A few weeks ago, at three in the morning, my cell phone rang. I got out of bed and felt my way to the living room.
“Hello?” I mumbled, unsure what voice would greet me. “Hello???” I pressed before a sharp tone beeped in my ear. “Fucking fax machines.”
One week later, around the same time, my phone rang again. I rolled over and fell back to sleep. In the morning, half-dressed, I ventured to the living room to grab my watch. There on the coffee table, next to an empty wine goblet and uncapped pen, was my phone. One missed called and one new message. One missed call and one new message, from Alaska. I sat down on my sofa, melting into the pillows and staring out the window.
It wasn’t the act of him calling that left me suddenly still, aware of the birds chirping in the pine trees, the train horn blaring as it pulled out of the nearby station. I mean, we still communicated. Sometimes I forwarded him a story to critique or he emailed an article he thought I’d enjoy. But for the most part, our back and forth remained superficial, appropriate for strangers. For whatever reason, this time felt different, personal. I wrote him an email when I got to work.
Just wanted to say thanks for your message. I’ve been having a rough go these last few days and hearing your voice offered a sense of calm. Hope all is well and that life is grand – xoxop
The next day, on his way into work, he called.
“Hey,” I answered as I cradled the phone to my ear and stepped outside.
“Hey, P, what’s going on? Are you okay?”
“Yeah. You just got me having a moment. I’ll spare you the details.”
“You don’t have to spare me anything, if you don’t want to.”
I fell silent, not sure if my quiet was protecting me or protecting him.
“Well,” I started, pausing one last second before diving in. “I just learned my good friend has cancer, my childhood fucked me up pretty bad and my most recent beau had a unique way with lies.”
There it was, for the first time ever, the truth sloppily spilled out before him. I was me, all of me, flawed and genuine. And he embraced every last bit, talking me through the details, making sound suggestions. The more he talked and the more I listened, the more I relaxed.
“Thanks,” I said as I squinted against the sun glare reflecting off a passing car.
“Anytime. You know that.”
“Yeah,” I answered. I knew it. I just wasn’t sure what it really meant, after all this time.