Who do you suppose was the first person to look at a telephone and desperately want to call someone — but know he can’t?
Before the telephone, two people were either in the same place or they weren’t. After the telephone came along, time on the phone — and later other forms of live conversations such as chat and FaceTime — became reasonable facsimiles of the real thing. Not as good as touching someone, of course, but far more satisfying than nothing.
As more and more people got telephones — and the sound quality got better over the years — there had to come a point at which someone looked at his or her phone for the first time and wanted to call someone that he or she couldn’t call. I wonder when that was.
I didn’t have periods such as this early in my life, but it’s become common now. I want to hear her voice. I want to hear her words. I want to listen to her thoughts and emotions. But I can’t.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, of course. It’s a common theme in popular culture surrounding the experience of love and loss. Oldies such as Electric Light Orchestra’s “Telephone Line” and Jim Croce’s “Operator” come to mind, but there are plenty more, including a line in the Maroon 5 song, “Through With You,” that refers to spending “every hour waitin’ for a phone call that I know will never come.”
The experience of being in such communication seems to create a third space — somewhere no one else can come — where two people can escape the physical worlds around them. It’s something like a world of virtual reality.
But all of that is just intellectualizing of my need.
The phone that’s constantly at my side doesn’t ring — and I can’t call her. The silence is deafening. It eats away at my heart and hurts until I’m able to distract the gnawing need. But even when I’m distracted, my thoughts go back there.
I found a recording of her voice a few days ago and I thought I’d enjoy listening to it, but I had to turn it off quickly. That lovely voice sounded more like a sharp pin pricking my heart with a thousand little hurts.
I don’t have a point. I just had to say this.
This is a time when it simply hurts enough that I have to tell someone — anyone — since I can’t tell her. Is that a good thing? Or is that weakness? I can’t say for sure, but I’d say it’s strength to be able to get it out. Only a real coward hides from his feelings and hides from his need. But maybe I’m fooling myself.
Before long, I’ll go to bed and I’ll get up in the morning and put on my public face. I’ll do my job. I’ll be a professional. I’ll deal with problems. I’ll do everything I need to do.
But as I go through that day, the need will always come back. I’ll want to pick up the phone when I get into the car. I’ll hope she’s calling every time the phone rings. I will have irrational hope which my rational mind doesn’t share.
For now, it’s the only way I know to live. It will go away in time — I hope — but for now, just knowing that I could pick up that phone and push a few buttons and hear her voice — even if just for a moment — is absolute torture.