You told me you would call me back. It’s an easy thing to say, you know. You don’t really think of it as the words come out of your mouth, but it calms the other person down and takes a bit of the urgency out of the situation. You’ve bought yourself some time, and for a moment, all parties are satisfied. “Everything will be okay, I’ll call you back.”
But when you say that to someone, someone who is hanging on your every word and really wants to believe it when you say something as straightforward as promising to call, it means something. We take in these words and, consciously or not, form our days around them. We will look at our phones again and again, checking them to make sure that we haven’t missed anything, picking them up even when they don’t buzz because we have convinced ourselves we are hearing phantom rings. It’s just that we want it so badly to be true; we want you to remember.
Setting dates and keeping them seems to have lost a bit of its importance in our generation — it’s almost as though we expect promises and appointments to come with a bit of an asterisk. You know that people will be late, you wait for the call to cancel, you don’t believe the confirmations that people give you for your upcoming party. Texting and social media and messaging in real time have made it too easy to say that you are going to do something (and it feels good, in the moment, to make that plan) but it also makes it incredibly easy to discard. We all have so many events to attend, people to speak to, messages to answer. We know that, if we don’t get back to someone right away, it won’t be the end of the world.
It can feel like it, though. When we are waiting for someone important, someone who promised that you were going to be a priority and who insisted that they would do what they say, the silence is devastating. Every minute that passes, it becomes less and less likely that they are actually going to follow through. It becomes more and more obvious that you are the fool, the one who is left waiting, stuck by their phone. We never want to be the person who reaches out repeatedly, who sends reminding messages, who insists on being heard — it’s tacky. We have become a world of communication which hinges on a certain level of detachment. You cannot use your ability to reach out to someone five times in one day to actually do it, that would be weird. We all have to keep our cool.
You said you would call me back, and I believed you. I didn’t follow up, because I knew it would only reduce my chances of ever hearing back. And you didn’t call me. I waited by my phone, just as you wouldn’t want to imagine me doing. I checked over and over to see if you had attempted to contact me through another medium; you didn’t. And you’re right in thinking that I will get over it, that it’s not the worst thing in the world, that you’ll soon forget. But we erode one another’s belief in promises little by little, we slowly teach each other that we should not believe the things people say which we desperately want to hear.
I wanted to believe that you would call me back, but part of me always knew that you wouldn’t.