So far this week, I have sent a, shall we say, mushy e-mail to the wrong person, by virtue of leaving out the critical letter "e" in the address. Some random person somewhere is, I hope, enjoying their unexpected love letter from me.
Not only that, but I have left at least two, if not more, similarly mushy voice mails on what I thought was Keith's voicemail. But no. Surprise! Random Stranger Two received them.
Actually, I already have a history with Stranger Two; I realized this as I was trying to navigate the complicated process of using a phone card purchased on line. There is a bewildering array of numbers required in order to hear Keith's voice on the other end. First, there is the number to reach the system in which to put the pin number, then the pin number itself, and then and only then comes the crucial time to enter the actual phone number itself.
Well, I entered the number the way it showed up on my cell phone under received calls. This sent me to the aforementioned voicemail. The voice sounded remarkably like Keith, only Keith under stress and being brusque, which I figured made sense, considering the conditions under which he is living.
After three days of not hearing back from him, I was beginning to feel frustrated. I called the number one more time and amazingly, he answered.
"Keith?" I asked, hopeful, but sensing something off.
"You have the wrong number," Stranger Two said and suddenly, it all came together. Stranger Two (somewhere in America, I assume) indeed has the same number as Keith's cell phone in Iraq. It was Two who had answered the day I had locked myself out of the house. He sounded faintly amused and faintly regretful to be telling me, at last, that he was not the man I thought he was.
"That makes so much sense," I exclaimed happily. And so ended the relationship that never was.
In the mean time, back at the FOB, my poor husband was wondering what had happened to me. By virtue of adding "011" to his number, I was able to actually reach Keith. Ah, the bliss of hearing his warm and slightly blurry voice, laden with his familiar accents and phrases. It was short lived, however, as suddenly I heard a bunch of other voices in the background, sounding urgent. Keith immediately had to go, but he told me to call him back in twenty minutes.
Exactly twenty eight minutes later, I called him, using the exact same magical combination of numbers that had connected me to him the first time. The phone rang and rang and rang. I began to get anxious. Obviously, he was still busy and couldn't answer the phone. I was probably annoying him, distracting him at some crucial juncture. But, should I wait so I could at least leave a voicemail for him? I knew he saved them, as I did, so he could hear them again later. But the phone just kept ringing and did not go to voicemail.
I kept imagining him, trying to focus and yet hearing his phone going and not being able to answer it. I closed my phone and ended the call. Later on in the evening, I sent him a text and settled into bed.
Around four in the morning, the phone rang.
"Honey," my husband asked, in a voice ragged with exhaustion, "why didn't you call me back? I waited two hours for your call." His voice was unusually subdued and quiet.
In the early morning darkness, lit dimly by the pale green letters of the alarm clock, I felt my heart drop. I was still fuzzy with exhaustion and, dismayed, could not for a moment remember calling or not calling.
"But I did call!" I hastened to explain, as my mind got clearer. "I called but you didn't answer..."
"The phone rang once, that was it," he said. "And then I waited and waited and you never called back. I just got that text."
"But I let it ring and ring! And then, I thought you must be busy and that I must be bothering you, so I rang off."
Even now, two days later, the thought horrifies me; that my husband, exhausted and trying to keep himself awake at the tail end of his twelve hour shift, had waited in vain to hear from me.
He works twelve hours on and twelve hours off, day after day after day. There is no break from this pattern. And because he is ultimately responsible for that mission, when he comes off his shift, he must set up the next shift and meet with his superiors. Also, if something is wrong or not working right, even if he is off shift, he is responsible for fixing it.
I don't understand how it is possible that a person could survive that. I remember being responsible for one department; thirty residents and twenty some employees and how draining it was to always be on call, always responsible for everything that happened there, always expected to problem solve whatever was not working smoothly. It was completely exhausting and I had weekends. I could go home at the end of the day.
"How can you keep going like that?" I asked him once, a week or so ago.
"You keep me going," he said simply.
"Sweetie," I told him later, "I feel like a failure as a military wife! My man is in the field, needing my call and I dropped you."
This made him laugh his warm and wonderfully forgiving laugh. "Aw, no hun," he assured me, "I was fine."
Stupid, stupid phone. Since then, it has done that more than once, rang and rang on my end, and never connected with his phone at all, even with all the numbers in place. And even though it never went through, it still charges me for simply...ringing something somewhere. I officially hate phone cards at this point in time.
I feel certain that phone cards are governed by little demi gods full of gleeful malice. I refuse to believe that they are the produce of logic and technology. Maybe I should perform some kind of small, ritual sacrifice before attempting to use one...
I may be the sport of the phone card gods, but at least I am not wooing any more of the general populous with misplaces messages...I hope.
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