The Heartbreaker was first published in the Soundings Review in the Winter of 2015 issue.
I’m sitting in my chair, reading and watching the rain fall against the window. It’s a light rain. A soft rain combined with the unusual warmth of early spring throwing arcing rainbows across the sky. It’s the best kind of rain. It’s midday. My phone rings. I pick it up and look at the number. There’s no name, just a number. Somebody I don’t know. It’s an Idaho number. I went to college in Idaho. My curiosity is peaked. I hit the button to connect.
The voice on the other end is nervous sounding, male. The voice sounds surprised to hear mine.
“No, this is not Katie.”
“Is Katie there?”
“No. There’s no Katie here.”
“Are....are you sure?”
“Yes. I’ve had this number for close to seven years. I’m pretty sure.”
I can hear everything in his silence. I can hear the gears grinding in his head. I can hear the moment when realization floods across his brain. The sudden release of breath. The sudden change of nervous hope to disappointment and defeat.
The other end hangs up. I go back to my reading.
I’m driving to the hash. It’s a beautiful Saturday. The sun is shining and wind from my open window blows across my left arm laying on the door. It’s going to be a good day. I’m looking forward to the run. My phone rings. It’s an unknown number from Idaho.
“Hey Katie, its Matt.”
This one is cocky sounding. Like he owns the fucking world. I can picture him in my mind. Polo shirt with a popped collar. Baseball cap with a flat brim turned backwards on his head. Probably two fake diamond studs in his ears. More parody than person. This is probably unfair. College aged douchebags have probably changed how they dress since I completed my studies.
“Matt. We met at the Corner Club last night.”
I recognize the name of the bar. It’s one of the more popular hangouts for students at the University of Idaho. A squat pile of smoke filled cinder blocks selling thirty-two ounce tubs of beer for $2.25. Come to the club for a tub. Good memories.
“This isn’t Katie’s number.”
I hear a bit of the cocky edge recede from his voice. It makes me feel happy. There’s something in the guy’s voice that makes me glad he’s getting knocked down a notch.
“This isn’t Katie’s number.”
“This is the number she gave me.”
“Don’t know what to tell you.”
I can hear him breathing on the other end. Trying to figure out his next move. Trying to come to grips with the fact that a woman was just trying to get rid of him, the most amazing man in the world. I hang up the phone.
I’m making myself dinner at home. I’m having a T-bone steak and some mashed potatoes. The smell of cooking meat wafts through my apartment. My mouth waters in anticipation. The phone rings. It’s an unknown Washington number.
The voice on the other end sounds confused. It’s a tone I’m starting to get used to hearing.
“Is this Katie?”
It’s been a slow day. I’m bored. I affect a falsetto voice that would fool no one.
“Yes, yes this is Katie.”
“No dumb ass, you’ve been given a false number.”
The other side of the line disconnects. I hang up and put down my phone. I wish I hadn’t done the voice. It had to have been bad enough discovering that some girl lied to your face just to get rid of you. Getting fucked with by some asshole can’t be any help. I can see the poor schmuck in my head. I can see him overcoming his nervousness enough to talk to a girl. I can see him filled with pride and boasting to his friends about his acquisition of her digits. I can see him sitting on his couch holding his phone, nerving himself up to actually calling. I can see the uncertainty when he hears my voice. I can see the disappointment when the truth dawns on him. It all has to be bad enough without me being a jackass.
My phone rings. Yet another unknown number. I know what this call will entail even before I answer. It’s become a common occurrence. Nearly every weekend. Katie has been out on the town again. I know nothing about this woman, yet I have somehow become part of her life. Connected by a string of jilted men she has no interest in ever seeing again. It’s starting to get old. I wish Katie would spend more weekends staying home and studying.
The voice is nervous and confused. Just like all the others.
“Hello, is Katie there?”
“No, no Katie here. You have the wrong number.”
The phone goes dead. Less than a minute later it rings again.
It’s the same confused nervous voice, now tinged by realization and disappointment.
“This isn’t Katie’s number, is it?”
“No, sorry man.”
The phone goes dead. I put my phone down and stare at the wall in front of me. I feel bad for this one. It seems weird that this one bothers me. He’s just another distant voice in a long line of anonymous faces. Just another person I’ll never meet or know except for thirty seconds of their spirit getting dashed and their confidence crushed. In my head he’s just a normal guy. Not a bad guy. Certainly not the best looking or most charming, but still a guy with a lot to offer. In my head he’s me.
How many has it been now? Somewhere around at least fifteen. There’s been nervous ones and confident ones. There’s been douchey ones and drunk ones. There’s even been a foreign one or two. No matter how they start, they all end the same way. Could they all be worth so little? Are none of them even worth a little honesty? What did all these poor schmucks do to deserve having their emotions fucked with? It’s one thing to crash while you're still on the ground. It’s another to do it when you're flying high above the clouds. I feel like I'm the one who rejected the poor sap. I've done nothing, yet I feel like a jerk.
The phone rings. I hurriedly wipe my ass and pull my pants up. I’ve been expecting an important call. I’ve been playing phone tag all day. I can’t let this one get by. I’m not done wiping. I’m not even done with the precursor to wiping. It doesn’t matter. My pants go up and I waddle to my phone on the table in the kitchen. One more ring and it goes to voicemail. I open it just in time.
My voice sounds strained. The voice of a man who just beat his personal best in a triathlon.
“Hello. Is Katie there?”
I feel the muscles in my neck tighten. I feel the veins in my head begin to bulge. This has gone too far. This is too fucking ridiculous. How many fake numbers can one woman hand out? What is it about her that causes every jerk in town to line up and wait their turn to have their wings clipped? What kind of magic spell does she weave? Why must I be a part of her assembly line of shattered hopes and broken hearts? Something in me snaps. I can’t take it anymore. My voice booms with thunder, full of wrath brought down from the heavens themselves.
“No, Katie is not here. Katie has never been here. This isn’t Katie’s number. Katie gave you a fake number because she just wanted to get rid of you. I’m sorry. It sucks. If you do see her cunt ass again would you mind telling her to get the fucking balls to reject somebody to their face, or at the very least, use someone else’s phone number.”
The phone goes dead on the other end. I waddle back to the bathroom.