Next Week: even more important changes in Level of Suck terminology

Writing non-fiction used to be hard.  Journalists would spend months researching a topic, pulling their hair out with the devastating thought that their careers might be over if they got the story wrong.  Memoirists would contact the subjects in their books, haunted with the idea that getting the facts wrong might damage someone’s life or career.

Mickey was talking, and when Mickey was talking, his hands spoke with him. They were childlike and stubby-fingered, so out of proportion to the dense fat of his forearms and the rest of his bulk they may as well have been the product of an amputation. In jerks and flutters they flew above the arcs of his speech, soaring on the volume of a voice that always bordered on too loud.

Family Truth

By Summer Block

Humor

Occasionally, I am Jewish. I am Jewish when watching Woody Allen movies. I am Jewish at delis and bar mitzvahs and seders and synagogues. I am Jewish when talking to a good-looking Jewish man. But I am never Jewish at Christmas.

What do I mean? It’s simple: my father is Jewish; my mother is not. By any reasonable standard then that means that I, along with my younger sister, am half Jewish. But somewhere along the way, my family simply decided that a mixed marriage meant that half of the children would be Jewish and half not. In other words, I am Jew, and my sister is a Gentile. The most remarkable thing about this conclusion was the ease with which it was accepted by everyone.

The origins of this strange myth are easy enough to trace.  My sister is the less “Jewish-looking” of the pair, with blue eyes that inspired envy in my childhood, fair freckled skin, and a charming Muppet nose. Growing up, her hair was a glittery translucent blonde above near-invisible eyebrows. Though no one would likely mistake me for Middle Eastern, as often happens with my dark-complected father, I do bear some traces of the Semitic – darker, curlier hair, brown eyes, and a nose that, if not prominent, would still be a challenge to fashion out of felt. In temperament, too, I have always been said to favor my father, and as a young child I consciously patterned my behavior on his amiable reserve and dispassionate intellectualism, while my sister shared my mother’s open heart, ready emotions, and inexplicable comfort with hugging. Does all that mean, then, that I am Jewish and my sister is not? Of course not: obviously none of us thinks this is actually true, but still, it’s an amusing thing to believe.

As an adult, I’ve adopted a dubious new schema. Instead of representing the Jewish half of my family, I have simply decided to be Jewish about half the time.When that handsome man asks me if I’m of the tribe, I usually respond by saying “Well, my father is Jewish,” a statement that is technically true but intentionally misleading when spoken by someone who was in fact baptized as a child. In fact, I grew up attending Christian churches—albeit progressive L.A. churches, laid-back, friendly, non-judgmental places that were a lot more about acoustic guitars and drum circles and scruffy beards and singing “Kumbaya” than sending anyone to hell–but churches just the same.

So why do I lie? Some of it, no doubt, is just the desire to appear different, or interesting, or ethnic, probably stemming from my time as the only non-Latino white person in my elementary school, who when everyone else brought tamales and kimchi on Diversity Day had to content herself with scones, a weak alimentary link to a long-ago English past.

But also, I like Judaism, I find it interesting. I like reading about whether or not giraffe meat is kosher, or about mechirah, the part during Passover when you pretend to sell all your dogs to Gentiles. Now I don’t keep kosher or pretend to sell dogs personally, of course, but it’s a great concept just the same.

About ten years ago, my father began listening to the late-night radio hosts Art Bell and George Noory on the 10pm-2am show “Coast to Coast AM” and Whitley Streiber on the weekly “Dreamland” podcast. On these shows, callers report their direct experiences with the dreadful and the fabulous, while self-appointed experts (including a panoply of UFOlogists) opine on the hollow earth, alien implants, reptoids, astral projection, the Planet X, and the “coming global superstorm.” Over time, this harmless habit became a veritable obsession. My father now listens almost every night, then rises the next morning to fill my inbox with emailed links to sites advertising time machines and powerful magnetic healing devices.

Through it all, though, my father has remained as I’ve always known him to be—intelligent, rational, and bemusedly skeptical—but these traits are hard to square with his newfound enthusiasm for the Freedom of Information Act and its promised disclosure of the government’s secret Roswell files.

“Look, Dad,” I said, “I know you think all this alien stuff is funny, but do you actually believe it?”

“I believe it because it’s funny,” he said.

“Yeah, I know, but seriously, do you think all this stuff is true?”

My father looked at me and said, “You know, truth just isn’t that important to me.”

Apparently it’s not all that important to me either.  Anyone who has seen me nod appreciatively at a klezmer concert in July would be surprised to visit my home in December. Because despite any Jewish proclivities, I love Christmas. I love Christmas as much as I’ve ever loved anything, and I love every part of it, from the carols to the gingerbread. I have five labeled tubs of Christmas decorations in storage, and every year I drag them all out, then go buy a tree, design cards, hang wreaths and stockings and mistletoe, bake cookies, and make gifts by hand. I love Christmas—yes—even more than I love pretending to be Jewish.

This year my eighteen-month-old daughter is just beginning to get in on the action; she takes candy out of the Advent calendar, says the word “tree” on command, and kisses all of the Christmas ornaments individually every morning.

Recently one of my friends, a scientist, asked me whether I would tell Beatrice about Santa Claus and flying reindeer and elves at the North Pole when she was older.

Now we are a family that believes in science, in progress, in telling it as it is. We don’t use baby words for bodily functions or tell confusing bird-based myths about sexual practices – but Santa? Hell yes we’ll do Santa. We’ll do Santa like you’ve never seen.

“You don’t think it would be better to tell her the truth?” my friend asked.

“You know,” I told him, “the truth just isn’t that important to me.”

Tell me the story of your pain and disappointment.

Every excruciating detail.

Tell it to me so slowly that it becomes something else in the telling.

Tell me in English, but feel free to throw in words from other languages from time to time so that you know I am paying attention when my eyes don’t cloud with misunderstanding.

Tell me how hurt you were when your mom said nothing.

Tell me how betrayed you felt when your best friend died, but kept on living and turned the rest of your friends against you.

Tell me everything. Now.

 

 

Tell me why you walk with that limp.

Tell me how you came about your hatred of people who cannot spell.

 

Describe hell from the inside out for me, again, slowly, slowly.

 

 

And if you won’t, tell me why you never tell me anything.

Tell me why I am a fool filled with guesses even though I know how much you get off on correcting me.

Tell me why I can’t fuck you.

Tell me why there are hardly any reasons left for anything.

Tell me why they say blood is blue even though it’s obviously red.

Tell me why people are like this.

Tell me why we are called people just like they are called people.

Tell me something that makes a difference.

And hey, listen, make sure it’s a really big difference.

Don’t fuck me on this.

 

 

Tell me there will be beaches in my future.

And ice cream.

Tell me everything I’ve ever forgotten.

Tell me my name.

Tell me my real name.

Say it slower.

Look at me harder.

Tell me I’m shit to God so it at least makes sense.

Tell me I’m going to be President.

Tell me I will be assassinated on my very first day in the White House so all that nervousness will have been for nothing.

Tell me a child could beat me up, but don’t beat me up.

Get me addicted to the idea of your approval.

Give it to me a few times. Then never again.

 

 

Tell me I want to fuck men but am too scared.

Dress me in a dress then beat me for wearing that dress.

Tell me I killed my brother in my sleep and that the police are just too dumb to piece what happened together.

Be the detective that does.

Tell me I am going to be 400 pounds by next week and that no-one will ever make eye contact with me again for the rest of my fat life.

Tell me karma is real and I will never get it and this is going to keep happening over and over and over and over again.

Tell me a lie more convincing than the truth.

 

 

Tell me my hair is made of licorice.

Tell me my eyes are really my balls.

Tell me I had a kid 20 years ago and that he is in the next room waiting to hug me and thank me for the life I gave him because he is getting married and is very, very happy.

Tell me I’ll never.

Tell me my teeth are not my teeth but the teeth of a third world child whose parents decided they wanted to eat that day.

Tell me my skin is titanium and that two years from now I will be given a brand-new heart. Then tell me you’re kidding and cut the sides of my mouth like the joker in the dark knight.

Hurt me until I feel nothing then continue to explore that nothing.

Break the rewind button on my old VCR.

 

 

Tell me I’m dead.

Tell me I’m dead and when I freak out, rub mint leaves on my temples and stroke my hair and then tell me you were just making a stupid joke, that I’m alive as summer in a douche commercial.

Tell me slowly then quickly, slowly then quickly, so I can laugh at the rhythm of your lips.

 

 

Make me a promise in the form of a statue.

Let birds shit on it.

Let frat boys pee on it.

Let it get hit by lightning and crack open and when that new, wet, disgusting mutation of me crawls out, fuck it, fuck him up too.

Let the biggest loser we know make fun of this.

Choke me just with your thumb and pinky to let the world see and know how weak I really am.

Giggle as I turn purple.

Remind me purple is for fags.

 

 

Tell me my father raping me was because I am sexy.

Tell me that that atrocity is now somehow good for my bowel movements.

Ah, make up a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo, for which I am particularly prone.

Explain my sins in terms of time, weather, and place.

Tell me I matter to more people than I really do.

Tell me that I’m Japanese and that the reason I don’t have slanted eyes is because I was abducted at birth and given surgery so that I could enjoy the benefits of living here as an Aryan.

Call me Gook and Charlie and make gun shooting gestures at me.

Tell me that the Holocaust was a blast but Hitler should have finished the job.

Tell me about the evil already in me.

Tell me twice.

 

 

Tell me I’m a farmer living in Idaho and that my potatoes ain’t shit.

Tell me you know I’ve hired illegal workers and that the police are on their way.

Tell me every joint I ever smoked was dusted but that I was too stupid to realize it.

Tell me my ear is a sewer.

 

 

Tell me I look like John Travolta.

No, tell me I look like that kid from Mask.

Or the Elephant Man.

Tell me every woman that’s ever kissed me did so on a dare.

Tell me I’ll never get it up again.

If I do, laugh.

If I don’t, laugh.

Laugh at me like an old slave owner.

Niggerize me.

 

 

Tell me I should have been a woman.

Tell me I am.

Tell me I’m going to have my period for the rest of my life, uninterrupted.

Tell me I smell like iron.

Tell me if I have a baby she will be a slut too.

Tell me if I were in China I would have never been allowed to be born.

 

 

Tell me I don’t even deserve to cry.

Tell me the evil in me is a balloon and blow and blow and blow into my holes until I pop and the world becomes a really shitty place.

Tell me my mother has been paying my friends to be my friends for forty years.

Tell me you spit in my soup, came in my milk.

Yell at me like Adam must have Eve after you-know-what.

Like a bad big brother, make me hit myself over and over again.

Tell me Barry is dead.

And Lynn, and Erin.

Smear their blood on my stupid face and tell me it’s all my fault, that if I never loved them it wouldn’t have ever come to this.

 

 

Tell me in the voice I most recognize.

Tell me with intimacy, tenderness; like you think it’s turning me on.

Tell me on a crowded moving train so I can’t even scream.

Laugh as I swallow that scream.

Then another.

Then another.

Let your laughter be the last thing I hear before I pass out.

 

Dear Suzanne,

 

I never really liked you that much. The reason I randomly called you and asked you out was that my best friend at the time Philip said that I should try to get out there. I would have actually preferred to go on a date with Kim because she had big tits.

 

 

Dear Michelle,

 

Sorry I screamed that you were a slut when you told me to calm down after I threw a book across the room in reading class. You were right, I did need to calm down, but I was freaking out because Mrs. M didn’t understand that I didn’t want my father “helping” me either, but that he was an overbearing prick obsessed with my education because he had been ignored by his parents and turned to school as an escape.

 

 

Dear Nancy,

 

Sorry I hit on you in a crude and I’m sure offensive manner that night at your party. Don’t know if you heard, but I wound up in the hospital that night.

 

 

Dear Dr. Abadi,

 

It’s really fucked up that you used to get mad and complain that I drooled too much when you worked on my teeth. As an adult I realize that HAVING YOUR HAND IN MY MOUTH might have had something to do with that. By making such a big deal of my cavities you were inadvertently the cause of me getting hit by my father for the first time in public. Oh, and my new dentist said that you’re a shit dentist. He had to re-do a lot of the work you did so maybe instead of concentrating on how much I drooled you should have read a dental journal or something. Hope you’ve gotten sued since then, you fucking prick.

 

 

Dear Mrs. Greenstein,

 

I know everybody in school hated you but I loved you. You brought me Twinkies and other snacks when you tutored me after school. I had just moved from NYC and no-one was nice to me then, so your kindness meant a lot to me. Also, I heard many kids say they hated you because you ate pretzels during class and they felt like that was taunting them because they couldn’t eat during class, but I knew about your health condition, I knew why you did that. Sorry I didn’t explain this to the other students. I just wasn’t there yet, you know?

 

 

Dear Kelly,

 

I’d only known you a short time when you were diagnosed with MS. You couldn’t understand why I didn’t run for the hills, but I explained that I wasn’t that shallow. I spent 14 hours on a Greyhound bus to come see you. I bought groceries, I cooked and cleaned for you, gave you massages and soothed you during your panic attacks. I treated you better than I’ve ever treated any other human being. You paid me back by going totally cold and rejecting me after about a week. Did you love me so much you hurt me so I’d run away and not have to take care of you anymore? If so, thanks I guess, but really, shouldn’t that have been my choice?

 

 

Dear Babysitter,

 

Sorry I didn’t hug you that time you asked for one. I don’t know if you just wanted a hug or if that was the start of a long, elaborate plan to molest me, but either would have been okay because you were really hot.

 

 

Dear Liz Chang,

 

Sorry we walked all the way to Closter to see a movie and then couldn’t see it because I only had enough money to pay for me. You might not believe this, but I thought if I paid for you I’d look like some old-fashioned loser so I purposely didn’t bring any more money.

 

 

Dear Yling (the other babysitter),

 

I hope you rot in hell, you ungrateful slut. My parents paid for you to fly to America, paid for your schooling, everything. And you slept with my dad and fucked up our family as thanks. I hope you know my dad has women issues and would sleep with anyone. You weren’t even cute.

 

 

Dear Lisa,

 

I have two memories of you. One is of you giving me crabs. The other is of us playing basketball at my house. I was standing at half-court and asked what you’d do if I got the ball in from there. You said your body would be mine for the night and goddamn if I didn’t sink that shot. I felt like such a winner and loved when you asked me suck or fuck as I started to claim my prize. I guess these two memories balance each other out.

 

 

Dear Csaba,

 

Sorry I let Terrence Bates convince me I should fight you. He was also responsible for my only other high school fight, with John Larson. If it’s any consolation, you were much tougher than me and would have kicked my ass if Mr. Timmy the woodshop teacher hadn’t jumped in. That’s why I blindsided you like that, I knew I had no chance.

 

 

Dear Cousin Thomas,

 

I promise to never tell anyone we showed each other our penises as kids. I know you’re a big deal in the Coast Guard and that they probably frown on such behavior.

 

 

Dear Amanda,

 

Sorry for smacking you across the face that time at my birthday party. I had been drinking long before anyone got there and drunkenly remembered how you blackmailed me into letting you come even though we were broken up. And well, you know the rest. If I could do it all over again, I would marry you this time. I’ve never met a woman who I’ve been even half as attracted to as I was to you.

 

 

Dear Jennifer,

Why’d you sleep with me and then tell Amanda? I slept with Christine too and yeah she was kind of fat and ugly, but at least she knew how to keep her mouth shut!

 

 

Dear Uncle Arthur,

I know you’re dead now and it’s bad to speak ill of the dead and all, but man, I can’t believe you stole my boombox after my mother, your own sister, let you stay at our house. Even your crime buddy thought that was scummy and mailed us some of the stuff back (which I guess he stole from you), but I never did get that boombox back.

 

 

Dear Mets,

As a boy I went to one of your games and not one of you would give me an autograph. As the day wore on I asked photographers, batboys, concession stand workers, etc. for their signatures too but got nothing. What’s wrong with you assholes? Don’t you realize that crap can be really important to impressionable young boys? I wasn’t mocking you, I really wanted you to sign my stupid program.

 

 

Dear Eddie Malone,

God, I miss you. You’re the funniest person I’ve ever met. You had no inhibitions whatsoever when I knew you and I’ve aspired to that ever since. I didn’t and still don’t care that you did cocaine and Heather broke up with you. Truthfully, she was kind of weird anyway.

 

 

Dear Elissa,

Thanks for visiting me in the mental institution and bringing me a Bart Simpson doll. Susan told me that you cheated on me many times and it’s a little fucked up that you told me not to make art because that was “your thing,” but that was nice of you to visit. Besides, not to be a prick, but I’m actually a real artist now, and well, you’re probably not.

 

 

Dear Kazoo,

You were the best miniature schnauzer in the world. When they told me that you got hit by a car and that my dad and a police officer suffocated you in a trashbag, part of me died too. I used to love putting on your little red and black sweater and taking you for walks after a big snowstorm. You and I were the whole world during those moments.

 

 

Dear Grandpa Schwartz,

I doubt I ever told you I loved you unless my parents told me to say it to you which probably would have sounded forced and robotic, but I want you to know I keep a picture of you taped to the inside of my bathroom cabinet. It seems like nobody in the family (especially your wife) gave you much respect because you worked most of your life in a men’s clothing shop. But you know what? Fuck them. Fuck anyone who says a single bad word about you. You were kind. Maybe they don’t respect that, but I do.

 

 

Dear Other Dog (I forget your name),

They told me you jumped out of the window of our Chevy Citation one day. If that’s true, way to go. If I was an animal who could survive anywhere, believe me, I would have been right behind you.

 

 

Dear Grandpa Gaffney,

Thanks for reading to me in a rocking chair for all those hours. I don’t remember them, but mom swears that’s what we used to do. I like to think you’d be proud of me even though I can’t support myself.

 

 

Dear Aunt Barbara,

I was flattered at the time but it’s kind of fucked up that you taunted your husband by saying what a good kisser I was when all we ever did was peck. I think you might have boundary issues.

 

 

Dear Allen Ginsberg,

You’re by far the most overrated poet of all time and when I saw you at Manhattanville College you really sucked ass. That smoke-dope, eat-rope, smoke-dope stuff was embarrassing. I’ll never understand why the world doesn’t care that you were a pedophile. If you were alive and tried that shit now I would kill you in your sleep.

 

 

Dear Birthday Clown,

I know you were just doing your job but it mortified me when you pulled out that scarf and “my” underwear was on it. I wanted to scream that that was NOT my underwear but the silence had already overtaken me by then.

 

 

Dear Kibbutznik,

That was fucked up when you asked if I was a mute, if I understood English. Why did you ask that? Because I wasn’t jumping fast enough as you barked orders? You may live on a kibbutz but you sure don’t understand the ideology behind one, you sad prick. I have a degree in Literature with a minor in Creative Writing, thank you very much.

 

 

Dear Coach Clancy,

I can’t believe you told me to beat up anyone that got too close to me. Not very responsible adult behavior there, pal. And I think being a goalie actually ruined me. The pressure to defend and then the burning self-recrimination after I let a ball go by me, especially one I knew I should have saved, that feeling still haunts me over 20 years later.

 

 

Dear Kevin,

You always acted like this big tough guy but then you had your friend fight me instead of doing the dirty work yourself. Pretty pussy, you know? And why did you do it? Because Ed’s sister told you I read your diary. How do you think she knew I read it, you idiot? She read it too! I guess she was suspect anyway though, she said I raped her. I’ve never raped anybody.

 

 

Dear Moira,

I was totally humiliated when after the night my mom tried to commit suicide you asked if I was okay in school the next day. You knew about it because your mom was a volunteer EMT. Isn’t that some kind of breech of confidentiality? I know you asked because you cared, but I wish you didn’t.

 

 

Dear Social Worker,

I don’t know how I wound up with you trying to diagnose my autism and not a psychologist or psychiatrist but you know, you were a real bitch. You were almost immediately hostile, questioning why I even felt the need for a diagnosis and you totally judged me for not being employed which is obviously very unprofessional. I may be nothing in your world, but you’re even less in mine. Where are you published? What galleries have you shown your artwork in?

 

 

Dear Jeff,

I’ve demonized you badly enough not to miss you but, well, who am I kidding, I miss you. Sorry I told mom that you were the one to put the batteries in her gas tank. I have no idea what I did to deserve your silence but understand, I’ve cut off many people who probably didn’t deserve to be cut off in my life too. Peace.

 

 

Dear Lucian,

Holy shit. I had no idea I had to clean the tank. This sounds so stupid but I thought that’s what the filter was for. Sorry, you deserved better. RIP.

 

 

Dear Barry,

Thanks for being the father I never had even though you’re younger than me and it’s probably creepy to say that.

 

 

Dear Dad,

Are you dead yet?

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry Picking

By Brin Butler

Essay

“What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

There’s a poor orchard town near where my father grew up in the countryside. It’s one of the poorest places in the country. Most people found out about it when it got some attention in the newspapers after a famous serial killer and child rapist named Clifford Olsen passed through and beheaded a child and left the trophy to be discovered by school kids in the river that flows next to the highway that runs through the heart of the town.


We drove through that town on the way to visit our relatives since I was a baby. I remember driving when my parents were together and after they’d parted ways. I think it was one of the first places I used as a marker to measure certain feelings that upset me. When I was very small we nearly always stopped to pick up fruit to bring over for my grandmother to use in baking pies. After she died when I was five, we still stopped to pick up fruit, but usually just enough for the last stretch of the car ride. Memories aren’t photos in an album, they change every time you fondle them. I was getting good marks and then I wasn’t anymore. Holes weren’t filling in with certain things that bothered me. When I was big enough, we pulled off the highway and visited one of my favorite bridges in the world called Red Bridge.

You could climb inside the walls of that one-lane bridge and get up to the top staring a good fifty feet over that icy, glacier-fed river.

At the best of times I’m pretty lousy with heights. I was 21 before I had the courage to jump. I had a boyfriended girl up there with me, originally from the town, who I’d met in the city. She knew the parents of the beheaded kid and we’d been talking about how creepy and exciting the river felt knowing that such an awful thing polluted it.

The first time I stepped into a river when I was two or three my dad told me that you can never put your foot into the same river twice. That was a good fit as far as I was concerned. I almost drowned once floating down a river and after I quit struggling it was the most peaceful feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. You’re caught under something and struggling and struggling to get to the surface and grab some air and then you actually hear another voice ask why?

She’d never had the guts to jump and thought anyone who did was crazy. I wanted to impress her. At first it hadn’t worked out so well. I’d chickened-out over and over again maybe 20 times, but when she gave up on me and went to collect the little blanket we’d spread out up there I went for it. I figured suicide was the biggest decision you can make that you can’t ever regret.

She made a beautiful sound when I jumped over her and off that edge. I could hear that sigh-scream all the way down with my arms flapping like a maniac before plunging into the water and falling so deep I touched down on the pebbly river bottom.

The next time I visited that town I didn’t pass through, we stopped to visit that same girl’s folks.

We stopped by a friend of hers who had an apple orchard. The orchard had a pretty story behind it:

The parents of that friend who owned the orchard had wondered for years why all the pickers went to one particular tree on their lunch break for their own apples to eat. Finally they went over to that tree and tried one of the apples for themselves and discovered that the apples looked and tasted different. They had a distinctive creamy color. As it turned out, it was a new strain of apple which they named Ambrosia apples that became so popular that they became quite wealthy.

I’ve taken nearly every girl I’ve really liked through that town and bought them some of those apples from the roadside fruit stands.

On the flight back from New York with my wife a couple days ago, I was thinking about one of these girls.

On the trip we had together through that town she picked up the slack from my grandmother and used those apples to bake a pie.

I published a story about her in a magazine a while back. I gave some slippery details about her finding out I’d written a novel about her without ever having had a meaningful conversation with her. In the story I’d given myself a first kiss with her. 10 years after high school she’d read it and flew over to be with me. That was what happened.

But I’d left the piece open-ended.

Sometimes I’m interested in people who think leaving out vital material isn’t the same as lying when it achieves the same purpose.

It’s a different feeling getting away with a lie.

Different motivation too, I think.

It’s weird writing the happy part of a story that you know ends badly.

I’d left it optimistic and nostalgic and hopeful between us.

It had ended abruptly, severed with a warning she issued in a shrill tone: “You’ll always regret this. You’ll look back and regret this for the rest of your life.”

Most women I know that complain about their choice in men talk about how unsuccessful they are in finding a good match rather than succeeding in choosing assholes.

Every writer zeros-in on who their best muse is, who they’re really writing to or who they feel is looking over their shoulder. I’m not good with a Thinking Cap on my head. I end up feeling like Whitney Houston when I’m trying to sound like Billie Holiday.

Crack isn’t heroin.

The woman who published that story asked me how the story played out after meeting that girl. Was I still with her? “C’mon, she’d moved from Europe to be with you!”

That wasn’t entirely true. More to the point, she’d moved to be with an idea of us that had nothing to do with me.

I have a considerable mean streak that I try to hold back when I write about women because I know how ugly it is.

Most likely it stems from the fact that I’m scared of women. All varieties. Old, smart, dumb, literate, young, moms, daughters, wives, mistresses, whores, girlfriends, sisters, political leaders, receptionists, dental assistants, nurses, poets, writers, actresses, pornstars, nuns, book club members, lesbians, cocktail waitresses, bus drivers, wrestlers, folk singers, talk show hosts, hobos, models, anorexics, pregnant, career-women, soft, cookie-cutter, snowflake—you name it I’ll raise my hand and bow my head in shame.

I’m scared of women because I’m so drawn to them. I’m obsessed by women in all their roles and sides and facets and devious complexity and radical ambiguity and appetites and narratives and surfaces and depths and noise and silence.

I know less about them as a whole the more I meet.

Punching your weight is a good rule.

I don’t bring much to the table. I like my femininity in the cute and dirty variety, like those first video game fairies with the glittery X-rated eyes despite G-rated roles.

Cuteness is depravity’s defense mechanism: Japan only overdosed on cute after getting nuked.

I think of women emotionally the same as I think of men, only I think of them emotionally as men who are drunk and high. After all, women have purpose.

“Love is blind, but stalkers often have an eye for detail” is how I opened the piece.

Before I started the piece, I had a few pages of notes that included several pretty lines meant to hide other elements I’d left out.

Salinger had this line about “letting all your stars come out” or something. I wonder why this is so scary to do.

When I look at them, relationships seem mostly about addiction. Chemicals. Junk. Power. Submission. Domination.

Even with all the little stuff.

Telescopes and microscopes uncover what you can find.

She’d said she looked forward to baking pies after we got married and had our own family and grandchildren.

I like opening my eyes underwater in a lake or in the ocean when I can’t see anything.

She knew she was going to live to be over a hundred, she assured me.

I love fortune cookies, but not for their wisdom.

She was glad I thought she looked the same as when I’d first met her at 13, but she was most pleased that I loved her eyes, because the rest of her would “perish” into old age and “decay” but “my eyes will always remain.”

It was speeches like these, the chilling inflection and frightening vocabulary, that first broke the spell.

Then there was the preemptive self-flattery: “Everywhere I go others inform me that my breasts are divine.”

Pleasant would have been my choice of words.

“My bottom attracts attention like you wouldn’t believe.”

She was on the mark with that one. I didn’t believe it. And even more so after just breaking up with a Puerto Rican dancer whose ass moved like a wrecking ball down New York streets in terms of the attention from men it commanded.

“Don’t you fancy how quirky I dress?”

From her attire, she looked a girl who proudly lived in a giant shoe.

I left out that I was so nervous before meeting her that about 8 hours prior to picking her up from the airport I accepted the offer of a perfect stranger for a random meeting and presumable “booty call”.

I think it’s the only time I’ve ever been the one not chasing.

This random girl somehow got very turned on discussing books. She was boyfriended also. It didn’t really matter except that he was a very respectful boyfriend, which in all areas except sexually pleased her just fine. “That’s my main problem with this guy. I want a good person who can really demean me. He can’t. We can connect emotionally and intellectually and he’s not intimidated by someone with my education and career and outspokenness. You know what I mean? He just can’t bring himself to really give me what I want sexually.”

“What do you want sexually?” I asked.

“A guy who isn’t afraid to come on my face, you know?”

“Right.”

It’s liberating in a slightly unsettling way to be attracted to a woman yet having no interest in fucking her. It’s not a state you’d like to occupy all that often, but it’s valid somehow too.

“Are you gonna fuck me or what?”

“Nope.”

“So you’re using me?”

We’d met on top of a hill with a really spectacular view. She’d laid out a blanket.

She asked about the girl flying in. She asked how I felt about the circumstances. She gave her point of view. She asked me if I knew who Mr. Darcy was. She asked if I had any intention of contacting her after that night. When I gave her a look, she informed me that she was making a joke.

I told her after that night I would never speak with her again and she saw very clearly that I meant it.

She asked if I was joking.

“There are no jokes, the truth is the funniest joke of all.”

—Muhammad Ali






Well, it’s official: after 37 years on this planet– 37 years of being chased by homicidal maniacs, trapped in mazes, falling off cliffs, forgetting how to drive stick while the steering wheel comes off in my hands as I navigate particularly treacherous mountain roads, having my teeth fall out when I show up late for school with no pants on only to find my term paper was due the day before, falling into the ocean while clutching my computer which contains the only copy of the book I’m writing, oh and going back to college and finding that somehow I wasn’t assigned a dorm room and have to live on the street oh but I didn’t register anyway and all the classes are full and nobody seems to care about my predicament– um, stop here, sentence too confusing.

I finally had the most fucked-up dream of my life.

If I weren’t listening to Judas Priest right now (Sad Wings of Destiny) I would never have the strength to talk about it. But luckily I am!

So. I had this dream. And in my dream, I was in… Walgreen’s!