You knew your mother stood at the telephone table in the hall, a corkscrewing cord tethering her to your voice, her hand clutching the bulky black receiver with gratitude.
When your parents got one of those cordless phones, they settled their old bones onto the sagging sofa to tell you about their aches and exhaustion, the 24-hour news channel blaring in the background, then listened as you chattered on about the fellow you were dating.
Now your own daughter walks across busy streets while talking to you, car horns angrily warning her to behave — you don't know where she is exactly, the city yes, but not the place, not the street so far away and unknown to you.
When she tells you about failing her chemistry exam, she could be in a stranger's bed, shushing the boy with her fingers over his lips, or she could be outside a bar, because her words are slightly slurred, with an odd rhythm to her inhalations and exhalations, as she tells you she needs more money but won't tell you why.
Sometimes you know she's on the toilet, the woman in the stall next to her flushing then banging open the door, indignant that someone talked on the phone without regard for her privacy while she did her business; your daughter tells you she is fine, mom, really she is fine, and you picture her on the toilet seat, clutching her stomach, fighting tears and steadying her voice, and you hope, you hope so hard that she isn't flushing away her own young life.
You wonder if she imagines where you are when you talk to her as you sit in one of the paired Adirondack chairs on the back deck, day drinking a second Scotch on the rocks and smoking a cigarette, something you picked up again when her dad left you last year.
You think back in time to your mother again, her comfort in hearing your voice even though your college suitemates laughed and chattered around you as they danced to disco songs; your mom knew you stood at the suite phone on the wall outside your dorm room; she heard you tell the girls to quiet down, heard you repeat yourself, quiet down, you were talking to your mom.
You were talking, only talking, to your mom.
Originally published in HerWords.
Daun Daemon’s fiction has appeared in Flock, Dead Mule School, Literally Stories, Southern Women’s Review, and Delmarva Review among others, and she has published poems in Typishly, Dime Show Review, Third Wednesday, Typehouse Literary Review, Remington Review, Deep South Magazine, and other journals. Her poems have twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A native of the North Carolina foothills, Daemon is currently at work on a memoir in poems as well as a short story collection inspired by her mother's beauty shop. She teaches scientific communication at NC State University and lives in Raleigh with her husband and three cats.