2024 Melinda Wyers
Welcome to Y2KQ!

It's 2006

Megan Hanlon

It's 2006 and you're living alone in a Dallas apartment the size of a coffin. Another suffocating August weekend, sticky and close.

The phone shatters the silence at exactly 1:25 a.m. It's not your cell. It's your home phone, a number which few people know and even fewer use. From somewhere inside your restless almost-sleep, you wonder what the ringing is and why it sounds like a telephone. What a cruel trick someone is playing so late at night.

You stir and search for the big red digital numbers, which read a bleary 1:34. Your clock is nine minutes fast, so the days go by quicker.

You know these calls. They come from four hours away, and even if you answer, you know there's nothing you can do. These are calls to remind you that your mother is dying, slowly and reluctantly.

The last call broke you at roughly 3:30 a.m. on a frosty morning in February. Possible heart attack. Intensive care. Congestive heart failure. 76 pounds.

Less than a week later, they sent her home. Even the doctors don't know why she's still alive.

Your tape-fed answering machine kicks on with a click, followed by the sound of mumbling. You hear only indistinct noise, can't tell if the voice is male or female, strong or struggling. A few seconds later, silence.

Then you hide in bed, weighing whether you want to listen to the message. Chances are good it would deliver only bad news. And what could you do at this hour of the morning, at this distance away, at this point in your lives?


You can only watch as her body shrinks and fails, and remember that this brittle, bent person with tubes and wires poking into paper skin is what's left of your mother. You can stare love at her as she begs you to pick her up a cheap pack of Swisher Sweets cigarillos, she's dying for a smoke, those bastards took hers away again - then calls you a heartless, ungrateful daughter for refusing.

You can pray for health, or for release. You can sit. You can wait.

Several minutes slink by before you decide that knowing beats however your imagination will torture you in the coming hours.

You walk three steps across the dark living room and press the blue button beneath the blinking red light. A slightly slurred voice says to you, "Hi Steve, if you get a chance give me a call today or tomorrow..."

The caller ID on your cordless handset displays a name you don't recognize - but in a different way than you don't recognize your mom. One is foreign and sad, the other is a long dead-end road, but sometimes you are not sure which is which.

Still, relief wraps you in a small threadbare blanket. The calls will come. You sit. And you wait.

Megan Hanlon is a podcast producer who sometimes writes. Her words have appeared in Write or Die Magazine, Variant Literature, Gordon Square Review, and other publications both online and print. Her blog, Sugar Pig, is known for relentlessly honest essays that are equal parts tragedy and comedy.

Back to Issues
Read More by this Author