Temporary Buzzkill

by Stacey Janssen

Buzz. Stop. Buzz. Stop.

If I had to pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, I think it would have to be that one, right there.

Buzz. Stop. Buzz. Stop.

Now, I’m not saying that it happened all at once–at any exact moment–but whatever had been building inside me until that point had been sort of staying below the radar, as it were. Sure, I had known that something was going on, but somehow it hadn’t managed to make any real impression me. At least, not consciously.

Buzz. Stop. Buzz. Stop.

In that moment, though, with Josephine’s cell phone vibrating away on the table, flashing the same phone number that had been appearing on the display for weeks–“It’s just a wrong number,” she’d say; funny, when I got a wrong number, I stopped calling–something inside me seemed to just… break. In that instant I had a clear mental image of a spring bounding out of a clock.

Josephine was upstairs with the baby as I reached down toward the phone on the table. I picked it up, not certain at first exactly what I intended to do with it. Answer it? Throw it to the ground and shatter it?

As I stood looking down at the object in my hand, the vibrating stopped, but just a few seconds later, it started up again.

Well, I thought, Mr. Five-Five-Five, Two-Seven-Two-Oh is very insistent this afternoon. The thought trudged through my mind, thick and lethargic, as though I had been up all night drinking.

I had always found Josephine’s “it’s just a wrong number” excuse a little insulting–did she really think I was that stupid? For shit’s sake, he called every day! Not listing the number in your phone book doesn’t prove anything.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.

The inside of my head was buzzing; the inside of my brain was buzzing–buzz buzz buzz buzz buzzing!

Somewhere in the back of my mind, something was telling me to talk to my wife. Something back there said that if I calmly confronted her about it, sitting her down and insisting that we talk like adults about Mr. Frequent-Wrong-Number that the whole thing could be resolved and soon enough the whole mess could be behind us. Maybe we’d have found out that Josephine was suffering from post-partum depression and I wasn’t paying enough attention to her; or maybe she was going to therapy for it and it was her therapist always calling, which perhaps she was too ashamed to tell me about. Maybe we’d have found out any number of things. Looking back, that whole talking thing really would have been the best option.

But like I said, something had been building inside of me for quite some time.

“Honey, did I leave my ph–OH MY GOD! Robert, what the hell is wrong with you?”

The sound of Josephine’s voice had invaded my head like a fire alarm, filling it up in a way that felt like a thousand tiny ants gnawing at the inside of my skull. I would have done anything to end it. Turning around, I blindly heaved her rotten, cheating cell phone in the direction of her dirty, lying voice–

–and it had plowed right into the side of my six-month-old son’s head.

Josephine was on the ground with Bobby, sobbing and screaming–whether it was at me or at him or at God, I don’t know–feeling the deep indent of his soft skull with her fingers. I think that she was too hysterical to think about calling an ambulance and I was too deep in shock. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, I don’t think–by the time someone did finally take a look at him, they said that he had died only moments after the phone had struck him. He had been much too fragile for that kind of trauma.

So, now the divorce papers are all drawn up–who’d have guessed two months ago that she’d have been the one to do it–and now she and Mr. Incessant-Phone-Calls can be very happy together.

Unless it really was a therapist. If that’s the case, then that really tints this whole nasty business quite a different color.

Buzz. Stop. Buzz. Stop.

Does it really count as temporary insanity when you can still hear the vibrations?

Buzz. Stop. Buzz. Buzz. Buzzzz.

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