream. Neither a nightmare, as she and I both know. He is a fact. A very attractive fact, I must confess. Tall and slim like a midnight lamp-post in a silvery dark backyard alley. The intellectual type with trains of thought lurching in between arguments. A bit unimaginative perhaps but she can deal with that. She can become flexible enough for two. She’d give away anything to be able to touch him all over for a few seconds. Even thinking about it now, her fingers are burning.

 She phoned her folks back home instead. They always phoned her at nine every evening but today they are two hours late. For a few minutes she indulged on this delicious nightmarish kind of thought that they were both murdered by some anonymous maniac and someone was about to call her and break the tragic news to her. But she soon abandoned the idea. It was more horrible than she could handle. By the way, they were both fine. They were walking in the garden, they said, lost somewhere between their long gone youth and that night’s new moon. She felt happy and neglected hearing their excuse. And, of course, she over-dramatized her concern. As usual. She said she was just about to call the police and tell them to go search for their mutilated bodies. They believed her and were worried. Felt guilty as well. She couldn’t have been happier.

 The fingers of the alien face in the mirror shaped an initial C. She smiled. You have to be cruel, she said, when you’re dealing with that past scar which never heals and sucks up the juice out of your body leaving it as dry as the white sand under a mid-summer sun. It’s one of those facts they don’t give you a chance to doubt their authenticity.

  Still no sign of him. Not that he was supposed to call. But she expected him to do that. Two days after tomorrow she won’t be here any more. He couldn’t care less. She knows that. Yet she’s turning the simple fact that she has to go into an Oedipus-like fatal and terminal kind of tragedy. She can’t see it right now that she’ll be always returning here. She can’t escape this place. But no. She wants drama in her life. Sacrifices and battles over a lost cause. Frustration and revenge. Disobedience, guilt and punishment. An almost God-tailored punishment. The question is where God abides these days. Once she thought she’d found him in those ancient Egyptian tombs by the Nile. She even got into a stony sarcophagus once to see if he was there, but no, it was a false alarm. That was probably what the screaming tomb-guard was trying to tell her in his own language. But she wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t listen. She wanted to find out for herself. Then the taxi-driver kept looking at her at the back seat through the mirror and he wouldn’t understand her reaction. The tomb-guard must have told him, she thought. She didn’t mind. She wouldn’t allow herself feeling awkward by his surprised and hungry reflection. At that point in her life not many things seemed to matter. And that wasn’t even the point.

 It’s him now that matters. But he won’t call. Will she call him? Say what? A goodbye? And what if he’s not there? Where can he be? No, he won’t be in, she knows. Probably out for a drink. Or sleeping even. It’s getting quite late by now. Oh boy, this is all ridiculous, she’s going to decide in a few minutes. After finishing another glass of wine and watching last summer’s kisses turning into winter tears. I can’t believe she’s doing it again! She promised she’d stick to pure drama and now she’s putting on the melodramatic act again. Now that she’s not looking, I feel I must tell you this: they were never so intimate, him and her, there were never any kisses, summer or winter or whatever. She’s just making it all up. And after a while she starts believing everything has actually happened. She’s an expert in that.

Back home she’ll often think of his face. How flexible his characteristics are. Moving around. Changing position and expressions. It’s one of these faces you can look at for ages and still find something new. She’s always thought he has this charisma of bringing out many faces in one. Many identities in a single character. No, it won’t be easy to get over him, she’s too infatuated by him. In this perspective, it’s not her who’s talking right now. It’s her passion for him. Her desire. Because usually she appears calm and reserved, almost empty of feelings. That’s what most people think about her. He may be one of them. But they are all wrong.

 The part of his body she most adores is his arms. When in the heat of their drinking conversations he would roll up his sleeves and the arms  are revealed,  full of  blood,  strength  anddesire.

 Desire not for her though. Rather for new experiences. He’s talked to her a lot about his life. Past and present. How happy he is, how fulfilled. What he expects in the future. He has. That’s true. But he forgets all about it the next minute. It’s as if the conversation never existed. At first she thought he had just a weak memory. After a while, she couldn’t tell any more. She’s not ready yet to accept the fact that he’s just not interested. It’s as simple as that.

 Phone is ringing. Lorraine? Yeah, that’s me. I’ve missed you. No, you’re not Lorraine. Does it really matter? No. I guess it doesn’t matter at all. Not at all.

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