In the waiting room on the third floor, after pressing her cuticles evenly back to their bases, trying and failing the Thursday crossword puzzle, and reading month old gossip from a crinkled People magazine, she realized she’d spent exactly one third of her life, down to the day, with him. One third. Most of that time she couldn’t order her own drink. Then he was deployed, leaving her alone. Her girlfriends were single and she was dead weight, so she drank at home and studied French online instead.
The doctor said he’d be back in a minute an hour ago.
“Just a phrase.” She thought. “Just an idea.”
The time lapse worried her. His parents said they’d be there. They lied, but she hoped they’d show up just the same. They knew their son better than she did. There were decisions to make. They were better equipped, but her name was listed as next of kin. He’d been gone four years. She knew more about the Paki that owned the 7-11 down the street. She’d seen Zameer’s wife’s belly expand and his baby girl learn to walk. Her husband was a stranger.
The nurse said. “You can come in.”
She didn’t want to.
The doctor looked concerned. She could tell it was an act. There were 25 rooms on this floor. Each with two beds. These patients were this doctor’s norm. He wasn't concerned. He was tired. He bathed her in words:
spontaneous respirations, oculocephalic reflex, metabolic processes, brain, death.
She focused on the chart at the foot of the bed and checked the name; the face too covered in gauze and tubes and damage. His bullet sure did a number.
His demons begged for release. His life unwilling to follow.
“Let him go.” She slipped from the room, waved goodbye to the nurse and dropped her wedding ring in the water fountain at the end of the hall.
Rachael Cudlitz, Untitled
American, b. 1968, playing from Los Angeles, CA, USA
Rachel Cudlitz earned a BFA from CalArts in Theater. She is a published writer of several short stories and currently working on her first novel.
Thoughts on the Telephone process
As a person who has spent most, if not all, of my life involved in pursuit of one form of artistic expression or another, I found (and still find) this project a complete joy. I get giddy simply thinking about it. Here’s why: It’s just plain fun. Aside from the obvious playground origins of the game, there is a freedom that comes when you remove expectation and judgment; when you are just allowed to play. Adults don’t get to play very often. We spend too much time worrying about product, about meeting expectations. This cross medium expression of ideas has too much space for expectation. Ideas are funny things. They aren’t corporeal. You cannot hold them in your hand and say, “Yes, I see you. Yes, I know what you are.” With this game, there is no “right; there is no “wrong”. I just love that. The Telephone Project is a beautiful marriage of one of the most ancient aspects of the human story: creativity, combined with one of it’s most recent inventions: the Internet. How cool is that?