When my phone rings, I don’t expect it to be Amy. She never enters my mind when I pick up. Each time I see her name on the screen, it’s a surprise. Each time, I’ve forgotten, and then I remember her all over again.
The catching up, the small talk. It’s a formality. If she’s calling me, it’s because someone died. Someone she’s kept in touch with, whom I’ve forgotten.
“How’re the kids?” She pretends to care. She doesn’t. I don’t mind.
“They’re doing great,” I lie. I search inside myself, in that place where I hide my truth for a reason why, but I’ve got nothing.
“How old are they now?” She’s forgotten their names since the last time we talked. She’ll forget again after we hang up.
“Molly’s almost fourteen. Derek’s ten. So, how’s everything where you are?” I have no idea where she is. I can’t keep track of things like that. I can’t keep track of who she is, much less where she is.
All I can remember is who she was. Who we were when we cruised around town in that Mustang, covered in gray primer.
“I’m gonna get a sweet-ass paint job,” she’d say. “And I’ll replace that dented quarter panel.” It remained dented and primered until it died. She sold it for parts to a scary guy in the junkyard whose eyes followed things we couldn’t see.
Our bong sat between the bucket seats. When the munchies hit and it was time for drive-thru, one of us threw an arm over it. So clever. So stealthy.
Every night was something. A party. A fight. Cruising Main Street, heads out the windows, shouting at people on the street. Smoking. Leaning on street posts. Working hard at looking cool.
No one as cool as us. Pull the Mustang into a quiet place. Fixing our makeup. Brushing our hair. Guys thinking we always looked that good. They pulled us over, stopped us in the street to say so; to invite us to their parties.
They didn’t know the awkward us. The awkward me, pretending at confidence.
We knew it was only a moment. Our days of cool were numbered. Even when we were in it, right now was already gone.
We didn’t know what it would be. Maybe a man. A baby. A death. What we knew was that soon, we’d pass thirty and get wrapped up in dull, adult things with no time or energy leftover to work at being cool.
Just like that. Whoosh. Zoom. It’s over, and we’re here. From past to present. Me, with my leukemia-infested daughter and ten year-old son who grows angrier every day. He can no longer process things like leukemia and absent fathers. Amy, off in another far corner of the world I can’t imagine, eating strange food and mingling with people in foreign tongues.
Once or twice a year, we have this chat. When another old friend we used to know drops and falls away from us. Then we laugh about cruising in old rusted cars, crazy flings and hilarious accidents. Amy doesn’t need to know the me that lives here now. Who I used to be is enough.
So, I work hard at sounding cool until we say goodbye again. Until her next call doesn’t come.
Rasmenia Massoud is from Colorado, but after several weird turns, she ended up somewhere in France, where she spends time confusing the natives by speaking French poorly and writing about what she struggles most to understand: human beings. She is the author of the short story collections Human Detritus and Broken Abroad. Some of her other work has appeared in places like The Foundling Review, The Lowestoft Chronicle, Literary Orphans, Metazen, Full of Crow, Flash Fiction Offensive and Underground Voices. You can visit her at www.rasmenia.com.