I feel compelled to say something about how I'm feeling this day and I could think of no better way than to set it out in a blog post.
John has been away in Ghana. And since we've been apart, we've made a point of staying in touch by telephone, speaking at least once daily, many times even more frequently. Last Thursday evening, we held our usual bedtime pillow-talk, agreeing afterwards to speak again in the evening of the next day, Friday. On Friday afternoon however, I received an important email about something I've been working on for a while and about which I needed to make a swift decision. I wanted to speak to someone about it and seek their opinion so I telephoned John, as anyone would their partner.
"The number you have dialled is currently switched off, please try again later", came the polite electronic woman's voice at the other end of the line. Okay, I reasoned, he's switched off his phone because he's engaged somewhere, doing something that cannot be done while holding a telephone conversation at the same time. It was mid afternoon, so I thought I'd give it a couple of hours and try again, but not before sending a text message asking John to get in touch urgently. It would be very much unlike John to receive such a text message from me and not call me back as soon he received it. So I sat back and waited, and waited, and waited..
Several hours later and well into the evening, I still hadn't heard from John, so I dialled his number again, only to hear once again that his number was switched off. Slightly alarming no doubt, but I'll give it a while and try again, I said to myself. To cut a long story short, I dialled John's number no less than twenty times between around 9pm and 1am. And his phone continued to be switched off. It was then that the panic started to set in and my fertile imagination went on overdrive; all manner of calamitous eventualities; gunshots, screams, ambulance sirens, each taking turns to explode inside my head during what turned out to be a sweaty, restless, sleepless Friday night! What had happened to John? Why had he not responded to my text messages, of which by which time I'd sent about ten? Why was his phone switched off all day long?
By Saturday morning, I'd almost completely broken down. Its been four years that John and I have been together, but there had never been the occasion for me to obtain the contact details of any of his relatives in Ghana. There was no one that I could ring up to find out what had happened, if at all. In the morning I dialled John's number again several times, time after time receiving the same polite automated message urging me to "try again later", a message that by this time had become quite depressing and upsetting to hear.
I'd stored letters, cards and notes that John had penned to me over the years. I retrieved all of them, together with the few photos of him that I have in my possession, staring at the photos, fingering the letters and notes, reading them, over and over, deeply distraught, crying, sometimes loudly wailing, wondering what my neighbours would be thinking as they heard a grown man cry, wondering what happened to John, this most precious part of my life..
The answer to my question, when it finally came, turned out to be so mundane and simple that I was left feeling rather silly for having reacted in the way that I'd done. At about 1pm on Saturday I braved it and dialled John's number again. And his phone rang! And his voice came on! And the anguish and turmoil of the several previous hours melted away in an instant! It happened that at the time of our chat on Thursday, the battery on his phone was very low, but he had not been able to charge the battery because there had been a power outage in the district of Accra where he was. His battery had gone completely flat and the electricity power was not restored until just a few minutes before I had called him on Saturday afternoon. He had just put his phone on the charger and had not even had the opportunity to respond to my texts before his phone rang. Now I'm utterly embarrassed..