Phone Friends

Circa 1993

            I had a friend visit the other day, that I hadn’t seen in a very long time.  It’s not as if we hadn’t spoken in years, on the contrary;  we speak almost every day on the phone.  That’s how we’ve always been, she and I, living our lives independently and passing time together on the phone.

            When you speak on the phone, you cannot rely on looks or body language to communicate the nuances of a conversation. It is like being blind and needing to trust your other senses that much more: On the phone, you have to listen.  What they say, what they don’t say, and the tone in which they say it in, expresses far more than the words exchanged.  You even have to listen to the silences to hear what is really being said.

            Admittedly, it’s the nicest to be able to see your friends in person.  Physically being around them allows you to partake in all of the gestures, expressions, and body languages that are so important.  Thankfully, togetherness never ends there.  Being together means reaching into one another and holding each other with very caring hands.

            In some ways, talking on the phone is even more intimate than talking in person.  On the phone, there is usually less time to bandy around, so conversations are more direct. Depending on how you look at it, there are greater, or fewer, masks to hide behind.  There are masks that allow you to let go of inhibitions, and there are masks that only distract or hide the person’s true features.  I feel there are more of the former and less of the latter on the phone.  For me, my guard tends to drop, and somehow, the way towards one another’s being somehow seems more clear.

            In the case of my friend, we may be talking about art or politics, or simply about the days’ happenings, or about nothing at all; but in her voice I can hear that she is there, which in and of itself, is something I find terribly reassuring.

            Sometimes, when she asks about my life or my well being, or even when she is saying good-bye, sometimes, just sometimes, there is an aching sincerity in her voice that leaves me holding the phone long after she has hung up.

            Then, there are days when she talks about other people and how fabulous they are.  She says what is in her heart, and I cannot help but feel like Cyrano listening to his Roxanne.

            When I am being foolish, she laughs with me.  When I am being a fool, she tells me so.  When I am sad, she listens to me cry, and when I am depressed, she is depressed with me. In a single “Hello,” she can know it is me, and in that single word, she can tell if I am happy or not, sad or not, angry or not.  In her voice, I listen for the same things, and though I can never be sure, I think I hear her too.

            So she has come to visit.  The days before she arrives are laden with anticipation; not expectation, but an impatience for her to be near.

*       *       *

            She is gone and all is as it had been before. Ironically, we didn’t do anything earth shattering, but as such, it was no less special for not having been so.  We may have simply sat together and played games or ran errands, or drank frozen drinks in the car, but for me the whole of the experience has left me vaguely settled, like coming home, or being held: