By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
"What did this movie bring back to you?" she asks.
"The killing of a bunch of innocent people," he says with true anguish in his voice. "I tried to put it all behind me, but it's not going away." He can't bring himself to tell his girlfriend about it, he drinks to drown his guilt, and even a visit to Vietnam a few years ago didn't salve the wounds.
"The bottle's not helping," Amy tells him.
"The bottle has nothing to do with it!" he snarls.
"This pain is never going to go away if you try to keep it quiet," she says softly. "Is suicide going to cure the pain?"
He admits he doesn't really want to kill himself because of a fear that he'll be denied a fulfilling afterlife. Nevertheless, he has a plan anyway: "I'm thinking about slitting my wrists. If you place a band around the wrists to raise the veins, you'll die quieter."
Amy asks, "You're telling me you don't really want to do that, so why not try counseling?"
Halfheartedly, he responds, "Okay."
She gets his number for a followup call, then tells him if he wants to call back later tonight, "I'll be here."
The promise of someone who'll listen at the other end of the phone line is what keeps people calling around the clock. What makes the Switchboard of Miami work is the willingness of counselors like Amy and Chuck to offer simple human warmth to whomever calls, no matter how serious -- or mundane -- their problem may be.
The last call Chuck takes tonight is from a lonely college girl who's just broken up with her boyfriend. She's distressed by a dating scene that puts so much emphasis on physical beauty. "Everyone needs somebody to care about them, and I want to find someone I'm comfortable with," she says.
"That sounds reasonable," Chuck agrees. He tries to comfort her by saying, "I think there are relatively large numbers of people out there who don't put a priority on having a woman look like Christy Brinkley."
She perks up. "I'm going to try it, I'm going to meet this person," she says. "Thank you for being there."
The shift is over, and by the time Chuck drives home to his apartment in his white Mazda, he has put the evening's calls behind him. He has a dinner to eat, cats to feed, legal cases to think about. And before he goes to bed, just as he does every night, he'll say the Lord's Prayer, and ask the Lord to send blessings and care to those who deserve good health and a safe return home. He usually mentions his parents, a few friends, and his two ex-wives, but tonight he adds another name to his prayer list: Rita, the young girl trapped with abusive parents and a heart filled with despair. The counselors at the hotline aren't the only ones ready to listen. God's switchboard, it seems, is open all night, too.