Grace

A funny thing happened to me last year.

I was having a down week. The kind of week where you think, “I know! I’ll {insert bad idea here}! It’ll be great!”

At some point during this week — a dank, depressing fall week — I got this crazy idea to try to call my ex-boyfriend. We had dated for 6 months in Seattle, and I was a long time getting over him.

I’ll call him Fred. Fred had a lot good qualities. He was, for example, helpful. If you’re moving, he’s your guy. Need a ride somewhere? Ditto. He was not, however, the most supportive guy on earth. Once, after I played at an open mic, he said, “A little flat, but overall, not bad…”

I later explained to him that this did not really work for me.

Fred was getting over a long-term relationship in which each partner had been quite critical of the other. He had improved. He had gone from massively shooting down new ideas to minimally shooting down new ideas. Or maybe just refraining from most comment.

This was progress, I realized. But after the relationship ended, I also realized, Not Good Enough. Towards the end of our run, for example, I played a show — a revue called 12 Minutes Max. 2 hours of mostly adequate performances, and a few good ones. I was the best one there; that’s why they had me close.

Fred sat through 2 nights of this to support me. But then he ruined it all in one instant. As patrons of the sold-out show came to praise me and ask for my autograph, Fred said, “Good job! You have this…sort of…self-deprecating thing that people seem to really like for some reason!”

…that people seem to really like for some reason?

It was after we broke up that I decided; in the future, all men I date must think I am a fabulous singer and performer. None of this, “Well, he’s so supportive in other ways…” — no. This is who I am; if you are into me, you must be into what I do.

And you know what? The guys I’ve dated seriously since then — they have thought I was fabulous. So there.

Anyways. In spite of my epiphanies, progress, etc. etc., once in a while I still missed Fred. Good, old, critical Fred, who found fault whenever I said something cute, witty, or funny.

So, one evening when I felt particularly weak-willed, I called up Seattle’s information number and asked for Fred Bissett. Not that common a name. They found one, and suddenly, there he was, picking up the phone. He answered. I felt scared. “Fred? Hi! It’s..um…Sofia! I know this is sort of out of the blue, but I just wanted to call and say hi…if it’s a good time…is it a good time?”

He said yes. In fact, he sounded pretty happy to hear from me. I was surprised. I asked him what he’d been up to lately. He said, “No…I want to hear about you.”

Well, ok! I took a deep breath. I told him about Austin, about starting my career as a singer-songwriter. About all the experiences I’d had. Whenever I told him something, he would always say, “Really! Wow! That is *so* interesting!”

I was surprised. This was a new Fred. His voice sounded pretty much the same, but there was a warmth, and a sense of love, that hadn’t been there before. He seemed so eager to hear details of my life. Every time I told him an anecdote, he said, with genuine surprise and pleasure, “You know, I’ve never heard it said just that way before.”

I continued on. I told him about my activism, about volunteering for musical events that supported peace movements in Austin. I told him about going to Molly Ivins’ funeral. Each time, instead of talking about himself, he asked me, with eagerness, to continue.

I was amazed. It was like a whole new Fred! In fact, I was falling for him a little bit over the phone. I thought, he must have had some kind of enormous shift in his life, to be acting like this. Things could never have worked out with the old Fred…but this man . . . hrmm.

Finally, after about 15 minutes, I insisted that Fred tell me about his life.

“Well, ” he began. “I’m a Jungian therapist.” I was shocked, but before I could say anything, he continued: “And I have to confess; I know a lot of Sofia’s. When you first called, I thought you were someone else. But I think . . . I think you have the wrong Fred Bissett.”

What?!? I was absolutely perplexed. How could this be? I asked him — why did you . . . talk to me for so long?

“Well, to be honest,” he said, “you’re just so interesting to talk to! You have this…charming, interesting way of speaking. And all these unusual observations that I’ve never really heard expressed just that way before. And . . . yes, it’s just a genuine pleasure talking with you! . . . I hope you find your Fred. Because I tell you one thing: he’s missing out!”

I hung up the phone, in awe.

I had found the right Fred, after all.

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