The tinkling sound of the bell startles me. In an instant I both think it is and know it isn’t the ringing of my phone. I settle on the idea that it is an email notification on my iPad… when I hear it again. Several messages? No. It is repeating at a regular interval. I’ve heard it before. Maybe the girls’ iPhones make that sound. But the girls aren’t here.
I retrieve my iPad from the case, the tinkling sound still repeatedly jingling from within. I remove the keyboard, magnetically connected, and as I turn the shiny flat screen to my face, I see my own reflection, mirroring my chin and neck from an unflattering angle.
FaceTime. Just as I recognize it, I also slide the green arrow to allow the call. I tilt the screen, hoping to capture a more acceptable image. The call is connecting.
The first time I received a FaceTime alert, my iPad was connected to a shared school account and random people were trying to connect with all of us. I didn’t accept.
With a little help, I had learned to sign into my own account and actually engage in a conversation with Sami. This was many months ago. We see each other often enough that the distorted (I hope) image is not necessary for our communication.
And so I had forgotten the sound of the FaceTime alert.
I have accepted without even know who is calling me. Quickly, I press END and the call is dropped.
The number that shows in the dropped call is familiar, but not one I know. The area code and exchange are the same as the numbers we all had when we first got cell phones. How long ago was that? So much has changed since that Christmas…
As I scroll through my brain for the owner of that number, the jingle begins again. The same number. Maybe it’s not a mistake. But who could it be?
I decide to answer. First, I turn the screen away from my face. No one needs to see this. Hair pulled up and wet from the pool, bathing suit straps showing above a skirt pulled up over the top as if a dress. And the image is so close! It’s like watching high-definition TV. Ugh.
I try to peek over the side of the screen without letting the caller see me.
“Who’s this?” I ask, covering the sound of the incoming words with my own and making them unintelligible.
“Hey, Mom,” comes a deep male voice.
I peek over the screen. I see the image of a boy/man face. I’m confused.
Billy is upstairs. I just saw him go into the bathroom. And he doesn’t have an iPhone or an iPad.
I try to speak again, ask who is calling, but he speaks at the same time again, garbling my words and his.
What happens next is in an instant. There is not enough time to even really think what I’m about to tell you. But I do.
I travel through a series of thoughts – of things that cannot be.
I’m Mom. The call is for me. It isn’t Billy. It’s him. How is he calling me? Where is he? Is this his old phone number? A friend’s? Is he with someone? Finally, he is contacting me. He is alive. Or? Is this an old recording? Is he calling from beyond?
And then I hear, “it’s Will.”
It doesn’t register as he says it. This boy who should be mine.
He hears me ask again, “Who is this?” I guess it registers with him.
The call is dropped.
I am left looking at a blank black screen. Left allowing the thoughts that had traveled across the outskirts of my mind to take form.
I don’t know how I could have even imagined that. I think again of Dennise and how she told me to go see his body. To confirm it was his, not for the authorities but for me. Would that have changed anything? Kept me from experiencing these moments that send me to hope?
When he was alive, the ringing of my phone almost always signaled trouble. I kept in on vibrate to keep from hearing the sound that jump-started my heart, sickened my stomach with worry.
This jingling signaled something else. Hope. But only for an instant.