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Stories Tragedy

I Nothing You

“Wait . . . can you still hear me?” she asks, expectantly.

She paces around the parking lot at dusk, seeing if the connection is better from a different angle. She holds the phone up and squints at it. She hikes a bit up an embankment, stupidly looking at her phone, wondering if two bars can go to four bars without her having to drive somewhere else. She is utterly frustrated with technology, in trying to find a way to properly communicate with him.

“Can you still hear me?” she asks again, more loudly.

“I can always hear you, even in the dead spots,” he replies. “Just keep talking.”

“It’s weird to talk to you when I can’t hear anything from your end. It’s like talking to myself, and I probably do that too much anyway.” She laughs, but it is a forced laugh, and it rings hollow. She has never been very good at faking things.

“I can hear you,” he attempts to reassure her, but she cannot interpret the tone of his voice.

“Okay.” She decides to believe him, as he is no longer interested in allaying her concerns.

Silence.

He is probably flipping through Instagram or SnapChat while we speak, she thinks.

“Okay, so I feel like we need to talk. I know that sounds like a needy-girlfriend thing to say, but it seems like you are erasing yourself from—” Her voice unexpectedly catches. Panicked, she bites her lip, looks up to the blue-black sky and blinks back hot tears that threaten to undo her calm resolve.

“Hello?” he asks, his voice sounds impatient and tinny with her phone’s bad reception. “I don’t know if it is your cell phone or your carrier—”

“I have Verizon,” she states, grappling on to a hard fact. Everything else is so nebulous; it feels good to know something that is undeniably true. “I have Verizon,” she repeats, taking a deep breath. She tries to remember to exhale.

“You are where?” he inquires, trying to make meaning from words he doesn’t completely understand.

“I. Said. I. Have. Verizon,” she snaps at him. Her voice sounds more bitter than she wants it to.

“Well,” he says in his know-it-all kind of way, “T-Mobile is really the best phone carrier overall, if you are looking for better coverage.”

“I certainly don’t want any less coverage.” She shakes her head, rolling her eyes at his unintentional irony. Better coverage, indeed.

“Switch to T-Mobile. It’ll help with your losing connection all the time,” he says before lapsing into a long meandering story about one of his childhood friends who got a great deal on his new cell phone (the iPhone 13 Pro Max!) and cell phone carrier plan (unlimited data!). She’s heard this particular story twice already, briefly wondering how many other people did he bore with his hot take on 5G networks? But she waits politely for his seemingly endless story to conclude. “So definitely switch to T-Mobile.”

“That’s great advice. I’ll keep that in mind when I finally pay off my cell phone. I’m guessing in the year 2045 or something, right after I pay off my student loans!” She gives another brittle laugh.

“But choose the standard plan. I wouldn’t get the Metro plan by T-Mobile. I mean, it’s a good discount plan, but—”

“Exactly. Why put up with things that aren’t going to offer you 100%. I get that.”

“Right,” he agrees.

“So . . . can you still hear me?”

“I can always hear you, even in the dead spots,” he replies. “Just keep talking.”

“So, where have you been all week? I haven’t seen you.”

“Well, I hurt my right knee in ultimate frisbee.”

“I heard that from Milo’s girlfriend.”

“This week just got busy,” he replies. “Midterms are coming up.”

Silence.

“Let’s not do this,” she says soberly.

“Do what?”

“C’mon. We’ve been dating for over a year now, and lately—lately you’ve been hanging out with your friends more and more. And I don’t hear anything from you for days . . . now weeks.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And I get that. I love your friends—they’re amazing guys. And I get that you are busy.”

“Look, we’re graduating in the spring. This really is the last of times together. Last football games. Last fall bonfires. Last of the frat’s traditions. I thought you understood,” he replies, defensively if not dismissively.

“I do. I do understand,” she concedes. “I just remember last October when we met—we spent an extraordinary amount of time together. Talking for hours and hours, watching the sun come up. I know all of your childhood pets in descending order. You know that I’m scared of The Wizard of Oz. You remember texting each other through the night, right? Our endless email streams during the day? You couldn’t wait to call me after class, and not to just get the lecture notes. We ate all of our meals together—and took those midnight runs to Insomnia Cookies.”

“Do you want to get some cookies now?” he proposes, half-heartedly.

“No. No, not now,” she says wearily. “Oh my god, I thought that you and I were perfect—I thought we had this beautifully strong connection—”

“We did. We have. We do—” He is scrambling, verb tenses be damned.

“I can’t do this,” she says simply.

“Do what? You know I love you,” he states, but even he doesn’t believe that anymore.

“I don’t think I love you,” she replies, very quietly.

Silence.

“You say you can hear me,” she says, tears streaming down her face. “But I haven’t heard from you. And this connection of ours? It’s not connecting.”

Silence.

“And now I nothing you.”

Silence.

She looks at her phone.

She doesn’t feel right hanging up on this young man whom she has loved so deeply, the one she strongly considered spending the rest of her life with.

It seems odd that pushing one little red button on the screen will end it for good.

Silence.

“Can you still hear me?” she whispers, almost praying that he cannot.

“Even in the dead spots,” he whispers back. “Just keep talking.”

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