The minutes were counting down at an almost snail-like pace. My gaze switched obsessively between watching the time on my digital clock and the cheap land line phone that I had resting on my computer table. I was a nervous wreck. I could feel my heart racing. I tried to talk smack to myself; much like my friends and I would do when we would go to the courts and get a few games of hoops in during them hot NYC summer nights. I remember yelling at myself in my noggin, “C’mon you fat fuck get your shit together. It ain’t no big deal son. Why you sweatin’ it? You got this! You hear me you got this!” But my attempts of psyching myself out fell flat on its face. No matter what I told myself I just wasn’t buying it. The enormity of the moment was hitting me, as if fate was whispering into my ear what was at stake.
I was sitting at the edge of my bed. It was 6:15 PM Eastern Standard Time, and it was 5:30 PM Chicago. Jessica, the girl who I had been chatting with through Migente messages, and hour-long chat sessions on AIM, would be arriving home soon from school. In 15 minutes I was scheduled to call her up for the first time. I had been staring at the phone and the clock anxiously for the past hour and a half. I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous. It wasn’t like I hadn’t chatted with any other girls in the previous four months. But Jessica for whatever reason felt different. I couldn’t grasp why it was different. I just knew it was.
It had been about a month and a half since Delunatic, the username Jessica went by on Migente, had left her Rockin’ mark on my page. I had done what was customary at the time, which was to return the favor by signing her guest book. While I was there I glanced through her page to familiarize myself with the future wifet. In her profile pic she was standing on the front lawn of her parents house. She was standing there with her younger sister and they were doing their damndest to look like a pair of rock loving, quasi emo, punk rockers. Now I recall that in the picture Jessica wore a white t-shirt with another black long sleeve t underneath. Now the wifey argues that she was actually wearing a black, short sleeve, Good Charlotte t-shirt, over a black long sleeve t. But I’m pretty sure that I am right in my account. She also wore a pair of black jeans with a long metal key chain hanging from her pocket. She had a pair of black, platform, Frankenstein’s monster, ass kicking boots. She disguised her long curly hair by parting it straight down the middle and tying it in a tight bun in the back. Her head was slightly bowed and there was a hint to a small nervous smile. Her body was what us urban folk like to call thick. She had curves in all the right places. I was an instant fan.
I read through the long list of bands that she herself had listed on her page. She was big on Nu Metal at the time. There were names like ILL NINO, Korn, None Point on her list. I couldn’t say that I was a huge fan of any of those bands. But It was nice to meet another latino that did enjoy rock music, even if their taste in rock was nowhere as refined or as tasteful as my own.
I sent her a private message complimenting her on her musical taste. I was just trying to fish for a bit of conversation. Something that I did regularly. Most messages went unanswered or I would get a response that didn’t leave me an opening to send a follow-up message. But every now and then I would get a reply back that allowed me to start a correspondence. Jessica turned out to be one of those instances.
We had spent the past month and a half just sending each other random notes or chatting about our like and dislikes. We talked about our family and about our friends. We spent a ridiculous time talking about music and movies and the things that moved us. We also spent some time talking about our cultural differences. I was Nuyorican, she was Chicana. We may share the same language but that was about where the similarities ended. Our foods, traditions, history where so different from each other that I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it all.
During one of our chats she had mentioned that I had spoken to some girl on the phone. She had inquire if I spoke to a lot of women. I told her I didn’t. That I made it a case of personal policy not to ask for a chicks number because I wasn’t about that. Off course I was full of shit. All I wanted to do was talk with women. But I was trying to seem nonchalant. Off course the only thing I accomplished by saying that was delaying our chance to talk over the phone.
Yet I truly believe that the delay of our eventual phone conversation was the key to allowing our future romance to bloom. We got to know each other on a level that wouldn’t have never been possible otherwise. The major drawback with chat and note conversations is that they are best served when you are having short Q & A sessions. You can’t really get to in-depth with all the details or it gets way too tedious to read through it all. So I started writing long email to her, which served as more appropriate format if I wanted to go into details about what we talked about. Jessica followed suit.
I really started to look forward to getting an email back from her. I remember reading through them and laughing hard about the silly stories that she told me about herself. My letters were a bit darker, but it had its own tinge of dark humor that I think attracted her. I miss those days sometimes. It’s been so many years later and we both are securely living under the same roof. Sometimes I think we take each others presence for granted. But back then we couldn’t get enough of each other.
The digital clock read 6:30 pm. The time that I had both been anticipating and dreading had arrived. I was going to go straight for the phone and dial her number. But I stopped myself. No way big man. Hold the fuck up! If you call at exactly 6:30 pm on the dot, she will probably think that you had been sitting by the phone waiting to call her. And although that is exactly what I had been doing, it did not mean that I wanted her to get that impression. No. I needed to play it cool. I was going to give it another 15 more minutes. Then I would call. We don’t want to appear too eager. Yeah that was the way to go. So I waited. The seconds dragged on for hours. It seriously felt like I was stuck in some type of time bubble. Where the passage of time moved at a much slower pace than it did outside the bubble. I blamed my heart. It was beating close to the speed of light. And anyone that knows anything about space and time knows that time slows down the closer you get to the speed of light.
It was finally 6:45 pm. I picked up the receiver. I dialed 9 out of the 10 digits needed to make the call. My finger hovered over the last number. My heart was beating so quick. Don’t fuck this up fat boy. You hear me! Don’t fuck this up! It was then that I realized that this wasn’t the usual case of butterflies in the stomach. I was feeling something else. I think I like this girl. Which in my day meant that you were a few steps away from being in love. Shit, I hadn’t even heard the girl’s voice yet and I was liking her hard. I was fucked.
I took a deep breath and allowed my paw to press down on the final digit. I heard the beep go off loudly on the receiver; followed by a number of rings. A part of me wished that she didn’t pick up. I think the phone rang 5 times and then a voice came on. “Hello”, said the female voice on the other end of the line. I asked in the deepest most manly voice that my 6’1 400 and something pound frame could muster, “Yes — hi is Jessica home?”. The voice answered by saying, “This is Jessica.” The moment of truth had arrived. I had no idea how this was going to go. “Hi Jess, it’s Tom. Calling you as promised.” I remember there being a slight pause of dead air. I’m sure that it didn’t take as long to actually get a response back as I actually remember it. But at that time it felt like it took forever for the future wifey to say something in return. She finally opened her mouth and said “Well so much for not being the kind of guys that ask for numbers and calls girls up.”
Fucking chick was busting my balls. Yeah, I really, really liked her at that moment. All that anxiety that I was feeling just a few instances prior evaporated rather quickly. We were about to hit it off beautifully. I just had lacked the imagination to realize how good it was all going to go.
To Be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago Part IV- Family Reunion