Last night I spoke to my friend on the phone for an hour. I had been missing her – she lives in a different city, has a big proper job and kids, and we adore each other but seldom get a chance to chat at length and by ourselves. So last night, after whatsapp chatting for a bit, we ended up FaceTiming (ok, that is a game changer) for an hour, checking in with each other’s lives and getting a bit more granular and detailed, and it was the best. Honestly, I cannot remember when last I had a long, leisurely, uninterrupted chat with a friend, where there was no agenda, or urgency, or point of the call, just organic sharing of information and listening and talking.
I climbed into bed thinking about the little entrance hall in my parents’ house, where I grew up, and the grey telephone with the maroon handle that sat on a special telephone seat, and the hours I spent there, at night, in the dark, with only the lounge light shining brightly, and I spoke to my friends on the phone. I had friends at other schools and I checked in with them at least once a week. I would call their house and ask, usually their moms, if I could speak to them. Sometimes they weren’t home. and I had to ask, “can I leave a message?”. I remember missing the most important phone call inviting me to the matric dance because I was on the phone to my friend who had a pass and was home from the army. I remember spending two weeks of ‘being grounded’ glued to the phone, speaking to my friends and refusing to go to the dinner table. I remember lying to my granny and aunt, who phoned my mother two, or three or four times a day, and telling them she was in the bath and couldn’t talk to them then. I remember the arrangements we would have to make; the time and place, because they weren’t easy to change on a whim. I remember the second phone in my parent’s bedroom, reserved mainly for my mother, so she could lie on the bed and talk for hours too, and I remember picking up the other phone and being disappointed and irritated to find her on the line. I remember catching her talking about me to my gran, or aunt, and having a proper teenage meltdown. But mostly, it was the length of the chats we had then, in those days, that I was jiggled into remembering last night. It was about time, and energy and the lack of urgency. It was about connection, and holding that receiver, and listening and speaking. Sometimes there would be a cross-line and we would listen to and get involved in other strangers’ conversations. Sometimes, when we were bored, we would play trick phone calls in the holidays. “Is your fridge running?” was the standard, go-to one when inspiration was low.
I fell in love, had my heart broken, heard news about death, got school results, smoked cigarettes, in that entrance hall on that grey phone. (4)483612.