Left Behind

I remove my sweaty palm from the glass of the phone booth.  It leaves a foggy imprint for a few seconds, but then the shape gradually disintegrates, like snowflakes on the pavement.  Intently, I watch it fade away, but the ring tone buzzes in my ears, and my ribs expand with each sudden drumbeat. This is the seventh time I am calling and I only have four nickels left because of my persistence.  My stomach growls impatiently.

When the telephone lady breaks the silence with her prerecorded message, I slam the receiver into the slot and melt onto the wooden slab behind me.  Running a hand through my disheveled hair, I try to understand why Arnold has not answered yet. I know for a fact that he is at home right now, with his newborn daughter, and his wife is at a committee meeting.  I checked on her this morning just to make sure. If he is at home, then why is he not picking up? Could he be ignoring me?

No Pablo, I say to myself.  Arnold is your good friend who has been with you since grade school, has supported every one of your short-lived high school relationships, and always gave you his notes.  He would not ignore you. Even after reassurance, I still have a nagging suspicion pulling at me like foreboding clouds signaling a storm.

I stare at the phone again and back down at the nickels in my dirty palm.  Sighing heavily, I put the nickel in the slot, and pick up the receiver. After five rings, Arnold answers, and says, “Hello,” his voice clear and authoritative.

“Arnold, is that you?” I ask, even though I already knew.

Sounding off-guard, Arnold replies, “Hello, Pablo!  So nice to hear from you!”

“Why did it take so long for you to pick up?” I nervously ask.  “I called eight times, and you´re always home on Saturday mornings.  No one calls you at this time either.”

“Oh, you remembered that?  Well, I have to go right now, so—”

“Can I join you?” I ask eagerly.

“Today, Ricardo and I are eating lunch together before we head home to our families.  We have some important political matters to discuss.” Arnold recovered from the initial shock of hearing from me and returned to his matter-of-fact self.

“What are you going to discuss?  Kennedy’s assassination? You have been saying the same thing since he was killed five months ago, and I´ve wasted around twenty dollars in total trying to reach you.  I can’t remember the last time we met. And—”

“Fine then,” he says, his tone slightly agitated. “Come with us.  Can you pay the bill after your parents kicked you out of their mansion?”

“Of course I can.” I retort.  The comment about my parents stung, but he could not see my reaction over the phone.  

“Are you not getting the message yet, Pablo?” he sneers.  “Why do you think I told you that I am with my daughter on Saturdays?  I was hoping you would use your common sense and leave Ricardo and me alone.  We don’t need you to follow us on the streets, just because you don’t have a cent in your wallet.  I am sorry to be the one to deliver this message, but we cannot throw pity money at you anymore.  You should have laid your foundation when you had the chance.” He took a labored breath, holding the weight of our friendship in his low voice.  I feel my shoulders fall down with the added burden, and my heart tears slightly.

“You know what, I will tell you this now, so listen up.  Ricardo and I have decided that you do not have to pay us back on one condition.  From this day onward, we want nothing to do with you. Goodbye, Pablo.”

The phone clicks off, and my body temperature shoots through the roof. Who does he think he is? Just because he is prospering right now doesn’t mean that I am worthless.  Sure, I borrowed a couple of hundred dollars from him, but a good friend would allow for that, right? My chest heaves at the weight of my anger, and I needed to tell someone, anyone, about my situation.  I want to tell my parents, but it has has been two years since I heard their voices.

“Leave,” my mother had ordered, her eyes as dark as charcoal.  “Get out of this house right now!”

My father was standing with his spine as straight as a rod, his eyes drilling holes into my soul.  I looked at both of them pleadingly, but my mother just turned away, playing with her jewelry, and my father waited.

“Mother, I can explain.  It was only a delivery. I was not doing it. I was just helping my friend because they needed money and—”

“If you do not leave this house right this second, we will call the cops and tell them about the stash in your room.  You will leave this house immediately.” My father diluted the power of my words into nothing but water.

That night, I had come back home from a delivery.  The man was offering me an irresistible wad of cash.  At the same time, my parents were hosting an extravagant party and expected me and my siblings to tend to the guests.  It was a very important event, as an important minister of Brazil was coming, and since I was the most sociable, I was to keep him company.  However, I decided to abandon my parents when they needed me the most.

So, they abandoned me.

Now, as I stand at the phone booth, I rethink my decision.  They could not even forgive their child, I thought to myself.  Deciding against it, I open the thin door and step into the warm spring rain, my stomach gnawing me like an insidious disease.  

Ever since my parents cut me out of their lives, I have been struggling, mostly reliant on the unpredictable realm of narcotics to support myself.  Sometimes, I have to borrow money from my friends. Now, they have left me with empty pockets as well.

That is okay. I will find someone else.

My gaze turns to the right of me and I see a blue toned aviator jacket walking in front of me.  I catch up to the stranger and introduce myself.

“Hello,” I say. “My name is Pablo.  What is your name?”

He looks over at me, and takes me in – I was wearing a tattered flannel shirt and ripped jeans.  Then he wrinkles his nose – I have not bathed for a month. Then he opens his mouth and says:

“Sorry man.  I don’t want anything,” and he trudges off, leaving me behind.

I open my mouth gradually to say something, anything, but the words do not even come to my throat.  They are lodged deep within the slopes and valleys of my heart, refusing to even open the door. Now my stomach does not demand food.  Instead, it aches in longing.

For the first time in my life, I understand what it means to have no one.

I am a withered house, my foundation burdened with the weight of my loneliness.  I want to leave Jersey, a city of unforgiving people, and run away. The smell of freshly cut grass will numb the painful ache in my chest and the sweet mountains would sing a lullaby that will calm the fire in my throat.  All I get is the splash of dirty rain from a car racing by.



  • https://giphy.com/explore/puddle-splash 
  • https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/224968943862304852/
  • https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/cars/809714/splashing-pedestrian-puddle-driving-law-uk-2017-fine 

2 thoughts on “Left Behind

  1. Dear Nazeefa,

    I was absorbed by your piece. I enjoyed every second of it. Your story is very unique and very well written. You are very talented. By far, one of my favourite lines was: “Even after reassurance, I still have a nagging suspicion pulling at me like foreboding clouds signaling a storm.” I love the simile here.
    Other than a few minor errors such as, double spacing, I don’t see anything wrong.

    Beautiful work!


    1. Dear Tina,

      I am glad that you took the time to read my work, and enjoyed it as well! Coming from a writer like you, I truly appreciate the feedback, and look forward to your comments in the future!


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