“You have to contort your body in a certain way to hit a low note. When you’re on film, you can’t. So you do, in a sense, get to hide behind your voice, which is nice.”
“Give me your phone number,” Lanny promised, “and I’ll sing you a song.”
I’m tempted, I thought, as I nibbled on a piece of cold pizza for lunch, and took sips from a bottle of Diet Pepsi. I yearned to listen to him sing—but I hated talking on the phone.
“Since you won’t give me your number, here’s my number. Please call me. I won’t bite. Or email me your phone number. I’d love to talk with you.”
“We’ll see if I can get up enough nerve. I’ve never called a man. You’re the only one who ever talked me into using IM.”
“You don’t have to be nervous about talking to me. I’ll sing a song to calm your nerves.”
“My cell phone doesn’t get good reception downstairs. If we wait for spring break, we can use the phone upstairs because Lynn and Alan will be gone.”
“Do you need to wait for spring break just to get up your courage?” He asked. “Why don’t you give me your number now? God works in mysterious ways.”
“Don’t rush me, Lanny.”
I heard Lynn on her treadmill in the workout room. I looked forward to warmer weather so we could start walking outside again. Lynn would take both of her dogs, and I’d take my Airedale, Dakotah, I called her Kotah, and we’d walk for about forty minutes.
“Hey, Lanny, do you like to walk?”
“Yes, I do, when the weather’s nice. But I also have an elliptical trainer in the spare bedroom that I use when I can’t walk outside.”
“Same here, except Lynn has a treadmill and an exercise bike. What sports are you interested in?”
“Baseball, basketball, football, bowling, and tennis. And you?”
“I like to go bowling. We used to bowl on a league, although I haven’t been in years. The other sports, not so much, especially on television. But I do enjoy going to live games. Did you hear the one about the guy who went to pick up a girl for a date and noticed she had 3 TV’s? He asked her why and she said, ‘Baseball, basketball and football.‘ He dropped right to his knees and proposed.”
“Ha, ha, ha.”
“So, Lanny, what are you really looking for in a woman?”
“Hey, Sweet Gal, what’s your high game in bowling?”
“Just because I was on a league doesn’t mean a thing. They only needed an extra person on the team. One time, I rolled three strikes in a row, but that’s the best I ever did.”
“Not bad. My high game is 257, but that was a long time ago.”
“Wow, you must be good. My high game was more around 120. When my husband died, I sold my ten-pound red bowling ball, bag, shoes and everything. Hey, Lanny, after tonight, I’ll be off the site for a while. I need to go out of town.”
“Okay, pleasure trip?”
“I’m taking my guard dog and my pistol and driving up to my house. Attending a birthday party, visiting with Uncle Pete, and other family. Call me pistol packing Mama.”
“Ha, ha. Okay, where is your house because I don’t want to be a lookin down the wrong end of that.”
“No, and don’t come sneakin around, because I know how to use it. I usually shoot first and ask questions later.”
“Did I sound mean enough?”
“I’d better get off here so I can pack.”
“Okay, take care. Always delightful being on IM with you, Wanda. Have a safe trip and God bless you.”
Thanks, Lanny, it’s been good talking to you too, especially today. Take care and God bless you, too.”
After loading the car, I told Lynn goodbye and took off for the two-hour drive. Going alone was stressful. I made one stop, about half way there, to use the restroom and buy a bag of cashew nuts and a Diet Pepsi. I also stopped by the corner store, a couple miles from home, for a bag of ice.
The sight that greeted me when I pulled in my winding drive filled me with sadness. The house had been sitting vacant for over a year. A few more trees were down from storms in the area, and I had sold the chain saws. The to-do list grew longer with every trip, but I did enjoy my visit with family, and it was good to see Uncle Pete. Severe weight loss made him look old and tired, and the twinkle in his eyes had disappeared after radiation treatments. His health was declining much sooner than anyone expected.
I talked to my nephew and he was taking the decline hard. He and his dad were close. “I met Dad in the hall the other day,” he told me, “and I asked him what he needed. Dad looked into my eyes and said, ‘I need more time.’ I turned and wrapped my arms around him and held him. Sobs racked his frail body.”
My heart broke when I heard his story, and I didn’t want to leave. But I’d been in town a couple of days and I had no choice. Lynn and Alan were going on a business trip and I was pet sitting for them. So I packed the car and headed back to Holland.
The date of Buddy’s birthday had passed the night before, and I was missing him. There were so many memories. But I made it through better than I thought I would. Sometimes dreading the day is far worse than when it arrives.
After unloading at Lynn’s house, I logged in to my computer and found several cards from Lanny. We’d been corresponding for over two weeks and again, he insisted on getting my number. I pushed away from the computer and threw a load of clothes in the washer.
With a load of laundry going, I finally caved in and sent Lanny an email with my phone number. “Okay, you’ve won me over,” I said, “so here goes, 123-4567, I’m waiting.”
He sent an email. “Thanks, I’m doing laundry now, but I’ll give you a call soon. Take care and God bless you.”
He’s doing laundry? That’s more important than me? As if his dirty socks couldn’t wait.
I sat on the edge of my La-Z-Boy, clutching the phone, afraid to move for fear of missing his call. Lunch had only been a few grapes and my stomach grumbled. I wondered if I should go make myself a sandwich. But I was afraid as soon as I got ready to eat it, he’d call. I didn’t want to answer with a mouth full of chicken salad. I sat there, still as a mouse and hungry, for over thirty-five minutes.
A ring broke the silence. “Hello,” I said.
“Hi, is this Wanda?” he asked.
“She had to leave.” I laughed, then said, “Yes, I’m Wanda.”
He laughed, too. “I knew you were humorous. You sound so young and you have a Michigan accent.”
“You sound quite young yourself.”
For some reason, I wasn’t expecting his deep, manly southern drawl. I soaked up every wonderful word he said.
“Hey, Sweet Gal, what’s your favorite sitcom on television?”
“Well, Sweet Guy, I like Everybody Loves Raymond.”
“I caught one episode, but, I didn’t like the bedroom scene, so I never tuned in again. I like “M.A.S.H.” And I don’t watch it to see Hot Lips Houlihan in her bra. I like Hawkeye.”
“Yeah, sure, Lanny. How many other women do you talk to from the Internet?”
“I make three or four calls a day, but don’t worry your pretty head about it. They’re all just friends, but you’re super special, sweetheart.”
I tried to stay focused, but it was almost impossible while writing every word on a notepad in my lap. My pen scribbled so fast. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to read my writing afterward, and I wanted to remember every single word.
“Some people say they love God with all their heart,” I said, “but they never go to church, or they smoke and drink.”
“That’s true. We can say anything on the Internet, but if I wanted to get a woman, I’d say the same thing.”
“Did you do that, Lanny?”
“I’d never lie.” He laughed. “I like your personality. You’re easy to talk to. Downright interesting.”
“I feel the same about you.”
“I wasn’t fishing for a compliment. Can I sing for you, Lovely?”
Finally, I’ll get to hear him sing.
His deep, mellow voice sang “I’m Not Giving Up,” and I swooned. Listening to his beautiful bass voice brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t stop crying. His voice wrapped me in vibes of peace, comfort, and safety—almost as if the Lord touched his lips. I began falling in love.
Lynn came downstairs, saw me on the phone crying, and snapped in a sharp voice, “What’s he saying to you?”
I shook my head and mouthed, “I’m okay,” then moved my hand as if I were conducting an orchestra. Her husband taught band, so she knew I meant music. She rolled her eyes and went back upstairs.
“Thanks for the beautiful song. I felt Christ in you.”
“Thank you, Wanda. That’s the best compliment you could ever pay me.”
Lanny laughed when I told him what Lynn did when she saw me on the phone crying. He wanted me to repeat the story. “Did she have a real concerned look on her face? I wish I could have seen her expression. What did she think I was saying to you? That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re hilarious. I want to study the expression on your face when you crack all those jokes.”
When our first phone call came to an end, a glance at my Timex told me twenty-five minutes had passed—with never a second of awkward silence. Neither one of us were at a loss for words.
“Don’t worry. I promise I won’t bug you. I’ll get you on instant messaging later, sweetheart. God bless you,” he said before hanging up.
The first big hurdle of our relationship passed with high hopes. I could only imagine what it would be like to meet him in person and listen to him sing as he looked into my eyes.
Later, on instant message, I told him I needed to take time and not rush into anything. He agreed, even though his actions proved otherwise. He continued to bombard me with attention, compliments, and sweet talk. But I loved every minute, and chuckled to myself. He knows a good woman when he finds one. I enjoyed his many daily phone calls that ended with his deep voice singing love songs. My heart melted with every note.
One time he called and said, “Hey, baby, do you know, “The Closer You Get, the Farther I Fall,” by the country group, Alabama?”
“No, I’m not familiar with that song.”
“Hold on and I’ll sing it for you.”
Lanny’s phone calls filled my days. The last one, every evening, ended with, take care, sweet dreams, God bless you, goodnight, and many other sweet sentiments. He seemed to be a kind man with a gentle heart. He said he even had trouble killing a bug. I fell for a man I’d never met. If he’d driven to my doorstep, I’d have jumped in the car with him and gone anywhere he asked me to. Lanny thrilled me beyond words.
Lynn listened to everything I shared about him. She wasn’t enthused. He asked to talk with her on the phone, but she wouldn’t speak to him, although she did holler out, “Hi.”
“Tell her she has a sweet voice,” Lanny said.
“I do not,” she yelled back.
“I think he’s just a charmer,” she told me later, “and charm won’t work on me.”
“Well, if that’s all it was, charm wouldn’t work on me either,” I told her, “but oh, he’s so much more. That’s only the icing on the cake.”
Truth is, I couldn’t get enough of Lanny, even though we talked for hours, until it felt like I had the phone glued to my ear. Just before I fell asleep in my chair, we’d say our goodnights and I’d shut the computer down. His long goodbyes hugged my soul: “It’s always wonderful talking to you,” he’d say. “Take care, enjoy your evening, sleep well. God bless you, goodnight, Sweet Gal. After I talk to you, I sleep like a baby.”
I’d toss and turn all night in anticipation of waking to new cards and compliments. The excitement cured my loneliness from the loss of Buddy. I had begun to connect with Lanny.
Lanny sounded sincere and I believed him. Each new day everything started all over again. We’d try to top one another with sweet names. My fingers ached from the hours of instant messaging along with the phone calls. We considered ourselves a mutual admiration society of two.
I didn’t go out much. I wanted to stay home near the computer. Lanny said he worried about me when I went out, because when you love someone, you care about everything in their life. And caring about someone means you want them to get enough rest.
My days began, and ended, with Lanny. He rocked my world.
Excerpt from Lonely Heart Meets Charming Sociopath,
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