In all my life, I have never received a call such as the drunk dial that woke me at 3 am on a weekend two years ago. Everyone that I've narrated this tale to, ad nauseum, will roll their eyes that I should bring it up again on a public forum. But, let me tell you, it's better to have certain kinds of deviant nonsense occur when you're in your teens and twenties versus being over thirty. That's when life takes on a set pattern. At least, it is that way for me.
I remember the time because I woke gasping when my cell phone rang and grabbed it. It glowed 2:59 am. It said "Private Caller". My husband worked overseas at the time, my parents live overseas and middle of the night calls, in my nervous mind, never portend good tidings. It could've been any of them in trouble and that is why I answered, confused and a little afraid.
The man's first words have me laughing even today.
2:59 am and the man, we'll call him Sad Drunk, asked, "Were you sleeping?"
That alone made me want to strangle him. Surprised that he'd have to wonder about it, I got to the point.
"Who IS this?" I asked, sounding slightly crazy no doubt.
"Sad Drunk." he said, as if it should've been evident.
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"Yeah." he said.
"Is the family okay?" I asked.
"Yeah" he said.
"What's wrong Sad Drunk?"
"I'm so lonely."
Now, Sad Drunk sounded like he was going to throw himself off a cliff. Honestly, in my sleep addled brain, I assumed that he was on the verge of committing hara-kiri or had done away with family. Those were the days when we heard about economically stressed families being wiped out. I thought it was something like that. My blood chilled. I thought he needed to talk to someone. The nuance escaped me totally.
"Do you need to talk?" I asked.
Sad Drunk having got his foot in the metaphorical door, happily answered, "Yeah."
"Okay. Is something wrong at work?" I asked, still fixated on economy at 3am.
"No." he offered, expansively.
"Something wrong with your friends at volleyball?" I've been on mom mode for a long time. Sooner or later, it gets in the way.
"No." he answered, being crystal clear.
Now Him (my husband who does not like names being publicized) and Sad Drunk played volleyball with a whole bunch of guys on alternate Saturdays. Him gave up after he realized that playing on Saturday gave him aches and pains for a week that wiped out the potential for anything else. Sad Drunk continued. But they kept in touch and met up on the train to work. Him and Sad Drunk had known each other for about four years. While Him visited Sad Drunk at home with Mini-Him (my son), I never had and it was at a party in our home, ten days before the momentous call, that I saw Sad Drunk for the first time. At a party for Mini-Him. With Beautiful Wife and two gorgeous kids in tow. I orchestrated the whole party for Mini-Him complete with games and balloon fights and didn't really pay attention to any of the guests. So I might have exchanged two whole words with Sad Drunk and maybe six with his Beautiful Wife.
On with the call....
Once I had figured it wasn't the economy, family trouble, friendship issues and miscellaneous other things, I didn't know what else to think. This was my husband's friend. I couldn't hang up on him if he was going to kill himself, I thought. My brother, who was visiting for a bit was in another room, head phones on, living the night unlike me. I knocked on his door and whispered, "It's Sad Drunk!! I think he's going to do something to himself. Talk to him!!"
My brother put him on speaker phone and urged me to ask another question. I did, asking, "So what happened today?"
"Nothing. I don't know. I'm just...."
And my brother was doing his peculiar "upper body swinging this way and that" style of laughter. "He's p***** drunk!!" he said.
I stared at my phone, unable to believe it. So THAT's what it was?!
By then, Sad Drunk had broken the sound barrier. He asked, getting to the point in a way that left me speechless. He said, "Listen, can we meet?"
My brother's eyes were like golf balls. He had met this guy too.
Still not wanting to believe it, I went on, "Umm, sure!! Him will be back again, first week of October and we can ALL meet. Him and I and you and Beautiful Wife and the kids too! It'll be fun. I'll set up a date with Beautiful Wife!"
Sad Drunk chuckled to himself. In moments of useless hindsight, I interpreted the moment he chuckled as the time I knew that Sad Drunk might have been Sad but was "not quite drunk".
"That's nice. That's....nice." he said, not meaning it, "Can we meet alone? Just you and me?"
My brother fell off the exercise ball he persistently sat on, insisting that it was excellent for his back.
I stared at him, the phone and said, "Ah...I don't think that is a good idea. I don't think I should."
Sad Drunk suddenly persisted, "You don't think you should? But you would want to?"
"No. I don't want to." I said, scared now and asked, instead of hanging up, "Why are you doing this?"
"I don't know," he said. "I've been thinking about you a lot."
My question was stupid and immediate. "Why? Why were you thinking about me Sad Drunk?"
"I don't know. There's something about you."
At this point, I was rooted to the spot, thinking of what to use to arm myself, in case the loony was actually outside the house. I mean, here was my only child, Mini-Him, sleeping soundly in his room and my parents' only son, my brother, currently not being helpful. It was up to me to defend them. Yessir.
But first, I had to get to the bottom of what on earth he saw about me?! Call it vanity.
"What is it about me Sad Drunk?" I asked, voice now strident, daring him to come up with his best.
Sad Drunk shrank, I think. He receded behind the sound barrier again and said, after a short pause, "I don't know."
"Ok." I said.
Then I began the process of reminding him, gently, about what he was doing.
"Him would be really hurt if he knew you were doing this. He has a lot of respect for you." I said.
"Yeah." He returned.
"But your wife is such a wonderful woman." I said. In later moments, I imagine that it gave Sad "not quite" Drunk some laughs. Man, I must've sounded ridiculous.
"Yeah?!" he said, the "SO?" communicating itself, loud and clear in his tone.
"She's a wonderful woman, great with the kids and everything. How's she going to know you're lonely if you don't tell her?"
"I don't know." he said.
"Talk to her," I urged.
Yep. Therapy 101 at 3:10 am. I was going great guns.
He fell silent again.
"Did you have a bit too much to drink today?" I asked.
"A bit." he answered.
"Well, you go on then. Drive safely when you're better and we'll meet when Him gets back." I said. "Bye, I'm disconnecting now."
"Okay." he said.
I hung up, not believing it. My brother laughed saying something crass about it having been a "B**** Call"
It jarred my sensibilities. My phone rang again and I turned it off, scared and in a hurry.
We never did meet Sad Drunk. Him thought it was hilarious and laughed till he dropped, his booming guffaws no doubt taking over the apartment floor in Panama. I sat, confused in LA, wishing my husband had a jealous bone in his body.
After the initial indignation, I've gotta be honest, I was mildly flattered. Mildly because, the possibility that I was being propositioned was huge. I didn't want to be THAT type. Yes, I am that green in these matters.
Him completely vetoed my suggestion that I tell his wife. "No," he said, "What Beautiful Wife doesn't know can't hurt her."
While being somewhat uncomfortable with that take on matters, I let it drop.
But ever so often, the memory of that creeps up. I continue to wonder if he was Drunk, A Sad Drunk or A Not quite Drunk. I also wonder, whether he was reaching out to a human being, reaching for a female, reaching for something illicit or simply not aware of what he was doing.
Maybe it was nothing.
But I don't think Beautiful Wife and their kids would think so.
I will quote a good friends' advice on the matter. "She who knows this stuff", wisely said, "If a man calls you in the middle of the night and declares his loneliness, hang up. Do not offer him coffee and a therapy session."
Good point. Very good point.
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