The wind was howling when you called, long after I’d gone to bed. My heart pounded as I answered my phone. You never called me after seven. I did my best to sound awake when I said hello to you. All I heard on your end was breathing. Shaken, halting breathing.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, my heart twisting with worry.
You took in another hitching breath and held it. I realized that perhaps you couldn’t trust yourself to speak. I sank back down in my pillows, pressing the phone to my ear.
“It’s okay,” I whispered, “I’m right here. You don’t need to say anything.”
In a sudden rush you released your breath, as though I’d flung open the door to an over-crowded room. The wind outside matches your gust, making my house shudder.
In. Out. In. Pause.
Each breath sounded like a struggle for calm. I listened in silence, wondering what you needed me to do. Wondering what was wrong and if I should say something. I wished I knew the right words to make you feel better, but I didn’t. So I listened.
Your breath came out like a whistle, and you sucked it back in through your teeth. My eyelids drooped against the pitch black in my room, and I imagined you sitting in yours.
Out. In. Out. In.
Your breathing started sounding smoother. I hoped that I was helping in some silent way, because my brain never comes up with good words until they aren’t needed. I heard you move and hoped you were settling down in your bed. It was late, and you needed to get some sleep.
Your breaths became quieter, I could hardly hear them through the phone’s speaker. I wondered if perhaps you’d gone to sleep, but then you drew in a deep breath and murmured two words to me.
A smile of relief pulled at my face, my muscles relaxing. You whispered goodbye and hung up, and I’d let my phone slip down the side of my face.
I never found out what was wrong, or why you called, or what you had expected from me. I do hope you’re at least a little better now.
It is my hope that, perhaps, I’d done something to help.