The interest or the ’phone call
(A true story)
orty-five. Four for the decades and five for the years. For those units that fall once and for all each year, decreasing somewhat her stature – not only hers, of course, but everyone else’s; reducing the distance separating her from the ground, from the hospitable earth.
Forty-five. Strange – but again, not particularly, if you really think about it deeply – that these units, which are repeated in unchanging order to complete each decade, began after forty to burden her body and mind more, far more than in earlier days. The first was also a first great shock; but she got over it easily, because it was so near the beginning, almost the beginning itself. The second needed its own time in order to absorb the fact that middle age was here, present and merciless, but once again not too obvious. The third began to hum that the illusions are almost over and that we’re heading steadily towards the climax and therefore towards life’s downward path. The fourth, as if decided for some time now, predisposed one slowly but surely for the taste of bitterness, of the bitter awareness that many others are and look younger, are and look more desirable, and have and seem to have more time to fulfil themselves; provided they want to.
The telephone rings, at a rather inconvenient moment, obliging her to stop the querulous counting and, after checking the caller, to pick up the receiver.
— Mrs Angelica?
— Yes, she answered blandly. The caller identification beforehand and now the professional politeness prepare her for yet another one-minute conversation.
— How are you, Mrs Angelica, my dear? Are you well?
The question, and mainly the way it was asked, somewhat took her aback. Even though the direct, personal, almost friendly address of today’s tele promoters of all manner of products and services had by now become an expected and explicable advertising strategy, the warm interest shown by the specific question and its surprising tone were rather unusual. So, was professional politeness evolving into nobility of soul? She found that difficult to believe.
— “Where does the familiarity come from?” she thought to ask, but immediately regretted it. Instead, a much more irritating phrase passed immediately from her mind to her mouth.
— The truth is, I haven’t been feeling too well recently.
— But why? the tele promoter was obliged to continue the show of interest.
— I’ll tell you – I assume you’ve got a little time to spare. But first, allow me to ask you a question. How old are you?
— Newly-married, in fact.
— A, how nice! I wish you well!
— So, you don’t have children. Or perhaps you had one of those wedding-cum-christening celebrations that are so popular nowadays?
— Ha, ha.
— You’re laughing, are you?
— Yes, I’m laughing. It’s just, you know … I called you in order to tell you about a cheap package …
— Yes, of course. I know, she interrupted her. They’ve told me before about such things. I wasn’t particularly interested then. But, you never know. Today you might persuade me, she added deviously.
— Well …
— Well, you didn’t answer me. Do you have children or not?
— Not yet. So, about the package …
— We’ll talk about the package too. You gave me the impression, Miss … Mrs … forgive me, you gave me, how to say, the impression, at the beginning of your call, correct me if I’m wrong, that you had a more personal interest. I must have been fooled …
— No, no, you weren’t fooled.
— On the other hand, now I come to think of it … Why would you have a more personal interest in me specifically? Since you don’t know me.
— No, I don’t know you. But we’re interested in all our customers or, let’s say, potential customers. You understood correctly.
— A, that’s good. Your customers are lucky.
— I’m hoping that you too will become one of our customers. So, our company …
— Oh no, not your company again, she reproached.
— But that’s my job, the tele promoter replied meekly.
— So, since that’s your job, Miss, Mrs, excuse me, please keep to it. And stop taking us in with your false interest – she pretended to be indignant. And she continued, raising the tragic tones of her acting talent (because, apparently, she had talent): I believed you, you know.
— And quite right too. But the time we have for telephone calls is limited.
— So, you’d like us to meet somewhere? For a coffee?
A fiendish idea. The other woman must have been cornered good and proper. How much did she want to sell that damn cheap package?
— Why not?
— Unless you think I’m an old woman. I’m 45.
— Old woman? What do you mean? Our package …
— O, stop babbling on about your package.
She hadn’t managed to finish her pretended indignant phrase, when she realized she’d been cut off at the other end. Her caller had become indignant – but truly so.
Never mind. Twenty-six. Only two for the decades and six for the years. She’s plenty of time to get over it.
Translated by: Alexandra Doumas
Source: And Tomorrow is Now (εκδ. Ρώμη, 2016)
Stavroula Tsouprou (Athens) holds a doctorate in Greek Literature from the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, as well as language diplomas in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. Systematically involved with Literature Theory, she has published studies on earlier and contemporary prose-writers and poets. She is a regular contributor to the daily and periodical press. Three volumes of her essays have been published: Tasos Athanasiadis:”With the eyes of our generation”, The “childis” stories of Cosmas Politis and Trial Readings. Her first fictional work is the collection of short stories They’re looking at you (Grigoris Editions 2013)