When the phone rings, you never jump for it, but you always jump. It's as though someone hit you across the back of the head with a two-by-four. You are at the computer, at the table, on the sofa, instantly tense, and you watch it from across the room. You answer after the third ring, when no one else has picked it up but really, you think, it might be important, I'd better pick it up, I'd better get it. Most of the time the answering machine beats you out, but you don't want that either, because if it really is important, you'll have to call back. Calling back is so much worse than just picking up, but then picking up is no picnic: you'll have to talk, or answer questions, and it will probably be some telemarketer, or worse, your mom, neither of whom can ever be put off enough.

You never leave a phone within reach. At work, you put your phone at the very edge of your desk, where it is starting to teeter, or bury it behind books and coffee mugs. You consider getting a different job, one with no phones or likelihood of calls at any time. If you do get a call, you answer it as quickly as possible, to make it go away. You stumble and stutter. You forward the call. You ask if you can email them with the answer later.

You are in an elevator with someone on a cell phone. They are loud and harsh and horrifying, and you are pressed against the far wall.

You never voluntarily pick up a receiver. You move to a different state after college and lose people instantaneously. You try and try to get more people on email, but they just aren't as geeky as you are, and so they disappear. Once in a while someone will write you, but mostly there is silence.

You cannot pick up the phone unless you have a valid reason for doing so. You argue with yourself quite a bit, because you clearly need to call people--you will lose everyone if you don't. You try to convince yourself that rationally, this is the best thing to do, that you aren't being rude and interrupting their day, that they will want to hear from you even if you don't have a set question to ask, that you don't have to worry, that it's all in your mind. The problem is that your mind (and ragged breath, racing heart, sweaty palms) are in control. Applying rational argument to an irrational fear does not work. It has never worked, but you can't figure out what else to do. So you just keep bludgeoning, hoping that it will work sometime, that if you just make yourself do it, if you can just get over it and don't think and shut up and do it, then it will all, all be over, finally.

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