You Need to Listen

30th October 2007

A man up the street is screaming into his cell phone. It is early morning, still grey.


I push the stroller across the street quickly, and try to figure out where the sound is coming from. He is at least two blocks away, dressed in a red sports jersey and matching track pants.


He takes a few steps, pauses to scream, takes a few more steps. Hank and I walk to the neighborhood coffee shop and take a seat. A few minutes later, I see the man through the window. The hum of the cafe deadens his words, but he is gesturing in wide sweeps. He holds the phone to his ear for a moment, and then swings it out so he can scowl at it while he yells into the receiver, as though it were a microphone.

His gestures remind me of a hellfire preacher at the pulpit. I can see he isn’t actually angry, not anymore. He’s simply enjoying the gestures that accompany refined rage. He is flawless, infuriated, and somehow harmless. He could be a lovely actor, I think, and then retrieve Hank’s pacifier from the floor.

17 thoughts on “You Need to Listen

  1. Thursday's Child

    Mighty Girl,
    I’ve been lurking for a while, but this post has forced me to pop in and say, “Amazing!”

    This was a lovely little piece, and isn’t it funny how much beauty lies in raw human emotion? Envy, wrath, joy, melancholy–they all evoke in us some of awe at life.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. bellacantare

    I’ve had that kind of phone call while dealing with vendors who forget I’m a paying client. Luckily I can put my work phone on mute and complain to my co-worker outloud to avoid some of the arm gesturing. I’m Italian, but it’s a small office – I could hurt someone with my natural ability to gesture.

  3. Reggie

    I’ve had fake fights on my cellphone before. “No! I know what I’m doing!” I’ll yell into the dead receiver.

    Then, when I’m about to pass someone and I’m sure they can hear me, I’ll say something like, “Well of course your brother thinks that! That’s because he’s an idiot!”

    I’m not sure if this is a surrogate for therapy, or a reason I should be in therapy.

  4. c

    Delurking to add this completely irrelevant comment–did you know that your face is on the front page of twitter? That is awesome.

  5. Wendy Townley

    Unrelated to this post, but did you see your image is featured on Twitter’s homepage? No joke!

    P.S. Keep up the great work. I love your blog, as well as the Mighty Goods site. I’ve discovered many a favorite online retailer from Mighty Goods. Hooray for stuff, indeed!

  6. jen

    I love watching people yelling at/into their cellphone. It is like a mini-play. The ones that are really funny, though, are the ones that come from the neighboring bathroom stall.

  7. Sophia

    Yesterday as I was walking into school a guy around my age (26) was talking on his phone. “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom Mom Mom. MOM. Mom. Mom. Mom Mom. Mom.” He actually sounded fairly calm, but the girl he was with looked embarrassed in a genteel fashion, yet resigned.

    (Also, it reminded me of the HIMYM from a few weeks back when it required 16 no’s for Robin to convey that she was not dating Barney.)

  8. LeAnn

    Ooh, I got an idea! Fake cellphone fights with my ex-husband, just telling him off the way I want to but can’t quite yet, and make it as nasty and loud as possible!

  9. stacey

    this just reminds me of what happened this weekend when i was in your city – just for the weekend! i spent more than a few minutes thinking, “i wonder if this is maggie’s street!” and, “i wonder if this is the street where she was surprised with that red car!”

    anyway, we were stopped in traffic one evening and there was an old man outside the car window gesturing wildly at another man. it was apparent they were arguing. he was making HUGE SWEEPING GESTURES. yelling with his hands! pounding his fist.

    i’m from wisconsin, where we don’t really have any nationalities besides germans and norwegians, although i live in s. florida now, so these shows of ethnic diversity always amuse me. i giggled and asked my boyfriend the first thing that came to mind, “so, you think he’s italian?”

    then i looked up. they were standing right under a sign that said: ITALIAN RESTAURANT.


    your city was gorgeous.. flickr me at username jisou if you want to see pictures. (yes, i am one of those that thinks blogs are interactive, obviously.)

  10. Linda

    In response to Reggie above, my best friend and I used to fake fight in High School just to make a scene and make people wonder what the hell was going on. It was our own personal acting exercise. And boy was it fun!

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