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Waiting

By Marissa Landrigan

Essay

Over the course of the past year, the final year of my twenties, many of my closest friends have become mothers. Which is to say, they have come to understand the design of their bodies as evolutionary miracles, capable of withstanding great pressure, change, eruption. The body as engine.

Tinas Mouth: An Existential Comic DiaryTina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary is the story of 15-year-old Tina M., an Indian-American girl attending a posh private high school in California, and, like so many her age, trying to find her place in the world. A natural for self-reflection, Tina’s ripe for existentialism when her hippie English teacher introduces the subject to the class. The assignment for the year is for each student to find “true and authentic meaning and purpose” in their existence. What follows is Tina’s project. As the subtitle suggests, her search is in the form of an existential comic diary.

Unless you’re on a serious media diet, it can be difficult to miss the roar of publicity praise machines churning out promotions and profiles during awards season. We’re currently surviving a stage-one George Clooney avalanche and, while somewhat understandable (it’s just show biz, after all), I confess that I find the gooey adulation of Clooney a bit much to bear.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a life that’s been more mythologized than Georgia O’Keeffe’s. By the time she was anointed Most Famous Woman Artist in America so many people had gushed so flagrantly over her singular style, her huge erotic flower paintings, her snappy (and occasionally snappish) bon mots, her long and unconventional marriage to Alfred Stieglitz, the other-worldly landscape of northern New Mexico with its voluptuous land forms and many large dead animals, whose skulls and vertebrae she immortalized, and her prickly devotion to her privacy, that it’s amazing there aren’t more O’Keeffe folk songs, limericks, totems, feast days, rituals, annual pilgrimages, and bank holidays. Given our feelings for everything she represents, it speaks well of the human race that we haven’t fetched up a minor religion around her that worships independence, focus, creativity, and wearing those bad scarves my mother used to don the day before she went to the beauty parlor.

“I was vicious with grief.” —Cheryl Strayed

Bellevue Literary Press, who published this excellent, heartbreaking collection of stories, Widow by Michelle Latiolais, specializes in publishing work about mental health or rather, mental illness. Associated with the famous hospital in New York City, it publishes a review as well with the same focus. I had been curious about their titles for some time and reading Widow was a profound experience. That Bellevue, associated with extreme and very apparent cases of mental illness in a number of movies and novels, understands that grief, an experience common to everyone on this planet, is a suffering so strong and life-changing as to make one ill, shows a subtlety and intelligence that should be commended.

I’m not supposed to be here.

I don’t mean “here”— standing in an unmoving line in the middle of Madison Square Park waiting for a cheeseburger I don’t want on a hot June day.

I mean that I’m not supposed to be the thirty-something with the two cats, one toolset I don’t know how to use and zero prospects on the horizon.

I’m not.

And yet I am.

How in God’s name has it taken me so long to see this?

 

“Hey,” he said as he sauntered over to where I was on my phone in the corner of a room. We were at a party in an L.A. warehouse and I was checking my voicemail. Thrown by his directness, by the way he walked right up to me even though I was busy, and then by how he looked at me—again, so directly — I hung up the phone even though I was in the middle of listening to a message I’d been waiting for. “You look stressed,” he said. He appeared bemused.

This guy wasn’t gorgeous; his brown hair was starting to gray, his face was a little pinched, he wore glasses and was neither rugged nor slim. But for some reason, I shook as I smiled at him. “And you look amused by that,” I responded.

He laughed — a loud, guttural guffaw. “You were very focused on what you were doing,” he said. “It made me want to see if I could break your focus.” I noticed that stubble decorated his cheeks and chin.

“Mission accomplished,” I said. Under normal circumstances, I would have been annoyed— being accosted by a stranger doesn’t tend to bring out my good-natured cheer. But nothing about what was happening felt normal: the air was suddenly charged with energy from some otherworldly place.

We introduced ourselves. When he told me his name was Will, I suddenly realized he was the painter my friend had been telling me earlier was going to be at this party. Since my knowledge about art was somewhere between minimal and nonexistent, I’d only half listened when she’d talked about how he was a hero of sorts in the art world, credited with creating some new medium that enraged purists but was celebrated by modernists, and how his work sold for millions of dollars. But I didn’t tell him that I’d just figured out who he was; by this point, I was focused on his eyes which, now that he’d removed his glasses and tucked them into the front pocket of his white button-down shirt, I could see were swimming-pool blue. I could see vestiges of pain in the irises but they also looked simultaneously delighted and seemed to be pleading with me to stare back at them, a request that felt so overwhelming I had to look away. And when I glanced down, I noticed the wedding ring. Of course, I thought. The first man to captivate me at first sight couldn’t be single.

We continued talking. I didn’t understand what was happening — I’m a realist, practical and pragmatic, someone who believes in the right timing and compatibility and not soul mates and Cupid’s arrows. But I couldn’t deny the fact that this stranger was eliciting something in me that I hadn’t ever experienced instantaneously —a feeling that was simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, like a song I used to love but had long since forgotten the words to. Our communication, I soon discovered, was just as unusual: words began coming out of my mouth as sentences before I had the chance to experience them as thoughts, and I had no desire to try to impress him or make him laugh or showcase my intelligence. Somehow, he — or the combination of the two of us —rendered my omnipresent self-consciousness obsolete. Time both slowed down and sped up. I wanted to crawl inside his eyes and take a swim. I wanted everything else to disappear. Within three minutes of being introduced to this man, I felt like he was the only thing in the world that mattered.

I tried to act normal. He was married—and, he told me, had two kids—and I wasn’t going to go there. We made small talk, jokes. I pretended I wasn’t having trouble breathing. But when I went to the bathroom, I realized that there was only so much I could deny. My panties were soaked all the way through.

 

The Shake Shack line continues not to move and tears stream down my face—something so common these days that it takes me at least a minute to even notice. They’re certainly not my first tears of the day. Before I ventured out to get this burger, I’d actually been curled up in the fetal position sobbing for a good week straight, one sentence making an endless loop in my brain:

I’m going to be alone forever.

Then that thought elicited an endless stream of far more disturbing ones.

I’m going to be alone forever while the rest of the world is coupled off.

I’m going to be alone forever while the rest of the world is coupled off because there’s something terribly wrong with me.

I’m going to be alone forever while the rest of the world is coupled off because there’s something terribly wrong with me that’s obvious to everyone but me. 

Occasionally I’d switch to beating myself up for feeling this way while giving relationship advice on TV. It was shameful for someone who’d written hundreds of articles on sex and dating, someone who’d been the relationship expert on a cable show, someone who regularly shared her thoughts on romance on major networks, to be in this state.

As I inch closer to the Shake Shack counter, I rationalize that it’s okay that I offer relationship advice but can’t find and maintain one in my own life. How, I remind myself, could someone who easily found and married the man of her dreams help the lovelorn, the struggling, the confused and broken-hearted? I can understand people’s mistakes because I’ve made them myself. The fact that I’ve fallen in love with a married man and am now falling apart as a result will give me the experience and knowledge to be able to counsel someone else in the same situation.

But that still doesn’t mean I’m supposed to be here.

 

Before my trip to L.A., I’d managed to keep depressing thoughts about my single status at a simmer whenever they bubbled to the surface. Through a combination of optimism, denial, and a collection of other single friends whose lives appeared to be exciting and glamorous, I walked with relative ease through every form that asked for my husband’s employment information, every singles table at a wedding, every conversation about marriage. The “Have you met anyone special?” queries from my mom and other curious parties had, essentially, eased up, and I didn’t ask myself if this was because everyone had given up on me or was just assuming I was gay and in the closet. In therapy, where I dissected my relationships, the conversations tended to focus on the particular guy I was involved with — the micro, not the macro — so I usually avoided seeing the big picture. Whenever a romance fizzled, an I’m-going-to-be-alone forever mindset would set in and I’d agonizingly flip through people’s happy family Facebook photos and wonder why I couldn’t seem to do something that everyone — even the girl from my high school with the unplaceable body odor — had seemingly pulled off effortlessly. But those bouts tended to be ephemeral.

Of course, by the time I hit my thirties, I’d begun having impossible-to-ignore reactions to pregnant bellies and women or couples with children. I’d always smiled at, talked to and played with children but these activities took on a more panicked intensity once I started to pass through my prime childbearing years; a sensation that I’d better wave, smile, and coo at these kids since I might not ever have my own. I’d be struck with the feeling that the mothers of these children were much happier and better adjusted than I, no matter their circumstances. Since none of my good friends had kids yet, I didn’t experience this all that often and whenever I did, I never let the thoughts fester or cling to me: instead, I’d turn back to the manuscript I was working on or keep walking to the gym or check to see if a stranger had written something nice about me on my blog, and the fear that I might not have a husband or be a mother would be replaced by whatever thought I’d slid in there.

Most of the time, I convinced myself that I’d be fertile well into my forties, that I was simply someone who would not settle, and that when I did eventually commit to a man — a man whom I would of course feel had been well worth waiting for—our future children would never utter words like “dysfunctional family” or “I hate my mother” because I’d have worked out all of my issues during those long single years before I brought them into the world. Phrases to explain my situation poured out of me almost subconsciously whenever necessary. I’m happy being alone. Or: I haven’t met the right guy. Or my favorite, for when I was feeling particularly sanctimonious in the face of what I perceived to be smugness: People think they need a relationship in order to be complete but I don’t.

And I really didn’t think I did — until now. But interacting with Will had unearthed something so primal and overwhelming in me that not having a deep romantic connection suddenly feels unbearable. It’s like a dam inside of me has tumbled down and I’m mourning all the years I’ve felt this way without ever allowing myself to know I felt this way. I’m in my thirties, in other words, and just finding myself in the state most girls enter when they’re in their teens. I’ve never had a 10-year-plan or a must-be-married-by age and never worried about either of these things. Now it all feels like it’s too late – like while I was off screwing around and then taking advantage of the career opportunities available to women today, the men I’d want to partner off with went and married younger girls who were ready to forgo all the advantages of modern womanhood, who were happy to put their work lives second or possibly not even have them at all. It’s like coming out of a blackout and discovering that you’re in the process of losing a game of musical chairs – one you didn’t even know you wanted to play.

I haven’t been able to write lately.

I didn’t think it was because I couldn’t write, but because my life had become so busy with things outside of literary concerns that I couldn’t scrape together a few sentences out of the limited time allotted to my packed days.

Rae Bryant’s short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, releases from Patasola Press, NY in June 2011. Her stories have appeared in BLIP Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review), Opium Magazine, and PANK, among other publications and have been nominated and short-listed for several awards. She has work forthcoming in Puerto del Sol, Gargoyle Magazine and other journals. Rae has received Fellowships from the VCCA and Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a Masters in Writing, awarded as Outstanding Graduate. This summer she’ll be attending the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Conference on Craft in Florence, Italy as a JHU Fellow.

We caught up to Rae at her home outside Washington, D.C. for this interview.

Here in Australia, the International Comedy Festival has just passed. The newspaper sponsoring the event made a big push to cover every event, and as a result journalists who didn’t normally cover comedy were recruited to have a go.

It was a bit of a bloody disaster.

A lot of sub-par reviews came out, and in particular, this:

@simonjongreen Herald Sun sexist comments in Jen Brister review removed, angry comments remain. No mention of edit http://t.co/J2DNjB8

Thus was kicked up the stupid old debate of whether women are funny.

I think women are funny. I think it’s stupid to cleave the entire population of the world in two and then say one half aren’t funny. Some men are funny, some women are funny. Some people are funny.

I think women weren’t perceived as funny for a long time because men were in charge of hiring comics, and due to the attitudes of the time they simply didn’t hire women. No exposure means women don’t appear to be funny.

I have a sub-theory that I’d like to share. I think for someone to be funny, they have to have a degree of silliness: an ability to let themselves and their ego go and do what’s necessary to elicit a laugh. I think if someone wants to be seen as pretty or handsome, and that is their driving force, they’ll struggle to be funny, because in order to be pretty or handsome, there’s a requisite dignity and poise. This dignity and poise gets in the way of flopping around or admitting amusing secrets about your hygiene to make the audience laugh.

This isn’t to say funny people can’t be pretty or handsome. I just think someone can be funny if they’re willing to do what needs to be done to be funny: to let the conventional modes of carrying oneself fall away and for humour to emerge. If someone does that, and is also just naturally pretty or handsome, but their driving force is to be funny, then they’ll also have the fortune of being funny and attractive. Humorously boinkable.

Back in the bad old days, the wayward men who were hiring talent were happy to have the handsome and ugly funny men, but were looking mainly for the pretty women. They might hire a girl to be funny, but she’d need to have that main drive of being pretty so the wayward men could check that box. As a result, a lot of those women weren’t funny, and the wayward men could turn around and remark that women simply weren’t funny. A perpetual cycle, unbroken until the angry women of the nineties.

So I Got My Period Today

End of theory.


The moment he realised he was a hero was the exact moment when he knew he would never be a hero again. It was at that instant he knew that what was necessary was almost certainly that which was furthest outside the boundaries of possibility.

As a young man, Stephen had travelled the world, rapidly, and with abandon—fearlessly, some said. Idealist. Schtick. He was big on other people’s dreams. And fulfilling them: To expose them as nothing more then received aspirations – the third-hand smoke of a disinterested Empire: To spite them.

He’d followed the trail, strung farther and farther out across the third world like a garland of adolescent spittle gobs, hiding behind a Lonely Planet – glossy shield against the appetite of some diabolical gorgon.

A pair of low green hills were shaped like a pair of breasts in the Transylvanian mountains when he was 18. He remembered wondering to himself at the time what exactly the point of travelling could possibly be:

If you could go there, why the hell would you want to go anywhere else?

If truth be told, that ambition had never really left him.

Proust reckoned, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Pico Ayer has it that, “one really travels in one’s head”. Colonial Belgian explorer of Central Africa, Jérôme Becker identified the cause of his departure as, “nostalgia for the unknown.” Rimbaud was all about, “traffiking in the unknown”, in his aimless wanderings around same.

In a warped psalm ninety-one to the hard-on of Moses; in the mistaken belief someone wanted to share his sleeping bag for the red-granite sunrise, Stephen sprinted 2000 metres up Mount Sinai with the gold meridian of the sun at his heels.

He crucified himself on a swift and frantic Siamese emigration, like a trans-hemispheric Saint Valentine’s Day martyrer – marking the anniversary of a purple and orange Balinese high with cold memories of a hot rainstorm. He wound himself round the thread of a ballet-dancing Ariadne, tearing himself out of her eyes—Theseus abandoning himself on the beach instead of her. He eclipsed his existence for a glimpse into the diamond life of a Japanese actress with lips like the plumula of an orchid.

He wandered the art galleries, museums and religious monuments of the world, flattening the ostensibly wild, varied and fascinating continuum of his existence into a psychedelic gestalt of unending indulgent stimuli:

If there was ever an aesthete, it was Stephen Darlington.

Nursing Spanish hangovers, he lusted after the Reina Sofia with Picasso’s bent eyes. He saw the womb in Anish Kapoor. He paid for Ubud primitives over the mystery of the feminine. He broke his mind on Vietnam—hallucinating that he wasn’t even there, man. By New York, he couldn’t even look at the walls: Every minute he spent not desperately trying to inveigle himself into the lives of the genetically-stellar made him feel like he had wasted his entire life.

In flight, he escaped on the wings of opened books — delving into the recesses of esoteric knowledge; mining compensatory sapphires.

It didn’t matter that everyone else’s dreams were not his own, he followed them anyway. The long, slow pixel degradation of his unarticulated ambitions exposed the dark fissures in his life, like the black papyrus absences threatening to eclipse the hieratic on the Egyptian Book of Dreams:

British Museum recto 10683

“The dreamy blue of Italian skies, the dappled shade of summer woods, and the sparkle of waves in the sun, can have accorded but ill with that stern and sinister figure.”

-James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1890 – 1935

Freud believed that neuroticism is the inability to tolerate ambiguity; that contagious magic is a delusion of the neurotic – that things once in contact with each other do not continue to act on one another after physical contact has been severed.

Keats wrote that poetry is the ability to hold equal and opposite ideas in the mind at the same time—that an equal propensity for the greatest ecstasy and the greatest despair at one and the same moment is eminently necessary.

No wonder those men had a go at the face of the sphinx: The inscrutability of the silent and unknowable ancient enigma is impenetrable and absolute. But Oedipus beat the riddle with his head, didn’t he? He didn’t rely on torso alone.

“The mind is what one must consider, the mind. What is the use of physical beauty, when one does not have beauty in the mind?”

-Euripides, Oedipus, fr. 548

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






“I’ve already told you: the only way to a woman’s heart is along the path of torment. I know none other as sure.” —Marquis de Sade

Stop shaking your head. Gimme a chance to explain…

Long distance relationships open like pop-up books. Her pop-up book is in Manhattan.

I like stealing stuff—if I like you. I case every woman who catches my eye trying to see what they’re hiding.

You can’t give your phone number without giving something of yourself. Every little hair on a woman, even the peach fuzz, is a fuse.

I watch some guys staring at their girls like kids staring at a candy store window. Which gets me wondering–––along with the girl in most cases–––is he making that sweet expression at her or to himself in the reflection? So the girl looks over at me and sees the crowbar in my eyes. I can’t hide it.

But every time it feels the same when it clicks with somebody. I pick the lock and break into their life and instead of trying to steal everything, I end up wanting to move in.

I’m in full-on burglary-mode when all of a sudden I find myself liking the way you crookedly hang that painting, the way your bookshelves lean, that you’re a pack-rat for every letter an ex sent you and you’re amused I burned everything I had with my first kiss, that you kept a lock of your hair from when you were six and now your hair’s a different color, how you had a street portrait artist embellish your likeness when you were going through an ugly phase and everybody pretended you were really that pretty, you were entirely frigid with one boy and put out on the first date with another and you don’t know why the difference, that I thought my first girl was the one until we popped each others cherry and I knew she wasn’t and told her so, that you want a dad and your cute little boy at the same time out of a husband—oh yeah—and the guy you’d risk all that for to cheat with, you want to have your blueprints for the rest of your life approved of, you want your history to be a rumor that you spread, you want me to cast my net at you swinging over and over and never get more than half your butterflies, you want to be my private petting zoo, you want me to pry you down from your ivory tower over the intercom, I want a muse who fucks like a whore, you want to be able to hurt me and build me up, you want me to trudge through your sewers and step out onto your penthouse balconies, you want to take your top down in conversation and have my breeze run through your hair, I want you to kiss the stretch marks and cellulite on my brain, you want me to contemplate every guy who ever wanted to get into your pants, you want jealousy, you want me to be loyal but only because you’re amused that I’m a born serial-cheater, you want the church of your heart to have the choir on fire and neither of us willing to piss on them, I want you as a cookie jar, you want to get our plans on wheels, you want somebody with no plans, you want Monopoly on weeknights and Risk on weekends, you want somebody who can fuck people up but also listen, your personal angelic caveman with a daunting reading list, you want me to be fucked-up but lucid, you want our kid as the final jury on us, I’m not sure you really do, you want relativity here and there but stuff that comparison can’t touch other places, you want love letters and suicide notes and me to pretend with a straight face like I know what the fucking difference is, you want your melody to feel like a symphony, I want my note to feel like a melody, you want me to wonder how many inches it takes to reach your heart, I want you with telescopes and microscopes and a club and a cave and no viable heat source but me, you want me to accept that Brinny can still fall in love 10,000 times but it doesn’t have to be with 10,000 different girls it can just be with me, over and over, like some karma on spin cycle and no tag-backs, and we can be off-key, and every soliloquy can be one long stutter, and why the hell am I inventorying all this shit, oh yeah I’m nervous about Thanksgiving, I just mean… my garbage and maladjusted apparatus wasn’t flammable until I met you, be my pyromaniac and I’ll be your kleptomaniac, we’ll get the hang of it, epileptic embrace, be each other’s Rosetta Stone, here, this is a piece of chipped paint off my Davega Bicycle, we can be cigarette train wrecks in each others ashtray, you can sign letters in lowercase so I’ll imagine you on your knees and try to map out more ways to sweep you off your feet, now you’re making me a little nervous for not having wiped this thing’s nose, and I better stop cause everything else’ll feel like drinking from a bent straw but yeah, do we have a deal?