I got my cell phone in 1998. Sprint. Same number, new phone every year or so. I was reluctant, at first, to join the connected wireless universe. I mean, I already had 2 email addresses at that point, and a house phone… But Chris insisted, and after some months with a prepaid phone, I signed up with Sprint.
So, apparently, did Tonisha Washington. At first, I thought that Tee had had my phone number and surrendered it… But, I think we likely have very similar numbers.
The first call for “Tee” came from Antoine. “Don’t you try to be avoidin’ me, bitch, I knows where you lives.”
Me: “I think you have the wrong number.”
Antoine: “Don’t you be talkin’ no shit to me – this is yo’ man – yo’ Antoine. So you best just be givin’ it up, bitch.”
Me: “Really, you have the wrong number.” Promptly hang up.
Antoine (before I can say hello): “Bitch, who you think you be hangin’ up on? I’ll fuck you over! I own yo’ ass—and don’t you forget it!”
Me: hang up.
I was a little unnerved, but I put it behind me. A week or so later, the phone rang again…
Hysterical woman: “Tee, Tee, they gots Antoine. How you gonna feed them babies?”
Me: “I think you have the wrong number.”
Hysterical woman: “You’s a crazy bitch. I know you be tryin’ to hide his stash – did you have all his money? But, girlfriend, you needs people now, you ain’t got him to be feedin’ yo babies.”
Me: “I’m really sorry, but I’m not Tee, you have the wrong number.”
After years of receiving such calls, I can tell you most of Tonisha Washington’s story. And it’s not pretty.
Antoine apparently went to jail, leaving the seemingly crack-addicted Tee to raise their three children alone, somewhere on the poor side of town. She was raised by a God-fearing grandmother, who is now broken-hearted because Tee has thrown her life away. She had dropped out of school after taken up with Antoine. They lived day-to-day, hand-to-mouth. Three years, three babies. Antoine sold drugs for a living, and likely pimped Tee as well.
Social Services has been involved. The police, school officials. One of her sons took a fall out of a second story window and spent time in the hospital – Grandma was worried because Tee hadn’t been in to visit him. Tee, according to friends was in hiding, blaming herself for the fall. Was she stoned in the other room at the time? I don’t know. All the sympathy calls made it sound as though she was.
One time, Grandma Washington called, “Tee,” she said, “I knows your life has been hard. It’s so good to hear your voice soundin’ so clear. I’ve been prayin’ you’d come back to Jesus and give up all that mess. I’m so happy. You’ve made this old nigga’ a happy woman. I can rest in peace now. Praise Jesus.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell the woman – who sounded like she was ancient – that I was not her crackhead-no-account granddaughter, I was a middle-aged, middle-class woman living in rural Virginia.
There have been calls from Tee’s family, friends, employers. Antoine even called when he got out of jail. It got to the point where I recognized the numbers. Then the calls suddenly stopped. I am worried that Tee has gone to jail, overdosed – or Antoine finally found her, his stash and his children…
I have a second phone number now (I still have the 1st, but I use the second more routinely). This number has a history too. It once belonged to Choe Yuk. And she skipped out on her bills; Wells Fargo, American Express, Visa… Yeah.
And worse, when I call people out-of-state Choe’s name comes up on the caller ID. Old friends answer their phones with suspicion. “Hello?…” You can hear it in the hello – who in the hell is this and what do they want?
I’ve asked Sprint to fix this, to no avail. On Choe’s behalf, I have talked to debt collectors, lawyers, doctors (I hope she made that appointment with the neurologist… I couldn’t confirm it for them). I got text messages at Christmas wishing her happy holidays. Choe uses the English name Diane. I don’t know why, it seems random and disconnected from her real name. She orders specialty teas online, and likes expensive shoes.
So, Dear Tee and Choe,
Please get yourselves together. My life is chaotic enough without your soap operas. I would threaten you, but my only weapon is a vicious chicken and he isn’t very dependable. He’s fickle.
I am not Tee or Choe. Please stop calling them on my phone numbers. I cannot tell you where they are, how they are doing, or give you a forwarding address. I have my own soap operas and bills. Leave me alone!
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