She sat there with the phone to her ear and her book clutched to her chest and listened to him breathing.
She tried to think of something to say.
"I don't have anything to tell you." she announced, as if that in and of itself was news. "I just wanted to know you were there."
"I'm always here for you, and I always will be. You know that." He said, in a way that was supposed to be comforting, but instead it made her sit there with tears filling her eyes, holding her breath so he wouldn't know she was crying, because he didn't understand. She didn't want him to be there for her, she didn't want him to comfort her, she didn't care if he didn't say anything. She wanted to know that he would answer the phone. That someone, somewhere would answer the phone when they saw she was calling, and be quiet, be totally silent while she cried. Just let her cry, and she could listen to the soft static, the audible digital silence on the other end of the line while someone breathed in and out, and waited patiently for her to finish.
She wanted to know that someone would answer the phone and do that, but she didn't know how to ask him to, because it sounded silly, because it made her sad, because he would want to know why anyone would call someone and ask them not to say a word, especially if she wasn't going to talk either.
She didn't know how to tell him
that she was alone.
That there was no one there, and all she felt like doing was crumpling, like a dry leaf beneath a heavy glass, and weeping, while someone sat beside her and waited it out. Touched her hair. Placed their warm palm on her knee. Offered her a tissue without making a sound.
But she was alone.
There was no one there.
And knowing that someone would answer the phone and listen to her keening was good enough.
After a long silence he said goodnight, and her chest jumped up and down as she stifled her cries and forced her voice to be steady as she said goodnight too.
"Is there anything you want to say?" he asked, and that made her sad because there was a lot she had to say, but she didn't have words for it and she didn't think he'd understand, and then he said "You just seem like there's something you want to say." and her heart broke a thousand more times because maybe he did understand, or maybe he would, or maybe no one would but maybe he didn't need to.
In the end she just said no, and they left it at that.
He hung up the phone, and she was alone again with the book on her chest and her river of tears.