Amy thought about those first three or four calls.
Certainly not! Was this some kind of prank? But then she remembered. During her time in the ministry numerous men, particularly those of more advanced years, had confessed to her that they called phone sex hot lines more out loneliness than from any desire for sexual stimulation, and that after going through the whole thing — playing their ased roles — they felt a deep sense of shame.
But how could that be? Whatever it was, they must be calling her by mistake.
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Was there some way could she let them realize that they had permission to relax and just talk? How could she get that across before they hung up? She had a few things going for her, most especially her voice. As a younger woman she had spent years training her voice to a powerful soprano.
The passing years deepened her register but her voice had lost none of its power and clarity. Nor did she neglect her speaking voice, so important for preaching. She found that when she hit what she thought of as her stride during a sermon, it was as if a blanket of tranquility and peace covered the congregation. When she paused, the silence of the congregation rolled back upon her like a gentle wave. Waiting to exhale. It always sent her into reveries to reflect on those bygone days. But yes. She retained that asset.
Her voice was still clear. She could do this. What can I do for you? Talk dirty? Is that what you really want? Somehow, women have always made better friends for me.
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For example, let me tell you about my dear friend Amaryllis. She went by Amy, but I got away with calling her Amaryllis, because we were close. I worried about her, in particular about her hoarding. I do a fair bit of hoarding myself, and I believe that without our peccadilloes we would be uninteresting. I worried about it though because of her age and her stability issues. I could barely get around in her place myself without falling on my you-know-what!
She even cluttered the staircases. So I worried.
About the possibility that she might take a serious fall, and about the fact that her hoarding was way past the point of pathology. But enough about my worries. I prefer to talk about other aspects of her life and personality. She was a very creative person, which, in my experience, is a common trait among hoarders. Hoarders, even those mildly afflicted, see aesthetic possibility where others just see junk.
She was also a good talker, and kind, so upon reflection the method she came up with, or rather stumbled upon, as a way to relieve, for herself and others, the loneliness that can afflict us when we are old and live alone, made sense.
All of us are lonely. Especially now, with the pandemic. But now, we are together. What can we share? Drawing them out felt so profound, so important.
Is that what you want, what you really want? No point in casting pearls before swine. More often than not, she connected. When she did she made sure, before terminating the call, that she had a name, athat they had her correctand that they knew they could call her any time — well, between about noon and midnight.
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She routinely stayed up past two. Her granddaughter expressed her concern. They need someone to talk to. I talk to them.
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When she felt like she had as many — parishioners? At first it stuck me very weird, and downright dangerous — giving strange guys, who she met because they were trying to call, of all things, a phone sex line, her correct phone. Oh greatI thought, now I had two things to worry about: Her falling over one of her many heaps of junk, and some psycho showing up at americas hottest chatline door with a gun. I reminded myself that the worst case scenarios we imagine seldom actually come to pass.
Something unexpected happens rather than the horrible thing you thought of and worried yourself sick over. We spoke for a short time about this and that. She was older than me, and not as healthy. I distracted myself as best I could for the remainder of the day and did not sleep well that night, but during the course of the next few days I nearly forgot about it.
Later in the week she called. You know where I have a house key hidden outside right?
Anyway, the code is I figured that would appeal to you. I could see the sense of what she wanted, but it gave me the creeps anyway. She said you might call…Well, not exactly. I mean, think about it. This is her phone. Call me in ten days. Amaryllis was right; they all called in fairly short order, that is, within a couple of weeks.
By the time we were all assembled it was late July. The pandemic was raging. I had cleared out the largest room.
They had a lot of questions for me. Sometimes they brought up the issue of all the junk, but I blew them off about that. Amaryllis had explained to me exactly what to do, and the time had not yet arrived. I prayed that it never would.
It was weird drinking beer through a straw, but we were of one accord that we should keep masks on in the house even with all the ventilation going, and beer is beer, even through a straw.
We were doing what we were supposed to, what Amaryllis wanted, which was that we should be friends. Staying safe seemed like another way to give honor to her. And so we gave her honor, gathering every few days. It must have been a week or two after the last of the congregation ed us that I received word that Amaryllis had died.