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A phone call with an old friend

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Happiness today is the ease with which the nun gives me his phone number. Paul is an old friend, or really an old friend of my ex, and we haven’t spoken in eight years.

I had emailed him late last year, missing our kitchen table conversations over coffee and cigarettes. His enormous house, a former school, functioning as his private art studio / gallery. He had replied right away, saying “my phone number is still the same”.

I had lost it long ago, of course.

Today, as I walk home from a coffee run, I think of him, and decide that I should make one last attempt to find his phone number before emailing him again. Looking over his message, I notice he said he no longer lived in the old school, and something about nuns. I suppose I had overlooked it the first time I read it, imagining he lived near a convent rather than in an actual carmelite care facility.

A friendly nun is happy to give me his number right away. A glimpse into a world of old, filled with kind people making generous assumptions. Two minutes later I hear his voice. “hello?”. “I’m not at all surprised you ended up living with a bunch of nuns, Paul” I glee into the phone, remembering our conversations about the Church, his Protestant, mine Catholic. There had always been something about Catholic liturgy that inspired him.

Despite his heavy bout of Covid, double pneumonia, and delirium, he still remembers me. Within minutes, we slide back into a conversation that never really began and never really ended.

Both of us are still the same to one another.

He gives me splinters of stories: a thieving cleaning lady, the storage and eventual donation of his body of work, the conversations he has with his neighbor priest. I tell him about Anja, about our small apartment, and about my eternal journey finding a Christian place I can call home.

We agree that I’ll come visit soon, and I will. A few misremembered numbers and names aside, he’s still the same old Paul. But by God, he nearly wasn’t here, and I don’t have time to waste.