My mobile phone has had a fortnight of mystery and adventure.

It started with a flurry of what I can only describe as abusive texts (some with violent and threatening language) and a series of silent calls. I started answering these calls, but there was never a response. I then tried to ignore the calls, though there were several per day. An e-mail arrived to this site, laden with bile. From the broken English and unfamiliar syntax I deduced that the ‘abuser’ was not a UK-native. The texts referred to a third party, known to me, but rarely seen in person. I was being used/encouraged to pass on the hatred to this third party, who themselves had blocked all channels of communication with the ‘abuser’. Somehow I had been identified as a link and the ‘abuser’ was berating me for the ‘stupidity’ of publishing my personal info on the net. This felt like a kind of terrorism. Try as I might to ignore or be unaffected by the ‘abuse’, it started to gnaw at me. Would this person do violence against me or to those close to me? This unknown threat was the worst. I knew that soon enough I would have to report it all to the police and block the ‘abuser’s’ number, maybe change all of my security settings, my passwords, etc. First, though, I would gather sufficient evidence to damn the ‘abuser’.

Then something odd happened. The ‘abuser’ left a garbled rant on my answerphone. The unknown ‘It’ was now a ‘She’. A young-sounding She. The terrorist had a profile that took me by surprise. What’s more, She sounded angry, troubled, damaged and …vulnerable.

The next evening my phone rang again. It was the ‘abuser’. Instead of switching the phone off I unwittingly answered… and into the silence I spluttered a plea – to end the torture that she was ultimately placing upon herself. Telling her how utterly pointless and vain her attempts had been – not just because I no longer have contact with the third party, but because whatever hurt she was feeling, however wronged by the third party she had been, her dark energy and hatred would only ever come back to haunt and harm her. I told her that She deserved better; that She needed to set herself free from her campaign of terror. I blabbered on for what seemed like an age, until, out of the silence I felt the shell crack and the sound of her crying overwhelmed my own voice.

We talked and talked, and then some. Two hours maybe. She explained herself, her hurt. She was honest, open and apologetic. It was a relief to find a warm human being behind the shield of anger. I don’t doubt that she herself has been wronged.  I want to make sure she’s ok – but I know, given what has passed, that we must draw a line on our communication. She told me expressly that she wouldn’t ‘bother’ me again. We left it at that.

My phone, however, wants a life of its own. It won’t behave itself. It deletes numbers from the front end of the alphabet, so my sister Al disappears on a regular basis and (annoyingly) my phone has twice this week called the person still listed in my phone as ‘abuser’, which can only be more confusing for her (I will get rid of the listing as it now seems inappropriate). I think She will read this blog entry, and I hope She will understand that I have her best interests at heart by writing this. I wish her well and I hope She is able to rid herself of the torment which has driven her to seek out the third party, because She deserves better than that.

A couple of days ago I received a text from another mysterious, unknown number;

A: Hi mate, hope all is ok, would b good to catch up soon

[There weren’t enough clues in the message. I had no idea who it was]

Me: Hi there, thanks for message. Unfortunately my phone must’ve deleted you by accident so I can’t tell who you are! reveal yourself, mystery pal!

A: Andy Lee 🙂

Now, Andy is my oldest friend and the closest I got to a having a brother whilst growing up. Hooray! I have his number back in my phone. We arrange a rendezvous – our first since his recent marriage. There’s much to catch up on.

This evening I return home from Bristol, expecting a call from Kindle’s Jess regarding PILOT. Soon enough, my phone receives a text, but it’s from yet another unknown number;

B: Guess who? X

Me: ? I know not! Put me out of my misery.

B: Jess:L!

Me: Aha! Time for a chat?

B: yuppp! (:, What you doing?

[I’m watching a documentary about the Falklands War, whilst e-mailing, whilst drinking cold tea. It’s too complicated to text such banale crap, so I call the number, which goes unanswered]

B: What u ring me for babe?, x

[That’s odd. Familiar though I am with Kindle Jess, “babe” is not what I expect from her]

Me: I think I called the wrong Jess. And that you texted the wrong me. Graeme

B: What  :s

Me: Who do you think I am, Jess?

B: What do u mean :s?

Me: What is my name? Seriously.

B: Alex ? :s

Me: No. You have the wrong number. I’m sorry. I’m Graeme 🙂

B: Not atal :L, cus uv jus gave me it stop pissint about :L! And when I txt you, ur fb pic comes up babe x

[I call the number again. She picks up and answers “Hey” in a warm tone.“Hello”, I say, “Do you recognise my voice?” – silence – “No, I thought not. My name’s Graeme, not Alex. I don’t know where you are, but I’m in Birmingham. He’s clearly given you a wrong number… Sorry.” There’s an empty, gawping vacuum over the line. The sound of deep mistrust….  After a few seconds the phone goes dead. Then another text…]

B: Quite obv you, I kno a opperated chat when I hear one 🙂

[I’m tempted to reply with a “what-eva” but I’m not going to take the bait. Does she think that this whole thing has been a ruse to trap her? It’s been surreal and confusing – :s – and I’m wondering what my phone will generate next? I was just trying to be helpful, to be friendly, but I’m left feeling a bit unclean – like I got sucked into an abusive txt relationship, given a false moniker (Alex) by my unruly phone.

It’s with a strange co-incidence that these events occur while I’ve been working on some audio pieces that address narratives through the medium of Voicemail. I’ve been guesting in workshops at Bournville School, where Head of Drama/Media Karen is developing an experimental sound tech performance with her students and I’m also teaching the current Performance 2 module at Bristol University, where we’re exploring audio-journeys and echo-location. Phones are featuring prominently: Conventionally banished from theatre projects, they may just get the upper hand in this one.


3 Responses to “x-directory”

  1. 1 Nick Walker

    ‘kin ‘ell

  2. 2 Kerry Murdock

    Oh my god! You’re in some weird Bermuda Triangle of mobile calls/texts.

  3. yuppp! (:
    A hot tip that I’m trying out – creating several false contacts in my phone; A, AB & ABC. Now I can trace the disappearances without the consequent dramas.

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