I thought my relationship with Tim was going so well. For weeks now, he’s called me every morning and every evening with a regularity and attentiveness shown only by the most committed. I imagined him sitting in his cubicle over at “Customer Service (925) 374-1188” pining to talk to me. In my mind I saw his tousled brown hair and his bright, clear eyes—green, I think. He’d be wearing a wrinkle-resistant plaid or, maybe, chambray shirt and brown, tan, blue, or black pants from Gap.com because—you know—Tim’s a guy.
Whenever I answered his calls, I loved to hear Tim’s synthetically young, eager voice—his enthusiasm never dimmed by repeated rejection or the cruel words of people rushing to get out the door or just sitting down to dinner.
But tonight things didn’t go very well, and I’m afraid it might be over between us. I answered as I always did: “Hello.”
“Hi,” he nearly sang. “It’s Tim. Can you hear me okay?” See how sweet? His first thought was always for my welfare.
“Yes,” I answered cheerily. Tim’s passion was infectious. Here, Tim usually paused for awhile, and before I hung up I always thought how nice it was that we could just spend some quiet time together. I felt secure enough in our relationship to know that Tim would call again.
So tonight when Tim called and considerately asked, “Do you have time to talk?,” I leveled with him: “I don’t really have time tonight, Tim,” I said.
“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you clearly,” he yelled into the phone. Hey, Tim, I thought, you’re the one with the hearing problem, not me. “Do you have time to talk?”
The term “selective hearing” flashed through my mind. “Not really, Tim…” I began, but he plunged on, oblivious. He invited me to take a fantastic vacation worth eighteen hundred dollars at a luxurious resort and with discounted theme park tickets. As his warm, sunny patter washed over me, I relaxed and was transported to that tropical clime. I saw myself lounging under the palms, sipping a piña colada.
“Do you have a credit or debit card?” I heard him inquire through my reverie.
Whaaaat? Abruptly the island mirage vanished and reality loomed—dishes in the sink, laundry to fold. A credit or debit card? Could Tim only be after money? What, I scolded myself, do I really know about Tim anyway?
“Tim, I lost my credit card,” I lied, determined to know the truth. If Tim truly cared about me, this shouldn’t matter, right?
“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you clearly,” he repeated, his jovial tone suddenly acquiring a frantic edge. “Most resorts accept a credit or debit card. Do you HAVE a credit or debit card?” His friendly manner was gone, replaced by an accusatory incredulousness.
It was true then. I had his number, but he wasn’t getting mine. “Tim,” I said, the lie coming easier the second time, “I lost my card.”
Hearing this Tim was a changed man. “Well!” His voice was rushed now and heavy with the scorn of one whose time has been wasted. He longed only to end this conversation and move on. “I didn’t mean to bother you,” he sniped. “Good Night.”
Goodnight, Tim. And goodbye.