Fellow Readers,

The Publication Core presents, "Caller ID" by Alisak Sanavongsay.

A chilly Friday, the 13th to all!!!

Toon Phapphayboun
PUB Core
Caller ID
By AliSak Sanavongsay

May 1, 1999 is a date that I can never forget.  That was the day I sold my 
beloved motorcyle.  That motorcyle was my pride and joy.  I had taken it 
almost everywhere with me.  I had been through all kinds of weather with it.  
It was the 1993-model Honda CBR900RR.  I even gave the bike a name -- Cbrina. 
 So, the day that Cbrina left my life will always be a day that I can't 

This day is near and dear to me for another reason.  The day before that,  I 
was cleaning up Cbrina for the last time when the phone rang.  Just like most 
other Americans,  I checked the Caller ID display unit to see who was calling 
before I picked up the phone.  It was a San Diego area code but didn't have a 
name on it.  It just said "CALIFORNIA CALL."  So, I thought it was either Kag 
or Troy.  That would be a big surprise because they never called me since the 
second SatJaDham conference two years ago.

I picked up the phone and heard the sweetest voice I had ever talked with.  
My heart dropped as she said, "Moshi! Moshi! Saki desu ka?"  It was my old 
friend Nee.  I hadn't heard from her since the summer of 1997.  She moved out 
to San Diego and we lost contact.

I met Nee after I came back home from college.  I was riding my bike around 
the University of Chicago campus by myself because I was kind of bored.  For 
some reason it felt like my wallet was going to fall out of my pocket so I 
took it out.  Just as I was about to put it inside my jacket, a big gust of 
wind came by and blew the wallet away.   I couldn't turn back right away 
because there was a car behind me.

As soon as I could, I turned my bike around to look for my wallet.  It wasn't 
very hard to find. I just followed the trail of credit cards and ATM 
receipts.  That was when I met her.  She was holding my driver's license as 
she asked me, "Nihonjin desu ka?"  Fortunately I took two and a half years of 
Japanese while in college and was able to understand what she was asking.  
So, I responded back in Japanese, telling her that I was not Japanese.

I just sat there and talked with her.  It was pretty nice to finally find 
someone who would actually sit and talk with me for hours without getting 
bored.  She asked me all kinds of weird questions, mostly about my name.  She 
was curious why I have a Japanese middle name if  I'm not Japanese.  I just 
explained to her that Tetsuo was the name of one of main characters in a 
Japanese animated movie called "AKIRA".  I went on to explain how that 
character resembled me in so many ways so I just added Tetsuo as my middle 
name.  Then she asked about my motorcycle license plate, which read "SAKI 8". 
 I told her that "SAK" is the last syllable in my first name and I just added 
the "I" at the end to make it sound cool.  The 8 just reminded me of the 
'infinity' sign.  I basically I just told her that I'm hoping this bike would 
last forever.

After three hours of talking,  I found out a lot about her, too.  She was a 
Japanese exchange student.  She had lived in Laos for three years with her 
family when she was still young.  Her name was Akane, but her little Lao 
friends called her "Nee", and she grew to like that name.  She had come to 
get her Master's Degree in physics at the University of Chicago  a year 
before I met her.  

When I was getting ready to go home, she asked me something no other woman 
had asked before.  She wanted to try out my bike.  I told her, "Sure, I can 
give you a ride."  But, that was not want she meant.  She wanted to ride it, 
but not as a passenger.  She told me that she rides motorcycles all the time 
back in Japan.

Needless to say, I had a moment of weakness and told her "yes".  I talked 
myself into it by rationalizing that the bike was insured.  At that moment, 
she jumped up and yelled like those girls in the Japanese cartoons.  So, I 
nervously handed her the key.

She got on the bike like a pro.  Obviously she had done this often.  The 
takeoff was nice and smooth.  Then, disaster struck.  She lost control of the 
bike while trying to switch to second gear.  I forgot to tell her that I 
reversed the gears so I could shift faster while racing.  She gained control 
of the bike after about 5 seconds, but the bike hit the curb and she fell 
off.  Fortunately, neither she nor the bike was badly damaged.  We just 
laughed about it and I went home.

A week later, she called and told me she was coming over with a surprise.  
When she came over, I sure was surprised.  She just sat outside and revved 
the engine on her new bike.  The bike was the exact same color and year as 
mine.  But, hers was 600cc model -- the CBR600F2.

We had lots of fun on the bikes after that.  I kept asking myself, "Where the 
heck did she come from and where has she been all my life?"  It was just like 
a dream, and that dream didn't last long.  In August of 1997, her parents 
moved to San Diego, and Nee decided to go live with them.  Her parents came 
down and we took them out for some dim sum in Chinatown.  The next day, all 
her stuff were packed into her dad's Landcruiser and her bike was securely 
strapped to the trailer.  And that was the last time I saw or heard from her.

That's why I was so surprised when she called two years later.  She told me 
she was on a cellular phone and was on her way over to my house.  Five minute 
later she arrived.  I was doubly surprised because she was on her bike.  She 
just sat out there and revved the engine until I went out, just like the 
first time she came over with her bike.  When I went out, she just smiled and 
said, "Hey, let's ride."

I had just finished cleaning my bike, but I didn't think twice about riding 
it.  As I pulled my bike out, I noticed some big scratches on her bike and 
asked her about it.  She told me she was in minor accident the year before.  
She told me that the bike was still running fine.  And it sounded fine to me. 
 Then I noticed that her license plate sticker still said "Illinois" on it 
and had expired since March 1998.  She shut me up by telling me that my 
sticker had expired also.  I looked at my sticker and it was in fact expired, 
but mine expired March 1999.  I guess that makes us even since both of us had 
expired license plates.  We just laughed and headed out to Chicago.

We rode out to our favorite hangout -- the Vietnamese Restaurant on Sheridan. 
 She even remembered what I alway ordered, too.  It was so nice to finally 
get to see and talk to her again after all that time.  But, I was curious 
about why she came back.  She told me that she came back to finish up what 
she started at the University of Chicago.  When I asked her if she rode her 
bike all the way from San Diego, she just laughed and told me that she wasn't 
that crazy. 

After the restaurant, we went to take a dip in Lake Michigan to cool us down. 
 We walked around and told each other about what had been going on with 
ourselves.  She was always asking me questions, but hardly wanting to answer 
my questions about herself.  When it got dark, we rode to her apartment and 
dried off our wet clothes.  The we said "good night," and  I went home.

The next day, I wanted to call her up to see if she wanted to go riding 
again, but I forgot to write down her phone number.  Fortunately, I 
remembered that her cellular phone number was on the Caller ID.  So I looked 
up the number and called her.  Surprisingly, it wasn't Nee who answered the 
phone; it was her mom.

I asked her mom if she remembered me and she said that she did.  I asked 
about Nee's dad and she said that he was fine also.  But, when I asked if I 
could talk to Nee, she became silent.  Then she asked me how I got their 
phone number.  I told her that it was on my Caller ID.  She was even more 
surprised when I told her that Nee called me and we spent a whole day 

At that point, she started to cry and told me that Nee was killed in an 
accident on the exact same date one year ago.  She was hit by a semi-truck 
while riding her bike home from a friend's house.  Her mom told me that the 
bike only had some scratches, but Nee received a massive blow to the head and 
died on the spot.  The impact was so great that even the helmet didn't save 
her.  So, her mom said, it was impossible that she could have called me a 
year after her death.  She told me that she sent me a letter to come to Nee's 
funeral last year, but I never received it.

I was totally in shock.  I asked her who could have called me then.  She 
asked her husband and he said he didn't call me either because neither of 
them knew my phone number.  Then I realized something.  How did Nee know my 
phone number?  I had just gotten the new number this year.  This was totally 

After I expressed my condolenses, I told them good bye and hanged up the 
phone.  Then I looked on the Caller ID again and my mouth dropped.  It had a 
completely different date and time:
        call # 13:
        (---) --- ----
        05/01/98                  07:46 PM