January 26, 2005
An Inability to Communicate
by Jennifer SchauppI waited for my first phone call the summer before my senior year of high school. It was the season for fresh strawberries, skinny-dipping in my cousin Ginny’s pool, and Toby Mannella. Toby was in town only for the summer, helping his grandfather who owned the Italian restaurant two miles from my home. It was a restaurant that I frequented in the afternoons; it had spaghetti to die for, and now it had Toby, “the hot off the grill” waiter with curly brown hair and a mole on his left cheek.
One day, Toby happened to be walking by my table when I dropped a meatball in my lap. He offered me a napkin and a pure-as-a-christened-baby smile. He must have recognized me, for his smile and his eyes lingered longer than the usual time allotted for gazing and smiling. Toby asked me if I wouldn’t mind showing him around town that evening, and through sauce-stained teeth, I casually replied, “Sure.”
I wore my powder blue sunflower dress and my black Mary Jane shoes. We walked along the main street in town, Niro Road. I pointed out Music Tavern, where records were cheap if you knew the right thing to say to the crazy manager, the best deli to get chipped ham and cheese sandwiches and the jewelry shop that was said to be haunted. We then strolled through the strawberry fields, and Toby fed me the juicy, ripe fruit with his slender fingers. He even took my hand at the drive-in theater despite the fact that it was red and sticky. By the end of the movie, we were stuck together.
When the banana-shaped moon appeared and the stars started to swim the length of the sky, Toby walked me to my front door. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, anticipating the grand finale of all the evening’s fireworks. And, yes, it happened. He said it. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
I cancelled all my activities the next day. It was a big occasion. A boy was going to call me, not just any boy but Toby Mannella. Thinking about the shrill of the phone made my heart patter as swiftly as tiny feet running through the house.
To my mother’s dismay, I blackmailed my little sister into doing my chores by offering her my silver bracelet, which I normally wouldn’t even let her borrow. I couldn’t very well leave the living room, where the phone rested quietly on the table near the couch. I went to the bathroom only once and ate dinner at top speed in the adjoining kitchen. Every time that the oven buzzer went off or Pepper yelped at the front door, I jumped a mile and a half out of my seat and attacked the phone. My father just shook his head when he saw me. But, what did he know? He’s a guy just like all the others.
My mother’s hair stylist was the only person to ring the phone that day. I saw Toby a few days later at the restaurant, though. I was eating my usual meal when Toby came up to me with a napkin in his hand. “This is for you, just in case.” I tried to pretend that he wasn’t there, but that smile of his appeared and I couldn’t resist. He told me that he had been busy taking care of some things for his grandfather but said that he’d call me tomorrow. That was that. Would he really call this time? Didn’t he remember the other day when he stood me up for our phone date? Certainly, I did. But, of course, I put myself through the torture of waiting for his call once again; that’s just what girls do.
Jennifer Schaupp is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's creative writing program and is now a masters student in theatre studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a freelance writer of various genres and also enjoys working in different capacities for the theatre companies in town.