When I was young, I suppose I took the voices around me for granted. Other than notes and letters, voice was the primary way that everyone communicated. I knew all my friends’ and family’s voices and could pick them out of a crowd. Now, with Facebook, Twitter, and texting making it so easy to keep in touch with people I barely (or don’t personally) know or haven’t seen in decades, there are people I consider friends whose voices I would probably never recognize. After all, many of them were children or teens the last time we spoke.
I think that’s why I enjoy it so when someone I know and love calls me. I see the number, or name, or face (I prefer faces) on my phone’s screen, and I smile without even realizing it. I answer the phone and wait for that first word; when it comes, my mind flies back to all the times I spent with the owner of that voice.
Only a few of my friends actually call me. My friend Andy did; I loved hearing his odd nasal voice and his New York accent, but I won’t hear his voice again in this life. A guy I used to know called me from Germany, and the sound of his voice and his laugh brought him as near as if I had left him an hour before. When I talk to my best friend from high school, or my cousin, their voices seem to connect me to them far more deeply than the words.
My favorite, though, is a man from my past who still calls me occasionally to talk. We have known each other since I was a teenager, and we had (still have) many common interests—some of which I likely acquired from hanging out with him. Our conversations are not usually deep or meaningful, although they can be, but they are consistently interesting, and it is always a pleasure to talk with him. His voice brings back memories. It is deep and soothing, and as comfortable in my ear as a favorite sweater is on my body.
Whenever he calls, it reminds me how powerful a voice can be, and how deeply voices can affect us. It also reminds me how important it is to stay connected to those we love. No matter how often you write a note or send a message to someone you love, say it to them as well. In words. Out loud. E-mails, texts, and tweets can be saved indefinitely, and they can be read and re-read. But words on a page or screen will never touch my heart like the memory of a word spoken in a familiar and well-loved voice.