Séan Padraic Birnie – Okay, Bye.

image_print

1.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Duncan, I’m here. Answer your phone. Pick up your phone. Hello?

Duncan! I am here. Hold on a second, I need to put in another twenty pence.

Duncan. Hello. My God, this is expensive. Why aren’t you answering your phone?

I’ll hang up and call you back and maybe you’ll hear it this time, and I’ll say I think some crazy lady’s left daft messages on your answering machine, you better delete them, don’t want to talk to her.

Okay, I’m calling you back.

[private]Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Well hello. Somehow I knew you wouldn’t answer. This is ridiculous. Why weren’t you at the airport?

I hope nothing’s happened. Has something happened? I wish there was someone I could call.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Christ, I’m running out of pennies now. Anyway, Duncan, if you get this, I’m here, I’m waiting. I got the bus into town. My battery’s dead so I had to find a phone box, it was like trying to find a decent quill in a stationers after the invention of the biro. Or something.
This is making me feel obsolete.

Hel-oh-oh?

For fuck’s sake.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Again! I don’t know what I could do.

Maybe I’ll just walk around. Took me an hour and a half just to find this phone box so I won’t go far. I have a little money and I’ll buy a coffee or something, there must be somewhere near here. Funny people roundabout. I’m trying to think of what we should do. My battery’s dead so if you get these messages I don’t know how you’ll find me. I need to work out where I am. That’s the first thing, I think. I’ll find out where I am and describe it to you and you can come and find me.

Then we can get to know each other all over again.

I really hope nothing’s happened.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Oh for God’s sake, again! This is clearing me out. Right. Be concise. Duncan, this is what I’ll do. I’m going to go and find a coffee somewhere now – anywhere but Starbucks, I’m about ready to crash – and I’ll work out where I am and in one hour exactly – so at 21.03 precisely – I will call you again. You better answer your phone. Well, I hope you’ll answer your phone. I hope nothing’s happened.

Okay, bye.

2.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Part of me didn’t think you would answer. I’m sure my mother will be greatly amused. She’ll say ‘I told you so.’

Duncan, I’m so tired. The flight was appalling. Midway through it I nearly burst into tears, and for what? There was no reason. I couldn’t understand it.
I suppose I was just happy. Everything made sense.

Duncan, answer the phone.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

You know after the coffee it took me like half an hour maybe forty minutes to find this phone box again. It must be the only one in the whole city. But it’s absurd, I only went for a walk, I wasn’t five minutes anyway, I’m certain of that. I must have been five minutes away but it must of been a half hour or more it took me to find it again. I’m surprised they’ve not cut it off. And there’s only one prostitute’s card. Asian Ladies. I suppose if I’m feeling particularly lonely…

I wonder how they advertise these days.

Duncan, there’s a number here, I’m going to read it ou –

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

I’ll start again. Duncan, there’s a number here, I’m going to read it out and if you get this write it down and then call me back. The number is ______ and that’s the number for this phone box. Oh, and it’s on ___ Road. At the moment I am on ___ Road, but I’ll stay around here. If you call back, I’ll probably hear – I won’t go far. And there’s a homeless man here – Duncan, I swear to God, he’s wearing a pin-striped suit. A proper natty pinstriped suit, he looks amazing. I’ll ask him to listen out for me. He’s already smiled at me twice. And I can always 1471 it if I need to.

I’m so tired. I miss you. How funny is that? I miss you so –

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

I need to get some change, this has emptied my pockets. If you ever answer the phone the drinks are on you, I’m skint. And I’m so tired as well. Maybe I need a drink. I’ll be back in half an hour. I’ll call you at a quarter to ten, okay? I’ll get a drink, something with a kick in it like vodka maybe, and some change, and I’ll call you at a quarter to ten.

Ha – there’s a man walking around. He looks like a crow. He’s sniffing around. There are some strange people here in this city. But whatever. I’ll call you at a quarter to ten.

Okay, bye.

3.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Hello, Duncan.

How are you?

For a moment I thought I was a genius or an idiot, I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, that I could email you. But of course you don’t do any of that any more. And social networking, all of that stuff, you deleted your accounts. You deleted your email account. You deleted your website. You said you were sick of it all, you said ‘Come and see me, I want to see you in person’ and here I am in person, alone. I’m alone. We’re in the same city now, only now you’re even further away. I felt so close to you before.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Your voice is beginning to sicken me.

Would you just answer your fucking phone?

4.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

I don’t know what’s going on. I need a map to this city, I can’t get my head around it. I lost the phone box again. Then I saw the old man in the pinstriped suit. He must have been able to see I was lost and sort of gestured ‘This way,’ and so I followed him. I’m so tired, Duncan. I can feel my brain disassembling.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

I love you. Do you know that? It was one of the things I was wanting to say. I love you. But if you don’t answer your phone soon I’m going to get the bus back to the airport and fly back to Belfast. And I’ll never speak to you again.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Okay, I take that back.

The not-speaking-to-you-bit. Not the I-love-you bit.

I love you, but I loathe your voice already.

There’s a boy –

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Hello. I got lost again. The old tramp was watching me, I could feel his eyes on my back. He’s a strange old man. I’ve never seen anyone look so at home in the world. I started to think maybe I was wrong, maybe he wasn’t homeless, so I asked him ‘Where are you from?’ and he gestured around at the square. This is his home.

Then I wandered off. Maybe I’ll find somewhere to stay the night and ring you in the morning.

It’s almost midnight.

I love you.

5.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Okay well I haven’t gone anywhere and not for want of trying. I need some kind of a map, but my phone’s broken and the shops are shut. I have a little change so I could maybe take a taxi somewhere but I can’t remember the name of where you live. Why does my memory have to let me down? Everything is going so inexplicably wrong. Everything is letting me down.

I had such high hopes.

It’s funny, I’ve been in this square for five hours now, it’s a lifetime. A lifetime could have passed. I’ve been here for a lifetime now and at first I thought it was only the old man in the suit who lived here. But there are others.

There’s the boy. I’ve seen him running around. Whenever he’s near me he’s running around but sometimes when he’s in the distance I see him walking, and he’s crying; he’s always crying. He looks like he’s lost his mother in the supermarket. He careers from aisle to aisle but he can’t find her, she’s gone. He has black hair. Blue eyes. He’s a very beautiful child.

There’s the man who looks like a crow. He looks hungry; he’s emaciated. He looks ravenous and possibly insane. It’s a happy family.

Duncan, will you answer the phone?

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

You won’t answer the phone. Pubs are shut. It’s getting cold. Maybe I’ll sleep in the phone box. I’ve got clothes in my bag and I could bed down here. I’ll dig my bed here.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea. There’s nowhere else. I tried to look for a place to stay but I only got lost. The streets snake and twist until I’ve lost my bearings. I can’t grip it, I can’t get a hold of it. It’s like the city’s made of light. The old man in the suit found me again.
‘This is our house,’ he said. It was the first thing he said. He was holding a violin case. I hadn’t seen it before. He started tuning the instrument on the bench in the square.

Maybe I’ll sleep in the phone box. Except for that family, the square is empty now. But the lights are so bright. And it’s quiet.

I didn’t know that cities could be so quiet.

6.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

When I awoke the boy was crying on the other side of the glass. I could have wet myself. His face was against the window and his hand too and he was crying. I thought he’d gone – I thought maybe he’d been found. I opened the door.

When he came in, he hugged me. Instantly. He held me so tightly. He cried against my breast. He held my throat – he had such icy hands.
He said, “Mother. Mother,” in the strangest voice. He might have been in another room from the sound of his voice. He sounded down the hallway. From the sound of his voice.
“Mother.”

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

My God, the city is quiet.

It is three in the morning. I slept for a while at least.

The man who looks like a crow – oh god, this is disgusting. I forgot to say. He was snooping around, I realised he was looking for food.
Well an hour ago maybe a pizza delivery whined past on a motorbike. There was a pigeon in the road and the bike just hit it, you could hear the sound, a squawk, a crunch, skidding tires, the splutter of the insides squished out. I watched it flutter to a still in the mess on the tarmac. The poor thing. The crow noticed too. He darted over.

He darted over and he picked up the bird, and when he picked up the bird he looked so happy. What’s the word?
‘Carrion.’

That’s it. He looked so happy, and then he started eating its eyes.

Vile.

The old man’s tuning his violin again.

He asked me my name.

Annie, I said. I don’t know why I lied like that.

Duncan, could you answer your phone? Would you just answer your phone?

I’m so tired. And I don’t know where I am.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Duncan?

I love you. I love –

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Duncan?

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Hi this is Duncan I’m not by my phone at the moment or maybe I’m busy, anyway leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Okay, bye.[/private]

Seán Padraic BirnieSeán Padraic Birnie is a writer and photographer from Brighton. He blogs under a pseudonym stolen from Graham Greene at fredhale.tumblr.com; his photographs can be seen at Flickr.

Leave a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *