If you listen to the whispers and rumors around town, then you might've heard of this tale.
It goes like this: at the eastern border of the woods, there's a clearing with a rickety lamppost and a rusted red telephone booth. Nothing less, nothing more.
They say that if you dial the number of a late loved one, there's a chance that they'll pick up. They'll tell you the answer to every question you've been longing to ask and hear all the things that you never got the chance to say.
Most who look for it don't find it.
But those who do come back year in, year out, pointlessly looking for a change that will never occur.
This is the story of a boy who does.
Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? I’m pretty sure I put in the right digits.
I can’t hear anything from you, though. Well, it’s not like I should be hearing anything. You’re not supposed to be around anymore. I mean, I saw you die-I mean, pass away, three years ago. God, I hate it when I say that out loud. It’s true, I guess, but still. Ugh. Fuck.
I just...can’t believe it’s been that long. That’s one thousand and ninety five days. One million, five hundred and seventy-seven thousand, eight hundred minutes. Or is it seventy-six thousand? I’m not sure. Math isn’t my strong suit. You were always the smart one.
It’s weird. Sometimes I feel like you’re still here when you’re clearly not. Whenever I go to Starbucks it doesn’t feel right to order one drink instead of two, and it definitely sucks to screenshot memes and realise I don’t have anyone to send it to. Maybe except for Rae. Huh, I could probably do that. Don’t wanna though. She’ll probably send like five variations of lol and blow up my notifications. She’s like that.
So...how are you? Is it nice up there? Uh, are you happy, I guess? I really hope you are. I hope you’re drinking smoothies with god or shitting actual rainbows like we’d joked about because one of us needs to have a fun life. Or death. Or consciousness, that’s the word. Either way, it definitely isn’t me! I finally graduated uni and pulled myself through senior year. If you want to know what it’s like, graduation is severely overrated. I got back home that night and had an existential mental breakdown. Fun stuff, huh? I’m working as a tutor, which is odd considering I hate children. I’m still horrible at math though. What else? Oh. I didn’t apply for a masters degree. Lost motivation and all. I think that’s it, really. Nothing super interesting-or interesting at all, honestly, has happened since you were gone.
I know, I know. I’m boring as hell. I get it. I haven’t done anything in our bucket list either. I tried to get a ticket for a PATD concert but I’m broke. I also shit my pants in my attempt to skydive. It all kind of just faded away when you left. Things really changed over the past few years, and I don’t know how to handle that without you.
I’m completely fine, though! Eating healthy. Doing sports. Going out at night and living the life of a broke college graduate. Things dulled a little bit without you here, even when everything and everyone seemed to keep getting louder. I just miss you sometimes.
Okay, a lot.
I miss you and your dumb jokes and eccentric fashion sense and bad taste and surprisingly large brain. You keep me in check when I’m being a giant idiot or an irrational dick. Even your presence, your touch, your laugh comforts me. It’s so easy to pretend that you’re still living in our apartment when there’s so many traces of you. I’ve convinced myself so many times that you’re just taking a really long vacation or...I don’t know, visiting a relative’s house for the time being. It’s not right. I know. But at the same time it’s terrifying to think that you’re...actually gone. So I pretend, or ignore, or don’t think at all for the sake of shoving these feelings to the back of my mind.
What’s more terrifying to me is that I’ve gotten so good at it. You’re stuck in this limbo in my head between being alive and being the voice in the corner of my mind. I don’t have to feel like this as long as I don’t think about it too hard, even if the price of that is slowly feeling nothing at all.
It’s gotten to the point where I almost forgot to call you today. I was so wrapped up in simply trying to get through the day that I didn't realise it was your birthday. I didn't notice this morning. Or this afternoon. Or this evening. It was when night fell that I finally remembered and I was so, so scared that someday I'd forget you like that too.
Truth is, on the day you died, I felt like a part of myself was ripped away from me. I’ve felt like a part of me was missing all this time, and I don’t know what to do about it. The worst part is as much as I hate to admit it, this is a result of what happened to you.
I guess I’ve simply...forgotten what it’s like to be whole.
Argh, I sound pathetic. I’m good. Not sniffling. Definitely not crying. Okay I am. God, I’m fucking stupid talking to myself and sobbing like this. It’s dumb to feel like this and sour your memory with my morbid thinking. I shouldn’t have said that at all. I shouldn’t have let myself confirm it.
Hey, Sylvie? If you’re really out there listening. Somehow. I know you’d want me to move on. And I promise I will. It’s just been really hard recently. But I’ll do it, only for you.
Then I’ll see you next year. Hopefully I’ll be different then. Hopefully I’ll have changed to become someone both of us can be proud of.
I guess this is goodbye.
Lynn is a 16 year old writer from Jakarta, Indonesia. Student by day and writer by night, she enjoys writing contemporary fiction and fantasy at any chance she gets. She is currently enrolled in the Oxford Summer Courses Creative Writing Course. Lynn enjoys reading books, listening to lo-fi and binging youtube videos in her spare time.