I deleted Brian’s name from my phone today. He was my best and oldest friend. He’s been dead three years, and I’ve had two new phones since then, but I still had him in my contacts. I don’t have any rational explanation.
It’s not like I could still call the number and hear his voice mail message. Did that a couple times the first month. Then I didn’t for a while, then I tried again, but got one of those nonworking number recordings. I guess you live on for a while electronically, but you don’t live on forever.
I don’t even know what’s got me thinking about this. I guess the way the new phone works. One of those touch screen deals where the easiest way to get to a name is just flick your finger and the list flies by. And it happened to stop on Etheredge. On Brian. Kind of screwed up my morning. Not that I don’t think of him often, I do, but more on my own terms now. Not like when he first died, when I couldn’t not think about him for awhile. And I guess I finally decided that there was nothing disloyal about deleting him from the phone. It’s not like I’m going to forget him. I just don’t need him jumping out at me like that.
I remembered a dream I had, maybe three months after he died. I was in my office going through the quarterly internet traffic numbers, probably my least favorite thing to do. It was winter, but the view outside my office window was summer, and it wasn’t the Merchandise Mart, it was the empty lot next to my childhood home, the one where Brian and I used to play catch.
Brian walked into the office – the 1971 Brian, in the ratty cutoffs and the worn-out green suede Converse All-Stars and the Beatles t-shirt he’d probably stolen from his brother. He was wearing his catcher’s mitt.
“Debbie said to come on up,” he said. Debbie is my mom. She’s been dead better than a decade now. How things used to work, back then. Brian was always an early riser, at least compared to me, so he’d show up in the summer and my mom would send him up to get me out of bed.
He flopped down in one of my guest chairs and started short-hopping the ball off the office wall, catching it in his mitt.
“You can’t do that in here, man,” I said.
“So let’s go play catch,” he said.
“I can’t. I gotta work.”
He just smiled and nodded, sat there for a while, fiddling with things on my desk. Then he short hopped the ball off the wall again.
“You really can’t do that in here,” I said.
He smiled, got up, walked to the office door. He turned around. “You go ahead and finish up,” he said. “You’ll be along.”
And he left, and the empty lot disappeared and the Merchandise Mart was back and it wasn’t summer anymore. It was February, and it was snowing.
Anyway, he’s not in the phone anymore. And he’s right. I’ll be along.