Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Phone Scares Me

Charlotte is scared of rational things. As irrational as they may feel, they're all based in some pretty normal fears. She's scared of airplanes, earthquakes, natural disasters, war. She's scared of death and of dying. But I sit over here on the other edge of the world, on the lip of the biggest ocean with enormous trees waving in the wind and and I'm scared of some insane, crazy shit.
I'm scared of moths. There, I said it. That's the fuzzy comfort of having a blog nobody reads but us. Here I can unload my freakish fears without worry someone from fourth grade will come running up to me spewing aloud my deepest secrets. Even if they do read and yell, who cares, we're old now. So anyway Moths, go figure...something to do with a short story by Arthur C. Clarke or H.P. Lovecraft when I was seven or eight. Soon afterwards I read 'Portnoy's Complaint' and was intrigued by liver, yes, yet never afraid of it. Hmmm, what else?
I'm scared of car accidents which is ridiculous when you live in a country so dependent on automobiles. Scared that someone I love who's five or ten minutes late is actually dead in a car and I'll find out at any moment. The knock on the door. The phone that rings late at night - there it is again, that ringing.
I'm scared that I'll jinx things by thinking about them or not thinking about them or saying them out loud or not giving them the reverence they deserve. As in 'Wow, we just made it to the airport in time! And brr, look at all that freezing rain coming down in absolute sheets. Thank God there's no chance whatsoever that our plane will go down! Look, there's someone from ZZ Top going into first class - and he's bringing his guitar. This will be the safest, fastest flight ever!" But in this above-mentioned fear I do take comfort being joined by roughly 25,000,000 others who throw salt over their shoulders, never walk under ladders, and talk to their own, individual, listening, nodding God. Perhaps I underestimate their number.
What else? I'm scared of turning on the TV and seeing the hunting channel or the fishing channel or anything to do with a trapped, wounded, scared, attacked, dying animal of any kind. I'm scared somebody will steal one of our dogs (twice now instead of 'dogs' I typed 'gods'; hence my point) so that when they're in the car and I leave, I hit the 'lock' button four, five, six times in a row as if my hand has a mute kind of Tourette Syndrome.
And I'm scared of the telephone. Not in some Tippy Hedren-it's-going-to-attack me phobia but what you have to do once you pick it up. You have to speak into the damn thing, and I hate it. Hate that it should be a comfort and connection and I fear I'm bothering the other side. Are they listening or have you interrupted them during sex? Are they thinking about the sex they just had, mulling it over as you speak? Do they want to talk to you or were they hoping you were the repairman? Do they want to listen or talk or both or neither and is this a good time or is the repairman coming over for sex? So many questions, so many ring tones, I hate it.
And yet the telephone is still a lifeline. Almost everyone I love lives far away. Charlotte in Italy and everyone else scattered from NY to Boston to LA to San Francisco to Seattle and Bend to Hawaii to Portland. Even if they live close by, a phone comes in handy. For years I'd tell my closest friends that I almost called them, I really thought about calling them, isn't that fantastic, the way other people think of sending a letter or card or trying out for American Idol. Derek and Kevin repeat it to this day: gee, I thought about calling you...isn't that enough? Yet for me this is truly sancrosanct: if I love you, you make it all the way to actual thought. But to press those numbers, well, it takes something out of my soul. Does anybody else do this? Mean to write, call, connect, approach, hold, make meaningful, keep thinking they'll always be enough time? And when did it change? Remember grade school, junior high, high school, rushing home to talk to the friends you just saw all day long in class? Remember pressing the phone against your head for hours until your ear was practically on fire? Practically sweating? And how can ears even sweat? Remember your parents screaming for you to get off the goddamn phone to eat dinner? Do homework? Texting, twittering, it's all the same thing just with a slightly different device, although no sixteen year old will ever understand outrageous ear heat. But it's connection, that thing Charlotte talks about, that way we reach out to someone else we trust, regardless the miles. The sound of someone you love on the other end of the phone is a gorgeous thing. The thought that anyone loves you enough to call when they could be doing something else, that's wonderful. Why would I be afraid of something so beautiful? Spontaneous? Alive? Maybe the saddest sound is a phone that never rings at all. That and a moth, trapped and scared beating against the light. Which is another reason to keep turning the lights off.

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