Saturday, January 17, 2004

Sometimes You Can Go Back Home Again

I took a deep breath and dialed the number she gave me, my thumb rested gently on the disconnect in case the nerves came. Four rings later and I was waiting for her answering machine to beep. I cleared my throat once more and left my number for her to call back. I hung up the phone and occupied myself with busy work. I turned on my computer and typed ideas for my opening monologue for next month's reading, answered some e-mails, and ate another of the oranges that Sue brought back from Florida.

I settled under my comforter when the phone rang. I knew it was her calling back but wanted to let it ring a couple more times. I reached for the phone, picked up the receiver and answered.

A familiar bubbly voice filled my ear. "Hi, Chuck." And with those words we were having our first telephone conversation in ten years. I sat on the couch and just listened to her: the tone of her voice, the accent only found on the northwest side of Chicago, her laughing. It was like we were working at Musicland again, playing Def Leppard's "Hysteria" over and over, me putting my left arm inside my shirt to imitate Rick Allen, her begging for a picture of me so she can show her best friend at school.

The last we had we had didn't go so well. We each said some things that irritated the other. And while they weren't maliciously vindictive, they did indeed cut into the thin skin of our early adulthood. These weren't words that could be forgotten with the purchase of a giant M&M cookie, like we often did in our teens. Nor were they words that could roll off our backs like water now that we're in our thirties. But they drove a wedge between us that kept us separated while life happened in the interim.

We caught each other up on what happened to us in the past ten years. It doesn't seem that long, but it is. Then she asked me a question.

"What is 'Ship it to M P L S?'"

"That's 'Ship it to MPLS'", I said. "It's pronounced 'miplis.' It's what we used to say at Musicland whenever we had to send a defective Walkman to the Minneapolis headquarters."

We laughed in unison, then she asked, "Do you know who I saw at PetCo the other day?"

"Who?" I asked.


"Who?" I asked again.

"RanDEE," she repeated.

I remembered then that Randy was our manager at Musicland. "Holy shit! He's still in retail after all these years?"

"Yeah," she said, "and selling me kitty litter nowadays."

"Well he has to be managing the place," I interjected.

"I don't think so," she replied. "I didn't see a manager's name tag or anything."

We talked for a bit more and exchanged numbers again, agreeing to get together for coffee sometime since we both work downtown. If things go well I might bust out my Rick Allen imitation.

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