Her stable routine was never displaced or interrupted. Nonetheless, every week she would experience one wild card of emotion within her oh-so-stable and predictable life.
Each Sunday at precisely 4 PM, late enough to miss a formal Sunday dinner, but early enough to elude a Sunday supper, she would walk into the perfectly tidy kitchen of her apartment. White cabinets, beige counter, steel sink, one tan towel folded neatly to the left of the sink. She would pick up the beige, spiral-corded phone off the wall adjacent to the stove, take a deep, calming breath, and dial. She listened to the dial tone and then, the ringing on the other end of the line hoping this would be the week when the beep-beep-beep of the busy signal would persist, or the phone would ring without the satisfaction of being answered. Yet without fail – just as every other part of her routine – the line would be answered.
This single obligation, this dreaded moment, gave away the anxiety filling her life. Her stunningly cautious and appropriately fearful ways dictated her comfortable and predictable lifestyle, but this phone call revealed her true fear of all that was unpredictable, surprising, and unexpected. Driving and seeing a car with a “Student Driver” sign, someone replacing the toilet paper under instead of over, being bombarded by the sales associate in a store. Other people and the turmoil they could unleash on her beautifully boring life haunted her. That was why she liked him; he would not deviate from their routine, he would not even suggest they try.
It was not that she didn’t know who would answer – no, she knew this perfectly well – but where this person would answer from, what this person was doing, who this person was with, what stories this person would share, was the greatest source of discontentment she was forced to endure because she simply never knew what was coming. Conversely, she always called from her beige kitchen phone, after reading the TV Guide, alone in her apartment – with the exception of her fish, Goldie – and would briefly share a story about the marvelous new copy machine at the office. Her routine never deviated, but she could never adequately prepare for the other half of the conversation.
Without fail, she would call. She always dialed slowly, deliberately and as she called, she considered previous conversations. Sometimes they were whispers with a blissfully silent background and exactly as predictable, polite phone calls should proceed; but more often than not, the din in the background extinguished the voice on the other end or distracted the recipient of the call to the point that all she could do was sit and listen to the horrendous sounds of chaos in the background. “How could anyone live that way?” she would think to herself, “Why would anyone want that over a safe job, tidy, quiet apartment, and a stable life?”
Ring —– Ring —— Ring —- Ri-
“Hello Darling!! I was expecting your call! I have so much to tell you! I do wish you would call more often.” The tidal wave of words continued until she finally found a moment to politely interject, “Hello, Mother.”