I stared at the phone, wondering what to say when I answered it. If there was a bottom point to the level of readiness for a phone call, I was sitting on it. It had only been two nights since I’d seen her, but it felt like a lifetime had happened in between then and now. I clicked the button, and she was talking before I could even say, “Yellow?”
“I can’t believe you said I’m fat!”
“I’m sorry?” I wasn’t apologizing, I just didn’t recall saying any such thing.
“On your stupid story. You called me thick!” Mary was angry. And hurt, perhaps. And I still couldn’t think of what she was talking about.
“I don’t remember every word of what I wrote, but I certainly didn’t call you fat,” I said. There. I’ve denied the accusation. Now it’s time to say something reassuring and comfort her. “You’re a normal-sized girl.”
As soon as I said it, I knew I’d fucked up. I remembered what I’d written. I’d said that she was ‘thicker than the average Stuckey-chick.’ So my brain went into overdrive, and my mouth exploded to compensate.
“I didn’t say you were thick. I said you were thicker than the average Stuckey-chick. A Stuckey-chick is emaciated-skinny. Like Christina Ricci or Calista Flockhart!” I didn’t add that I wanted to bang either of those women. Instead, I said, “I think you look great, Mary. And I had a great time with you and I haven’t stopped thinking about how great that date was.”
Somewhere, in the very back of my mind, Nice Ass was laughing at me. I had just lied to this girl, and I did it as myself. I had totally stopped thinking about her, while I was in the presence of Diane. This was exactly the situation I’d hoped to avoid, and I let Lenny talk me into juggling. Fucking Lenny!
“You hurt my feelings, Ben.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. At least I was telling the truth again. “I really am. I’ll go back and edit the blog. I didn’t mean it.”
“I need some space to sort things out,” she said. “I’ll probably call you in a few days.”
“Okay,” I whispered. She had already hung up. Seemed to be a trend lately.
So I admit that I don’t think when I write, or speak, for that matter. Sometimes I say things that make perfect sense to me, which bear no ill will, and come across as an insult. And then I’m verbally backpedaling as fast as I can to avoid the wrath of whomever I’ve offended. But the conversation had gotten me thinking.
I sat down and, true to my word, removed the insulting description. Instead, I changed several passages to describe her finer points, such as her eyes. But all the while, I couldn’t stop thinking that her insecurity was going to be a problem. Because I certainly can’t stop saying the wrong thing.
I picked up my phone and called Lenny. I’d thought about calling Casey, but I’d had enough crazy-woman for one day, and we hadn’t even been to dinner yet. Lenny may be a moron at times, but at least he’s sane.
“Sup?” Lenny sounded chipper.
“Why’d you tell Case that I slept with Diane?” I tried not to sound angry. I think it worked.
“Dude, she called me and caught me off-guard and started giving me the third degree. It was like she knew you had, and knew that you would’ve told me about it,” Lenny said. His voice was dead serious, and I wondered if maybe he was afraid of Casey. “Then she demanded to join us for dinner. Sometimes I’m afraid of that woman.”
“Cool,” I said. “I forgive you for being a snitch. But I’m starting to wonder why she cares so much.”
“I think she still loves you, man,” Lenny said. “Maybe not in a jump-your-bones kind of way, but in a I-want-you-to-be-happy kind of way.”
“You should write greeting cards,” I laughed. “But, yeah, I guess that’s what it is. All right. I’ll swing by and pick you up for dinner. Talk to you later.”
It was petty, but considering the last two callers had hung up before I could respond, I just had to do it. I clicked the phone off as Lenny was saying goodbye.
Assuming that the theory about Casey still caring about my happiness was true, I decided that her advice wouldn’t be bad. So I dialed one more number.
“Hello?” Diane’s voice was musical, with an underlying waver of something else.
“Hey, it’s Ben,” I said. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything important.”
“No, I left work after my meeting,” Diane said. “I needed a nap.”
“I just wanted to call and say that I really enjoyed last night,” I said. “I didn’t feel that a text-message smiley face conveyed that sentiment adequately.”
“I figured I woke you up, and that was all you could manage,” Diane laughed. “But I’m glad you called. I had a really great time, too.” As she spoke, she started sounded more and more distracted. And then it happened. Someone else grabbed the phone and shouted at me.
“Sara, stop jumping on the couch!” It was my mother. I stammered, and was about to apologize and stop jumping on the couch when I realized that I wasn’t, and that my name wasn’t Sara.
“I’m sorry, Ben,” Diane sighed. “Daddy brought the girls back today, and they’ve been rambunctious since they arrived.”
I was still stunned by the Mother Voice. I couldn’t speak.
“Ummm, yes, ma’am.” Holy shit. I just called her Ma’am. “Sorry. I just… well I wasn’t expecting the Mom voice and it sort of sent me into panic mode.”
“Does it bother you?” Diane purred. “I can use other voices.”
“No,” I said. “No, it’s cool. Just an initial shock. I’m fine now.”
“So when are you taking me out again?”
“How about Saturday night?” I’d already made plans for Friday night with Kara.
“I’ll see if I can find a babysitter and let you know by Wednesday.” Diane sounded a little distressed by the prospect of finding a sitter, so I suggested something I didn’t expect to suggest.
“Well,” I said, “if you want, and if it won’t be confusing for the girls, the four of us could go out. I’m not trying to jump in and play Replacement Dad yet or anything, but I don’t want you thinking I don’t want to be around them.”
What the hell did I just say? Did that even make sense? Did I just volunteer to take a woman and her two daughters out to dinner?
“It might be too early for that, but I’ll think about it,” Diane said. “I don’t want them running you off just yet, but it might be better to go ahead and give you that chance sooner rather than later. I’ll let you know.”
“You do that,” I said. Or maybe Nice Ass did.
“I will, Sir,” Diane purred. And then she hung up.
I wasn’t too sure what the hell was going on with my life, but damned if it wasn’t interesting.