You called me last night on the telephone
And I was glad to hear from you ’cause I was all alone
You said, “It’s snowing, it’s snowing! God, I hate this weather.”
Now I walk through blizzards just to get us back together
Excerpt from “New York City” by TMBG
How do I cope? If I didn’t already know that Edward had a propensity for awkward sincerity, I would have thought he was baiting me. But I knew he really wanted just to know.
How could I tell him about all of the weird things I do to avoid people…like only shopping for groceries like a ninja in cover of darkness and sneaking past break rooms and water coolers to avoid empty co-worker convos? Why would I even want to tell him those things? It was embarrassing. I lived my life in the hopes that people wouldn’t see me, let alone my coping mechanisms. And here he was asking me to detail them.
Or maybe he was just asking about how I deal with my issues emotionally.
I wondered if his inner monologue was as involved as mine. Did he constantly question everything? I suppose if he had been seeing a shrink, it was likely that he did at least a little questioning. Maybe I should be doing more of that myself.
I found it funny, too, that he wanted to talk about hobbies; as if we were attending a garden party and shooting the shit…like we were buddies.
He was trying to be my friend, like I’d asked.
But now, I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted. I bit the end of my thumb, pacing. The parquet was cool underfoot. I briefly considered grabbing a pair of socks…but that would lead to slipping and falling, so I decided to forbear…
The problem was that I don’t do relationships, and Edward wasn’t the kind of guy I could just fuck and move on. I would probably have to do a very complicated (read: sanitary) mating dance just to get him in my pants. And the truth was…I kind of wanted to…you know, do the dance. Not just for sex, but…
I dropped my soggy thumb and stared out my living room window (if I must live here, it’s going to be MY living room…at least in my head).
It was very early; the street sweepers were out, and there were still unopened bundles of newspapers on the stoop of the newsstand across the street.
I imagined us reading the NYT together. I grinned at the thought; me stealing the Arts section while Edward perused the Tech section.
I had never considered a future like that for myself, but here I was contemplating it with him.
Hmmm. Although…Would he ever even touch a newspaper? Did I care? I mean, to be honest, I was pretty stingy with the thing already. But he could read it online, right? We could still do that thing couples do…just in our own way.
So, if I wanted us to move forward from just writing weird and jilted letters, I needed to consider his needs. I had to exude cleanliness and health, for a start. This was not the time to tell him that if it weren’t for the maid service, I would have the filthiest apartment in Manhattan…
When I met him at the party, he seemed just as terrified as me, what with the sweating and the refusing to touch me.
Perhaps I needed to focus on all the things we had in common.
For example, it seemed like it was very unlikely he would want to drag me to social gatherings. He wouldn’t want to go to places I hate: restaurants, malls…the public restrooms. He would probably be happy, just sitting at home or going to the library. And that was a major thing we had in common.
He also liked some of the same literature as me…and logic puzzles…we could race to see who would finish KenKen first.
We both liked latex. That was a big bonus…and he seemed to like sex, or at least the idea of sex with me. Another bonus.
Keeping those things in mind, I went to my bathroom, then I began my dance.
I want to let you know that before I started writing this letter, I washed my hands. I hope you will feel safe reading it.
I am not sorry you bumped into me, either. If you hadn’t, we wouldn’t be writing each other, and all I would have gotten for my trouble in following you would have been a pathetic consolation prize.
I am sorry, though, that I ran away from you. But I had a good reason. Please don’t be upset, but I was afraid I was about to vomit on you (because I was nervous, not because I had a virus or anything), and I didn’t want to do that, so I ran away.
I actually never follow strangers and I don’t go to parties, either. I don’t want you to get the idea in your head that I’m cool, like a spy, or something. I’m a pretty boring person.
I like 19th Century classics, too. Although, we’ll have to agree to disagree about people getting sick and wiping their mouths on tablecloths. That’s not to say I like those things. It just doesn’t bother me. People getting sick was a good source for plot development back then, and was true for the times, so like with many things, we just have to take the good with the bad, right?
Let me tell you a secret about me: I like to find hidden places to read. My favorite used to be under this huge boxwood in the park near my apartment (the Google address). It was shaded even in the summer, and quiet, and I could see the feet of passersby. I didn’t have to worry if anyone got too close, because the thick leaves kept them from being able to see me.
I liked that you were forward enough to tell me that you find me attractive. I am flattered, although I’m not sure why. I’ve always considered myself quite plain. In fact, my mother would say that to me almost every time I would leave the house: “Oh Isabella, what are we going to do with you; so plain!” I do believe you, but, really? You even imagined me naked?
Do you still wear latex gloves? And, if you don’t mind my asking: why do you wear them? Is it because of the fear of germs thing? Do you ever see yourself not wearing them? I’m just curious.
You know, I was supposed to be an attorney like my sister, Alice, who is my fraternal twin…I don’t think I mentioned that before, did I? Both of our parents were attorneys (they died in a car accident almost a year ago, by the way, so I understand what it’s like to lose parents). I went to college as an English major at Brown University, but dropped out after two years and started working at my mother’s firm (Brandon and Brown), while Alice stayed at Brown and went on to get her JD. Then she took over our mother’s practice when she retired. Alice changed her last name from Swan (our father’s name) to Brandon (our mother’s maiden name, which she had never given up in the first place).
Wow, Alice is way more interesting than me. If she weren’t already married, I would suggest you date her…no strike that, she’s very handsy.
You asked me how I cope. I am, frankly, not sure how to answer that. I can tell you that I avoid a lot of the same situations as you, but for different reasons, I guess. I am a walking social idiot who rarely speaks out loud. Since I stopped dating, I rarely have the opportunity to be embarrassed in public, so I have very little active coping to do most of the time. But I’m willing to try and get out a little more. Maybe it’s time.
What about you? I know that you don’t get out much, either, but how do you do even simple things like buy groceries and clothes without touching people?
Because of the not talking much thing, I’m still a little reluctant to meet you in person again. I want to, but I worry that I will embarrass you or me or both of us. I can tell you, though, that when I do, I will not be sick and I will be very clean. I won’t touch you unless you ask me.
P.S. Can friends talk about sex and attraction? If so, I must tell you that I find you very attractive also…and I don’t mind at all if you talk about it…sex, that is. Also, I think I would enjoy reading more about your thoughts about sex, because I’m curious…as a friend.
P.P.S. I’ve imagined you naked, too.
I’m going to address the end of your letter first, because it seems like you are either teasing me or flirting with me, and if it is the latter, perhaps you would like to update our relationship status. I know I would…
No, I don’t think that talking about the things that I want to talk about (regarding sex) are appropriate for friends, especially ones that are just getting to know each other. However, if we wanted to be more than friends, then talking about sex would be very appropriate, as it is an important component of healthy relationships. I have this on good authority from two reliable sources (If you must know, my psychologist, Dr. Cullen, and of course, my brother, Emmett, whom you’ve met).
You don’t know why you’re flattered? Well, people are usually flattered because someone says something nice about them, which is often perceived by the flattered one as untrue. In this case, however, it is indubitably true. I am a completely honest person. You are very attractive.
Perhaps I should be ashamed, but I still imagine you naked. Even now.
I know that, as a friend, I should apologize for thinking of you naked, but I’m not actually sorry. I hope that statement doesn’t scare you, but let me point out that you have brought up sex in both of your letters, both times indicating that you weren’t offended and wouldn’t be if I brought it up again. So, even though it goes against my idea of being a friend, I don’t see why I should be sorry for thinking of you naked, which is a natural progression of talking about sex, for me, anyway.
I want to meet you, too, but I want for both of us to be comfortable. I know what I need to be comfortable to meet you, so I have a suggestion: why don’t you meet me at my brother’s and his wife Rosalie’s apartment? She cooks very well, and I can guarantee that it’s sanitary. Emmett said you seemed to become pretty comfortable with him when he visited you. I can tell you that Rosalie is straightforward, but kind. It’s not a public social setting and my brother and his wife will be sensitive and not bother you with staring and lots of questions, as they mostly stare at and talk to each other.
Are you free this Friday at 7 p.m.? Would you call me if you can come?
I’ve enclosed my phone number again. I hope that you will call. If not, you have my address. Emmett and Rosalie’s apartment is directly across the hall.
To answer your question about how I manage my life, all I can tell you is that I have the great fortune of having Emmett and Rosalie in my life. They take care of groceries and clothes and a lot of other things. I’m working on being able to do all of those things by myself, but, obviously, I have a lot still left to work out.
P.S. I always have my latex gloves. But lately I have been trying to not wear them at all. I will not to wear them Friday if it bothers you. E
Hmm…Mr. Masen, I would love to come.
But seriously, I wasn’t sure I could handle this.
I was stuck at phone call.
I don’t call people. Ever. Never have had to. Alice and my mother called me daily (my mother often more than once a day), so…who would I call? Angela?
Nope. I was a strict call-ee.
I guess I could just show up, but somehow that seemed scarier. I mean, there was information I felt I should have before presenting myself for inspection at their door.
In order to collect my thoughts and feel more rational and mature, I decided to make a list…the act of which was, in itself, unprecedented…
1. Would I be expected to bring anything? (Like food? or flowers? or vaccination records?)
2. Would I be expected to talk? At all?
3. Would Edward wear the gloves if I specifically asked him to?
4. Was there a less creepy way for me to ask him to wear them?
5. On the other hand, would I be able to concentrate on eating or conversation if he were wearing them?
6. What is our relationship status?
7. Will Edward expect me to answer question 6?
8. What will I say if Emmett and Rosalie ask me questions? Should I try to answer, or do the hair thing and hope they go away?
Next, I planned out exactly what I would say to Edward. One thing I learned from Alice is that if you plan carefully and then take over, things often go your way.
Clearly, I was not much of a planner, nor a taker-over-er. The thought of doing either of those things made me want to crawl under a boxwood and never come out.
But I realized that if I wrote out exactly what I would say (no need for shame, because who would see me?), and just plowed through my questions, Edward could answer them, and thus do all the heavy lifting, conversation-wise.
So, I carefully edited my initial list and gave him a call.
“This is Edward Masen.”
“Hi!” I said.
“Hello? Who is this?”
I stared at my paper…That wasn’t on my paper!
I took a breath.
“Bella!” I yelled.
“Oh!…Heh…I mean, Hi! I’m glad you called. Does this mean you can come to dinner?”
I took a shaky breath and stuck my nose into my list. Then, I almost dropped the phone when I tried to cover the mouthpiece with the hand that still held the paper because I was positive that Edward could hear it rattling over the line.
Once I re-situated, placing paper on the table, finger keeping my place, I started with: “I have some questions do I need to bring any food or flowers or vaccination records?”
“Rosalie will be cooking, I’m allergic to pollen and I’m afraid to answer that last one.”
I took that as a yes.
“OK,” I said. “Do…ahem…uh…” Shit. I couldn’t ask about the gloves.
“What is it?”
I didn’t know what to say. Goodbye? No, that wasn’t right. Because I had gone to the trouble of writing up a list and calling him, and we were already on the phone, it seemed a waste to not keep talking, but what in the fuck were we going to talk about?
And what if we blew our thought-wad right here? Then we wouldn’t have anything to say on Friday.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…
“Bella? Are you still there?”
Oh fuck, you stupid cow. Who answers with a question mark? I might as well be a cocktail waitress with bleach blond hair and fake tits.
Now what? Time to put on your big girl panties, Bella!
“You wanna talk? With me?” Shit. “Now?…or we can just wait—”
“—No, I’d like to talk now, too, if you are free…and if you want to. I understand if you need to go, or want to go, even.”
“Oh, OK. Well, I’ll see you Friday, then. It was nice to talk to you, Bella. Good—”
And then there was silence.
Oh…I’m supposed to say something else, I guess…
“Are you there, Edward?”
“Okay. So, uh…Tell me about Rosalie and Emmett.”
I didn’t know where that came from. But it seemed like the kind of thing Snooze-Time-Bella would come up with.
“Oh! Well, they own an outdoor store. It’s called The Outdoor Store. They are both very nice and easy to talk to, I think. I’ve never had any trouble, but that may not be helpful for you…um, well you met Emmett.”
“Well, Rosalie is nice, too. She’s not as accommodating as Emmett, but she doesn’t make fun, or act mean. She’ll just, you know, let you know what she will and won’t accept. She won’t ask you a lot of questions, though. I’ve asked them both to let me do that. Is that OK?”
“Um…what kinds of questions?”
“Well…Wait…you think I have a list?”
He has a list?
“Um…Yeah,” I said with what could only be described as a bedroom voice. I mimed hitting my head repeatedly with the phone before I realized that Edward was reading.
From the list.
He read the whole thing.
It took a while.
Some of the questions, like: ‘Would you mind if I fucked you from behind?’ and ‘Would you be OK with me wearing latex gloves if we have sex?’ I knew I would never answer in front of…I would never answer out loud (yes and yes). I wasn’t sure how keep him from asking them, though, unless I communicated what I wanted right now.
So I said, “Hey, can you not ask me about sex…stuff?”
“Yes…I’m sorry, Bella, I thought, based on your letters, that it would be OK. Have you changed your mind?”
I heard shuffling papers over the phone.
“Just…don’t do it in front of other people…just ask…when we’re…um…alone…uh…you know…maybe…uh…after dinner.” Wow, I was about to hit a new personal record for words uttered in a single conversation.
“So, you want to be alone with me?”
“Yeah!…I mean, sure…only if you want to. You know, if you think I’m, uh…clean enough.”
What the fuck?
Now he was being the quiet one.
“Let’s just worry about dinner, for now, OK?”
“I’ve enjoyed talking to you, Bella. Good night.”
“Good night, Edward.”
“I’m hanging up now.”
And then I heard a click.
That was almost painless.
Then, I almost fainted as the endorphins wore off.
Bella called me.
Her voice was sexy.
I think. Hearing it made me think about fucking her.
She wanted to talk about sex while alone with me…was I ready for that?
I was pretty sure that talking would lead to actual sex. I wasn’t positive, though.
I decided to call Emmett.
“Hey, Emmett, I have a relationship question.”
“Well,” I decided not to correct his error… “First, please let Rosalie know that Bella will be coming to dinner tomorrow night.”
“Yes. She just called me.”
“Wait. She called you? You didn’t call her?”
“No, but I have her phone number on my caller ID, so I could.”
“Do you realize what a big deal this is, Edward?”
“I think so. I mean, I know she doesn’t like to talk. I don’t think she’s made many phone calls.”
“You are probably right, bro. And if that’s the case, that is a very good sign.”
“Yes, about that. She wanted to know what questions I would be asking her tomorrow. I think she wanted to be prepared.”
“Please tell me you didn’t read from a list.”
“Do you want me to be dishonest?”
“Fuck me sideways. Really? What possessed you to even mention the list?”
“Well, she asked.”
“Right. So, what, she said something like, ‘Gee Edward, I know you have a list of questions, would you read them to me? That will get me very hot.'”
“Wow, that’s a good paraphrase, but a poor voice imitation…and she didn’t use that many words…I think she was hoping I had a list. And she, well, that’s where my question comes in.”
“…sorry, Ed. I’m still processing that first bit. She was turned on by the list?”
“Well, I’m not sure, that’s what I wanted to ask you.”
“She had this sound to her voice…I’m not sure how to describe it. It was low and soft and kind of made my neck tingle when I heard it…then she said she wanted me to ask the sex questions when we were alone…and she said after dinner. Do you think that that means she will try to have sex with me after dinner? What should I do?”