Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chain Letter

Late in the morning one weekday in June, on a well traversed street in the city a payphone rings, and I know it is a call for me.

At first I don't answer it. But with each ring it becomes clearer in my mind that this call is not only for me, but that it's the 100% most important call that has ever been made to me. Still, I let it ring.

It happens to everyone. You could be taking your clothes to the laundromat, descending into the subway after work, even taking a different route home to avoid seeing someone you don't want to see, and something will happen. It could be anything. You step in dog poop, or you drop your scarf into the gutter. You find five dollars on the ground, or fifty. You see that person or place that you thought was gone and you'd never see again. Or the phone rings... And you know it was 100% supposed to happen to you. You KNOW it.

But phone calls are a little different than pigeons pooping on you, or running into a long-lost acquaintance at the grocery store. With phone calls, even when you know the call was 100% for you, it's different because you have a choice. Do you accept this call from fate... or do you reject it?

I decided after about the eighth ring, knowing the whole time that the call is 100% for me, to answer it. I told myself I would be stupid not to. When I answered, I heard a woman's voice. She said 'Stay where you are, I've got something for you,' and hung up. Naturally, I was a little spooked, but I knew the call was 100% for me. So I stayed.

After a few minutes I saw a woman, maybe ten or fifteen years my senior, walking intently towards me and I knew it was her who had called. 'Here,' she said, and handed me a white paper bag with white twine arch handles. She left back the way she had come.

Before looking in the bag my mind started to wander. I began to question if this wasn't some kind of advertising scam, or if I didn't accidentally fall into a drug smuggling ring. But I reminded myself, the call was 100% for me. So too, then, the bag and whatever it contains is 100% for me as well.

So I sat down on a bench nearby and opened the bag. Inside was a sheet of printer paper completely filled with words. Here's what it said:

Here today you have received a gift. It is not a gift
you can return. It may seem insignificant, but it
has the power to shape your life from this day on,
if you let it.

There are an infinite number
of reasons why things happen and an infinite number
of reasons for those reasons. This sense of infinity
goes backwards and forwards. Reasons both beget
reasons and are begotten by reasons. It can be enticing,
and often illuminating, to follow chains of reasons. There is
much to be gained from this. But there is also much, no,
all, to be lost as well.

Maybe you believe what you have received here was
truly meant for you. Or maybe you simply stumbled
upon it and decided to look inside. If you believe this
was meant for you, then it was. And if you believe
it was chance which brought it to you, then it was
chance and nothing more.

And now you have an opportunity in the form of
a choice. If you received this randomly, put it down
and walk away. Leave this in the bag for someone
else to come across it by chance. But if you were
meant to receive it, and you certainly know if
you were, then call on fate to guide this onward.
Dial the number of the payphone and fate will
compel the next person who is 100% supposed
to receive this to answer. Become an agent of fate,
acknowledge and validate the existence of fate and
pass this on as it was passed on to you.

I knew what I had to do. I knew my life had meaning and this would only help validate it further. I got the number of that payphone and I called it from my cell. But no one answered.

I tried again... nothing. Again and again I redialed the number but no voice ever came on the other end. Day after day, week after week I held onto the gift, calling constantly, but all I ever got was empty ringing. In order to prove that I wasn't a fool, that this, that I, existed for a reason, I NEEDED someone to answer that phone. But still, no one did. Had fate abandoned me? Was I a fool to believe it ever existed? Was that original call really 100% for me, as I had truly felt it to be on that day? Without a voice on the other end of the line I just didn't know.

For months I kept calling that phone. Even when I knew I wouldn't be able to get there in any realistic amount of time to expect a person to wait. But I got nothing.

Finally, one day, after a half a ring, I heard a voice. I was thrilled at first, until I realized what was being said. '... this number has been disconnected. We're sorry, this number has been disconnected. We're sorry...' My heart started pounding. In the back of my mind I was worried something like this might happen. Quickly I rushed to the site of the phone only to see it had been dismantled and completely removed. It was 100% gone.

There was a sizable hole where the payphone had been. I put the bag into that hole and started to fill it with dirt. When the bag was gone, I took a deep breath and tried to move on with my life.