Sunday, January 10, 2010

Angels Among Us

I was lost in my way, as usual, and looking for love.  I was in determined pursuit to create the family death had stolen from me. I was 17 years old and drinking away the denial of my first failed marriage. My husband had chosen sexcapades and cocaine over me. I couldn't give myself permission to hide my pain in street drugs, thanks to the previous premonitions of my Mother’s suicide. Alcohol and sex seemed a reasonable substitute while I aggressively searched for the next sperm donor that would give me a chance at conceiving my new family.

I had dropped out of school shortly after getting married at 16. The responsibilities of a new apartment, two car payments, and all of the other grown-up things took priority for a short while... until I learned I was the only one in the marriage with any priorities of reason. I moved back home and abandoned anything that even resembled responsible. I had a great bunch of equally irresponsible, sexually active, alcoholic friends that occupied my time. One of which had taken to calling party lines. A strange idea where you paid $1.99 a minute to end up on the phone with 8 strangers sharing a line and trying to talk. Oh what fun.

3-way calling had just become the next greatest invasion of privacy. Thanks to this great idea, I got to participate on a party line at the expense of my friends' parents. She clicks over to dial the number and then clicks back to connect me. I hear several more clicks and then one, two, three more voices. Everyone is trying to identify themselves, and each other, among the interrupted chaos of the most ridiculous conversational environment I can imagine. I have nothing to say to anyone I don't know. I listen. Everyone is talking at once. I hear a female voice introduce herself and announce how horny she is several times. Oh, there is an added feature I forgot about. If you find someone you like, you can go private. Joy. I hear a normal sounding voice quietly announce itself as John. I am compelled to let him know I am there. The horny girl is talking too loud. I say his name; I tell him mine, but he doesn't hear me. Too many people talking... getting the age, sex, and location of all. It isn't even local. Two people drop off to go private and two new arrive. The introductions never stop. I hear John again. He says my name. He did hear me. Somehow through the course of the disorderly words flying about, my friend notices our failed attempt to communicate. She tries telling the other people to shut up for a second. No avail. Somehow, she pushes something, he pushes something… we end up private. Well not private, as it is us three, John, myself, and my friend, but the other 7 or so people on the line are now absent. As considerate as she was to take us off the party line, she is anxious to get back on. I am in Colorado, he is in California. He gets my number and promises to call. We all hang up.

I sit and anxiously wait for this stranger to call me. Minutes pass, and what was misguided hope, fades away when the phone doesn’t ring. Just as I am about to completely dismiss my foolishness, the phone rings! The softest, most inviting voice I have ever heard, is on the line. John. Just me and John. We spend hours on the phone. We talk about everything. My childhood, my losses, my marriage, my hopes, my dreams. He consumes my thoughts. Days go by and I spend more time talking to him than anything else. My friends call, but I quickly dismiss them for my new obsession. He understands so much, yet he is so different than I am. He has a daughter. He listens to music I have never heard of. His voice is so amazingly soothing. He seems to care so much about me, but why? We are thousands of miles apart.

Soon, our conversations must be limited due to the long distance charges he is incurring. I am lost without him. I don’t know how to spend the time in between our beautiful exchanges. I start to go out again. I resume my drinking binges full force, staying out all night. I am always feeling lonely. I am hating all of the slimy guys, constantly prying at my sexuality. I try to lie to him when we talk. He knows. I don’t want him to know the truth about me. I want him to fall in love with me. He tells me he loves me and it feels so good, but it doesn’t seem possible. Even though I know I will be in so much trouble, I start calling him. I can’t stand not being able to talk to him. He is the only thing that feels worthy... the only thing better than drinking... more fulfilling than the empty sex acts I repeatedly overindulge in when I am intoxicated.

He knows I am going to get in trouble for running up my grandparents bill. We agree to start supplementing our alluring conversations with mail. He sends me packages... music compilation tapes that he has made, letters, poems, a shirt that he slept in that still smells of him, cute and meaningful tokens that express this amazing love we share. I send him packages as well. I send a whole roll of pictures of all of the things I see on a daily basis, letters scented with my perfume, a small vile of water (once snow) from my favorite retreat in the mountains, gathered on a lonely depressed night.

My desire for him grows. Our phone encounters, when they occur, turn sexual. They aren’t dirty or perverted. They are blissful and satisfying. I struggle to find the balance between the world he creates for me and the world I live in. He knows all my truths... my never failing desire to have a baby and the daily intoxification that allows me to make dangerous attempts to achieve this goal, with anyone willing to participate. He doesn’t judge me. He gives me kind encouragement. He reminds me I am worth more.

Our worlds will never collide, and I become painfully aware that I will need to let go for my own sanity. Wanting what you cannot have can be toxic. I slowly retreat into the world that is my reality, but I take different steps. I have started to respect myself as he respected me. Our conversations are few. I am at risk of losing my private phone line, because of the $900 phone bill I ran up in 2 weeks. I continue to go out and party, but the feeling is not the same... the desire to continue not so great. I call to check my messages while I am out, and I start getting messages from John, asking me not to drink and drive, reminding me to eat while I am out partying. He tells me I am beautiful and he loves me. He doesn’t call himself John anymore when he leaves a message. His messages always begin, “Shawna, this is your Guardian Angel….” He never calls when I am home. I miss hearing his voice in response to my own. I want so desperately to speak to him, to tell him his messages make a difference, that I am listening to what he says, that I am doing better. I stop going out. If I am always home, he must finally call when I am there. He never does. How did he know when to call when I was out? I am disheartened. My life has changed, and I can’t even thank him. The slow cloud of loneliness that is left begins to fade…  Real life is still here. It won’t wait for anyone, not even me.
I finally get a letter. He tells me that his Mom, put a long distance block on the phone because of the outrageous bill.... that he knows I am doing better.... that he is happy for me… he misses me… he loves me. Signed, “Love, Your Guardian Angel”

My fantasy again materializes in this letter. My heart races. My cheeks burn with desire. I must speak to him again. I must hear that voice one more time. I must say thank you… and good-bye.
I talk my grandpa into giving me $20 and I buy a phone card. Excitement builds as I anticipate making that call, hearing his voice. It is so intense. I am shaking as I pick up the phone. I dial the endless numbers to make the call go through. It is ringing. Any minute I will be satisfied by his voice… and then I hear the operator. Dread fills my heart. “The number you are calling does not exist...” I am horrified. Did his phone get shut off because they couldn’t pay the bill? Is this my fault. I dial the operator. I ask for a listing under his name. Nothing. I give her the number and she tells me that number has been inactive for over a year. Impossible.

I write him a letter, saying all I need to say. Apologizing, giving thanks, saying good-bye. I am so distressed that I cannot find a way to get him on the phone. I ask my friend to look for him on the party line. I call his number every day until my phone card runs out. Weeks go by. Then everything I could have imagined goes to another level… one that is not of this world. My letter comes back to me. It does not say “return to sender” it does not say “no longer at this address.” It says, “This letter is undeliverable because the address does not exist.” What? This is the same address I sent every other letter or package to. Letters he read back to me… on the phone… from the number that cost $900 to call… that hadn’t been in service for a year…

I race to the closet to pull out the letters he sent me, to look at the envelope to check the address again. I can’t find them! They aren’t there. I begin to feel like I am dreaming. I know he is real. The tape he made me is in my stereo. His shirt is on my bed where I sleep with it every night. His voice is on my answering machine. Wait… That last letter he sent me is in my night stand.  I keep it there to read whenever I need to. It is in the envelope, but no return address on this one. I open the drawer and see it sitting inside. Relief fills my head. He IS real… I open it to read it, as if I don’t know what every last word says. I scan down to the bottom. The words stare adoringly at me.

Love, Your Guardian Angel   

No this is not an attempt at fiction. This actually happened to me.


  1. Oh.My.God. I can't find the words to describe what I'm thinking right I'm just going to say thank you for sharing.

  2. We all got together and made a thousand dollar phone bill one afternoon when we were kids. Then we had to hide from my parents until they got it eliminated by the phone company.

    You had it rough from age 16! Now it can be better.


  3. So, I've found someone who can understand, sort of, what I went through! But I find it really hard to write about things that have happened to me. I was widowed at the age of 26, just 4 years ago, and just last Christmas lost my parents, my brother and sister. But, very slowly, I'm trying to re-gain my confidence. It's a very hard, very lonely road that I travel, but I will eventually get to where I want to in my life...with a whole load of luck!
    Thank you for sharing this, it makes me feel not so alone.

  4. you are truly amzaing


    I cannot find the words right this second....

  5. Wow! This gives me goose bumps. Great post. XX

  6. How awesome! Your own mystery and miracle. What a fantastic post!!!

  7. We have different pasts with very similar experiences...but I never had a Guradian Angel. I ended up meeting my "John" and having my heart ripped to shreds. I like your story better and I believe that things like this DO HAPPEN. It seems like unexplained mysterious and powerful things usually only happen to people that are very open..or maybe things like this happen but are completely denied or explained away because its too much to accept. Either way you are a special person that is sharing her story for a reason.

    (ps i am feeling so much more hope for Anthony tonight...i know he's going to be okay, you know how you just "know").

  8. Wow! What an amazing story! And so well written. I couldn't have stopped reading if I wanted to. The end gave me shivers. Thanks for sharing.

  9. This is very much the truth... you put so much of your heart into your writing. Having someone care and love you like he did must have been the greatest feeling especially during a low point in your life... Thank you for being so honest.

  10. this is an amazing story, thank you so much for sharing it.
    you are such a gift and a joy to have in this world i am glad you made it through those difficult days in your early life.