Posted on | April 2, 2014 | 2 Comments
It’s so easy to be clever while you’re complaining. Sound exasperated. Word your complaints in a way that induces laughter and head nodding. There are so many reasons to look at the world and say no. To look at the world and ask for your piece of it. To crave the applause when it gets cold outside and you don’t want to leave your covers.
You spend your day watching people complain about their personal lives via some current event they have become particularly attached to. When someone dies you have to say something because silence isn’t something that is respected. In this world everyone needs to have their input on everything. We are all connected. Part of respect was knowing the degree to which we are connected. When my house burnt down 300 people wrote on my wall. Some of them made me cry. Some of them said words like OMG condolences.
My dad told me it didn’t matter if they used emotions or knew me. Strangers offered me a place on their couch. All the people offering to help me made my parents cry. They got an inkling of what sort of son they had. And I realized I made mistakes but I lived with a lot more love than I ever imagined.
And it’s easy to see the world as some sort of involuntary daisy chain connected by hands holding cellphones and eyes avoiding contact.
This story isn’t about that.
I was talking myself into being irritated on the bus. It was crowded. All I could hear was a man yelling into his phone pardon me, pardon and about dozen people ignoring him checking for text messages. And I felt it in my chest. That isolation. That feeling that humanity turned a corner and all we found was a mirror on the otherside. That desire to push him on the bus and cackle like Dennis Hopper in Speed.
Only I want to talk about my phone. It’s the worst on the market. It’s also better than my last phone which was recently discontinued as they no longer wanted to make a charger for it.That was the previous worst phone on the market.
Let’s take a step back. Go to Facebook.
It was October 28th, 2013 and I checked my Facebook private messages. I check it so often one girl I dated referred to it as my girlfriend. This time it was a letter from the ether from a girl I liked about a million years ago. At that point she had an actual boyfriend. I found this out when I asked for a kiss and was told that she had a boyfriend and a cold. At some point I met her again and told her that one day she would break up with her boyfriend and we would have some fun. I was drunk. it was one of the best things I have ever said when I was drunk.
And I got her message and I felt like a door was opening. Not wide. Just enough that I could put my foot in.
She didn’t live in my city. There is something relaxing in hoping for something totally impossible. Because you can’t get it. It doesn’t hurt to hope.
I did all the wrong things because that’s what I like to do on a date. It had been seven years since I asked for a kiss. It was about seven seconds before I kissed her. I don’t think we’d said hello. It was mostly tongue on teeth. I’m not one for patience. And this sort of forward behavior may have confused my intentions somewhat.
I made her dinner in my cramped second floor kitchen. I still lived at Sheridan Avenue. It was a few weeks before the fire. A few years ago I found a Craigs List add for the place. I signed the lease and suspected I was in for a brief foray into hell. I mean what else could happen when you live with strangers?
Most of these strangers left my life when they were deported. When they were in my life they were some of the bestfriends I’ve ever had. People I never would have met if not for a Craig’s List add. Who wouldn’t have been able to come here before airlines made flights affordable. Before modern technology invited them into my life. There are memories in that house that a fire couldn’t burn away. There was the New Years where foreign exchange students danced the Macarana and we had representatives from almost every country in the world. There were hockey sticks for midnight games in the dead of winter. A thousand conversations on the deck. There were friendships that made a shithole a home.
The dinner wasn’t great. But it had steak. My customary salad made of good ingredients so it had to be good. I was embarrassed as I did the dishes because I’m not particularly good at doing dishes. It was November 8th or 9th and it had just started to get cold.We went for a long walk, kissed in a park and wished that it was a little more convenient to go on a second date. We both realized that the second date probably wasn’t going to happen.
It was freezing cold. She liked the outdoors and my forward behavior of kissing her in the first seven seconds led her to the wise choice of not watching a movie in my bedroom. I walked her back to the place she was staying and I walked home.
On the way home I talked to my friend about how nice the date had been. How I regretted that it was going nowhere. Two days later I got a text message on a phone so terrible it no longer exists. She wanted meet her at the trainstation before she went to Ottawa. I was hungover from a karaoke night that involved a birthday party where a baby had been invited.
I went. It was gross. We held hands and kissed and it felt like we had been dating for years. I would go into details but you would vomit. And I said I’d visit her. I don’t know why I said this. It was unrealistic. Impossible. Exactly what I wanted.
We emailed. I wrote a couple of the emails drunk and they were filled with spelling mistakes taking away from my selling point of being an articulate writer with wild hair and a gorgeous beard. She wrote me back. Recommended a weirdly awesome movie she wanted me to watch. The type of small talk that makes the world feel big.
Friends told me about their success with long distance relationships.
And then 10 days later my house was on fire.
Completely in shock, in the most horrifying moments of my life, I sent her a text message. I wanted her to know I was safe.
She had a dream about a fire. We talked at eight in the morning outside the Starbucks when I hadn’t done any sleeping and my clothes smelled like fire. I don’t really remember what I said. I know I didn’t cry even if I wanted to.
For the next month we talked on the phone. Most of the time it was a safe place to go when nothing felt safe. When I didn’t have a home. When every day I’d recieve a phone call or an email and things would get worse. When I found out Alisha died I left a phone message on her machine.
I’m shit at breaking bad news. It always sounds like a joke. I think I just said that she was dead without explaining who, repeated myself and hung up.
She called me back while I was out getting new Blundstones as I lost my footwear and pretty much all of my belongings in the fire. Somehow she made me feel better. I think it was a combination of her being glad to hear from me and the fact that we laughed even when I felt so hurt that I could barely feel a thing.
I’d seen her twice in seven years and I lived for the moments I got to talk to her on my shitty phone. Just before bed. In someone’s else’s house. Usually with some variety of shitty news and a lot of fast coffee talk.
Now I see her for about a week every month.We travel by airplane, we travel by train but mostly we talk on the phone. People talk about long distance relationships like they talk about cellphones. A way to be with someone without being with them.
One day I broke my charger and tried desperately to get a replacement. Because I didn’t want to go for a night without hearing her voice and making her laugh. Hating Android phones I got another shitty phone, the cheapest they had at Future Shop.
Without my shitty phone and it’s unlimited long distance plan we wouldn’t be able to talk. And our conversations are great. The type that feel like home. And I texted her when my life fell apart. And I call her when I want to tell her I love her before she goes to sleep on nights she has to be up early.
And the first time I told her I loved her I did it on the phone. She had a stopover in Toronto and there was a snowstorm. It seemed unlikely that I’d get to see her and the idea that I loved her had been dancing in my brain too long. I had to say it. She didn’t. She is the type who likes to write letters and say things in person. And the plane landed and she was in Toronto for a couple days. And she said it.
And I watch people on the bus checking their text messages and not talking to eachother. Desperately trying to find an outlet in a coffee shop. And I don’t hate them. Maybe they are just waiting to get a message like the one that ended up in my Facebook on October 28th, 2013. Maybe we connect in different ways than we did when we were kids. Maybe a generation won’t know how to spell and will tell us their feelings using emoticons. Maybe that angry post on my feed is just a desperate desire for some thought or feeling that will point them in the direction of the next place they can feel safe. But we are all trying to find something. And sometimes it isn’t located in the most convenient place. Sometimes the people you love and need don’t live on your block.
It’s so easy to get lost.
To post selfies and pretend that all that matters in the world is what people think of you.
And you can forget how much love there is in the world just waiting to happen between strangers. How far they will go for you because that’s people’s natural inclination. We want to love eachother. And sometimes we wait for the love to arrive instead of sending it blasting into the world. Strangers offered me their couch.
Without my phone I wouldn’t be able to call her and say I’m on her doorstep, come kiss the bearded man.
We don’t connect the way we used to.
Maybe that isn’t always a bad thing.
Because without my phone I wouldn’t be in love.
It’s the shittiest phone on the market.
And it lets me hear her laugh.