[I love how this sounds like a Christopher Pike book. (LOL, I just Googled it and it’s actually an R.L. Stine book!)]
Back in 10th grade, so let’s say 1994 (I honestly googled “what year was I in 10th grade” – that didn’t help), my friend Christy was sleeping over. It was pretty late and we were just getting ready to go to bed when my phone rang. I had my own phone line in high school, to go along with my purple not-because-of-drugs pager, and LOVED to talk on the phone, so getting calls late at night was not unusual.
I have to side-bar here for a minute because I am hilariously the opposite as an adult and rarely ever answer my phone. In fact just the other day, I got a local call and figured it was a robocall or a bill collector tricking me by using my own area code, so I ignored it. Less than 30 seconds later, Chooch texted me and said, “Call back that number, it’s the school nurse.”
MOM OF THE YEAR.
But, on that night in 1994, I actually did answer the phone, because it could have been JUSTIN, my on-again-off-again sometimes-boyfriend who I was fucking obsessed with. It was a guy, not like a creepy dad-age man, it sounded like an older teen, and he was asking for Celeste. I remember without a doubt that it was Celeste, because there was a Celeste in my class and it was just wasn’t a name I heard that often outside of that.
I told him he had the wrong number because, you know, I’m not Celeste.
“Wrong number,” I said to Christy, and then she rolled over and went back to sleep.
But then! A minute later, my phone again.
It was the same guy, but this time, he was calling to talk to ME. Look, I was 15 at the time, and it was the 90s, the term “Catfish” was a whole decade away from being coined, so yeah, I’m going to tell this stranger my name when he asks.
“Is that that same guy?” Christy asked. “HANG UP!”
But of course, I stayed up and talked to him for probably an hour that night, because I never listened to my friends. Case in point, several years later when Christy told me not to date this dude she knew from her school because he was crazy and literally set his best friend’s house on fire over a borrowed video game and that my friends is how I ended up in the most emotionally and physically abuse relationship of my life with Psycho Mike! So yeah, preach, Christy!
But back to the wrong number. I learned that night that this guy’s name was Kevin Wilson, he was from a nearby neighborhood called Brentwood, I think he said he was 19 or 20–he was definitely not in high school anymore. So right away, you’re thinking that this is going down some rocky statutory street, right? Well, here’s the weird thing: we became solid phone friends and he never once crossed that line. It always remained platonic, no, “What are you wearing?”s or even any sweetly-veiled manipulations to meet in an empty parking garage at midnight. And this was pre-cell phone, pre-email, pre-text age so he wasn’t sending me dick pics or trying to get me to cyber with him.
I was the one who was always trying to hang out in person. You know, like, let’s go to the mall or Denny’s! I’d get all whiny about it too, probably. But he always had excuses or reasons why he couldn’t and I just went with it because I was dumb. He did throw me a bone once though by dropping pictures of himself off in my mailbox one day, and I was so mad that he did it while I was at school! But oh my god, you guys, he was so cute! Like, classic young American boy who probably played football in high school and can drink three chocolate milkshakes a day and not get fat. I can remember taking the pictures to school and showing everyone at my table during lunch and girls were PISSED that this guy was calling ME. I mean, I wasn’t the worst-looking girl, but I had braces and was going through a pretty heavy Yo-Girl phase where I lined my lips with brown liner and practically swam in my clothes, so….
He was almost like a big brother to me, giving me advice, checking up on me, making sure I was doing OK. I don’t think we talked every day, but probably weekly. And it was really good for me too, because that aforementioned sometimes-boyfriend Justin was always giving me the run-around and was hardly available, so having someone else to talk to really filled a void. Plus, he would say brotherly things like, “DO I NEED TO KICK THIS GUY’S ASS” and “YOU ARE TOO GOOD FOR THIS JUSTIN KID” and even though I didn’t believe it at the time, he was so right but of course I didn’t listen to him and I’d go right back to writing ERIN <3’Z JUSTIN all over my Composition books.
So, I know what you’re thinking: Wow, Erin, you’re 15, talking to some older stranger on the phone who KNOWS WHERE YOU LIVE and COMES TO YOUR HOUSE WHEN YOU’RE NOT HOME, do your parents even know the shit you do!? How did you live to see your 30s?!
Well, let me tell you something: my mom not only knew I was talking to this boy-guy, but SHE MET HIM! I had left him pictures of me in our mailbox and when he came to get them, she happened to be coming home or leaving at the same time, and they got to meet! I was so devastated that my mom met him first!
BUT IT GETS WORSE! She freaking gave him a job at our family’s drywall company! So now she got to see him everyday! She’d come home from work and tell me things, like, “Kevin is so cute! Kevin is such a boy!” and I would just be like, “GOD WHY DON’T YOU JUST DATE HIM THEN.”
I don’t remember how long we were in contact, maybe around a year, but then he ended up moving away to Virginia Beach, I think. And we lost touch after that, having never met in real life, not once.
Something made me think of this last Friday and after spending the last week racking my brain and texting friends for more information, but no one remembers this. Janna said she doesn’t remember, and Christy said she vaguely remembers but that I was always friends and penpals with “so many prisoners, etc. so they all blur together” and then went on to ask me if I remember my pen pal Alisha who was obsessed with the movie “Newsies” and I was like, “Of course I remember her, she was my best penpal friend!” but when I found her on Facebook a few years ago, she DID NOT ACCEPT MY FRIEND REQUEST.
Janna was like, “Can’t you just check your old journals?” Look, 10th grade was a very traumatic year for me and I’m not trying to revisit that by reading my own emotionally-damaged words, thanks Janna.
The one person who would probably remember is some broad who I haven’t talked to since Chooch was born because she chose free beer over our friendship. (LONG STORY.)
Then I texted my mom and asked her if she remembered him and her immediate response was “LOL are you serious!?!?!?”
Now, knowing my mom like I know my mom, I read this in the most paranoid way as possible and my suspicions immediately peaked. To me, that meant, “All these years later and you still haven’t figured it out?” So my conclusions catapulted straight to, “HOLY SHIT MY MOM HAD ME CATFISHED.”
She hasn’t admitted to anything and probably never will BUT THIS IS MY THEORY:
She hated Justin SO BAD that she had this guy “accidentally” call me and then become phone-friends with me as a DISTRACTION. Probably he was already someone who worked for her, maybe!? And those pictures that he “dropped off” could have been of ANYONE. I mean, my mom often threatened to send me to an all-school because of the serious problems Justin was causing me, and I wasn’t even allowed to get my driver’s license until I was 18 and living on my own because she didn’t want me to driving to see him when I was still in high school which is hilarious because by then I was dating an even worse guy. (See: Psycho Mike.)
But then, the more I thought about it that night, and the more Henry had to sit there and listen to my delusional rantings, I came up with a second possibility that’s EVEN WEIRDER but still HIGHLY PROBABLE.
OK, bear with me.
When I was 19, my mom dropped the HALF-SIBLING bomb on me. She told me that my birth dad had a kid with the lady he was with prior to my mom, and that I have an older half-brother. Apparently, my mom and his mom stayed amicable after my dad died when I was super young, and my brother knew I existed but I had no idea about any of this. I agreed to meet him and was a little shocked to know that he had basically kept up with me my whole life through my mom. She would tell his mom things like when I would be at Spinning Wheels, so then his mom would take him there so he could see me. So yes, my mom basically let my half-brother stalk me in the 80s. Seems weird now that I see it in print!
And he would sometimes visit my mom at her office. But my mom was so afraid to bring him into my life because she thought I’d flip out, which is actually a legitimate concern because I was highly unstable back then.
(Lol, “back then.”)
But my brother wanted to have contact with me so what if that was my mom’s solution!? WHAT IF HE WAS THE ONE I WAS TALKING TO. It would explain why the calls were so sterile and textbook platonic, why he could never hang out, why my mom didn’t flip her shit when she found out that I was talking to some older guy on the phone who was also coming to my house and leaving photos in the mailbox.
IS THIS CRAZY? AM I BEING NUTS HERE?!
It feels so plausible in my head! This feels like Classic Val!
I was telling this whole thing to Glenn yesterday at work and he was like, “Or….it really was some old man…”
OMG WHAT IF IT WAS HENRY!? Maybe that was his release back then – he’d sneak away from his kids, hide in the garage with a case of beer and start cold-calling girls. Ew, he would have been 30 then! Our age difference is so much creepier when we take it back to the way-past.
I just asked him right now, while he’s washing dishes, if it was him. “What year was it?” he asked. “Nope, wasn’t me,” he mumbled over the clinking of soapy silverware. But he had to ask, though!
That’s my story about the supposed Kevin Wilson. Maybe someday I will have a solid conclusion to this. Next time I see my mom, I’m going to start talking about it again and gauge her facial tics.