“I just miss him so much.” Kim sobbed.
Anna stifled a yawn and tried to focus on her call. She had been listening to Kim drone on about how much her life sucked for the past twenty minutes. For about the one hundredth time she thought about all the reasons that made her life and job suck.
At the Crisis Center no-one asks for last names, no-one prescribes Prozac, and no-one is supposed to get emotionally involved. However Anna was getting emotionally involved, if you could count being severely irritated as getting emotionally involved.
She could hardly imagine having your cat die two days after you got it, as a reason to be depressed as this caller was claiming and to have suicidal thoughts to boot! (Not that Kim had said anything about having suicidal thoughts.)
Anna didn't even know how a person could go on about how much life sucked since the cat had drowned in a pond while trying to catch an oversized gold fish.
I mean, come on. How stupid can one cat be?
Obviously Kim had chosen a cat who thought he was an underwater predator.
“I'm truly sorry for your loss and while I understand how sad you are for losing a valued member of your family, you must ask yourself, ‘Is this what Mr. Twinkles would want you to do?’ Would he really want you to wallow in grief, or would he want you to live life to the fullest, and celebrate all the good times you had with him in the brief time you were together?” Anna asked.
Anna was trying not to sound as mono-toned as she felt, which was pretty hard to do considering she had read the script for grief enough times that she could say it in her sleep. In fact, she knew the script so well that she could alter it to fit any grief situation the caller was experiencing. And she didn't just know the grief script, she also knew every script ever made for any situation that could arise when someone called the hotline.
“He wasn't my cat.” Kim confessed in a shaky voice.
If Anna had to guess, she would say Kim was probably in her late eighties; if she had kids then they were too self-absorbed to spend time with her. Kim's husband, if she even had one, had most likely passed away or maybe left her. And she probably had some health issues that prevented her from joining any type of activity that would have offered her the human contact she obviously lacked, other that maybe a young-and-fit mailman that made her wish she was young again.
Out of the two of them, Anna was one hundred percent sure her life sucked more than Kim’s. She probably should have been the one calling the Crisis Hotline instead of being the one taking calls from the suicidal and depressed.
Anna really didn't know what she was thinking when she took this job.
Anna knew what she had been thinking. She had been thinking about her first serious boyfriend ever! He had left her for some hot babe and taken all of her money leaving her with a ton of bills. She had also been thinking about, when less than two weeks after the boyfriend left, she had been fired from a dang good paying job and her having next to no education under her belt. It didn't help that the other four jobs Anna had managed to get before the Crisis Center had all fired her within days of hiring her. But so far, she had managed to keep this one for about a month.
Talk about a new record! “
So...Mr. Twinkles wasn't your cat...” Anna asked pausing while she tried to think of something else to say.
What she really wanted was to bang her head off her desk. It was going to be a long night and she hadn't been clocked in for very long- maybe an hour or two- and already she had gotten over a dozen calls all from seriously depressed people.
Apparently when the sun goes down people get really depressed and suicidal, she thought.
“Who is Mr. Twinkles?” Kim, the caller, asked in confusion.
“Umm...the cat that's not your cat...but...you had for two days?” Anna replied while she tripped up over her words.
Why did Anna always have to get the weird calls? It was like she was a magnate for all things weird and mortifying. Seriously, just the other day she was sitting in her cubicle while the really hot, new mail guy passed by. He had given her a flirty smile making her so nervous that she spilled her caramel iced coffee all over her jeans, making it appear as if she had peed down her leg.
“What cat?” Kim again asked. “Isn't this Happy Go Lucky Pizza Parlor?”
Anna shook her head to clear her thoughts before she replied, “No, this is the Crisis Hotline.”
“Oh...wrong number.” Kim said before she hung up.
Seriously? Was Anna so bad off that she had just wasted twenty minutes of her life listening to some old bat whine about a dying cat, that wasn’t even hers? And if that wasn't bad enough, the old bat had to have old-timers too! Anna groaned out loud. It was official, her life definitely sucked.
Twelve grueling hours later, Anna's shift was over and she couldn't be happier to go home to her tiny and very messy apartment. She didn't bother saying any farewells to her co-workers and they didn’t bother to give her any kind of recognition either as she walked past them and out the door.
When Anna had first started at the Crisis Center her co-workers had tried to be friendly. They had even tried to get her to go out with them and had succeeded once.
A few of them had talked her into meeting up at a bar a few days after she had started working with them. At first Anna had been rather excited but then, as the night wore on, she got worried about her consent to go with them. Needless to say when it had come time for her shift to end, she was a bundle of nerves.
After her shift, Anna had driven halfway to the bar and then had turned around, three times before she had given herself a mental kick in the butt. The truth was, Anna had gotten to the bar and with one foot in the door, noticed all the other people there. This caused her to throw up, right in the doorway. Anna had been so embarrassed that she ran from the bar, jumped into her car, and sped away. She was lucky that night to have made it home all in one piece and without a speeding ticket.
She had learned a harsh lesson that day, she wasn't cut out to be around people. She could blame her lack of social skills on her foster parents but the simple truth was Anna didn't have anyone to blame but herself. Sure they had done all they could to tear down her self-confidence and succeeded. But it was her own fault for continuing to give them that power when every time someone would try to take an interest in her, she would shy away. To her, it surely meant that she was allowing her foster parent's ugly words to control her life. She was sure some people would say that she just loved to live in her own misery. Screw those people. They didn’t know her and they definitely didn't know the tragedies she had had in her life.
“Shit...” Anna hissed.
She had just made it to her car and found the driver’s side window was now broken. As if driving a beat up Geo didn't suck enough! And apparently someone had wanted her stereo, her loose change, and...Wait a minute!
Oh, my gosh! They even took my cherry pink lip gloss! Who does that!?
Anna was going to cry. Why did they have to take her lip gloss? It was stupid, she knew, but the lip gloss meant more to her than anything else in the car. She wasn't even upset that she would have to put off paying her rent (yet again) in order to pay for the car damages, since she really hadn't been able to make enough money to afford car insurance. No, what upset her was that the lip gloss in question was the same lip gloss that her ex had given her before he had left her. He had given it to her on their anniversary and while he left her merely days afterward, she hadn't been able to part with the lip gloss.
It was insane, but having that lip gloss close to her somehow made her feel close to him as well. And she needed that! Now that it was gone, it made their break-up so final.
Anna was sure she must be a genuine mental case, since they had broken up over eight months ago. She should be over it, right? But she was still hoping they would get back together and it might just happen if he knew she had kept that lip gloss. Now she had no hope. Maybe there never was a good reason to hope, but just letting herself think there was one had made her feel happier than whatever it was she is feeling right this minute.
The whole drive home was very uncomfortable, for obvious reasons. One being that spring was not a particularly warm season, especially during the morning time. And two, it's really hard to see where you are going when you're bawling your eyes out. Anna told herself that only reason she was crying was because of the cool air rushing in through her broken window. But deep down, she knew the truth to why she was crying.
Her morning proceeded to get worse when she arrived at her apartment (which was located in a really bad neighborhood), and she found that the door had been busted in. Any normal person would have called the cops from their care and stayed as far from the apartment as possible. But Anna wasn't normal. Anyway, she knew that whoever had broken into her apartment was long gone. She also knew, before she even entered the apartment, that her TV and other valuables would be gone as well.
So Anna wasn't too depressed when she went into the apartment and found her TV and other valuables missing. Sure she could have called the cops and reported the stuff stolen but honestly it wouldn't have made the slightest difference. The cops had much more important cases that would make her pitiful break-in look so small.
Anna heaved a great sigh and shut the door. Even though she couldn’t lock the door, she wasn't fazed by it. Yes, someone could come into her apartment right now and point a gun at her head, but she would likely beg them to pull the trigger. She was past caring whether she lived or died. Her life sucked and she was tired of it. At this point death might be a relief. Knowing her luck, she thought, she would end up downstairs. People whose lives sucked just didn't get into heaven.
Anna leaned against the door and tried not to notice the state of her home. Her clothes had been strewn across her tiny efficiency apartment. The floors which she had just polished a few days ago were now scratched up from where the culprit had pushed her furniture around. Whoever had raided her apartment had also raided her fridge and pulled all the food out, decorating her white walls in elaborate ketchup and mustard designs. And…. they had decided to leave her a gift in the toilet.
All Anna really wanted to do was go to bed. The food, the mess, it could all wait. If she could just get some sleep then somehow everything else would be fine.
Anna kept fairly calm until she had gotten to her bedroom, then she lost it. She screamed at the top of her lungs, not caring if she woke the neighbors. She was too angry to care.
The thieves weren’t happy just stealing her only source of entertainment, and her valuables; they had to steal her blankets, pillow and sheets as well. Anna didn't have any spares and knew she was not going to be able to sleep well at all now.
When finally in bed, Anna tossed and turned for hours. She had thought she might get a couple hours of sleep but that was not to be; so, when Anna walked into work her next shift, she looked like crap. However, she really had no clue the extent of how bad she looked since the stupid thieves had stolen her full-length mirror. But, she didn't need a mirror to know what her fellow co-workers saw: a scrawny girl with long frizzy hair, dark shadows under blue eyes, and the same khaki’s and pink shirt she wore the day before.
Anna ignored the whispers that began to circulate around her as she turned on her computer, placed the headphones on her head, and pressed the green button on her phone that would allow the callers to connect to her.
In just seconds, Anna got a beep in her ear.
“This call is monitored and recorded for your protection. “Thank you for calling the Crisis Center Hotline. This is Anna. May I ask who is calling?” A bored Anna said.
She had suddenly found her short nails interesting.
“D-Donna...My name is Donna Jackson,” the woman stuttered.
Donna's frightened tone caught Anna's attention, and she looked up from her nails.
“What's going on today, Donna?” Anna asked.
Anna's question were the same question she had to ask every time someone called the hotline, but the way she asked it this time was less bored and more interested.
Donna Jackson had Anna's full attention.
“I can't do this anymore. I've nothing to live for...” Donna sadly said.
Anna could hear Donna crying, who was hiding it well but not well enough.
Anna had received many calls like her current one before. In her experience people who were going to commit suicide never called the hotline because they didn't want to be talked out of it and they didn't want help. At some point before they commit suicide, they more than likely had tried to reach out to a close friend or relative. But after having been ignored for so long, they would take their grief to the next level. However this was not always the case.
“Do you have any friends or family you can talk to?” Anna asked.
Donna made a noise of disgust before she answered no to Anna.
“Close friend, spouse, anyone at all?” Anna pressed.
“No,” Donna said with a hint of annoyance.
This woman was not making Anna's job any easier. Usually at this point the caller would say they had someone who they could talk to, and then Anna would tell them, “See you are not alone.” She would then remind them that having someone who cared about them meant they had someone who would be devastated if they died. Anna would convince them that they needed to talk to the person they was closest to and then seek a professional for further help.
The hotline wasn't meant to substitute for professional guidance. Anna knew she was hired onto the Crisis Hotline to talk the caller through the crisis without incident, and to make them feel like they were not alone. Anna had quickly realized that this particular caller required Anna to use the utmost care and she would have to watch what she said because, if she said one thing wrong, it could go badly for both of them.
“I see. But you are not alone Donna. I am here and I want to help you.” Anna spoke carefully.
Donna sighed on the other end of the phone and Anna could hear her erratic breathing. It also sounded like Donna was either putting silverware away, or going through her silverware drawer.
Donna's lack of conversation was making Anna nervous.
“Donna? Are you still with me?” Anna asked.
“I am.” Donna replied.
The noise had stopped.
“Let me help you, Donna. I want to help you, but I can't unless you talk to me,” Anna said calmly.
“You are helping me,” Donna told Anna.
Donna’s voice sounded cold and distant and Anna felt her own blood run cold with a fear that surprised her. Her heart began to race and she became aware of every sound on the other end of the line.
She heard the faint sound of a clock ticking, and the rustle of clothing as Donna obviously was pacing. Donna had a radio on somewhere in her house (a depressing county song was playing), and Anna thought she could hear water running.
“I could help you even more if you told me what was going on,” Anna said in a small voice.
Anna was trying hard not to let the worry show in her voice. During her training they had taught her to keep her emotions under wrap, they had also taught her not to express or show any negative emotions, because there could be the possibility the caller would pick up on them and go right over the edge.
The running water ceased. Anna could still hear the drip of the faucet and it also sounded like Donna was getting into a tub. A bathtub, she guessed.
Now, Anna became worried and confused. It didn't make sense to her that someone would take a bath while talking about their problems and feelings on a hotline.
“You don't need to talk. Just having you on the phone with me is more help than you can know.” Donna said.
Her cryptic message was bothering Anna and she was getting somewhat frustrated. This call was out of her comfort zone.
“How? How can neither of us talking be of any help?” Anna asked bewildered.
Anna knew she was getting cross with Donna and if her boss in his office listening in on the conversation, then Anna was one hundred percent sure she would get her butt ripped later for it.
Donna sucked in a breath. Anna had assumed it was because Donna had noticed her impatience, but she was wrong.
Donna's next words would haunt Anna for the rest of her life.
“I didn't want to die alone.” Donna said with no emotion.
Her voice was weak and she sounded tired and weary.
Anna's brain was having difficulty processing what Donna had just said. Her mouth opened and closed, she was trying to draw air into her lungs but it felt like she had been sucker-pinched in the gut. She started blankly at her screen as if it would hold the key to the words she desperately needed to say to Donna. She had to say something and fast, so she ended up saying the first thing that had popped into her mind.
“D-Donna you don't have to do this. I'm here. Listen to my voice and we can get through this.” Anna’s voice was shaking, betraying her desperation.
“It's already done...Anna,” Donna whispered.
Where was Anna's boss? He should have been here coaching her.
Anna's chair scrapped across the floor as she jumped to her feet. Her head twisted in every direction. She was surprised that her headset was still sitting on her head. She couldn't hear Donna breathing anymore. She couldn't hear anything on Donna’s end except the steady drip of droplets of water.
Drip. Drip. Drip.