The Phone Booth
She slumps in the booth, weeping
into the phone. Asking a question
or two, and weeping some more.
Her companion, an old fellow in jeans
and denim shirt, stands waiting
his turn to talk, and weep.
She hands him the phone.
For a minute they are together
in the tiny booth, his tears
dropping alongside hers. Then
she goes to lean against the fender
of their sedan. And listens
to him talk about arrangements.
I watch this all from my car.
I don’t have a phone, either.
I sit behind the wheel,
smoking, waiting to make
my own arrangements. Pretty soon
he hangs up. Comes out and wipes his face.
They get in the car and sit
with the windows rolled up.
The glass grows steamy as she
leans into him, as he puts
his arm around her shoulders.
The workings of comfort in that cramped, public place.
I take my small change over
to the booth, and step inside.
But leaving the door open, it’s
so close in there. The phone still warm to the touch.
I hate to use a phone
that’s just brought news of death.
But I have to, it being the only phone
for miles, and one that might
listen without taking sides.
I put in coins and wait.
Those people in the car wait too.
He starts the engine then kills it.
Where to? None of us able
to figure it. Not knowing
where the next blow might fall,
or why. The ringing at the other end
stops when she picks it up.
Before I can say two words, the phone
begins to shout, “I told you it’s over!
Finished! You can go
to hell as far as I’m concerned!”
I drop the phone and pass my hand
across my face. I close and open the door.
The couple in the sedan roll
their windows down and
watch, their tears stilled
for a moment in the face of this distraction.
Then they roll their windows up
and sit behind the glass. We
don’t go anywhere for a while.
And then we go.
- Raymond Carver