03. MUSIC INSPIRATION
The Dismemberment Plan:
The Face of the Earth
I have an awful confession to make.
I have been with my wife for ten years, and in that time, we have managed to create a clear channel of communication. There is nothing we cannot tell each other. Well, almost nothing. I’ve never told her that I also have a girlfriend that I’ve been together with for almost twenty years.
At least, I think I have a girlfriend.
I know what you’re thinking: “Is this guy as handsome as I am currently imagining him?” Sadly, I am not, but now that we’ve cleared that up we can move on to your second question: “How can one not know if they have a girlfriend?” Honestly, I’ve been wondering that for two decades, but I’ll do my best to explain.
This whole mess started in the summer of 1999. I was twenty-one, and to say I was aimless is…charitable. I had fallen ass-backwards into my first full-time job at a group home. Since this group home was in Oakland County, I had to spend two weeks at the vaguely-named Macomb/Oakland Regional Center to become “certified” to work in said nursing home. (I liberally applied quotation marks there because I never actually received any actual certificate. I am still salty about this.) While at this training, I met a young woman I’ll call Emma. (You can call her whatever you like, but it’ll help you follow along if you stick with the fake name that I picked.) Emma was painfully shy, and she only spoke to me when we ended up in a training group together. Despite her reticence and my general awkwardness, it was clear that there was an attraction between us. Eventually, we overcame our inherent social deficiencies and began dating. It was…okay. Seriously. It was a perfectly average relationship for two people aged 18-24 to have. We hung out, watched the first half of movies, made out during the second half, and occasionally slept together. Her aforementioned shyness kept us from going out too often, but she did come see my band play once, which was nice. It was the only time that a girl I was dating ever saw my band play. (She wasn’t a fan, but don’t feel too bad about that. No one was.)
I sense you getting antsy. Well, “sense” is a tad disingenuous. Actually, I’m watching you read this now, and I can see you shifting uncomfortably. Okay, okay…I’ll get to the good stuff. Our relationship carried on for a few months, with nothing of note happening. Like I said, it was a perfectly standard relationship, save for one seemingly minor detail: I couldn’t call her. She lived with her father, and he forbade her from receiving phone calls. She could make calls, but she couldn’t receive them. (Yes, this is odd. No, it didn’t seem odd to me at the time.) If I wanted to speak to her, I had to page her. Now, I realize that some of you aren’t familiar with how this process worked, so let me diagram it for you:
1) I called her pager number, and when prompted, I punched in my number.
2) Her pager notified her of who was requesting a call back.
3) She’d call me back.
Too easy. If I wanted to see her, all I had to do was add a simple step to the process. This went on without fail, until one day, when it didn’t. We had made plans to go to the Renaissance Faire, and the day of our trip I paged her to verify whether I would be meeting her there, or if she needed a ride. I paged her in the morning, and then…nothing. And that was it. I never saw her again.
To this day, I have absolutely no idea what happened to her. She never called me back, and life moved on. For a while I joked with my friends that I was cheating on her with whichever girl I was dating at the time, but those jokes quickly grew stale. It wasn’t until I was much older that I gave any serious thought to what happened. I mean, what if the battery in her pager died and she missed the page? She replaces the battery, but my page got lost in the ether. Maybe her father suddenly decided that she could neither make nor receive calls...maybe she saw the future and knew that pagers were a dying technology, so she threw it in a river and immediately bought a Nokia phone that she still uses to this day. I often wonder if she thinks about me, and if she thinks that I’m the one who disappeared. I would love to find out what really happened, but I know that I never will. Even with the internet at my disposal, I could never do it. Even if I could remember her last name (or any identifying information for that matter), I think it would be too creepy. “Hey, remember me? The guy you dated for about four months in 1999 and then ghosted. So yeah…what the heck happened, eh?” If I were her, I’d respond to that message, just so I could ghost me again.
Maybe we’ll cross paths one day, and there will be a spark of recognition. We’ll start to speak, but the fear of being awkward to a stranger will keep us from saying anything. So, we’ll move along, and the memory will fade just a little bit more.
Seriously though…what the hell happened?