Based on a Song #1
The lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/adele/hello.html
The anticipation and enthusiasm never die. I could tell you things about how I’ve learnt and I’ve grown, but that would be a lie. I still stare at the phone and wait. It’s funny, because I don’t need to stare. I don’t need to look, at all. It’s a phone, and I’ll know when it rings. It’s never on silent. Yet, still, I stare and I wait. I wait for a phone call that will never come, even though I believe that it might. I hope that it will.
It’s kind of ironic, because that is one of the things that annoyed her most. Looking back, I never would have imagined that this is the thing about her that I would remember so vividly. You know, when someone does or says something, and you think that it’s so unimportant. I always shrugged her off when she pointed out that it was an unnecessary habit.
“Why do you do that?” she would ask. Her voice was raised with curious concern. It was soft, but confident. When she spoke, I listened, even though she demanded much more than that. She always looked me right in the eyes when she asked, as if all of my prior responses had been a lie, and she was searching for the final truth.
“I just don’t want to miss the call, babe,” I would say. I gave the exact same answer every single time. There was never any kind of variation.
“Your phone is in your hand, and it’s on ‘loud’. You’re not going to miss anything. Besides, the university will email you once they’ve accepted your application.” She was so sure in everything that she said. In fact, I can’t remember ever hearing her say anything with doubt in her tone. In a different world with different rules, she would probably be some kind of authority figure. But there, in that small town where nothing ever happened, she was just my girlfriend and a waitress at a coffee shop.
“I just like being ready, that’s all. It’s not a big deal, it’s not like I’m missing anything,” I said, stealing another look at the tiny screen. Nothing.
“You could have missed me walking past if we weren’t already dating,” she smiled, planting a soft-lipped kiss on my forehead. It was warm and comforting, and it should have made me feel at ease. It should have.
I think of that, and it always makes me think of when we met. It’s such a simple story, really, but she’ll never know how right she was about what I could have missed. I never told her because I did not like admitting that I was wrong.
I was sitting at the bus station. I never would have gone there so early, but the heavy rainfall had forced my hand. The station’s shelter kept me dry, but it did not keep me warm. I kept staring at my phone, unlocking and locking it, wondering why my mother had not called to say that she would not be picking me up. She always warned me if I needed to take the bus. My persistent checking had drained my phone, and I stared at the screen as it went green and then faded to black. Annoyed, I clenched my fists and tucked them under my arms, subtly protecting myself against the chilly breeze. I rested my head against the metal railing, having no real idea when the next bus would come. It was still a while before the end of the workday, so the stop felt abandoned and remote. It was for that reason that I was forced to notice when a girl ran in to take cover from the worsening rains.
She wore a thick, green raincoat and brown boots. She was dressed warmly and her brown hair still swayed in the wind, not too wet to be held down. As I looked at her, I was confused about how she had known to dress that way. I had checked my weather app a million times and it had said nothing about rain. I shook my head and looked back down before she looked in my direction. I was a second too late.
“You look a little cold,” she huffed, a little out of breath from her brisk run. “Weather caught you off guard?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” I sighed, still looking away. I reached for my phone again, only to remember that it had died. I sighed again.
“Are you feeling a little off?” she asked, not at all bothered by my lack of interest.
“No,” I answered. “Just… my phone died.”
“Oh yeah?” she laughed. “Mine too.”
“You know, it’s gonna be almost half an hour until the next bus,” she pressed on, sitting down next to me on the cold bench. “We may as well chat.”
“About what?” I asked, looking up for the first time. I saw her face, and I gave myself a moment to take it in. It was very rounded, with the most delicate edges that I had ever laid eyes on. It fell under the command of her friendly smile, a smile that was shaped by a plump pair of lips that glimmered under a smooth pink gloss. A petite nose hovered above them, its bridge rising and spreading to direct me to her eyes. They were a dark hazel, like fallen autumn leaves on a rainy day – except filled with the glow of life. Her eyelashes stood out like the rays of a sun and complemented her curved, expressive eyebrows. Her skin was smooth and flawless, and looked as if it could taste like the chocolate that it seemed to be made of. I found myself paying attention before I could stop myself.
“Anything, really,” she breathed, waving a hand through her shoulder-length hair. “You could tell me who you are, or you could just tell me about your favourite band or movie.”
It was that simple, really. She demanded it, and I gave in, only so I could be taken away by her voice. I could not tell you exactly what we spoke about, but I also did not care much for it. I really just wanted to look at her and sit there, hoping that the bus would be delayed. When the time came, I took her number the old-fashioned way and felt an unusual enthusiasm take hold of me. Her stop came before mine, and she waved me off with a sincere and hopeful smile.
What followed was a year of seamless bliss. We were young and free, taking advantage of our lack of responsibility so that we could enjoy ourselves. We experienced a myriad of firsts together, some being much more significant than others. I was beginning to learn about a side of me that I was never sure existed. I was finding myself talking more and caring more about something outside of myself, and I felt home in the warmth of her accepting arms. I felt changed and matured. I felt growth. And all of this became so very clear to me when I experienced our coming to an end.
“Yeah, it’s pretty awesome here,” I said to her. She had called me to check in on how my first semester on campus was going. “That first test was pretty horrible, but it’s a growing pain. It’s a different standard.”
It had been six minutes into the phone call, and I had droned on since the minute that I picked up. My new adult life was exciting and colourful and involved, but hers had remained largely the same. She was still back home, in that small town. We had chosen to commit to each other despite the reality of how difficult it would be. She called me every day, and I always answered. I always spoke.
“Babe,” she said, interrupting my explanation.
“Yeah?” I responded, matching her change in tone.
“You didn’t ask about my job application,” she reminded me.
“Job application?” I slipped, not intending for her to know.
“Yeah, I applied for a job at,” she paused, sighing. “This is it. This is the problem. I call you to talk every day, but you only ever talk about yourself. You barely know me anymore. It’s always just about you. I’m sorry I didn’t go to some fancy big city, but I’m trying my best here. You’re only hours away, but it’s starting to feel like we’re a million miles apart.”
“Babe, I’m sorry. I was just so caught up in the test and then the game and…” And that is exactly what I did. Right after she had voiced her concerns, I confirmed them by spending so much time justifying myself that I did not give her a chance to respond. It was like a dark rabbit hole, and I had sent myself spinning deeper into the abyss. Before I knew it, I was only speaking to myself, sitting in the corner of my dorm room in a pit of the loudest silence I had heard in years.
In the forward-moving irony of my decisions, I reached out to my roommate and we took to drinking. It was a common solution for common problems, and mine was considered quite common. The flow of hard liquor down my relentlessly-dry throat made the club scene bearable. As I got showered in a rainbow of strobe lights and smoke and bumped shoulders, I found my foggy self dancing dangerously close to one of the female patrons of the club. She wore a black crop top which emphasised her seductive hip movements against the contrast of her pale skin. Her hair was loose and flowed along with the expression of her waving arms and coordinated swaying of the head. Her skin glistened with beads of sweat in the crowd’s concentrated heat. She was shining and inviting, and I fell into her like a well-placed honey trap.
We were in the back seat of her car, and I felt a comforting revival in how easily our encounter was playing out. She was direct and assertive and this allowed me to pull back without losing out. In the parking lot’s lack of lighting, she began to strip us off, not giving me any chance to hesitate with the distraction of her tongue in my mouth. It was that same tongue that would cause a piercing desperation in mine as my phone started to ring in my pocket. I reached for it, searching with my eyes closed.
“Oh my god, babe –” was as far as I got before the phone was snatched out of my hand by my anonymous companion.
“It’s a little rude to call someone this late,” she bit confidently. “Especially when that someone is about to get laid. You can wait.”
In my head, I was screaming. In my head, I was flipping a million tables and clawing my eyes out. I was in the most personal hell that I had ever known. But, in real life, I stared in disbelief. I was so abruptly pulled out of my guilty heaven that I could not direct my mouth to utter any meaningful phrase. In my shattered reality, I looked at her as she looked back triumphantly, turning my phone off and throwing it over to the front seat. Stunned, I lay back motionless as she continued, going about my unresponsive face unperturbed by my corpse-like approach.
That’s the thing about feeling something so intense for the very first time; you never forget it. It’s a unique elation. It’s an exceptional disaster. I remember sitting in my room, on the floor. It could have been a day, or a week, or a month, or the rest of my life. Whatever it was, I know that I sat there and experienced a small eternity as my phone rang over a hundred times. I could not answer it. I could not face the guilt and the reality of what she had found out in the worst of ways. I looked away from it, and I prayed for the calls to stop. And then they did.
I had become a series of switches. I was being triggered into a different self at every turn. I was transitioning through shades of myself that I did not know existed. When I finally looked at my phone, there was a text from her promising me that that had been her last attempt at calling me. I had broken a promise, so I hoped that she would break hers. However, I did not take to mind just how resilient she was in comparison to me as I tried to call her back. For days on end, all that I heard was the dial tone. I must have called a thousand times before her lined went completely dead. I wanted to tell her that I was sorry for breaking her heart. I wanted to tell her anything that would allow me to hear her voice again. Nothing.
I could tell you things about how I’ve healed through time, but that would be a lie. I haven’t done much of that, but I’ve done a lot of staring at my phone. Every time it rings, I jump at it, hoping that it’ll be her. It never is. I know it never will be, but I hope, regardless. The anticipation and enthusiasm never die. Despite everything I know, the anticipation and enthusiasm never die.
My phone’s ringing again. It’s a number that I don’t have. Could it be?
I answer, “Hello?”
My new ‘Based on a Song’ series is a series of short stories inspired by the lyrics of a song. This is the first of them. If you’d like to read more, try this complete series Polysemous Part 1 of 10: Winter’s Gift.