The Conversation

by Linda Westhar
British Columbia, Canada
genre: Romance

A highly-paid corporate executive, she sits alone in her office, late at night. As the noise of the janitor’s vacuum cleaner fades off into distant corners of the corridors, thoughts of years ago take over tomorrow’s proposal plans – thoughts of a passionate affair filled with excitement and confusion.  It’s not the first time she’s lost herself in the past clouds of tangled sheets, lost weekends and hideaways, but this time is overpowering.  She sees him, in his white shirt, sleeves rolled up, exposing the muscled forearms that held her tightly so many nights. 

“When will you be back?” he asked the last time she saw him. She remembers the terrible moment when she knew she would not go back.

 “What am I doing” she mumbles, and dials a never-forgotten number. After six rings, the call is picked up.   

−     Hello.  Is anybody there?  I know it’s late. I just called to say hello.

−     What do you mean – who is this?  Has it been that long?

−     That’s right. It’s me. So, you do recognize my voice.

−     I know it’s been a long time.  I’ve been busy.

−     You say that there is something odd in my voice.  It is late at night and I’ve been in meetings all day. And, can’t a friend call another friend?

−     I know we were more than just friends.  

−     How’s my family? Well…just fine. The kids are gone. One’s married.  One’s working…has his own place.

−     My husband?  No, I haven’t left him.

−     What’s that supposed to mean?

−     I guess you’re right.  Some things just never change.

−     Why did I call?  I just told you why I called. To say hello. You haven’t said hello back.

−     It’s been how long? I can’t believe it’s been…what? Four years? I’m sure that I’ve called you in the past four years.

−     I have! If you weren’t there to answer the phone, it isn’t my fault.

−     When did I call? During the day of course.

−     I know that you work.

−     Why didn’t I leave a message? It would be easier to leave a message if you had voice mail.

−     When did you get that?

−     Really? Two years ago? What kind of message would I leave? Besides, one of your many lovers might hear the message.

−      No. I’m not being funny. 

−     Where am I now?  I’m at work. 

−     With this job, I work until ten or eleven, sometimes midnight.

−     You want me to be honest about why I called?  I told you. It’s been a long time.  I thought I should catch up on how you are, what you’re doing, who you’re doing.  Oops, that was a mean thing to say wasn’t it?

−     Of course I think you are seeing someone else.  Do you really think that I would think that you weren’t?

−     I think you do know what I mean.  Don’t act stupid.

−     I am not insulting you. I see why we haven’t spoken for years.  I was afraid it would turn into this bitter conversation.

−     But I didn’t call you stupid. I’m not trying to start a fight.  I told you that you were acting stupid. You’re pretending to not understand what I was talking about.  All I was trying to say was that I never believed for two seconds that you would spend the rest of your life pining away for someone –  me.

−     No, I don’t want you to be sorry.  Just say hello.  Is it that hard to say hello?

−     What? I didn’t hear what you said.  You were mumbling and there’s noise in the background.

−     The radio? I interrupted something you were listening to? I’ll call back later. Maybe five years later next time, considering the way this conversation is going.

−     Yes, I remember when we could spend hours talking. Those conversations meant so much to me … sometimes as much as …

−     Yes I remember all those nights we didn’t need to talk.  Talk was just a waste of time. 

−     I still have what problem?

−     You think I have a problem discussing sex? There.  I said the word.  I‘ll say it again just in case you missed it the first time.  Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. See? 

−     Don’t try to psychoanalyze me.  You always thought you were good at it. And now, I phone to say hello and we’re discussing my apparent inability to talk about or have an orgasm. Let me take this moment to remind you that it takes two to tango.  Look – I don’t want the call to go this way.

−     I don’t know what I expected when I called.  It’s comforting to know that some things never change. 

−     I’m afraid of change?  I’ve changed my hair, my weight, my clothes, my career … I’ve changed so often I have a hard time recognizing me when I look in the mirror.  I am the epitome of change.

−     Now, that’s unfair.  Maybe I’m working at change in this marriage.  Maybe…

−     Scared is not right.  That’s not the way I feel.

−     You’re mumbling again. I know it’s not the radio. You are just trying to cover up the receiver so I don’t hear another person.

−     You did not answer me – because you were talking to someone else.  Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed and I’m so right.  You are seeing someone else and she’s there. 

−     You can’t phone me back. I hid this number when I called and I won’t give it to you now.  I knew the second I dialled your number that it was a mistake. Over the past four years I have had some wonderful imaginary conversations and times with you – fantastic fantasies. This reality has been a nightmare.

−     No. You cannot see me now or any other time. How would that go? We can’t even have a telephone conversation. Look at what is happening now.

−     I am not shouting and I will not lower my voice.  I don’t care if she hears me on the other end.

−     What? Nobody says shut up to me.

−     You might have said it, but I sure won’t do it. Who do you think you are telling me to shut up?

−     You might have been that once, for six months, but then it was over, done, finished, no more history.  We went our own ways, followed our own paths, marched to the beat of our own drummers…why are you laughing?

−     Why is it that every man thinks it’s cute or funny when I am upset?  Men think that they can laugh and charm their way out of every situation, no matter how hurt I feel or how hard I try to make my point understood. I have news for you buddy.

−     Don’t call you buddy? Well here’s the trade. Don’t laugh at me and I won’t call you buddy…buddy.

−     You are going to hang up?  I should have hung up a long time ago. But first, can you say hello?

−     What am I wearing? What does that matter?

−     Am I wearing your favourite sweater?  You never had a favourite sweater – unless it was in a heap on the floor.  That’s when you liked my clothes – when they weren’t on me.

−      Of course I have something on. Do you think I sit in my office naked?

−     Knock it off.

−     This conversation could become distasteful.

−     You could be arrested for being an obscene caller.

−     I am not turned on or twisting around in my chair. I don’t need to hear you say things like that to me. 

−     I have no idea how long it would take me to drive to your place. I’m not going there and you have company. Has she been listening to all of this!

−     You asked her to leave? Why?

−     Of course I’m still writing.

−     I will always love white wine.

−     I’m not answering that question.

−     Yes. I still love the sound of rain hitting a roof.

−     The second cup of morning coffee is still the best.

−     Talk radio always beats music stations.

−     Another question that I will not answer.

−     Is there a point to this? 

−     Yes. I enjoyed the excitement.  A roller coaster ride – up one day because I was going to be with you – down the next, because I didn’t hear from you or I couldn’t see you.

−     Oh yes, there were spectacular sights on the ride.  The view from the top was exhilarating. The view from the bottom hurt.

−     I wish we’d never met. Now, I wish I’d never called. All I wanted to do was say hello. I’m tired, and I need to be alone. 

−     What did you say?

His last word burns a hole in her heart.


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