Glen Binger: The Voicemail

Raechel was a 5th-grade teacher when she was found out her mom had lung cancer. It took everything out of her. The breath, the business, the beauty. Every sunrise was another layer of hot tinfoil wrapped around her heart. After the estate was settled, she quit teaching and became a social media consultant. Made more money too. But really, it was working from the solitude of home that brought the interim solace she needed.

Over coffee every morning—for seven months—she thought about dying. By her own means, leaving her meat wagon to rot in the dirt. She thought about many other things too, of course. Her salary, her mom's wedding dress, her high school boyfriend, Jacob, and their first kiss in the changing room of Hot Topic. His Coheed and Cambria sweatshirt was still stashed away as padding in one of the basement boxes. Sometimes memories burn new holes.

The message appeared on a Wednesday in October. Right there in her taskbar as if Mom called on Tuesday. Next to the two Instagram tags for work. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it was raining. Again.

“Hi sweetie,” the voicemail went, “just wanted to see if you're ok. Haven't heard from you in a few days and I know it's the chaos of September. Have you had back to school night yet? One more year. Anyway. Love you. Call me.”

You could hear her mom’s smile. It was a message from Raechel’s 3rd year teaching. Just before getting tenure. Raechel knew she had called back that same weekend. She could remember the rain then too, watching the droplets skitter down her kitchen windows while Mom talked about Dad and his snoring. It was getting worse.

But for some reason, four years later, this message reappeared again. Glitching reality as if someone was trying to tell her something, as if the universe wanted to remind her that she'd be ok. That night, she flushed her stash of Valiums and most of the Adderall. And then the following night she went into the basement after some wine and some weed and proceeded to unpack the old family albums.

Among the stash, was a framed photo from 1999, wrapped in Jacob’s hoodie from 2003. It was Raechel and her mom, standing next to Dad’s reading chair. Their smiles were exuberant, but you wouldn't be able to tell as it wasn't your memory. The picture was too grainy. Dad was the worst photographer and he was terrible with tech. Jacob helped set up the family computer that same day. And later that same night, Dad was killed by a drunk driver coming home with the pizza.

She put the hoodie back and took the picture upstairs, placing it on her bedroom nightstand. A kernel panic and then nothing. Raechel thought she knew what it meant to suffer.

We all do until it happens again.

Glen Binger is an educator, interviewer, and the author of Things You Don't Know, a poetry collection that explores the lines between consciousness and the quantum realm. He blogs at

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