My mobile suddenly buzzed in my groggy hand and chirped.
It shook me to the core. So much so, that I almost dropped it to the floor in surprise.
A text confirmation.
From an unknown number.
Stated in CAPITAL LETTERS, giving it the sense of perhaps not anger, but certainly righteous indignation.
ONLY WNTED 2 C HOW U WERE. DON'T U NO WHO THIS IS???
I read and re-read it several times. I didn't have a clue as to who it could be. But there was something about what it said, reading between the lines and recalling the all-too-brief conversation that preceded it, the language and tone of voice adopted.
I did once write mental letters with emotional content like that to a certain female in the past....
No guts, no glory.
I rang the number that the message had been sent from. I didn't really have any idea what I would say, I was just going to wing it. Being intrigued and having an insatiable thirst for knowledge and answers spurred me on. I was as essential to my being as drawing breath.
It buzzed out for several rings. Then, an answer.
A few moments of drawn-out silence first though.
"Hello, stranger" said the female voice. I could tell she was slyly smiling as she spoke.
"I'm really sorry...you kind of lost me a bit back there.......I didn't catch your name before you cut me off? Evidently, you already know mine, Miss.....?"
More nothingness from the other end of the line.
Then, with a weary, drunkenly incensed tone unique to Liverpool women, a response lazily pulling out it's words.
"D'yer not know who I ammmm?"
I had to think on my feet.
The sleepiness and alcohol stealthily combined and conspired to block my brain cells.
OK, a possible answer. I would have to go with it.....I was secretly hoping it was her.....if it wasn't, I was gonna look pretty stupid.
The letters I had wrote, they were for....
There was a blast of static, the TV set in the background more audible now. She was shifting in her seat.
It was as though I was deliberately being kept in suspense, made to sweat. What felt like a lifetime passed, the only sound coming from outside of the taxis, ambulances and police cars rumbling past my window.
"Funny that....I didn't think you would answer to a withheld number" she replied, capped with a slight embarrassed giggle.
"Well erm, most of the time...I don't. But I was really...curious as to who this was, y'know, given how late it is...."
So I was right. I kind of knew it could be nobody else. And despite what had gone before, I was strangely relieved that she had contacted me. Even though she was clearly drunk, I wanted a real opportunity to express myself. My thinking was that perhaps her looser, vulnerable state of mind would make it that much more open to what I had wanted to say for the last 6 months.
"Linda...You know that I miss you SO MUCH. Truly. And you just don't know it, girl. You never knew..."
"I...I miss you too, babe"
I tried to gather my thoughts and translate them into speech.
"Why...I have to ask... Why did you pull all that shit on me? You never gave me a proper explanation. I've been honestly...fuming about that all this time" I blurted, charged with emotion.
"Well....I didn't want...couldn't have... a relationship with you......and besides, recently I've been in a very....dark place...." came her stammering response.
I was sorely tempted to bite back at this cliche. 'Very dark place' was real news to me.
Try fits of depression, borderline alcoholism, insomnia, loss of appetite, greying hair, dramatic weight loss, punching walls until your fists bleed, driving your family insane with your unpredictable, volatile behaviour.
That's truly dark. And it was down to you....you know that don't you?
But I had to suppress such negativity. It would be childish and irrational of me to say such things.
"I see....... I kinda had things pretty rough my end too, since what went down between us..." I said, feeling like I was detached from my very being, looking down on myself from the far corner of the pitch-black bedroom .
"I'm...I'm so sorry..." she whimpered, close to tears now. It was difficult to respond. I felt almost guilty.
Listen, listen...It's alright, Linda, really.." was about all I could say.
"It's just I've had a real good think about things...and I looked through all those letters you sent me..and they were so powerful. And that time you came round to my house unexpected with the flowers...and you were so sincere and honest and sweet.... and I just turned my back on you on that door-step and danced all over your heart...I was such a bitch, I was so cruel..."
"Yeah...that was a real hard blow to take...." I muttered soberly.
I could detect her breath quickening, growing more pronounced. She fumbled and fidgeted with her phone. I knew of course that she was pretty wasted, and that given past experience her words should be taken with a shovelful of industrial salt. But then she had taken the initiative to call me...and that meant something, surely.
I shouldn't have felt like that. I should have taken a hard-ball approach. I should have screamed abuse at her and told her about the anger, pain and worthlessness I had felt over her. But there was an overriding sense of warm sentiment and airbrushed, soft-focus memories that dominated my mind and held sway of my consciousness, the moment I realised it was her on the other end of the line.
"Say, you maybe wanna link up? Talk about things...... perhaps tommorow? Go for a coffee or a meal somewhere quiet...?" I heard myself ask.
She hesitated, seeming confused and disorientated. Somewhat reluctantly and with an air of trepidation, she meekly whispered into the handset.
"Yes...that would be....just what we both need....a good sit down...to talk about....stuff..."
She didn't seem to positive about it, but it was a start, I supposed. And I found my optimism crushing my cynicism in a heartbeat.
"Look....I only ever wanted to make you happy, Linda. I ain't no punk....I'm real....you know that, right?" more confident, commanding and assertive now.
"I know that....Things were just a bit...crazy...."
"But that's the past, yes? This is the moment. We both adults now, we're not children...." I replied sharply.
I wanted a firm promise. No lies, no deception.
"So....you game? No plans for the day? I'll call you tommorow? My treat, we go to town in the evening?"
That was it. A breakthrough.
"I'm really drunk, sorry...I should really get some sleep then, if we meeting up like...." She whispered.
Yeah, best to save the heavy conversations for tommorow, I thought. There would be plenty of time to sort things out then, clean the slate. Maybe even re-kindle things. It was an enticing window of opportunity to salvage something that felt tantalisingly viable.
"Sure....You're right, it's really late...I should get some rest too....I'll deffo call you Linda, alright?"
"Yeah... make it after 1:00pm though....I'll be waiting..."
"Got it.....look forwards to it...We'll see each other tommorow then?"
"Yes, we will babe. Gonna sleep now, so tired...Nite....."