“Where the fuck are you?” Everyone’s looking away from the woman on the bench with her cell phone.
We’re waiting for the BART train to San Francisco and it’s chilly on the platform, at least for Northern California. My husband and I are both bundled up. I’m still cold, even with gloves and a scarf, and he’s shivering in his leather jacket, hands jammed in his pockets. My chest feels tight. I’m worried because he’s been having anxiety attacks ever since Trump was elected. That’s months now. He’s been to the doctor three or four times already, and the medications aren’t really working, at least not well enough. Sometimes he’s paralyzed with fear and other times he thinks he’s having a heart attack, even though the doctor had all that checked out. EKG, stress test, I forget what all. But his blood pressure gets really high, despite the new medication for that as well as the medication for anxiety, and I’m anxious in general all the time about that lately, but anxious at this moment at BART because this woman is flipping out on speaker phone, and she’s going on and on. It’s enough to make anyone in the vicinity flip out too and the next train’s not due for twelve minutes.
“Where the fuck are you? Can you hear me? Pick up the phone you fucker.” She’s balancing the phone on her knee and yelling really loud, I mean really loud.
She’s sallow and freckled, with coarse black hair tucked into a loose knit cap, striped blue. Her jacket is quilted and pink, and she looks pretty normal, not crazy, but she’s sounding crazier and crazier as she repeatedly hits redial and leaves messages.
“Are you still in bed? I told you to get the fuck up. If you’re in bed you’re in big trouble.”
So I’m thinking is this maybe her kid she’s talking to? But it’s not clear because she keeps leaving more or less the same message.
“Are. You. In. Bed. Lazy. Ass. Motherfucker. Answer. The. Goddamn. Phone.”
Maybe five more times, getting even louder, if that’s possible, completely oblivious to everyone around her, which at this point is maybe ten or twelve people, some standing at the edge of the platform, some like us, sitting on the bench where she’s sitting. Right next to us in fact, but it doesn’t seem like a great moment to stand up and move. My husband’s expression is impassive.
No one’s making eye contact. The illuminated sign says eight minutes until the San Francisco Daly City train gets here. The red letters march from left to right and disappear.
“Are you there, motherfucker? Are you there? I’m not coming home if you’re still in bed.”
“Get the FUCK up.”
Which she repeats a few times. The train bound for Richmond pulls into the station and leaves. She’s still on the bench. We’re still on the bench. Three more minutes for the San Francisco Daly City train.
“Pick UP, MOTHERFUCKER. I know you’re there!”
“I HATE you Omar,” she finally yells into the phone. I’m not sure why I change my mind after the name Omar, but now I’m thinking it’s her boyfriend and not her kid.
Omar! Who’s going to wake up to ten or twelve of these messages, or maybe more.
I’ve been squeezing my husband’s knee, hoping he’s okay. He puts his hand over mine when we hear the roar of the approaching train. We slip into a different car than the angry woman, and fall into our seats, relieved.
“Got to feel sorry for that guy,” my husband says.
We speculate about how Omar’s going to react to this barrage of calls.
“Light of my life,” I say, “have you been looking for me?”
We both burst out laughing.
The BART car is warm. I unbutton my wool coat. My husband unzips his jacket and drapes his arm across my shoulders, still snorting with laughter. When I lean over and put my ear against his chest, I can feel his heart beating, steady as a metronome.
Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her award-winning flash chapbook The Missing Girl was published by Black Lawrence Press last fall, and she has recent flash in Wigleaf, Hotel Amerika, Jellyfish Review, and Post Road. Find her online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on twitter @doylejacq.