“Listen Ana, hear my words,
they’re the ones you would think
I would say if there was a me for you.”
Excerpt from “Ana Ng” by TMBG
Rosalie was cooking. I watched her carefully clean the pan, proud that I managed to refrain from asking her to wash it twice before using it. Her focus on accomplishing the task without a meltdown on my part, must have been why it took her two minutes to respond.
“Wait…You got close enough to her that she needed a restraining order?”
Then again, it could have been because she wasn’t listening. “I never touched her.”
Rosalie was incredulous.
“I didn’t! I wouldn’t touch anyone! I swear!”
“Oh, I believe that! But I don’t understand…If you didn’t go anywhere near her, why would she even need one?” Ripping open and then tipping the tetrapak of tomatoes into the pan, she carefully avoided touching the edges.
“She doesn’t. I’m safe. It’s…I just betrayed her trust is all.”
“What? So, what did you do, Edward?” She stopped, turned around, spoon held in the air away from her hair, and looked at me levelly. I finally warranted her undivided attention.
“She has emotional problems, Rosalie, and apparently I talked about them in a way that made her uncomfortable. And I mentioned sex, which Dr. Cullen said is a no-no in proto-relationship letters. He didn’t say those exact words, but that’s what he meant.”
“No-no?…Proto?…What?…Whatever, Edward. I don’t care. How does this affect me and Emmett, again?” She finally set the spoon down. Carefully, and on a clean plate, I took note.
“I need your help to figure out how to win her back. Well, not back, I never had her…So I suppose I need your help to win her the first time…Listen: normally, I would discuss this with Dr. Cullen, but I’m not seeing him anymore.”
“Whoa,” Emmett said as he rolled back from his computer desk. He was reading trail running shoe reviews. I didn’t think he had been listening at all.
“You aren’t seeing your head-shrinker anymore? Nope. Not gonna happen. That’s a deal-breaker, bro. We discussed this. You fall off the wagon; we stop helping you out.”
He started ticking the list off his fingers: “Doing your mail, taking care of your shit—” I cringed. “figuratively,” he clarified.
Rosalie took over ticking, “—washing stuff before you have to touch it, doing your grocery shopping—”
“—mediating with your boss when you do crazy crap…c’mon, you’re gonna make a fuss about crap, still?” I nodded, and he continued: “and soliciting your dates!”
“That was almost two years ago, and it was only five dates,” I lamely defended myself.
Before Dr. Cullen, I had hoped that love would cure me. They set me up with a very lovely woman, Jessica. I had met her at their apartment once, and there was mutual interest. She wasn’t stupid nor touchy. Emmett and Rosalie tactfully warned her about my relationship limitations while pointing out my potential as an acceptable date, but unfortunately, it ended badly. I refused to come out of my apartment and took a daily panel of STD tests for weeks before Emmett managed to talk me into an appointment with the wise doctor.
“Yeah, and you remember how well that turned out. We’re not going down this road again, Ed. You make continued progress so that one day we don’t have to do this…stuff. So, we’ll help you out with aspects of your life that are still…well, difficult…but you have to keep your end. You promised.” Emmett went back to his important shoe research.
“You signed a contract,” Rosalie clarified.
“But I am making progress. The only setback is this restraining order.” I said, gesturing to the offensive and disgusting proof of relationship failure sealed in plastic on the counter. “I want to move forward. I had stalled with Dr. Cullen, anyway. No improvement for nine months. I meet her, and I almost completely stop measuring.”
“You’ve stopped measuring.” Emmett looked up again, unconvinced.
“No…Almost…Kind of. It’s really complicated, Emmett. See, it’s kind of a punishment, so I’m uncomfortable with it…but it’s penance, so it sort of feels reasonable not to do it—”
“—You lost me at complicated,” he interrupted.
“Yes, well, the point is that I’ve got a coping mechanism, and it’s working for me. And since I’ve been brooding so much about Ms. Swan, I hardly have time to check out CDC News and Events as much as I used to, and the less I do that, the less I become worried about contamination. Did you notice that I’m not wearing my latex gloves?”
“They’re sticking out of your pocket, Edward,” Rosalie noted.
“Yes, but they’re not on my hands.” I raised them to eye level as proof.
“OK,” Emmett said, “let’s say, we decide to help you out.”
“Oh, I’m not helping,” Rosalie said.
“Fine. Let’s say I decide to help you out. What exactly am I supposed to do?”
“I’d like you to talk to her on my behalf.”
“And how is that not soliciting a date, Ed?”
There’s a moment when I first wake up…really before I’m fully awake…when I’m confident and I say the right thing and I don’t trip over my own feet.
I snooze each morning for at least an hour trying to hang on to that moment; desperate in my attempt to right the social ineptitude of yesterday.
This morning, I was thinking about him, that guy, THE guy, the man, the one. My Mr. Darcy, Bruce Wayne, or Malcolm Reynolds. You know, the one who is everything you want a man to be plus all the things you’d feel a little dirty asking for?
Yeah, I met that guy…And then…I ran away from him.
I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, honey, he turned out to be Wickham, or The Joker, or Jayne Cobb didn’t he?”
Well the answer is no. Mhn. OK, not exactly…
I’m telling this all wrong.
I need to start at the beginning, at the subway entrance two blocks from Alice’s.
I managed to trip up the stairs even though I held the hand rail and watched my feet. Then, as I got to the top, I saw him, about a half a block away, wearing latex gloves, and I thanked kittens I was wearing a padded bra.
OK, I can tell you this, because, really, who are you going to tell?
I have a thing for latex, especially gloves. It’s my kind of kink, if you will.
And here was this guy wearing them in broad daylight.
This is the kind of thing that should be relegated to back door dentist offices and seedy operating rooms. Places of privacy and perverdity.
Yeah, I just made up a word. Get over it. I don’t like perversity, it sounds too clinical.
He was preoccupied with something over my head. Following his line of sight, all I saw was the entrance to the subway tunnel I had just tripped out of.
He looked a bit sick. And world weary.
But still hot.
Then, he crossed the street. I turned my body to watch him. Then, I followed him.
He was wearing latex and tweed, with a Mad Men comb-over for crying out loud—suddenly wondering if there’s a kinky origin for that expression…What was I saying? Oh, so what else was I supposed to do?
So, I followed him to this nerd party with a buffet. I won’t lie. I was hungry. I was going to Alice’s, even though I really didn’t want to see her, for the express purpose of obtaining free food. And here was a table full of food.
I didn’t mean to insinuate that I was third-world starving. Just lazy about cooking. I headed to the buffet and loaded up a plate, keeping my eyes on him at all times.
I don’t normally “go” to any gathering in which one is expected to engage in conversation—even the easy weather variety. I hate parties so much I’ve called in sick to every birthday since fifth grade. I drank two weeks expired milk and induced vomiting to miss my best friend’s wedding.
So, food and yummy man aside, I was not happy to be there. But experience had taught me that if you refuse to make eye contact with people and ignore them when they try to talk to you, you can avoid a lot of social interaction.
Oh, and always keep moving. Don’t stop. Be a secret agent on a mission.
My mission: eat and watch latex man.
Well, I wouldn’t eat him…I’d just eat the food…
When I was halfway through my plate of finger sandwiches and Swedish meatballs (tasted like Ikea), I watched him walk…no, was he pacing something off?
My initial thought, that he was here to mingle and mooch free food, was replaced with man on a mission…like me…but a man. What was he doing?
This activity was briefly thwarted by a blond with frizzy hair and ill-fitting blouse, before he reached his apparent goal amongst the minglers, his broad shoulders pulled in like he was trying to give himself cleavage.
A Chris-Farley-looking man squeezed by the object-of-my-spying on his way to the buffet. I inwardly groaned and moved away from the buffet; fat guys always want to talk because they feel self conscious about how much food they’re putting on their plates. I headed for the ficus in the opposite corner of the room. Farther away from my stalkee, but I could stay somewhat hidden while watching.
Now, he was staring at the ceiling. I followed his line of sight again to see that he was admiring the colonial reproduction chandelier and plastic-painted-to-look-like-molding-medallion. What? Was he casing the place or what?
He looked around, but didn’t really settle his eyes on any one or thing in particular. His inward concentration made him appear a bit spaced out. His eyes narrowed, and he seemed to come to a decision when my view was blocked by another man who started talking to him. I heard something about the weather.
His distraction was my cue to make my move. I slid to the left working my way back around the room and positioned myself behind him. I had seen him take the latex gloves off and put them in his blazer pocket when he came in. The ends were sticking out.
I had decided that I would steal one and masturbate while wearing it when I got home, imagining that it was his hand that filled the glove.
Yeah, there was no way I was ever going to actually meet this guy, let alone sleep with him.
But then, horrors! He bumped into me.
Yeah, I have a toe-in problem. My left foot naturally turns in about sixty degrees. It’s why I trip so much. Usually, I can focus on keeping my feet parallel, but if I’m not paying strict attention, that fucker moves back inward on it’s own.
So, when latex-sex-god bumped into me, I couldn’t straighten my left foot in time for my right foot to avoid tripping over it. I fell on my ass. Hard. There would definitely be bruising.
I managed an apology, and then he flinched from me like I had a disease.
It wasn’t a big deal. I’m used to men flinching from me when I talk. I rarely speak, so my voice always sounds like I just woke up with a twenty year smoking habit.
I looked up briefly to see his arms in the air like a football referee. My eyes met his. He looked…intense.
My stomach gurgled. The Swedish meatballs were a bad idea.
I rolled over, and tripped again trying to get up. I had a new mission: get the fuck out of here; latex be damned. Of course, that’s kind of hard to do when you can’t seem to stand, let alone walk.
Once I made sure I was balanced, my feet parallel, I walked straight out the door, brushing party-goers; almost shoving them out of my way to get out.
And then horror of horrors!
He yelled at me!
I wanted to evaporate. Be beamed up to Enterprise, or vaporized by a phaser set to kill.
Even in a room clearly full of nerds this wasn’t about to happen. Stupid science fiction.
Then I ran. I almost made it to the door, before his voice stopped me again. Why are you stopping!? I yelled at myself.
It was a stupid question. Of course I stopped. I quivered at the thought of this guy talking me to orgasm, or if I was really lucky, touching me while wearing those gloves. I hoped he would put them back on, soon.
“I am truly sorry my inappropriate touching lead to your fall and public humiliation. From the bottom of my heart, I beg for your forgiveness. And let me add that if it were not for the fact that I irrationally fear being contaminated by any possible diseases you may be carrying, I would be happy to shake your hand. My name is Edward.”
Vaporization was not enough. I was desperate. I willed my self to become Marcie Ross.
No such luck.
He was staring at my eyes, I could tell. I couldn’t look into his eyes, but I could feel them burrowing into my head. I recalled that they were blue. Cold and piercing. Judging. Unforgiving.
He said he inappropriately touched me…Oo, I would like that. Inappropriate was my new favorite word.
Shut the fucking front door, he was so mouth-watering I was drooling. I noticed when it escaped at the corners of my mouth. Obviously my mouth was agape, as well.
Smooth Swan. Winning friends and influencing people is your calling.
Then he spoke again, “Sorry, I didn’t leave my side of the conversation open. That was very thoughtless. Um…Tell me, what do you think about this weather we’ve been having?”
OK. That was a non-sequitur. But I could talk about the weather.
Only I couldn’t. Instead, I made that noise that makes me sound like someone without sufficient motor skills for speech. Between that and the drooling, he probably thought I was special ed.
So, I did that “last resort” thing I do; the thing that doesn’t really work, but makes me feel a little better when I do it. I started disappearing behind my hair, all Emo like that creepy chic in The Ring.
He continued to stare at me, patiently waiting for a response.
I had two options. I could grab the door behind me and fall out into the street, hopefully getting away with scraped knees, or I could respond.
Before I could think of what was bubbling in my brain, I asked him to define appropriate touching.
What the fuck? Why would I ask that? What sane, non-stupid-cow-person would say such a thing? Why would I say such a thing? I mean, if you’re gonna throw yourself at someone, why not say something slightly smarter like: “You can inappropriately touch me as much as you want.” Or “Why don’t you put your gloves back on and come back to my place?”
I thought of a thousand desperately flirty, funny, or just…hell, normal things to say.
“I suppose, if I had given you sufficient warning, and we were both wearing protective gear, we could manage some appropriate touching,” he replied.
Oh my kittens. Did he just say protective gear?
Did I just see an erection? Did he just adjust himself?
Did I just smirk?
Did I manage to clearly communicate sexual interest and receive a positive response?
Before I could get lost in the emerging fantasy, I saw several people behind him in the party staring at us. Some looked like they were about to come out there and escort us from the building. I checked the entrance. I could still reach the door in time to get out before anyone got to me. He was still looking at me, and they were still looking at us.
I had no idea what to do. That’s a lie. I had an idea. I just had no idea how to implement it without further making a fool of myself.
Wait, he was speaking to me again. He knew I was uncomfortable. He needed my help. Oh, Darcy. I’ll help you with anything.
He needed me to converse with him? I was thoroughly confused. Was this a kinky foreplay thing? Is he an exhibitionist?
No, he was glad to be out of the party, so that wasn’t it. I agreed with him wholeheartedly.
I got a hold of myself and tried to get my hair out of my face. A piece clung to some dried saliva at the corner of my mouth.
Then, I tried to be flirty, but because I banked empty in that skill set, I think I came across more spaz than supermodel.
Then he asked my name.
I have to stop the plot for a moment to explain.
I have always wanted to be called “Bella.” And in my head, that’s who I am. When I’ve chided myself for social idiocy, I’d always think things like “Oh, Bella, you stupid cow.”
But if my life were a Disney ride, it would be It’s A Small World. No Space Mountain for Bella. Everyone around me has been blaring their own ideas about what’s best for me. And because I’m thoroughly strapped into this ride and not the other, I’ve never made an outward effort to correct any of the lame nicknames people have came up with for me: Isa, Izzy, Belly, Bells, Mary Bell, even Zsa-zsa (Thank you, Mike Newton).
As a social cripple, people take it upon themselves to introduce me to others. As a consequence, I’ve never initiated conversation and I’ve never had to start an acquaintance in my life.
So when the man of my wet-dreams asks me my name, it can only be kismet, right? A one-time-only opportunity to speak up with the single perfect name I want to be called. The straps are off, the ride is over. Time to head to Tomorrowland.
But because fate was an ugly, evil stepsister, and not a sparkling, fairy godmother, I gave him my full, given name and with that, carte blanche to come up with his own stupid nickname for me.
I didn’t deserve vaporization. I deserved to a hell of singing puppets.
To make it worse, I had to tell him about my glamorous job, ensuring that he would never plug any of my holes with any latex covered appendage. Ever.
“Filing,” I said.
And when I finally got my speech muscles going, I word vomited and gyrated and forgot to breathe.
As I planned my escape from this clusterfuck, he said: “You have social anxiety disorder!”
And the sound of his mellifluous voice echoed in the foyer.
Half the people in the party suddenly appeared at the entrance, staring, clearly judging me.
I was reminded of the last dance I attended at thirteen, when my date yelled at me for repeatedly stepping on his feet and I responded by projectile vomiting on his suit.
“Oh, god.” I could feel the meatballs working their way up my throat. If I didn’t leave immediately, they would end up on him.
No one should treat tweed that way.
So I ran.
And barely peaking over the covers at the sun-drenched world around me, instead of imagining the infinite ways our meeting could have gone better—how I could have said just the right thing and ended up in bed with a guy I was absolutely positive could give multiple, kinky, mind-blowing orgasms—I have the worst night of my life thus far on repeat.
I get up, grab my phone and call Alice. I can’t face humans today.