know how it is. You're thinking about a
song from your high school days ... a song you haven't heard in
years, since you were a dumb horny seventeen-year-old in a blue formal,
slow-dancing with your boyfriend Dean at your Junior Tolo, four hours
dumped you ... and the very next time you turn on your radio at
work, voilà! There they are, playing your
else maybe you're thinking about an old friend whose e-mail
address you've managed to misplace again -- a friend
who once held your hair off your face while you vomited chicken soup
and mescaline into her kitchen sink -- and just when you think you may
never hear from her again, voilà! You open your
e-mailbox, and there she is!
perhaps you write a discreetly whiney
Internet journal entry -- all about how your twenty-year-old daughter
hasn't bothered to communicate with you in nearly a month, and how you
think about her every time the phone rings at odd hours of the day or
night, and less than two hours after you fling your journal entry
was already in bed
when the phone rang last night, just after ten o'clock. David was still
dinking around on the computer -- it looks like The Great Digitization
of Vinyl Experiment is going to be one of those never-ending projects
of his, like the
postcards -- and from the bedroom I heard him answer the phone.
collect call!" he shouted to me after a moment. ("From Kacie!" he
added, quite unnecessarily. The only person who ever
calls collect these days is Daughter #2.) I leapt out of bed and ran to
she gasped, as
soon as I got on the line. "Are you and David OK??"
was calling, not because she'd read my whiney journal entry: she
doesn't have a
computer, she says -- but because she'd been watching TV news reports
all evening, all about that old man who plowed down a group of people
at a Farmer's Market in Southern California. For some reason, she
seemed to think that the accident occurred in Berkeley -- "I know you
guys go there a lot," she said worriedly -- and she was afraid that the
two of us might have been involved somehow. I was genuinely touched ...
so sweet of you to be worried," I told her. And
then I reassured her that the incident took place in Santa Monica,
almost three hundred miles south of here. It's an easy mistake to
make. When *I* lived in TicTac, all of California blurred together for
"David and I are fine,"
I said. "But how are YOU?"
standard, just-asking-to-be-polite 'How are you,' but a
'How are you' fraught with context and subtext and a bazillion unspoken
questions. Are you working?
Are you eating? Are you sleeping? Are you using?
fine, she reassured me immediately. She's sorry she hasn't
called, but she's been very "busy." And she gave me a quick garbled
rundown on the state of her life. She has acquired a new boyfriend
since the last time we saw her, apparently. ("This one isn't an old
guy, either," she proudly announced. "He's only 27.") She and the
boyfriend are living together, although she's not sure how long that
will last. She's still not working, but she's "looking." In the
meantime, she's thinking of taking a class at the local community
college next month, a three-day workshop on owning/managing your own
espresso stand. All of this tumbled out in her usual breathless
had all of those bazillions of questions to ask
her, but it was late and I was tired and I went with the most insipid
question first. "How's your mouth?" I asked her. "Your ... your ... thing?"
I'd forgotten the technical term for the chin piercing she got when she
was here last month. (A labret, I remembered, as soon as we hung up.)
She said that it's fine, that she's been rinsing it every morning and
every evening with the antispetic I bought her, that it doesn't seem to
be infected at all, that it still looks really 'cool.'
hates it," she
added. "And I think he's sorta pissed at you for letting me do it."
had started to ask her
something slightly more substantial -- Did
she ever manage to get over the flu? Do I still hear a trace of
congestion in her voice? Is she taking anything for her cough?
-- when she suddenly interrupted me.
I'm sorry," she
said. "I really can't talk right now." She was borrowing a friend's
phone, she explained, and she didn't want to run up the long distance
bill. (Brief dark non-maternal *Grrrr Moment* at this
announcement.) There was the usual hasty exchange of
I love you's and I
miss you's and Let's
talk again soons. And then --
just like that -- she dropped off the line and I was left with a dial
tone in my ear.
asked, looking at me with concern.
nodded. "Yeah," I told
him. "Everything's fine." And I wandered back to bed, feeling tired and
relieved. Yes, it's true that she hung up on me before I had a chance
to get a call-back number, or to ask for a mailing address, or to tell
her that I'll be coming to TicTac to for a couple of days next month.
Yes, it's true that our conversation was like eating half a Twinkie:
sweet, tantalizing, pleasant ... and wholly unsatisfying.
yes it's true that
her call IMMEDIATELY
rendered last night's *FootNotes* entry obsolete, less than two hours
after it went on the air.
that's OK. I don't
mind. This is actually a good
kind of obsolescence ... one I would be willing to tolerate on a more
regular basis. Plus it makes me wonder if there are OTHER ways I can
manipulate the universe with this amazingly powerful brain of mine. I
mean, if I can get the radio to play a long-forgotten oldie, merely by
thinking about it ... an old friend to write to me after months of
non-communication ... an AWOL Tot to call me, out of the clear blue sky
... who knows what else
I can achieve, simply by willing it to be so??
economic stability. A cure for old age. A Taco Time franchise in
Alameda. The perpetual Good Hair Day. The return of Fast Lane Tea. A
lotto windfall and early retirement. *FootNotes: The Movie.* (I'm
thinking Cloris Leachman to play Upstairs Neighbor Guy.)
again ... maybe
I'll just settle for a weekly phone call from my daughter.
to throw a rock?