A Day on the Other End

By. Rachel Grisham

I’m standing: semi-nude, freshly showered, trying to maneuver my cell phone in one hand and a hurried mascara application with the other. Outside the first heavy fall rain pounds the crisp leaves, still clinging to the trees. Quiet desperation. That’s what my mother says, her voice soft from tears and loneliness, searching for a quote. She’s trying to describe the everyday uncertainty and unhappiness that she assumes most people on this planet learn to hide and tolerate. I don’t disagree.

I glance in the mirror, suck my stomach in, comb my fingers through my hair. In the time since my family’s big implosion, I’ve become disconcertingly accustomed to hearing my mother’s sobs on the other end of a shoddy cell phone connection. They don’t move me to tears like they used to. Now, I glance at the clock, I’m in a hurry. I have told her a thousand times how beautiful she is, how strong and amazing and illuminating she is. But words don’t mend a broken heart. They don’t reshape a dream, a life, stamped out. I know this, and so I listen.
I remember the message she left on my voice-mail the day she found out he’d been cheating on her. A close family friend and his wife, cocaine and dirty hotel rooms, a mountain of deceit. Those things I found out later, because, in the end, they were just details. The message was the sort that, while simply asking me to call her back, made my spine tingle with danger and premonition. And suddenly I was that girl; crying tears of real pain, so obvious, back against, sliding down wallpaper. A few concerned faces dared to come close, my coworkers, offering me silly waxed cups of water and asking if everything was okay. And I tried to scream, do I look okay, I’ve never felt so sad, so broken, so overwhelmingly helpless before. Nothing I can do but share tears and ask why. Why?

Because he’s a fucking idiot. Because he didn’t realize what he had. Because he’s selfish and immature, and God, you are so much better off without him. But I’m tired of those lines. And so we talk philosophy and the human spirit. An indirect way to identify the vast empty spaces that fill our lives, take up our time, occupy our thoughts in that brief moment between going to bed and being asleep. At least, I say, we’re wise enough to question the mundane, to wonder what else is out there, and yearn for something else. At least we’re wise enough to know we’ll never be satisfied.

My mother, Alice, a person, I realized at age sixteen, vulnerable and so utterly human, sighs on the other end of the line. She talks about Jamaica and fantasies of leaving everything behind and doesn’t realize, or simply can’t perceive, that I’m right along side of her. I want out too. Fuck, do I want out. I’m going, I say, give me six months and I’m gone. I have to go.

Later, I sit curled up on the couch in the arms of a boy who whispers he loves me at inopportune moments and stares at me, too long, when I’m sleeping, I’m sure of it. He is tall and gangly, thin powerful arms, a voice so earnest it breaks my heart. And he does not understand why I can not say those words, why I pull away at our most intimate moments. But right now I snuggle deeper, shut my eyes, drift into a world where my family still jokes around coffee and the radio in the morning, where true love exists and peace is forever possible. The rain on the windows is only a distant comfort. Inside, my friends and lovers soothe my soul and I am reminded what life on this planet is really all about.

Since first grabbing hold of a pen and paper at the age of five, Rachel has been an avid storyteller. What started as surreal rumifications on a world of cat siblings has morphed into a more conscious and hopefully more mature art. She is currently in the process of moving to Mexico to pursue adventure and the written word.