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The Caller
by Shelly Blankman

I don’t know how long I’d been there,
sitting on my front steps, staring at

the stain on my left shoe, the sky’s
tiny raindrops dripping like a leaky

faucet, darkening the stain, my arm
hair, too, wondering if he would

notice it…this boy who’d called,
said he’d heard I was cute, wanted

to meet me. None of the other girls
had arm hair. The screen door squeaked

open again, echoed like the high-pitched
string of a child’s violin that lingers long

after the song is over. “It’s a prank. Please
come in.” I could hear mom’s eyes roll,

see her left eyebrow raise as it always
did when she could not speak her pain.

I stared up the street, as if in the haze
of a genie’s third wish, a car would appear.

Maybe he was lost, had run out of gas, had
forgotten where I lived. Mom’s “I told you

so’s” clanked in my ears as drizzle turned to
fat tears… all the times in school hallways,

when I was sandwiched between bells by
giggling girls with guys’ arms draped around

them, whispering and whistling as I passed,
flicking my head; I, swallowing fear the size

of a blood orange in my throat. I hated school.
I plucked the petal of a drooping lilac at my

feet, crumpled its innocent beauty, letting
it drizzle onto the smudge and retreated in from

the rain careful not to squeak the door, quiet as
death, removed my shoes, dried my arm hair,

crawled into bed, swaddling myself in my blankets.
Mom’s gentle voice called “Are you ok?” sounding

like warm tea. I closed my eyes, counting the days
until graduation and waiting for the phone to ring.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This was taken at home, in my bedroom, when I was 17. I was putting on makeup.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I hated being 17. No friends, no sense of self, no feeling of fitting in anywhere. Teased and bullied mercilessly for the way I looked and walked. Probably no different from many kids who would grow out of it (as I did) but at the time, it felt brutal. That is, until one day a boy called and say he thought I was pretty. Funny how over 40 years later, some memories come rushing back…this time without tears.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman and her husband are empty-nesters who live in Columbia, Maryland, with their four cat rescues. They have two sons: Richard, 32, of New York, and Joshua, 30, of San Antonio. Her first love has always been poetry, although her career has generally followed the path of public relations/journalism. Shelly’s poetry has been published by Silver Birch Press, Whispers, Verse-Virtual, Ekphrastic: writing and art on art and writing, and Visual Verse.