I keep my phone on silent. This means that for the most part I am a very difficult person to contact. Not that many people bother to contact me. On a day to day basis my notifications consist of nothing more than a slue of emails saying my job application has been declined or this guy telling me about his morning poo, which, in its own way, is his body rejecting the job applications of his evening meal. As a result, on the rare occasions that somebody does contact me with something substantial, I am not aware of the call until long after it has been made. Some of those who call me may call again later that day (a call that once again I will not notice), others may send an email to me if they know my address, and others still may opt to leave a voicemail. The smart ones may attempt all three–but very rarely are smart people found in human resources departments or recruitment agencies.
Today, just shortly after one in the afternoon, I received a phone call. Naturally, for reasons stated above, I missed it. My phone was in the living room at the time and I was in the kitchen deciding on what to have for lunch. I opted for the healthy option: beans on melted cheese on toast. Unfortunately, I got my beans to toast ratio wholly wrong; and even with the melted cheese to provide density my toast was soggy and long gone before I had finished just over half of the beans. My mistake was that the tin of beans that I used for my lunch was a normal sized tin — a tin that can service two people with no fuss or even three, though the portions are of course smaller in that regard and may not be entirely satisfying unless there’s a large quantity of other foodstuffs on the plate. My toast, on the other hand, was the miniature sized bread that you buy to kid yourself that eating a smaller portion of bread will lessen your carb intake and thus you will be healthier as a result. What it does in reality is just make you half-hungry instead of fully hungry and so you put in another two slices of bread and eat them before realising that those four half slices probably combine for more calories and carbohydrates than two normal-sized pieces of toast.
After eating my meal I glanced at my phone. Several notifications were on my screen: a missed call, a text message, and a WhatsApp message that I am sure was this guy telling me how much he hates his life. I did what I always do with the latter and urged on him to end his sad, pitiful existence before deleting the messages to destroy the evidence in case this was the day he actually did it. I then checked the missed call. It was listed as a private number and the time on the phone said that it had only been about two minutes earlier that the call had been made. I then checked the text message notification and saw that it was a message saying that I had a new voicemail, no doubt from this private number that had just called. I dialled the voicemail with a tiny bit of trepidation. I had had a job interview a few days ago and was told that I would know one way or the other what the outcome of that was. Adding to that I am always hopeful that one day a mystery number will call saying that they are a publishing group or some high-ranking Hollywood executive and wish to hand me lots of money for my ongoing projects. The voicemail rang for a ring or two (why it doesn’t connect automatically when it’s an automatic service to a mailbox is beyond me) and the voicemail lady did her automatic spiel.
“You have one new voicemail,’ she said, ‘from number unknown at 1:03pm…’ She cut off and the voicemail began. It went:
Twenty-five seconds of silence in fact. After four or five seconds passed I had to take away the phone from my ear to make sure I hadn’t ended the call by mistake. I hadn’t. The seconds count went up. Six, seven, eight, nine… twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five. Then a voice. A man’s voice:
And then he hung up.
‘Yes, well,’ what? What on earth does that mean? What is it that I am meant to surmise from those two words? Neither alone nor together do those words serve to illuminate anything about anything. Who was this man, why did he call, what did he want, to what was he commenting on? Were those words aimed at me or somebody else around him? If he was with someone, who was he with and why were they so silent? There was no sound whatsoever for those first seconds. If it was an office, he must either be in a very high position and have a large sound-proofed room to himself, or he’s working for such a garbage company that no business occurs and he just sits in an empty vacuum devoid of noise for eight to ten hours a day.
I had my phone on loud for the rest of the day, perhaps for the first time since owning this or any other phone. I tapped on the screen every thirty minutes, looking to see if any new notifications popped up. The only time there was anything on the screen was when this guy tried to convince me that his life was anything other than a monumental disappointment to him, his family, and me by extension for having to suffer through the pain of knowing him.
I don’t know why he called. As he left no means of contact, perhaps I never will. I may go to my grave thinking of the meaning of those two words. They will haunt me until my dying breath.
Or maybe he’ll call again tomorrow and I’ll answer it and discover the meaning of his words. Wouldn’t that be something? Yes, well…