"In the next five minutes, my phone rang twenty-eight times…"
Female • 22 • Brooklyn, NY
New Year's Eve, 2007. It was freezing outside. I was in my kitchen, talking to my dad in Wisconsin before beginning to get ready for a party. My ex, Keita, called on the other line. I sent the call to voicemail.
Keita and I had been going back and forth for the last month. I'd broken up with him, and he'd sent me email after email proclaiming his love. With those proclamations were warnings that no one would ever love me as much as he did, and sometimes he sent weepy songs about loss, too. Needless to say, I had no desire to talk to him on New Year's Eve.
He called right back. I sent him to voicemail. He called again. Voicemail. Called again. Voicemail. I grew exasperated and told my father I'd call him back. I set my phone on the kitchen counter and went to iron my dress. In the next five minutes, my phone rang twenty-eight times. This was actually a trick he'd taught me: when you call someone and they don't answer, you call back immediately. Usually, people will think there's an emergency and pick up. If they don't on the second try, the definitely will on the third. I hadn't, so, clearly, the next step was twenty-eight. I stood in the kitchen, contemplating my next move; then, I called my mother.
"Mom? He won't stop calling me."
It was then I heard the thunk. It was faint, but it was there. And it was followed by another. Then, another. I walked into my room, close to my window, and heard him, yelling my name, ordering me to open the door. I peeked out from behind my blinds. Keita was mid-throw, a small rock in his hand. He'd been throwing rocks at my goddamned window. He saw me and yelled, "Open the door!"
"Do you want me to stay on the phone with you?" My mom asked.
"Yes. I'm going to put you in the pocket of my hoodie so he can't see. And I'm taking a knife with me."
"Okay. I'm here."
I walked downstairs as calmly as I could. I opened the door to a distraught, wheezing, runny-nosed Keita. He looked down at the knife in my hand. "Seriously?"
"You're throwing rocks at my window. What did you expect?"
"I'm sorry. I know I'm being crazy. I just wanted to talk to you."
He asked to come inside the vestibule. I noticed he'd left the car running and suggested he shut that off first. You don't just leave an A8 running while you work out some relationship shit inside your ex's house. For someone almost thirty, he could be really obtuse. "Kayla's in there. Gotta keep the heat on."
Kayla. Of course he'd brought his daughter over to witness this debacle.
I suggested that she shouldn't be left in the car. He said she was fine, then stomped over to the back passenger side and opened the door so I could see Kayla and she could see me. "Kay-Kay. You good?" Kayla nodded forlornly. He gave me an exasperated look and shut the door.
Once in the vestibule, door closed behind him, Keita told me he was moving to Miami with his ex-girlfriend, the one he'd always told me I wasn't comparable to. She was his ultimate. He tried to make me jealous, he tried to wheedle me, he tried to negotiate a proposal based on a sort of reversed ultimatum. "If you tell me you'll marry me, I won't move to Miami with her."
He hugged me tight and kissed me deeply, swearing that no one else would ever be able to do that the way he could. He tried to drag Kayla into it, playing on my emotions for her well-being. He tried every trick he knew, and in the end, left empty-handed.
I went to my party that night, free. I danced on air. Three days later I got home to a steely voicemail asking why I hadn't called to wish him a happy new year, and telling me to expect a card and CD taped to my front door. When I found them, I didn't bother with the card — why would I have? — but opened the CD case. In his neat print he'd written in Sharpie, "Pictures of Sarah I don't need any more."
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