Sometimes when I’m driving I get a call

Creative Nonfiction by Pat Foran

and I don’t pick up. Not when I’m driving. I don’t look at the phone. Not when I’m driving. If they want to reach me they’ll leave a message, I sometimes think. So I let it ring. I let the ring fall I let it fall down this ring it keeps ringing this ring it rings and rings and rings this ring until it stops ringing. And that’s when I hear it. I hear it when it stops ringing I hear it in the stop I hear it and I hear it and I feel it and I remember: I remember that ring I remember I remember that call a call I didn’t pick up. That beep-bop-BOOP of that voicemail. The one I didn’t play back — not right away, anyway. The one I waited to hear until I got to the office. I waited until I listened. Then I listened. Twice. I listened: Cory isn’t breathing! Cory isn’t breathing! Cory’s mother screamed. Please hurry! she screamed. Hurry!

I called back (I didn’t wait) and I ran and I talked while I ran and I didn’t wait (I didn’t, I hurried) and the car it ran and my brain it raced and my heart it hurried (it did) No I said in the car No I said to the car No I said to myself. Not now not yet I said. Hang on Cory my darling young son you’ve fought this thing this disease so hard for so long I said to the car Hang on Cory my darling young one I said to myself Hang on I said to the sink of the ship in my heart my Lusitania heart the one that can’t sing the one that can’t swim and the phone it rang again it rang and rang and rang again I picked up the call (I did this time, I did, I didn’t wait) it was Cory’s brother who I’d dropped at a bus stop before heading to the office. Mom called Mom called he said She told me she told me he said Can you come get me? he asked. No I said to my darling young son No I said to that darling young one I’m sorry I can’t I said. I can’t come get you I have to get home I’m sorry and my heart sank deeper as I turned left on our street a flashing-red-lights of a streetlined with rescue cars rescue vans rescue people. A streetred-silent save for the screams of the mother of our darling young Cory. I opened our door You the father? EMTs asked parting their red sea around sweet Cory, lying there on the floor. He could not hang on he could not wait (I hurried, I did) he tried hard every day to do more than hang on he really did the EMTs tried that day too they told me so their sadness told me so. I might have thanked them then and there. I might have thanked the policeman then and there. I might have thanked the coroner then and there. I might have hugged Cory’s screaming mother might have hugged and hugged her tightly. I might have heard my phone ring might have felt my phone ring might have begged my phone to scream begged it like a sinking ship begged it like a heart that can’t sink or swim begged it like a father who isn’t a father. Like a father who isn’t there for his sons. A father who isn’t — isn’t like a hope chest isn’t like a heartbeat isn’t like a lay saint who puts his phone on vibrate missing rings missing calls missing beats missing sons. And I might have picked up that call. I might have. Right then and there. I might have. Like I do now sometimes. When I’m driving.

Pat Foran

Pat Foran is a writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His son Cory died of complications from Becker Muscular Dystrophy on Jan. 3, 2019. He can be found on X (formerly Twitter) at @pdforan; on Facebook at and on Instagram: @patforan1549.

10 responses to “Sometimes when I’m driving I get a call”

  1. The pain is palpable. My heart pounds, and I’m holding my breath. Perfect, and shattering.

  2. Your writing totally touched my heart. It’s beautiful and painful. I’m so sorry you lost Cory.

  3. This is beautiful and I keep thinking of the other son and all of you all and us, too, but infinitely smaller, and all we lose when we love and lose and how strong we must be to somehow survive it.