The phone rang after everyone in the house had gone to bed. I picked it up before the second ring planning on chewing out whichever friend it was calling so late. Surely they knew my dad had rules regarding phone calls. Even if I was 18 and well into my freshman year of college, I was still living at home and subject to my parent’s rules. But the voice on the other end wasn’t familiar:
“What are you wearing?”
“It’s a simple question, what are you wearing right now?”
“I’m guessing since you called me asking that question you’re far more interested in telling me what you’re wearing.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I’m hoping for an A in my Psychology class.”
“This was not the call I was expecting.”
“You called a random number. By my calculations this phone call is way better than your expectations, unless you read those Playboy forums.”
“How would you know about Playboy forums?”
“I have a subscription to Playgirl. I’m assuming its counterpart must have a forum as well. Y'all do enjoy the articles right?”
When he started to laugh I continued;
“I feel like I need to explain.”
“I wish you would.”
“My dad has half-naked chicks on his shop wall. I’ve harassed him for year that it’s just plain wrong, but still they hang there. So I got a subscription to Playgirl knowing that he’d be the one to collect the mail each day and the plastic bag with the white paper cover wouldn’t fool him.”
“And nothing; the half-naked chicks are still on his shop walls and he’s not said a word, even placed a few of the magazines right in my hands."
“So your plan backfired?”
“As they often do.”
"You still haven’t answered me.”
“What am I wearing?”
“I don’t plan on answering.”
“You don’t make prank calling easy.”
“That’s not my job.”
“What’s your job?”
“To steer you off course.”
“You’re doing well.”
“I’m kind of an expert in the field.”
“I want to meet you.”
“That’s moving rather fast.”
“Don’t you want to meet me?”
“You called a random stranger in the middle of the night hoping to find someone willing to talk dirty to you. You don’t sound like much of a catch.”
“Maybe I was just looking for a friend.”
“I’d pick a better opening line next time.”
“You’ve helped me see the light and I’ve changed my ways.”
“Rethink that line too.”
“So no interest in meeting?”
“Then maybe I’ll call you back tomorrow. What’s your name?”
“Not giving you that either.”
“I’m calling you tomorrow.”
“I will call back.”
I hung up before he said anything else. I was smiling though. The conversation after all was funny. But seriously, how much more off-putting could I have been?
The next day I went to school and work. I’m not sure if I told anyone about the exchange, but I do remember thinking there was no way he’d call back. I wasn’t even sure if he’d remember my number since he just punched buttons on his phone. But the next night I woke to his phone call. This time my dad picked up. No one answered so he hung up first and the guy asked if I was still on the line.
“How did you remember my number?”
“I had to call a few places before I figured it out. But this time I wrote it down.”
“You have plans to call back again?”
“Whatever it takes to convince you to meet me.”
“I’ve no desire to meet you. But you’re welcome to try to woo me.”
“I read a lot of romances. Don’t make fun.”
We continued to talk and the guy was true to his word and called again. This time I employed the art of covert call waiting. A few minutes before he called I dialed up the local bank to get their recorded time and temperature. The message was on a loop so I could keep it on till the call waiting beeped in. This way the phone never rang at the house.
Or conversations soon branched out and we began learning more and more about each other. I know that he had an older brother. I knew the nearby city he lived in. And during each phone call we’d have to wait as the nightly train drove past his place. He once opened his window so I could hear how close he was to the tracks. It was terribly annoying, but he wasn’t willing to call later for fear I’d fall asleep and not answer his call. So we dealt with it, both of us setting our watches to the nightly interruption.
This went on for a while and I could tell he was getting anxious, wanting to meet up. I didn’t want this part to end and quite frankly I wasn’t sure he’d want to continue talking to me after we met. I mean, I knew my strength was talking; looks… not so much. I was taller than the average guy. I had braces and crazy short hair. I wasn’t the ideal chick and though I had no allusions that this guy was some heartthrob straight from a John Hughes film, I was starting to like him. Why screw that up with a face to face?
So I did my best to postpone things until one day, after many conversations and a few slip ups, he figured out where I worked. He was familiar with the place. And with it's corner location and two walls of windows he could easily see me inside and I'd be none the wiser. He made a promise to drive by the shop the next day.
The next day came and went.
He didn’t call that night or the next. I figured that was it. He put the voice to the face and wasn’t interested.
Nearly a week went by before he called back. I had no desire to talk with him. But my need for an explanation was too great and I picked up the phone;
“It would seem so.”
“I’m sorry I’ve not called in a while.”
“You’ve no obligations to me.”
“I came by the shop.”
“I figured as much.”
“I saw you.”
I said nothing but stared at the phone cradle thinking at any minute I'd slam it down.
“You smile, a lot. Did you know that?”
“I’ve been made aware of that, yes.”
“You were talking with a lady. I don’t know if you knew her or if she was just a customer, but I found myself smiling as you talked to her. You talk with your hands.”
There was a long pause. I wasn’t sure what he expected me to say so I said nothing. It all felt like ground work he was laying out to reject me with.
“I opened the door to my car and you looked in my direction. I wasn’t sure if you'd know it was me.”
“I don’t remember.”
“You turned around when another customer came in. I watched for a bit, but then shut my door and drove off.”
"Why didn't you come inside, or at least call and tell me you didn't want to talk to me again?"
"I did want to talk to you again. I wanted to talk to you right then, but I knew you wouldn't be interested."
"How would you know that?"
"You were from the other side of the tracks."
"You're going with that?"
"So you thought I was a snob?"
"No, but I didn't think you'd give me the time of day."
"That's the definition of a snob."
I was angry. Hindsight tells me he wasn't trying to upset me, but at 18 all your emotions are on hyper drive. Though he was saying he liked me, his actions far outweighed his words. I didn't want to hear any more excuses. He saw me; he didn't call me, now he was trying to give excuses for his actions. So I decided to end it:
“I started seeing someone. We’ve only been on a few dates, but I like him. I think the phone calls should end.”
He said nothing.
“I enjoyed our talks.”
Still no sound from his end of the line.
“That night, when you first called, I was wearing a tank top and shorts.”
I waited no more than a few seconds for him to respond, when he said nothing I gently set the phone in its cradle.
I never heard from him again. No name, no phone number, not even an idea of what he looked like.
He on the other hand knew all that and more about me and with one look decided I would have judged him harshly.
I don't know if he ever saw the irony in his statement.