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Black Fiction Friendship

The phone rang. 

I roused from sleep and gave a weak "hello". It was my mother. It was always my mother. She called me constantly these days. Was she lonely or was she worried about me? 


"Hello! Are you there?", she shouted. I had zoned out, like I did everytime she called. In the last few years, I realized that I could not sustain the energy to continue a conversation. Especially with her. 


"Yes, yes I'm here. Just getting ready for work" I sighed. That was the magic word. She valued work, hard work. She valued it too much to keep me from getting ready. I didn't hear what she said before I heard that comforting click of the call ending. I glanced at the phone screen to check the time, but I only saw the date. 


March 13, 2006. 


It had been 10 years. Ten years. How had I managed to survive the last decade? 


I had been 15 years old. Since then every year felt like a betrayal. I was here and she was not. 


I blinked back tears, let out a breath and decided to actually get ready for work. I still didn't check the time. I couldn't bear to look at the phone again to see the date and still hadn't gotten around to buying a clock. Do people even buy clocks anymore?.


After a hasty bath, and squeezing my growing belly (not from pregnancy, it was just fat from the multiple nights going to bed beside takeout boxes) into a skirt suit, I checked the fridge and pantry for anything that could be called "breakfast food". I already knew that I would'nt find anything but I suppose this was a way to shock myself into a change. 


A change I had been telling myself needed to happen ever since graduating University. I had survived. I had graduated. I could potentially have kids and live a long life. She could not. So, I had to honour her.


I knew this made sense. I knew it would give me a sense of purpose, but it was easier to sit in guilt. Guilt provided me with adequate excuses not to do anything fully - not to dream fully, not to live fully, not to love fully. 


I tried to shake off these thoughts as I hurried through the door to the bus stop. I hummed a tune to lift my spirits. I walked out into the humidity of the day. I hadn't even checked the weather. I continued to hum. Not even three minutes into my walk I felt the error of not checking that damn weather app. This wool suit was a bad idea. Why was it so freakin' hot? Am I okay? I quickly looked around to see whether I was the only one the weather caught off-guard. But the street was unbelievably empty - save for the 2 people at the bus stop - it was a ghost town. The neighbourhood is usually quiet, but not this quiet.


Something felt off. More off than usual. Or was it all in my head? The low rumbling of the bus engine interrupted my thoughts. As I listened to the familiar sound, I felt sweat slowly beading at my neck and beginning to run down my back. Ugh.


I could hear the bus getting closer but instead of walking briskly to the bus stop, I ducked into the small restaurant on the corner of my street. I stepped through the doors and watched as the bus slowed, stopped, picked up passengers and then drove away. 


"Which tune is that?", someone asked close by. 

"Excuse me?", I turned slowly. I was met with a greasy, smiling face. "I heard you humming, was just trying to catch the song", the elderly waitress said. Oh, I was still humming. Should I tell this old lady that I hum when I am nervous, overwhelmed, confused? That I am humming to quiet the voices in my head? That I am slowly losing a grip on life?


"Oh, just an old song", I said with a crooked smile, as I took a seat in the nearest booth. I could feel sweat pooling under my arms. Was I okay? Was I sweating out a fever? I brought the back of my hand to my forehead and neck to check, but didn't know how hot a fever would feel against the back of my clammy hand. 


Myrtle stood wordlessly adjacent to the booth. Myrtle, that was the waitress' name, or at least the name on the rusty badge attached to her discoloured apron. "Maybe some water to start?" She reeled off the breakfast specials and I quickly ordered something I didn't really want just so she could leave the table. 


I took my phone from my purse and saw that it was 10:17 am. I was 2 hours and 17 minutes late for work. Where did the time go? All I remember about the morning was my mother's phone call and getting ready for work. "You need to get it together Cindy", I whispered to myself. At that point I decided to send my supervisor an email saying I was not feeling well and was taking a sick day. I turned the phone off and then slipped it back into my bag. 


That might just be what I need. A day to sit with my emotions, with no distractions from my cell phone. Therapy hadn't worked, going to church hadn't worked, talking to friends - the little I had left - hadn't worked. So maybe I just needed time alone. To really be alone.


I would go home and just sit in silence. Is that how these kinds of breakthroughs would work? Is there something else I needed to do, other than sit and wait for tears to come? I would Google it. I chuckled to myself - I was attempting to fix my life in one afternoon with a Google search. 


Myrtle came back with a platter - pancakes, eggs, some kind of breakfast sandwich, sausages, and a small cup of fruit. This was a lot of food. I instinctively felt the waistband of my skirt bursting against the rolls of my belly. I didn't really want to eat and I wasn't hungry but I ate the food anyway. Eating shut off the voices in my head. The ritual of cutting the pancakes and then the sausage, and balancing the egg on the tip of the fork for the perfect bite, felt almost therapeutic. 


I had been trying to eat away my problems (well, really one main problem) for the last ten years. If it hadn't worked already it probably never would. But I finished the meal anyway. 


I didn't want to leave this little restaurant. I didn't want to go home to deal with the reality. The reality that I would have to continue living in a world without my best friend. The reality that a phone call could have saved her.

March 22, 2021 01:39

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2 comments

It's a very entertaining story. I never got bored, and felt like I was with the main character. It's especially interesting when the narration has no pretentious, I-know-everything feeling. The narration finds things out as we do. A tip for the future would be to have a paragraph break after each dialogue tag. It made the conversations a bit confusing, but I still found the words intriguing. Good work, it was really enjoyable.

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Nicolette R
04:25 Jul 23, 2021

Just realizing there's a reply feature 🙈. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and provide feedback.

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