Sunday, July 10, 2016

Adam Met Edie by Winnie Khaw

Adam enjoys the ups and downs of getting to know his intriguingly odd university roommate Edie; by Winnie Khaw.

Adam met Edie the day before freshman classes began. The landlord of the two-bedroom apartment had told him that his other housemate would be an Asian-American girl named Edie, a decent young lady who was quiet and kept to herself. Well, the landlord had pulled that out of his ass.

Adam was sitting on his bed reading a Buzzfeed article professing to know why young singles were, well, alone, on his old laptop, door open, when Edie strode into the apartment dragging her luggage behind her. Without preamble, she stopped in his doorway, and then squinted at him before pronouncing, "You have nice eyes."

He blinked. "Why, thank you. I also have 'sympathetic eyebrows' and a 'compassionate nose.'"

She was near-sighted, hated wearing glasses, and was allergic to contact lenses, he later learned, which of course explained why she dropped everything, went up to him, and put her hands on his face. "I can see that," she said, smiling.

And so Edie moved in, awe-inspiring Lego collection scattered everywhere, nightly talks with her parents, and all.



A week later

Edie was a nudist in private, or what she thought of as private. Adam learned this when she came out of the shower utterly unclothed and unconcerned. The week of orientation she had been in and out of their apartment, visiting friends, so he didn't find out about this particular habit until later.

And then she took a shower and walked out naked into the living room.

He squeaked, "Uh, Edie?" He covered his eyes.

"Yes, Adam?" she asked, making a sound of extreme relief upon sipping her daily coffee. Earlier Edie had explained to that, without meaning to, she would be an asshole unimpeded until she'd gotten some caffeine in the morning.

"You know when I said we should see more of each other? You know, hang out?"

"Sure. And I said, 'Let's hang.'"

"I didn't mean that, um, we should see all of each other."

She turned. "You don't want to hang?"

"I do! I mean, I want to! But, um, clothes, maybe, yes?"

Edie shrugged. "If you insist." Later that day, Adam saw that she'd rifled through his belongings and was wearing his Invincible Iron Man shirt without a bra. She really made an effort for his sake, though, even if she forgot some articles of clothing every so often, like pants. Mysteriously, she had no issue wearing clothes in public.



A month later

Following the long trail of Legos - comforting relics of childhood, Edie had told him, which she played with every so often - scattered throughout the apartment to Edie's room, Adam paused to stare at the enormous pile of unwashed clothing on the floor, spilling out into the common living space. "How, exactly, do you not know how to do laundry?"

Standing amidst the appalling mess, she gazed at him with enormous beseeching eyes. "I never learned. My mom did it for me."

"You're in college!" He crouched down and held his breath at the socks, and began to sort them out.

Edie eventually saw a pattern and protested, "Why are you putting the whites in one pile? Are they racist?"

Adam breathed deeply. "I don't even know what to say to that." He held his head in his hands. "Just... do what I do."



Two months later

They both looked at the expired plant on the windowsill.

"Spit it out," Edie snapped.

Adam shrugged. "I have nothing to say."

Silence.

"We're not going to talk about this," Edie said, very definitely.

Adam rolled his eyes. "You practically made me ask."

"I wanted you to bring it up the conversation so I could shut it down." She pointedly examined her nails.

Adam asked, not unkindly, "So it's dead now? What was it before?"

"Alive," Edie said sadly. "And a cactus," she added when Adam gestured for her to be more specific.

The next time Edie was inspired to try taking care of a plant again, Adam bought one too, so that he could switch with her when hers died.



Three months later

"So I got Lasik," Edie told Adam as he was painstakingly reading aloud her homework to her. She was double majoring in English lit and theatre, and she'd claimed that learning lines was hard when she couldn't actually see them on the page. He was an education major himself, with a minor in accounting, but had recently been introduced to more dead white poets (especially Shakespeare) than he'd ever wanted to know. He looked at her owlishly. "Really? When?"

"About a month and a half ago." She smiled brightly.

Adam opened his mouth, then closed it. "But you've made me read at all this to you since then?"

He was about to be annoyed, he was really was, but then she said, "I like the sound of your voice."



Four months later

Edie came from a well-off family, the second generation daughter of Chinese-Christian immigrants who'd discovered that the American Dream of nearly rags to almost riches was genuine. When she bought Adam a Surface Book for his birthday, he boggled at her.

Adam wasn't quite sure how it had happened. They'd been window-shopping in the mall, and then Edie had sprung toward the Microsoft Store, pulling Adam along with her. As though called forth by the magic of Edie's black American Express, sales associates crowded about them, requesting permission to aid in their quest to find Adam a proper ultrabook. After much heated discussion between Edie and the sales associates, they decided on the Surface Book.

"Macs don't have touchscreens," she explained later. "You'd have to get an iPad to go with it, otherwise." And that was all he needed to understand regarding the matter.



Four and a half months later

Adam wasn't a particularly suspicious person, but almost from the very beginning Edie's phone calls to her parents had struck him as a bit odd. He occasionally Skyped with family and friends back home, but Edie's dedication to talking to her mom and dad was something else. Then again, the familial relationship had to be close - they were paying for her schooling and housing. From a lower middle-class family himself, Adam had worked odd jobs all during high school; Edie had never worked a day.

But that wasn't the weird part.

Edie always holed herself in her bedroom on these occasions, and her door, usually open, was unfailingly closed. Also, she requested absolute silence on his part. In no way was he to interrupt this sacred time, she told him severely. Edie concluded, with complete hypocrisy, by declaring that everyone needed personal space.

Adam suspected that something was afoot, but as Edie obviously didn't want the topic brought up, he kept putting off the impending conversation.



Four months and three weeks later

"No," Adam moaned from his bed, tufts of hair sticking out from the puddle he'd made of the blankets. "I need to go to class..." He'd gotten a severe cold from being out in the downpour last night waiting in line for concert tickets that Edie had enthused about for weeks, but she didn't know that.

Edie shook her head. "You're staying in bed today if I have to tie you to the posts." Adam knew he really should be frightened by the determination in her tone, but instead had to remind his libido that it was suffering from a heavy dose of medication.

Edie's many friends came over to visit, not because they knew who Adam was, but because, in order to keep him company in his suffering, Edie was sitting in front of his bedroom door playing Legos with impressive fortitude.

"He's not dead, is he?" one friend asked in a whisper, as though, in case poor Adam really was dead, he oughtn't to overhear the fact.

Adam snuffled.



Five months later

They became lost in Chinatown while looking for Little Tokyo. Edie blamed Adam for his spectacularly bad driving skills. Adam blamed himself, too, for listening to directions read aloud by Edie, who, by her own admittance, once drove down the wrong side of a mountain. She insisted it had been a little mountain.

Pulling over, somehow, amidst the impossible parking, they also, improbably, got Adam's car stolen.

"Alright!" said the man, whose features were covered by colored seran wrap that didn't really do much to hide his nervousness, or his face. "This is a carjacking." He'd jerked open an unlocked car door and shoved himself into the back seat.

Adam and Edie craned their necks to stare at him and didn't move.

"Okay, fine. I'm a dangerous criminal at large! Clear out!"

They continued to look at him.

"I'm actively threatening you now!" When the man pulled out a switch knife, they scrambled out of the car. Forlornly they watched the vehicle drive away, leaving them stranded ten miles from campus without any means of contacting help.

"I can't believe you didn't bring your phone," Adam groused.

"And you didn't charge yours, so there," Edie returned, looking around at the brightly colored red and yellow shop signs inscribed with indecipherable characters. "So now we're stuck in a place that might as well be an alien planet."

So they walked along Chinatown. Eventually they came across a food stall. Edie peered at the tiny little cakes. She observed, "Don't they look like butts?"

Adam jabbed her in the ribs. "I'm pretty sure they're supposed to be peach-shaped."

"Peaches that look like butts," Edie persisted, unperturbed. "It's fine. My family serves them all the time to our grandparents, and they just smile and eat them."

"No way."

"They really do."

Moving on, they found that the aroma from the next stall made their mouths water.

"Okay," Adam said. "Now's the time to put your Chinese to use. Unless," he said, "you don't know how to say 'I want that delicious-smelling soup extra spicy, and please don't put in MSG.'"

"Um," Edie said.

"Ha! That's what I thought," Adam crowed obnoxiously.

Passersby walked around them carefully.

A child waved at them, and the mother edged him away from the two crazy young people speaking English.

"Hey! I can say 'Hello,' 'I don't understand what you're saying,' 'Happy Birthday,' and," Edie said proudly, "stuff involving sex that you'll be glad to know includes 'Please.'"

Adam groaned. Then, using what he had learned of Chinese in high school, Adam managed to order for them both.

They did eventually get to a payphone, called the police, and retrieved the car, which had been dumped along the road, in relatively whole if gas-less condition.



Eight months later

"Oh my God." Edie burst into Adam's room.

Adam looked up from his stress-relieving coloring book app on the Surface Book. Touchscreens were pretty neat, he'd discovered. The pens that came with them made them even cooler. "What's wrong?"

"My parents are threatening to visit me for Winter Break!" she wailed, flapping her hands and pacing the room.

He smiled. "Oh good. I'd like to meet them."

Edie pursed her lips and looked shifty. "Um."

"Is there a problem?" Adam wanted to know, putting aside his laptop to stare at her in bewilderment.

"A very small one, maybe."

"And that is?"

"It's possible they don't know you exist," Edie said in a rush.

"What?" Adam's jaw dropped. "Who do they think you're housing with?"

"Uh, well, you're a really nice girl from India who's planning to become an engineer."

Then Adam and Edie had The Talk they should have had a long time ago. She insisted that she wasn't ashamed of him, it was just, he didn't get it, her mom would flip if she knew the truth of their living situation. "My parents aren't too clear on what I'm studying in school. Or doing. Or like to do," she admitted.

Adam was appalled. Did Edie's parents even know their daughter? That she listened to Rhianna? Had watched Deadpool at 2am in a skeevy theater? Liked to walk around naked inside the house? "You have to tell them the truth!"

Edie covered her face. "Can I... not?"



Eight months and two weeks later

"Mom, Dad, I'd like to introduce you to Adam, my BFF." Edie smiled widely and a little desperately. Adam had insisted on accompanying her home for the holidays, and Edie had eventually given in. She'd let him know that the experience would be a non-lethal interrogation.

"We're very good buddies," Adam said.

Edie's father beamed at him. Adam had the feeling he'd do the same if Adam was the product of a union between a tractor and a bulldozer. He just seemed like a nice guy. Edie's mother seemed less sanguine about the situation.

After they came home from dinner at church, Adam conspicuously hung by the kitchen door to eavesdrop, from which location he could hear Edie talking with her mother.

"Are you two dating?" Edie's mom demanded.

"Mom! I told you - no."

There ensued muttering in Mandarin and Cantonese, with smatterings of English thrown in; something about Caucasian males who liked Asian women and only cared about sex. There was something mentioned about frequent divorces and irresponsible spending. The tirade ended with "white boy who can't support you." It was a wasted effort, Adam was aware, as he knew Edie couldn't comprehend a word of Chinese in any dialect. But Edie had yet to inform her mom of the fact, and was content to let the latter's ranting pass right through one ear and out the other.

Adam heard Edie start to wash the dishes, a sure sign of stressed avoidance. "What?"

Edie's mom declared, "If you weren't my child, I would disown you."

Edie sighed and clanked two plates together more loudly than necessary. "Mom, if I weren't your child, you couldn't disown me."



Eight months and a week and a half later

"So you really wouldn't date me," Adam stated as they walked back to their apartment from the school library. "If, let's say, you wanted to."

Edie toyed with a strand of hair. "Uh, why do you ask?"

"So, hypothetically, why not?" Adam pushed.

Mumbling something unintelligible, Edie twiddled her thumbs. "I love you," she admitted. "But I'm not attracted to you -"

"Is it because I'm white?"

"- ergo, we should be friends."

Adam pressed his lips together. "Am I talking to you, or your mom?"

She stopped and glared at him. "Maybe I just don't think your flabby ass is hot! Did you think about that?"

"Fine!" Adam shouted. "It's not as if I liked your stupid Legos anyway!"

Edie drew back at this mortal insult. "Fine!"

They strode forward angrily, both breathing hard.

Edie snapped at him, "Why are you going my way?"

"That's where I live!" Adam said.

Turning their heads away from each other, they walked with a wide berth between them for the rest of the street. Not a word was spoken by one to the other for a week, and Adam gritted his teeth when he found his newly shrunken Iron Man shirt back in his stuff. Worse, he'd completely forgotten about the plants, and now both his and Edie's were unmistakably dead.



Eight months and three weeks later

"It has been brought to my attention," Edie said suddenly one day as she barged into the apartment, "that I want to have sex with you." She later told him that this thought had occurred to her in human bio class earlier that day; Edie sometimes took things very literally.

Adam gaped from his sprawled position on the couch. "What?" he said intelligently. He was surrounded by Edie's friends lounging around the living room preparing for an evening of "Never Have I Ever."

"Sorry, clear out, people." Peeking over their shoulders, Edie's friends made a slow exit until Edie swatted at them. Then she sighed and turned to Adam. "You know, that thing -"

"I know what sex is!" Adam said, getting up. "I know all the sex things!"

"Oh yeah? Make a list, Casanova -" Edie snorted.

"Edie! Will you please listen?" Adam said, trying to keep his voice even.

Edie stared at him, tapping a single finger on her crossed arms, and said, "I'm listening," in the manner of a bomb about to detonate in seconds.

"You know I've always thought to follow the uncrowded path of virtue," Adam intoned. After this solemn announcement, he could think of nothing else to say.

"I'm also in love with you," Edie added cheerfully.

He was completely lost now. "You're - huh - what? You're not in love with me!"

"I am," Edie said with dire conviction. "I've put a lot of time into thinking about it." Her face fell. "I really miss you -"

Thus bombarded, he could only think to say, "I miss you too. I love -"

Edie hurried on. "- and I want you to know that you're the most important person in my life. My parents will have to deal with it. Wait, what?"

"I said," Adam enunciated, "I love you."

Grinning madly, Edie jumped him, and he fell over onto the couch. And they stayed there a good while.



Eight months, three weeks, and fifteen minutes later

"Hey, have you been working out?" Edie asked, feeling at his shoulders. "Your arms feel less saggy."

Adam flexed. The results weren't precisely what one would call impressive. "Do you count lifting empty pizza boxes from our coffee table into the garbage bin as resistance training?"

"Good enough," Edie decided. And they went at it again.



Eight months, three weeks, and forty-five minutes later

"What kind of porn do you think an AI would watch?" Edie wondered, shifting so that she could rest her head on Adam's arm and effectively numb it to death.

"Who knows? Siri and Cortana making out, maybe. Inserting a plug into an outlet, probably, is a big turn-on."

She hit him with a pillow. "That's nasty!"

Adam gasped in outrage at this hypocrisy, and he prepared for war.



Eight months, three weeks, and four days later

"What about what your parents will think?" Adam wanted to know as they sat at the kitchen table and Edie watched oatmeal turn around and around in the microwave. He picked up a blond male Lego piece from the many tossed around the floor to represent himself and stood it upright on the counter surface. Then, he looked around for a companion female Lego piece with black hair; finding it, he placed the little figure next to the first one. Every Adam needed an Edie, even Legos.

"About us?" he clarified when Edie didn't answer.

Edie continued to stare, hypnotized, at the rotating bowl. "Oh. Dad'll be fine with it."

"And your mom?" Adam asked.

The question shot through her daze. "Well," Edie hedged. "Does Mom have to know?"

Adam rolled his eyes. "What, am I going to be your kept boy in the basement?"

"No, no, Mom uses the basement for storage. She'd find you down there." Looking guilty, Edie said "I might not have told her yet."

Adam looked at her. "Are you going to?"

Edie lifted her chin determinedly and gripped his hand hard. "Yes. Tonight."

To say the talk didn't go well would be underestimating its horror. The cellphone yelled at them in various Chinese dialects for long periods of time while Edie put it down, and then picked it up again. Edie's dad took the news with predictable serenity, after telling her on the side to choose her life partner very carefully. His marriage hadn't been the smoothest. Edie's mom and dad had first met in person at the airport; until then, they'd only exchanged letters and photographs. Fundamentally, they'd looked good to each other on paper, but actual interaction had proved difficult.

Eventually, over a long period of time, however, after Edie got to work praising Adam's every good quality and rich future career in teaching (she was absolutely lying about those prospects), and leaving out all his irritating characteristics (of which there were many) Edie's mom softened bit by bit, until she could finally talk to Edie in perfect conversational English again.

A simultaneous development was that Edie's mom had recently begun reading the Bible, and was touched by the fact that Paul the Apostle has preached love to the Gentiles.



Twelve months later

"I just joined a knitting club," Edie said, apropos of nothing, as they sat on the couch watching Spiderman 2002. You know, for when we're not together 24/7." She was clothed at the moment, an indication that she wanted to cuddle first, then do other things later. Since they'd started having sex, in fact, Edie had learned the value (and fun) of putting on clothes to take them off again in front of Adam.

"I'm sorry I love you so much I drove you to a support group," Adam told her. "I'll get better, I promise. Wait, careful, my condition might be contagious -"

Edie snuggled so close that she almost crowded him off the furniture. "Your shoulders are so bony now, Adam," she complained, shifting her head to find a more comfortable spot.

"Sorry," he apologized. "I'll try to be more lumpy."

In the middle of Tobey McGuire's infamous upside down kiss with Kirsten Dunst, Edie spoke. "I want you to know," Edie said sleepily, "you're a cup of coffee blended with rockets that blow me into the sky." She yawned. "But I'll drink you anyway."

5 comments:

  1. A funny and wry romp. Hopefully Edie and Adam will reappear in more stories as their lives unfold and their adventures continue? Many thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  2. A true romantic, I'm always happy when love triumphs.

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  3. I really enjoyed this story. Quirky characters.

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  4. Thank you all so much for your kind words!

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