Updated: Dec 31, 2020
The area code was from Long Beach. The call did not come in a pattern. I would go days without hearing a ring. Other times, I would get multiple calls in one day. Cleo told me to block the number but my phone was an older type that did not block phone numbers. For some reason, I did not want to block the number even if I had the opportunity— I imagined someone important was calling me. Though, I could not imagine who that someone could be.
I was eating lunch with Cleo when the number called me again. We had decided
previously to give the caller a fictional name: Sandra. Sandra was a middle-aged widow who lost her husband in Vietnam. She had a voice that sounded unusually young. For a living, she called lonely men in their forties. Of course, Sandra did not exist but the idea was interesting to Cleo, how an old person can sound young. Cleo was an actress. The art of deception, the art of escaping into imagination appealed to her.
“One of these days you should answer the call,” Cleo said.
“We both know it is going to be a telemarketer,” I said.
My phone stopped ringing.
“Another day Sandra goes without an answer,” Cleo said, sympathetically.
“You know, I’ve actually made changes to the story,” I said, “What if Sandra found her husband?”
“What do you mean? Sandra’s husband died!”
“Well, then why would she keep on calling me? I didn’t ask anyone to have phone sex with me.”
Cleo stopped eating. It made sense to her, too. I could see it.
“I’m interested. Explain,” she said.
“Listen. In my story, Sandra found out months ago that her husband actually survived the War. In fact, he’s living in the same city as her.”
“The same city? No, further!” Cleo said.
“Fine, in the same state. And now all Sandra can think about is how she is so close to the love of her life, the man she has been missing her entire life.”
Cleo had set down her fork completely.
“Then, we have to answer it! Who knows? We could uncover the greatest love story ever told.”
“But is it a love story?” I asked, “Why didn’t Sandra’s husband tell her he was alive?”
Her eyes widened. At this point, I could not tell if Cleo knew that everything I had posed was fiction— a hypothetical at most. I wanted to remind her that Sandra did not exist, neither did her husband. But I did not want to break the spell. It seemed Cleo almost wanted to believe in the story.
My phone rang just then, in the middle of our revelation. Cleo looked at me. I did not move. She did not move. The phone number was from Long Beach. We waited until the phone stopped ringing. We breathed. Though I felt if I had tried to answer the call, Cleo would have stopped me. For the both of us, what was left unsaid seemed to be more exciting. We both knew the phone call would answer our questions in such a boring way. I was not sure if I was ever going to answer the phone call from Long Beach, from Sandra.
Jabez wants to die at the age of ninety but is not sure of how yet (probably of old age whatever that means). He is eighteen and a freshman at Yale University, where he wants to major in English and possibly Film and Media Studies. He is attending as a QuestBridge scholar. In the past, his writing has been recognized by Scholastic Art and Writing as a Silver Medalist for his short fiction.
Vicky Wang is a high school junior from Jericho, New York. She is loves photography, programming, engineering, and music. Her passion for engineering and love for designing has qualified her and her robotics team a chance to compete at the VEX Robotics state competition amongst fifty other teams, early 2020. Photography is her creative outlet and it allows her to freely express herself and capture the beauty of the world through a lens. When she is not creating, Vicky loves playing badminton, baking, and watching cute dog videos at 3am in the morning.