Saturday. Chore day. And, I was really looking forward to stretching out this weekend on my new custom-designed couch that was delivered a few days ago, watch pay-per-view movies, and eat popcorn until cornstalks grew out of my ears.
The movies would have to wait. This weekend’s list included laundry, grocery shopping (unless I wanted to eat that popcorn for the next week), cleaning the bathrooms…thank the Lord I live alone in a small garden home.
I gathered the linens from my bed and walked past my new couch when I heard what sounded like my cell phone ringing.
“Great,” I thought. “What crisis could be at 7 a.m. on a Saturday?” Being in public relations, that was a stupid question.
I dropped the linens on the floor, grabbed my purse from the antique stand in the hall, and fished out my cell. It wasn’t ringing, and there were no missed calls or messages.
Something had been ringing. I wasn’t that tired. Then, I heard it again. It was coming from my new couch.
I ran my hands around the cushions until I pulled out a small, black phone, similar to the ones on kiosks in gas stations.
How long had that been in my couch? Did one of the delivery guys drop it? Wouldn’t someone have missed it by now?
I sat on the couch and opened the phone to see if any numbers were stored in the memory like “Home” or “Work.” Maybe I could get it back to its rightful owner…then it rang again. This time, I answered.
“I KNEW it!” A woman’s voice screamed through the phone’s tiny receiver. “You bitch! Who the hell are you? Do you know that you’re sleeping with MY husband? Dammit!”
“Oh, shut the hell up! You’re busted! This number was in his phone over and over. He’s been calling you, hasn’t he? What? Did you dump him?”
“Don’t ‘ma’am’ me! You don’t even KNOW me! But, you know my husband pretty well!”
“Okay, stop.” But, she didn’t stop. She continued spewing grief and anger until she was hoarse. When she finally took a breath, I interrupted her. “I found this phone in the cushions of my new couch that was delivered this week. Does your husband work for Custom Creations down by the docks? That’s where I bought my couch.”
I could hear her long, deep, laborious breaths. “Yeah, he does. We had a fight. We fight a lot lately. He left last night. I found his cell in the pocket of his work pants. This number was in it a dozen times. I thought…I thought he was with you. What’s your name?”
“Caroline. What’s yours?” My heart was breaking.
“Olivia,” she said as her voice trailed off to just above a whisper. “He’s cheatin’ on me. Can’t prove it.”
Something was wrong. Her words slurred until they were only jumbled remnants of letters mashed together with sounds.
“Olivia? Olivia! What’d you do? Did you TAKE something? C’mon! Help me out here…”
Nothing. I grabbed my phone and dialed 9-1-1. When the operator answered, I was still trying to get Olivia to talk to me. It was useless, and I knew it. I knew nothing about this woman.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
“My name is Caroline Benson. I have a woman who called on a cell phone, and I think she’s a suicide. I can still hear her breathing, but she’s not talking now. All I have is her name…Olivia. I don’t know where she lives…Olivia? Olivia! Where do you live?”
“Is she answering you?”
“Olivia? Olivia, talk to me.” No answer.
“Ms. Benson? Is she answering?
“No. The line’s still open, but I can’t hear her now. The phone she called on is a disposable phone, like from a gas station. I don’t know what to do.” I gave the operator my address and was told an officer would be by to pick up the phone.
I was the last voice Olivia heard before she took her last breath. Did I make a difference for her? Did yelling at me make it easier for her in those last moments?
When the doorbell rang, I opened it expecting to see a police officer standing on my porch. Instead, I saw a cheerful young man dressed in dark blue coveralls.
“Hey, Ms. Benton! I delivered your couch the other day. I think I dropped my phone. Have you seen it?”