The first is red with a slightly brushed metallic finish, a Nokia you think, but it could have been a Motorola for all you know since you never asked for the damn thing anyway.
In retrospect, your discomfort is laughable. These days a phone is a computer, a research assistant who never asks for a coffee break, a surveillance device, a GPS for God’s sake, not to mention a socially sanctioned way to shut out the world or wreak havoc upon it.
All hail the exchange of apps for maps, and the pretense of shrinking distance.
Then there’s a blue phone and then a silver one and eventually the Sony Ericsson with its sleek design and dynamite image resolution for the time. It sees you through conference calls and photo credits, setting up blind dates of course, though that’s skipping ahead two, maybe three of them, and twice as many years later.
But the Nokia was the first, tucked in a pocket, dropped into the bottom of a purse, balanced on the stack of poetry books by the bed and then in the bed after 9/11 crushes everything that feels like a reliable structure. It’s the red phone that doesn’t bring the voice you hope to hear, but it offers kindness through the villainous silence; it’s the red phone you reach for after the baby dies; it’s the red phone you hold and you don’t know why as they’re sifting through rubble and he’s still not home, and then he is and then he’s gone again, and they’re still sifting through rubble.
It’s the red phone that sits on the passenger seat as I-20 becomes an act of bravery, the highway taking you away from your motherhood, taking you closer to couplets, enabling the simplest act of excavation as the miles unfold into the clearest, bluest sky you can remember in years – that, during the days after, after he finally calls and after you register his disdain when he says “of course I’m alive, what’s the matter with you?”
You press your foot to the accelerator and cruise at 60. Your eyes dart between the side mirrors and the rear view. You breathe more evenly now, relaxing your shoulders and your neck, taking in the lavender blur of wildflowers in the median, pleasure in pronouncing Al-a-ba-ma into the empty autumn air with the windows rolled down, pulling off for gas and filling the tank yourself, checking with the kids on the red phone and smiling as they say they’re “having a blast” with the sitter, humming a little, back on the road as night swallows the lanes and you make your way through its inky reserves to a white clapboard B&B somewhere in Mississippi.
You wake in a big bed with a nubby mustard comforter, to a buffet of scrambled eggs and bacon and grits that you can smell before you ever see any of it, to small landscapes in ornate gilt frames on your walls and in the dining area with a large bay, returning to your room for a soak in a claw-foot tub with Mary Oliver in your hands and the Nokia at your side; at least you think it was a Nokia but what you realize now though you didn’t then is that it’s a tether, a leash, a shiny umbilical.
You could swear you witnessed four men on the top of a building unfurling a gigantic swathe of Stars and Stripes. That was around midnight.
Maybe you were drugged. Maybe you were dreaming.
You call home again and everyone is fine so you soak and you sleep and you cry, you read aloud and hear the elemental music in Poppies and Flares and Loss so you sleep and you cry, and 48 hours later you settle into the driver’s seat headed back to the red brick house with its red chair where the marriage bled out and the baby bled out, red like the phone, red like the Mardi Gras beads that tell a different story, red like the cotton-covered boxes containing keys and DVDs and Polaroids and four forgotten dead cells.
Flash fiction is a very short story of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 words. This is a quick writing exercise, a flash in fifty, using a common object and colors as starting point.