I don't see dead people but my caller ID does. I was in the middle of composing an email when my phone rang, the LCD screen displaying a cryptic epitaph: the name of a dead friend and a string of numbers.
Kenn died in 9747? , I wondered, looking at the last four digits. I figured it was more like 2006.
"Hello?", I answered with some trepidation.
"Al!", bellowed a ghost. I said I don't see dead people. I never said I don't hear them. I knew that this was a ghost on my phone because everyone who has ever called me 'Al' in real-life is...well...let's just say, don't call me 'Al'.
I'm kidding. Even when Kenn was alive, it was OK for him to call me 'Al'. From him, I didn't mind being called Al, it was part of his big, simple-minded redneck charm. The fact that I always called him 'Keh' seemed to elude him- or perhaps he thought I had a speech impediment and was too polite to mention it.
In any case, it's not every day that I get calls from beyond the grave. That's a bi-weekly affair at best and it's usually a wrong number...but here was Dead Kenn calling for me- at home.
"Kenn, are you dead?", I inquired with a skeptic's tact.
"And you aren't in prison?"
I mulled over this string of improbabilities.
"How, if you don't mind me asking, is that even possible?"
Kenn was the sort of guy used to wake up in the morning and take shots of peppermint schnapps in a vain attempt to mask the acrid smell of crack cocaine emanating from his pores. Kenn used to know where all the worst parts of town where, especially at 3 am. Kenn and I have have a lot in common, including a mutual dismay that we are both still alive.
"Well," Kenn explained," I haven't used heroin for almost five years- and except for one mistake, no coke either. Quitting saved my life. Anyway, I just found this old list of names and I thought I call some of them...you'd be surprised how many of them are dead now. I was sure you were one of them."
"I almost was", I told him. We verified the status of a few old friends and then I gave Kenn the short version of my own near-death experience and subsequent sobriety.
"Al, that's great! I can't believe we are having this conversation now...I mean, we were seriously into self-loathing back then, weren't we? Death wish, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess you could call it that", I said,reflecting on long evenings spent trying to find the "perfect buzz"... enough powerful stimulants to make things crystal clear for days balanced with enough narcotics and alcohol to "take the edge off" and keep the pulse down.
Looking back, I musta had one hell of an "edge" back then, because it usually took 16 beers, a nose-full of heroin and a fifth of vodka to "take it off."
Anyway, Kenn's not nearly as dead as his friends thought he was. In fact, he sounds downright chipper. His call left me in a good mood and I'm hoping to visit him soon.
Then the office called. Training has been postponed again- but this time it's only been pushed back 30 minutes. Whew!
Excitement to follow.