The phone rang with an aggressive jangle that sent Wendy’s heart racing. Nightly, when it sounded, she was reminded how ridiculous it was to even have a home phone these days. Everyone used a cell. But, there was something about the weight in her hand, the old smooth plastic, thicker than they made plastic now. But her attachment was more than just its physical presence in her space, the shiny red plastic paper weight on the corner of her desk.
It was the memory of the phone on the wall in her mother’s kitchen. The muscle memory of stretching the curly cord as far as it could reach around the corner and down the hall. Of finding the illusion of privacy so that she could finally talk to Ben Hunter without worrying about what to do with her hands. She could still feel the way her stomach would flip and her heart would race when the chortle of his laugh spilled over the phone line. Every call on that phone was a connection to a happier time.
The second ring seemed louder than the first. She’d better answer before it bothered her husband at the other end of the house.
“Hello,” she said, the earpiece cool on her skin.
“Wendy?” the voice answered, a question more than a greeting.
“You’re up really late, Mom.”
“My laundry rack is missing!”
“Your what? You don’t have a laundry rack. You don’t do laundry.”
Air escaped her mother’s mouth. Wendy knew exactly what it looked like. Her mother had made the same expression of disbelief her entire life. Sometimes she’d been right, it wasn’t bruise from a door on Wendy’s sixteen-year-old neck, but sometimes, like today, she was wrong.
“Of course I do. You borrowed it and now it’s missing.”
“I borrowed it?”
“You’re being daft. You borrowed it to dry Leanne’s baptism dress! And I’m losing my memory! You can’t remember that? It was just last month! If it’s not in the crack between the dryer and the wall, it’s not here. I always put it back.”
Leanne is a sophomore in college.
“You know what, you’re right. I’ll find it and bring it over.”
“Alright then, bye.”
“It was nice talking with you.”
Hanging up the phone felt like choosing to break her own arm.
“Did you tell her you’re not speaking to her?” he asked from the door.
“How? Just throw in there, ‘hey we haven’t had a real conversation in twenty years Mom, cause you’re a real bitch. But now that you have dementia you don’t seem to remember that!”
“You should call the home. Her doctor would want to know.”
“I have. They said they would take away her phone privileges if it bothered me, but I’m a grown woman and…”
Wendy didn’t know why she was crying, or angry or why she so badly wanted to call her mother back, but for that thirty seconds she could hear her mother breathing, everything was okay.