I was fifteen and he was the same age, perhaps. Or perhaps we were both younger, or older. Who is to say after so many years? He lived nearby and he sometimes came over to deliver a message from his mother to mine because they were friends. He and I – we did not say a word to each other because we were young, like I said. When you are fifteen or sixteen or ten, you can get away with many things. Like looking the other way when someone opens the garden gate and walks up to your doorstep.
It was not that I was shy, rather it was because he was always tongue-tied and I was always loud. Or perhaps, that is how I remember myself. It took me a few months to realise that he was the one that called me everyday at the same time never said a word. He played songs sometimes, but I was loud, like I said before, and I stayed on the phone asking who it was and therefore drowning out his music.
Over time and with the shared maturity that comes with sharing such secrets with the school best friends, I learnt to identify his patterns. He called when I was alone, or when he was alone, he never said a word, he hung up when I had said Hello – he did this everyday. That is all he did. He never tried to talk to me. He did not strike up conversations if he saw me alone at the corner shop. He saw me with other male and female friends, yet he persisted with his silence.
I got used to the phone calls over the years, my parents laughed about the situation. They were too kind to say anything to him and they pretended that they did not know it was him that called us ever so often if he came over. I was not that kind though, sometimes I gave him a talking to on the phone, sometimes I rolled my eyes at him when he walked past.
Age gives you that kind of confidence, you feel brave and free and you can discard the attentions that come your way.
You can make fun of love when you are young. Only when you are young.
I met other people. Interesting people. People who called me at designated times and people who talked. I would take the phone off the hook on days like those when I did not want the phone lines engaged because some voices were so important to me.
He called me and played music for me for seven whole years. Every Monday. Every Friday. Every Sunday if the parents were out and about.
The song was the same too – the actual words are hazy now but it was a song about life changing forever because of love at a first glance.
It made me feel good on some days, the song, it made me feel beautiful and loved and desired on the days when high-school maths and bad hair days and perceived affairs of the hearts had reduced me to tears. I went from high-school to university, I got a degree. I packed my bags and left. He called and played the song whenever I went home for a few days.
I moved overseas and my mother gave me snippets about him over the years.
He finished his college degree. He took over his father’s business. He built a new house. He got married.
Somewhere along the way, the calls stopped. I still went home once a year, I still saw him around the place. But he didn’t call. Not anymore.
We grow up, you know, all of us.
We went to his new place for a house-warming party when I visited my parents last year. My daughter sat next to his children. His wife and I discussed the weather. His brothers spoke to me, his mother insisted I need to eat some more.
He was in the room all along. I saw him and he saw me as we mingled but there had been too many phone calls and silent hours to let words ruin anything now.
My mother disappeared into the crowds with Miss A in tow after lunch. So did his family.
After twenty odd years of the silent communication, there we were - two grown-ups, finally face to face, without a telephone in between.
“Your mother,” he said, looking at me, “did she eat? Did she like the food?”
That was all he said.
His eyes did not leave my face. Not once. Twenty years of looking away now bundled into one gaze.
I was once mocking of his feelings. I had told him off several times. He was young and so was I. And yet here we were. And now there was no music and there were no songs and so much of life and living had happened since.
Yes,” I said.
That was all I said.
He smiled. I think I smiled back.
Then we finally ran out of things to say and it ended that day, the little one-sided love story that began many summers ago.
They end everything.