I Have Something To Tell You

Mar 05  |  Conrad Gardner

I’d received the news, the kind of news that nobody ever wanted to receive. But worse than getting news that would change your life forever was the task of having to tell your loved ones this same news; what passed for loved ones, at least. According to the experts, family came under that label.

Not having much to do – or wanting much to do – with my parents, I decided to tell my brother. It had been a while, and probably my fault. Before I called, I propped a photo of us on my desk. We were younger then, standing in front of our parents. It was the one photo I took with me when I left.

‘Hey, thanks for picking up,’ I said. ‘Sorry it’s late.’

‘It’s fine, I put the kids to bed a couple of hours ago,’ he said.

‘Good, I would’ve hated to wake them, but I lost your number with ym new phone, so I figured I’d try the landline.’ Raising a family in the same house you grew up in seemed like a terrible idea to me, but since I shot blanks, I wasn’t in any position to judge his choices. ‘Are they all right?’

‘What do you want?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You only call me when you need something.’ I swallowed. The noise echoed on the line like a pebble crashing into a still pool of water. ‘Are you still there?’

‘I have something to tell you. I think you should know.’

‘Why, so I can tell Mum for you? Why don’t I go and wake her up so you can tell her yourself?’

‘No, I don’t want her to know. You’re the only person I feel I can tell.’

‘Are you dying, is that it? Or are you finally going to have a kid?’ What did I say to flip this switch? Maybe I had it coming.

‘No, it’s not a kid.’ I wiped my eye, cleared my blurry vision and held onto the photo.

‘There’s a surprise. Maybe I had too high hopes when I thought you’d commit to something beyond leaving us all in the dark and thinking you could just reconnect with us.’ Okay, I had it coming.

Another sound came over the line, a low rustle that I couldn’t make out. ‘It’s fine, just a wrong number. Do you need a hand?’ Another whispering response. ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t help you,’ he spoke into the phone. ‘Maybe you’ve got the wrong area code.’ The line clicked and I knew what had happened. I let go of the photo; it floated into the bin like an autumn leaf falling onto grass.

What I didn’t expect was the lack of sound after he ended it. In our calls, I’d gotten used to the noise of a dead phone line, that purgatorous din. But this time, tonight, there was nothing on the line. Silence. Just silence.

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