she turns off her phone after the third call in an hour.
she smiles at her date. she has to say something.
“my sister wants to know how it’s going.”
she’s certain her smile isn’t coming off correctly, that he picks up some sign of discomfort.
she adds, “it’s been a while since i went out with someone new.”
he holds her glance a little longer than necessary, then smiles in return, taking another bite of his burrito.
she likes him.
a drink at la bodega. a movie at a college art house, “the tenant,” he laughed at all the right places. a late dinner at el farolito. he’s comfortable being in the mission after midnight.
she thought he might be too nerdy when they first chatted in his car. mostly politics. but his point about the importance of cognitive framing in the current tax debate was really compelling, she made a note on her phone to look up george lakoff on wikipedia. by the time they left for the movie, the stressed edge on his voice had disappeared. not so nerdy when he was comfortable.
he kisses her goodnight at the door of her apartment. she is surprised by the tenderness. it’s not an appeal of her decision to end the date at her door. just a guy who knows how to kiss.
she definitely likes him.
next time she’ll ask him in.
she’s reading huffington post with a glass of red wine when she remembers the calls.
she turns on her phone and finds there have been seventeen recent calls.
her shoulders go tight. the burrito is suddenly a burden.
about one call every ten minutes. up till 1:15 am. that was over an hour ago.
she thought she was in love.
he was passionate. hilarious. he was nice to be close to.
he had a bad temper, but was excellent at making up.
one night after too many drinks he knocked her down. she had made a pact with herself at an early age that she would never let that happen to her.
she said she needed a break. she needed to weigh everything. she needed space.
she was just starting to have second thoughts, thinking they could work on it, when he changed.
he was suddenly someone else. certain that she was seeing someone. writing erratic emails. angry. then apologetic. then frustrated.
he made her question every minute they had spent together. as though he had been keeping it together the whole time. like every show of affection was another fishing hook, and he was slowing pulling her onto the boat.
it’s possible that he just lost it when she left. but it was hard not to see their whole relationship through the lens of his desperation.
the last month had been hell. she researched a restraining order. but worried it would make things worse.
tonight was the first night she had a clear mind in weeks.
his last call was over an hour ago.
he must have fallen asleep.
she takes a deep breath and a deeper swallow of wine.
wikipedia has a good article on lakoff. apparently he is right here in berkeley.
when she checks her facebook page she sees the post.
she should have unfriended him weeks ago, but she didn’t have the heart.
she forces herself to read it.
the last lines freezes her blood.
oh my god. he wouldn’t…
she feels the panic coming on.
she has to call the police.
it’s been over a year since she had an attack.
but here it comes.
where is the phone?
a bowling bowl thundering towards her.
a definite strike.
where is the phone?
it will hit any minute, her pins will be smashed and scattered in every direction.
no chance of a reset.
she sees the phone by her laptop.
here it comes.
and just before she loses control of her limbs.
just before she starts to dial the necessary three numbers.
a split second before she can’t breathe at all.
the terror drains out of her. her instinct for self-preservation has flushed through her. adrenaline.
she powers down the phone.
the first time she thinks it, there is a gordian knot in her stomach.
but the second time feels a little better.
and the fifth time, laying on her bed after swallowing the last of her wine, feels like nothing other than relief.
she sleeps better than she has in months.
in a dream she won’t remember in the morning, she sees her ex, he is on a swing tied to an enormous oak tree.
she says goodbye.
he says he is sorry. but he did what he had to do.
she says she understands.
she awakes feeling better than she has in months.
apart from the momentary stabs of guilt, she feels like she has just returned from a trip to the korean spa. the dead skin has been aggressively removed. she feels soft. and shiny.
usually she would wait till the evening to call back a first date, but she had such a good time. and she is feeling bulletproof. she wants to see him again as soon as possible.
the phone takes a minute to power on.
she searches her contacts.
as she starts to dial, the phone rings.
and the bowling ball smacks the pins.
he didn’t do it after all.
she notices the seven other recent calls.
and hears the pins ricochet off the walls, ceiling and floor.
she turns off the phone and sits down in the middle of her bedroom, trying to keep herself from flying apart entirely.