Bell - San Francisco Story # 3, a short story by crankyvic. Date added: 2011-12-05. Times viewed: 1176.
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- Intro: long distance relationship, booty call, sex, modern romance, modern love
It was winter. An unusual chilly winter night. Bell was skipping on this cobble stone ally street, heading to her gym, when she met him, this tall, handsome man. Bell called him Mr.
She learned that Mr. was visiting in town from up north. They started a relationship, a long distance one.
In that winter, Bell flew to see Mr. Bell learned Mr. was wealthy, but Bell had money of her own so she often paid for her own travel and expenses. Mr. didn’t seem to mind one way or another, so she jus assumed that this act of independence was refreshing to Mr. She secretively hoped that she therefore stood apart from the other women Mr. dated in the past.
Mr. seemed to have been set in his own ways: he was older, by about 8 years; he was married once but divorced a while back. He lived like a bachelor; he often worked on his computer a lot, to do what she did not know. He had an older child, from a woman he once dated, the woman got pregnant, and so he took the responsibility of raising the child with the woman.
Mr. was fit. He was a collegiate athlete. He rowed every day. He lived in a mid century house by a lake. He was private. He didn’t like to share his life with her, outside of the immediate world between Mr. and Bell. But when he did talk, Bell liked what he had to say. She was mostly fascinated and intrigued by his way of thinking. He was expressive when he needed to be, he was methodical, liked to analyze trends and data, and he liked to talk about world economy and current events, which Bell liked. He was mysterious. He dropped in and out of her life, sometimes with very little announcement or no notice at all. He did not like to call. He said that he hated talking on the phone. Yet he listed his phone number on Facebook. He rarely made any entries on Facebook, yet he had hundreds of “friends”. Bell wondered sometimes where these friends of his came from, but she never asked these questions. He emailed or texted mostly when he was about to come in town. Mr. was an eccentric man who travelled a lot, and Bell understood that and accepted the way he was.
Bell did not know what he did for a living, but knew that whatever he did, he was among those independently wealthy. He rarely talked about money because it would be considered gauche. Unpredictability added the excitement and passion, and Bell was convinced that she was comfortable with it.
Bell was a die-hard feminist; but when it came to this relationship, she enjoyed the way Mr. called the shots. She was willing to relinquish her own assertiveness. It was paradoxically liberating. Bell took charge in other relationships she had in the past, and in other aspects of her own life. Yet, when it came to Mr., she felt unusually passive. It was as if she had stepped back in time into the 1920s, where only a gentleman would call upon a woman, and woman would never contemplated pursuing a man. So in a very modern world, Bell assumed a very traditional role in this relationship. It felt right for Bell and Mr. Mr. was a chivalrous man and a little old fashioned. Bell felt that he liked to give orders to others and expected every woman to behave a certain way. Mr. was not from California. He grew up in the East Coast and was raised by his European parents.
Mr. always planned how they should meet, when and where to meet. The key was to learn what an acceptable behavior was, Bell would tell herself. For instance, telephones were for quick chat, when you were about to meet up with the other person, and texting was used mainly to tell the other person that you were late, early or on time. It was used to coordinate logistics, and it was not meant for in-depth discussion. Bell understood men didn’t behave like women. Where women wrote lengthy emails, men tend to be short and curt. Women liked to connect with one another, men found it tedious and unnecessary.
Emails were mostly used to check in, to ensure that each person was still on the other person’s radar. Mr. never wrote lengthy emails. He was a rather busy man. Bell rationalized, she was convinced that he cared for her, because he would once a week write to her: usually a very short paragraph, and he would tell her how much he enjoyed their last encounter, and how much he was looking forward to the next meeting. Often still, he would throw in a little glimpse of his life, by describing generically what he did that weekend, something vague like “I had friends over and we cooked up a nice Pacific Northwest Salmon, it was a lovely evening.” These little descriptions often made Bell wonder about what else Mr. was up to, what type f friends he had, who he had lunch with the other day, or who else he might be dating (she assumed that part because they saw each other every other months at the moment), but she did not ask, of course, she knew better to ask, because Mr. would not have answered her anyway. She would read every word Mr. wrote to her, analyzed his tone, and tried to imagine what it was like to spend a whole day with Mr. or better yet, a weekend. She often returned with a lengthier email, usually a count-by-count description of her weekend, which often involved working out in the gym, her movies night with the girlfriends, and which hiking trail she discovered. She stayed away from heavier topics like emotions or feelings. Each time she wrote down – “I miss you”, she would then back space it on the keyboard, until the letters disappeared in front of her eyes. Whatever emotions she felt, she suppressed it because she knew that Mr. would not have cared for it.
Winter became spring. Bell seemed happy and content with her relationship with Mr. It was not a relationship, she would rationalize sometimes and she’d talk extensively with her girlfriends over Sunday brunches or Saturday dinners. They would always agree with her, and they’d ask her to date other men. But Bell stopped wanting to go out with other men. She found them childish and immature. She had discovered that her heart could only care for one person at a time, that longing of being with someone was reserved for Mr. It was an irrational thinking, considering there was never any promise made, she felt that they were headed that way. That’s the tricky part about the heart. The heart never really listened to the head.
Mr. seemed to have grown on Bell, and in their emails, he would begin to write, “My dear”, and when he ended an email, he would sign “love, Mr.” She loved the word “love”, because she felt that beyond the usual excitement, she too has grown to “love” Mr.
She thought to herself one day: “I could get use to love. I could ‘love’ Mr.”
So one night she decided to pick up the phone and call Mr. without a pre-arrangement. They had not seen each other for a while. She decided, to be spontaneous and broke the implied long distance dating code, THEIR code.
Mr. picked up the phone. He was the usual, warm, happy self. Bell said, “Hey, how are you? I miss you”.
Mr. answered “me too, babe.” Bell felt a sense of relief. He knew it was her, and he called her “babe”.
Bell tried to think of something to say, because she had no script, so she thought of something casual to say: “Guess what? I was watching TV and I saw Antonio dancing on that dance show. He was good.”
Mr. Said, “Yes I know Antonio, when we go dancing, we see Antonio there.”
Bell continued, “You know Antonio? Wow! He is hot.”
Mr. Said, “Yes, he’s quite the lady’s man. We see him often in the same club we go to when we go to South America to my place; he was always there in that club, dancing with the ladies.”
Bell hesitated, she had never heard Mr. say “we” before. She knew that this “we” was not a reference to Mr and herself. She had never gone to dance with Mr, nor had she ever been to South America with Mr.
She paused, and knew that she ought not to ask any questions, but she was in a curious mood, and assertive that evening, and she wanted to know, even though she knew she should not have.
So she asked, “Who’s ‘we’?”
There was a long pause. She could feel the air turning into ice. She could sense that the hesitation would result in some form of truth, truth that she knew she should not know.
Bell panicked. She wished that she could take her question back. She wanted to say, “Never mind, I should not have asked. It’s none of my business”
But, Mr. was already on the other side, answering.
“Bell, I have a girlfriend. She flies in every winter, January 1, as a matter of fact, and she stays with me until June 30. And then she flies back before my kid comes back from school for the summer vacation.”
Bell felt that her heart stopped, and she had trouble breathing. She hung up the phone in a moment of panic.
After a few minutes, she composed herself and she dialed the number again.
Mr. answered the phone. He seemed rather calm, and this time, he started the conversation without the usual warm greetings.
“Bell, we were never exclusive, you know that right? I date, I told you that when we first met. You know, it’s late. It’s a good thing she was still on her phone talking to her family back home. Otherwise, you would have woken her up. Don’t call me this late. This is a Google phone. It routes to my cell. ”
Mr. had always a very calm demeanor, he spoke coolly and in a voice that felt distant and matter-of-factly. But Bell could tell that he was irritated a little that she called, both times. And she felt scared. She felt for the first time that, this, this turning event, was the beginning of an end.
Bell did not know what to say, she just let his words hung, and all of sudden she started to cry, bawling actually. It started with a sob, and then it was howling and she let the phone hang by her side, knowing Mr. was still on the other end. She felt sorry for herself, sorry for losing her calm, sorry for Mr. to have to listen to her cry, sorry for all of this, sorry for this mirage, which she was responsible for building it up, sorry that it was collapsing right in front of her own eyes. Just to think, a few minutes ago, she was having a good time watching a TV show.
She finally said “Goodbye” and it was all she could manage to say.
She lay in her bed, cried and cried that night. She never should have called. Her world was perfect. Mr. was perfect. But then she had to ruin it all by dialing his number, without prearranging it and without having a real purpose. She only wanted to hear his voice; she did not need to know that Mr. had a long-term girlfriend, who got flown in, like some precious exotic tropical fruit, to serve Mr. from January 1 to June 30, every year. She did not know that she would be jealous; she did not know that when Mr. signed his email with “love”, all those times, she had fallen in love, and therefore, developed emotions like jealousy, possessiveness, or the expectation of exclusivity. What a terrible way to end a seemingly perfect relationship: to fall in love.
Love was for fools.
At that same evening, at that exact moment, in Mr’s house, something else was happening. Later that night, Mr’s Girlfriend came into his room. She had been visibly crying. Her body was shaking. Mr. Girlfriend was that perfect girl. She had meticulous hair, trimmed nails, stunning looks, curvy body, and perfectly made up. She was not Bell, the petite and spunky girl who was full of energy and life. She was polished. Mr. Girlfriend was elegant and purposely beautiful. She looked like a female character from a Japanese anime, a blown up Asian Barbie doll, with all the curves in the world, she was the embodiment of sexiness.
But today, Mr. Girlfriend was not as poised as before. She came to Mr. and said, “I need to break up with you. I need to leave, right away.” Mr. was taken aback. He had never been told no before. He was wealthy, handsome and he was a good lover. He looked at his Girlfriend curiously, for he had never been rejected like this before. She said, “I fell in love with this guy at home. He went drinking because I was gone. He was drunk, he was crying. He missed me and I needed to go.” Mr. Girlfriend’s English was not perfect. But she got her meaning across just fine. Mr. stared at her face, and then her beautifully attired body. He had picked out those clothes just for her. She was always there to entertain, and to serve him. She existed from January 1 to June 30 to keep him company, so that he did not have to deal with the winter cold and the unstoppable rain alone. He paid for her company, handsomely. Look at that beautiful black lacy jump suit she’s wearing, he just bought them for her the other day. Mr. felt dizzy for once. He was to lose her, for good.
“Well, if you have to leave, you leave.” Mr. Said. He sounded resigned, tired and his age for once.
It dawned on him that the Girlfriend had never cried in front of him before. She was always so pleasant, so demur, so agreeable. Mr. wondered if she never cried because she never carried torch for him. She did his duty, as his Girlfriend, this was her job. She never felt for him, not in that real, raw, heart wrenching way. Not like Bell. And now he had lost both.
Mr. sat on his leather chair. He felt a little lost all of sudden. Emptiness poured over him.
He remembered that evening when he was walking on the cold street of San Francisco, where he claimed resident once in his youth. Bell was skipping on that cobble stone street, on Maiden Lane Street. She was on her headset when she bumped into him; she said “sorry” a little too loudly because she was listening to her music and couldn’t hear herself talking. He smiled and she smiled back. She was full of force; she said that she was heading to her gym just across the street. He asked her “how about a drink after?” She said “OK.” That was how they met.
She was the most energetic, fascinating and fun girl he’s met. She was always so comfortable about sharing her life with him, telling him stories, narrating her life in at times excruciating detail, mostly boring but occasionally entertaining to Mr. She was a very happy girl, and she seemed to have no secret, whereas Mr. was much more restrained, and shared very little. Bell always had worn her heart on her sleeves. She always laughed at his jokes, she questioned his opinions sometimes, and when she was with him, she was always accommodating with his chaotic schedules. She brought little treats each and every time they met. She was not dependent on him like the rest of the girls he had met before and since. She intrigued him, but she was not really his to keep. Mr. told himself that she would be the one who would get away. Mr. never liked to lose, not even the thought of it. He did not waste his time on someone whom he might not able to claim 100%.
But what if she could have been his? All of sudden, Mr. couldn’t bear the thought of never tried to build something with Bell: the one who cried for him, the only one who cried for him. He was that “guy” to Bell, as the guy back home was to his Girlfriend.
He knew what to do. It’s not a prearranged meeting. He did not know where this would lead. But he felt like trying.
He called her, for the first time in a very long time, he called a woman. The phone ran and ran, there was no voicemail, and there was no Bell’s cheerful voice on the answering machine. It just ran.
So he wrote to her instead. “Bell, are you there?”
The email bounced back right away.
It said: “This email could not be delivered. Please check your email address and try again”.
Mr. had the unusual sense of panic, it was as if he had never expected anything like this would ever happen, to someone like him. He sat quietly that evening, and wondered what he really felt about his Girlfriend, Bell, and all those other women he slept with over the last decade. He went through a mental Rolodex, filled with images, and events that took place. He had no answer to it all, so in the darkness Mr. just sat, all alone.
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