Tuesday, May 20, 2008

O is for Olive run through with an awl. For example.

I didn't hear from Nick all day yesterday.

And at the end of the day, a friend asked me what I was doing that night.

"It depends on if Nick is dead or not. If he's still alive, then I'll meet him at his office to ride home. And if he's dead, then I suppose I'll be dealing with that."

Because here is the thing. When I can't get in touch with you, I immediately imagine something horrible has happened.

Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies? Seem entirely plausible. To me.

I jaywalk in DC regularly, so clearly it doesn't keep me from living life on the edge. But I fret about everyone else.

It's pretty unusual for me not to hear from Nick all day. If I call him, he calls me back. Or emails. Even if he's swamped, he typically lets me know he got my message and is too busy in the moment. But is still alive.

I mean, he doesn't put it that way. But I think of it in those terms.

And then yesterday, I called with a concrete question (tickets to Maine - I'm looking at Orbitz - when do you want to fly?). I heard nothing.

So several hours later, I emailed, "Where are you?"


Called again. Voicemail.

And so I started to fret.

We'd said goodbye at his office building. Maybe he'd gone out for lunch and had gotten hit by a Metro bus? Maybe a big steel beam had fallen on him while he was walking by the office building they're tearing down next to his?

Because if something had happened to him at work - say the photocopy machine had shorted while he was making copies and he'd been electrocuted - someone would surely have called me. No?

I was also trying to find Betty all afternoon. Who, after several unanswered calls, had most likely been swept away in the creek behind their house. It's usually shallow, and she wades in it collecting rocks. But with all the recent rain, it's probably really high and strong.

It's not necessarily a weird blimp accident, but it's always something dramatic and fatal.

These things just pop into my head. And I can feel how terrifying it would be stuck in cold swirly grey water. Or all, "Fuck, I knew I should've wiped up the coffee I spilled right before making photocopies!"

Or whatever.

Ridiculous, I know. I do this with everyone I love.

If I don't hear from my parents on a trip, I start fretting about plane crashes, or cars going off the side of a cliff. I pay close attention to the news, which I rarely do otherwise.

And if you go away I'll save every voicemail you leave till you get back. I don't know what purpose this serves, since AT&T automatically deletes them eventually, but somehow it makes me feel better.

Betty and Nick called me back at the same time yesterday evening. She'd been at a doctor's appointment; he'd been slammed at work.

Thank goodness.

I got an email from my friend today: "I assume Nick is still alive or you'd have let me know."


  1. OMG, I am so glad to hear someone else is like this!! I've never been a "That can't happen to me" person, but instead just the opposite. I think it's worse to think that anything COULD happen.

    1in a million get struck by lightening? Well that 1 in a million is someone, and that someone could be me or anyone I love just the same as anyone else! It's good to know others are like that! :)

  2. PS - Also really glad Nick is alive.

  3. Canaan - Hahaha! Thank you. I was pretty delighted that he was still alive as well. Also, I'm SO glad to hear this from you - it's such a weird thing, this immediate fret, and I always feel like such a freak for immediately assuming some crazy fatality.

  4. wow i totally do this too. and i love edward gorey! you've won cool points with me for referencing him, hehe. though i'm not very cool, so those points are kinda worthless =P

    anyway, unfortunately for me, i have a bf who doesn't contact me on a regular basis. i've come up with many many death scenerios over the years. i think i've exhausted every possibility. at this point, i've just resigned myself to the idea that if he really were dead, i'd hear from his family =P

  5. Usually when I don't hear from people, I assume that they are mad at me. Your way is much better!

  6. I'm with freckledk. I tend to assume that the person's just decided to stop talking to me altogether.

    I'm not sure which way is better, but I'm sure they're equally effective in inciting nervous tics!

  7. h - Thank you - I will take cool points wherever they are offered! I love Edward Gorey - so brilliant. As for the not-contacting boyfriend - that would make me so crazy. Sorry to hear that.

    FreckledK and Dagny - Both are definitely nervous-tic inciting. I almost always leap to the dramatic death scenario, but the other day I did ask Nick the other day (after he assured me my parents weren't dead) if he thought my mom and dad were avoiding me after 3 days of no returned calls. Neurotic.

  8. Me too, me too! I always assume people are mad at me, because in today's world, how hard is it to return a text message? Not that hard.

    When I am not calling people back, it's always deliberate. I always assume the same is true for other people.

  9. Oh, gosh. I am guilty of doing this, but not out of anger. (If I'm mad, you'll know - I'm never so subtle.) Sometimes I don't return emails for a while because I don't know what I want to say - which night to go out or where to go? Can't make a decisions...Or I just get busy and if I don't email back immediately I forget, and then several days go by and I'm cleaning out old emails and am all crap! I forgot to respond! Yikes!

  10. i do the same thing! and if it goes on for too long, my husband usually has to deal with my hysterics. also glad to hear nick and betty are alright!

  11. M is for Maud who was swept out to sea

    N is for Neville who died of ennui

  12. mrsmac - I am glad to hear this! Not that you get hysterical, but that you can relate. And yes, both fine. Yay!

    Jordaan - I heart you I heart you I heart you!

  13. I've been married for 23 years, and in our first year of marriage my husband was quite late getting home because he went Christmas shopping (for me!) Naturally, I just knew he was dead, and by the time he got home, I was in a state. I explained to him that in the future he would have to keep me posted if he was delayed, if he wanted to prevent me from being a basketcase. He has congenially complied ever since.


  14. Well...have you told your fiance about your wish to die alongside your loved ones in a fiery plane crash rather than die alone and have them survive?

  15. LJ - Wow! I am glad he understood and has kep you posted over the last 23 years. And 23 years - wow! Congrats!

    HIN - Um, no, I don't think I have. I suppose I should mention that before the honeymoon. You would remember that, wouldn't you?

  16. No worries. It's normal. I've really guilt-tripped H the last few times he's done that. I think it's just natural panice when you can't get ahold of the one person you spend every other minute of life with.

  17. Oh, I am so like this too. My husband is very good about keeping me posted, but occasionally there is some delay, and I decide he's been killed on the freeway or had an attack of some kind. It is bad. So bad! Until he gets home, and I cry with relief. I love reading here that I'm not alone in this craziness.

    And, YAY Gashlycrumb Tinies! I grew up with a different abecedarium called "A is for Annabelle, A Doll's Alphabet" -- a very sweet and pretty book, written in an older style of English and all rhyming and beautifully illustrated. Knowing that book made the Gashlycrumb Tinies all the better, since the style and structure are so similar but the content is so very different.

  18. just stumbled across your blog - and omg i am totally like this too. my phone rings and i assume that something bad has happened!?!? you could call me at 7pm and i'd freak out, and god forbid i get some drunken phone call from a friend in the middle of the night. i don't understand what i overreact this way, my life hasn't been filled with so much tragedy that i should just expect bad this to happen or anything... at least i can laugh at myself about if. most of the time.


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