5 don’t let’s start

No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful

Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful

They want what they’re not…

Excerpt from “Don’t Let’s Start” by TMBG

BPOV

Two weeks after I met Edward-the-Latex-Sex-God (who I was repressing within an inch of my life), I got a call from my best friend Angela.

“Hey, Izzy! How’s it going? How’s Alice?”

I liked Angela. She lobbed grapefruits I could easily bunt with monosyllablic responses.

“Good.”

“Hey, I know you’re busy, but you’ve got a stack of mail here. Would you like me to bring it by the office tomorrow? I’m heading that way for a meeting with Abrams and Bond, and it wouldn’t be any trouble at all.”

“OK.”

“Great!” Then, she hesitated. “Um, I know you don’t like going to restaurants, but really I’d like to have lunch with you if you’re free.”

“Sure! How about Reuben’s?”

Her excitement oozed out of the receiver at my attempt at a full sentence. (I have to warm up for anything that resembles conversation.)

“Great! I’ll pick you up at noon, OK?”

“Yup!”

She mercifully hung up without forcing me to go through the “bye” ritual, which I hated because I’ve never been positive when exactly the conversation was over. It was not so bad when someone said it first, but most people “try to be nice” when talking to someone who is shy, so they’ve usually waited for me to say it first.

Of course, I’ve never said “bye” first, because I’ve never said anything unless it was a response to someone else. So, there has always been this stretch of endless silence until they get the message.

But even when they have said it first, I’ve been left feeling like I waited too long to say it back.

Then there was the tension that I’ve never understood, which may or may not have been because they were uncomfortable talking to me…or it could be that they had more to say, but didn’t want to be pushy. I could never tell.

Anyway, I much prefered being hung up on.

And Angela, being a perceptive person, was quick to figure it all out without my having to tell her and without numerous mute phone call endings. She was why I had a friend at all.

And then there was Reuben’s, the only restaurant I would even consider because I never had to worry about ordering.

After a month of going there with Alice, each time begging her to order for me, and consistently getting the exact same thing with no variation, the servers started asking me if I was getting my usual, to which I only had to nod.

Another month of that and I didn’t even have to nod. I was ignored completely, but served to perfection.

I’m sure that leaving a 100% tip helped, too.

Angela had never accompanied me to Reuben’s. And I’m positive she didn’t know I ate there, because I didn’t tell her, and Alice was only interested in talking about herself.

So tomorrow I would be able to have what, in my estimation, would be an almost perfect lunch out. To anyone observing, I would appear confident and carefree, because the conversation would be easy, the social pitfalls, minimal.

Settling down for the evening (and pointedly not thinking about Edward), I went to my closet and actually picked out something to wear, instead of grabbing the first clean thing I touched. I decided on my favorite blue skirt (incidentally, the one I was wearing when I met Edward, who I was not thinking about), and some blouse Alice gave me last Christmas. It still had the tags on. I never wore it because it showed more skin than I liked, but I just knew that tomorrow was going to be a great day and the uncharacteristic top matched my enthusiasm.

~~§•§~~

Each morning, I locked up my parents place and walked to work, where my sister lorded over me and the rest of the world.

During my five block commute this morning, I tried to work out why Angela wanted to eat with me today. It was odd, because I usually only saw her on weekends if at all.

See, I had to move (temporarily) back into my parents’ home after they died. And because Angela and Ben needed a place to stay while they looked for an apartment they could share, she was actually doing me a favor by staying in my apartment.

Why did I have to move out of my own home?

Alice.

She decided that it would be better for me to move there, so I would be within walking distance of work, and so I could sort through our parents’ stuff in my off time.

I didn’t want to lose my apartment, though, because it was close to the library I liked and had a little park across the street where I could spend Sundays reading under a particular boxwood, where no one could find me.

I probably should have had my address changed back to my parents’ place while I stayed there. But because most of the mail I got at my apartment were bills that Angela was paying and junk and catalogs, it seemed like over kill when I would be moving back, soon. I suppose we could have sold my parents place at any time, but I was waiting until Ben and Ang didn’t need my apartment anymore.

As I thought about all of this, I realized that Angela wanting to have lunch with me today was probably so she could give me good news of the we’re-moving-out variety.

I hadn’t been dreading putting my parents place on the market too much, because I knew that Alice could take care of it. She would probably be excited about having a new project, and she did like that show about primping and pimping your home to sell…I forgot what it was called, but it was on that cable network for Domestically Inclined People (AKA House Whores).

Of course, regardless of my forced involvement, I’d have to actually talk to her…and Alice was a lot easier to deal with when she was talking to me and not the other way around.

Just then I missed the curb, my left foot catching, and faceplanted.

I reached into my bag for the first aid kit, grabbing a wipe. It wasn’t that bad, and I figured a tiny scrape would draw less attention than a massive band-aid.

So, with trepidation, chin still oozing blood, I took the elevator to the top and headed to Alice’s office.

“Good morning Isabella! How are you today?” asked Lauren, Alice’s third assistant in as many months.

Can I just say that I hate the phrase “how are you?”

Sure, I could answer with a simple “fine” and be done with it. But people always expect you to return the question, so it becomes a two word minimum response—more if they decide to regale you with the story of their lives in which they (invariably) require active listening.

I didn’t break my stride nor make eye contact as I replied, “Fine. You?”

And I just knew she would keep talking. I should have omitted the “You?” even if it was impolite, but it’s become a hardwired response.

I heard her chatter about my chin, but I ignored her, knocked and then opened Alice’s door…I’d take Alice over an office flake convo any day.

Her voice hit me like g-force. I plugged my ears, stepped in and closed the door behind me. Fortunately for Lauren, the door was soundproofed.

Fortunately for me, Alice was almost finished.

You tell that fucking asshole that he’d better sign it! I’m sending Felix at EOB today to collect it, and he’s not cute and cuddly like Maria…I swear it, Jasper, if you try to push me on this, we’ll not only bury you in attorney fees for delaying the paperwork but we’ll take the kids, too…Oh, stop crying, you big baby. Your client fucked his SECRETARY in front of those kids…well, he practically did. You just test me, big boy, and I’ll make it look like he had the little freaks starring in PORNOS!”

You would think I would run and hide during a display like that, but it wasn’t necessary. As pushy as she was, she never yelled at me like that.

Of course, I wasn’t an idiot like Jasper.

He was probably jacking off on the other line.

I, on the other hand, would do absolutely anything she asked, without hesitation or consideration.

Only idiots and masochists argued with Alice, and while I acknowledge that I have a latex fetish, that’s about as far as my kink has evolved.

I could tell they had moved on from the lawyer shit to the sappy shit by the sudden subdued tone of her voice; she sounded like a drunk baby.

“OK. Yeah. I love you, too, pumpkin!…Well, tell him said hi, and to hug Peter and Charlotte for me…” She giggled. “Yeah…” She looked up at me through her thick mascara’d eyelashes, then turned around in her chair whispering so I couldn’t hear. About a minute later she turned back around, looking up at me, grinning like a lush. “…OK…At seven. See you then…No you!…No you!”

I started to back out and leave. Crazy yelling and sex-whispering I could handle, but this was torture. Alice stuck her finger up to hold me.

Twenty “no yous” later and she finally hung up and turned her full-Miss-Bingley attention to my frumpy-Mary-Bennett figure.

“Hey, sweetie! You look nice today! I love that blouse. Is that the one I got you at Barney’s at Christmas? What happened to your chin? Fall again? You need to be more careful. Lauren has a first aid kit. You should get some ointment and a band-aid on that. Angela said she’s taking you to Reuben’s! I would go with you, but I have a lunch meeting with my PI, Demetri, to find out what dirt he found on our cousin Alec. Do you remember Alec? He’s the one we stayed with during our summers at the Hampton’s growing up. You know! He taught me how to sail. Anyway, his wife is divorcing him and I’m repping her and he’s being a li-ttle difficult about the alimony. Jasper’s trying to help him out, but the man did fuck his secretary, so I’m not sure what grounds he thinks he has to hold us up.”

This could take longer than I expected. I wasn’t sure when I’d have a chance to say anything because Alice rarely asked questions that required a response.

Part of me was grateful, because I hated answering questions. I could have tried to interrupt her if she would pause for breath, but that was unlikely. She had the lungs of a free diver.

“So what are you doing up here? Oh, I know, it’s because I have, like, a million files to go back downstairs and a list of diaried files that Lauren was supposed to req yesterday, but, of course she didn’t because she’s useless. But it’s OK. I’m firing her at five, so, no worries!”

She was finished gathering her files and looked at me with her eyes squinched as if she were blinded by the sun and finally asked a question that required a response: “Where’s your file cart?”

I sighed and hoped I could get what I needed to say out of my mouth and into her brain before the inundating chatter resumed.

“Alice.”

Saying her name always ensured I got her full attention. She loved hearing her name. She surveyed me calmly, but didn’t speak.

“I need to talk to you about something.”

She beamed at me and drug me over to her couch. “Would you like some coffee, Belly? Tell me what’s going on. How can I help you?”

I don’t drink coffee…But Alice knows this. She’s just saying words to carry her from one thought to the next without pause. I take a breath and continue.

“I think Angela and Ben are going to move out.”

“Yeah, I know! Isn’t that great! But don’t you worry! I already took care of the apartment, for you, Belly! Tsk. Why don’t you trust me more?That’s what Angela was telling me about. I know you don’t want to be bothered with selling your apartment! So, I’ve already called the realtor and she already has some buyers on the line. You’re lucky that you’ll be able to sell and get a decent price. I’m so glad I could take care of this for you!”

What? My apartment. MINE?

Her smile was glaring. She ignored my gapping mouth and questioning eyes and gave me a squeeze. My hands stuck out from her back like Tyrannosaurus Rex arms. She was cutting off my air, and I was suddenly afraid she was about to break my neck.

When she does this, I have fantasies where I burn her at the stake. But first, I cut out her entrails in front of her and burn them!

I was about to slap at her with my useless appendages, but she decided on her own to release me from her death grip.

Vital oxygen replenished, I only managed to tell her “thanks.”

Then she remembered the files and sent me on my way to get the filing cart before I could find my voice to protest…not that I would.

In theory, I could have easily taken care of this misunderstanding by calling the realtor and telling her I didn’t want to sell the apartment I owned. I would simply behave like Alice and get it done.

The problem with that plan was that Alice would find out about it, and make my life a living hell.

Well, living hell-er.

Speaking of hell, the lunch I was looking forward to because of its ease, was about to get complicated. Even if Alice was deluded enough to think I was on board with selling my apartment, Angela would not be.

As a matter of fact, the more I thought about it, the more I believed that Angela was probably hoping that she would have been the one to tell me that Alice was selling it out from under me. She probably thought it would be easier coming from her.

Lunch with Angela was exactly what I thought it would be.

I told her three times that I didn’t want to lose my apartment. Then she turned into Alice’s bitch, trying to change my mind.

“I just don’t understand why you would want that apartment when it’s twenty blocks from your job!”

I shrugged. “Subway’s OK.”

“But your parents place is secure. You have a doorman for crying out loud! And a parking space!”

I pointed at myself with a fork speared strawberry. “No car.” I didn’t add that I’ve been opening my own doors since I was two.

“OK. I know it’s probably too big for one person.” I agreed by pointing my fork at her and nodding, my mouth full of fruit.

“But it may not always be,” she shimmied her shoulders and giggled at me. I rolled my eyes.

“Seriously, Iz, there is this guy in the building we’re moving into,” she wiped her mouth and put her napkin on her plate; noshing giving way wild hand gestures and confiding arm touches; “and he’s quiet like you! And cute! Jesus! If Ben and I weren’t a sure thing, I’d totally go for him!”

I shook my head furiously throughout her spiel about his abs, job and sports interests.

I do not date any more.

Dates are events that are supposed to lead to talking, walking, sharing and NYT Sundays. If they start really well, they can even lead to terrific things like children (from the Latin, terrificus, meaning frightening).

But in my case, there are only two kinds, and neither kind lead to anything long term:

Date A: The guy tries really hard to get to know me because he’s A Really Nice Guy. So he’ll get me to talk, hear two or three words come out of my mouth, and remember he has an early conference call, breakfast meeting, workout or phantom pet.

Date B: He’s already sloshed when I meet him and very full of himself (and thus not interested in what I have to say), which often leads to casual sex and no second date, guaranteed.

And I’m almost always game for Date B…if the guy is wasted and the lights are out…those types never expect you to stay and talk. Often, the less I say, the more turned on they are. I think it’s a mystery thing.

And the truth is it’s super easy to find guys like that. Between Alice and Angela I’ve been set up on numerous Date Bs.

The added bonus is that casual sex partners never mind using a condom, and they don’t bat an eyelash when I go down on them while they wear one.

But, the older I get, the more they set me up with guys that are supposed to end up falling in love with me…so it’s always Date A. No sex, just humiliation…did I mention I’m not into that shit? Well, I’m not.

“You know Alice doesn’t want it either.” What?

Oh, Angela had segued back to discussing my dead parents home while I ruminated.

She paused.

I didn’t comment.

She continued: “I think she’s still too upset about what happened. I think she just always wants the place to be there, like Everest.”

I turned my head and looked at her. “What?”

“You know, like this thing that you’ll never do, but you like knowing it’s there?”

“Oh.” I didn’t tell her she misused the cliché. It was a unique take. But if you must use one, you really ought to use it properly.

“What about you?” I asked. I would love to unload the apartment on Angela. Alice might even go for that because she could still visit.

“What? What are you saying?”

Shit. “Uh…you and Ben. We could switch.”

“No, no, that won’t work. Even if we didn’t already have a place, that’s…just not something…you know…that I could ever even consider…I mean it’s expensive to maintain, not to mention we couldn’t afford it anyway.”

“Doorman. Parking space.” I sweetened the deal. I could tell she was interested and had even thought about it. Who talked her out of it? Alice?

“Space.” I added. She knew that four bedrooms could lead to endless floor plan possibilities.

“Our apartment has space! Two bedrooms and an office.”

“Closet.” I coughed. Had to be Alice behind this. What was her deal, anyway?

“On that note, here’s your mail,” she pulled the small stack from her brief case. “When are you getting your address moved?”

“Never.” I could dig in my heels here with Angela. She wasn’t brave enough to tell Alice we talked about this.

However, this wasn’t a problem that was going to go away on its own.

I stashed the mail in my bag and didn’t look at it again until I got home.

Among the catalogs and magazines in the stack was a letter from EA Masen. The address was local. It looked like it came from an individual, not a business.

I opened it.

It was a roller coaster ride of shame, humiliation and arousal. I didn’t know if I should be grossly offended or masturbating. Probably both.

I’d never had such strong and ambivalent feelings in my life.

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