Deleting numbers

Back in the day, when every cell phone had its own operating system and the things could barely send text messages, we all had a little ritual we could do when we felt hurt, jilted, rejected.

We could open up our cell phone and delete phone numbers.

I wallowed in deletion. Sometimes I would just go through my contacts looking for numbers to toss. People who didn’t need me in their life any more. People I would never hear from again. People for who I was irrelevant.

It was not a healthy ritual, but I did it often back then.

So, anyway, I don’t remember how I met her but if I had to guess the answer must have been “Friendster.”

It was maybe 2004 and I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, getting very little in the way of attention from the ladies. Sometimes I’d tool around that proto-social-networking site and start conversations with strangers and sometimes we would meet.

Laugh if you want but two of my good friends are married now and they met on Friendster.

I remember there was this new coffee shop, posh for Wisco, that had opened on State Street and we met up there, some place in the back of the cafe, at a little wall of a couch with tiny coffee shop tables designed so people wouldn’t stay long.

That was the period where I thought coffee helped me on dates because it gave me energy and energy gave me charm. I needed all the help I could get.

So she shows up and she’s a knock-out. I think she was Brazilian and Venezuelan or something (this was long ago), and she was tall and curvy. The sort of woman everyone, men and women, will turn and look at when she shows up at a party. Lots of black curly hair framing a face worth framing.

Immediately I think: “I’ve got no shot.” What am I even doing here? She’s the kind of girl you picture next to a soccer star, you know?

But I turn on the caffeinated charm and she seems to like me. I remember her bragging about how she looked wearing some tiny little outfit at the gym. She was smiling constantly.

I could not believe that a woman who looked like this was showing me any interest, but I also remember her being really excited about us going to see The Phantom of the Opera together. I was like: What? No.

I only went to cool movies. Like Ghost Rider.

This wasn’t a word then, but seemed like a real normie. Like max normie.

But I was a 26-year old male and I wasn’t going to completely walk away from a woman like this so I decided to turn it over to fate. I’d try to see her again and if it was at all difficult I would just leave it.

This next part is lost to history, but I’m guessing I called her and suggested something and she said she was busy and I just said, “Okay” without trying to make an alternative plan and didn’t call her again.

For unrelated reasons, one day I was on my twin sized futon mattress lying on the floor of my efficiency apartment in a building that had once been a hotel. That was what passed for a bed for me. I started deleting numbers.

Hers went.


Then one weekend morning I’m lying on that same mattress, doing something really cool and intellectual like reading a collection of comic books, and my phone rings. The number doesn’t have an entry in my phone.

So I answer it that way we answer when we don’t know who it is, like: “Hello?”

This woman’s voice with a little bit of an accent comes on and it’s all bright and nice and she’s asking me if I want to go see Phantom of the Opera, with her. Do I? Can I? What do I have going on?

My brain is assembling facts very quickly but it’s too slow (or is it?) and she says, “Oh my gosh you didn’t know who was calling. You deleted my number!”

“No I didn’t,” I lied weakly. “I was just… waking up.”

“You did,” she said. It was obvious. I had.

I never saw her again.