Content Note: Assault, Danger, Painful Sex, Painful Pregnancy, Blood Donation
Twilight Recap: Edward has beckoned to Bella across the school lunchroom and she's joined him at his empty table. Bella has suggested that Edward is possibly some sort of super-hero as an explanation for his supernatural behavior during The Parking Lot Incident.
Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type
Welp, I've kind of burned out on Hating On Edward Cullen for the moment, so I'm just going to assume for today that we're supposed to hate Edward Cullen because he is a bad guy, and Twilight is about redeeming him with the redeeming power of redeeming love. And, coincidentally, that works very nicely with today's conversation.
"I'll figure it out eventually," I warned him.
"I wish you wouldn't try." He was serious again.
"Because . . . ?"
"What if I'm not a superhero? What if I'm the bad guy?" He smiled playfully, but his eyes were impenetrable.
There are a lot of good reasons Edward could offer here, good reasons that could maintain his cover, but he doesn't. We've already noted that he's really bad at the whole Masquerade thing, but I think this is supposed to read more as a confession to someone he can't or doesn't want to keep lying to, and I think the scene works as that.
I don't read this as a warning -- although I kind of wish Bella would take it as such -- so much as a cry for help. "What if I'm the bad guy?" is a question that could have serious consequences for Bella ("I could hurt you, I could kill you.") but could just as easily be read as having serious implications for Edward ("I could be damned, I could be lonely, I could be miserable."). And if we're meant to read it that way -- and I think we possibly are -- it may be the first thing Edward has said that I sort of like. Edward isn't an innocent -- he's a smug jerk and a murderer several times over -- but he seems to be caught in an existential net of self-loathing, and as Robert Pattinson has reminded us, that can go a long way toward covering over a multitude of sins.
"You're dangerous?" I guessed, my pulse quickening as I intuitively realized the truth of my own words. He was dangerous. He'd been trying to tell me that all along. He just looked at me, eyes full of some emotion I couldn't comprehend.
"But not bad," I whispered, shaking my head. "No, I don't believe that you're bad."
And this is sort of Twilight in a nutshell. If I was in charge of writing the synopsis on the back of the book, I'd just toss this exchange up and head off to a well-deserved lunch.
Edward is dangerous to Bella, in almost every possible sense of the term. He wants to kill her and drink her blood. He can't vampire her without posing a serious threat to her safety in the "might not be able to keep from killing her" sense, as well as the "omg painful venom transformation" sense. (And, of course, the very act of vampiring her will, in fact, kill her and initiate her into a completely different existence.) He can't have sex with her without seriously bruising her. He can't make her pregnant without going the demon-vampire-baby-breaks-your-ribs route. He dominates and controls her because he can't bear to exist without her. He leaves her without warning and emotionally abuses her because he's too inexperienced, immature, and inhuman to do otherwise.
But he's also "not bad". Well, I mean, obviously I have Very Serious Thoughts on that subject. And probably the rest of you do, too. And "not bad" is a very subjective statement and it's going to come down to personal morality and ethics and standards that not everyone is going to share. But the point is that Bella and S. Meyer think Edward is "not bad", and I think you could make an argument for Edward being "not bad" in the sense that he's (at least currently) trying really hard not to be a murderer. I'm not going to give him a cookie for that right now, but it's a start.
The problem here, of course, is that now we're in the somewhat familiar territory of the not-too-Bad Boy being redeemed by the pure love of the Good Girl, but at least if we get a redemption, I don't have to feel like I'm being asked to accept that Edward The Jerk is the best romance partner ever as is.
"You're wrong." His voice was almost inaudible. He looked down, stealing my bottle lid and then spinning it on its side between his fingers. I stared at him, wondering why I didn't feel afraid. He meant what he was saying -- that was obvious. But I just felt anxious, on edge . . . and, more than anything else, fascinated. The same way I always felt when I was near him.
And now I have a theory.
The whole Bella/Edward romance could be shown as a destined-lovers who see each other across a room and know in that instant that they are meant for each other. But the impression I've been getting from the movies -- or, rather, from the third movie, to be specific -- is that the situation is less of destined love and more of destined being. There's something about how Bella is portrayed on the screen that makes me feel like she's being presented as a fish-out-of-water story where the problem with her environment is that she's a vampire in a human's body.
We've talked about this before, and how Twilight would be different if it was described in strong terms as Bella working less towards eternal love and more about eternal vampirism, and how the story would change in response to her motivations -- for example, if she were working towards vampirism in the hope that it might cure her chronic falling-and-getting-very-hurt disability.
The best advantage to this point of view, though, is less what it adds to the story and more what it takes away. I like the addition of a motivated Bella looking for a cure, sure, but I like more the subtraction of a Bella who refuses to take a serious warning Very Seriously because she is fascinated-by-allure, dazzled-by-beauty, and believing-in-the-goodness-of a man she barely knows. So I'm going to cling to my Alternate Character Interpretation for as long as I can.
I jumped to my feet. "We're going to be late."
"I'm not going to class today," he said, twirling the lid so fast it was just a blur.
"It's healthy to ditch class now and then." He smiled up at me, but his eyes were still troubled.
"Well, I'm going," I told him. I was far too big a coward to risk getting caught.
He turned his attention back to his makeshift top. "I'll see you later, then."
Edward actually has permission to skip class -- today is blood-typing day in Biology and although Bella is utterly unaware of and unprepared for this fact, the Cullens were notified in enough time so that Carlisle could arrange for Edward to skip without breaking any rules.
And this presents an interesting situation: the Cullens have special lives with special rules that apply only to them, but they are fairly careful to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up. They use their money and beauty and power and position in society to bend the rules, but they don't outright break them. Why?
This could be for purposes of the masquerade, of course -- a concerted attempt to not draw attention to themselves. And yet, they're really bad at not drawing attention to themselves, what with all their special allergies and special needs and special cars and special sunny-days-in-the-mountains and special dating-your-adopted-sibling situations. And I kind of have to wonder if Delinquent Cullens would be any more attention-grabbing than Special Rules Cullens.
Edward doesn't tell Bella right away that he has permission to skip class. Narratively, he can't because she would ask why and he would tell her his cover story about the blood type issues, and she would have to make a decision because she can't go to class either. But in-universe, his not telling her is interesting: he's making himself out to be a rebel Bad Boy, skipping class, and he seems to be tacitly watching to see if she'll follow his lead. Edward is being dangerous right now, if only in the sense of hurting Bella's grades and social standing. He's testing her limits to see how far she's willing to deviate from social expectations... and possibly to see how much she's willing to trust him.
I hesitated, torn, but then the first bell sent me hurrying out the door -- with a last glance confirming that he hadn't moved a centimeter.
[...] I was lucky; Mr. Banner wasn't in the room yet when I arrived. I settled quickly into my seat, aware that both Mike and Angela were staring at me. Mike looked resentful; Angela looked surprised, and slightly awed.
I get that EDWARD CULLEN IS HOT, but I really must protest at the SURPRISE AND AWE.
First of all, Bella is the most desirable girl in school right now, according to every possible indicator: three boys including the Most Popular Local Guy have eagerly asked her out (breaking all social rules in order to do so, seeing as how it was a Girls' Choice Dance) and Edward will later confirm that every guy in the school was lusting after her fervently on her first day. Whether it's because she's super pretty or super new doesn't matter: she's desirable right now, so the idea that the Hottest Guy In School might want to make a play for her is not that surprising.
Second of all, if Edward Cullen was in the mood to break his anti-social trend and find a girlfriend, Bella is clearly the perfect girl for him. She's not a native Forksian, so she's not likely to make fun of his accent and they can bond over a shared hatred of the constant rain and their longing for a nice Starbucks coffee. She's in his Biology class and seems to share a measure of competence with him, and is additionally his lab partner, so she can fill in for him on his absent days. Best of all, she's shy and introverted, so she won't fill his life with a bunch of noisy girlfriends that he won't be able to stand. Many a high school romance is built on less.
Third of all, considering that Edward beckoned her over to his table where she sat uncomfortably and her face ranged from surprised to angry to frustrated to bone-weary-tired over the course of the lunch hour, I wouldn't be all that resentful and/or surprised and awed. It's not like the two were laughing intimately or making out under the lunch table -- Bella's maybe-he-wants-me-to-cover-for-him-in-Biology excuse is ringing pretty true at the moment, especially since he didn't even show up to class. I mean, what's more reasonable at this point: that he likes her but can't follow her to class because the blood typing class will blow his cover, or that he's skipping class and asked her to pick up his homework?
Mr. Banner came in the room then, calling the class to order. He was juggling a few small cardboard boxes in his arms. He put them down on Mike's table, telling him to start passing them around the class.
"Okay, guys, I want you all to take one piece from each box," he said as he produced a pair of rubber gloves from the pocket of his lab jacket and pulled them on. The sharp sound as the gloves snapped into place against his wrists seemed ominous to me. "The first should be an indicator card," he went on, grabbing a white card with four squares marked on it and displaying it. "The second is a four-pronged applicator --" he held up something that looked like a nearly toothless hair pick "-- and the third is a sterile micro-lancet." He held up a small piece of blue plastic and split it open. The barb was invisible from this distance, but my stomach flipped.
"I'll be coming around with a dropper of water to prepare your cards, so please don't start until I get to you." He began at Mike's table again, carefully putting one drop of water in each of the four squares. "Then I want you to carefully prick your finger with the lancet. . . ." He grabbed Mike's hand and jabbed the spike into the tip of Mike's middle finger. Oh no. Clammy moisture broke out across my forehead.
My initial response to this was WTF Teacher. I mean, seriously? Do teachers just go around jabbing needles into kids without warning? Am I ignorant and inexperienced with modern American high schools to assume this isn't standard practice?
How does Bella not know about this? Was there not a permission slip sent home? How is this even remotely sanitary? There's no mention that I can see of sterilizing their hands, but the teacher is jabbing needles into their hands anyway?! I've had to give myself countless injections as part of the IVF process, and there's a very specific way you do that sort of thing, and one major thing is sterilizing the skin around the injection. (The other major thing is disposing of all the waste properly afterward.) Please tell me this is not normal.
"The Red Cross is having a blood drive in Port Angeles next weekend, so I thought you should all know your blood type." He sounded proud of himself. "Those of you who aren't eighteen yet will need a parent's permission -- I have slips at my desk."
Wait, what? So this isn't The Blood Type Class that occurs every January 15th or whatever like clockwork but rather an impromptu thing? Now I absolutely demand to know how Edward knew about this class in advance. Oh, right, the telepathy thing. But how do you bring that up casually in conversation in order to get excused from the class? Maybe Carlisle could have "heard" that the science teacher ordered a couple dozen blood typing tests and asked him what was up? It seems kind of flimsy. I need explanatory fanfic, stat!
Also: OH DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN HE HAS PERMISSION SLIPS FOR BLOOD DONATION BUT NOT FOR BLOOD TYPING. Apparently. Either that or Charlie is really falling down on the parenting job because I have to think that with all the falling down and scraping of knees in the Swan household that it should be common knowledge by now that Bella faints at the sight of blood. There's no way she hasn't needed hospital visits and stitches before now.
Also, also: This is a personal thing, but I don't like blood donation drives. Well, let me rephrase that: I don't like blood donation drives that are pushed by someone with authority over me or others, i.e., teachers and employers. I know it's for a good cause, but my dad and I have some kind of supposedly-not-that-rare-and-I-cannot-think-of-the-name-of-it-right-now condition that makes it really painful for us to give blood. I went earlier in the year to our employee blood donation center because I needed my blood type (and donating was cheaper than going to my doctor to find out, which would have been expensive) and I did all the "right" stuff beforehand, but it was incredibly painful and I just about fainted in the chair from the pain. It was the strangest sensation; I felt like I could feel the blood leaving my body, and it was not at all pleasant.
Since then, the really incredibly pleasant nurses (who are not technically my employers but do in fact work in a building owned by my employer) have been calling me back like clockwork once a month to try to reschedule me to come in again and I feel really awful turning them down. And they ask why I won't come in, and I try to explain that it hurts, and they try to solve my problem with recommendations of orange juice, but my dad has this same problem and he went in literally a dozen times trying to power through this and it Just Did Not Work. And then one of the nurses told him it was a Condition, so he gave up. But even though I turned them down each month, they kept calling the next month and I didn't feel comfortable (what with the whole employer dynamic) telling them to Stop Calling Please.
So the last time they called, I figured that if I was going to live in a Patriarchy, I might as well make it work for me, so I told them that blood donation makes me sick and that Husband doesn't like me to donate blood because he doesn't like me to be sick and fainting and in pain all evening (no doy) and they couldn't fix that problem with orange juice, so they stopped calling. And if you're wondering why "no, it makes me sick" didn't work as an excuse but "no, it makes me sick and my Husband unhappy" did, well... there's a part of me that marvels at that too. Maybe it's a symptom of Big Mother: if I can't stand something, I need to buck up and try harder, but if the situation hurts someone who depends on me*, then it's serious.
* Which is quite amusing because despite the fact that I actually do cook a slim majority of the dinners, I depend on Husband far more than he does on me. By which I mean, Husband most definitely does not need me in order to feed himself, but I frequently need him to bring food to me.
This is a long way of saying three things. First, that it is really amazing how often Husband solves problems for me simply by existing and me using his existence as a magic talisman, and while I appreciate that the problem is solved, the world should not work that way. Second, as much as I appreciate Mr. Banner's heart is in the right place, I feel like he's using his position as a teacher inappropriately. Third, while I feel like this Bella-faints-at-the-sight-of-blood characterization is perfectly valid, I would like very much to know where this detail was during The Parking Lot Incident when Tyler was bleeding profusely from the face and neck and they were in the same hospital room together.
Actually, that third thing about Tyler just came to me right now, but by an astounding coincidence, I'd already forgotten the actual third thing I wanted to say, so it'll do in a pinch. Oh, wait, I do remember the third thing: I felt guilty later for making the Patriarchy work for me, because I'm afraid that doing so normalizes it. "No, my Husband doesn't want me to" is not a good reason, but it's one that society accepts. But in order to bring about social change, shouldn't I push back against that? Shouldn't I fight for my right to say "No, I don't want me to" and for that to be accepted? Yes, I should. But... there's only so many spoons in a day and sometimes I falter when it comes to my daily feminism. But I get back up the next day and try again. I really hope that's good enough to make a difference, but it's something I worry about.
He continued through the room with his water drops. I put my cheek against the cool black tabletop and tried to hold on to my consciousness. All around me I could hear squeals, complaints, and giggles as my classmates skewered their fingers. I breathed slowly in and out through my mouth.
"Bella, are you all right?" Mr. Banner asked. His voice was close to my head, and it sounded alarmed.
"I already know my blood type, Mr. Banner," I said in a weak voice. I was afraid to raise my head.
"Are you feeling faint?"
"Yes, sir," I muttered, internally kicking myself for not ditching when I had the chance.
"Can someone take Bella to the nurse, please?" he called.
I really don't like Mr. Banner.
Later in the chapter, the school nurse will sagely note that there's at least one student who faints in Biology every year. (So I guess it is a yearly thing that Mr. Banner is doing here. Maybe the Red Cross has a schedule that they do not deviate from.) This implies a pattern: students are coming to Mr. Banner's class unprepared for blood drawing and fainting as a consequence. Knowing this, Mr. Banner has absolutely no excuse for his behavior here.
He should have alerted the students in advance that there would be blood drawn today, and let them opt out as needed, and not just catered to the Cullens on the side. He should have sent home permission forms for both the blood-drawing-in-class and the blood-drawing-for-donation in advance, if he wanted to raise consciousness for the blood drive. And he should have a contingency plan in place for when the One Every Year student feels faint, and it should be a better contingency plan than "do we have a volunteer in the audience?"
Next week, Mike is going to volunteer to take Bella out of the class, and Mr. Banner isn't (apparently) going to be concerned when Bella doesn't return for the rest of the day. Now, probably Mike isn't going to hurt Bella in any way, but Mr. Banner does not know that and it's really terribly irresponsible for him to put a weakened, fainting young woman in the care of the first boy in his class who volunteers to take her out of the class. So now I will end on the obligatory pun:
Mr. Banner, I don't like you when you're apathetic.
Twilight Life Enrichment Moment: After the Breaking Dawn movie, I dreamed that I was Edward. I distinctly remember sitting Bella down and giving her Self-Acceptance 101 (You kind, you smart, you important) with a heavy dose of Feminism 101 on the side, and Kristen Stewart's Bella staring at me intently as she took it all in. There's probably a dream interpretation book out there that can explain that one to me.