"In Defense of the Home Phone" by Nick Mehalick


I’d joked and said I was in a relationship with her mother.

Because we talked so much back then.

 

“I’ll let her know,” her mother’d say, 

and I could hear the cap of the dry erase marker pop.

“I’m putting it on the board.”

 

Her family was far more organized, prepared, 

and open to young love than mine.

It’s in part why I loved them.

I wasn’t intruding on their family,

I was on the board,

a faceless name, 

a word in their day. 

 

“Who’s Nick?” I thought the father might ask, 

and then she’d have to tell him.

Fathers have to know.

And I wondered if I was pretty cool, or defined by my car,

but I was more likely “just some guy.”

 

“You know she has lacrosse Wednesdays Nick.” 

Pop. 

Squeak. 

And a three count. “Oh, I know. 

I just called to talk to you.”

And we’d laugh, 

but it could have been true.

 

Now 15 years later, I realize it was. 

Because I was comfortable talking on the phone 

with its 20-foot wire, coiled like a young girl’s hair,

delicate and familiar.

 

It was great practice, talking.

Make the mothers laugh, and the fathers took it easy on you. 

 

You can find out a lot

from a few minutes on the phone.

It’s not always true, 

but most of the time you can tell what kind of person 

you’ve got

by the family they’re in.

 

And mothers, well daughters, are the watercolor painting

to their oiled original.

 

“Who’s that?” my mother would ask after I’d hang up laughing. 

“An older woman I’m seeing.

A girl who I can’t stop thinking about. Her mother.

Your replacement,”

I’d think.

“Just Grace,” I’d say 

and walk away.

 

But she’d know. 

I was no longer calling friends to go swimming or sell lemonade.

I was no longer telling her about my day.