I don’t use the phone company’s voice mail system. I prefer my tangible answering machine. It records messages onto tiny cassettes.
Years ago, back in the ‘80s, I bought a box of forty message cassettes, but they’ve all been used and erased so often that they’ve degraded and fallen apart. And yet I can’t bear to throw any of them away. They’re piled into the bottom drawer of my bedside table.
Late at night, I swear I can hear those tapes, thirty-nine ghosts, scratching to be heard.
This morning, I inserted my last unused cassette tape into the answering machine. I’d been saving it for this moment. How many times can I use and reuse this last cassette? The tape itself is fifteen years old. Time must have made it weaker. It could snap at anytime. Every message could be the last.
I have many friends. They often phone me. I screen their calls. I let my machine answer. I record my friend’s voices. I like to play their messages a dozen times before I erase them to make room for more.
Along with the invitations and jokes and banter, my friends often complain about my lack of a cell phone-how they can’t text me to find me-how they feel stupid talking into an old-fashioned machine. I receive three or four such messages a day. Twenty or thirty messages a week. One hundred or so messages a month. One thousand messages a year.
Can my machine-my last cassette-last for a year? Let’s find out. Call me and leave a message. Tell me how much you love me. I’m waiting for you. I’m keeping count. We’re all in this together.