“Are you out tonight?” No, I was in bed. It was past 10 on a Friday night after the most exhausting week of my life. I hadn’t showered in days and my apartment smelled like trash. I only cared for the ten minutes I was able to spend at home, setting out large bowls of water and food for my increasingly gloomy cat. I love you. I’m sorry. I’m going back to work.
“Are you out tonight?” I couldn’t text back, and he didn’t warrant a phone call. Well, he did, but I didn’t want to respond to the inevitable leading exclamations of “We should hang out soon” with the selfish and evasive response “Totally!” I did not want to hang out, totally. Emotionally closed-off, severely independent, and typically cold, I wanted to wallow in my own vulnerability and sadness. I wanted to sob into the floorboards, if only to get months of repressed emotions out of my system. Flush my toxins and be strong again.
Over the past 15 days, I’d realized the role technology played in perpetuating my isolating independence. Feelings were edited. My life had become a mere thesis statement when we, as humans, are meant to be novels. Giving up texting was easy. Giving up emotionally edited blurbs of text was not. I needed to have two conversations yesterday that scared me. I needed to apologize to someone and I desperately needed someone to apologize to me. I opened my email and typed. The emails were beautiful, littered with the type of wordplay I earmarked to put on my personal blog. It was in that moment I knew I couldn’t send them. I’d turned difficult conversations into pats-on-the-back. I’d transformed genuine emotion into a submission to Thought Catalog. I was losing the lesson I was trying to learn.
So I called them.
When I heard the dial-tone, I didn’t know where to look. I paced. I laughed nervously. I thought about my script. It’s no more than 20 seconds of waiting and it’s a fascinating exposition of how many thoughts can overlap in that short time before “Hey, it’s me.”
These conversations were different: one diffused and one exploded, but they both did exactly what they needed to. Calling someone to apologize is a clear show of surrender when it’s genuine. How much easier it is to hear sincerity than to read it. I made a mistake and I called that person to let him know how seriously I took it, how seriously I took him. The situation diffused and we could laugh and we could rebuild a friendship. There wasn’t time to stare at the words, analyze the syntax, debate the authenticity with bystanders. All he could do was hear me, and because of that, he forgave me. More importantly, he respected me.
The second call was different. I don’t know that I would have even texted this, but I was high on courage from the first phone call. I was drunk on effective communication, and I called someone to demand an apology. It’s interesting what you’re willing to share when there won’t be a record of it. I called a boy, and I told him he hurt me. I told him he embarrassed me, he made a fool out of me. We try so hard to be cool, to avoid being the “crazy girl”, that we begin to feel we are not entitled to our own emotions. That we should be embarrassed for having depth and feeling. But it’s the person who laughs at that, who mocks it with their friends, that should be embarrassed for being so callous and unkind. I was not ashamed for being lead-on by someone I liked, I was angry. And I said so.
That call didn’t resolve. It didn’t get me what I wanted. There was no turn-around and happy ending. Sure, there was an apology, but there was no concession. There was no, “I’ll change.” But he got to say exactly where he stood, and for the first time, I felt that I could honestly say where I did, mainly because I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t have an autocorrect pause. I didn’t have a best friend acting as editor. I didn’t have a grace period to decide. I had silence on the other end of the line asking me for my words. “I like you. You hurt me. How could you?”
I put myself and my heart on the line, and I didn’t get what I wanted. I didn’t get a kiss and make-up. I had no gray zone of optimism to lie myself about his words, no padded encouragement from an entourage of contributors. I didn’t need to analyze it and I didn’t need to forward it because I got to hear it and I got to feel it. And yeah, it felt like shit. But it also felt like something worthwhile, like ownership, like authenticity, like courage and self-respect. It felt like being an adult, and if all I have to do to feel that strong is hit “call”, then you can bet your texting plan I will.