Yesterday I called and left him a voicemail to call me back. Later in the evening, he called while I was on another line with Mickey, his producer and my friend. I asked him to hold on so I could drop the other call. "No, no, no I just want to know if it's important!" he demanded. Russell hates being put on hold. He internalizes it as an insult. Then I noticed Mickey had hung up so I told him "Never mind, she already hung up."
He asked me, "So how are you"
"Not doing very well," the fact is, this entire week has been inexplicably difficult. I have been missing Billy so much and have been crying constantly when not in public. I rarely get into this territory with Russell because it makes him squirm. True to form, he harrumphed and started talking again about Mickey always hanging up. "So why did you call?" he barked.
I couldn't tell if he was rushed or he just wanted to get on with the topic of my voicemail. I had called him earlier because there was a LA Times article on his second hour topic for his Sunday radio show. I called to help him with his research.
His abruptness and his easy glide over my problems set a tone for a conversation I no longer wanted to have. I said, "Let's talk tomorrow." He got insulted by that even though it is exactly what he wanted but never stated. He hung up without so much as a goodbye.
Not being able to let it go - our well-honed script wouldn't allow that - I called him back, got his voicemail and told him a goodbye would have been appropriate.
This morning he called and immediately started to defend his actions. This is where the really familiar part happens. He insisted that he told me from the outset that he wanted to speak tomorrow, that he was too busy to talk. He, of course, had said none of that. Our conversation quickly devolved into the old pattern of his "I said that," to my "No you didn't." It's a dull, pointless tail chase.
But I wanted it to end so I placated him. "OK, you said it. Fine." But that wasn't good enough for Russ. There wasn't enough sincerity behind my response. He was right about the dull pitch in my voice but I wanted to move on and just tell him about the fucking LA Times article.
"Stop patronizing me," he said at the point of no return.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"Everything is always about </>you</i>," he said without irony. The fact is, ninety percent of our conversations over the last nine months have been about his radio show and my helping him form it.
"I hope you come up with better responses on the air," I snapped. I knew this was a direct hit because I recently gave him a similar note about expanding his vocabulary on-air.
"I never want you to call me again!" Click.
I love Russell. I have said it on here. I say it to him all the time. He is intractable in his Russellness. I love him in spite of it. I love him for it. So, no doubt, at some point during the next few days, I will call him about something related to his show and we will go on as we have for 24 years.