The phone rings.  It startles me out of a funk my mind is sliding into.

It’s Ed.  He’s been calling a lot, but when I’ve call him back he hasn’t answered.

“What?” I say with feigned annoyance.  I am not annoyed at all. I am glad the ringing brought me back to terra firma.

He laughs.  “Did you just call me?”

“No…” I say but the line is now dead.  This happens frequently when he and I talk.  I wish I could say it was because he is handicapped and his fingers are less than nimble, but since I have the same affliction I think it is our genetics, the perfect bit of fat and bone on our cheeks that act as a pompous index finger, deeming who is worthy of a continued phone conversation and who needs to be cut off.

He always calls back.  “What?” I answer again.  This slays him.  We are predictable and that often cracks us up.

“Why’d you hang up on me?” I continue with the feigned annoyance in my voice. 

“It’s so weird…when we were talking my other phone rang,” he said.

This is weird because he has two phones in his apartment, but only one line.

“That is weird,” I laugh.  “Might be a ghost.”

He laughs, “Yeah, because I only have one line…right?”

“Right.”

“That’s the weirdest thing.”

“No Ed, you’re the weirdest thing.”

He does not laugh.  Truly weird things always trump my sophomoric humor.

“So did you call me?” he asks again as if I never said he was weird.

“No,” I say.  “Maybe you have a secret admirer.”

This does make him laugh…kind of cutely…like the thought tickles his fancy.

“Do you get tired of me calling and asking you that?” he asks. 

He does call and leave that message many times a week…it goes like…fumbling phone sounds, heavy breathing and then, “Hey Beth, it’s me.  Did you just try to call me?”

It is an odd message I get again and again.  The good news is that I don’t have to return the call because he will have forgotten that he had a call he thought was from me by the time I get the message.  It is an in-the-moment sort of call.  It always makes me smile at first, but then wince, because it makes it clear that I am the only person who calls him.  He is always bewildered when I tell him the call was not from me.  There is something so dear and so painful about that knowledge it stings my eyes.

“It’s weird that you are home still,’ he says.  It surprises me that he doesn’t know I am among the blessed few who don’t work full time. I spend my mornings writing books never read, hiking, biking, cooking…luxuries I tell almost no one, for it brings a flash of resentment across those forty-plus hour faces of my dear hard working friends.

“I don’t go to work ‘til the afternoon,” I say.

“Why?” he laughs incredulously.

“Because you and I are blessed in that we don’t have to work full time,” I laugh.

He cracks up, but I can still make out the words, “Yeah, but I’m handicapped.”

What can I say?

He keeps laughing and I do not respond other than join him in the chuckle.

“There are some advantages to being handicapped,” he says, and then he does something purposefully kind…he does not ask the question “What’s your excuse?”  I can tell he’s thought it, because Ed is a walking cliché responder, but he stopped himself.

“I better let you go,” he says as if I really probably do work full time and I had better start my work day.

 

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