I rarely was allowed to lie on the cot, since it was obvious that my illness was actually the fact that I was sick of school, so I sat in the waiting room, and had no choice but to take in the dull environment around me.
But when the Nurse picked up the heavy receiver, I became a hunting dog: my ears prickled with the sense of waiting for the next sounds: the rotation of the telephone dial, as it made its noisy way to the small curved finger stop, and then the momentary release, and more relaxed slide back to it’s base.
That sound occurred seven times, and its duration varies depending on the location of the numbers: the brief staccato of the one, all the way to the long, slow pull then exhale of the zero, which erroneously appears after the nine. I knew those sounds so intimately that I waited for the first one to be a deep, long nine, and knew that my number might be the one. It was too. Short to be a seven, which at the time was the only other option. My neighborhood, and therefore any other sick student, or anyone the Nurse might call for that matter, would only be in the range of a phone number that started with a nine, like mine, or the even more popular seven.
It was right after I sent a return text to Derek the Englishman, who was canceling our first face-to-face date scheduled for that evening with a clumsy and insulting excuse that I’m repeating verbatim: “I was just awoken [sic!] by a call from my son, reminding me we made plans for tonight. oops. can u and i do next saturday?” I texted him back with a vague, “yeah, sure,” which I was hoping implied that his excuse deserved that response, but I really didn’t care. I was tired. Tired of getting my hopes up with flirty, tummy-fluttery phone calls that resulted in disappointment.
This was by far not the first, but it was now going to be the last in a series. So I decided: I’m done. I’m waving the white flag. Clearly, my ability to repel men has not only returned, but perhaps even gained in strength since the last time I’ve sent them running in the opposite direction.
This time, I offered myself no bargains, promises or deals. I was ready to end the madness. Perhaps it was because unlike the retreat of Ben, Jeff, Sidney, Rich or any of the other in the Parade of Penises that had entered and quickly exited my life recently, this guy had so many red flags that I was actually relieved, although of course insulted, to receive his rejection.
Whether I wanted to see a fellow or not, even after the most boring, eye-rollingly awful first date, I was always insulted when I didn’t receive the opportunity to reject first. And although Derek was very sexy and funny, and even the most inane comments sound better with a British accent, he apparently didn’t appreciate my candor when I asked him to be so kind as to not burp into the phone every few minutes as we chatted. I never had the nerve to do that when I was younger, and now that I did, it didn’t matter: he ignored me. But that wasn’t a red flag so much as an extremely annoying habit; the weaving of dreams is what made me realize that he was not of or on this world, just sort of floating, and I’m just too long in the tooth for a floater: a 50 year old guy who is a messenger by day, a musician at night, and talks about someday buying a bar on an island. You tolerate that when a guy is thirty, unless you like his music. He shared his on Soundcloud, and it sucked. So there you go. And there he went.
And then, within the next few days, after the withdrawal jitters had abated, I was delighted to discover that since I had waved the white flag I had so much more time on my hands! The time that I had been spending searching for, responding to, getting ready for, meeting, having sex with, and obsessing about men, was now? Mine, to do with whatever I wished.
And time, I finally realized, is exactly what I need, to attempt to understand those mysterious creatures and those exciting experiences. Perhaps I might even reflect on my own behavior that sends them running, but to do so I’ll have to take a trip down memory lane looking at some recent and not so recent experiences.