081 - penny
The phone rang in Colin's dorm room. There was only one person who ever called his dorm phone: his mother. Had he lost track of the days? Thinking it over briefly, he realized, yes, it was Sunday evening already. It was time for his mom to be calling. Colin sighed, and then picked up the phone.
"Hello?" he asked, trying to not let his sinking mood come across too strongly in his voice. The voice that came through on the other end of the phone, though, had no problems oozing in disapproval and nagging. Even though she hadn't said anything more than "Colin, it's your mother," he already was shuddering.
"Hi, Mom," he said slowly. "Has it been a whole week already?"
Colin's mom began to drone on about things that were quite inconsequential to him. Almost immediately, she bursted into a diatribe against his father, which was something that Colin always felt uncomfortable with. She, for some reason, used her son to vent all her frustrations with her husband, and expected some comfort and empathy from Colin, even though he felt no such feelings for his father.
"This week he did absolutely nothing," she said. "After work, he just came home and refused to help me out with the housework at all. He just expects your dear old mother to cook and clean, as if we're living in the 1800s!" Despite knowing that she couldn't see him, he nodded along, an instinct that had been developed in him over these past eighteen years of listening to her unload her problems on him. Every once in a while, he would give a simple little "mhmm" or "uh huh."
It was times like these where he was glad that he had invested in a cordless phone for his dorm room. Colin was at least able to wander around his room in an attempt to distract himself from the crushing boredom and discomfort he felt from being on the phone with his mom.
He began organizing and cleaning up things. This was one of the few times where tidying up was actually the more desirable activity to him. He tried to form a mental list of the things that he needed to do that he had procrastinated on. Oh, how any of them seemed like better options now than what he was currently doing.
But then, his mother shifted the topic of conversation to one where he would have to play something of a more active role: himself. "So, Colin, sweetie, what have you been up to this past week?"
He tried to keep the answers curt. "Nothing mom, just class, you know, nothing special." She asked him a series of questions, most of them he answered simply with "yes," "no," or occasionally "I dunno, maybe." At first, it felt like she was prying, but as the conversations became more routine, Colin suspected she was just asking the questions for another reason. She needed to create the illusion that she was not calling her son just to complain about things, so she tried to pretend that she was checking up on him.
As long as he didn't tell her that he was failing a class or sleeping with a new girl, she would never ask any follow up questions or really show any true concern. Which, of course, Colin didn't mind, since his goal was to make the conversation as short as possible. So, he never mentioned such things, not that he would have done so, anyway.
Eventually, the call began to wind down, and she eventually said the magic words that released him. "I love you, Colin. Talk to you next week! Goodbye." "Bye, mom." He hung the phone up, and sighed again. This time from relief.