The easiest and most accurate source of snap judgements on what sort of company a person will be has sadly become their ringtone. There is the distinct disquiet from the failed courteousness of the phone that violently rattles atop a glass table, previewing any conversation with that person veering into a spiralling void of anxiety. Then there is the phone at maximum volume ringing the default tone from the person whose insights into life can be best surmised by what is recommended to you on your social media feed. And let us not forget the self-absorbed failed sociopath who has their ringtone set to something ‘novel’ like laughter or a woman screaming.
As my friend’s phone hummed with the soft gong of her favourite Buddhist chant, mine immediately went off with the gentle purr of the deadliest yet adorable being in the Star Trek universe, the Tribble. Seeing the names on our caller ID’s, we both put down our choice of wines, hers a Californian white vintage that overwhelms the pallet with a thrashing of sweet tones that require years of therapy to unlock. Mine, a flat yet meaty Italian Barolo that acted as the couch in the same therapist’s office.
“One of us has to answer. They know we’re together this evening,” she said. With the limit of the fifth ring approaching before both calls went to voicemail, we started laughing due to not having a clue when that would happen because of our irregular and ‘calming’ ringtones. And so, both went to voicemail. Though a different person recorded both voicemails, one read as the draft written well past one’s bedtime, while the other was as refined as both our wines.
“Ellen’s fucking at it again. We’re trying to celebrate the Met Gala and forget our shit, but she keeps fucking bringing up her dead pet bird from last year,” blurted out of my friend’s speaker phone. She got the draft voicemail, for those who were leaving the messages were her group of friends. “So, for fuck’s sake, get over here and do your thing. I know you hate the fashion shit and all the (the expletive used here was so vile that it has been redacted) that are involved, but get your ass over here, and we’ll pay for your Uber so you can drink. And bring him with you as well.”
“Shall I drive,” I asked as I set my glass down, only having taken one sip.
“No, let’s have a couple of glasses and then head out. By the way. Can you, like, dress up for this? You know they are going to be wearing their best for this thing.”
And so, we agreed to slowly get ready and to go. The backdrop to our decision was weighed by each of us going through a rough patch. Her, with work and possibly having to relocate back to her Scandinavian homeland, and me awaiting test results that had my medical team placing bets on how long I had left on this planet. As we neared our departure, both of us realized that we needed the quiet night in that we had planned, but others were in need, and so we marched on. As my friend struggled to choose from her limited wardrobe at my place, I had a much easier time.
For deeply personal and relevant reasons, I gravitated to my Omega DeVille Trésor and used it as my outfit’s centre of gravity. Purchased a couple of years ago to bookend a stressful period that had the positive outcome of everyone making it to the other side of that chapter alive, the Trésor not only filled the role of a timepiece fit for an evening being surrounded by haute couture, both on screen and in person, but also filling the emotional role of unrelenting support.
As we arrived at her friend’s house, which was still stark and eerily empty after the pandemic fuelled divorce (the host kept the house but only half of the furniture and never bothered to redecorate), she got dragged away to revive Ellen from her emotional state of oblivion, and I was left at the entrance. Surrounded by echoing gauche marble that looked like it was picked out by only the type of new money that an aspiring drug lord in his late twenties would pick out, I turned my gaze to my watch for comfort as I made my way toward the sound of the broadcast of the gala.
A glass of scotch with too much ice was thrust into my hands as I entered the sparse living room, and given a disinterested look by a woman I had never seen before that simply stated, “your kind drinks this shit. Drink, and don’t even pretend to talk to me.” With that, I placed the glass that looked like a highly caffeinated urine sample on ice back on the, you guessed it, marble bar and made my way toward a familiar face.
“How’s Ellen,” I asked quietly, leaning in.
“Better now that you two are here,” said the pocket-sized host who left the coarse voicemail. “Where’s your drink? Italian? Red? Never mind, you know where my ex kept the good stuff.”
“Still beside his Porsche?”
We both laughed uncontrollably, and my friend entered with a refreshed Ellen shortly thereafter. The topic of discussion on our uncomfortably elongated couch focused on failed relationships as I admired Erdem Moralioglu’s stunning work on Glenn Close’s dress and jewelry on the giant screen. All the while glancing down at my Trésor for support while in the alien landscape of divorcees in a barren house wearing dresses that cost as much as a used off-lease subcompact car.
“You seem to be having fun,” asked Ellen in between bursts of laughter at the expense of friends and lovers, both long discarded. I nodded in agreement as the crescendo of absolute candour and empathy filled the room.
However, my friend and I were both exhausted. Savagely rundown, we literally leaned on each other to stay upright on the unsupportive modern furniture, and she tenderly grabbed my watch by the tops of their lugs. Seeing that it was nearing ten, our tired eyes failed to adjust to the bright jumbotron of television as we kept our gaze downwards. With a muted gesture toward the exit, I tacitly asked if it was time to go. As we were being blasted with radiation from the television and the roar of laughter and woman screaming on top of each other as they tried to communicate, she just patted my watch for comfort, quietly saying, let’s stay and not move.
At least for a little while longer.