In the age of cell phones, most homes no longer have land lines. How I long for phones with chords. I miss running my fingers through spirals as I yap. Everything is cordless now. I refuse to get a cell phone. I know as one who suffered from psychotic delusions, that invisible waves emitted from cell phones affect us medically. There was a time when I could not tolerate walking by a cell phone conversationalist. I believed that the government or aliens were controlling us with them. I’ve somehow learned to tolerate the new technology of the digital revolution. Unlike my predecessors who wore tinfoil hats and believed there were chips enplaned in their dental work, I’ve learned to embrace the world around me as a man with schizophrenia. I’m starting to see now. This is more than just a mental illness– it’s a gift of vision of sorts. One must have it to understand what I’m referring to, but in any case, I know when people from my past are about to reach out to me again. I have dreams of them and days if not moments later, they call. This is clairvoyance.
Using the white pages to track down old friends and acquaintances in the age of no land lines is futile, especially when friends have names like mine—Charles Taylor. No matter what town I live in, there are always several C. Taylor’s in the phone directory. Even when I’m stalked, I never bother to un-list my name. Only bill collectors manage to find me, but once and a while, I’m rediscovered. I had a dream of one of my old boyfriends. I knew he was about to let his fingers do the walking. Even as the phone rang I knew it was him. I could feel it.
My ex-lover Anthony Owens called every C. Taylor in Brooklyn until he recognized my voice on my answering machine.
“Charles! It’s Anthony, Anthony Owens! Oh my God I can’t believe I found you. Listen, call me. I found your number on-line in the White Pages,” was the message he left last evening. “And what the fuck is this blog you wrote. I found myself through you,” he exclaimed.
I felt like I had a fan, so I called him even though I’m still angry at him for not being there for me when Shawn died.
“Holy shit, you are still alive?” I joking asked on a message I left for him on his cell. “Call me back. It’s me… the best piece of ass you’ve ever had!” I stated as I held my cordless phone near my ear. Although I was joking on my message, I was serious in a sense. Gay men lose close friends often, and it would not have surprised me if Anthony was dead. I thought the dream I had about him meant that he had died. I was relived to hear his voice again. When my phone rang at midnight, I answered it, even though I was already in bed and always cautious about picking up the phone. I know they listen in. It was Anthony Owen. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I was back there with him. On the other side, with Shawn and some others– running around naked– oh the sex. In the dream, Anthony started flying like a bird. I wondered how he got such powers in heaven.
“Charles. How are you? I’m sorry to tell you, but James died.”
I cried in the darkness of my bedroom as my current lover, B. slept. I listened to Anthony’s pain. James was Anthony’s best friend. I didn’t know James that well, but he was awfully nice. Nobody deserves to die of AIDS, especially a soul as sweet as that of James. He was a quiet and shy Black man with braids in his hair and perfect chocolate skin. A sissy, yes, but beyond just skin, he was lovely. I cried silently when I heard the news. I had a dream of James recently too– yes, vividly the memory returned as I held the phone. I listened to Anthony cry for his friend. It seemed that he wished to reach him through me. I felt like the Oracle from the Matrix for a moment before going on.
“What happened to him?” I asked.
“He was sick,” Anthony explained.
I didn’t have to ask from what illness James died. ‘Sick’ is a nice way of saying AIDS in our community, besides, a hunch I had inside already dissected the truth from Anthony’s words.
“I haven’t spoken to you since Shawn died,” I said to Anthony. “Funny you should call me now. Ain’t it a bitch?”
“I know, Charles, I’m sorry. I should have stayed in touch. I thought you would have some words of advice for all this pain. I thought I was going to lose my mind like you did when Shawn died.”
“I was in the hospital for over a month. Some weird shit,” I replied.
“I know. Do you remember when I saw you walking down 125th Street in Harlem that day? I was so worried about you. Something was so wrong.”
“Sure was. I was crazy. A little better now, but I’ve been very sad for seven years. Quite a funk. Now James is gone?”
“Yep. He got sores all over his body. His mind went. He wouldn’t call me at the end. Never heard from him for three months. I was so sad, but his burial service was nice. Lynn Whitfield showed up. She gave a speech. It made me cry. James was fierce. He knew all those people. He died in Josephine Baker’s son Jean-Claude’s arms. Oh God, Charles, I cried so hard.”
“Frank West was friends with Lynn Whitfield,” I said to Anthony. I knew those words would cut right through his aching heart and make him snap out of his delusion. I left Anthony, my boyfriend at the time for another man– Frank West. Frank was a dancer. He knew lots of Hollywood stars. Lynn Whitfield was just one. I met Lynn, Keith David, Phylicia Rashad, Benjamin Matthews, Geoffrey Holder, Judith Jamison and a host of other notables while dating Frank. In all honesty, it wouldn’t make a difference to me if any of them showed up at my funeral if I died. What does it mean anyway to have a star mourn for one? Poor James. I can see the drama now as they scattered that beautiful man’s ashes. Lynn must have given a Josephine Baker caliber performance at that viewing.
“I met Lynn Whitfied too,” I said to Anthony. ” That’s no big deal. My God, what a fag hag! That was nice of her…so what’s new in your life, Anthony?”
“I live in the Bronx now. There are lots of in-the-closet Puerto Rican men up here—the married kind. You know what I like… straight boys who like taking it up the ass.”
“Oh yes, you and your men with endless caverns,” I said. “I don’t know what you ever saw in me.”
“Me either,” Anthony joked.
“I’m 40 now. Can you believe that? My hole must have seen at least 300 dicks in this life.”
“I know, I’m 39, but let me tell you Charles, I look better than ever.”
“That’s nice,” I said. “I’m skinny again. Got fat for a while, but I’m back. Not bad for a dinosaur,” I remarked. “We are the last survivors it seems. Our species continues to go extinct. Why do you think some people live on those drugs for such a long time and others like James still go?” I asked.
“That’s why I always will love you, Charles,” Anthony said. “You always say what I always need to hear. I’m glad you are still alive and in my life, Charles. I will always love you.”
I wanted to say the same, but my lover B.was listening. He would never understand.