This happened when I was living in Santa Cruz and unhappy and plagued with enormous, fluid-filled pimples on every visible surface and cutting all my classes and crying a lot. I was sitting in my room fighting with my Syntax homework when the phone rang. I said Hello hello hello and no one said anything; it was one of those wrong numbers who inexplicably hangs up on you rather than just owning up to his mistake like an honest man. I never hang up on these silent callers because of a Baby Sitter’s Club book I read once when I was 11 where a boy had a crush on Kristy and kept calling her and not saying anything because he was too nervous. I always assume these callers are just hapless men who have fallen victim to my spell.
Anyway, I stayed on the line, and the caller stayed on the line. I know because there was very faint music in the background. Eventually I went back to doing my Syntax homework with the phone still resting against my ear, and the caller went back to organizing his toenail clippings by date, or lifting weights, or watching M.A.S.H. on mute or who knows what. We stayed on the line together for maybe fifteen minutes, just tacitly acknowledging that the other existed. It was incredibly comforting.
Now that I am happy and have altered my diet to discourage enormous, fluid-filled pimples (mostly), I’m feeling that a debt is owed. Someday soon I’m going to start calling random numbers. I’ll wait until I find someone who doesn’t hang up, and then I will be a comforting presence on the line for this person, while I glue printouts of old emails into a journal, or alphabetize my CDs, or use my teeth to pick all the dry skin off my lips.