For Lillian, Whoever She Is
When I came home from work, I found she’d
left messages on my voicemail. “Milt,”
she’d say, “I had fun.” Or “Lillian
again—you home?” Or “You could at least—”
before I, recognizing neither
name nor number, deleted the calls.
Still they continued, more urgently
over the next few days, & each
night I’d delete them with the others,
something I’d come to do while stirring
soup or waiting for my ramen to cool.
Then she stopped calling. I couldn’t help
wondering if she’d finally got
through to the elusive Milt, although
I’d begun to suspect he’d given
out the wrong number purposefully.
He was probably married & said
that he wasn’t. I doubted his name
was actually Milt. But what did I
know? Just as likely, sloppy
penmanship or smeared ink were to blame.
What if Milt, hoping she’d call him, was
sitting at home, miserable that she
hadn’t? He couldn’t call her instead
because he’d tossed out, forgetfully,
regrettably, his head reeling
from tequila, or maybe gin fizzes,
the gum wrapper that she’d written her
These things happen, I thought,
purging sales calls, my ex, collection
agencies, political pollsters
& posers, my mother (who’s too old,
she says, to talk to a machine), &
a curt reminder from Dr. Fell
that I still haven’t rescheduled
my surgery, yet nothing, nada, not
a peep from Lillian, not a week,
not two, not even three weeks later.
Several months passed before she called
again. “Milt, listen, if this is you,”
she started, her voice soft, sad, resigned,
“I love you.” A long silence followed,
a silence I can hear to this day,
as if she’s still giving Milt one last
chance to answer before she hangs up.
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