The answering machine clicks on after the fourth ring. I untuck my feet from beneath me and rise from the couch. I’m pacing back and forth, my bare feet grazing the cool hard wood floor. The ground is steady, it is me that is shaking.
I realize I am holding my breath waiting for a voice on the other end.
I remember the anticipation I had as a girl, mustering the courage to call the cute boy. I’d wait until the kitchen was clear and I’d pull the phone from the wall and stretch the ringlets of the cord taught until I was hidden in the laundry room off to the side. I’d dial the number he’d scrawled on a gum wrapper or my arm or on the tattered and scribbled brown paper bag covering my Algebra textbook. And I’d feel the bubbling in my stomach like the fizz of a soda shaken by clumsy hands. I’d take a deep breath so my words wouldn’t come out rushed and gushing like the crack of the soda tab busting open.
I wanted the cute boy to laugh at my jokes, to tell me I’m pretty. I wanted him to tell me I’m wanted. To tell me I’m seen. I’d search empty eyes for my reflection. I thought I’d find it in the arms of a cute boy. I thought I’d feel less alone if I offered the world my prettiest package and they approved. But it didn’t matter how many times the cute boy answered, I was alone in the world.
I wait for the beep.
“Umm, my name is Alia and umm, I was referred to you by a friend, and well, I just really need to get in to see you. Umm, so I have a diagnosis of bipolar 2 and generalized anxiety and well, maybe other stuff too, umm I don’t know. But uh, my mom broke her back a few days ago and well, I’m just really tired because I’m caring for her and this stress, well, I just really need to get in to see about my medications and well, umm, just could you call me back? I’m really needing some help. Yeah, so could you just call me back?”