Sunday, January 29, 2012


"I guess I can't keep putting this off forever…" Jessie fumbled with her keys as her words trailed off.
My ears perked up. She was going to ask me into her apartment. I knew it. Finally. I had waited three months. At the end of our numerous dates she had always only kissed me goodnight on her doorstep. I was kinda falling in love with this girl, and I didn't know if she was taking me seriously. In three months, even with occasional legitimate reasons to invite me into her apartment, she had dismissed me at the door or made me stay waiting at the street as she ran in to grab something she forgot.
I didn't want to push my way in, so I waited for her to invite me.
"Listen, Chuck, I really like you, and I don't want you to think that I’m crazy..."
I wanted to interrupt with an "I really like you too," but I knew I had to let her say her piece before she would let me upstairs.
"This is going to sound ridiculous, but I actually hate bells."
I literally bit my lip to keep from laughing. Jessie often said random things; it was part of why I liked her so much. She always kept me guessing, but I couldn't guess what bells had to do with me not being allowed in her apartment or why that should make me think she's crazy. Furthermore, these long pauses were killing me.
"Okay," I smiled, "I can hate bells too if you want."
"No, no, that's not what I'm saying. I just need you to know that before you see my apartment. Look, I really hate bells. I promise. But I can't seem to convince -. Well, I'll just show you."
She turned and opened the door to her apartment. I followed her up the three flights of stairs. She slowed down in front of the second door and put her key into the lock - I noticed her tiny bell keychain for the first time as she turned the key.
She really didn't prepare me for what I would see when she turned the lights on, but it's a good thing she told me that she hated bells. If she had neglected to tell me that before I saw her apartment, I would never have believed her.
Bells covered everything. Rows and Rows of bells lined shelves and desk space. Anything in her apartment that had a flat surface had at least one bell on it, generally several more. Tiny collectible bells. Hand painted porcelain ones. Shiny brass ones. State ones. Country ones.  Figurine ones. A series of Disney princesses covered an end table. A row of birds sprang out of the bells on one of her bookshelves.
"So do you hate all bells, or just the ones you don't own?" I couldn't come up with a better response.
Jessie gave an embarrassed sigh and walked into her bedroom. I followed. Her bedroom was decorated much more like I anticipated than the rest of her apartment; her CD collection lining an entire wall, and a bright green blanket casually draped across the end of her lint free black comforter. Two comfy looking chairs squeezed into a corner with a tiny table in between made the perfect reading space. A couple classy black and white photographs hung on the wall, but no shelves of bells cluttered the space. I notice, though, a single R2D2 shaped bell well displayed on her dresser.
"That's the only bell I don't hate." She gestured to R2D2 before sinking into one of the reading chairs.
I sat down in the other and waited for her to continue; she needed to explain this repulsive collection.
When I was a kid I saw this R2D2 bell in the window of a collectible shop and saved up for a month to buy it. R2D2 was my favorite character in all the Star Wars movies. My parents thought that I was enamored with collectible bells." She sighed before continuing, "Every birthday and Christmas after that every family member bought me a bell. They were from family, so I couldn't get rid of them. I put them all on a shelf in my room, and growing up my friends would see the shelf and assume that I liked bells. Soon all I was getting for my birthday or Christmas was a bell. If a friend went on a trip to a different state or country, they would bring me back a bell. It turned into a monstrosity of a collection before I was able to stop it. Even now I try to politely discourage people from giving me bells, but if they've been in my apartment they can't seem to resist." When she finished, Jessie bit her lower lip in that adorable way she always does when she's embarrassed and waited for me to respond.
"I guess I can't complain when my Nana sends me the fifty-second horrible tie next holiday."
Jessie laughed. "You don't think I'm crazy?"
"Why would I think you're crazy just because crazy people buy you bells? I mean who are these nutzos? Why don't they buy you CDs or music gift cards? Or apple lotion? Or chewy Chips Ahoy cookies? Or a million other things you love?"
I saw the tears start to pool up in Jessie's eyes, and for some weird reason I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I didn't care that she had a million bells, because I knew that I would never be responsible for giving her one. Each of those bells was a ringing symbol of pain that someone who claimed to love her didn't know her well enough to give her something she'd genuinely appreciate, and I could think of a huge list of things not remotely related to bells that I wanted to lavish her with because I knew they could make her feel loved. I wanted more than anything to make her feel loved, and I told her so.
"I promise to never give you a single bell for the rest of your life," I said as I leaned close as if to kiss her but whispered instead, "Unless it's a matching C3PO to go with R2 over there."
She laughed loudly; I love that laugh. "You know, no one even ever thought to complete the Star Wars collection of bells."
"Then it's settled. C3PO will be your last bell ever. After I buy him, we will formally announce to the world how much you hate bells."
"I've tried; it's not quite that simple. These bells are from family."
I couldn't quite read the look on her face, but I was determined to rescue her from this bell hole in which she was trapped. "Don't worry," I said, "We'll figure it out."