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A Phone Call

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"Hey, you."

"Now, don't you go starting a telephone call that way. That's out of bounds."

"Well, I was just about to ask if I'm the second or the first."

"Of?"

"Your calls tonight, Don Juan. You did say the word both very strongly."

"Ah, I may have said such a thing. I'll see how this one goes first, how does that sound?"

"Sounds like a likely thing, Jake Doyle. So, out with it. Why're you calling?"

"That little conversation we had. I wanted to follow up on it."

"Hmm. In what way?"

"Well, I said a certain thing, and you looked a certain way. Don't be coy with me now."

"I may recall the moment to which you are referring."

"And that got me thinking."

"Do tell."

"You're not going to like this. Suppose we're friends again, and suppose I decide to see Jess as something more than just a happening. You're all right with that?"

"Best kind, b'y."

"You say that, but you don't sound very enthusiastic about it. So here's what I've been thinking—and I've had a small bit to drink, but only for courage, mind. What I'm thinking is that I have two choices, at this moment, and those choices are to stay on the path I'm on, where I socialize a little here and there, but really I'm waiting for you. And on the other side, there's another path. There's a path where I don't stay on the path I'm on, in fact I walk away from that path and find a new path. And this new path will start with a thing I have not been doing, which is to look for a future in a person who is not Leslie Bennett. Because, see, that path that I was on, that I never did leave even when you walked away, that path was a path to the future, to the rest of my life. It was a wandering path, across bluffs and clifftops, and it faded into mist near the end, and you were by my side. And it was the only path to the future I ever did see, because you were the only person who ever did let me see it.

"And you see, I am at a crossroads. I have been for some time, but I've chosen immobility instead. I am at a crossroads where one path leads to a future with you—if such a future exists. The other path is unclear now and it looks like a dirt road with pitfalls every step because the truth is I don't want to take that path and I don't know that path so I don't like it.

"That path is one I start to walk with someone new. Someone new I can see a future with. And to meet that someone, I need to meet more than one someone. I have to hope that in one of those many, many faces, I will find a face to rival your own. I won't be looking for you, no, because I will have left you in the past. I will be looking for someone who sparks a future in me. Because there has to be more than one future for a man, or he is doomed.

"What I need, Leslie, is to know whether there is any use to staying on the path I'm on—and let me be clear, I am now and have been on it, since the first day we met.

"I need to know whether I should, once and for all, let you go.

"I need to know, Leslie."

He hears her breaths, coming fast and harsh. He listens to them for moments, moments on end. He almost thinks she won't answer at all, and then she does.

"I can't answer that, Jake."

"I understand, Leslie. But when you don't answer it, and as long as you don't answer it, I remain on this path. When you can tell me "No," when you can tell me it's time to move on, I will. God help me, but I will.

"But as long as you can't answer… here is where I'll be."

She breathes, she only breathes, and though he could listen for an eternity, he has said his piece, and he hangs up.