David LaBounty Michigan, USA
Bethany calls me while I am sitting at my desk. It’s the morning and my desk is cluttered. There are unopened envelopes and half empty coffee cups and sticky notes saying so and so called and that they want me to call them back. My desk is always cluttered because I put things off. I don’t file or throw things away until my desk gets completely full. I don’t answer emails or return phone calls unless there’s a deadline
But I don’t look cluttered.
My hair is always cut. My face is always shaven and my shirt is always tucked in and I would have to say I look very average. If you see me in a crowd you won’t remember me.
Bethany calls me while I’m sitting at my desk and Bethany isn’t my wife. Bethany is someone else’s wife.
Bethany calls me and my wife’s name is Carla and Carla doesn’t know about Bethany.
And I have to wonder if Carla has her own Bethany somewhere, on the end of a telephone. I wonder if Carla receives phone calls from some man I don’t know while she waits for the kids to get off the bus. I wonder if she has a smile on her uncluttered face as she grins at the world outside our living room window, a grin that remains after she puts her phone back in her pocket and opens the door to let our children in.
I doubt it. I’m pretty sure I’m all Carla has.
Meanwhile, Bethany says, Hey baby.
I say, Hey.
I say hey and think about Carla and I check my watch. Carla is probably kissing our children goodbye before they rush out the door to catch the school bus. Carla probably thinks I’m slaving away right now to help support our family, how she is a housewife and how I’m a working man and that’s how the world is and how the world is supposed to be.
I’m lying in bed with my dog and cat and I was thinking about you…
That makes me smile and cringe. It makes me smile because here I am an average guy with a cluttered desk getting a phone call from a woman lying in bed, a bed I’ve never seen but somehow I think the bed is cluttered; cluttered with twisted sheets and stacks of pillows.
Cluttered with a lounging dog and a purring cat.
It makes me cringe because a man with a cluttered desk and clean house at home doesn’t deserve or need to be thought of by someone else’s wife as she is lying in bed.
I want to ask Bethany what she’s wearing and if her husband is home. I’ve never seen her husband: to me he’s just the body of a man with a shadow for a face.
But I don’t ask Bethany this because someone a desk away tells me Carla is on line 5 and that’s not unusual because Carla always calls me as soon as the kids have
walked out the door. She calls me as she collapses into the couch with a cup of coffee and the remote control in her hand.
I tell Bethany that I have to go and that I can’t do this anymore. There will always be Carla calling me on line 5 and that I’m not ready to upset my world.
What I don’t say is that I’m not ready to clear off my desk nor do I see myself with a clean desk any time soon.
Bethany hangs up on me. I pick up line 5.
Carla says, Hey baby. I say,
Hey. And I think about smoking. How I quit smoking fifteen years ago and how I wish I was smoking now. How I really need something to do with m