She was frightened out of her wits when the telephone rang. It was her great grandmother’s. It was antique. It wasn’t supposed to ring. She decided a week before to bring it down from the attic and display it inside her restaurant because it looked pretty and quaint. Now she felt she made a big mistake. She heard stories about it years ago from distant relatives claiming the phone is possessed, but she didn’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural.
The phone rang a second time. Its sound was metallic and haunting.
“Deb! Debbie!” she called out to her waitress. There was no answer.
She closed her laptop and climbed down the stool, then she slowly motioned towards the phone. Should she answer it or not?
“Hello?” she said, nervously.
There was a bit of static, then a young man’s voice answered, “Hello?”
She gasped in disbelief. She checked the phone’s base for a power cord, thinking, wishing it was someone’s practical joke. After all, it was the 1st of April.
“Hello?” the man repeated.
“Who is this!” she exclaimed.
“Who the heck are you!?”
“I’m sorry, madame, but I don’t understand what you are saying.”
“WHO ARE YOU?”
“You don’t have to shout, madame. You sound angry. This is quite perplexing because you are the one who called me. Perhaps you’d like to call again when you are calmer?”
She didn’t know what to say.
She looked around the room in bewilderment. “How is this possible?” she whispered to herself.
“How is what possible?” the man calmly replied.
“Well, you picked up the telephone, dialed my number, opened your lips, and I answered.”
“No, no, no… This is lola’s phone. It’s for display purposes only. It’s not connected to anything. It hasn’t been working since who knows when. And you’re the one who called me.”
“I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding between us, madame. The fact is, you called me, not the other way around. You asked me who I am. My name is Luc Gabriel Martinez, and I’m a poem-reader.”
She laughed anxiously. “Right. I’m sure this is all a big joke. I’m sure someone is playing a trick on me. There must be a hidden camera here somewhere recording this scene right now, and someone somewhere is having the laugh of his life. ‘Poem-reader’. Ha! How creative!”
“A joke? A trick? What is a hidden camera?”
“Listen, you better quit this foolishness or I’ll… I am not amused, not even impressed. You are wasting my time.”
“I assure you, madame, that I am not playing any kind of trickery on you, nor do I wish to waste your precious time. I apologize for this confusion, and wish you a good day.”
“Wait what, madame?”
“Seriously, who are you?”
“I already told you, madame, that my name is Luc Gabriel Mar…”
“Tell me the truth, please.” She glanced at her watch: nine-forty two.
“I really don’t see why you find it hard to believe what I am telling you.”
“Listen, Luc, Gabby, whatever your name is, who set you up for this? How did you do this? This is pretty neat technology.”
“Have a great day, Miss…”
“Velez. Monica Velez. Hah! See, I am playing along with your game now. I’ll grant you a few more minutes. They are not here yet, so…”
“Have a great day, Miss Velez.”
“Hey! Don’t hang up. Okay, okay, let’s see. Um, suppose your name is really Luc. And suppose I’m the one who really called you. Gosh, this prank is so unoriginal. I saw this in a movie once, you know. I forgot the title. Anyway, here’s a question for you. What day is today? I mean, give me the date, the year, etc.”
“You are very amusing, Miss Velez. How can you not know what day today is!”
“Come on, just answer me.”
“April 1, 1903.”
She laughed heartily. “Oh, you’re good! Very good! You sound very convincing. Alright, Mr. Martinez. Pray, tell me, what is a ‘poem-reader’? Wait, let me guess, he is someone who reads poems all day!”
“Well, yes, that’s true. But to be more specific, poem-reading, as an occupation, has something to do with reading poems that haven’t yet been read by the intended reader. Take you, for instance, I am sure you have at least one unread poem hovering over your head right now.”
She looked up and saw the decorative Chinese umbrellas hanging from the wooden ceiling.
“Don’t look up. You can’t see it. You can only hear it. But only if you listen extremely closely. In fact, it takes a very sensitive and discerning ear to catch these verses. I happen to have such ears.”
She laughed. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Hold up the receiver over your head.”
“Just do it, please, and give me a few minutes.”
She hesitated for a moment and then slowly raised the telephone’s mouthpiece. After two minutes, the kitchen door opened and the waitress appeared, almost breathless. “I’m very sorry I’m late, ma’am. The guests just arrived, shall I show them in?”
She lowered the receiver self-consciously and pressed it again against her ear, “Time’s up. Nice talking to you, Luc. Au revoir.”
“It’s by a guy named Dylan, written about three years ago. It appears to be untitled. Do I have your permission to read it?”
“Dylan?” she said, surprised.
“What… what does it say?”
“I envy the sun that shines on her face,” he paused, as if waiting to be interrupted. He continued,
“That bathes her
ears, neck and shoulder
with a golden yellow
light. I envy the
gentle breeze that
blows on her hair.
I envy the blouse
that clothes her back.
I envy the bracelets
on her wrist and the
necklace on her chest.
I envy the air that she
breathes. I envy the ears
that hear her voice
and the nose that catches
her scent. I envy the shoes
that covers her feet
and the ground that
feels the pressure of
her weight. I envy
the cup that touches
her lips and the things
her sight rests upon.
I envy the hand
that feels the grip
of her hands
and the chair
that carries her body.”
“Ma’am, the guests are at the door. Shall I show them in?” Debbie said, this time a bit louder.
“Dylan?” she repeated.
“Yes, that’s the name I heard. And that would be three centavos, madame,” he said.
“Three centavos, that’s my rate for your poem.”
She quickly hang up the phone.