She Shouldn't Call Him by Strawberry Saroyan


She shouldn't call him.  She shouldn't call him because she wasn't in love with him.  She shouldn't call him because she might fall in love with him.  She shouldn't call him because they had nothing in common. She shouldn't call him because he was twenty years older than she was. She shouldn't call him because she didn't want to lead him on. She shouldn’t call him because that last night, after she’d said you’re going to make me hate you, he’d stopped suddenly and said, I fucking love you okay? (It was the first time anyone had ever said that to her, except for family and friends.) She shouldn’t call him because he made her want cookies for dinner, and she was going to get fat if they kept dating. She shouldn’t call him because he probably wasn’t cute enough for her, and her friend had once said, “What do you see in him?” (Her friend been kidding but she’d thought maybe she was right.) She shouldn’t call him because she kept remembering the first night they’d made out and he’d said, “This is what I like” about her neck, how it was soft like a baby’s. She shouldn’t call him because he did things like that—got under her skin and made her feel vulnerable. She shouldn’t call him because maybe he was crazy. And because maybe he wasn’t. She shouldn’t call him because you can never walk across the room for a man. Rielle Hunter said that. And Rielle, she and her friend KT joked, was always right. (But they weren’t really kidding.)

She shouldn’t call him because she HAD called him, many times before, and it never helped. She shouldn’t call him because she was too busy eating these cookies and they tasted wonderful, and so what was the point she’d be in a sugar coma in an hour anyway. She shouldn’t call him because she didn’t want to tell her friends, “Yeah, I broke down and called him.” She shouldn’t call him because she needed the power. She shouldn’t call him because she didn’t really like him (if you got right down to it). She shouldn’t call him because it would look pathetic and desperate and when you were pathetic and desperate you had to pretend you were confident and totally “fuck you.” She shouldn’t call him because she was a feminist and a grownup and the kind of person who could eat cookies for dinner and feel okay about it because she also accepted that she was a human being with needs, but that she didn’t have to act on every single one of them. (But fuck, these chocolate chips were AWESOME.) She shouldn’t call him because she had to make a list. She shouldn’t call him because the dishes were extremely dirty and there were a shit-load of them and she really had to get her life together before she could think about anything else. She shouldn’t call him because he did, if she thought about it, have sort of a weird nose. She shouldn’t call him because he was probably in Beverly Hills right now, at his therapist’s office, and Beverly Hills (ironically) has terrible cell reception.

She shouldn’t call him because the cars outside sounded kind of interesting and it was nice to have a little bit of silence (besides the cars) and maybe she should start meditating, wasn’t that a good idea? She shouldn’t call him because she wanted to read the new Maira Kalman book and now was as good a time to start as any. She shouldn’t call him because she sometimes thought of his eyes and they made her lose her breath and that felt uncomfortable, and maybe it wasn’t even healthy. She shouldn’t call him because she had ambition and she didn’t want to end up married with children and like a normal person with an everyday world. She shouldn’t call him because she did think he actually was a good person—but since when was being a good person enough? Since when was niceness an antidote to anything? (If you asked her, being nice had probably killed more people than Hitler. Of course, they were suicides.) She shouldn’t call him because, yes, he made her laugh—and she enjoyed his laugh, it was almost like a hyena’s—but was that enough either? No, it wasn’t. She shouldn’t call him because he once told her that she looked better in the blue dress than in the green one—and the green one was more chic. She shouldn’t call him because he didn’t really get her. She shouldn’t call him because he did really get her. (It depended on the time of day, or the lighting or something. Fuck, she didn’t know.) She shouldn’t call him because, in the end, he could call her. Come ON. She shouldn’t call him because wasn’t it really about flowers at this point anyway? If not JEWELRY?

She shouldn’t call him because she hated him. A LOT. She shouldn’t call him because she loved him. ENORMOUSLY. She shouldn’t call him because what if they had kids and the kids had his personality—the bad parts—and her personality—the bad parts—and they ended up dead or on drugs, and maybe even addicted to meth? Or they ended up fat?  She shouldn’t call him because he went to Princeton. She shouldn’t call him because she went to Barnard—and she knew better. She shouldn’t call him because she was a child and she wasn’t ready for him and she needed more therapy to figure it out. She shouldn’t call him because she was emotional right now. She shouldn’t call him because other times she wondered if she had any feelings at all. I mean, seriously, was she some kind of a MACHINE?  She shouldn’t call him because what was she going to say—“Hi, I called to talk”? She hadn’t called to talk. She had called to kill him, or to have sex with him. And the phone was USELESS at both those things. She shouldn’t call him because the whole situation was silly and she was too good for it. (Honestly, so was he. They should just call it quits.) She shouldn’t call him because calling him at all—that first time she had, especially—was probably a huge mistake. Come to think of it, she really should stop answering her phone. What good ever came of it—especially when you didn’t have caller ID? She shouldn’t call him because they were incompatible and when she’d read in a horoscope book that they’d have a lovely affair but it would largely be sexual and they’d drive each other nuts over money it was probably right (though their issues weren’t exactly that, they were CLOSE).

She shouldn’t call him because she had to wash her hair. She shouldn’t call him because she had to do the laundry. She shouldn’t call him because his favorite TV show was on soon and he’d be annoyed when the phone rang (and he probably wouldn’t even pick up). She shouldn’t call him because: Fuck him. And the bag of potato chips he rode in on. She shouldn’t call him because her parents liked him, and they had terrible judgment. She shouldn’t call him because he was rich and that might make her rely on him financially. She shouldn’t call him because—well, did there have to be a reason? She just SHOULDN’T CALL HIM. Okay?

She shouldn’t call him because her sister was in the room now and she didn’t want her sister to know she was thinking of calling him, and if she kept thinking about it her sister would suspect something. She couldn’t call him because they were making MORE cookie dough (but she wasn’t going to eat it tonight. Maybe tomorrow. Fuck.). She shouldn’t call him because she was thinking of taking an Ambien, and after she took an Ambien there were five minutes in which she told everyone the truth—and was that a good idea with him? I mean, without thinking about it? She shouldn’t call him because he didn’t like it when she wore high heels. And she LOVED high heels! She shouldn’t call him because she really did sort of hate him and wasn’t it awkward to call someone and say, “I genuinely hate you”? What was he supposed to reply? She shouldn’t call him because she also adored him at the very same time. And how do you say THAT? It’s very complicated. She shouldn’t call him because it WAS so complicated, and the phone couldn’t do it justice. (Should she go see him? No. NO! Look at yourself. No.)

She shouldn’t call him because he was seductive and he’d pull her back in to the madness. She shouldn’t call him because he needed a major fashion makeover. She shouldn’t call him because that ex of his one time had warned her that he “wasn’t the best guy.” She shouldn’t call him because she needed to expand her life, not contract it. She shouldn’t call him because it was inane. What? The WHOLE THING. She shouldn’t call him because she wanted to and whenever she had an impulse like this in relationships it backfired. Not always, but usually. She shouldn’t call him because he hadn’t liked her idea for that essay and he could go fuck himself. It had turned out wonderfully. She shouldn’t call him because he was cheap sometimes and it bothered her (What? Wasn’t she worth it? Who was he waiting for—to spend all his fucking money on?). She shouldn’t call him because, was he talented enough? She shouldn’t call him because —if we’re going to be honest—didn’t he belong in Brentwood with some nice lady who would be a mother to his children and not much more—and she wasn’t that? She shouldn’t call him because he was—and this was genuine—a VERY, VERY DANGEROUS DRIVER. (She’d seen him text in the car one time!)  She shouldn’t call him because he’d probably kill her with that kind of driving. She shouldn’t call him because she’d had a dream a few nights ago that he was an ape. Could that be a GOOD sign?

She shouldn’t call him because humans can smell fear. She shouldn’t call him because she’d read The Rules and He’s Just Not That Into You and How to Find a Husband after 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School and every one of those books said: SHE SHOULDN’T CALL HIM. She shouldn’t call him because society was like a giant red stop sign when it came to this situation. She shouldn’t call him because what if he didn’t want to talk? Like, at all? Shit, that hadn’t occurred to her. She also shouldn’t call him because what if he did? She shouldn’t call him because she needed to be more prepared before they talked. Hell, maybe she should write down exactly what she wanted to say. She shouldn’t call him because she was too busy to write stuff down right now, okay? (And too hungry. Mmm.) She shouldn’t call him because what if she DID want children and a white wedding and it turned out he thought HE was more “unconventional” (whatever that meant) than that. She shouldn’t call him because he gave her a bagel toaster for her birthday (FUCK HIM!).

She shouldn’t call him because she needed to wash her car. She shouldn’t call him because Bed, Bath & Beyond was closing in an hour. She shouldn’t call him because she had to re-prioritize—and her career came first. Not money, but her passion. And that was her creativity. She shouldn’t call him because what if he asked her to marry him? She shouldn’t call him because what if he didn’t—ever? She shouldn’t call him because he talked dirty sometimes in bed and in addition to the fact that it was awkward and she had to stop herself (occasionally, okay?) from giggling during it, did it reflect a weird power dynamic? She shouldn’t call him because there was a part of her that wondered about her own motives, and whether he was someone she would love if he was broke and had no house and no pool. (But then would he be him?) She shouldn’t call him because life is weird, and maybe not calling him was the way to go. She shouldn’t call him because Mercury was in retrograde. She shouldn’t call him because deep down inside she wasn’t sure she wanted to. She shouldn’t call him because deep down inside she was sure did—and it was that feeling that often led her astray. She just—she shouldn’t call him. But she knew she might.