3 fingertips

“Something grabbed a hold of my hand

I didn’t know what had my hand

But that’s when all the troubles began

I don’t understand you.”

Excerpt from “Fingertips” by They Might Be Giants

I begin each day by measuring all the food in my pantry.

I used to measure twice in the morning, then measure my breakfast, then all food again after breakfast, twice before lunch, then just lunch, then all of it after, then twice before dinner, dinner, and then three times after dinner. Sometimes I would get up in the night and measure it all again. I had weened myself off of all but one measurement a day, and I did not measure my meals (I just estimated).

The morning after I met Isabella Marie Swan, I forgot to measure my food.

I was preoccupied. If I didn’t already have an unmanageable set of obsessions, I would have thought she was one of them.

I didn’t even remember until I went to bed Wednesday evening. I pulled back the sheet, climbed into bed, recounted my day, and realized I had forgotten to measure my food.

So, I got up and went to the kitchen to get started. I was upset, because this could cost me two hours of sleep, and I had a session scheduled with Dr. Cullen tomorrow. I always wanted to be especially well rested on those days.

I talked to no one in particular about my problems: “That party was a mistake. See, this is what happens when you get too close to people. Maybe you don’t always catch their diseases, but you catch other things, like forgetfulness! They haven’t proven that it’s contagious, but I think I could provide some data that would surprise everyone!”

I carefully laid out my measuring tape, food scale and measuring cups on the kitchen table, carefully pushing them with my fingertips until they were all perfectly aligned and equidistant and stopped.

Why was I doing this?

Because you want to make sure that you don’t lose weight. That was the original rationale behind measuring my food.

It started innocently enough. I measured to make sure I was getting enough to eat, because Tyler Crowley made fun of me in gym and said I was a skinny weakling. He pushed me and then Emmett punched him. I didn’t care that Emmett stood up for me, but I didn’t want guys like that touching me at all. I figured if I were strong and intimidating, like Emmett, they would leave me alone.

So, after extensive research at the library, I concluded that increasing my caloric intake while exercising would be the most sound method.

I bulked up a little. Free weights. Very sanitary. Not so that I was gross looking, but I people stopped picking on me. After that, I determined how much I would need to eat to maintain my physique, and measured my food carefully.

Of course, as I became obsessed with it, only measuring my meals was insufficient. I logically understood the irrationality of possibly eating too little. But the fears where temporarily assuaged by giving in to my compulsion, both scheduled and random.

Dr. Cullen worked with me to reduce the number of times I measured each day. After six months, I was down to once a day…for food and everything else.

However, I remained incredibly committed to not missing a single day for the past nine months.

Until today.

I stared at the measuring implements.

I was shaking. But not because I was angry. Suddenly, I was glad. I realized I was more interested in finding out about Ms. Swan than in abetting my measuring compulsion.

I knew this could become another problem. My eyes widened and sweat ran down my neck at the thought of a potential setback. What if I became obsessed with Ms. Swan? Dr. Cullen had warned me about replacing one problem with another.

I pondered this as I put my measuring tools away. But instead of going to bed, I opened her file on my computer.

Although I desperately wanted to hack into every facet of her life, I restricted myself to the things that I could search for legally. My searches yielded an address and her place of employment. The law firm’s homepage had a link to an employee directory. Most employers have removed such pages to protect their employees privacy, or at least to discourage headhunting. Brandon & Brown was not one of those.

She had no email address that I could find, not even at work. She also had no listed (nor unlisted) phone number. The unlisted search might have been a trifle illegal. She was not a member of any networking site. Short of stalking her, I could only send her snail-mail.

Not that I would have gone to her apartment anyway. It would have taken me several hours to walk there, as there was no way I would take the subway. The last time I even got near a subway entrance, I got sick and had to cross the street.

Just the thought of a cab made me puke in my mouth a little. I wouldn’t take a cab if I were shot in the head. I would, however, run to the bathroom and brush my teeth and tongue twice.

So, mailing it would be. I thought of stamps and almost retched again. My brother took care of all my mailing, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to share this…whatever it was…with anyone, except Dr. Cullen. I decided to write the letter first, and worry about mailing it later.

As I got into bed after finishing my first draft, I felt calm.

~~~~~~~~~~~~O+C+D~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to the kind people at Kinkos, my letter was printed, enveloped and stamped without my ever having to touch it. The nice gentleman even offered to put it in the mail for me. He laughed and said “good luck” before we hung up. I appreciated the sentiment, if not the mirth.

With that task finished, it was time go to my appointment with Dr. Cullen. I headed out the door, excitement in my step. This session would surely buoy my spirits and confidence.

Donning my latex gloves as I stepped into the lobby, I smiled and tipped my head, holding the door open for Mrs. Banner as she passed me carrying her Yorkie. She noticed my good mood and returned the smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~O+C+D~~~~~~~~~~~

Dr. Cullen took his time updating his notes from his previous patient. I couldn’t wait to share my victories, and impatiently tapped my foot, waiting for his eyes to meet mine so we could begin.

I filled him in on my successes and minor setbacks, overjoyed that the former far outweighed the latter.

I also told him about the letter. I didn’t have a copy to read, so I hit the highlights.

Dr. Cullen took copious notes. Perhaps he wanted me to mentor him with my long distance wooing skills.

“I know I should have made an effort to do the mailing myself, but when I called Kinkos to see if the letter printed okay, the man offered to mail it for me.”

Dr. Cullen looked a bit uncomfortable at this.

“That’s very trusting of you, Edward. I hope that there was nothing too personal in the letter.”

“Well, nothing that couldn’t be found online, other than my credit card information, but I pay for everything with a credit card online, so that doesn’t bother me.”

“How do you think Ms. Swan would feel about someone else having seen the contents of your letter?” Dr. Cullen probed.

I hesitated. “Why would she have to know? I don’t mean that the way it sounds, but I just don’t understand why she would want to know.”

“Well, Edward, you told me that one of your long-term goals is to be able engage in healthy romantic relationships.”

“Yes.”

“And one of the elements of a successful relationship is trust.”

“I’m very trustworthy.”

“Yes. But you expressed to me, and I agree, that this woman likely suffers from social anxiety.” He checked his notes. “She had trouble speaking, was flushed, appeared embarrassed, and she ran away from you at the party, possibly as a result of said embarrassment.”

“I don’t know why she was embarrassed, though.”

“Well, we’ll get to that. But the point here is that she’s vulnerable. She needs to see that she can trust you. Now, do you see anything in your behavior with the letter that might indicate that you have abused, or that she might perceive that you’ve abused, her trust?”

I ran through each Isabella-related action since she ran out of the party. “Well, I googled her, wrote her and mailed to her. Was it the googling? Honestly, I’m not sure how I could hope to speak with her without having done that. I even told her that I didn’t search for all of the private information I could have. That should make me more trustworthy!”

Dr. Cullen wrote a note shaking his head. This generally meant that I had done something he wanted to address adjacent to the topic at hand. I started to sweat. This was not going the way I planned.

Dr. Cullen took a breath and looked up at me, gesturing with his pen still in hand, ready to write: “Edward, googling her was not untrustworthy. It just shows your interest. Sending her a letter, too, is an acceptable thing to do. Indeed, visiting her in person after your initial meeting would have been the opposite of acceptable for someone like Isabella.”

I heard a “but” lingering.

“However,” Ah, But’s asshole cousin, “According to your comments, you pointed out her disorder repeatedly in your letter.”

“Well, it’s an important consideration in a potential relationship. It’s right up there with her level of intelligence, which I reminded her twice is important to me. I also told her that I would like to assess it in our next meeting. I figured out loud reading and conversation would be good—”

“—Oh, God.” Carlisle cut me off. He lost his unflappable composure as he wrote furiously.

Once he stopped writing, he moistened his lips, blinked, and crossed his arms. Then he looked self-conscious and uncrossed them. He would not look at my face. Something was…wrong.

Finally, with hands on his thighs, he looked up at me. “OK. Edward. I want to prepare you for something that you may not understand right away.”

Then he got up and paced for a moment. I was quiet, watching him carefully for signals that would help me understand what I did wrong.

“No, not that, yet,” He shook his head and continued to pace.

Finally, he sat down and leaned forward a little. This meant he was concerned and serious. He wanted my attention. “First, tell me again how you feel when someone reaches out to touch you.”

“Fearful and angry.”

“Right, you may feel out of control of the situation, or you may feel that the other person is untrustworthy, right?”

“Yes.”

“OK, now how would you feel if, after you clearly indicated that you didn’t want to be touched, they came back and did it again and again?”

I didn’t have to imagine it. I remembered several such betrayals from my youth.

“Betrayed.”

“A betrayal of trust, right?”

“Yes…” Then, suddenly, I got it.

“She will feel betrayed.”

“Probably,” Dr. Cullen rested his elbows on knees, head cocked to the side, staring at me with the inside ends of his eyebrows raised, a small frown on his lips.

His expression indicated that he was trying to give me consolation. Normally, sensitive people like Dr. Cullen would provide this in the form of a hand on the shoulder or a hug, but that wouldn’t work for me. People who knew and cared for me always had to force unnatural interactions, constantly second-guessing their instincts to accommodate my problems.

It didn’t even occur to me to do the same for her. At least, not in my verbiage. Comments didn’t bother me; actions did. I could understand not wanting to meet in public. But I failed to see how my words would be hurtful to her.

I was suddenly filled with chagrin. A word that, until today, I understood only academically. “Is there anything I can do to rectify this situation?”

Dr. Cullen sat back and put his fingertips together. He was brainstorming. I sat back, too, relieved that hope was not lost.

“You can wait. And if she doesn’t contact you, you can write her again to apologize.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Wait as long as you can, Edward. Betrayal needs remorse, but it also needs space. You put the letter in her hands. You asked her to call you. If she doesn’t, you may only get to say you’re sorry in a letter. You may not get to see her again.”

~~§•§~~

Three weeks of waiting, and I still hadn’t heard from her.

Determined that she not become a new obsession, I punished myself by taking away measuring privileges every time I was compelled to stalk her or write her again.

It was in vain. I still composed numerous letters, each one more desperate than the last.

I called the guy at Kinkos, and hung up when he answered.

With my constant and mounting punishments, I had stopped measuring my food altogether.

I stood at the entrance to the subway, while considering getting on and going to see her. Then I vomited and went home.

On my way out the door to my weekly appointment with Dr. Cullen, Mrs. Banner shrunk from me, her dog barking once my back was turned.

Dr. Cullen didn’t look hopeful as I sat across from him. He rallied his spirits and congratulated my success in reducing my measuring compulsion. I told him I was sure I was losing weight, but that I didn’t care any more.

I left after fifteen minutes. I didn’t schedule another appointment.

Dr. Cullen emailed me, and asked if I intended to continue treatment. I ignored him.

At five weeks, I realized that despite my punishments, I had gained a new obsession anyway.

I decided to give in and typed her a final letter.

An apology.

It was relatively short; less than two pages. The closure would allow me to get back to normal (for me). I would end this before it became unhealthy.

I mailed it by myself. Who knew stamps didn’t need to be licked anymore? Not me.

Two days after I mailed my second missive, I received a response.

Knock knock

“Edward Masen?” Someone shouted through the door.

I looked through the peephole.

“Yes, officer?”

“Would you open the door, please, sir?”

“Can we talk through the door? I am afraid of contamination.”

She sighed loud enough for me to hear her through the door. “Mr. Masen, I have a restraining order for you from Isabella Swan, and I need for you to sign it and take your copy.”

I didn’t respond.

“Open the door, sir.”

Knowing first hand that officers are less likely to touch you when you comply rather than argue, I opened the door. She shoved a metal box at me with a triplicate form attached. I stepped back hands up. It seemed like the right thing to do.

“Sign it.”

I looked at the pen she was holding in her other hand. There was no telling who had touched it before. “May I sign with my own pen?”

She rolled her eyes. “Sure, knock yourself out.”

Stepping away with my hands still raised, I walked over to the coffee table still visible from the door, grabbed the pen I had been using to update my journal and came back.

I signed the form, trying to avoid touching the paper and the metal box. I didn’t pull out a new pair of gloves because this lady looked less understanding than Rosalie.

With dexterity that belied her experience with triplicate forms, she ripped out the pink copy and shoved it at my hands.

I used two fingers to accept it.

“Have a nice day,” she said.

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