Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Other Gina

I remember the incident quite well actually. I was fifteen and I was sitting down to breakfast with my parents and my little sister. It was 1975, this was before cell phones or even cordless phones in the house. To say it was an entirely different sort of era would be understating the disparity between now and then.
The phone rang and my dad answered it. He told the caller to wait and looking somewhat perplexed handed me the phone. Of course you must understand the phone did not ring before 9:00 in the morning, ever, unless there was a death or some sort of major calamity in the family. That truth stood for 9:00 in the evening as well. One more important fact, I was not in the least popular and so the phone rarely if ever was for me. I did have a few close friends but most of them lived on the block and if they wanted to chat they’d just come over. I was only allowed to talk on the phone for 10 minutes at a time anyway.
I answered the phone and on the other end was a voice I did not recognize.
“You are alive.” Umm I was that fact being firmly established even before I was handed the phone.
“Yes I am,” my parents were looking at me and I’m certain the confused look on my face while we sat at the breakfast table with our pancakes in front of us didn’t help.
“I’d heard you were dead. That you swallowed a whole packet of,” and then she said something unintelligible and she started to cry. “Tony’s in the hospital I’m sure you you know! Brian and Steve have been arrested! I can’t even believe this is happening! I knew the police would bust us but I had no idea so many people would get caught! My parents are threatening to send me to boarding school and Terri’s parents are sending her to live with her grandparents.”
“I’m sorry, who is this?” I said. None of it was making any sense whatsoever. Names of people who could be other people or could be people I know and who was this girl on the phone.
It turned out to be a complete misunderstanding. I wasn’t the Gina she thought I was, turned out that Gina had overdosed on who knows what but managed to survive. Her boyfriend Tony was in the hospital, recovered and got probation. The druggies and the smokers, the kids who used to hang out across the street from the school in the mornings and afternoons, had been dispersed momentarily. Constant police presence in the front of the school after the raid forced them to move half a block up to the steps of the library, perhaps not quite as effective as the police had hoped to be in deterring them.
The strangest part of it all, for a moment I wanted to be that Gina. The one who was an important part of a group; the one with the boyfriend; the one who had enough excitement going on her life that people who didn’t know her well enough would call the wrong Gina to get the scoop; I wanted to be the Gina who didn’t live the staid, quiet, peaceful sort of life that included Saturday morning breakfast at the table with her family. Strangely enough I wanted to be the overdosed Gina who people thought might be dead.

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