obligatory phone calls.doc

There was another silence, I realized, as I twisted my index finger around the bluish phone cord. I opened my mouth to speak, only to realize I had nothing to say. I imagined you, sitting on your balcony, feet dangling; listening to the crackle of the bad connection, realizing you had nothing to say, either.

"Can I ask you a question?" I asked slowly.

You made a sound, not a yes, not a no, but an audible grunt that said, whatever.

"Do you call me because you want to talk to me? Or does it feel like an obligation?"

You say nothing. I imagine that your feet have stopped swinging artfully over the world below. You make another sound of indifference.

"Listen," I say, my breath catching in my throat. "I'm going to hang up now, okay?" Part of me wants you to say something like No, don't. "Don't call me back until you actually want to talk to me. Don't just call because you feel like you have to."

Before you can make another indifferent sound, I place the heavy receiver onto the cradle.

You never call back.