A short story where a phone call from a sibling changes everything, revealing that there might be much more to existence than meets the eye…
by: Terry Riccardi
ESP? Parapsychology? Save that stuff for ghost stories! That’s what I believed for the first twenty years of my life. I was perfectly satisfied with trusting what I could see, hear, feel, touch, or taste. The idea that something more existed beyond my powers of perception never occurred to me. That is, until the night my younger sister changed all that with one phone call.
At the time, she still lived at home, I had an apartment in another borough, and we had little in common. She would call me once in a while. I’d feel guilty that I rarely thought about her or called, and if I did our conversation was always banal and predictable. After a few minutes of superficial talk, we’d hang up until the next time we performed this trite tango.
This life-changing phone call I speak of came at dusk. I was gazing out the window at the fading light when the phone rang. “How are you?” she asked as usual, but when I opened my mouth to answer, the words died in my throat. The customary shallow reply I had planned to give vanished and I felt a powerful force emerging through the phone.
Shocked and confused, I froze, holding the receiver to my ear through sheer force of habit, while I wondered how what was happening could be happening. My sister was in my head, seeing my thoughts, and I was receiving hers. Had I suddenly been transported to the Twilight Zone? How was my sister doing this?
Yet, I was not frightened. The bond that linked us was entirely positive. My doubts, insecurities, and failings were exposed, but I was not feeling judged, and I was surprised at my openness, even willingness, to be so vulnerable. She asked how I was, but this time I understood what she wanted to know — who am I, how do I see myself, and would I share this with her?
As the light outside continued to fade, and with it, my awareness of time, I answered her questions honestly. I let her see me shining academically in my all-girls high school, but also me standing against the gymnasium wall as I watched boys ask other girls onto the dance floor. Dusk gave way to night as our conversation continued in total silence. I showed her how good I was at my editorial job and how I enjoyed many of the activities that living in Manhattan offered. In time, I finally opened that walled-off part of me I had never shared with anyone. My ugly self-image was rooted there, along with guilt for rarely showing her love, and also my disheartening conviction that I believed I would die an awkward, unattractive old maid.
To my joy, I sensed no recriminations. My love was welcomed and my shame erased and forgiven. Being so close to her was a new and exhilarating sensation. I felt liberated and weightless, communicating effortlessly and instantly, and best of all — being completely understood, accepted, and loved.
Only when I felt the bond beginning to fade did I realize that night had come. It was pitch dark inside the room as well for no lights had been on when the phone first rang. My external voice returned to say goodbye and I became aware I was clutching a now-lifeless receiver. “Wait!” I wanted to shout. “Don’t go yet! There’s so much more I want to say and know!”
Many questions swirled in my head, but all I heard was the buzzing of the phone. I listened to the sound for several seconds, hoping that my sister would come back, before slowly hanging up.
We never spoke about that evening, and I honestly don’t know why. But I became much closer to my sister. I welcomed her when she brought her boyfriend to my door. Years later, when she divorced her husband, I was there to help her pack up and then unpack in a new home. And I’m happy to add, I did not become an old maid.
My sister revealed to me a dimension that my senses had never suspected. I can neither explain nor deny that dimension, but whenever I remember that phone call, I feel a sense of wonder, and of loss. I miss the exciting, freeing world that I so briefly experienced, but simply do not know how to enter on my own.
Although my sister is no longer here, for all I know she may be watching from another plane and even reading these words. If so, she surely knows I love her and that I am grateful to her for letting me know that yes, there is more.