I startle awake, fear coursing like an icy torrent through my body. I look around the dark, silent room, reaching automatically under my pillow for my glasses. As I put them on, the phone rings.
My stomach clenches. I look blindly towards the alarm clock: 3 a.m. I have been trained over the years of living continents away from my homeland, to fear the phone that rings in the night.
The phone rings again. I know it is for me but I can’t move. If I don’t pick it up, the bad thing won’t happen.
Irritated, Jennifer rolls out of the upper bunk, hitting the floor with an angry thud, and walks over to the wall to answer the phone, “Hello? What? Yes, she’s here.”
She hands the phone on its long extension cord to me and climbs back into her bed, falling easily back to sleep.
I hold it with both hands, not lifting it up to my ear, hearing the tinny voice of someone saying “Hello? Hello?”
Finally, I reply, “Yes?”
“Priya? It’s Daddy. Not to worry, everything is okay. Thatha fell. He’s in the hospital. Everything is okay. He’s asking for you. You have to come.”
Thatha fell. He’s asking for you. Everything is okay.
I start crying softly, so as to not be heard by my father, or Jennifer. He hears it anyways. “It’s okay Priya, he’s okay.” But then, before he can control himself, a shaking sob rolls out of him, down the phone lines, across the miles, across the continents, into my ear, scaring me. My father never cries.
There’s silence, as though the sound scared him as well.
Finally, softly, “He’s okay, he just wants to see you. I will send you the money for the ticket. Just come, okay?”
I nod, then say into the phone, “Yes.”