Every night at exactly 11:42, a phone would ring once. The ring might have come from my building; it might have come from some other building in the courtyard. I know the exact time because after the fifteenth or so time I began checking it against my TV cable clock.
As I know, for a fact, (five words that never made sense to me together, but since everybody uses it, I will this once, ) that Time Warner Cable is never wrong, I have to assume that their clocks are always correct.
I began to wonder about the ring. Why was it only one ring?
I imagined a very old couple who couldn’t go to sleep until they heard from their Social Security aged daughter. They were all living off measly Social Security or SSI checks with no added income, so instead of speaking to each other, she would ring once to let them know she was alright.
I hated this fantasy, really a nightmare. I had to change it. I didn’t stay up waiting for the phone to ring, but I like silence for the hour or two before I go to sleep, and frankly would forget about it, until it rang at 11:42.
But what other possible scenarios could it be? Local phone calls are usually unlimited, now, and long distance is relatively cheap.
Whoever was making the call had to be old as did the recipient’s. I can’t remember when the phone company (and there was only one phone company–Ma Bell) stopped making long distant (and maybe regional) phone calls considerably cheaper if you waited until after 11PM.
My parents would wait until after 11, as they were
cheap, no, thrifty, and they didn’t like people to know that they had more assets than most of their family and many of their friends.
Though my father stayed up late, and my mother tried to, but would fall asleep immediately if she was watching any TV show she liked, they quickly got out of the after 11 PM phone call. Perhaps my sister and I shamed them into making calls earlier. Shaming them sometimes worked.
“Uh, ma, the depression’s been over forever. You don’t have to buy ketchup by the case.” Especially since my sister and I had both left when were eighteen, and nobody in my family liked ketchup much anyway. Salsa, mustard, yes, ketchup, no.
By 1980 they weren’t old, yet they couldn’t learn how to use an ATM machine, so the phone rates must have gone down sometime before that, while they could still adapt to big changes.
While I love my parents very much, I really didn’t like thinking about them before going to sleep. That meant that one or both of them would pop up in my dreams and I really don’t like dreaming about dead people, especially my parents. No offense, mom and dad, I know you would understand. My parents never peered too closely into my life while they were alive; there were parts of it even a parent didn’t want to know–and shouldn’t.
I like my dreams to be like romance novels, light and fluffy, and parents, dead or alive, sort of hinder that.
But every night at exactly at 11:42 the phone would ring once, and I would begin wondering, who were those people?
Was it a young girl’s parents calling to make sure that she was safely at home, and she would pick it up, right after the first ring? I didn’t like that fantasy either as every young girl should have the opportunity to stay out as late as she wants. Eventually she would learn that she had to get home at a reasonable hour in order to get up in the morning.
But when I was in my 20’s and 30’s I could stay out until 4AM and still make it into work before 8:30, in good shape as long as I had limited my drinking and inhaling. Afraid I’m not talking cigarettes here. Though I craved one incredibly the other day, I had never smoked more than four a day, and my butts made other peoples’ cigarettes.
So I got really angry on behalf of this young girl who probably only existed in my imagination. And wouldn’t a young girl–or really anybody, who could, answer the phone during the first ring. She had to know the exact time the call came. Most people have a digital clock somewhere in their bedroom.
There were endless possibilities, and I thought of many of them.
I hated this intrusion into another person’s world, and began keeping music on, or staying in the living room where for some reason I wouldn’t hear the phone ring. While Rafe was planning his new hair salon, he would come over once or twice a week and we would talk until far into the AM hours.
Several months ago I forgot about the phone call, and reverted back to my old schedule. About a week or two
About two ago I realized that I hadn’t the one ring in all that time.
I miss it. It was warm, inviting even. It meant that somebody cared about another person.
Now I am haunted by the endless possibilities as to why the phone calls stopped.
It’s much more depressing. And my parents still invade my dreams at exactly the wrong time. Just last night…not telling the rest, it’s too personal. Though I will say that I was once engaged to the man in my dream, and almost glad my parents decided to drop by. Though next time, will you give me some notice?