The Phone Booth
As soon as he walked in the phone booth, he felt a peculiar tension. Something was amiss; he felt wrong. But he couldn't figure out what.
A sudden question popped into his mind: Why had he entered the phone booth? But it faded away from his mind as quickly as it had manifested. Instead, his thoughts turned to the rain outside.
He brushed the water droplets off his coat and his hair. He absolutely hated being caught in the rain. He cursed himself silently for failing to take the weather report that morning seriously. The news report had warned of a downpour in the evening. He should have brought his umbrella with him. Oh well, he thought, the rain would probably subside in a while. Until then, he could wait inside the phone booth.
He suddenly felt as if he was being watched. He couldn't shake off the feeling that there was a small camera, hidden somewhere in the booth, staring at him and scrutinizing his every move.
He shook his head.
He was being overly paranoid. Why would anyone spy on a simple man like him? He was a thirty-three year old man with a bachelor's degree in economics. He worked as a clerk in a private firm that dealt with real estate, earning slightly more than the minimum wage.
He had nothing to hide. He lived alone in a small apartment at the edge of the city and lead a rather boring life, working from eight in the morning to six in the evening. He spent his nights watching television shows on his computer and his weekends drinking with his colleagues at the local pub.
It was not the life he wanted but that was what he had. Of course, like so many other people, he had had dreams when young. He had always wanted to be a writer. His father had, however, pressured him into studying economics because it had more job prospects and the reassurance of a steady life in the future. He had gotten a job and was doing fairly well and he was thankful to his dad for that. But there was no denying his life was empty and monotonous.
Anyone stupid enough to be spying on him would simply be wasting their time.
He shook his head again. Yes, he was definitely being paranoid.
He looked at his watch. It was almost seven. How long had he been inside the booth? It was still raining outside the booth, the constant pattering sound of the rain on the asphalt soothing the tired man. Even at home, before sleeping, he would play the sound of rain on his computer at a low volume. It calmed him, relaxed his mind.
Why had he entered the phone booth again?
Something in his coat pocket beeped.
It was his mobile phone. It's battery was dying. He had to get home soon and recharge it. Of course, that's why he was in the phone booth. He had to call someone. His wife, who must be worried sick at home.
He fished his pants for some change. Picking up the receiver, he inserted the coins he found in his pocket into the slots at the side and dialled the number.
"Sorry, the number you've dialled is out of service."
He put the receiver back down. He remembered he had forgotten to pay his telephone bills.
His mobile beeped again.
It was a message from home by his daughter.
'Dad, where are you? Mum is worried sick. Also, Joey's dog has destroyed our yard completely - again. This time, I'm going to report it to the animal control. By the way, uncle Paul called. He's coming over to visit tomorrow.
P.S. Please bring home some cake.'
He cussed. That dog - he hated that dog. Every week, the dog would jump over their fence and dig in their yard, destroy flower pots and poop everywhere. He'd talked to his neighbour many times to no avail. Well, no more. He'd chew Joey out today.
He looked outside the booth through the hazy glass. The rain had finally simmered down to a drizzle. He felt the bulge of the small umbrella in his pocket. He had no use for it now.
The telephone in the booth rang. Without a second thought, he picked up the receiver.
"Hello?" he answered.
"Hello? This is me, Ronald."
"Oh, hey boss. How are you?"
"I'm fine. Just called to remind you that you better not be late."
"Oh, I'll be there by eight. Don't worry about it. I told Cathleen, she's excited to meet you and your wife."
"Well I'm sure our wives will get along fairly well. My wife has been cooking since this afternoon. You're not leaving my house until you've tasted all of it."
He chuckled. "I haven't eaten anything since morning because you invited me over to dinner tonight."
"Ah, that's good. What about your daughter though?"
"She's invited some friends over for a sleepover so she'll be fine at home."
"Okay then. Also, don't forget to bring along that draft of yours. I'm sure this one be a best-seller as well."
"Will do boss."
"Okay then. See you in a hour. Bye."
"Bye boss." He hung up the phone.
He grabbed the box of cake off the ground, took a deep breath and stepped outside the phone booth.
The rain had stopped and the sky had cleared, the cloud having being blown away by a westerly wind. Petrichor was emanating from the grass on the sidewalk. And even though it was past seven, the sun was still shining albeit low on the horizon. It's warm light gave the wet and glistening asphalt a yellow look, as if it had been painted gold.
He smiled. He felt happy. He had a lovely wife and a lovely daughter. He was doing fairly well as a writer, having four best-sellers to his name. His boss was a wonderful man too. Not everyone had a lenient and easy-going boss like he did.
He started walking away, one hand inside his pocket coat and another clutching the bag that held the box of cake. A part of his coat with the umbrella in it swung as he walked, occasionally hitting his hip. He didn't care though. His mind was preoccupied with getting home after a long day of finishing his first draft at the library.
He wanted to get home to his wife and daughter. His daughter would love the cake. And then there was the dinner that night with his boss. His life couldn't be more perfect.
He paused and turned around.
Something was amiss. He scanned the empty ground before him; the sidewalk was wet with rain as before and the road stretched thin as far as he could see. Buildings on either side towered above him.
Everything was as it was. Yet, he felt as if something that should be there had gone missing.
He stared for a while before simply shrugging and walking away.