While walking around I have begun to put my phone to my face and started talking.
No one is calling.
The phone is cold and dead in my hands, even though it’s been on for the past twelve hours or so.
As I’m pacing around in the hallways before everyone trickles out of work, I speak into the phone even though I don’t know a word of what I’m about to say.
It’s been going on the for the past few weeks.
When I started I would say things like, “Yeah, okay, uh-huh,” not knowing what else I could get away with saying without coming across as, well, a weirdo who talks to himself on his phone.
But then I started to get carried away by the idea. I would create elaborate conversations—totally on the fly—while my phone made the perfect audience because it wouldn’t say anything in response.
Of course, I had to build in appropriate silent moments so as to give the impression that there was someone else at the end of the line chattering away with me. Because for someone to talk so long and have such a one-ended conversation, at that, would arouse suspicions.
So pretty soon afterwards, I started writing out on these little blue sticky-notes what I wanted to say to myself over the phone when I was in the hallways.
“Yeah, we could send that order report in before Friday . . . uh-huh . . . but at the same time, we’d have to see what the Accounting team is going to pull up tomorrow morning,” I would say, my voice not quite my real voice because I still wasn’t used to talking to myself for so long in public.
But people bought it. They wouldn’t even look at me as they lost themselves in their phones. I did stand out as the only person talking on a phone—all the coworkers younger than me refuse to go beyond texting—but even that quality didn’t attract notice.
I let myself go further with my conversations, seeing as how I could get away with mundane topics like statistics and pie charts.
“Tell her that I won’t be home until five tonight because we’re having a party for his birthday,” I would say, marching up and down the halls, my voice ricocheting off the various office and conference room doors. “And don’t give me that attitude, it’s not like I give a crap if he’s . . . no, now don’t get mad with me . . . I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but—but . . . sure. Yeah. I don’t know. What do you want to do about it?”
It was beautiful. It still is. It is beautiful.
The way my phone won’t talk back, it won’t judge me, it won’t try to find meaning in my every syllable the way some person would.
So I went even further.
Just yesterday I began my phone rambling with, “Hey, babe, so which movie did you want tickets for? Because I just saw on the website that they’re . . . wait, you don’t want to go to see any?” to my nonexistent girlfriend. People walked by me either nonplussed or they lent me brief sympathetic sad smiles and knowing nods that made me feel how stupid they were, but, then again, I should be seen as the stupidest one of all because I’m the freak talking to himself on his phone.
I don’t know if it well end. Does it have to? My voice sounds ugly to my own ears, but it’s better than trying to balance and finagle myself through a real conversation. I think that if I can build my worlds big enough, I can see them take a reality on themselves that will be so much better than the drab one cloaking me right now. If I just talk long enough and keep my phone stuck to my face. This afternoon, I’m going to start by saying, “Wrong number,” then pretend to put my phone back in my pocket before seeing another “number” is calling, and then I’ll put the phone back up because it’s my nonexistent girlfriend again.
(Except now she’s a nonexistent fiancée. I bought a ring.)
We’ll have a fight over the line—she’ll accuse me of spending too much time on my devices—and I’ll call off the engagement, and in a dramatic flourish, I’ll work the ring off my finger and toss it down the hallway. The quick smiles and nods will become deeper, and people will buy me little tokens to make up for the loss. Donuts.
Can’t talk. My phone is ringing. I have a call to take.