A Telephone Call
by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Approximate Word Count: 2421
Please, God, let him telephone me now. Dear God, let him call me now. I won't ask anything else of You, truly I won't. It isn't very much to ask. It would be so little to You, God, such a little, little thing. Only let him telephone now. Please, God. Please,
If I didn't think about it, maybe the telephone might ring. Sometimes it does that. If I could think of something else. If I could think of something else. Knobby if I counted five hundred by fives, it might ring by that time. I'll count slowly. I won't cheat. And if it rings when I get to three hundred, I won't stop; I won't answer it until I get to five hundred. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five, fifty.... Oh, please ring. Please.
This is the last time I'll look at the clock. I will not look at it again. It's ten minutes past seven. He said he would telephone at five o'clock. "I'll call you at five, darling." I think that's where he said "darling." I'm almost sure he said it there. I know he called me "darling" twice, and the other time was when he said good-by. "Good-by, darling." He was busy, and he can't say much in the office, but he called me "darling" twice. He couldn't have minded my calling him up. I know you shouldn't keep telephoning them--I know they don't like that. When you do that they know you are thinking about them and wanting them, and that makes them hate you. But I hadn't talked to him in three days-not in three days. And all I did was ask him how he was; it was just the way anybody might have called him up. He couldn't have minded that. He couldn't have thought I was bothering him. "No, of course you're not," he said. And he said he'd telephone me. He didn't have to say that. I didn't ask him to, truly I didn't. I'm sure I didn't. I don't think he would say he'd telephone me, and then just never do it. Please don't let him do that, God. Please don't.
"I'll call you at five, darling." "Good-by, darling.,' He was busy, and he was in a hurry, and there were people around him, but he called me "darling" twice. That's mine, that's mine. I have that, even if I never see him again. Oh, but that's so little. That isn't enough. Nothing's enough, if I never see him again. Please let me see him again, God. Please, I want him so much. I want him so much. I'll be good, God. I will try to be better, I will, If you will let me see him again. If You will let him telephone me. Oh, let him telephone me now.
Ah, don't let my prayer seem too
little to You, God. You sit up there, so
white and old, with all the angels
about You and the stars slipping by. And I come to You with a prayer about
a telephone call. Ah, don't laugh, God.
You see, You don't know how it feels.
You're so safe, there on Your throne,
with the blue swirling under You.
Nothing can touch You; no one can
twist Your heart in his hands. This is
suffering, God, this is bad, bad
suffering. Won't You help me? For
Your Son's sake, help me. You said
You would do whatever was asked of
You in His name. Oh, God, in the
name of Thine only beloved Son, Jesus
Christ, our Lord, let him telephone me
I must stop this. I mustn't be this
way. Look. Suppose a young man says
he'll call a girl up, and then something
happens, and he doesn't. That isn't so
terrible, is it? Why, it's gong on all
over the world, right this minute. Oh,
what do I care what's going on all over
the world? Why can't that telephone
ring? Why can't it, why can't it?
Couldn't you ring? Ah, please, couldn't
you? You damned, ugly, shiny thing. It
would hurt you to ring, wouldn't it?
Oh, that would hurt you. Damn you,
I'll pull your filthy roots out of the
wall, I'll smash your smug black face
in little bits. Damn you to hell.
No, no, no. I must stop. I must think
about something else. This is what I'll
do. I'll put the clock in the other room.
Then I can't look at it. If I do have to
look at it, then I'll have to walk into
the bedroom, and that will be
something to do. Maybe, before I look
at it again, he will call me. I'll be so
sweet to him, if he calls me. If he says
he can't see me tonight, I'll say, "Why, that's all
right, dear. Why, of course it's all
right." I'll be the way I was when I first
met him. Then maybe he'll like me
again. I was always sweet, at first. Oh,
it's so easy to be sweet to people
before you love them.
I think he must still like me a little.
He couldn't have called me "darling"
twice today, if he didn't still like me a
little. It isn't all gone, if he still likes
me a little; even if it's only a little,
little bit. You see, God, if You would
just let him telephone me, I wouldn't
have to ask You anything more. I
would be sweet to him, I would be
gay, I would be just the way I used to
be, and then he would love me again.
And then I would never have to ask
You for anything more. Don't You
see, God? So won't You please let him
telephone me? Won't You please,
Are You punishing me, God,
because I've been bad? Are You angry
with me because I did that? Oh, but,
God, there are so many bad people
--You could not be hard only to me.
And it wasn't very bad; it couldn't have
been bad. We didn't hurt anybody,
God. Things are only bad when they
hurt people. We didn't hurt one single
soul; You know that. You know it
wasn't bad, don't You, God? So won't
You let him telephone me now?
If he doesn't telephone me, I'll know
God is angry with me. I'll count five
hundred by fives, and if he hasn't
called me then, I will know God isn't
going to help me, ever again. That will
be the sign. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty,
twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty,
forty-five, fifty, fifty-five. . . It was
bad. I knew it was bad. All right, God,
send me to hell. You think You're
frightening me with Your hell, don't
You? You think. Your hell is worse than mine.
I mustn't. I mustn't do this. Suppose
he's a little late calling me up --that's
nothing to get hysterical about. Maybe
he isn't going to call--maybe he's
coming straight up here without
telephoning. He'll be cross if he sees I
have been crying. They don't like you
to cry. He doesn't cry. I wish to God I
could make him cry. I wish I could
make him cry and tread the floor and
feel his heart heavy and big and
festering in him. I wish I could hurt
him like hell.
He doesn't wish that about me. I
don't think he even knows how he
makes me feel. I wish he could know,
without my telling him. They don't like
you to tell them they've made you cry.
They don't like you to tell them you're
unhappy because of them. If you do,
they think you're possessive and
exacting. And then they hate you. They
hate you whenever you say anything
you really think. You always have to
keep playing little games. Oh, I
thought we didn't have to; I thought
this was so big I could say whatever I
meant. I guess you can't, ever. I guess
there isn't ever anything big enough for
that. Oh, if he would just telephone, I
wouldn't tell him I had been sad about
him. They hate sad people. I would be
so sweet and so gay, he couldn't help
but like me. If he would only
telephone. If he would only telephone.
Maybe that's what he is doing.
Maybe he is coming on here without
calling me up. Maybe he's on his way
now. Something might have happened
to him. No, nothing could ever happen
to him. I can't picture anything
happening to him. I never picture him
run over. I never see him lying still
and long and dead. I wish he were
dead. That's a terrible wish. That's a
lovely wish. If he were dead, he would be mine. If he were
dead, I would never think of now and
the last few weeks. I would remember
only the lovely times. It would be all
beautiful. I wish he were dead. I wish
he were dead, dead, dead.
This is silly. It's silly to go wishing
people were dead just because they
don't call you up the very minute they
said they would. Maybe the clock's
fast; I don't know whether it's right.
Maybe he's hardly late at all. Anything
could have made him a little late.
Maybe he had to stay at his office.
Maybe he went home, to call me up
from there, and somebody came in. He
doesn't like to telephone me in front of
people. Maybe he's worried, just
alittle, little bit, about keeping me
waiting. He might even hope that I
would call him up. I could do that. I
could telephone him.
I mustn't. I mustn't, I mustn't. Oh,
God, please don't let me telephone
him. Please keep me from doing that. I
know, God, just as well as You do,
that if he were worried about me, he'd
telephone no matter where he was or
how many people there were around
him. Please make me know that, God.
I don't ask YOU to make it easy for
me--You can't do that, for all that You
could make a world. Only let me know
it, God. Don't let me go on hoping.
Don't let me say comforting things to
myself. Please don't let me hope, dear
God. Please don't.
I won't telephone him. I'll never
telephone him again as long as I live.
He'll rot in hell, before I'll call him up.
You don't have to give me strength,
God; I have it myself. If he wanted me,
he could get me. He knows where I
ram. He knows I'm waiting here. He's
so sure of me, so sure. I wonder why
they hate you, as soon as they are sure of you. I
should think it would be so sweet to
It would be so easy to telephone
him. Then I'd know. Maybe it wouldn't
be a foolish thing to do. Maybe he
wouldn't mind. Maybe he'd like it.
Maybe he has been trying to get me.
Sometimes people try and try to get
you on the telephone, and they say the
number doesn't answer. I'm not just
saying that to help myself; that really
happens. You know that really
happens, God. Oh, God, keep me away
from that telephone. Kcep me away.
Let me still have just a little bit of
pride. I think I'm going to need it, God.
I think it will be all I'll have.
Oh, what does pride matter, when I
can't stand it if I don't talk to him?
Pride like that is such a silly, shabby
little thing. The real pride, the big
pride, is in having no pride. I'm not
saying that just because I want to call
him. I am not. That's true, I know that's
true. I will be big. I will be beyond
Please, God, keep me from,
telephoning him. Please, God.
I don't see what pride has to do with
it. This is such a little thing, for me to
be bringing in pride, for me to be
making such a fuss about. I may have
misunderstood him. Maybe he said for
me to call him up, at five. "Call me at
five, darling." He could have said that,
perfectly well. It's so possible that I
didn't hear him right. "Call me at five,
darling." I'm almost sure that's what he
said. God, don't let me talk this way to
myself. Make me know, please make
I'll think about something else. I'll
just sit quietly. If I could sit still. If I
could sit still. Maybe I could read. Oh,
all the books are about people who
love each other, truly and sweetly.
What do they want to write about that
for? Don't they know it isn't tree?
Don't they know it's a lie, it's a God
damned lie? What do they have to tell
about that for, when they know how it
hurts? Damn them, damn them, damn
I won't. I'll be quiet. This is nothing
to get excited about. Look. Suppose he
were someone I didn't know very well.
Suppose he were another girl. Then I d
just telephone and say, "Well, for
goodness' sake, what happened to
you?" That's what I'd do, and I'd never
even think about it. Why can't I be
casual and natural, just because I love
him? I can be. Honestly, I can be. I'll
call him up, and be so easy and
pleasant. You see if I won't, God. Oh,
don't let me call him. Don't, don't,
God, aren't You really going to let
him call me? Are You sure, God?
Couldn't You please relent? Couldn't
You? I don't even ask You to let him
telephone me this minute, God; only
let him do it in a little while. I'll count
five hundred by fives. I'll do it so
slowly and so fairly. If he hasn't
telephoned then, I'll call him. I will.
Oh, please, dear God, dear kind God,
my blessed Father in Heaven, let him
call before then. Please, God. Please.
Five, ten, fifteen, twenty,
twentyfive, thirty, thirty-five.