Monday 10 October 2022

The Voicemail by Chris Pais, sparkling water


The phone range four times and a synthetic voice said “Please leave a message”. 

She gathered herself and slowly started speaking into the receiver, cupping her hands around her mouth, hoping to disguise her voice.

“Hi, my name is Sarah and I wanted to talk to you.  You don’t know me, and…what can I say, I don’t know you.  This is an unusual call.”

She didn’t have the strength to speak, but she steadied herself against the refrigerator and continued. 

“You know, your cell phone number belonged to my son until he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge a few months ago.  He was twenty five.  Yes, I know.  A pretty young age to die, and a horrible way to go.  But he was a troubled kid.  In the end, he returned to the water that he really, really loved.  Adam had skin that was bronzed by the sun.  He had the brightest eyes you could think of, and the kindest smile.  In many ways, he looked like his father Jim.  I haven’t Jim seen since he left when I became pregnant with Adam.”

She teared up, her voice trembling with emotion.

“And Jim?  Jim was the first and only love of my life.  I’ve known no other man.  After he left, I just didn’t want to, I just couldn’t.  He was handsome.  Jim was a free spirit.  He was also very mysterious.  This drew me to him more.  We thought we’d have a lot of kids after we got married, but a few months after I got pregnant with Adam, he grew melancholic and distant.  Then he left without writing a note.  This broke my heart and I tried to hold it together.  For the sake of my unborn child, you know.  Life goes on…”

“Anyway, this call is not about me or Jim.  It is really about Adam.  I miss him.  He was all I had.  Like I said, he was a handsome kid with a gentle spirit.  We navigated the world together, Adam and I.  He carried the groceries home.  He loved the pumpkin soup I made in winter.  He wasn’t a very good student, but he tried hard.  He always liked the water.  He would sit by the window when it rained and watch the water run down the street.  He loved the wind and the sound it made.  He helped old women cross the street.  He really liked the water.  He would watch the ocean for hours staring at the distant waves, sometimes with tears streaming down his cheeks.  He wouldn’t say what he was thinking about.  Maybe he was looking for his father, but he wouldn’t say.  He didn’t say much.  He didn’t have many friends.  I always wondered if he would have been a different boy if Jim was around.  But you can’t think about these things too much.  Sometimes, the daily struggles of living make the pain go away.   Adam was a beautiful kid and a lost soul.”

She felt there was no point stopping now.

“Anyway, back to Jim.  A few months before he died, Adam told me that he had managed to find Jim and that they spoke a few times.  I was too angry and bitter to ask him more.  Why did he leave us?  How could he?”

“So, the reason I’m calling is if Jim called your phone while trying to reach Adam…. If you have heard from a Jim, Adam’s Dad, and he left his number, please call me.  I’d like to tell him what happened to Adam.  I’ve blocked my number, so here it is.  Please call me at area code four-one-five ummm,….

Well, on the other hand, maybe it’s just best you don’t get a hold of me.  I’m sorry. 


She hung up and slowly slithered down to the kitchen floor, dragging down the refrigerator magnets and sat on the cold tiles with pictures and notes from Adam strewn all around her. 

About the author

Chris Pais grew up in India and came to the US to pursue graduate studies in engineering. His work appears in Poetry India, Wild Roof Journal, Defunct Magazine and elsewhere. He lives in the SF Bay Area where he works on clean energy and tinkers with bikes, guitars and recipes. 


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