Monday, January 10, 2005

Sitting by the Phone

I feel like some drippy high-school girl with a crush... last night I actually sat there with the phone in my hand, waiting for it to ring. In fact, I spent the entire day never letting the phone out of my sight.

Granted, I usually do keep my cell-phone nearby... that's the whole point of a cell-phone, after all, to have it with you. But I often leave it in the car, or put it in my pocket; and when I'm at home, I usually stick it on its charger and leave it in my room — but most of the day and all last night, I had the phone dangling from my wrist or clutched in my hand, or laying on a table within my range of vision, compulsively checking its face to make sure it was working and had reception, et cetera.

And all because Gus said he'd call me back "later."

To give you the full history of our little game of phone-tag, I actually intended to call him on Friday afternoon/evening to set up a time to meet for dinner. But I got involved in cleaning my living-room, and didn't finish until after eleven... and I never call anyone after 11. That's the magic phone-cut-off time with which I'd been raised, and I can't change it.

So then Saturday, I was out at a party and then at the mall with some friends; on the way home (around 9-ish) I called him from the car, and got an answering machine... but the outgoing message was rendered in a female voice, and it was maddeningly uninformative, mentioning no names at all. Does Gus have a female roommate? Didn't he give me his cell-phone number? Did I program in the wrong number when we exchanged info at Blockbuster? I was a little confused, unsure how much information to leave, so I just left a very brief message stating that I'd called and please call me back.

On the way home, I saw Gus walking down Lakeshore with another guy, a tall and reasonably attractive (at first glance) guy wearing a rather jazzy black leather hat that I couldn't carry off no matter how hard I tried. But I was driving in the opposite direction and there was nowhere to pull over to say "Hi"; and even if there was a place to stop, it's a little stalker-ish to interrupt a tête-à-tête, no matter how public, with a drive-by Howdy. So I just filed away the info that he was out with a guy (relationship unknown) on a Saturday night, and continued on my way home.

The next morning, while I was in church with the Grandmother and the cell-phone was alone in the car, Gus called me back, telling me that he'd been out Saturday night (which I already knew, but he didn't know I knew), and hadn't got my message until late at night, and finally left a different number to call (I assume his cell-phone number). As soon as I got the message, when I'd left Grandmother in Bible class and came out to the car to nap for an hour, I called him at the new number.

I won't try to reproduce the conversation, though it was certainly short enough; but basically he'd thought that I had called the night before for some urgently important reason, I guess I sounded frazzled and weird in my brief message, and that's why he gave me his cell-phone number. But since I was not calling for any life-threateningly important reason, just simply to chat, he asked if he could call me back later. I assumed he was at work, and I didn't want to take up his time with idle chit-chat, so I rang off, forgetting completely in the confusion to state why I had called in the first place.

I mean, it wasn't idle chit-chat that I was calling for... I had an actual reason, just not an urgently important reason. It was only important to me. But I figured I could relate all this to him when he called back; my assumption was that he'd call when he got off work and/or wasn't busy anymore, so I kept the cellphone continuously under my nose for the rest of the day.

It sounds so simple and ordinary when I write it down; and if I wanted to save face and pretend that I am a normal and rational person, I would leave the story there.

But this website isn't about saving face, it's about honesty, so I must report that I became inordinately depressed after I talked to Gus. His tone was rather impatient, and I got the feeling that he thought I was wasting his time. On a rational level, I knew I couldn't read too much into how someone sounds over the phone (I mean, I'd sounded upset on his answering-machine, when in fact I was simply unsure of myself); but on a purely emotional level, I felt as if I'd been slapped.

Between the impatient tone and the knowledge that he'd been out "late" with Mister Jazzy-Hat, I felt like I'd once again made an utter ass of myself and become infatuated with someone who was not interested in me. My 25-year record of romantic loserdom appeared to remain unbroken, reaching from puberty to the grave, a solid stone wall, insurmountable and ineffably heavy, and so vast as to be visible from outer space. And by letting my mind wander off in this direction, I managed to work myself into a state where I felt so profoundly sorry for myself that I even cried for a while before I managed to pull my shit back together.

I was simply over-tired (I reasoned), and emotionally over-stimulated; and the fact that Gus was out with a guy didn't necessarily mean anything, and even if it did, so what? It's not like I'm in love with Gus, I'm just interested in him (to the point of infatuation, but still). And it's not like he was mean to me, or stated out loud that he wasn't interested in me... he just sounded impatient on the phone. Nevertheless, I remained rather depressed-feeling all day, though I didn't let myself become despondent again.

However, when midnight rolled around and my phone still hadn't rung (though it certainly worked, I checked often enough), the despondency threatened again. But I was not going to let myself get worked up about it like I had earlier in the day; so I told myself that I am simply going to have to detach from this situation... for while I am not as good at Acceptance as I would like, I'm an absolute genius at Detachment. I am not going to give up on Gus, I'm just going to have to force a Chill Pill down my throat and get over myself. The ball is in his court, maybe I have made an bit of an ass of myself (again, you'd think I'd be used to it by now) but I haven't done anything socially unforgiveable, and now it's his turn to call if he wants to call.

It's just that I've built this up in my mind to the size of a big-budget wide-screen star-studded epic, and it really isn't that big of a deal. It's just that I'm not accustomed to relating to people emotionally, and my avoidance of emotional vulnerabilty is so deep that the simple act of opening myself to the merest possibility of being hurt takes on an undue significance. And this undue significance resulted in another case of my hopes turning into expectations, which invariably turn into disappointments.

I can't stop hoping, but I have to stop letting my hopes turn into expectations, and stop letting minor disappointments destroy my serenity.

Easier said than done, of course. If you could find an easy no-fail mechanism to stop hopes becoming desires becoming expectations becoming disappointments becoming resentments, you'd pretty much stop the pain and misery of the human condition in its tracks. It's more a matter of training your heart and soul to not do these things, and it's never easy, and it's never complete. But you do it anyway, because what else can you do? Keep suffering?

Well, anyway, that's what's rattling around in my head today. I'm going to go work on my fiction for a while... a universe in which I have some control over people. Talk to you later!


No sooner do I hit the "Publish" button to post the above, but my phone rings and Guess Who? Gus was at work when I called yesterday... he was, in fact, with a client in the middle of a haircut, and so could be expected to sound impatient. Then he was busy with one thing and another for the rest of the day, and that's why he didn't call back.

So anyway, we had a good chat, he was smart and funny (and cute, I bet, though I couldn't see him), we found things in common and talked about things not in common. There was no weirdness, I was completely present for the conversation without having a secondary dialogue with myself in the background, and it was nice. We didn't make plans for dinner yet, we had to end the conversation when our respective cell-phone receptions started fritzing out, but we planned to talk again and will continue to communicate.

I'm just going to have to stop being so damned neurotic. It's very tiring. All these emotional ups-and-downs without cause are going to put me in an early grave, or at least a padded cell. But all things get easier, and less scary, with practice. I just have to practice more.

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