When the phone rings in the middle of the day you expect it to be Grandma or a telemarketer. When the phone rings at night, you rush to it, praying that it’s not your child or the hospital. When the phone rang early Tuesday morning, causing me to pause my show and turn the light on, I didn’t know what to think.
The empty space on the bed next to me was not ignored, simply long forgotten about. You’ve been gone for over six months, your name doesn’t leave a sour taste on my tongue anymore. I can talk to my friends about you again, and laugh at the old memories.
But the feeling that surged through me when I saw your name on my phone was indescribable.
I slid my thumb to the right and brought the phone to my ear, “Hello? Noah?” I question even if this was you. We haven’t spoken in so long.
“Hey little Meg,” My name came out in a slur.
“You’re drunk.” This wasn’t a question, of course you were drunk. When were you not?
“I miss you, babygirl.”
I couldn’t stop the laugh that escaped my lips, “You can always come home you know.” The offer’s been hanging in the air since the moment you said that you were leaving.
“I wish I could Meggy, I just can’t. Sophia wouldn’t let me leave that easy, you know that.” And I did; you left me for Sophia, and she had an iron grip on you since day one.
“Then why are you calling me?” I look at the clock, “It’s two in the morning Noah.”
“I just miss your voice.”
“I’m going to hang up now, Noah. Call a cab and go home to Sophia.” I click the red button and set the phone back on the side table.
You continue to call me, every Tuesday, just a little after two. After the fourth call I set an alarm on my phone. I worried about what might happen to you if I didn’t answer.
You called me every Tuesday for just over a year. I became so used to the calls my body was able to wake up to them all on its own.
One morning you called, same time as always. The only difference was it was the day of my biggest midterm. I couldn’t spend a few minutes talking to you, I needed as much sleep as I could. So I let the phone ring and ring and ring. Finally you hung up the phone, and you didn’t call back. I rolled over and fell asleep, not worrying about you.
I snapped awake and glanced at the clock, 2:02am, you were supposed to be calling any minute. I turned on the tv, the one that you hooked up a few weeks before you left. I watched a rerun of “Friends” and you still didn’t call. I watched an old episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” and you still didn’t call.
I stayed awake until it was after four a.m., and you still didn’t call. So I turned off the tv and fell asleep.
When I woke up later in the morning and checked my phone, you didn’t message me.
I told myself that maybe you were sick and just didn’t go out. Or maybe Sophia found out about our phone calls and made you stop. I went to work like normal and talked to my friends like nothing happened. Because nothing did. You didn’t call, you didn’t message me, nothing happened.
The next Tuesday I woke up at two and waited again until four. When I knew that you weren’t calling I went back to sleep.
This happened every week, I’d wake up and wait, and once I knew you weren’t calling, I’d rolled over and fall back asleep.
It took me just over a month to stop waking up and wondering if tonight would be the night you’d finally call.
It was a year later, one year after the last call came. I was watching Netflix in my warm bed, the hours were ticking away.
Your name was the last thing on my mind; it was long forgotten.
When my cellphone rang, vibrating on the bedside table, my boyfriend rolled over and grabbed my phone. The harsh glow lit up his face.
“Noah?” The name rolled off his lips with a smile, the innocence of the man that lies next to me every night makes the world a little bit better.
I took the phone from him with a frown, “An old friend.” I swiped to the right, the memory of the first phone call rushed back.
“Is this Megan Sky?” The cold tone of the woman on the other side caught me off guard.
“Yes, who is this?” My boyfriend turned down the tv.
“I’m sorry, I know this isn’t good timing but I have your boyfriend here. He crashed his car and was brought Saint Peters.”
I looked at my boyfriend, “I’m sorry, but my boyfriend is with me.”
“It’s listed here under emergency contacts that you’re the girlfriend of Noah White, is that a mistake?” The woman sounded tired.
“No,” It came out before I could stop it, “It’s not a mistake, what hospital did you say again?”
“I’m looking for Noah White.” The woman at the desk barely looked up as she typed his name on her dusty keyboard.
“He’s in the ICU, I’ll take you there.”
I followed her through the harsh white hallways to the ICU. I felt your presents before I saw you. The nurse opened the door, and I couldn’t help but bring my hand to my mouth. You lay there, broken and bloody.
I thanked the nurse and sat in the chair next to your bed.
“You stopped calling,” I whispered.
“You stopped answering.” Your voice was raspy but not cold.
“It was one time.” I wondered why I didn’t tell the tired woman that called that we broke up. Why I didn’t just give her Sophia’s number.
“It only took one time. It was enough for me to realize that I was calling you because I missed hearing your voice. Sophia likes to yell, when I drink she yells, when I don’t she yells. You never yelled, you let me talk, you listened. We joked and reconnected, but I could only drink on Monday nights and early into Tuesday mornings because Sophie works the night shift on Monday. Her phone’s on silent, she wouldn’t even answer if it wasn’t. But you always did.”
I smiled sadly, “You could have called, I would have answered.”
“I didn’t want to burden you.” You coughed.
“Do you remember what you wanted to say to me the night I didn’t answer? I always wanted to know.”
“I needed a ride, I spent my cab money on drinks. When you didn’t answer I knew I was bothering you. I deleted your number and pretended I didn’t have it memorized.”
I bit my bottom lip, an old habit of mine, “What happened tonight Noah?”
Your frown caused my heart to drop, “I spent all my cab money on drinks. I couldn’t find a ride, so I drove myself home. Or tried I guess, I almost made it .”
“You should have called.” I watched as your heart rate slowed.
“You should have answered.”
The door opened and Sophia came running in, her hair in a messy pony tail, the tee shirt for the restaurant she worked at wrinkled.
“I’m here baby,” she said as she dropped on the ceramic tile next to your bed.
I stood up from the chair and patted your arm, “Feel better.”
Sophia looked up at me, tears were filling her eyes, “Thank you.”
I nodded, and as I walked out into the hallway I heard the heart monitor wail loudly. The nurses rushed in and one pushed a red cart with him.
Sophia’s screams blended in with the wailing and I stood in the hallway. I watched the nurse turn off the monitor and I couldn’t help but wonder if I caused this.
You were buried one week later. I stood at the back, and watched your friends and family stand and speak. Telling stories from your life, sharing what you did. I watched Sophia stand there and tell your love story.
I waited until everyone had left before I approached your grave, the dirt freshly patted down. I kneeled down, not caring if my dress got dirty.
“Oh, Noah,” I said as I traced my finger over the cold stone, “I am so sorry.”
A warm wind ruffled my hair and carried the smell of the flowers that lay in front of the stone.
“It was a beautiful service, but I think you would have thought it was boring. Not enough laughter. Sophia was beautiful as always, she’ll be fine without you, I think. She’s stronger than I thought she was. Your mother is holding up nicely with the help of your dad. Your sister was a mess but she’s going to be okay. Joel didn’t show up, I didn’t think he would, he was a horrible brother anyways. Noah,” I took a shaky breath, “I hope you know how sorry I am. You weren’t being annoying, you were being the boy I fell in love with, and I’m sorry I never told you that. I know I should have answered, but you should have called me back; I would have. I waited every week for you to call me Noah. For months I waited, but you never did. I wish you did.” I swallowed and stood up slowly. Placing my hand on top of the stone I said, “I love you Noah, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”
I turned and walked out of the graveyard, leaving behind Noah and all the pain with him.