Embracing the world with positive creativity since Sept 2007.
Below appears a flash piece I wrote given a prompt: the first three words ...
“I’m sorry, but—”
“No, you’re not sorry,” he said into the phone.
“There you go again, trying to justify your decision—the choice you made. Erich Segal got it wrong—all wrong. Being in love means forever having to say you’re sorry. Putting the needs of your family ahead of your own. But an apology with an explanation is really no apology at all, is it?”
“What would you have me say then, Paul?” Carla’s voice sounded thin with digital distance.
“I don’t want you to say anything. I want you to come home, to your husband and our daughters.”
“It’s my job, Paul.”
“Your job is to take the assignments CNN gives you. They didn’t assign this one to you, Carla. You asked for it, then clamored for it, next kicked and screamed to get it. They didn’t want to send you because they knew the risks. But you finally cashed in a favor to make sure you got it. What I wanted and what our daughters wanted never even entered into the equation.”
“It’s a once in a lifetime story.”
“And what do I tell Mindy and Stacy when their once in a lifetime mommy doesn’t come home?”
“Nothing’s going to happen, Paul.”
“I wish I—no, we wish we could be as sure.”
When Carla said nothing Paul feared maybe the call had dropped.
“You still there?” he asked.
“Carla, you’re in a Middle East nation that’s just overthrown its government. I think it’s wonderful they got rid of a dictator, and hopefully the next guy won’t be so ruthless. But you don’t belong there.”
“I’m a journalist. I belong where the story takes me. And I have my team with me.”
“Oh, that makes me feel much better—three guys, one of them armed with a camera. I’ll be able to watch, live, the first ever rape-execution of a Western journalist. I’m sure Sid will get some creative shots.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”
“No, I don’t. You’re a woman, blond, in a Muslim nation that treats women like property and resents Westerners—especially Western women.” Paul sighed before surging ahead: “I’ve seen what’s going on over there. The streets are filled with thousands of unruly people.”
“Yes, celebrants. Celebrants can be unruly, too. And what better way to celebrate than by abducting a white blond woman and—”
“Don’t say it, Paul.”
“Why not? You think by not saying it that it won’t happen? You think you’re invincible because you are woman? Damn Helen Reddy.”
“These people are happy.”
“You don’t think there aren’t some supporters of the former regime still around?”
“We haven’t seen any.”
“No, of course you haven’t. And you wouldn’t see any. Not like they’re walking around wearing sandwich boards.”
Carla said nothing.
“This is all about you. Always has been. You and your career.”
“You knew what you were getting when you asked me to marry you.”
“Did I? I knew what you were—a journalist. What I didn’t know was how selfish you can be.”
Carla went silent again.
“Shit,” Paul said and closed the connection. Already sorry for his last comment and wondering how much of it Carla had heard, he thought the call had merely dropped and that she would call back momentarily.
But she didn’t.
Sid refused to tell Paul anything of what he witnessed, saying only, “You don’t want to know.” And then he told Paul how sorry he was that he’d been unable to keep Carla safe.
Paul didn’t know if not knowing Carla’s fate only made it more horrendous. He had a fairly fertile imagination.
Paul suspected he was suffering a sort of survivor’s guilt, not being able to tell his wife how sorry he was—no “buts” about it—for calling her selfish.