Puzzled by a toy I got at a booth at the River Place Job Fair, I just cannot stop playing with it. There is no discernable objective to this game except to totally enthrall the user to a point where he cares about nothing else. I think they refer to these as an executive toy. Given the outrageous salaries, I can’t justify an executive I work under wasting our company’s valuable resources mentally masturbating the rich and philandering.
So when I was asked to answer the downstairs phone at The House, I was fairly annoyed. “And what’s so friggin’ important that you would interrupt a man in the middle of solving one of the World’s great puzzles?”
“Hello, Craig?”, the female caller asked.
Oops, I thought. Not one of the guys upstairs calling me from the outgoing phone; not a practical joke. With giddiness’ in my voice, I try my best to recover, “Yes, this is he.”
“This is June. I got your number from Lisa. I want to arrange to return your property,” the caller said.
“Ah, huh,” stalling for the time my mind needs to recognize the obviously familiar person on the end of the line.
“If we could agree on a time this week, would that be possible?”
“I’m sorry June, are you from Ramsey?”
“No, this is June.”
Why isn’t this registering? I feel I should recognize the voice. “June.”
I should be grateful a woman is calling me at all, being that I rarely speak to anyone but men. However, vaguely familiar, I cannot for the life of me recognize the voice. Come on, think; How many Junes do you know? If not Ramsey County Human Services, then from where, and who’s this Lisa? “June…”, stalling for either one of us to complete this utterance with a surname.
Oh come on! Who? What? Lisa? June and Lisa? It couldn’t be. “June.”
“Ah, huh,” she replied, recognizing familiarity in my voice.
Lisa is June’s best friend. It couldn’t be. “June Wax?”
“Ah, huh,” she repeated.
Now it’s my turn to be silent. “June Wax!”
“You are June Wax?”
“How come your voice is different?”
“I don’t know?”
What does one say to an ex-wife, who you’re still undeniably deeply in love with yet wish to conceal, and haven’t spoke to in six months? “June Wax.” Oh, there’s an intelligent reply. The brilliantly rehearsed first comments are somehow missing from my psyche.
“Wax,” I provoke.
Major grin grows on my face hidden by the landline, “You kept it.”
“Of course I did,” followed by an implied, you know why.
She kept my Father’s name. She starts playing in my mind’s ear. I’m all of the sudden unaware of my surroundings, transported away from The House back home with her.
“Thank you.” I can hear her grin across the line too.
“Listen,” she interrupts the moment, “I called because...” She pauses.
“...I want to return your stuff to you.”
“Okay.” Hearing the obvious tension return, I realize the cause of unrecognizable voice. Yet, after all the inebriated arguments we’d gotten into, you’d think I’d remember.
“I just want to be fair.”
“How have you been?”
“Ummm...I’m okay,” she replies. “You?”
“I’m good. I’m happy,” not wanting to brag that I’ve got just over three months sober.
“That’s good. Listen the reason I’m calling is that, well, it’s Spring time and all...”
“Planting season,” I interject.
“Yes, and I, umm, need the space in the garage, so if you could get your sh...stuff out. I just want to return your stuff to you, yah know. I just want to be fair.”
“Yes, that’s fair. I didn’t know you had any of it.”
“Yes, Kelly and I went to the old house you were living in and retrieved everything.”
“Oh my God, really?”
“Yes, I’ve got your tripod.”
“You do? The Bogen? I thought that was long gone.”
“I couldn’t find your camera bag.”
“It’s over at Kelly’s,” not wanting to reveal the fact that I’ve had the digital camera bag all this time and have been documenting my sobriety from the other side of the lens, “the 35mm is tucked away safe.” Not really as safe as I’d thought, as I’ll later find out.
Why now, and how did you get this number? “It’s a good thing you called me when you did. I’m about to leave this place.”
“Yes, just wait Without...”
“What the f...argin’ ice hole?”
“Let me explain. I got this number from Lisa almost three months ago.”
It all comes back to me now, like that old man pissing into the wind. When I’d first got here, at The House, missing my previous roommate Mark J. to talk out every friggin’ time I’d miss June W., I called her best friend Lisa P. and told her everything: That I missed June; I’m in a safe place, a half-way house; and that I’m sober just a few weeks. “My number is still in her caller ID memory after three months?”
“I had her write it down, just in case,” she said. “Lisa called me right after you’d called her.”
“Oh.” That explains why the technologically challenged Lisa got June W. my number.” If you haven’t noticed the implied switch, June N. is now known from now on as June W., since she didn’t keep her maiden name, but rather mine.
“Why did you do that?” Am I being too bold? Now my head is spinning and drawing blanks. Ah, that’s right. I’m fishing.
“I don’t know. I thought I’d need it some day.” Bait cast, but no tug on the line.
“I tried calling Lisbet, but she wouldn’t give me your number, address, any way to contact you.”
“Lisbet H.? of course not. She’s my P.O. She’s on my side.”
“What does that mean?” her tone turned harsh. I understand completely why June is confused. She thinks the state is all on the woman’s side when it comes to domestic disputes. If you step back and take a look at the big picture, the city and county jurisdiction favors the female in these types of disputes, but really only in their own self-interest. They want to reduce local crime, which is the same motivation as the state, only a P.O. (probation officer) is trying to prevent her client from getting into trouble; again self-interest. She wants to reduce her caseload. Dealing with misdemeanor DWI clients is a breath of fresh air compared to her normal cases. The fact that Lisbet calls me to do nothing more than vent, in the guise of checking up on me, is testament to that, not to mention flattering. I often fantasize about a thirteenth step with Lisbet, but that’s just my red-blooded all-American Boy Scout character defect at work.
Sensing that explaining my exact thoughts on the matter would offend her, I simply put it this way: “Lisbet works for me. She wants to make sure I stay out of trouble. You’re my trouble. There’s no good reason for her to instigate what may escalate into an all out War of the Roses.”
“It’s not in her best interest.”
“Why now?” I pose.
“Because Lisa said you may be leaving about now.”
“Damn straight. I’ve got two more days here.” I leave this hanging in the air.
“Well then how will I get a hold of you?”
“Call my cell.” Yah, I still remember something about dating. You lie out the bait and wait for a bite; attraction rather than promotion.
“It doesn’t work. I tried it.”
“I have a new one,” leading out the line.
“You do?” Surprised that I didn’t leave it with Lisa.
“Of course,” waiting.
“What is it?”
Yanking the line to set the hook, I give “651-555-1234.”
It’s odd how an ex-lover still shows compassion after all those heated arguments. This is a woman who clearly cared a lot for me and may still harbor strong feelings, but is undoubtedly hurt. This is evident from her initial harsh voice, which has since softened.
We spoke without incident for at least an hour, playing tug-of-war with each other’s heartstrings, yet mindful to stay civil. Being transported out of The House for this time to a much better place has clued me into the fact that I had a lady like no other man in this House has or had ever. An ex-wife I cannot complain about. I once told this to a group of fellows sitting around watching some boring movie, probably at a scene, which invoke a majority of bitches and moans about ex-lovers. If memory serves, I said, “I have no complaints about my ex.” This hushed the room for a bit, until one man confessed, “Sorry to hear that.” It’s true. It’d be a lot easier to work my program if I had something about her I could bitch about, but I don’t.
By the end of our conversation, I’d recognized her voice again. I left it with the ball in her court by saying, “I’ll wait for you to call in a few days after I get settled, okay?”
“Okay,” in a somber tone.
She still plays in my ear, only this time without tears.
The promises do come true.
This occurred a little over three months ago. It took me this long to finally journal it.