Thursday, 26 March 2009

One of My Hang-ups

About 18 years ago, I was living on my own in my beautiful pink apartment in suburban New York. I'd split with the first husband and was enjoying, for the most part, my independence.

But there can be a price for independence, such as having only two cats to talk to all weekend. Or buying a six-pack and sharing it with -- myself. And, for women, there's a safety issue too. I lost my job, though not employment, the same week my marriage went belly-up and went from having my own office, editing a Sunday magazine, to a broken drawer in a metal desk working on the copy desk till about 2 a.m. Still, I had my pink apartment. And the cats.

I used to call my answering machine several times a night from work, convinced the ex was going to beg me to come back. One night the phone was busy. Hmmm, strange. Are the cats calling sex lines while I'm out. I called again an hour later. Still busy. And still busy a few hours after that. Maybe something was wrong with the line?

I got home about 2:30 a.m. I had to park a few blocks away and struggled back with my drycleaning, which I'd picked up before going into work. I put the key in the flimsy lock on my front door. One cat was there to greet me, but where was the other one? I walked into my beautiful blue bedroom... and there he was trussed up with telephone line. He'd been like that for ages and had wet himself. I extricated him from the line and thought about how this had happened. I had two playful cats who would chase each other all over the apartment. Could one have knocked the phone off and the other one in play have gotten himself tied up? I chose to believe this line of thinking.

Until.... the phone calls started. They were brief, a bit of heavy breathing, then hanging up. They were infrequent too for a time. Then they started coming more often and at all hours. Once, having been awakened about 3 a.m. (I had moved on from the copy desk by this point), I called the ex's number. No answer. He must have been at his girlfriend's. I started to rack my brain for who could be making these calls if not the ex. People at work? The cable guy? I didn't want to think of the most obvious suspect.

When I moved in, I met my neighbours -- a middle-aged couple and their two grown sons. The husband was a dentist, the wife was an alcoholic as near as I could tell. The sons did nothing but wander round all day plugged into their Walkmans and not making any eye contact with anyone. One of them got into the habit of stealing my New York Times till I cancelled my subscription.

A few months after I moved in, I happened to meet the previous tenants who were friends of people I worked with. They told me of the fights they would hear from next door, the sons calling their parents all sorts of names, the furniture being thrown around. I heard them too, sometimes turning the TV up to drown them out.

The phone calls persisted, even after I met hubby and he answered the phone a few times. Why didn't I have the phone company trace the calls? I think I was afraid of the truth. I was afraid of having my suspicions of my neighbours confirmed. The only time I heard the person's voice was once when I let my answering machine pick up. "If you're there, pick up the phone. If you're there, pick up the phone," he said over and over till I unplugged the phone and the answering machine.

I moved not long after that. No more phone calls. Except once in the middle of the night. I froze, wondering how the person had found me. But it wasn't a person. It was BT testing the line. Safe at last.


Anonymous said...

How did the cat get bound up in the phone cable? Do you thin the neighbour found his way in one day?

They sound like a creepy family, and it's likely they are all still iving together to this day!

Fire Byrd said...

What a scary story.
Those sort of calls are just so awful, but to have so many must have driven you mad with worry.
Love the punchline though!

lady macleod said...

And there you have the makings of a good Stephen King novel. Yikes!

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Chrikey what a story but it usually is someone you know who is the pest. Wierdo's. I used to get strange call - it was all down to my ex who had a dodgy ex and she called regularly and stayed silent. The answerphone worked a treat as she hated being ignored and she finally fecked off.

solomi558 said...

I think I,ll have a nightmare,I don,t even read scary books

Anonymous said...

I love this blog!

I've spent all morning reading 2007! I'm still in my nighty and have drunk about a gallon of tea.

I'm going to have to make lunch but I'll be back for 2008 this afternoon,


wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Dave: I honestly don't know. Either the cat did it himself or someone came in and did it to him. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the second thing happened. I bet the parents are dead now and the sons killed them.

Fire Byrd: They did worry me and I was afraid to tell anyone.

Lady M: But it really happened.

MOB: Why do people do this to other people? It is so disturbing.

solomi558: Sorry, didn't mean to scare you.

Not Waving But Drowning: Thank you. You'll find 2008 was a fairly eventful year in my little world.

Flowerpot said...

very creepy indeed. I had phone calls like that once when I was single so on my answerphone message I included Sid. In fact it was Cyd and that was my cat, but it did the trick!

Expat mum said...

Ew! That's definitely one of them movies!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Flowerpot: I had hubby answer the phone a few times, but I think the person knew he wasn't there all the time.

Expatmum: Good thing I moved when I did.

Mneme's Cat said...

Wow. I just found your blog today and was just taking "a quick peek" until I saw this post. It sucked me right in. Great writing!