It was 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night and I had been sleeping since I got home from the pub. Arsenal had played to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in the first leg of the most crucial of ties in their search for silverware this season. The result wasn’t the worst in the world but it could have been much better. My body was screaming out from the aches and pains that come as a direct result from soccer the night before, a night that included a grand total of 3 hours of sleep (damn 10:30 kick offs). On top of that I had a couple of pints in me, which combined with the stress of life, the aches of soccer, and the disappointment in the Arsenal match, made for the perfect formula to crawl into bed at the ripe old hour of 6:30 p.m. (Pathetic I know for someone of 22 years of age to be going to bed at such an early hour) Well I only intended to take a short nap to re-charge the batteries a bit, but when the body is as worn down as mine was I guess I needed a bit more than a nap.

Anyway like I said it was 9:30 and my phone was buzzing. “Private Number” illuminated the screen, and as I wiped away the sleep from my eyes and struggled to read what my phone was telling me through my contact glazed stare, I decided I could not be bothered, especially from someone who was trying to keep their identity from me a secret.  Fast forward to 12:30 a.m. Thursday night and I have just won the F.A. cup and the league (not to mention the Carling cup earlier in the season) with my beloved Arsenal on the new Fifa ’08. Yes I know I know, how glorious it must have felt to bring such glory to my beloved Gunners, and all in my first full season as a young unknown manager, it was tops as you might imagine. Right, well as I am assembling new transfers for the up coming season and deciding what my squad will need to keep up this glorious run, my phone is yet again set a blaze by……you guessed it “Private number”.

So normally I slag off these calls and fall back on the reasoning that if someone wants to get a hold of me but wants to withhold their identity, well then surely they are going to have to leave me a message and I will get back to them. But at half past midnight on a Thursday I figure I’ll give it a go, see who this mystery caller is.

“Hello?” there is a pause, “Who’s this?”

The voice on the other end gives a familiar “Hey”, and despite the low, raspy, strained tone I know exactly who it is. My heart shatters into a million pieces. This voice, the one that can set my spirit a blaze, and at the same time calm my heart to a pace that I only dare dream of, is now the most welcomed sound in my universe. Most of what she says is inaudible. The way in which she has to hold her head while she speaks, combined with the stained manner in which she has to breath in order to even force the simplest of words out of her lungs is of no bother to me at all. The fact that the conversation is mostly one sided suites me just fine. There are so many things I never thought I would be able to say, so many feeling I was not sure I would ever be able to convey. But everything is alright now. Even if her news is uncertain, and despite the fact that another conversation may not come. I am at peace knowing that I could tell her those things. I revel in the fact that through all of the pain and all of the suffering, her courage and her strength dialed my number.

The periods of silence are not shuned, but rather welcome. I am pleased just to know that she is on the other end, and that is all that matters. I say the most important things in my heart, that have been mulling around for weeks. With the calm and collected matter of fact way that has become her hallmark, she implores me to not be sad over her. She says this as the tears are steaming down my face, as the silence is only interrupted by sniffles and whimpers. I tell her that I won’t be sad, but I suspect that she knows me well enough to know that I can not be true to that.

She describes to me the two types of people she believes there are in situations like this. The ones who are always saying goodbye and the ones that are in denial. I ask her which type am I? I am the first. I don’t like this at all and I tell her that I have said all I wanted to in terms of what was in my heart and that from now on our conversations will be only like they used to be. Casual, fun, care free. She likes that idea and within seconds we are taken back to the time when our conversations were just that. She laughs at some of the things I say and I can’t help but cry a little bit. Her laugh is so cute and infectious and I can’t help but to be drawn back to the time when its sound was not so airy and strained. I can’t help the tears and the feelings that are rushing through me. Knowing that I would take every cancerous cell and every infected organ and all of the pain that accompanies her state and put it within me. If it would allow her to laugh the way she used to, so uninhibited and free, I would take it all. When I tell her this, she says I am silly and laughs at me. That laugh will always stay with me. She will always stay with me.

She doesn’t want me to go but it is very late, we have been talking for over an hour and I know it must be very taxing for her to keep up such a pace. We say our goodbyes and I ask if I will hear from her again, there are no promises, but she says she will try.  I trade my phone for the rosery on my nightstand and pray that that was not goodbye. From now on I will always answer the Private Number.

—I Love you

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