Being young and in a relationship in New York is very hard. Not only are dinners expensive and the majority of the males barely break 5’9”, but trying to meet up with someone for a late night rendezvous is almost impossible. Cell phone service sucks, no bar has a quiet place to use your phone in peace, and ambulances roam the streets specifically looking for people on their phones so they can drown out any conversation with the wail of their sirens. My theory is that they do this to provoke us to text message more so we can all bend over our phones and walk straight into the street, giving them more business.
On Saturday, I was standing outside Pianos with my friends. It was late in the night, a music band had just finished playing, and I was loudly telling a story to whoever would listen. My friend Tyler and I were holding unlit cigarettes in one hands and our iPhones in the other and giggling about whatever people in music bands giggle about, when a young lady in a sateen navy blue bandage dress, blue glitter eyeliner, a push up bra and sky-high Steve Madden heels with zippers and studs on the heels approached me.
“Could I use your phone,” she said, not asked, without taking her eyes off her dead Blackberry.
“Who are you gonna call?” I asked, knowing that if she answered “drug dealer,” or “friend from Brazil” I would politely say my phone was one of those phones that was actually just a candy dispenser.
“My boyfriend.” She lifted one of her heels. It looked very sharp.
Normally, I don’t let people use my phone because I have a natural tendency to believe that they will steal it, but perhaps because I was giggling and perhaps because I’d had a few margaritas earlier, I told her “Just keep ‘em where I can see ‘em,” and then threw my phone at her head. She caught it and made her call.
Moments later my phone was back in my hand. I briefly wondered how it had gotten there, but before I could loudly voice this question, the phone rang. My phone didn’t know the number. My phone was annoyed at this, it made the strange digits gigantic and white. The confusing string of symbols was hard to make out on that dark, drunk sidewalk. “Who is THIS.” I yelled. No one answered me, because no one was listening, so I ignored the call and went back to waving the unlit cigarette.
Immediately after rejecting the call, the same 954 number called me back. Perhaps they know me, I thought, perhaps they have a match to light my cigarette. “Hello?” I answered. When the voice on the other end of the phone called me by a name I didn’t recognize, I immediately remembered that a girl had borrowed my phone and this was the number she dialed. In fact, I think I had dialed it for her because I didn’t want her to dial Brazil.
“Wrong number, “ I said when the deep voice on the other line asked for some name, a girl’s name. I hung up the phone.
“If he calls back, you should just be like, ‘hey,’” said Alex, another member of a music band. “Pretend to be his girlfriend.” He said.
In the Lower East Side, after it gets dark and drunk out, it is very difficult to find people you know who are in other dark and drunk parts of town. I’ve been victim to having to call friends on a late Saturday night and try to explain, after many, many margaritas, exactly where I am. It’s almost impossible when there are distractions of other bars, other people, and of course, the ambulance text message police. Texting is no better because drinking inhibits one’s ability not just to operate big machinery, but small machinery as well. And, this process of meeting up is hardest to complete when your phone doesn’t even work. It can often result in a botched night out, a botched romantic rendezvous, and the crumbling of trust in a person’s relationship. So, though I knew it was wrong, when the number called back immediately after I’d said “wrong number,” I answered the phone.
“Hey,” I said. Everyone around me giggled.
“Where are you?” boomed the voice on the other end. I gathered he was not too far away. An ambulance drove by on his end of the phone and matched the soprano aria of the ambulance driving by me at that moment.
“I’m outside Pianos having a cigarette.” It was true. And it had been true of his girlfriend.
There was a brief silence. I stifled a giggle, waiting for a response. Then he let it out.
“FUUUUCK YOOOOOU!” He screamed into his receiver. I hung up the phone and we all laughed at the joke. He sounded like an ambulance! Ha! Fuck yoooou! Then we started talking about something else entirely, and then I got hungry and decided to walk home and get a piece of pizza.
As I trotted by Tompkins Square Park, my phone buzzed with a text. It was from the disembodied male voice that had told me to fuck me earlier.
At this point, I was away from my music band friends and had no reason to continue to pretend to be this guy’s girlfriend. I was about to ignore him, but I began to remember all the times I tried to meet up with people in the city and found myself getting in cabs going to nowhere. I was confused as to why this guy would TEXT a number that he knows is not his girlfriend’s, but I figured I had been lucky. Perhaps his girlfriend was known to steal phones and text with him. But, to show him that I was not victim of her theft, I sent him this:
“your gf borrowed a phone from a stranger and this is that phone, so you don’t need to contact this number anymore”
To my surprise, I got an immediate response.
“Can I talk to her”
Thirty seconds went by, then:
I was annoyed. What a dumbass, I thought, but he probably can’t help being a dumbass since he was pining for companionship. I didn’t want to ignore him because I had big plans to eat pizza and go to bed, and I didn’t want to be disturbed. So I responded again:
“I’m not with her dude! I don’t even know who she is! Sorry man”
I really was sorry, New York is a lonely enough place as it is, and when there’s an opportunity to NOT be lonely, even for one night, the chances of finding that other person while you’re young and drunk and in the Lower East Side are nearly impossible. I thought it was over, that he would see that he is texting a strange number that is not his girlfriend’s, then spend his time actually going to Pianos to find that girlfriend, who was THERE, smoking a cigarette in those trashy shoes like I told him, but instead he spent his time typing out five separate, consecutive hate texts:
“I’m so mad at u”
“I hate u”
“Leave me alone”
“I hate u”
“I never want to talk to u”
This seemed to me to be the end of the conversation. I wrote:
“Great! Good night!”
A few seconds went by, then:
“Good fucking night”
It’s one thing to be lonely in New York but another to be a dumbass. I wrote:
“Lauren, who I assume is your girlfriend, borrowed my phone to call you. I do not know Lauren, nor am I with her, so all of this I hate u business isn’t getting to her. So good luck, but you will not find her by texting me.”
Then, for good measure, I added:
“You fucking idiot.”
“Fuck u u piece of shit”
“Oh now I’m the piece of shit”
“Nice attitude fucker”
“You’re the one texting your girlfriend at a strange number that you hate her you disrespectful little prick”
At this point, I called his number and hung up immediately just so my iphone could tell me what region of the country his area code belonged to. I crossed my fingers for any embarrassing state; Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia, I could have said something mean about them all. Unfortunately he was from New York, and though I was fine with calling him a prick, I knew he’d hunt me down and kill me if I dare say anything about the Empire State, and he’d crucify me if I even mentioned a malintention toward the Yankees.
I was hoping to have the last laugh. But he went on, putting me to shame:
“See ya Later”
To which I answered:
“Great! Good night!”
I really hope we see each other later. I think we could both use a friend.