Is Your Refrigerator Running?

“Slumber Party” by Stephanie Khattak. iPad and Apple pencil in Procreate.

I wasn’t allowed to call boys when I was growing up. To do so was a sin worse than murder. I might was well have been dancing on tables in my bathing suit. But that didn’t stop me from calling boys, I just found a loophole – prank calls. Probably because I didn’t actually know how to talk to boys like a normal person since doing so was such a Big Deal.

Anyway, we spent most slumber party nights on the phone dialing out with made-up scenarios, intriguing lines of questioning, new and exciting personas and in some cases, multi-call serial dramas. We even did sort of spoken word bits to different types of background music. (No, not rapping. Not nearly that cool.)

My friend had a Swatch “funky twin” phone making it easy to group up on the call. Of course this was before anything digital, like star-69 or even saving numbers in Contacts. I kept doing it into college, and only stopped when my friend and I got bored and called a random person while were were vacationing in Florida only to have him call back (justifiably) pissed off and asking for the person we were staying with, by name. That was our introduction to caller ID and the last time I ever prank called anyone.

To this day, prank calling was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. We were never hurtful or harassing, and in retrospect, it was probably entertaining for some. Like their own, personal, interactive podcast, just with more giggling.

In My Room

“After Curfew” Stephanie Khattak. Ipad and Apple Pencil. Animated with Photoshop.

My story begins, like many teenage girls’, in the hours between midnight and sunrise, aka, when you have to be home after curfew, but you’re not sleepy, so you retreat to your room with your books and your stuff, and if you’re lucky, a phone line. And if you’re very lucky, or if your uncle works for the phone company, like mine did, you have a private phone number and answering machine. After we shut the door and said goodnight to our parents, it was time for Act 2.

If no one was spending the night (rare!) I would read, or write stories or letters to my pen pals. Eventually the phone would ring or I’d call someone who had likely been doing the same, and just as likely had been out with me an hour earlier.

My friends and I were prolific writers and creative thinkers. We passed notes all day long. My best friend went to a different school, so we’d write notes and stockpile them, and trade the stacks at church on Sunday. We wrote about everything, folded up the notes in elaborate origami shapes and palmed them back and forth like contraband. I still have many of those notes, and my some of my closest friends today are the writers. The interesting thing is that their words haven’t lost importance at all. It would be easy to look back and say “we were so silly,” but what we worried about – our fears, celebrations, observations and our questions – are still so important to who we are today. Even then, we wanted to be loved and accepted. We wanted to be good people and make good choices and have interesting lives.

If we could have written notes to each other while talking on the phone, we probably would have, but instead we would collaborate on stories, write poems about boys we liked and then read them to each other, and design elaborate games, worlds and alternate realities for ourselves. As a young adult home from college, I found some of that stuff in a forgotten trunk. My friend, as serious as I’d ever seen her, said “Burn it.” So, with privacy in mind, I won’t share any real details, but suffice it to say, in a different world, we might have combined D&D with that “Girl Talk Date Line” game and become millionaires.

I’m an only child and I grew up in the country so I was, and still tend to be in my own head a lot. These days, I’m afraid to sleep in my childhood bedroom, because it is too quiet and dark. I typically stay at a hotel when I visit home. But back then, my room was nothing less than a sanctuary and an incubator for the person I would become.