“I’m going to have to put you on hold, one sec.” The phone gave Julia’s voice a distant, robotic glaze.
“Yeah, sure,” Angela told the rattle of the receiver as it was set down on what sounded like a bunch of crinkling papers. She could hear a child screaming from somewhere far away. Her husband must have been nine-to-five-ing those six-figure paychecks.
Angela was grateful for the interruption—wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to say, or how’d she’d even say it. Tinder had been swallowing her time in month-long gulps. She’d emerge from her unrequited paralysis for a moment, a first date or two, before she’d sink back into her apartment, hungover, and feel her hands itch again for the telephone.
For years now, she’d been living with these feelings written in her mind. A sort of sailor's last wish—bottled and tossed and floating somewhere out in the sea. Didn’t think she’d ever see that glass bottle wash ashore, but she was still stubbornly single, restlessly drunk, stupidly in love, and wanted only just to hear Julia’s voice on the other line.
They had fooled around in college, searched each other’s mouths for breath, drunk in saltwater tears. For Julia, it was just a party or two, she was newly single and craving that painful warmth of human skin, and Angela was just within reach, willing to lend more than a shoulder to a crying friend. They kissed to the submerged sounds of Nirvana’s "Come as You Are" guitar riffs and the rising melody of drunken screams.
But that had stopped for Julia when her boyfriend, now husband, had prostrated himself at the foot of Angela’s apartment where Julia had been sleeping with her parka as a pillow, and begged Julia to give him one last chance. And, of course, Julia ate up those sweet sounds and forgot all about the moments that lingered in Angela’s mind—filed them under Just Friends and College Curiosities.
But Angela couldn’t scrape away the salty scent of Julia’s skin and sweat, and would find herself again and again listening to the far away sounds of chairs scraping, children screaming, and Julia’s voice echoing from a world away—so unlike her the way her laughter once reverberated within Angela’s ear while the underwater bassline shuddered down her spine.
But this time, Julia was on the other side of the phone and Angela was sitting alone in her bathrobe, fingering the metal ring on the top of her forth can of beer. And Angela wants to tell her. Now. She can feel herself full, foaming to the rim. Ready to plummet into no return.
A rattling sound. Then Julia’s voice was close again, crackling through the airwaves.
“Sorry about that. Can I call you back? Tomorrow?”
Angela felt her chest fall and her breath released slowly— “Yeah, Jul, sounds
great”—and listened to the hook, beep, and static of the empty line.
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