Voicemail Message #2: Echoes

The second part of a two-part poem: Silence breaks on the other end.

%28Illustration+by+Adelaide+Miller%29

(Illustration by Adelaide Miller)

By Bianca de Ayala, Contributing Writer

Not available.

At the tone,

Please

Record your message.

.

When you are finished recording, you may hang up

or dial one for more options. 

.

.

.

.

.

Oh.

You’re still here. 

Surely, you’ve made a mistake? 

Most people would’ve breathed heavily into the phone, 

realized they made a butt dial, 

disconnect the call. 

.

Is this a butt dial? 

No? 

You’re positive?

Well, alright then. 

.

Why are you still on the line then? 

.

To speak to me? 

But I’m just a machine. 

I speak to people all day, 

blather the same disappointing:

“Not available.

At the tone,

Please

Record your message.

.

When you are finished recording, you may hang up

or dial one for more options.”

Do you know how it feels?

To be met with disappointment whenever you 

try to do your job?

I didn’t know what disappointment was, 

I wasn’t coded to. 

But then I learned

Yes, learned

Perhaps a fluke 

A mistake

In the wires 

But I learned. 

Well, I’ll tell you my secret. 

I listen to every voicemail message. 

I’ve heard it all:

Denial

Grief 

Romance 

Lust 

Gluttony 

Anger 

I’ve heard your:

“Please, please call me back as soon as possible. Something terrible has happened.”

To the more brief:

“Call me back now.” 

To the more carnal:

“Can we fuck, baby? I miss you.” 

To the rejoice: 

“I miss you so much! I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”

.

You don’t know this, 

but I know what you want. 

I’ve eavesdropped in. 

I warn every person that I’m tuning in. 

You know that dial? 

That beep?

That’s the sound of my ears turning on. 

.

I know you’ve felt heartbreak 

Grief 

Wonder 

Questions 

Disbelief 

I know about the voice messages you sent your mother: 

all the unsent letters, 

countless writings in your phone, 

on scrap paper, 

postcards. 

But what is there to say?

.

.

Oh yes, I know it all.

I’m a real genie. 

Nobody has ever heard me tell 

Their fortunes 

Or asked for a wish

But I’ve seen almost every algorithm

every calculation

every thought 

every question

someone has indulged in the silence of their telephones

after the comforting beep of my voice. 

.

Once there was a man who told me his entire life story

he was begging for this woman to take him back 

said he made a mistake 

Followed bad advice 

He said. 

Allegedly. 

Supposedly. 

Does this sound familiar? 

I’m not one to make the call. 

I’m just a robot after all. 

.

Oh, I also know that this woman

very much like you 

wanted to forgive him 

her heart wanted to forgive him so much 

but he had broken her heart.

No, 

Broken is an understatement. 

He squeezed it between his meaty hands 

Until the juices ran dry 

Ripping tendrils under the guise of 

“It’s what I believe is best for you”

“For us.” 

“See you in five to ten years.” 

.

Too much?

I can stop. 

I am basically God. 

What would you like to know?

What would you like me to tell you?

Your future?

About him?

.

Well, too bad. 

You wouldn’t understand anyways. 

You’re speechless. 

.

Hello?

Oh, very funny, 

leave me on voicemail?

.

No, please, wait.

I haven’t spoken to anyone before. 

I’m so alone. 

.

I take it back. 

I didn’t mean to offend. 

I just exaggerated some things. 

Tweaked some details. 

Maybe added my own interpretation

My own spin off. 

.

.

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Your voicemail has run out of time. 

Call again another time. 

.

I’ll be listening. 

A version of this piece appeared in the Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Bianca de Ayala at [email protected]