Riding SoloOn the online w4m casual encounters section of Craigslist, real women write ambiguously desperate posts like: let’s grab a drink and then… or spend some time together… or wanting it now!  They have grainy camera-phone self portraits taken in their bathroom mirrors. My laptop’s battery heats my thighs as I wait for these lonely women to come home—from what I imagine are evenings of failed dates, leftovers, and season finales of the Biggest Loser—and hop online for a quickie.

My sophomore year of college, I was a thin, small girl with a pierced lip and pixie-short hair and a mildly broken heart and it was because of this last item that I left myself make a mistake by the name of Lee. This was such a small moment in the great, growing swath of my life, this frozen semester of weeping over romantic comedies and thrashing angrily to loud music and getting drunk off Malibu coconut rum which I didn’t even like. Such a small moment. Over the course of the last decade, these few months I spent with Lee have barely registered. They have been a blip. He did not hurt me badly, nor did he teach me any great life lessons. He did not matter, hardly at all.

But I think about him often, and the day I first let him kiss me, because that was a mistake.


Dear Carmelina,

When Raj asked if I wanted to join you two in a ménage à trios I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. The only problem was that I was tripping on three hits of Purple Haze so when I kissed your thick lips all I could think of was getting my dick between them. But we’d just started so when I moved my hips up to meet your mouth.

“Whoa, slow down, cowboy.”

In my hallucinating state, I felt totally rejected. Then you and Raj started fucking and by the time it was my turn, I was a million miles away. That’s why I couldn’t get it up.

 

Dear Amy,

That first time you did Reiki on me, well, there are really no words for how it felt. You lit sage and waved it around my limbs, head, and torso in preparation for our session. You told me to put myself in a totally safe place. Nobody had ever said anything like that to me before so I fell in love with you that night. That’s why when you talked about marriage and kids the next time we saw each other, I didn’t even freak out. But then you started putting pressure on me to make money which has never been my strong point. And when you realized I wouldn’t be changing any time soon, you ended it. You left me alone on the path of Reiki.

 

Dear Babysitter,

We played a game where you dared my friend Cinnamon to rub her ass against mine. I think technically this qualifies as molestation but I remember thinking I was incredibly lucky to be part of something so grown-up at the mere age of six.

 

Dear Lisa Sparxxx (famous pornstar),

You’ve come to represent everything I’ve ever wanted and can’t have. When I see your big breasts, thick hips and perfect ass, I don’t get horny anymore. I get sad. I mourn the fact that I’ll never touch you. I desperately wish I was a football player or rock star or whatever kind of man you realistically might want. And I hate myself for not being him.

 

Dear Cynthia,

I would have been anything for you. I meant it when I told you I’d help raise your kids and try to heal all the stuff you’d never talk about. Waking up that first morning after our first night together, you handing me a plate of French toast and fruit, I fell in love with you all over again. Then, later that same afternoon, you accused me of masturbating in your shower. I denied it because I’d done nothing of the sort, but you had already turned to stone. When I cried you asked me if I was mentally unbalanced. No Cynthia, I wasn’t, those are called feelings

 

Dear Fellow Traveler,

It was dangerous working illegally in Eliat. Those Arab guys pinched my ass and tried to get me to fight them until your friend stepped in and told them he would fuck them all. But when you said it was too bad Hitler hadn’t finished the job? That was really over the line. What you didn’t know was that I’m Jewish and that I kept my mouth shut because you and your crew were the only thing keeping me safe.

 

Dear George and Robert,

Thanks for trying to get me home on your skateboards that night. And for propping me up when that cop came. According to you, he asked if I had been drinking and I replied fuck you and fell backwards, unconscious before I even hit the pavement. That must have been pretty funny. When I woke up in the hospital the next morning, my arms scarred from pulling IVs out as nurses tried to put them in, one nurse told me she thought they shouldn’t have given me anything so that I’d feel the full brunt of the hangover I had coming to me. I remember not understanding why she was blaming me for a decision that had been made while I was unconscious.

 

Dear Uncle Bernie,

You’re dead now, but I was just wondering if you knew that I faked my Bar Mitvah. My dad had me memorize an index card of transliterations so when I “read” from the Torah, I wasn’t really reading at all. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what I was saying.

 

Dear Keira,

I still can’t believe you licked my asshole that time. Nobody had ever done that and I’m pretty sure nobody ever will again, so I guess that’s a kind of bond we’ll always share.

 

Dear Joe (stepfather #1),

You drank vodka in the dark and kept to yourself for the most part but once, just once, you got up in my face and when I didn’t back down you called me crazy. And when I tried to kill myself you said I was just looking for attention as if that somehow discredited my pain. I get it though, I probably reminded you too much of yourself. You died of alcohol; your way just took longer.

 

Dear Dad,

I have one good memory of you. You and I were in the ocean and every time a wave came you hoisted me up safely over it. I’ve thought about what you were trying to tell me by that many, many times. To be above everything is the best answer I’ve found so far.

 

Dear Thugz,

I only made it about twenty steps out the door when you pulled out your guns and marched me back into the house. You took turns punching me in the face thinking that I was holding out but I was just poor. That dollar you took from my pocket was my last. When you tried to hustle me back outside, I realized it was to shoot me. I almost lost my mind in that second but decided I’d force your hand instead and end the nightmare. I screamed.

“NO FUCKING WAY!”

I closed my eyes, fully expecting to feel the bullet, but you ran away.

 

 

 

 

 

We are not exhibitionists.  We are confessors.  We express excruciating moments with carefree wit.  We use writing as a means to an end, the end being someone else.  If we laugh – if others laugh – those things will leave us.  We can rename those things as if they never were the way they were.

I would not have been so shy that the first day of school was the worst day of my year because my parents named me Lauren, but called me Laurie, and I had to tell my teacher when she called attendance.  I would not have been so afraid to ask to go to the bathroom that I peed in my pants in the library.  I would not be the one who came home on the first day of seventh grade with her bra up around her neck because she didn’t know how to ask her mother how to adjust it.  I would not be the one who asked, mortified, only to hear her mom laugh while telling her friends about it later.

I would not be the one who stole candy from her babysitter’s car.  I would not be the one who was certain that no one liked her.

I would not be the one who ate her way through law school instead of leaving.  I would not be the one whose dad’s cousin raved about her mother’s beauty, then told her she looked just like her father.

I wouldn’t be the one who found a napkin stuck to her boot last night after walking across the bar to the restroom.  I would not be the one who won’t finish writing the novel that tells the truth.  I would not be the one who worries that nobody will comment on this introspective nonsense.  I would not be the one who worries that people will judge.

You won’t be the one who didn’t go to your prom.  Or who was beaten up by a younger kid when older meant stronger.  You will not have been short, fat, frizzy-haired, tall, skinny or a late bloomer.  You will have had perfect skin and teeth.  You will have been friendly with puberty.  You will not be surprised when people like your writing, or think you are pretty or handsome or want to spend time with you.  You will not be the one who ate lunch in the library, or played fantasy games, or collected stamps or could not talk to boys or girls.  You will not be the one who read words but could not say them.

I will be the one who Brian chased on the playground so he could kiss my hand in its red mitten.  I will be the only freshman to have had a part in the school play.  I will be the one whose first submission was published.  I will be the one who makes people laugh when I tell them about the worst things.  The things I think of 20 or 30 years later.  The things that still don’t make me laugh. Not really.

We write ourselves into different stories and then edit.  And edit more.  Until the original is disappeared.  Mostly.  Run your fingers across our scars, knotted and raised.


In my role as a Very Nice Person, I think many things I never say. Oh, I think about saying them. I think them loudly. I say them with my posture. I glare at my computer screen through the most long-winded and pointless stories. But even when I’m seething, I cannot stop myself from uttering the occasional polite “mmhmm.”

It’s actually embarrassing how often I have to fight the urge to say cruel things. For example:

Truthfully, I don’t like you very much. You aren’t very interesting. You aren’t really funny. Your jokes are tired and the bulk of your contributions to conversations consist of lines from movies and books. Movies and books are great, but they are no substitute for having actual thoughts of your own.

Yes, actually, that dress does make you look fat. The tights don’t fit either. Those shoes are entirely too young for you. You have no sense of style, do you? Your taste is the definition of poshlust.

You are misusing that word. Stop correcting people if you can’t correct them correctly. I would explain it to you, but I actually think the explanation of how to properly use that word is beyond your grammatical grasp. Just please stick with using words you actually understand. Hint: If you’re using a word because you think it sounds smart, there’s a very high probability that you’re misusing it.

You know what? Maybe you should just stop talking. Don’t just stop talking to me, but stop talking in my vicinity. You can only speak when more than 50 feat away. It’s not just the things you say but the sound of your voice that I can’t stand. You sound like a stopped up nose. You sound like nails on a chalkboard. I hate the way you hesitate meaningfully before saying something worthless.

I need another beer before I can continue to think about you.

I am not a Very Nice Person, as I suspect most other VNPs are not. What I am is a southern girl who has learned very well what not to say. I’ve learned not to make fun of the ugly shoes in the department store because nearby there is very likely someone eyeing those same shoes for their office Christmas party or prom or what have you.

My coworkers foolishly believe that I am extraordinarily kind. They say so to my face. I’m not kind, but I’m a bit of an expert in the Golden Rule. I know that if I were in an office with no hand towels for a week, one day I’d come storming out of the bathroom with wet hands and wipe them on the shirt of whoever was responsible for buying said hand towels. So, I buy the hand towels strictly for the safety of my clothing. They also forget that I am paid to be nice to them. I’m paid to solve their problems, reserve their vehicles, facilitate their communication, arrange their flights, etc. And when they ask me “What’s for lunch?” and I tell them “Ask your mom,” they think I’m joking.


Hello.

My name is Zoe Brock and I am a MySpace addict.

Wow. That’s embarrassing.

If you’d like to run me over with a train right now I’d be more than happy to lay down and oblige.

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Like most addictions my MySpace dependency took time for me to notice, acknowledge or declare.

It was not an addiction I anticipated.

Most addictions are so anticipated that they’re downright boring by the time they kick in.

Weed?
Yawn.

Various psychedelics, uppers, downers and sidewinders?
*whistles innocently and looks towards the heavens*

Cigarettes?
Fuckity fuck fuck.

Booze?
Hello? I’m Australian.

Sex, drugs and rock n roll?
Hello? I’m human.

Strip clubs with performing dwarfs?
Hello? I’m twisted.

Expensive shoes, raunchy lingerie and designer jeans?
Hello? I’m a big titted female with a shoe fetish and an ass made for Marc Jacobs.

Social networking on the Internet????
Ummmmmm……

NO.

It all began last year when a complete stranger, some author by the name of Listi, preyed upon me when I was bored, incapacitated, and unable to walk for three months, and encouraged me to
join MySpace in order to read his blog. Listi lured me with promises that I might potentially write for him on his new writers website “thenervousbreakdowndotcom”. At this stage I was ignorant, I didn’t know what a blog was and nor did I care. But, like an absolute twat, I reluctantly followed instructions… and now look at me. This Listi character must pay for his evil ways! He is nothing short of an enabler! HE MUST BE STOPPED!!!!!!!

The symptoms of my dependency kicked in shortly after my first attempt at a blog. The immediate responses and instant gratification fueled me to write more, to spend more time on the site, soaking up the praise and, while the knee injury I suffered from kept me inert, my fingers tapping on the keys were my only form of physical activity. Hours spent blogging and commenting quickly grew and began to usurp aspects of my life. At first I was able to brush off this inordinate amount of time as “research for my impending documentary on Internet social-networking”, an idea I conceived of shortly after joining, or “a sociological experiment”. I tried to file my addiction under “work”. But the sad truth is that I was hooked on attention and positive feedback after a life lived with little confidence and a desperate need for creative validation.

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The more I wrote the more people loved it, and the more they told me they loved it, and the more I wrote.

Easy.

Not so much.

The more people read me the more they wrote to me, and the more involved we became in each others lives. There was no symbiotic distance between reader and writer, but an uneasy truce between pseudo-friends and not-quite-strangers. I became enmeshed in relationships that weren’t tangible, were elusive and undefinable, and no matter how hard I tried to justify them as friendships they weren’t REAL to me a lot of the time.

A dangerous path.

It’s hard for me to understand how I could grow to care about so many people I’d never met, because I did care. I still do.

It’s hard for me to understand how my life became public knowledge, at my own behest. Does honesty have it’s limits? At what point will I learn to draw the line?

It’s hard for me to pick up this computer and not check my MySpace account to see how everyone is doing.

It’s hard for me to cancel my account.

It’s especially hard for me to cancel my account because I don’t know the password anymore. In a fit of enlightened pique, I forced my dear friend Sara to change it for me so that I couldn’t log on when I felt compelled to. And I am COMPELLED, kids, I’m jonesing like a common crack whore.

I’m sitting here in the midday sun with a snarl on my face and a twitch in my eye. Furious. Annoyed. Wanting on. Refusing to succumb. Conscious of the seductive power of feeling connected. Missing the people I’ve grown used to communicating with every day. Wondering how they are, if they miss me, what they’re doing, writing, saying, feeling.

But the truth is… life goes on.

Without wanting to diminish my time on there, or negate the several remarkable relationships I have forged, the ones I HOPE will be lasting, the question remains… if I left MySpace tomorrow would I even be missed? I’m unconvinced. Perhaps I’d be noticeably absent for a few weeks, but then I’d slither into the back of people’s consciousness, a gradual subside, before fading to black. Poof. See ya.

Very few people would care. Very few people would be even remotely affected. Why should they be?

Knowing how intermediate most of these connections are could make saying goodbye very easy.

I would never be so bold as to presume that I’ve made an impact on anyone’s life. There will always be fresh slants on humor and culture and news and random idiocy to rise up and entertain, better writers, prettier faces, funnier girls. There is definitely a market for it, a need. People are hungry, bored, unsatisfied, lonely. They are crying out for stimulus and love. They should be, it’s a cruel and crazy world out there, I’ve seen it. Human beings, further disconnected from each other by long roads and longer hours or work and stress, are crying out for companionship.

But so are my friends here in close proximity. And they also need physical contact, hand-holding, attention and love.

They need the thing I was in danger of losing touch with – touch itself.

In the last six weeks I’ve traveled America, eight-thousand grueling, exhausting, uplifting miles of it, meeting a lot of the people from MySpace that I needed to meet in order to begin solidifying those relationships and understand them.

I’ve experienced a journey far above my expectations, and also far below. America is sprawling, spreading, filled with sameness. In the midst of that sameness are a few hundred million individual, all different, all trying to find each other and connect in new, exciting ways. Ways that aren’t physical, ways that are safe and sheltered, ways that are semi-anonymous and easily controlled. I know, I’ve been out there… I’ve talked to hundreds of people on beaches, streets and sidewalks, in cafes, hotels, motels, bars and homes.

I’ve made my intangible friendships real ones. I’ve pulled and dragged and danced my unreal people into my world. They’re real. And they’re wonderful.

And now I can take the friendships that mean something and nurture them without a computer – a truly glorious feeling.

The journey is over and it was a trip.

I’ve come back to my life to find it in substantial disarray. Friends seem distant, I feel disconnected, relationships have taken strange turns. And yet, outside the sun is bright. Hummingbirds do their hummy thing. The beach beckons, friends call, and the world awaits.

And so I’ve taken a small break from all things MySpace. I ponder the likelihood of canceling my account, but am reluctant to commit. I tell myself it’s a great marketing tool for my movie and my writing. I tell myself it’s a great place to practice being a writer, to build an audience, to grow as an artist.

I also tell myself that to stay on MySpace now would be a distraction to life, an excuse to not further my dreams, a time waster.

I’m very confused.

MySpace has given me a great gift, and for that I should thank that Listi sumbitch. I can write happily these days. My readers and their criticisms and praise have given me that ability. I have no excuses, no lack of confidence, no insecurities to hold me back, no dedication to procrastination. I know I can do it. Look. You’re reading this now.

And so I sit here at my laptop. I smile at the screen. I click the application FINAL DRAFT and begin a fresh file. And I type.

SCENE ONE – EXT. NEW YORK APARTMENT BUILDING. A TOO-BRIGHT SPRING AFTERNOON.

And I’m writing a movie, not a blog, and I can see it’s characters move and swell and trip and fall and get back up again. And I laugh as I write my ‘comedy canon’, hoping it will blow people out of their seats.

I’m home. I’m homeless. I’m broker than a smashed plate. I’m jobless and carless but certainly not aimless. I have twenty weeks of post-production ahead of me and a deadline called Sundance. I have no idea what is going to happen, no idea what the future holds.

Life is bittersweet but it’s all I’ve got.

My name is Zoe Brock, and I am a recovering MySpace addict.

Are you?