I can hear the phone, I’m not deaf, I hear it ringing but I’m not answering. First of all, I don’t want to. Who would be calling me now? Just my sister Trudy, or maybe my cousin Estelle. Bad news, that’s what it will be. Another death, another funeral. The phone rings these days, it’s always another funeral.
But I’ll be honest here, there’s another reason I’m not answering. I can’t find the phone. I can hear it okay, it’s coming from over by the couch. But for the life of me, I can’t find it. Oh, maybe if I looked a little harder, maybe if I moved a couple of things. But I’m not bothered. Other people are bothered, not me.
Trudy is bothered. She wants to talk to me when she wants to talk to me. Eventually, she’s going to get through, all she needs is a little patience. One day, she’s going to call when I’m standing practically on top of the telephone. It will ring and I’ll jump. If I survive the heart attack, I’ll follow the sound and sooner or later I’ll hit pay dirt. So someone will get lucky. It will either be Trudy or Estelle.
Last time Trudy got lucky it wasn’t so good for me. “Enid,” she said, “I’m worried about you. I was trying you nearly a week. I told Howard we better get in the car and come see.”
"You and Howard can stay up there in Yonkers, I’m not dead yet.”
“Enid,” she said to me, “don’t die. Promise me you won’t die. Promise me I won’t have to get Howard to drive me into Manhattan to find you dead.”
“Okay, Trudy,” I said.
“Okay, I won’t die.”
“I promise you.”
When it’s my cousin Estelle, it’s always the same thing, only different.
“Enid, how are you?”
“I’m fine, Estelle. And how are you?”
She doesn’t pick up on irony. She thinks I care.
“Enid,” she says to me, “I tried calling you last night, you weren’t home.”
“I was home.”
“You were home?”
“I was home.”
“But the phone rang and rang.”
“I know. I heard it.”
“But you didn’t answer it?”
“I don't understand. If you heard the phone ring, how come you didn't answer it?”
The trouble with Estelle is, she thinks with a linear brain. If there’s a question, by her there’s got to be an answer.
“So who died?” I ask her.
She tells me no one’s dead, she just wants to talk to me. She’s worried about me. They’re all worried about me.
It’s my own fault. I’ve told them too much. I try not to tell them anything but sometimes I end up telling them too much.
So now Trudy knows I haven’t finished unpacking my boxes yet. I’ve been in this apartment almost a year, it’ll be a year in November. That was a big mistake, telling Trudy about the boxes. It just slipped out.
She asked me what I thought of Ellen.
"The girl on TV, the lesbian, the nice one."
"I don't know her."
"You don't know Ellen?"
"I never met her."
"Enid, you’re not keeping up with the shows?” She sounded offended.
“I am not.”
“Don’t you want to be informed?”
“Trudy,” I said, “I lost my television.”
She hears the word lost and right away she thinks “stolen.” She thinks I’ve been robbed. Or worse, even. I tell her not to get excited, the television is somewhere in the apartment only I can’t find it. And then, one thing led to another, how not only was the television lost, but I still had boxes to unpack.
Trudy wanted numbers. “How many boxes?”
“I don’t have an exact count for you.”
“Make an estimate.”
“More than a dozen?”
“More than a dozen?”
“Yes. I said yes.”
“Tell me, Enid,” she insists, “tell me the number.”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Yes, I do, I want to know.”
“No, you don’t."
Eventually, she lets it drop. And she wonders why I don’t want to talk to her.
I’m happy here in my apartment, even with all my boxes. I don’t miss the television. My telephone, it rings sometimes, so what. Trudy can’t accept that. Estelle also. They think I'm depressed. What do they know?
I have my own apartment in Manhattan. All my life I wanted an apartment in Manhattan. I did not want to die in the Bronx. On my tombstone, I did not want to see: “Enid Weingarden, born in the Bronx . . . . died in the Bronx.”
So, I’m in Manhattan now. Not by a lot, I’ll admit that. One more subway stop up the line and it’s the Bronx again. But I was never a stickler for details. I got the zip code I wanted so I’m not complaining.
Oh, alright, I am complaining. Why did I have to go and misplace that pension check? Why didn’t I ever smoke, so I could sue a tobacco company and get enough money to fix my teeth? Why did I have to catch a cold this summer that left me with such a cough . . . a cough like that, I should have named it already, that’s how intimate we are, like roommates.
But about the dog that barks from next door, day and night, night and day, about that you won’t hear me complaining. Barking dogs they had plenty in the Bronx, I assure you. But this dog, this is a Manhattan dog. A Manhattan dog I can live with, thank you very much.
Hunh, what a relief, the phone, it stopped ringing. Now I can make a little tea. As soon as I find the kettle, I’ll make me a little tea. I’m in no hurry. Where am I running to?