Write On!

Twisted Sister

In Responses, Uncategorized on June 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm

by Tara Wiley

Crumbled Doritos, a couple of highlighters, a crochet hook: the things I expected to find in the abyss of the sofa cushions. A cell phone I didn’t recognize, when I had been out of town for the past week and a half, under the impression my husband had sat at home alone every night pining for me? Not on the list. I swallowed the inner alarm. This is not a pair of lacy underwear.

The phone was turned off, and though the action brought on a sense of dread rather than a normal curiosity, I pressed the power button. Why was I suddenly paranoid? I had no reason to doubt Peter’s fidelity. He was a good man, we had a good life, a good marriage, good kids. Sure, the constant moves and pressures of the military brought strains, but we all learned to stretch and yield like human Gumbys. Resiliency is what we called it. And I had my career as a promoter for Whistler Publications, with its travel offering welcome escapes from motherhood. It was easy to enjoy now that the girls were in high school and Peter had a staff job that removed the threat of deployments.

We’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it anymore

The ringtone crashed through my mental self-soothing. I dropped the phone like a child caught with a handful of shoplifted candy. The display flashed the incoming call’s number while the phone wiggled on the floor, the vibrate feature making it dance to the music. Ten numbers unevenly divided by two dashes slammed into my reality, and my eyes instantly stung with tears. How could this be?

I spent the next verse and chorus torn between the desire to answer and the sudden urge to chuck the phone out the window. By the time I picked up the phone, the ringing stopped. Sitting in stunned silence, I tried to make sense of my roiling emotions.

How many years had it been? Five? Chances were it wasn’t even his phone number anymore. Oh Darian. I miss you. I hate you! How could he still have this kind of pull on me, after all this time? Whenever he was part of the equation, my feelings were no longer under my own control. Too much history, I guess.

A thunderstorm worked its way through my conscience, years of memories I daily refused to visit flooding over me in an instant. All the love, rage, fear, control, betrayal, and loss left me shaking violently, and I could no longer hold back the torrent of tears. I gave in for a full thirty seconds, I bet, twenty-nine seconds longer than I normally would, long enough to need to leave the room in search of a roll of toilet paper to soak up the snot.

A splash of cold water, a slap to my own face, and I was ready to return to the living room more resolute. What an idiotic response, I told myself. All over a phone that came from who knew where and held a number that probably had no meaning whatsoever to me anymore. It probably belonged to one of the girls’ friends. The ringtone was a classic teen anthem of rebellion. Yes, that must be the explanation. I’d ask them when they came home that evening, and they would have a logical story to tell me, and I would forget that number once more.

We’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it anymore

The ringing began again. I took a deep breath and answered, intending to simply say hello. Instead, a tumbling of words –

“Darian? Is it you? This is Joan -”

A female voice colored by embarrassment interrupted me.

“No, I mean, maybe it is, I’m just, sorry, what I mean to say is, this is my phone you are answering, I just borrowed this dude’s phone to call my number. I lost the phone last week and I’ve been trying to call it but it’s been turned off I guess. Anyway I’m Lily -”

“Oh! Lily, of course, I should have recognized your voice, honey. This is Jenny and Lou’s mom. I just found your phone between the sofa cushions.” So my hunch was correct; one of the girls’ friends. Still, the number she was calling from…

“Oh, Mrs. Robbins, why didn’t I – hold on a sec…” A muffled conversation with a man in the background, and oh, even then I knew. I knew, so it was no surprise when Lily’s voice was replaced by his.

“Joan? Is it you? This is Darian -” And after years of holding my emotions so tightly within my soul, my words came tumbling with every ounce of heat I never dared express.

“Darian, what the hell? Where are you? Why are you with Lily? You better explain yourself before I call the police -”

“Joan, Joan, hold on a minute. This girl just needed a phone to borrow, remember? I don’t even know her. And I’m in Dallas. Are you – here? I’ve tried to find you, wanted to call -”

“The hell you have. I’ve never tried to hide. Ever heard of Google? I’m easy to find.” But I’m glad you didn’t. But I wish you had. “What are you doing here?”

“Just following a job – Joan, I want to see you. Can we meet?” In that last sentence, in the raw pleading behind it, I almost heard the boy I remembered from years ago, and my defenses crumbled. My brother. What kind of serendipity was this? How could I say no?

And that is what led me here, to this table at Panera’s, to the past hour and a half of coffee and water with lemon and waiting. How could I be so naive again? I gather up my cups and napkins and toss it all with my raw heart, once again filing this into the locked cabinet in my soul where it can’t hurt me anymore. My eyes sting again. I swallow hard and head to the car to return Lily’s phone. As I walk through the parking lot, the ringtone begins, and I purpose my gait to stomp out the pain with each lyric –


We’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it anymore

And then, I look back, one last time. And there he is.

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  1. Awesome! Love it very much!!!

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