San Francisco

A young girl calls out into night reaching for help.

It was approximately 11:20 p.m. I was lying in my comfortable bed, ready to fall fast asleep, when I noticed my phone had not rung all evening. It was one of those phone-radio all-in-one combination phones. I reached over to the nightstand and picked up the receiver. There were voices emanating from the phone receiver. Thinking it was odd playing through my phone, I wondered if it was an option that came with the phone or was I dreaming. I put the receiver to my ear and listened for a moment, and realized that a call-in radio talk show was coming through my radio phone receiver. I now was more personally connected than if it was just playing on the radio.

I propped up my pillows and prepared myself for what would be my first time listening to one of these self-help radio shows. Dr. Browne, a psychiatrist, introduced herself and gave a toll-free number to call in. The name of the game was “entertainment through the exploitation of human misery.” Dr. Browne then took a caller and said, “Hello, “You’re on KGO!” There was silence,... and then the caller said in a young, trembling whisper, “I would like to talk…”

“Go ahead,” the doctor said encouragingly.

“Could you wait just a minute?” asked the voice over the phone.

“Yes,” the doctor let out a deep sigh.

The caller sounded like a very young girl who was frightened. I could hear her set the phone down, and then footsteps scurry across a hard floor and a door open. The girl lowered her voice until it was barely audible.

“Is anyone coming?”

A different female voice told her to go ahead, but to keep her voice down. I heard the door close. She made her way back to the phone and said, “Hello.”

“Go ahead.” Dr. Browne urged. The girl hesitated and then in a quivering voice said, “I would like to talk about incest.”

When I heard this, my throat tightened up. I had no idea what she was going to say.

“What would you like to say about incest?” The doctor asked.

As the girl started to tell her story, her voice cracked. “When I was four, my grandfather molested me, when I was eight, my brother molested me and, at twelve, my father molested me.”

At this point, I was horrified and feeling more personally involved. Here I was eavesdropping on a private conversation thinking I should call the police, but where is she?

Dr. Brown then asked, “How old are you?”


“Is your mother around to talk to?” The doctor seemed concerned.


“Where are you living?” probed Dr. Browne.

“Oh...around.” She sounded so lost.

“How do you support yourself?” The doctor inquired inquisitively.

“I...sell myself.” There was such anguish in the girl’s voice.

“Where are you calling from?” the doctor said abruptly.


“What’s your name?” the doctor asked slowly.

“Cecelia” she said with assurance.

Dr. Brown said, “Cecelia, I’m going to give you some phone numbers to call in your area for help.”

There was a noise in the background, and a female voice frantically said, “He just drove up! Get off the phone!”

Cecelia, shaken, said, “I have to go now.”

The doctor quickly said, “Take these numbers down.”

Cecelia despairingly said, “I must go. Good bye.”

At this point, I’m screaming into the phone, “Don’t let her go! Don’t let her go!”

There was silence over the phone, then Doctor Browne said. “You’re on KGO.”

Today Cecelia would be 52. Many nights after that call I would pick up my phone and listen to the silence. I’m not sure what I would have done even if I had the chance. It took months for Cecelia’s voice to fade from my memory, though I think back upon that day often, especially when I use a landline.  I like to  think of Cecelia as a sweet delicate bird that would take flight one day. I hope her wings found a new home. I hope her life is now filled with peace. I hope she has found true love. I hope her past has not taken her life from her.

Frank G. Caruso