The Poisoned Ink Well

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Last Call

I seem to be playing phone tag this morning, because I can’t get in touch with the people that I need to talk to and I thought about a friend of mine who spent the last hour of his life making phone calls. He was calling different people and no one was home. He left messages on answering machines, but he never got to talk to anyone. He was calling from a hospital bed. I thought about him this morning as I was pushing buttons and hearing recorded messages, and I wonder what he was thinking while he was making those last calls. His messages sounded casual, and he didn’t sound desperate, he didn’t even say he was calling from a hospital room, and he even had the presence of mind to leave a joke on one of the machines. About an hour after that last call, they found him slumped over in bed, the top pulled off his margarine, his butter knife askew, and his bread still unbuttered, and the phone on his bed, next to his head, as though he were waiting for a return call that never came.