I answered the phone and after the obligatory chit-chat about how we were today (which was supposedly ‘fine’) his voice dropped. He spoke in a measured kind of way. He was carefully choosing each word, because when they came, they came out slowly and deliberately.
“There’s . . . . something we need to talk about,” and he stopped. The phone was quiet.
It may have been three seconds before I uttered, “Okay…?” or it may have been a century. I’m guessing it was a century because in that space and time I was able to run like hell through the full gamut of human emotions and my mind had an obscene amount of time to spin off into a maze of questions about every decision and indecision I had and hadn’t made that concerned him, or sort of concerned him, or perhaps should have concerned him.
Had he not said it with such exactitude I doubt I would have been rattled. But the way he said it gave me no option but to be certain that what was coming next was a delicate matter. It was important. And certainly, absolutely, he had been waiting too long to bring it up.
I didn’t hear him take a deep breath, but he must’ve. The words came on a calculated, controlled exhale.
And in that moment I hated being on the phone. I hated it because I couldn’t survey his face to see the subtle and telling little things we do with our mouths while we speak words that are difficult to say. I couldn’t search his eyes for more than he was saying. I would never know if he was fidgeting or frozen motionless in trying not to give away more information than he thought was wise to.
And in that same moment I was relieved to be hidden by the phone. He could not see me give in to the long, long blink of despair as I searched for answers encrypted on the backs of my eyelids. But either my eyelids were blank or I couldn’t decipher the messages because I came up with nothing. Suspense closed around my throat.
I was adrift, bobbing there in the wide-open sea with nowhere to go, awaiting the fate he was about to bring down. I wanted to prepare myself but I didn’t know how so instead I tried to keep from choking.
Then, as if he knew I was only moments from drowning, he spoke, “Now, about this fancy purse – we need to…” and he went on about choosing a time to go to Louis Vuitton to get the handbag I had earned for a (work) mission accomplished and how it should be during the week and to please let him know what day I want to go and….
Brace yourselves, people. Life can be excellent.
P. S. The Mission I chose to accept at work: win a career-defining industry award for the company – the equivalent of an Oscar for a film Director. The Mission’s Reward: a Louis Vuitton handbag
Image via Jonathan Hayward
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