It’s been 14 years. I’ve kept my promise. It’s important that once you swear to something that you stand by your word. Promises kept. I keep my promises.
Remember a long time ago, before technology, when it wasn’t easy to be traced? When a snow day meant gathering at your friend’s house, the friend where both parents worked, and drinking hot chocolate while making really stupid crank phone calls? It was great!
“Hi! Is your refrigerator running?” *giggles* “Umm, yes.” *more giggles* “BETTER GO CATCH IT!” Hang up and laugh with your friends. It was harmless fun. There was no Star 69, no Caller ID. Back then, if the phone rang, you answered it or answered it not, with no idea what you might be in for or what you may be missing. Through the snow, uphill, both ways, barefoot. Nobody knew who was on the other end when the phone rang. A phone ringing was full of possible mystery and intrigue or utter disappointment back then.
Then we got answering machines. These days, if you like someone, you google them, check out their facebook, see if they tweet. If you miss someone, you google them, check out their facebook, see if they tweet. Back then, if you missed someone, you tried to ignore it. But then, after a couple of drinks, your better judgement went out the window and you did the call and hang up routine. Maybe you got the answering machine, which was even better, because you could hear their voice on the other end and you felt connected to them in some weird and twisted way.
Sometimes you didn’t have their number anymore, but you had the number of one of their friends or relatives. Not half as satisfying, but after enough drinks, it was good enough.
So it’s been 14 years this month. I keep track of these things, accidentally on purpose. It wasn’t him, that number had been changed. But I had his sister’s digits. Don’t drunk dial! But I did. I don’t know what set me off that night. It had been years. So many years. I had been okay. I could tough this out until my last breath. Maybe there was something in the air that night. The smell of greasy french fries and funnel cake, a breeze that felt a little too familiar… I played the answering machine game once or twice and the third time, she picked up. I asked her to please just tell me he was okay. Tell me he was happy. I just needed to know he was happy and I promised I would never bother her again. I would never reach out to him again, ever, just tell me. Assure me that the man I had loved and missed forever was okay so I could hold that close and try to let it go. Again.
She seemed pretty pissed in the beginning – after all those hang ups I probably would have been pissed too – but then I think she took pity on me. She told me everything that I needed to hear. I didn’t want to hear it… of course it would have been better to know that he was miserable and missed me and wanted to find me again. Isn’t that always the lingering hope after one loses the love of their life? Not this time. He was happy. He was okay. I thanked her profusely, in my drunken haze, and promised again that I would never call her, never bother her again. I hung up and cried. Cried like it was yesterday.
That was 14 years ago. Shortly thereafter I found this band. Or should I say a band found me. Literally a couple of days after my final drunken call to his sister. It was like God sent them. A really fun distraction that I needed right then. And the lyrics… yeah. So many years later but it was as if they had been written just for me. Like God sent me this band to get me out of the funk I had somehow fallen into yet again. The diversion lasted several years with really fun travels, new friends, hysterically awkward stories and awesome memories. It was just what I needed. Right then. But all of that is for another day.
The important thing is that I’ve kept my promise. I never called her again, haven’t called him. But sometimes, on awkward nights that tend to happen during the month of August, the veil will thin and it’s like I could step through the shimmer and be there again, right there, close enough to smell him. It’s excruciatingly difficult to keep my promise on those nights when the air is soft, the sky is pink and gold and I can hear songs from the 80’s off in the distance. But I do’t do it. I keep my word. Promises kept.
And that’s a very good thing. Can you imagine trying to crank call via Face Time or Zoom???