Credit: Tristan Scremin

Our Call Is About To End

by Roshni Marsh Kearns

This is a hotline. You are in crisis. And our call is about to end. 

For an hour you talked about your day and your thoughts, and that you can’t stop thinking about suicide. I had a tough day too. I’m still heartbroken that our dog is back at the shelter in Fullerton. I hope he finds a home where he can sleep and grow. But back to you. Did that last silence ease your pain or push you away? I promise, I remembered your dog’s name even though you mentioned him only once. Later tonight I want someone to remind me everything will be okay. Your courage to call reminds me I’m not alone. A phone gets heavier the more we need it.

I’ve been wearing this sweater all day to stay warm and it worked. I think another counselor cranked up the AC because I’m freezing. All your stories made me sweat. I have no idea what you look like, what you’re wearing, and if you’re sitting in a car or your childhood bedroom. Your parents were unkind, that much is clear. Mine too, but self-disclosure is against the rules. The young you had to do things. They didn’t ask. There was no room in these serious homes for silliness. I wish someone like you called me back then to say, “me too.”

Before we end, I’ll check on your safety and plan for the rest of today. I’m not going to ask you to promise you’ll stay safe. I’ve had enough guilt trips put on me to know it doesn’t work. When I asked you about your appetite, I sound like my grandma. As if food could solve all our problems. It certainly feels that way some nights. That burrito from yesterday is waiting in my fridge. I’d split it with you if I could.

You laughed so loud a few minutes ago that I thought I made a mistake. Across the room my supervisor is supervising a new counselor. I guess I’m alright. When you laughed, I tried to laugh like you. That’s my “me too.”

Your “thank you” was well received, then you apologized for taking someone else’s time. I apologize for something later when I pick up my dinner. Maybe we’re related. Call back anytime. I’ll be waiting. I’m always ready for another reunion.

This call is about to end. The counselor next to me just said hello. I may eavesdrop to steal some good lines. I want to feel heard too. I hold the phone until I hear the click, and then a bit longer.   

“The ship, solid and black,

enters the clear blackness

of the great harbor.

                              Quiet and cold.

                                           —The people waiting

are still asleep, dreaming,

and warm, far away and still stretched out in this 

dream, perhaps . . .

How real our watch is, beside the dream

of doubt the others had! How sure it is, compared

to their troubled dream about us!

                                                 Quiet. Silence.

Silence which in breaking up at dawn

will speak differently.”

JUAN RAMÓN JIMÉNEZ, “The Ship, Solid and Black”

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