There is a whole life ringing in the phone, a brighter life, maybe, certainly a more dangerous one, and on the other end a scared, desperate, pale face and a voice gone half an octave higher with fear saying “Oh, please, oh please, oh, please answer, please be home, pick up, pick up, pick up…” over and over again while the receiver buzzes gnomically in her ear, but that’s all at the other end, miles away along the curve of the earth or thousands of miles away if you count the leap from phone to tower to satellite to tower to the cell phone that Petra has left at home again. The phone rings and rings into an empty room and finally gives up and plays the voicemail message for the pale face waiting at the other end. “Hi,” Petra’s voice says, “I’m not answering my phone. Maybe I’m out of minutes, or maybe I’m at the library, or maybe I’ve forgotten the phone again. Leave a message.” Then the sexless female voice says to push 1 to leave a message or just wait for the tone, 2 to leave a numeric page.
It’s a nice day and Petra is wandering around, just enjoying the weather. She sees people she knows, old friends and new, ex-lovers and current ones, and smiles and waves at them all. She slides away from them when they try to talk to her, friendly, cheerful, laughing, gone. It’s too nice a day.
When she comes home, there’s a red light winking on the front of her phone. She checks her messages without turning on the lights, enjoying the day to much to want to extend it artificially.
There’s only one message, and halfway through it Petra turns on all the lights in her apartment and sits in the bathroom with her knees drawn up under her chin. Miles and hours away there was a life ringing in her phone; even in the bathroom the air is thick with the ghosts of what might have been.