Last Saturday I finally got rid of the voice mail Carlos left on one of my cell phones a few days before he went into the hospital never to emerge, in mid-February. He had long had my landline number memorized; he told me once that he sometimes said it to himself silently over and over.
But by that day in February, my phone number, and much else, was gone. He must have looked in his address book, seen the number of the cell phone I mainly use for work, and called it. From the sound of the message, you wouldn’t know anything was amiss.
For nine months and two and a half weeks, I listened to that voice mail at least weekly, saving it each time, liking that at any moment, I could have the experience of hearing a message Carlos had left for me, as if it had arrived two minutes ago. Sometimes I listened to it many times in a row, sometimes in tears.
Eventually I noticed that while different feelings might arise while listening to this message, none of them were really good; generally I felt sad and maybe a little anxious. I knew that someday I would delete it, maybe at the year anniversary of his death. (Strange to think that soon he’ll have been gone as long as we were together: 11 months, and one and a half weeks.) As the end of the year rolled around, I thought that might be another auspicious time to let it go. After all, this was not exactly following Phillip Moffitt’s advice to be fully available to our experience. It was the opposite. It was trying not to have the experience of loss at all, to pretend he was sort of still here.
I listened to the message several times Saturday morning, and then, instead of pressing 9 to save it yet again, I pressed 7 to delete it. After a bit, I changed my mind and found the message still there, but marked for deletion. After listening to it, I pressed 9 to save it, and then, before I left for Rainbow, 7, once again, to delete it. While shopping, I felt a strong sense of liberation, the pleasure of letting go, of not clinging, of cutting my own shackles.
Yet, later in the day, rather casually, I decided to get the message back, not with a strong impulse, but more of an, “Oh, I think I’ll keep it for a while, after all,” and I felt surprisingly shocked when the electronic voice said there were no messages. The message, like Carlos, was gone for good and not coming back, which still seems strange, when his presence can be called up so vividly.
On Sunday Tom, Ann and I went to Berkeley Rep for Kneehigh’s utterly marvelous production of Tristan & Yseult. Afterward, Ann said that in her decades of theater-going, she couldn’t recall seeing anything more entertaining. The acting, live music, singing and dancing were splendid, and the production was dazzlingly inventive and witty.
On New Year’s Eve, I was one of the last people to leave the office, because I was trying to get an SQL query to work in a new environment. The fellow who sits next to me asked how long I’d be there. I said, “I’m not leaving until I get this working,” but an hour later, I said, “On second thought … ” and he said, “There’s no place like home?”
I went to Howie’s in the evening, which I thought would be a nice thing to do on the last day of the year. Even if it is purely a conceptual distinction, it’s rather widespread. Howie wasn’t there, but Yvonne was. There was a tremendous profusion of red holiday flowers up front, and members of my group had brought votive candles from home. The effect of the candles burning in all the different glass holders was quite charming.