My phone rang this morning. At six. The time of day reserved for pesky fax machines. I hate those calls. Annoying loud beeps waking me from a restful slumber. Except this morning when I fumbled for the phone and looked at the caller ID, I saw the number was his. I knew something wasn’t right. I knew that if he was awake at two in the morning his time and he was calling me at six in the morning my time, something needed to be said. It was at that moment I cursed. I cursed that the caller wasn’t a fax machine.
The conversation went in circles. Around and around, sometimes overlapping and sometimes straying ever so slightly. Like a Spirograph. Tearing through the paper. When my rambling didn’t make sense to him, I realized it didn’t make sense to me either. You know how that goes. Sometimes a conversation is between two people but not really. I was speaking words just for the sake of saying something. I was unraveling my thoughts in random order. Or maybe I was rambling simply to avoid hanging up.
When we finally said goodbye, it was seven. I pulled on my workout clothes and went outside for a long walk. My feet pounded the pavement to the music pumping through my earphones. Then, ten minutes shy of reaching home, my iPod froze up. Meaning I had nothing screaming over my thoughts. So I spent the last leg of my walk clenching my jaw and doing everything in my power to think about absolutely nothing. I focused on the sensation of my muscles tightening around my mouth. I focused on the sound of my breathing. I focused on avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk.
I came through my apartment door sweaty and thirsty and wishing I had a bat to slam against the floor. I wanted to swing my arms and send my energy through something. I wanted to feel the power of my efforts reverberating back into me. I wanted to purge myself of the frustration knotting me up inside. I grabbed a bottle of water and dropped onto my sofa. Then I called Leslie. To test drive speaking the reality aloud. Because once I spoke the words, once I heard the words exit my mouth, maybe the surreal feeling defining my morning would fade back to normal.
“Change your flight,” she insisted. “Move your Sunday flight to Friday.”
“I’m not sure. I think I’m okay. I mean, I feel curiously normal,” I said with a nervous giggle.
“Hold on, I need to put you on speaker. So I can drive, apply make-up and still talk.”
The line went dead.
“Sorry about that,” Leslie said when I answered the phone. “Make-up can wait.”
I went back to talking in circles. I orbited the topic so many times I lost count of my laps. With my sweat absorbing into my sofa, I looked at the clock. I had to shower. I had to get dressed. I had to be in front of a client in an hour to review their health insurance. Because what better tedious topic to distract me from the traffic jam of thoughts in my head than hospital costs and prescription copays. I ended the conversation and went about my morning routine. Although this time around I was a little off. Like I forgot to shave under my left arm and I accidentally used the conditioner first.
By the time I finished my meeting and got into the office, it was noon. As I flipped through my emails, the phone rang. It was Leslie.
“I don’t know if you want to talk but I at least wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Not up for talking. But funny enough, totally comfortable writing about it,” I said.
“Should I call you later or do you want some space?”
I ignored the question. Not intentionally. It’s just that when I opened my mouth, the words that fell out were unrelated.
“When I drove out of the city after my appointment every fucking song was about love or heartbreak. And I wasn’t even listening to the country station. Anyway, eventually I broke. Somewhere on Broad Street I cried. To Dave Matthews. Crash.”
“Okay, that song would get me too. Regardless of just breaking up with a man I love. Uh, you might want to avoid all Annie Lennox,” Leslie suggested.
“And David Gray,” I chimed in. Then I laughed, though I’m not sure why. Maybe because laughing felt better than the other emotion bubbling up in my belly. That empty, hollow, butterfly-less belly.
“I’m going to go. Maybe finally eat something. Or not. Ah, the silver lining to being sad - weight loss!” I joked.
“For the record, I’m really proud of how you have handled everything. You’re being really rational and realistic. But listen, don’t forget - it’s okay to feel emotions. And you will.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said, the admission somehow triggering a release.
“Think about coming down earlier. I can get Olivia to make all of your favorite animal noises. Or, you know, stay there and come down as planned. Either way, I’m here for you. No matter the time of day.”
“Thanks,” I said, a knot rising in my throat. The kind that makes my voice waiver and tremble.
I put the phone back in the cradle and felt my eyes start to water. At which point I looked up to the white tiled ceiling in my office. I quickly blinked my eyes and quietly whispered a mantra - don’t-cry-don’t-cry-don’t-cry. All I wanted was to push the tears back in. None of it worked. So as a salty stream stained my right cheek, I grabbed my sunglasses and wallet and keys and darted for my car. And as the back door to the office slowly closed behind me, I yelled back in to my coworkers.
“I’m running out,” I said. There wasn’t any reason for me to get any more specific.