Part two ….
I wanted to say, “Yes, often. More than I should.” That was the truth and it was on the tip of my tongue.
“Eh, you first,” is what I finally said.
“All the time,” he blurted without hesitation. “Every time I bought something new, achieved something, I thought of you. Anytime something monumental happened in my life, I don’t know why, but I thought of you. How nice it would be to tell you about it. Not because I wanted to show off or something, but just because.”
I sat in my cloak of smugness. He thought about me. All the time too. Wow!
“Like the time you got married?” I said. “You called me that day, remember?”
“Yeah, and you were such a bitch about it.”
“What, you expected me to jump for joy?” He had no idea how painful that phone call was for me. How I pretended I didn’t care, all the while wanting to simply die at the finality of our break-up.
“Well, you could have …”
“You got married like almost three months after we ended things. And she moved in with you right away! You guys were moving at an incredible speed which was confusing to me. So yeah, I believed that there was something was going on between the two of you while we were dating. I still do. Of course I was pissed off. With her and you. She stole you from me.”
“But you left for …”
“And anyway, I challenge you to find a girl who says, ‘Congratulations, ex-boyfriend who I dated for five years. Hope you and that bitch lives happily ever after like Shrek,’ and does a joyful jig.”
“Shrek? Ha! Ha!”
“And did your wife know you called me that day?”
“Of course not. She’d die if she knew.”
“Mm. And why did you call me? I mean, how could you, on your wedding day of all days, call me, your ex-girlfriend? Something was wrong with that picture, boy.”
“Yeah…I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Well, clearly you were thinking about me.” My voice oozed glee.
“Yeah, I was nuts.”
A short silence.
“Listen, I have to deliver a lecture. Three actually. Can we chat in about four hours? And can I call you?”
“It’s a long distance call!” I reminded him.
“Please, I really want to hear your voice. Please.”
“I…look, I really don’t …”
“Just this once. Please! Here’s my number…” He types it in and hits send. “Message me your number. Now.”
After a slight hesitation, I say “Okay.”
“Cool.” He sends m three smiley faces and xoxo.
I laugh and message him my number.
How should I end the conversation?
Xoxo? No, hugs and kisses – too forward for our first convo.
C u later? Too cold.
I type in five smiley faces and hit send. It’s neutral enough and he can read into it what he likes.
I log off and peer at the clock. Four hours.
Quickly, I load the dishwasher, tidy the lounge, fold washing, feed the dog and cat and hastily assemble a salad for dinner; all so that I can be free to free to talk to him in four hours. To hear his voice after thirteen years.
The thought of it makes me shiver with delight.
I look at the clock again. Only an hour has passed!
When my phone rings three hours later with an Out of Area signal on it, my mouth gets dry and I swallow hard.
“You sound the same,” he said, his voice full of excitement.
“Ohmigod, you sound the same too!”
“Yeah, you do.”
“You …you don’t have an Aussie accent?”
“This is surreal,” he said, his voice barely a whisper. “Us talking. Just surreal.”
“What’s your daughter’s names?” he asked.
“Billie and Sydney,” I answered. I wondered if he remembered that Billie had been significant to us. “What’s your kids’ names?”
“Joshua and …” His hesitation piqued my curiosity. “…Billie.”
I was stumped. Tears smarted my eyes, while he cleared his throat several times.
“Oh, man!” he said, his voice hoarse.
I nodded, forgetting that he couldn’t see me.
We both fell silent as nostalgia lingered.
“You know that song by Kid Rock? All summer long…whatever? Remember that song?
“Eh, vaguely,” I lied.
“You should listen to it. I downloaded it, and when I’m alone in the car, I blast it and think about you. Us.”
“Yeah. All the time. I always smile when I listen to it. Sometimes I laugh out loud when I think of all the things we did then. Then I get hit by a bout of nostalgia and I’m sad again.”
My heart sang at his confession.
“And I think Rags knows it’s significant, because once or twice when she got into my car, it was playing and she changed the song straight away.”
“Mm.” Good. I hope it burned her.
“And Passenger? Let her go? Do you know that song?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah?”
“I turn it off when I hear it.”
“Off? Wwwwwhy? I loooove that song!”
It was a while before he answered. “Makes me sad. Disappointed. I don’t quite know why. Like, I love my wife, I love my family, I’m happy in my life, I’ve achieved all I dreamed I would and more, yet…it’s like …I dunno, something is missing. When I think about you, that is. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to start something…”
“We would have never made it,” I hastened to add. “We fought too much.”
“Ah, but it was the making up after the fighting that was great! Special. Wasn’t it? Or don’t you remember?”
I chuckle. “I do, I do.”
His words set my feet tapping against the wooden floors of my study. The making up was always so beautiful.
“Don’t you fight with your wife?”
“No, not really.”
“Really? You don’t fight?”
“Yeah, she’s not like that. She doesn’t fight or argue and like, well, I dunno, she’s …reasonable. Logical.” There was a slight disdain to his voice.
“Mm. Sounds dull to me,” I said, my bitchiness getting the better of me. That comment will most definitely make him mad, I thought. Make him regret contacting me.
“Yeah, true,” he said to my surprise. “I liked it in the beginning, but it’s strange that the very thing I liked about her, is the very thing I …” He appeared to be choosing his words, “…I wish I could change.”
Wow, I hadn’t spoken to him in more than a decade and he’s talking so freely to me!
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that to you. I feel disloyal to her when I do. She doesn’t deserve it.”
Yes she does! We probably would be together today had she not moved so swiftly.
We both fell silent for a moment.
“Your turn,” he said. “Spill. Do you think of me? Like over the years?”
I was hoping he’d forget to ask me.
“Well, yeah, I think about you too,” I confessed. “Five years is a lifetime. Especially during that period in your life. Like, I was seventeen when I met you and then we grew up together. It’s hard not to think about that time, you, our friends …”
“Yeah, I don’t understand why we can’t be friends and keep in touch with each other. I mean, I’m not trying to hurt anybody. And I know you – you wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, either.”
“True. So, you burnt all my photos, huh?”
He laughed. “Yep. She found my hidden stash and demanded I burn it all. What a bonfire!”
“What about you?” he asked.
“Same. My ex found my diary once while I was out shopping and read the whole thing. Our fights, my fears, our sweet times…read every goddamn thing. So we too had a massive bonfire.”
“But hey, I salvaged something.”
“You did? What?”
“A tiny teddy bear you once gave me.”
“Seriously? You kept it?”
“Yep. It says, ‘I purr when I’m cuddled.’ Has a little red top. Very pretty and very precious.”
“Hey, I remember that teddy! We had a fight and…”
“…over my curfew on campus …” I smiled as I thought about it.
“…and you left me on the highway and drove off in my car! How could you do that to me? It was 2 AM.”
I laughed. “You’re the one who pulled over and told me to drive myself home. I begged you to get into the car, but you told me to fuck off, so I did. I was working the next morning, remember? Had to be up at 6.”
“God, you were such a bitch. I hitched a ride with a biker. Fat, old guy. He stank like shit and I had to put my thighs around his. Eeewww! Gives me the shivers to think about it.”
“Hey, I stole money from my mom’s purse to buy you that.”
“Ha ha ha. I didn’t know you stole money from your mom. But I remember that day, you bringing it to me. That was an awesome day.”
We spent the next hour trading memories, until it was time for him to go.
“I’ll call you again,” he said.
Tomorrow? Please say you’ll call me tomorrow?
“In two days.”
Damn! Why not tomorrow?
“Sure,” I said, doing my best to sound casual.
“Um…take care now and be good,” he said. “On second thoughts, don’t. Be just the way you are.”
My grin was big enough to stick in a coat hanger.
After I hung up, I scrolled down my iPhone, found Kid Rock’s All Summer Long and hit play.
Every time I had heard that son, I thought about him. If only he knew.
Yep, we were trying different things, for sure. We were smoking funny things, oh yeah!
I turned around to my little girl.
“Why you laughing?”
“Um…well…eh…something I read,” I said and quickly left the room, a huge smile on my face.
To be continued…
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