About once every month or two, my phone notifies me of a call coming in as “Restricted.” Under normal circumstances, I would let it run to voicemail, and then delete before listening- as I already know that I don’t have money to pay off whatever collector is ringing. The circumstances here in Australia, though, are far from “normal,” and I answer this call every time.
The voice on the other end of the line is pure Lake Michigan biscuit-sopped gravy and sweet honey sunshine lilting “Heeey, Leanne” through the line, and before she can say “this is D*,” I’ve cut her off with an excited greeting.
D* was one of the first people we met in Australia, and I have mentioned her in this blog before. But, she warrants more than just a passing glance. Though we’ve only seen each other in person once, our conversations are what she calls “deep and meaningfuls” and have more than once pulled me out of a deep funk.
She came to Australia over twenty years ago, also as a first generation student, also as the first in her family to live abroad. We talk about everything from beloved US foods (Frito-Lay barbecue corn chips for her, collard sandwiches for me) to alienation, family dynamics, and how- even after twenty years- you’ll never fully ‘fit in” to a transplant culture. D* works in transcultural mental health- with immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers- so I listen carefully to her wisdom and try to recall her words when I commit (frequent, embarrassing) faux pas.
But I’m not a charity case for her. It’s an even exchange. She often remarks on how refreshing it is to hear my American candour and openness. Even by US standards, though, I’m a bit much- and that sometimes weirds up otherwise comfortable exchanges. I don’t do small talk well, and tend to bring up topics that some shy away from. I’ve reached a point in my life where I no longer try to cover up my past and just spill truth everywhere. And I’ve found that this makes me a “safe person” to talk to. Strangers and friends tell me about things that no one else knows. D* says she’s attracted to that in me, and has shared the thorns and blooms of her own past. She knows that I get it. Despite our differences in age and race, many of our experiences are similar, and we are very much alike on a personal level.
D* called yesterday while I was entertaining myself by wallowing in boredom, loneliness, and a weird combination of hopeful despair. We talked about that, about both world and personal issues, and we talked about paths- the funny desire lines that get us from place to place without following the clearly laid paths. And I felt a lot better. I even vacuumed the house afterward. And I hate vacuuming.
My phone rarely rings these days- WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook messenger being the way I communicate with most folks now. And no matter what I am doing- be it sitting in class, grocery shopping, or busying myself being miserable- I always answer. The caller ID says “Restricted,” but I know there are no limits to where the calls will take us.