Haibun Monday #11 – Reach Out

I am hosting the dVerse Poets Pub for Haibun Monday. My prompt was inspired by the new “Call a Swede” in honor of the 250th anniversary ban on censorship in Sweden. You call a number and a randomized Swede will answer and talk to you about whatever you wish. I did it and had a great time. I then was reminded how easily we often seem to talk to strangers rather than those closest to us. So the haibun prompt is “communication” – to write a haibun about a conversation, email, phone call that changed you somehow, to write about someone you haven’t but need to speak with, uncomfortable silences, happy reconnections. I imagine there will be some interesting takes on this prompt. It is an unusual subject for a haibun but I tell you all truly, it was one that weighed upon me. I lost three dear friends in 2015: suicide, COPD, drunk driver. I wish I could call them and say hello. I thank you all for your support of my blog and work through the years. You are all dear to me.

public domain image

public domain image

Last Call
“Couched in our indifference like waves upon the shore, you can hear the ocean roar…” Dangling Conversation, Paul Simon

I recognized the number in my Caller ID – it was the government agency for whom I had worked a decade earlier. I had kept up with several of my co-workers there through the years and knew their numbers both at the agency and their homes. When I answered, there was silence and then the attempt to speak and finally the words, “It’s bad. Karl is dead. He committed suicide and his brother found him yesterday. Plans are…”. I mumbled a few words and thanked Sarah for calling me. I had tried calling Karl several times the past couple of weeks and left messages on his voice mail which were not returned. I had decided I was going by over the coming weekend. Karl was notorious for going into hiding and only going to work and not speaking to anyone unless he was confronted at home. I actually was not surprised at the news. Grieved, saddened, shaken – but I had been expecting this since I first met him thirty years earlier. The love of his life had died of AIDS and Karl had never fully recovered.

An hour later, I knew there was a call I had to make. I had not spoken to this man since he had boarded a plan and returned to his home in Japan. In that odd manner of life, Karl had first been my friend and then the two of them met through me and became fast immediate friends. Opposites but brothers of the soul. One a disciplined passionate Japanese man who played the piano as if his soul was on fire and gregarious. The other a sensitive, wounded gay man who harbored deep silences and only let a precious few into his life. The two remained friends visiting each other yearly after the Japanese man had returned to his country. Karl kept the two of us apprised of each other – nope, still not married, she is beginning to date, he dates sometimes, calling us both idiots and loving us both until finally Karl gave the news, she is married to a great guy, a good man.

And now, I had to make that call. He knew it was me when he saw the number in his Caller ID for the first words out of his mouth were “What is wrong?” And then I told him Karl was dead. Silence across thousands of miles. And finally on his end, “Does his brother still live at the same address? What are the plans? I will try to come.” Awkwardly I said I was sorry to call with such news. With his usual to the point, words slicing like his deftly wielded katana, “Oddyseus’ wife waited.” I pulled my own sword and said, “And she was his wife and he always meant to return.” The silence on the other end let me know I had drawn blood with that last stroke. I disconnected the phone. Later my husband broke my silence as I worked at sharpening and honing my kitchen blades. All he said was, “I love you.” And it was everything I needed to hear.

silence in the spring –
cherry blossoms are gone – birds
sleep among the branches

36 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grace
    Apr 09, 2016 @ 18:50:22

    I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news specially death, but it must be done out of necessity ~ The silence over the phone speaks volumes ~

    I enjoyed your story Toni ~ And that haiku of the cherry blossoms are gone, are deep with sadness ~


  2. Mary
    Apr 09, 2016 @ 19:37:11

    I read this over a few times, Toni, and want to understand something. I am not sure who the “she” is. I understand that Karl was gay and had lost a love to AIDS. I understand the Japanese man. I do not understand “And she was his wife and he always meant to return.” Whose wife? I thought Karl was gay.

    I can imagine how difficult it was to talk to someone after so many years. It sounds that you had some regrets about calling after you called. Sometimes one wonders whether one should re-establish communication…..or not!


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 09, 2016 @ 20:15:49

      My ex very stupidly referenced the Greek myth of Oddysseus and his wife waiting for him after the fall of Troy to return from war. The she is the wife of Oddysseus. I was letting my ex know he had left and did not mean to return. Oddysseus meant to return. Unlike my ex and…I was not the wife of my ex. I mourned and grieved him and one day realized, I needed to move on. When my ex said what he did, if we had been face to face, I think I would have slapped him. Hey! You read this! That makes me smile. I am so glad.


  3. Bryan Ens
    Apr 09, 2016 @ 22:30:21

    The Japanese man’s words were harsh. Thankful that you have a husband who not only said, but meant, those words that you needed to hear.


  4. mishunderstood
    Apr 10, 2016 @ 14:05:51

    It has to be one of the most heart wrenching messages to communicate…the loss of a friend. I feel an underlying strength throughout your story with a much needed release at the end. The haiku is sad, but so peaceful.


  5. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Apr 10, 2016 @ 15:26:11

    The two stories of the suicide and you calling back to the man who once was your lover is so very strong, and this is just at the time of sakura bloom… somehow that makes it even sadder…


  6. Bernice
    Apr 11, 2016 @ 12:22:58

    I think what you said is so true. It is often easier to talk to strangers than those who are close to us!


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 11, 2016 @ 13:54:14

      It is amazing to me how true this is. I’ve watched people in beauty salons, in bars talking to the bartender, a seat mate on a plane or train. Maybe because the opinions of strangers don’t matter as much as those we care about, maybe not being judged as much by a stranger.


  7. Carol J Forrester
    Apr 11, 2016 @ 15:29:29

    There’s so much depth in this story despite how short it is. A brilliant piece of flash fiction and a lovely little haiku to follow.


  8. Victoria C. Slotto
    Apr 11, 2016 @ 18:01:22

    This brought tears to my eyes and I don’t cry easily. So much ache and loss, the almost abusive remark of your ex and then that oh-so-tender moment with your husband. And the haiku was a superb summation of the truth.


  9. lynn__
    Apr 11, 2016 @ 18:13:51

    A difficult call made harder by harsh response 😦 Touche, Toni, and I’m glad you are loved!


  10. whimsygizmo
    Apr 11, 2016 @ 19:00:14

    {All he said was, “I love you.” And it was everything I needed to hear.}
    – This is perfect. The right words, from the right person. Healing, every time.

    I am so sorry for your loss.


  11. tamekamullins
    Apr 11, 2016 @ 19:26:51

    What a powerful story and poem. I know it had to be hard for you to handle your friend’s death and then to have to call someone who had hurt you to let him know. Wow. Chills.


  12. Sumana Roy
    Apr 12, 2016 @ 01:13:12

    we have to bear such moments in our life …the only gain is we grow and become wiser…heartfelt words Toni…


  13. kim881
    Apr 12, 2016 @ 01:45:29

    Death is always hard for those left behind. Your haiku sums up the emotions beautifully.


  14. lillian
    Apr 12, 2016 @ 07:28:51

    “All he said was, “I love you.” And it was everything I needed to hear.” Powerful words at the end of this recounting.

    Suicide is indeed an action that needs to come out from the walls of silence built around it. Reaching out to those left behind…
    reaching out in comfort. Those final words were exactly what you needed.

    Would that the deepening depths of darkness be given some light – that those who see no other way to escape, can be reached before their final descent.
    Your final haiku….desolate in it beauty.

    Consolation offered — and thanksgiving that you share your life with such a sensitive person.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 12, 2016 @ 16:49:53

      He is truly a good man. Suicide is such a determined death, deliberate. Made sadder because of that. I tried for all our years of friendship to give him life but in the end, he rejected it. It has left a huge hole in my heart.


  15. Linda Kruschke
    Apr 12, 2016 @ 15:50:47

    So much in this about communication, or lack thereof. A sad story, but I love the ending with those three simple but important words.


  16. Rosemary Nissen-Wade
    Apr 13, 2016 @ 03:52:12

    You obviously know how to do love and friendship, and also both grief and happiness. Not everyone does. I am sorry you lost your friend; and glad your ex left you.


  17. Hannah Gosselin
    Apr 13, 2016 @ 14:49:56

    Sometimes there’re conversations that can not be made easy. Your haiku is perfect to close…the lingering silence. Well done and thank you, for the prompt!


  18. mtw
    Apr 20, 2016 @ 00:09:29

    this haibun is exquisite. i love the emotion, how you wove the story, how in the end there was the best kind of closure. beautifully done.


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