The day before this call came in, I’d run into a former colleague at the dentist. She offered her sympathies regarding my friend’s recent passing and shared that a man we both used to work with (who had also known the friend who had passed) was struggling with the loss.
I phoned the man the next day on my way to get my hair cut. He’s currently employed at a large bank and wasn’t available, so I left a message inviting him to go along with me to our friend’s celebration of life event scheduled for the following week. I asked him to call me back, recited my cell number, and hung up.
When I arrived at the hair salon, my phone was nearly out of juice. I’d forgotten to plug it in the night before. I still had errands to run and my daughter’s end-of-season volleyball party that night, so I asked the stylist if I could charge my phone.
“Sure,” she said, and cleared a spot on her little counter directly above a wall plug.
Half-way through the cut, the stylist nudged me (I get REALLY relaxed during a haircut) and said, “Your phone’s buzzing.”
Normally, I wouldn’t answer. But this time, I was worried about missing my friend’s attempt to reach out and accept my invitation to attend the memorial. The caller’s number was blocked. Could be because he’s calling from work, I reasoned. It was Friday afternoon–4:54 p.m. Maybe this was the last call he would make before heading home for the weekend. I answered.
“This is Meagan!” Chipper and upbeat, like I used to do at work. He would recognize that.
“You’re a bitch,” said an unfamiliar female voice, flat and unaffected. Click.
I stopped breathing. I could feel my heart skittering in the center of my chest, spreading adrenaline out to my arms and legs.
I stared at myself reflected in the stylist’s mirror as if I had just switched places with that wet-haired girl. Maybe she was the mean Me or her world was more sinister than mine. Or maybe this was still me, but I had done something terrible. Made another person very angry.
Who was that woman on the phone? Did she know me? Maybe it was a mistake.
“That was weird. That was weird.” I said it twice.
The twenty-something stylist hadn’t noticed anything.
I lay the phone back on the counter and sat, stunned, while the stylist dried my hair. The phone buzzed again, flashing “blocked caller.”
This time, I let it go. Nobody left a voicemail.
As I was getting up to leave, the phone buzzed a third time. I answered.
Nothing. I held the phone out to see if the line was connected. Yes. Seconds clicked past and I held the phone back to my ear.
Now I was truly rattled. I left the salon and sat for a while in my car, staring at the phone like it was an explosive. I called my wireless provider and asked if I could find out who was calling me. No, but for $5 every month I could block blocked calls. I didn’t want to block anyone. I wanted to understand why a person would anonymously terrorize me.
Had I done something? Did this person hate me? Would they hurt me? My family? Maybe it was random. A wrong number? Phishing?
I skipped the errands and went early to the party. I wanted desperately to see my daughter, make sure she was okay.
The girls were laughing and full of energy when they arrived. I hugged my girl and chatted with the other moms.
I told one woman about the threatening calls, and she couldn’t believe it. “Once when I was a kid,” she said, “A guy got hold of the school phone list and started calling my house, threatening to do things to me. I don’t know what, for sure, because he never talked to me, just my parents. They drove me to school and picked me up for a long time after.”
I felt sick and remembered how when I was in high school there was a man–a maintenance person with access to student records–who called young girls posing as a doctor, asking them to self-examine. He humiliated and messed up several girls. He did call my house, and we started talking. He asked me to touch myself and describe. I hung up, but still, I remember the incident with fear and shame.
Why do people terrorize? That’s what this is. Faceless people without the courage to name themselves threatening the safety and well-being of others. Why? Is it about power? Control? Inciting fear?
That night at 11:10 p.m. the Blocked Caller tried again, but I was asleep.
On Saturday morning, I stayed in bed feeling sad. My husband made breakfast and when I came out to the kitchen, he admitted that Blocked Caller had tried again at 10:03 a.m.
“I answered,” he said. “Hello!” He made his voice loud and aggressive.
I couldn’t believe the person was still calling. Should I involve the police?
At exactly noon Blocked Caller buzzed again. I was alone in my office.
“Hello?” [Who are you? I am afraid. Do you know me?]
She said nothing…there were noises…maybe a door shutting.
“Hello?” [Are you in your car? In your home? Do you have children?]
…more noises…wind, maybe, street noises…
“Hello.” [Is this the sound of you moving around in your life? Are you safe?]
…quiet, but still her breathing…
I held the last ‘o’ sound as if it was the final note in a song. With my voice, I reached out to her. I said “I love you” with hello. I said I’m sorry. I imagined embracing her, holding the unknown. What do you need? Whatever it is, I want you to have it.
I hung up.
She hasn’t called again.