Incandescent light beaming from a forty-six inch flat screen flickered inside the first of nine penny-sized candle base stations on an empty menorah. Ever so faintly, a whine screeched from an ancient vcr. Within the forty-six inch rectangular window, a family gathered, all members either reclining in bright orange upholstered sofas and chairs, or standing, feet planted to swirled, multi-shaded mocha carpeting. Two toddlers were being passed back and forth between the women. Mountains of curls and bangs distracted the diaper duo from the expressions of adoration gleaming behind softball-circumferenced glasses. Gifts populated the center of the room, which lay invisible to the infants. The obscenely large, skillfully wrapped boxes were, however, the only thing that existed for two small children, ages three and five, who agonizingly waited at the edge of the family circle, leashed only by parental rule.
Beneath the heading Re: (whatever I wrote in the first message) read a call request. Scratching my head, I wondered to myself how I could feel such discomfort doing this. Through all of the dates I’d been on using the website, I had never gone beyond messaging or texting. A first world dilemma. A year 2011 dilemma.
Eventually accepting that only good could come from it, and especially considering it was an upgrade from the previous date who would not give me the day and time, I decided to brave up and dial. We set a call time for late in the evening, after I got off work. Ring back tones unexpectedly led a path to voicemail, where I left a neurotic, yet articulately charming message, I thought. The following morning I found an apology text and a call back guarantee. Skeptically, I went about my day, only half expecting a call in the late afternoon.
Hands blinding my eyes, I shielded myself from the embarrassment I knew my three-year-old self was sure to wreak. Haphazardly ripping open presents, he inquired, “Is there more?” An uncomfortable laugh grew in my belly, lifted up, and regurgitated out. Suddenly a blizzard of static snow flashed over the window.
Laughter emanated from the black leather sectional couch facing the television. My cousin, one of the toddlers in the video, now twenty two, smiled as our shared grandmother quipped and jibed about his diaper change. Observing the empty menorah below the flat screen, I realized we had not even lit the Hannukah candles this year. The importance of the gathering did not depend on religious tradition anymore.
I gazed down to the coffee table, at the gifts I’d received this year. A single envelope could contain everything. I was satisfied with that and grateful for its contents. Next to that piece of stationary comfortably sat a bound presentation booklet with a protective cover. Behind the glossed front page were designs for new innovations my cousin was developing in school. A modernized walker graced the first few pages. Our grandmother had never warmed up to the idea of using a cane, let alone four of them attached to two wheels and two punctured tennis balls. With her in mind, my cousin had designed something that even she could be proud to brandish.
Slipping my hand into my slim, crowded jean pocket, I extracted my Android. As my thumb pressed the home key, the screen flamed on. After noting the time frame to get back to the city from Oakland, I flipped my attention to gmail. Displayed on the first page of emails, the response message from my dating website surfaced the nerves attached to another approaching coffee date.
Reva’s feet shifted and glided to the beat of the music. Her chin rested atop her date’s shoulder. Across the dance floor she spotted her best friend, the one who had set her up. Making eye contact with her, Reva subsequently pulled up her arm, allowing her hand to reach her face. Pinching her nose, she put on a “pew” expression. Her date Gordon was a gentleman, a nice Jewish boy, and clearly adored her, but Reva remained unimpressed. All she could think about was the measure of his snout.
Vibration filled my pocket. Rotating my head, I made eye contact with my friend in the passenger’s seat. “Shit. They’re calling. I don’t want to deal with this now,” I nervously chirped “Answer it. It’ll be fine,” my friend reassured. I took a deep breath, gripped the grey leather wheel, warmed by my palms, and turned it clockwise to come to a complete stop at Noriega and 27th. I pulled out my phone and answered.
I swept my Android up from its perch. I’d left it in the abandoned nook where landlines in San Francisco apartments were formerly located. While arranging my studio four months ago I reappropriated the space as the spiritual center of my apartment, decorating the indented ledge with aura polaroids, the crystal my mother gave me when she moved out of the only childhood home I’ve ever known, folded papers containing scribbled aspirations, and a hanging jade green Buddhist scroll. Out the door I rushed, swiftly moving south down Divisidero to a holiday screening at the Casto Theater.
Jack Torrance pounded away at the keys on his type writer. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” He typed this over and over and over again. His marriage to Wendy had hit the rocks. It was all work and no play. In the dim flicker of the theater, I wondered how Jack and Wendy had first met and how they had first fallen in love. They were an ugly couple now, but had there been truly satisfying times during their romance? Did they fit together only because she desperately needed a reassuring presence and he needed a feeble, weak minded mate to order around? Or were there times where they transcended their codependency?
The phone call from a day prior was on my mind. A place and time was set for a date, and my friend from the navigator’s seat confidently observed our conversation as positively nervous, adorable, and normal. If Wendy had met Jack on a dating website, could she have seen the warning signs more clearly? On one of my dates a conversation came up about the viability of dating websites. Questions about personality and values, they argued, can reveal dealbreakers that in everyday dating and relationships could go unnoticed until after making a monogamous commitment. My date the following afternoon turned out not to be the trifecta I continue to search for. Yet, the website’s match tools proved to be useful in the real world. As the website hinted, they had me on the two most crucial friendship points of the love triangle, heart and mind. Stories told by multiple close friends and family serve as proof that sometimes physical attraction can follow suit when the latter two factors in love are potent. This draws me reluctant to fold in the current situation.
Reapportion comes expectedly at times of work and unexpectedly at times of play. It comes in love, religious traditions, long standing family traditions, societal behaviors, and everyday technological devices. Sometimes the change is bravely welcomed, while in others it faces nervous rejection. Ease is absent from alien embracement. Reapportion, whether stumbled upon or sought out, deserves a chance. Critical evolutions, curving toward infinite bliss, could be right around change’s bend.
A week later, Gordon walked over to the indented space inside his San Francisco apartment that housed his phone. He picked it up and turned the wheel until all of Reva’s numbers were keyed in. A second date lead to a third, a fourth, a fifth date. Eventually the relationship became physical. Once his digits pressed the right buttons, my grandmother was, for better or worse, eternally sold.