(I'm trying to be more grateful for my life. To that end, I'll be sharing some stories about what I'm most grateful for. This one is about the first time I called my wife.)
I slammed the phone down. Hard. Not an angry kind of slam, but a scared I don't want this thing in my hands kind of slam.
I can still feel the smoothness of that dark green phone—one of those cheap, plasticky Walmart affairs. The coiled cord was the length of one of those orange industrial extension cables that hang on hooks in garages. It was permanently knotted in spots. The buttons lit up a putrid yellow when you pressed them. The whole thing felt like it would crumble if you squeezed it too hard.
Cruddy for sure, but always remembered. It was on this phone that I finally got the courage to call Nell for the first time.
I had her number ingrained in my subconscious for a while now. 275–2288. My quivering 16-year-old hand attempted another dial. I made it to the first 8 this time before I flung the phone back down. Bah. Why was this so hard?
I knew she had watched the movie. Forrest Gump had just finished on TNT. I knew she had watched it. I knew. I'd overheard her say something about that movie at school before.
That was going to be my in for the call. I'd thought up a hundred excuses to call her before, but I always psyched myself out of it. But tonight was going to be different. I'd made a deal with myself. I had to call. I just had to.
A big chug of Dr. Pepper. Cheek slaps. I'm doing it. This was not going to be like all those other nights. I am doing it. Tonight. Do or die.
Hand shaking, I lifted the clunky green phone. Dial tone. Deep breath. 2. This is so stupid. Why am I so nervous? I see her at school every day. I have classes with her. I know her. It's fine. 7.
What if her mom or dad picks up first? Do I say who's calling or just ask for Nell? 5. What if nobody answers? What if they're not home? 2.
What if she doesn't know who I am? What if I have to explain who I am? 2. What if she didn't watch the movie after all? 8. What if I just totally freeze? She is so breathtakingly beautiful. What if I can't remember what to say?
The last digit. Uncharted waters. What if… 8.
“Uh. Hi. Is, is this Nell?”
“Oh, hey. It's, uh, Justin—from school. So, did you watch Forrest Gump tonight…”