Her right forefinger stretched to extend up across of the back of the cell phone pressed into her ear. It made an L-shape with her right thumb as it hooked around the silver edge of the iphone. Her forefinger pressed into the plastic, but it was not yet cramped and aching.
Her whole hand would be screaming before the conversation was over. The phone hot, the finger, the thumb, all the knuckles cramped all the way back up to her shoulder, through her wrist and elbow and reaching even into her neck.
But for now she pressed the phone to her ear and spoke. For now, she was relaxed.
Do you remember when the subject of your “perfect teeth” came up last? She asked.
Yeah. I was trying to say, that you couldn’t see it, though. That was just it. That is just it. They aren’t. My teeth aren’t perfect.
He was slightly adamant at his end of the line. His voice, not plaintive, but definitley a note or two past laid back.
I know. She said. I know that was what you were trying to say, then. And I know that is what you are saying now. And I understand.
You look at your teeth. You see they are not perfect. You hear me say they are, and you feel uncomfortable, fearful, afraid.
You think to yourself, God, if i relax and let down my guard and just trust that she really likes me and my teeth the way we really are, that is sure to be exactly when she notices that my teeth really aren’t perfect. She’ll finally see and discover the truth and then, she’ll see she was wrong all along and she’ll stop loving me.
You think: She’ll stop loving me and it will happen just when I’ve come to count on her loving me. That’s why you are fearful. That’s why you don’t want me to be so admiring. Not of your teeth. Not of you. At least not specifically. I’m not allowed to admire you in any exact way.
I get it. You’re afraid to hear the specifics about why I love you because when someone loves your specifics that love seems so easy to refute. Nobody’s teeth really are perfect, after all.
Yeah. He said. Yeah. That is it.
His tone, at the other end of the line, now suggested that she was right and her comprehension of his state of mind was validating, yet his tone was not celebratory. It was another new odd mixture. His voice both defeated and awed at this sudden expression of her comprehension.
Oh. I get it. She reassured hiim with some small exaggeration.
I feel the same way when you sayI am sexy. You’ve only said it a couple times but I kind of cringe. I think, like, now I’m fucked. Why’d he have to go and think that, he’ll be so bummed when he finds out what I’m really like.
It is completely relatable for me. I hate to be put on a pedestal. I hate people with their big expectations for me.
But it’s also so so gross and stupid and insulting kind of really. Like you are really saying that my taste is so poor - that I’m stupid for finding your exact teeth meet my definition of perfect. It’s almost like you are criticizing my judgment. It is exactly like you are criticizing my judgment.
It also means anyone who likes you is doomed to be an idiot.
But what you miss is that I was trying to say, that it is the exact, slightly crooked, way your teeth fit in your mouth, that seems like the shiniest most perfect thing I’ve ever seen. And I really mean it. And you could give me credit and the universe credit for matching up your slightly off choppers and my perfect definition of perfect.
At that point, the rain started. It came on fast and hard and in wave after wave of loud downpour on the bus stop shelter roof. It splashed up under the walls onto our boots. It whooshed and wailed and howled and carried on for more than twenty-five more minutes.
I couldn’t overhear any more of the conversation. Not her words and certainly not his replies through the cell phone. But she grimaced. All throughout the storm she kept talking and grimacing. And she grimaced at the end, when she hung up and shook out her aching hand and arm.
After that, I gave up waiting for the bus and started walking by myself in the rain.