Who is Joan?

“Who is Joan?” I texted my lab partner in Anatomy class, confused about a mysterious voice-mail I’d just received from this Joan woman.

See, I had no idea about the events that had played out that morning. My lab partner, Terra, arrived to school and Joan (another Anatomy student) approached her, because she recognized Terra as friends of the girls that Joan usually studies with.

Joan asked her, “Do you have Becca’s number, because I have part of her lab manual.” Naturally, Terra gave her my number.

Just to clarify, I don’t study with Joan. I don’t even know who she is. If somebody pointed her out to me, I might recognize her face since we use the same lab, but I’ve certainly never been introduced to her.

Joan meant to say, “Jenna” instead of Becca. Apparently she is known amongst her study partners for getting names mixed up on a regular basis. But since Terra and I both don’t know Joan, we would not know this key piece of information about her, and thus, everything began to spiral from there.

Terra’s friend Ashley studies with Joan, as well as Ashley’s close friend Jenna whom Terra does not know well. Can you keep those names straight? Terra (my lab partner) knows Ashley who knows Jenna, and Ashley and Jenna both study together with this lady Joan who ended up getting my number when she meant to ask for Jenna’s number.

Now that you have all of that confusing and yet important information (it took me a moment to understand all that too when I first heard it), I need to add one more key piece of information. My phone is glitchy. So sometimes, when somebody calls me, I don’t receive the voicemail until later that day or even a couple of days later. This happened when Joan called me.

At 9pm, not knowing who Joan is or anything about what happened that morning (aka asking my lab partner Terra for my phone number), my phone lit up, alerting me that I received a new voicemail:

“Hey, Becca. It is Joan. I got your number, so now you have mine. I’m just calling because I was at open lab this morning and I grabbed a bunch of things and I accidentally grabbed part of your lab manual. I am going hang around here because I know you have your dissection today and will be coming in soon to do your dissection. I’ll get it back to you then. Bye.”

I replayed the message, trying to listen to the name and the voice again. For the life of me, I could not recognize it. It did not even sound vaguely familiar.

Then I thought I misheard the name, and maybe she said Judith, not Joan, because Judith is my tutor in the evening open lab I attend and had just gotten home from just minutes earlier. I thought that somehow, Judith had gotten into my file at the school, got my phone number, and was waiting at a dark abandoned Anatomy lab at night to give me my lab manual. I immediately nixed that idea because 1) It clearly sounded like the person said “Joan” and 2) the message makes reference to the morning open lab and it was currently 9 pm at night.

I went back into my missed calls log and found that the call had been received at 10 am.

I texted Terra, “Do you know who Joan is?”

Then, feeling impatient and thinking it was highly unlikely that Terra knew a woman named Joan that I didn’t even know, I dialed Joan’s number from my cell phone’s log. The receiver answered with a muffled sound, and I said “hello” several times, but only heavy breathing and static could be heard on the other line.

I was at my boyfriend’s house alone at that moment, cooking a pizza in the oven and waiting for him to get home. Was this some sort of creepy prank, and Joan was a demon woman trying to kill me?

I looked around my empty office at his house with my Anatomy textbooks everywhere and his dog sitting faithfully at my side staring at me questioningly. I hung up the phone in a panic.

I called my other lab partner Brooke after texting her as well. “Do you know Joan?” I texted, and when I called, she didn’t pick up. If I died by way of Joan, nobody would know.

I called a second time. I needed answers.

“Hello?” I said again, hearing the static.

“Hello?” she echoed to me.

“Hi, um…this is Becca. I’m calling you back because I just now got your voicemail from this morning.”

“Oh, that’s so funny! So you are just calling to tell me that you got my message finally?”

“Well, yes, and…I wanted to tell you that I honestly had no idea my lab manual is missing.”

I went over to my backpack to confirm that my lab manual was safely tucked inside, complete with all of its pages.

“Of course it isn’t missing now, silly! I brought it to you this morning!” Joan exclaimed, laughing.

I stared blankly at my lab manual. I had it last night. At my house I packed it in my backpack that morning before school. When I got to school, I distinctly remember pulling it out of my backpack and placing it on the lab table before class began.

Wait. Was I suddenly remembering another day this week when I completed all of those actions, and maybe I had entirely forgotten about a meeting with this Joan when we exchanged lab manuals this morning? I was entirely confused, and since she was acting so familiar with me and even had my phone number, I didn’t want to admit that I had forgotten a dear friend.

“Right, you brought it to me this morning!” I exclaimed matching her enthusiasm, even adding a chuckle to complete the picture. “Thank you for bringing me my lab manual. I was so worried about it since it was missing.”

“No problem! I felt bad for taking it. You must have been so concerned. But everything is back in order. I had a good talk with you! You are such a fun gal!”

I thought hard. I racked my brain, fighting back the panic at the fact that I couldn’t remember Joan, or giving her my number, or losing my lab manual, or finding my lab manual…I mean, I had an off-day since I was tired, but I didn’t think it was that bad.

Maybe I’d entered some alternate form of reality. Either way, the silence and heavy breathing on Joan’s end meant I needed to respond:

“Yes! I loved talking with you too!” I replied with a grin, as though she might be staring at me from the vent in the ceiling.

Would it be messed up if I just broke down and told her I have no recollection of the morning and had no idea who she was and asked her to call an ambulance because I’d lost my memory? No. Show no weakness to any woman named Joan. “End this conversation, Rebecca,” I told myself.

“So….” I began, thinking that I might add an “It was nice talking with you, thanks again for this morning,” in an attempt to finish this uncomfortable call.

Instead, she interrupted me. “So, how are you doing?” She asked me.

How am I doing? Like, how am I doing? Maybe Joan drugged me secretly, unscrewed the cap of my water bottle at school and was now playing psychological games with me.

I’m doing terribly, thank you. I have a sudden case of amnesia, my heart is racing, and I have no clue if you are friend or foe. Maybe this is what it is like to have dementia.

“How am I doing?” I stuttered, repeating her question stupidly back at her as thought it were a foreign language.

“In the class? How are you doing? Because I’m feeling pretty stressed and overwhelmed.”

“Oh, right. Well, it is pretty stressful. I’m trying to take it one day at a time.”

“One day at a time is the way to survive this class,” Joan laughed into the receiver and I intended to chuckle but never quite brought myself to do it.

She muttered something that the static broke up so I sat in silence waiting for her to repeat it, and instead, she said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow!”

“See you tomorrow!” I exclaimed, relief washing over my soul. It was over. This petrifying conversation was over. Thank goodness.

As soon as the call was completed, my fingers shook as I searched through my contacts for my lab partner’s phone number since she hadn’t texted back yet.

My phone started receiving another call. It was my mom’s name that flashed onto the screen.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Is he there?”

“Who where?”

“Your dad, is he there?”

I looked around my office at my boyfriend’s house. Why would my father be here? Was I dreaming maybe? This was all a bad dream?

“No, he isn’t here,” I replied.

“Can you look?”

“Well, mom, it’s just me and the dog.”

“The dog?” she asked confused.

“Yeah, Maggie.”

“Where are you?”

“Waiting for Adam to come home. I’m at his house studying Anatomy.”

“Oh, so you aren’t at kickboxing. Your dad has been gone since 6.”

I put the pieces together. Adam was late because he stayed late talking with my father.

My life suddenly felt like fragments of information coming at me like shreds of metal in a tornado storm and I was having to decipher them before they pierced through my skull.

I explained the solved puzzle to my mom. “They must still be there chatting, mom. They do that sometimes.”

“Well your brother just spent ten minutes yelling at me because I wouldn’t buy him McDonalds.”

And back to the tornado shreds. Was there more to this story that I was supposed to interpret?

Surprisingly, no. He was just being a rude rebellious teenage boy.

After a brief conversation, I thought about asking my mom, “Do you know who Joan is?” to see if maybe this really was a dream. I decided against it on the grounds that if I wasn’t dreaming, I would just start to look crazy. And as a crazy person, the last thing I needed was to let it be known that I was crazy.

When I hung up with my mom, my fingers were still shaking when I tried to call my lab partner Terra since she hadn’t texted back.

“Hey, Becca.” She answered calmly.

“WHO IS JOAN?!?!?!?”

“Whoah, it’s okay! I figured it out!” she said, laughing, explaining how when I texted her, she was on the phone with Ashley (who, if you’ll recall is friends with Jenna, both of whom study with Joan) and she helped me put the pieces together.

She then explained what happened that morning, how Joan meant to say Jenna and how Jenna must have bumped into Joan in the hallway and got her missing lab manual back, and how Joan thinks Jenna’s name is Becca, etc.

“I’m not crazy,” was all I could think as Terra revealed the masterful plot of Joan. “I’m not crazy,” I sat back in my chair and exhaled. Then I proceeded to recount the phone conversation I’d just had with Joan, and Terra was only able to reply with contagious laughter at the absurdity of the whole thing and the extreme panic that it had thrust me into.

So, I still have no idea who Joan is, but this whole thing helped me to understand that I am not Jenna. Just thought I’d get that cleared up in case anybody else was confused.

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