Several years ago a series of events occurred that started me thinking about the very human desire we all have to look into our past lives and track down those whose paths we once crossed. This particular incident occurred just before Thanksgiving in 2009. Here’s how it unfolded.
Brrrrinnnngggg. Brrrrinnnngggg. Slapping furiously at the alarm clock, the noise continues.
Brrrrinnnngggg. Brrrrinnnngggg. Is it my cell phone, no it is on silent, in sleep mode, like I should be.
Brrrrinnnngggg. Brrrrinnnngggg. OMG, it’s my telephone landline. What is it doing ringing at 2:00 AM? Not a daughter, they are both asleep in their beds, like I should be. I fight my way past my stacks of books on my night table, past the Vick’s Vapor Rub and the Pounce Caribbean Catch Moist Tuna Flavor Cat Treats, and finally find my landline cordless phone.
Me: You have the wrong number. Click. I put the phone back.
Brrrrinnnngggg. Brrrrinnnngggg. (Come on, this is NOT happening.)
Him: Mrs. Watkins, is Stacy there? (Okay, if Stacy is not there at 2:09 AM, where the heck is she?)
Me: You have the wrong number. Click.
This time, my husband, who is now awake, says “what is going on?” Before I can answer …
Me: Hello. (Why am I saying hello each time?)
Him: Mrs. Watkins, can I please talk to Stacy?
Me: There is no Stacy here. You have the wrong number. Check the number you are dialing and try again.
Him: What number is this?
Me: I am not telling you my number. Click.
A brief pause while I drift back to sleep, my heart returning to its normal rhythm as I had been sure this was going to escalate into dirty language followed by that weird laugh they always use when they are finished with their dirty language.
Brrrrinnnngggg. Brrrrinnnngggg. My husband answers this time. He has picked up on the extension in the kitchen where he has gone for a late night snack. I can’t hear what he says, but there are no more calls that night.
But the next day, a Wednesday afternoon, amidst the pre-Thanksgiving cook-down …
As these things go, we had just recently been discussing the middle of the night calls of someone desperately seeking Stacy. We both agreed that he did not sound drunk or drugged. He seemed a bit down, depressed. My husband grabs the phone. It is in fact the sad, forlorn Mr. X, still searching for Stacy. My husband, who by now has had the idea that it might be a serviceman in Iraq or Afghanistan calling his stateside sweetheart and dialing the wrong number on his very limited minutes at the phone, is a bit kinder. He tells him we have had this number since 2004 and, no, there is no Stacy living with us. He ends the call with “I hope you find her, man. Good luck.”
I hope you find her, man. At first I thought that was a strange thing for my husband to say. The “man” I hear him say occasionally but he is not a “man” or “dude” kind of guy. But somehow, adding the “man” to the end of that final discourse with Mr. X made it seem more human, more down to earth, more like he was talking to a serviceman in Iraq or Afghanistan calling his stateside sweetheart. And, that was the last time we heard from Mr. X.
What makes us go to desperate means to track down someone? With the advent of the wildly popular Facebook, it seems that no one is too incognito, too incommunicado, anymore. We are able to track down the girl who sat next to us in sophomore year English, in a high school that no longer exists thanks to Hurricane Katrina, and by the weirdest of coincidences, the teacher of that sophomore year English class too! We are “friended” by people we don’t really consider “friends” but we click “accept” anyway, because to do otherwise might just seem one notch past rude. We can co-exist in this world that gets smaller by the year without ever making contact with those long-lost names of our fuzzy past but what’s the harm in accepting them as a friend on Facebook? Basically, we will have roughly the same degree of non-contact as we had before, other than the occasional posting to our wall, or being tagged in a photo from our high school yearbook, scanned and uploaded for a trip down the virtual memory lane of cyberspace.
What sleeping dogs should we leave sleeping, though? There are few among us who hasn’t Googled the old ex-boyfriend, or worst, the old ex-husband, to see how they are, where they are, who they are now. After all, we are different now, right? So surely, they are different now, too? We are happy, successful, tethered to new people, new jobs, new cities, and perhaps, new families. So what itches that we just have to scratch? We don’t want the old ex-boyfriend back; lord knows we don’t want the old ex-husband back. We don’t even want them to know we Googled them, right? Even if we are perfectly happy with our life, perfectly content with our spouse or significant other, perfectly satisfied with our status quo, why do we dive into the deep, dark world of internet searching and type their name into the browser? Is it because deep down inside all of us there lies a bit of Mr. X, desperately seeking Stacy, calling at all hours of the day and night, just hoping to make contact. Is it because we can? Is it because we have the technology to track down just about anyone these days, friend or foe, from our distant past or someone we just met last week. Caller ID put an end to a lot of the prank calls of the past (Mr. X had his own number blocked on my caller ID, somewhat ironic I think), the “call and hang up” method of stalking a scorned lover. Will Google ID and browser histories put an end to our cyber searching? When will we learn to leave well enough alone?
Basically, we are never satisfied with the status quo, and perhaps, we want to know that we are happier and more content than our old ex-boyfriends, happier without them than we were with them. Sometimes we want that knowledge anonymously, sometimes we want to see their expression when we “bump” into each other after many, many years, and the years have been kinder to us than to them. Sometimes we just want to call out in the middle of the night, to make contact at a safe and undisclosed distance and say “Is Stacy there?”