i'm marie calloway.
thanks for your XXXXXXXX XXXXXXX blog and other writing. especially your essay on pornography called XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX. those things have really broadened my mind. (before was strict classical marxist.)
please look at my tumblr if you want."
I sent that email in March. He didn't respond for months, so I felt a little embarrassed thinking he must have seen my email and ignored it.
But then I got this response in May:
"thanks for reading!
You can tell I don't check this email account very often, too lazy even to set up a forward — sorry for not responding sooner — I will start following you on tumblr —"
"thanks for replying
i didn't know you have a tumblr
i couldn't find a non XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXXX email for you.
if you want please read my writing zzz
tao lin liked both stories zzz
"I liked the Thought Catalog pieces in a Tao Lin-ish sort of way — that is, they are so direct yet make me experience an abstract discomfort, a spiritual sluggishness — reading that I realize it may not sound like a compliment, but it is.
also — you can email me at ___@_____________.com — I think I am shutting down the XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXXX thing."
"i'm glad you liked my writing. zzz maybe this is weird but sometimes i wondered if you would hate it/hate my blog since it could be seen as the self-absorbed narcissism you write about a lot zzz getting writing published felt weird though, and all the attention. i kind of didn't like it. still i asked tao lin if he would be interested in publishing a compilation of my stories/photographs thru muumuu house. zz
will you release a book soon?
plz add me on fb if you want."
"couldn't figure out how to add you on Facebook — I am sort of a Facebook dummy, despite writing about it all the time
maybe you can add me
read your pieces as critiques of narcissism and self-absorption, which are hard to make without embodying them to the nth degree — nothing more narcissistic than complaining about narcissism (like I sometimes do) — think one must feel it in the writing to understand why it is problematic, pervasive, a kind of drugged state
when I used to check on how popular my blog posts and stuff were, I was way more anxious — had a very ambivalent response to knowing what got more attention, and found it too easy to conflate attention to the subject I was writing about with attention to me as a person or writer — can see why those pieces of yours would bring a lot of weird attention, obviously —"
"oh i wanted to ask if you watched the bebezeva documentary and what you thought of it :o also maybe what you think of bebezeva in general??"
"haven't watched but will and let you know —"
Ten days later I booked a flight to New York City. I was technically going to meet my internet boyfriend, Patrick, a 19 year old who had fallen in love with my writing, and who was paying for everything. But what I was really excited about was the chance to meet Adrien Brody.
I sent him this email:
i will go to brooklyn may 26 - june 1
i would love to sleep w/ you
probably you're not into that sort of thing but thought i would say anyway zz via nothing to lose
goodluck in your life zzz"
I am intrigued by your proposal — would love to meet up if possible — Sunday and Monday would be good days for me — also been meaning to watch bebezeva video — send me a link to it if you can"
I didn't respond to that message because I didn't know what to say and was terrified of saying something that would make him change his mind.
Four days passed without any correspondence between us. I wanted to keep his attention, so I emailed him again, this time a gallery of photos a friend had taken of me in thigh high socks. I was also curious to see how someone who seemed so dignified and cerebral would respond to a young girl sending sexy photos of herself to him over the internet.
"here's some art me and some guy made
"provocative yet disarming — not sure if it is supposed to work this way but I wanted to loop the images and make them work like animation
I am at this conference session about narrative and postautonomia marxism, your link oddly resonant with it "<Call centeredness. Bodies at work, entities in narrative>"
or at least I am forcing a resonance in my mind —
In Amsterdam now but back in New York on Monday — will plan on seeing you next Sunday —"
I was relieved, and proud, that I was so attractive to him that it made him definitely want to see me.
I arrived in New York on Thursday night of the 26th of May. Patrick was a virgin and he lost it to me that night. The rest of the time with him was mostly spent eating out, shopping, laying in bed, and wandering around New York. The entire time was spent half-interested, my mind constantly going back to Adrien Brody.
Then, on Saturday afternoon, after we got back to the hotel (slightly drunk) from Central Park, I checked my email.
"let me know if/when for sun/mon — need to figure out my plans — may be out of town until sun afternoon — hope you are enjoying NYC"
"sunday is fine whenever
you can text me 702-XXX-XXXX
btw sry if too forward
will u read thru my archive of selected blog posts and say what you think
just b/c i want you to"
"will do — be in touch tomorrow 6ish"
Patrick was gone all sunday visiting a friend.
I spent the day shopping, first at Tiffany's where I bought Patrick a bottle of cologne, meant as an apology for him having to spend so much money on me, and for going off to see another guy. Then later I went to the crowded, five story Forever 21 near Times Square and bought lingerie and nailpolish.
I wanted to go for a drink after shopping, but I decided against it and went back to my hotel and laid in my bed, nervously waiting. I checked the time on my phone frequently, near constantly as it got closer to 6.
I tried to read the new book I got, but I couldn't. I could only wonder if I should change my clothes, fix my hair another way, wear my new lingerie...
And then he texted me.
My hands began to tremble.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god..." I repeated over and over.
"Back in city. This is Adrien Brody. Must determine where to meet. Where are you?"
I immediately forwarded it to Patrick and closed my phone shut.
I looked at the time it was sent, 6:35. I figured I should wait until at least 6:45 to respond. I put the phone on the bed and inched away, staring at it.
I couldn't tell if I was acting in a contrived way, or if it was all genuine. I thought about that for a while, and then at 6:40 I picked up the phone and typed a response:
"in manhattan. 7th ave and 55th st."
"I can meet you in 45 minutes there and we can proceed out of midtown. I will text you when I get off subway. That okay?"
I examined myself in the full length mirror in the hotel room, and decided to change my clothes. I decided my legs looked too fat for the shorts I was wearing, so I put on a black pencil skirt and a blue pinstriped dress shirt to match.
I thought that I would meet him near the subway, so I went and stood out infront of the station.
I was worried about my face. I examined my face with my pocket mirror, but I didn't trust it. I took out my phone and took a picture of my face. As I was doing that, someone walked by and made fun of me: "that girl's taking a photo of herself!"
The picture looked horrible. I initially panicked, and then tried to convince myself that it didn't actually look horrible, with mixed results.
I stood in front of that station in a kind of numb anxiety for what seemed like an incredibly long amount of time, made to seem longer by me checking the time on my phone every two minutes. It was a strange feeling, having spent the past two weeks looking forward to nothing but meeting him, but as the minutes drew closer I was overcome with nervous dread. He wouldn't find me attractive, I wouldn't have anything to say, we would sit in a bar in painful silence until he found an excuse to leave and I would feel humiliated and ruminate for months...
My thoughts were interrupted by an incoming text.
"Here. Sitting in dismal space on 56th west of seventh smoking a cigarette by hooters. Where are you?"
"near the 57th st station."
"On the street? What corner. Will find you? Im wearing a blue polo shirt. Bald."
I had to walk away from the station to the nearest street sign to find out what corner I was on.
I walked aimlessly around the block, looking for "56th west of seventh" or just the sight of him.
I finally saw him on the opposite side of the street from where I was standing.
My first impression of him after noting he was bald and wearing a navy polo like he said was that he seemed awkward and out of place. He was carrying a black shopping bag which added to this feeling somehow. He seemed strange and clumsy. This reassured me, like he was actually what I had imagined and hoped he would be.
I thought he had seen me and would come to me, but he started to turn and walk right.
I texted him just to be sure:
"are you carrying a bag?"
I reached for my phone to text him that he had just past by me, but I decided to just go up to him instead. I started to run after him. As I started to run, I passed a tourist with his son who said, "watch out, that girl's going to get you!" This made me feel self-conscious, and so I tripped. My shoe fell off into the street. I covered my face with my hands, embarrassed.
With my head still facing downwards, I went out into the street and put my shoe back on.
I raised my head, and I saw Adrien Brody was looking at me. I could tell he had seen the whole thing.
I walked up to him, feeling humiliated, hoping he would pretend nothing had happened; and that's exactly what he did.
We said hello and started to walk.
I was relieved by the feeling I felt, walking next to him and making small talk. It was a little awkward, but he didn't seem stiff or judgmental like I had teriffiedly imagined him as being.
He told me about how he had been in pennsylvania earlier that day, and other things about his car.
"It seems like it would be really annoying to have a car here."
He said that it was annoying, but a car is necessary to escape New York, "and sometimes that is everything."
I wondered why he was unhappy living in New York.
"Are you from Las Vegas?" he asked.
I guessed he had realized it from my 702 area code.
"Yeah...but then I moved to Portland for college."
I felt embarrassed that he knew I was from Las Vegas. Whenever anyone asked me where I was from, I always lied and said I was from Portland or Los Angeles. I felt like I was now at a disadvantage, like a hole had been torn in the image I wanted to present of myself.
But then he talked to me about how he used to live there, in the 90's. My mind reeled at the idea of this New York based intellectual having once lived in Las Vegas. At the same time as me, even.
I wanted to change the topic, so I recited the question I had thought of to ask him before we met, "Where are we going?"
He said we were going to take the subway out of midtown, and then he'd try to find a bar that wasn't too loud.
"I like just turned 21, so going to bars is still new to me."
I was dropping my age. I wanted to see how he felt about it.
"Really? Well, going to bars is nice I guess. It gives you somewhere to go..."
His response felt awkward, and I wondered if he felt weird about me being so much younger than him, rather than excited like I had expected and hoped for.
For want of something to do, I reached into my purse and pulled out a cigarette and lit it.
"I'm going to smoke, too," he said and reached for a cigarette.
"I'm so glad you smoke. I thought I was going to have to ask, 'do you mind if I smoke?'"
I really was glad he smoked. It seemed to humanize him more in my eyes. Feeling more comfortable now, I tried to make myself vulnerable to him, to gain his affection.
"I thought you would be like really stiff. I thought this would be like talking to a professor or something. I was like, 'how am I going to impress this guy?'"
"You don't have to impress me! No. I mean, who wants to go through life being that guy?"
I was hoping he would say something to the effect of how my looks made it so he was already impressed by me, which would ease the immense pressure I felt to be interesting and witty, (which is what I always hope for from men) but he didn't.
We reached the subway station.
He went through the gate, and I asked him nervously if i could use his Metrocard, as I had lost mine last night.
"Of course," he said, and handed it to me.
We sat next to each other on the train.
I asked if I could take his picture, mainly as an attempt to break the ice.
"Are you going to publish it?" he asked kind of nervously.
"No," I said, fully intending to.
I took and saved the photo. He looked over my shoulder at my phone. When I closed the picture I had taken of him, he saw my wallpaper, which was a picture of a guy from Montreal I had met on my plane ride to New York.
"Who's that?" he asked.
"This guy, Ben, I met on the plane to here."
"How'd that happen?"
"Um, we noticed each other while we were waiting to get on the plane. And then he ended up sitting next to me. And..." I started to laugh, embarrassed.
"I don't know if it's appropriate to say."
"It's fine. Unless you think it's something the people here couldn't bear to hear," he said, motioning at the people on the train across from us.
"We like made out and kind of had sex."
"What, in the bathroom or something?"
"No, like under the tray tables."
"People fantasize about that..."
"Yeah, Ben said he had fantasized about it. I never really thought about it, I guess."
He told me about how once he had ridden a Greyhound bus across country, and the woman sitting next to him laying her head on his shoulder, and then gradually groping him.
"I just went along with it...but I kept worrying about the end of the trip. When we both got up, would I have to say, 'hi, I'm Adrien?' But then when the bus stopped she just got up and left without even looking at me."
I started to laugh really hard, and began to feel comfortable around him, since he had told me such an awkward, sketchy story.
"You must get a lot of like fan letters from girls."
"No, not really."
"Oh, so it must have been ever weirder for you when you got that message from me when I found out I was going to New York."
"I thought it made sense, based on the writing you showed me. Which reminds me, I read that epic blog post you sent me."
I covered my hands with my face, kind of laughing.
"Oh no, I wish you hadn't."
"Why? I liked it."
"It's just, what happened is that I got really drunk in Central Park with the guy I'm here with, Patrick, and when we went back to the hotel for some reason I thought it'd be a great idea to send some long rambling blog entry I wrote to you and Tao Lin and Momus...and then I sobered up and felt so embarrassed. I send Tao Lin so much horrible, unsolicited writing. I think he used to like me, but he doesn't since I kept doing that."
He kind of laughed.
We got off the subway and began walking down a narrow sidewalk past street vendors and Mexican grocery stores.
"What do you think about Tao Lin?" I asked.
"I think he's trying to do something, and what he's trying to do is interesting, but personally I just can't read that stuff. Maybe it's because I'm older..."
"Yeah, when you read it you kind of sink in this malaise. I liked Richard Yates, but I don't like his short stories. You liked Richard Yates kind of, didn't you?"
"I haven't read Richard Yates."
"But you reviewed it?"
"Oh, Richard Yates...I guess I did read some of it."
"Do you think Tao Lin is Carles?"
"I think there's a few different Carles. There's one, who's really funny and writes those long kind of narrative posts, and I think that's Tao Lin. And there's another one who just sort of knows a lot about indie music, and what he posts is boring to me."
"I don't think Tao Lin writes it...but I do think there are multiple Carles. Because like different posts will be written in kind of different styles, and like the quality varies a lot from post to post."
"Carles put you under his blog BFFs!"
"I thought that was really cool. And also I would write things, and they—I assume it's they—seemed like they were kind of responding to things I wrote which I also thought was really cool."
"You mentioned Momus earlier. Who is that? I've heard the name, but I don't really know who it is," he said.
"Momus is like this Scottish pop singer who was kind of famous in the 80's, like he had this song 'Hairstyle of the Devil' which was a hit, and he had a few other hits. And then in the 90's he went to Japan and produced hits for Kahimi Karie and worked with other Japanese bands who became kind of big in Japan and even the West a little bit. And then he started making kind of like, post-modern songs I guess. And he had this blog, Click Opera, which I don't know, was kind of like your blog is to me. Like I thought it was really interesting because he has this perspective on a lot of things that I had never heard before...so he and his writing and music had a big influence on me and my thought process, so I used to write about him a lot on my blog. And he's really narcissistic, so he has like..."
"He probably has Google alerts for his name."
"Yeah! He has those...so he found out I was writing about him a lot, and he saw that I had written about these rumors I heard about him, like that he was cheating on his longterm girlfriend with an 18 year old girl, and he's like fifty...so he found out and made this song and video about it. And then we started kind of talking and flirting over email. I was really flattered at first, but I don't know, I think he's done that with like hundreds of girls over the internet, so I don't feel that special anymore," I said, laughing. "I even started kind of seeing the bad parts of him. Like he talked about being in love with this 18 year old girl over the internet, and he said he 'relates to her 'searching for an identity.' And it's just like that seems kind of sad, to be like 50 and pining away for some 18 year old girl over the internet, saying that you have a 'search for an identity' in common with her..."
"That just means you have something in common with everyone on Earth."
"No, my personal brand is really well developed."
We reached the bar and went in and sat at the counter.
The bartender asked to see our IDs. I wondered if we looked weird to him, or if it was typical for girls to go to bars with men twice their age in New York.
The bar tender asked what we would have, and both men expected me to order first, but I hesitated, so Adrien Brody said, "I'll have a Sierra Nevada."
"I'll have that, too." I felt silly, but I was too scared to order what I wanted because I was afraid of him judging my beer choice.
"How old are you?" I asked.
"That's what I thought."
"Why did you think that?"
"Well, it said on your Facebook profile that you graduated in 1992, so I did the math."
The bartender put our beers in front of us. He paid, and we began drinking.
I found myself just suddenly complimenting him without thinking about it, "I just wanted to meet you because you seemed really smart..."
"Well, prepare to be greatly disappointed."
I asked him about the conference in Amsterdam he said he went to.
He talked about it, and what stood out to me was his frustration:
"Some people knew the blog but I feel like they don't take it seriously because of where it's published. And they didn't take me seriously because I don't have a PhD in sociology or philosophy. But it's like, I'm smarter than these people. The only difference between me and them is that they're teaching..."
"Are you going to write a book?"
He talked about how his friend was pushing him to do it, but how he didn't really have the motivation. He talked more about his friend and his ambition, which he saw as him trying to force onto him. He went on to talk about "the circles that he ran in" and how everyone was always "bragging and self-promoting in that very humble way" and how he felt alienated from it.
"Yes I could never take that. Like when I talk to other writers and they're like so ambitious and always like bragging about getting published in different places and..." I shook my head.
"Do you care about 'n+1'?" he asked.
"What's 'n+1'? I've heard of it before but I can't really remember what it is..."
He said he was relieved that it wasn't a big deal to me.
"It's this magazine that's really big in Brooklyn literary circles." He talked about everyone being really excited about it, but him not really caring.
I realized I had only heard of it because I had read an article that he had written for it.
He talked about how his friends were always urging him to move to Brooklyn from Queens, where he lived now.
"It seems like it would be good to not live there and be constantly surrounded by that culture," I said.
"That's what I think. I love where I live..."
I started to talk about being similarly alienated from the intellectuals and activists I knew.
"Like I was involved with socialist politics for a while, but, like when I went to protests or whatever I felt really embarrassed. Like being surrounded by college kids saying things like, 'we're the vanguard of the working class.' I don't think there will be a socialist revolution."
This was the first time I had admitted that to anyone, including myself.
"I don't think there will be either. When I think about leftists I know, like my friend who is pushing me to write a book, I think about how privileged he is...like he says things like, 'I didn't go to an ivy league, I went to the University of Maryland', like that means something."
"Are you talking about Malcolm Harris?" He was another writer who wrote in the same places as Adrien Brody whose articles I read sometimes, who I knew enough about to recognize that he was talking about him.
"Yes, Malcolm Harris."
I gasped. "He's only twenty two, right? He's so smart!"
"He's a pretty smart guy."
He went on to talk more about Malcolm Harris, and how aggressive and self-promoting he was, and how seriously he took himself. "But I guess that's what you have to do to succeed..."
"What if Malcolm Harris led the revolution?" I asked.
"Then...there would be no mercy," he said.
He talked more about "the academic left", and how they acted haughtily towards him. It was surprising and interesting to me, this sense of superiority he talked about, because my experience with the left with regard to the "academic left" had only been in the form of vicious attacks about how they were armchair revolutionaries or fakes who were secretly subservient to power.
I started to feel like I really wanted to sleep with him.
"I feel tipsy already," I lied, so I could have an excuse to start flirting.
But he just said, "Do you need to eat something?"
"Okay," I said, unsure of how to turn that around.
We got up and walked out onto the street, and I followed him as he walked in front of me.
"Does it have to be good food?" he asked.
"No, I eat basically anything."
He talked about how he wanted to go to this diner close by.
"Yeah, don't worry, I've eaten at some pretty gross diners in my time."
I started to smoke another cigarette.
He reached into his bag and pulled out a medicine bottle.
"Adderall. I thought I would take some so I wasn't exhausted the rest of the day."
"Can I have one?"
"Of course," he said, and gave me one.
I popped it in my mouth.
"Being around you smoking all the time is making me want to smoke a lot more than I should."
"I'm a bad influence on you. But wait, you gave me Adderall, so you're a bad influence, too."
"Mutually bad influences," he said.
He started to talk about past relationships and crushes as we walked.
He talked about an old roommate, who would pick up women and bring them back to his apartment, and after having sex with them, just leave. And he would be left to comfort the girl and "do the emotional work" that hookups/dating entail.
He told another story about a friend of his, and how he was constantly successful with women by just being really domineering, and basically telling them they were going home with him.
There seemed to be this underlying bitterness.
"Do you feel like you resent women for wanting you to be dominating or aggressive when you can't be, or don't want to be?" I asked.
"I've thought about that before. That's kind of putting it strongly..."
"Guys I like are usually like you, and I always have to be really forward and pursue them," I said and smiled, embarrassed.
We reached the diner and stood in front of the entrance.
I looked inside and saw that it was really loud and crowded inside. I was dreading the idea of sitting through a long dinner with him in a place like that.
I took a long drag of my cigarette.
"Are you really hungry?" I asked.
"Do you really want to eat right now?"
I looked away from him and stared out at the street.
"Do you want to go have sex?"
There was a three second pause.
"...we could do that."
We started to walk away from the diner and down the street. I was walking really briskly because I was so excited.
"I guess I just don't feel like sitting in this loud diner right now," I said.
"I can understand that."
"How long will it take to get back to your place?" I asked.
"We'll just take a cab." The excitement in his voice was palpable.
He flagged a cab and we got inside and he gave the address to the cab driver.
I slouched down in the seat, and rested my head on his shoulder and grabbed his hand.
He looked at me.
I could feel he was really nervous and excited.
We rode in silence for a while, me laying against him and holding his hand.
"How does that guy you're with feel about you seeing me...?" he asked like he was worried, and I wondered why he cared about what Patrick thought.
"Oh, he doesn't care. He's meeting some girl from Taiwan or something today."
"Are you having second thoughts about me? If we do this, I promise you won't regret it...I'm sorry that probably sounded really stupid," I said and started to laugh. I knew that was an embarrassing thing to say before I said it, but I couldn't stop myself.
He laughed too.
"Because...it's just...I have a girlfriend."
I sat up and turned away, towards the window.
We sat in silence again.
My first thought was that I wished he hadn't told me. I thought it was unfair he was telling me about his girlfriend, and therefore making me partially responsible if we did end up having sex.
And then thinking more, I was surprised he actually had a girlfriend. I thought the frustration he expressed about the difficulty of pursuing women was indicative of him being hopelessly single.
And finally, from reading his articles, besides his intelligence, what I had really admired about his writing was essentially this feeling of how he seemed to uphold human dignity and the sacredness of human feeling and connection. And so it seemed unbelievable that he would cheat. That made me both disillusioned in him, and yet also sexually excited, because he was betraying those values.
"I guess...I was being cowardly in not telling you before. I was afraid you wouldn't meet me if I told you."
I couldn't believe he had actually cared about meeting me. Before we met, I had this feeling like he didn't really care about meeting me, and that I was just kind of an afterthought way in the back of his mind. I felt very flattered at the realization that he wanted to meet me so much that he put effort into hiding things about himself to make sure that I would.
But the feeling of being flattered changed to a sort of abstract feeling of disgust at his lack of respect for his girlfriend, and also for me as he didn't tell me any of this until the last minute, when it was difficult for me to back out.
I wondered if this is just how men are, no matter how feminist and intelligent.
"It's okay. Um, I would be really hypocritical if I judged you for cheating..."
"But it's not about you being hypocritical. It's how you feel about doing this."
"My hope is just for you to stay in contact with me," he said.
I felt flattered and surprised that he had said that. I hadn't realized he had enjoyed talking to me. And I realized that that was the first time a guy had ever said anything like that to me, that they enjoyed knowing me, even without sex.
I have always been really adverse to the idea of being a "homewrecker", but everything had gone unbelievably well. I couldn't pass up the chance to sleep with my intellectual idol. I knew that I wasn't strong enough to do so, and that I would regret it forever if I didn't sleep with him.
I laid my head back on his chest.
"Are you like really attracted to young hipster girls?"
"Not as like a category..."
"Because I always kind of thought that's why you wrote and followed XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXXX and all of those articles about hipsters."
"I wonder if that's what a lot of people think...no, hipsters, like that whole category interests me as a way of living that has always existed in society..."
"Like, when you were younger, were you interested in hipster culture or whatever, but always felt like you were on the outside looking in?"
"Sort of. I always felt like I was on the fringes of in, looking outward, or feeling like I was looking in from the inside somehow."
I was a bit disappointed, because I was sure I had gotten that feeling from his writing. That we had that same fascination with that subculture because we were alienated from it.
The cab reached his apartment, and we walked inside and up two flights of stairs to his door.
When he opened the door, I first noticed his hardwood floors, and then the bookcases that spanned the walls of his apartment. And then I saw his guitar, couch, coffee table, and computer desk.
"Is it everything you imagined?" he asked.
"I never really imagined what your apartment looked like. But if I had had to imagine it, I think this is what I would have imagined."
I walked up to his bookcases and started to examine their contents.
I focused on one near his computer which was full of Marxist books. I examined his volumes of Das Kapital.
"Did you make it through Kapital??"
"Yes. The first volume, at least..."
"Sorry. I'm really nosy."
"It's okay. That's the first thing I'd do if I was inside someone's apartment."
I looked more.
"Do you notice all the uncracked spines on all of these books I claimed to have read?"
"Can I look on your computer?"
He said yes, so I went and sat on his computer chair and started to click through his pictures and documents. The first thing that caught my eye was a file called "hair." I clicked on it and saw it was full of pictures of a pretty woman with long brown hair. There were several pictures of just her hair. At first I wondered if he had some weird hair fetish, but then I realized that that must be his girlfriend. I was surprised by how pretty she was.
"How old is she?"
"Like mid 30's..."
Seeing those pictures of her made me feel insecure.
"Do you think I'm pretty?"
"Yes. Very much so."
"Do you think I'm smart?"
"Sorry, I'm really forward in asking for compliments from people."
"Yes, I think you're very smart. I think it's obvious."
He was standing at my side. I lifted my feet off of his desk and placed them on his shoulders.
"I don't know. Like, I didn't even know who Spinoza was until I read your blog post mentioning him a few days ago."
"You are not alone in that. So many people at that conference barely knew who Spinoza was. Even I have barely read Spinoza."
I started to wonder, and felt relieved that there might be truth to the idea of intellectuals all being frauds. I knew that I certainly was.
"I thought it was funny how you were talking about how people you know are narcissistic and pretentious, and then a few minutes later you were like bragging 'I'm smarter than these people.'"
He played my remark off. He was busy rubbing my legs up and down.
I looked at my legs. I wondered if he noticed the cellulite on my inner thighs.
"Do you like my legs?"
"I'm crazy about them. Can't you tell?"
"Can I read your email?"
"That's like a big invasion..."
"Okay. I guess it's like the other person didn't consent to it."
"Can I smoke in your house?"
"Let's smoke out front."
"Okay. Do you have any beer?"
I got up and followed him into his kitchen, and he poured me a glass of beer. Then we walked out of his apartment, and stood outside in front of it.
I lit a cigarette, and then started to drink. I quickly downed most of the beer, and as I hadn't eaten all day and am naturally a light weight, was starting to feel pretty drunk.
"Did you cheat before?" I asked.
"With this woman in Germany..."
"Do you watch porn?" I asked.
"Yeah..." he admitted guiltily. "I like to think there's this separation between the personal and professional sides of my life. I tend to be into videos of women masturbating..."
"I knew it. Guys like you always are."
"I guess it's just easier to buy into the delusion that they aren't being exploited, with those videos. I can show you some of the sites I look at, if you want..."
His voice sounded weird and I couldn't tell if it was because him showing me the porn he liked excited him, or if he felt awkward that he was talking about his porn habits.
"Sasha Grey," I said.
"I'm not interested in that stuff..."
"I always think it's interesting to hear people's opinions on Sasha Grey."
"I think that you can tell a lot about a person depending on what kind of porn they watch."
"I always thought that, too!" I was excited someone shared my strong held belief about personality and porn habits.
"There's a cop right there," he said and pointed. I looked and saw a cop walking towards us.
"What do we do?" I asked, trying to hide my beer and throwing my cigarette to the ground.
"We just..." he spun around and pointed towards the door, and we quickly walked back inside of his apartment.
I sat down on his computer chair again. I unbuttoned my shirt, revealing my bra. He was standing at my side again. I acted like I hadn't done anything though, and went on Grooveshark and put on music I liked.
"Oh, show me the porn you look at," I said, moving away from the keyboard and mouse.
He got on the computer and typed sodrained.tumblr.com.
"It's on Tumblr?"
"Yeah. That's where all the best porn is..."
"'Sodrained'," I said, laughing at the name.
It was all pictures of modelesque brunette women posing. They didn't look like typical pornstars, but they were all very thin and kind of generic looking. And there was the usual feeling of objectification in the photos. So I judged him.
"I'll show you, it's meant to be porn, but I think it's really pretty and expressive."
I went to youtube and pulled up Aki Hoshino's "Sneaker Lover" video, which for the past two years had been the height of beauty and expression to me, even though it was just meant to be softcore porn.
"Well, there's definitely a feeling of vulnerability..." he said.
He didn't seem to get why I was so moved by it.
I wondered if maybe men are incapable of understanding something like this as anything other than something that's meant to get them off.
"I was really in love with this Irish guy I met in London, he was a photographer and he's 37, but said he was 30 in order to trick young girls he met on the internet to come meet him, so he could take nude photos of them and have sex with them... It sounds horrible, but he was so interesting and mysterious. I fell really hard for him. I'll show you his blog."
I typed his blog into the address bar, and clicked through the pages, which mostly contained photos of young, naked Asian girls.
"It used to make me so angry and jealous when I looked at his photos...Now I don't really care. But it used to make me angry and sad to the point where I'd cry if I looked at this stuff."
I came upon a photo of him on his blog. He was so tall and thin and blonde.
"Don't you think he's good looking?"
"He just looks like a typical Irish guy to me," he shrugged.
I stood up.
"Can we take a bath?"
I got up and we walked into his bathroom.
He filled the bathtub with water while I took off my clothes. I got in and watched him take off his clothes and then get in the bath. I felt moved by the sight of his legs, which we so long and pale and slender.
I put my knees to my chin.
"One day Tom is showing you XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXXX, and then one day you're sitting in Adrien Brody's bathtub."
We both laughed.
I started to smile. "My old boyfriend. Now he's my best friend. He was the first person to ever love me. Like, I didn't even know it was possible for someone to care about another person that much."
"How many people have you slept with?" I asked.
"I don't keep a list."
"Yeah, but just like estimate."
"Oh, I've slept with more people than you."
"I figured you were more sexually experienced than me."
"Are you attracted to me, like physically?" he asked.
"Yeah, of course," I said. I didn't actually know if I was or not.
"Are you attracted to me?" I asked.
"Of course," he said.
I gripped my legs tightly and kind of tilted my head to the side.
"I just used to be really insecure about my looks...like for years I felt so ugly I wanted to die."
"I can definitely relate to that."
I was surprised. I didn't know men could feel that way.
I got out and wrapped myself in a towel. I walked into his bedroom and laid on his bed. A moment later he came and laid next to me. I looked across his room, at his desk, which had several bottles of red nail polish on it.
"Why do you have nail polish in your room?"
"It's my girlfriend's. She doesn't live here, but she stays over often enough that she wanted to keep some things here, and that didn't seem like a battle worth fighting..."
"Don't you like your girlfriend?" I asked.
"Of course i like her. She loves me and I love her. But I'm bored..."
I moved my body up to his until our stomachs were touching and my face was buried in his chest.
"Usually I hate talking to people, but I like talking to you." I said. "Like I see talking as a way to get to sex, but I'd rather talk to you than have sex."
"You see talking as a way to get to sex?"
This was the first time I had admitted that to myself, just talking to him. If i wasn't so drunk I probably would have started to feel really sad.
He held me and stroked my hair.
"I know you think you're weird, but you're not weird..."
I was touched, but I could tell he was talking to himself, or some projection of himself onto me, rather than me.
Still, I was so moved I said, "Can I say something? Something very drunk, and you won't hold it against me?"
He said it was fine.
"I love you."
He was taken aback, but said something nice in reply immediately that I can't remember.
I told him about how I couldn't feel oral sex.
He asked why.
"I can't explain it without telling you way too much about my life."
"But I want to hear it. This isn't about us holding things back or getting uncomfortable."
I just smiled and shook my head.
I wanted to tell him everything, but I didn't. I had too many painful experiences with opening up too much to men, with how they get uncomfortable and run away. All men except for Tom, anyway.
"If I lived in New York, would you date me?"
"I don't know. It's hard to say. You don't live in New York. And we're in very different places in our lives..."
"Men are always like really intrigued by me and want to sleep with me, but they never want to date me..."
"Don't have that be what you take that away from this, that I wouldn't date you..."
I kissed him, and I liked the feeling. It was a very warm and soft kiss.
He moved so he was on top of me. He caressed and then sucked on my breasts. Then he moved to rub his cock between my breasts which was funny to me.
Oh, serious intellectuals are the same as 13 year old boys.
Then he moved his head down until it was between my thighs.
He went down on me for a few minutes, and I faked moaned, pretending to enjoy it.
"Can you like, finger me while you do that?"
So he did, and then I started to enjoy it.
He came up and I kissed him, which I could tell he found exciting.
"Did you like me doing that?" he asked.
"Did you like doing that to me?"
"Yeah, I loved it."
It's hard for two anxious people to have sex. We couldn't ever really relax and enjoy ourselves. We were always worried about what the other person thought of us.
I began to finger myself for a minute, and then I stuck my fingers in my mouth, and then in his.
Then I started to give him a blowjob.
He moaned, almost in a surprised way at first.
Then a minute into it he said, "Can I give you direction?"
"Slowly, and just the tip. That's the most sensitive part."
"I know," I said and started to slowly run my tongue back and forth the head of his cock. I liked doing that, but I was surprised. Usually guys are only satisfied when you start gagging on it.
Then he started to move his hips gently up and down so his cock went in and out of my mouth, which I liked a lot. I've never been able to figure out why I get off on being used as an object.
I was surprised he was into mouth fucking.
"Is that okay?" he asked.
"And I guess it's like a porn thing, but when a girl looks up at you it's really hot."
So I shifted my gaze so I was looking up at his face. He looked simultaneously incredibly happy, but also like he couldn't believe what was happening. I was excited that he was watching me.
He facefucked me for a while longer, and then my jaw got sore so I pulled my mouth away and looked at him.
"Do you want to have sex?"
He went to go get a condom, but by the time he was back in the bed and had unwrapped it, he had lost his erection.
It then seemed really strange and unfair to me that the possibility of sex relies on just the one thing, the man's ability to get an erection.
We laid side by side.
He asked me to help him get an erection.
So I moaned, "I want you to fuck me."
I couldn't believe it.
"I can't do it if you're going to laugh at me."
I thought then how it's really unfair how men want and expect you to be really slutty and wild in bed, but they then laugh at you for it. You're either frigid and boring or you're unintentionally funny and crazy.
"I'm laughing but it's also making me hard."
I then just masturbated until he was erect enough to put the condom on.
He penetrated me and I was happy. I felt a strong sexual connection with him.
He started to talk about things.
"I always feel weird talking during sex," I said.
"But that's the best part," he insisted, grinning.
"Let's talk about Gramsci," I said.
"Okay," he said, and we did.
I put my arms around him, my hands resting on his back.
This made him nervous.
"I have a girlfriend. She can't see scratchmarks all over my back."
"It's okay. I bite my nails really short, see?" I said, holding them up to his face.
But I laid my arms at my sides.
"Will you cum in my mouth?"
"Okay, but I probably won't accept it back into my mouth..." (He was making a reference to how I had told him about my friend being into snowballing, and then I had to explain what snowballing was.)
"No, that's gross, I agree."
I don't actually think snowballing is gross and I really want to try it with someone, but I didn't want him to think I was into things he thought were gross.
One of us brought up cumming on my face instead.
"I've never done that before..." he said.
He said he would do it, but then said he wouldn't, and he kept going back and forth like this until I rolled my eyes.
"Oh, now you're rolling your eyes at me."
"Well, do you want to do it or not?"
"That's a fair question..."
I looked up at him, feeling vaguely annoyed.
"Okay, I will," he said.
And then a few minutes later he pulled out and took the condom off and was sitting on his knees above the side of my face.
I could tell he was really nervous, and I was afraid he wouldn't be able to cum.
To put him at ease I decided to reenact a scene from a Japanese pornography I had once watched. I opened my eyes and looked into his and smiled up at him.
Then when he finally came on my face I moaned and moved the cum from my cheeks with my finger tips to my mouth, and then sucked my fingers. His face changed to this huge dumb grin, like he couldn't believe it, couldn't believe his luck.
"I feel so vulnerable," he said, his voice shaking.
I felt annoyed he was only focused on his own feelings, after he had just shot a load on my face.
"Can you take a picture of me with my phone?" I asked.
He got up and got my phone, and then after I told him how to, took a photo. He didn't ask why I wanted a photo, he didn't say anything about it, like I hoped he wouldn't.
"Oh, you can't see anything, it's too dark, " I said, looking at the photo.
We talked more about Gramsci, and then our feelings.
My face felt tight as his cum started to dry on my face. I wondered how he could respect me, have this intelligent conversation with me, when I was laying there with his cum all over my face.
So I stood up.
"Come with me," I said, and grabbed his hand and led him to the bathroom.
I wanted to look at myself, but a pink towel was draped over the mirror.
"Why is the mirror covered up?" I asked.
He said it was usually covered up. He talked about how he hated mirrors and looking at himself. I remembered an article he had written about "mirror fasting", and how it ended it with "what seems to be called for is mirror fast after mirror fast."
I turned the sink on and rinsed my face off. I then took handsoap from the counter and rubbed it all over my face. I was afraid of the handsoap drying out my skin, but I was more afraid that he would think I was gross if I didn't wash my face off with soap.
"Oh, you have a hickey on your neck," I said after I dried my face off.
"I was worrying earlier you did something that gave me a hickey...did you do it on purpose?"
"No, I didn't! I swear to God! I had no idea that I was doing anything that might give you a hickey!"
He seemed convinced that I hadn't done it on purpose by my anxiety.
"I guess it looks like it could just be a zit or something," he said.
We went and laid down in his bed again.
"Was I like how you thought I would be in person?" I asked.
"Well, I figured you would be inward and quiet, and that I would have to talk a lot."
"I'm sorry i made you do all the talking."
He said it was okay.
"Did you look at my Facebook?" I asked.
"Because I don't look at anyone's Facebook..."
He went on to talk about how he was afraid he was afraid not using Facebook made him a loser. I thought back to the first thing that I had read by him that had really made an impact on me, when he wrote about how he would literally cover his face with his hands when going on Facebook because of all it meant wrt self-promotion and commodification of self.
Then he went on to ask me if I understood something about talking to people and wondering why they should care, and what the point was, but I didn't really understand what he was getting it. And then I told him how there were a lot of times i couldn't bring myself to care about my friends when something bad happens to them, but he didn't understand.
We talked more, and then we watched Annie Hall for awhile.
Then we started to fool around, but he was out of condoms.
We went to Duane Reade to buy more condoms. While walking to get them, we passed the cosmetics section. I grabbed onto his arm in order to stop him, and then picked up a hand mirror and held it in front of our faces.
"We look cute together," I said, and was happy when he agreed.
He bought a three pack of condoms, cigarettes, and a candy bar.
We went back to his house, and laid down together on his couch.
I picked up a book called Intern Nation that was laying on his coffee table.
"I have to read that. I'm not looking forward to it," he said.
I thought it was funny because I always think back to this joke on Hipster Runoff about how unpaid internships are the contemporary version of slavery, and here was a book apparently about that for real.
"Will you feed me a Reese's peanut butter cup?" I asked as I put the book down.
"Of course," he said, unwrapping the candy bar he bought.
I opened my mouth and he placed the whole disk in my mouth. I chewed it and swallowed it quickly, grossed out by how sweet it was.
"Yucky," I said and wiped my tongue off with my hand.
He said it was a bad idea to eat chocolate when you haven't eaten all day.
I got up and laid on his bed again and he followed me.
We started to make out again, and then he started to finger me.
"You feel very wet."
He was excited by this, and put a condom on right away.
"Do you want me to be on top?"
"No, I like being on top."
"But guys like you always love girl on top."
He insisted again he liked being on top.
I wanted to ask why, but I didn't for some reason. i made a note to ask him later, but never did. I had never met a guy who liked doing it in missionary before. I kind of even trained myself out of liking it, because most guys are so bored by it.
I felt very connected to him, like before, and enjoyed having sex with him very much.
He came inside me, and laid on top of me for a while. I liked the feeling of his warm cum pooled at the tip of the condom inside of me.
We laid like that in silence for a while.
"It's very different when you cum like this." he said.
I wanted to say, "This is how you're supposed to cum, right?" But I didn't for some reason.
He got up and threw the condom away, and then we cuddled, our eyes closed.
"I'm afraid to go to sleep," he said.
"I'm afraid of losing the connection, I guess."
If you're afraid of losing our connection just because we went to sleep it's not like it was very strong in the first place...
We did eventually fall asleep.
In the morning we got up and I used his toothbrush and he showered and then we got dressed and split his last Adderall.
We smoked out front of his apartment.
He wanted to go for a drive so we did.
We drove around for a long time. We talked about Joan Didion and when he taught English composition courses.
I asked him if he was ever attracted to his students and he said, "There would always be some...I hated it when they would try to make it about that..."
We reached an empty beach and we walked to the shore. The sky was all grey, but he said that it probably wouldn't rain until later in the day.
I took my heels off and carried them in my hands.
"Will I like step on a needle or something?"
We sat by the shore.
"I really need you to hold me right now," he said.
I laid on top of him.
He talked about how he used to feel like male subjectivity is false while female subjectivity is true...
I have had a lot of experience with some men, who want to otherize women and make them out to be somehow pure or in a way "better" than men, but still not quite human. I could see him being that type, and felt glad he wasn't anymore.
We laid there in silence until it was interrupted by my phone beeping. I checked it, and saw I had received a text from the boy I was staying in my hotel with, Patrick.
He was wondering if I was okay. I responded that I was fine and missed him and would see him later today.
"What was that?" Adrien Brody asked.
"Oh, it was Patrick."
"Do you have to go back to your hotel?"
"No, I think he just wanted to know that I'm not dead."
He asked me more about Patrick.
"He has like really unrealistic expectations of what people will do. Like you know how Tao Lin was selling a bunch of his stuff on eBay a little while ago?"
"He bought it for me, he spent like $250 because he thought Tao Lin would let him pick it up in person, and then we could go together and meet Tao Lin."
He talked about how Tao Lin probably has a lot of people trying to get too close to him and so was very cautious.
"And just like, I feel like he wants me to be this manic pixie dream girl archetype that I just can't be."
"I feel like so much of life is about getting past that, seeing idealized versions of people. No, it's definitely better to see the real person..."
"Yeah. He has this weird idealized image of me. Like he called me a 'genius' and I think he thinks by associating with me he can become a part of what he calls 'the internet writing subculture' which I'm not even apart of...I feel like he's just trying to use me because he thinks I'm living this weird alternative life, and he's afraid of ending up an engineer living in the suburbs. But he is studying engineering at Cornell and is working as a business man. I think he should just accept his life like that."
He talked about "selling out" and other things.
"I don't know. I feel kind of bad that I'm using him. I mean Patrick makes all of his own money, and I live off of my parents. i don't have any right to judge him."
"Using him how?"
"To go to New York. He paid for the hotel room and bought me a ton of drinks and gifts and all of my food and everything. And then later to go to China."
"You're going to China?"
"Yeah, he works in China, and he said I could live in his apartment near Shanghai with him."
"Well, he's probably getting as much out of buying you things as you are," he shrugged.
We laid there talking more, but then it started to thunder and incredibly heavy rain poured down. We got up and ran, holding hands, to get shelter under a roof nearby. This worked until the wind started to blow the rain at us.
He stood in front of me and put his hands on my shoulders, acting as a barrier to protect me from the rain.
I felt strange that here we were two leftist feminists I guess, and of course the feeling was that we had this unconventional relationship, way of treating each other, but here now when it was pouring down rain he automatically fell in the role of being a man and shielding me from the rain.
"We should just run for it," I said.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said.
We ran back to his car.
On the way I got soaking wet; my hair was dripping as if I had just gotten out of the shower.
We sat in his car with the heater and windshield wipers on for a while. Then he asked me if I was hungry. I said a little bit, so we drove to a diner in his neighborhood.
He ordered eggs and bacon, and I ordered a Greek omelette.
I felt sick when this huge omelette was placed in front of me by the waiter.
I tried to pick at it, but every bite was a struggle.
"I'm usually like a vacuum, I don't know why I don't feel like eating," I said.
"It's probably the Adderall."
We left and drove back to his apartment.
I went and laid down on his couch, and instead of laying next to me he went over to his computer.
"Why are you over there?" I asked, my voice needy and whiny.
"I'm just...checking my email."
"Come back over here."
So he did and I sat up and hugged him.
I held him for a while in silence.
"Can we go back to my hotel so i can change my clothes?" I asked.
"I'll have to text Patrick and tell him to leave for a while..."
"Are you sure? I can wait on the street."
"No. I really want you to see my hotel room. Is that weird?"
"I want to see your hotel room."
I was really happy that he wanted to, and that he implied he wanted to spend the rest of the day with me.
"Do you want to have sex in your hotel room?" he asked, grinning.
"No, that's kind of fucked."
"I can see why you would think that..."
I wondered why men are so turned on by cheating.
I texted Patrick that I would be back to the hotel room with Adrien Brody in about half an hour, and could he please leave until I texted him? And that I was really sorry and would make it up to him later.
Almost instantly he replied, "I suppose so."
I felt really guilty.
"I feel bad kicking Patrick out of the hotel room that he paid for..."
"Will he get mad at you?"
"No. Like he thinks I'm really exciting, and he probably just sees this as extension of that..."
"I can understand how he finds you really exciting."
I wondered if he misunderstood "exciting" to mean "sexually exciting", and I hoped he didn't.
We got into his car and he started to drive from Astoria to Midtown.
I saw that his iPod was connected to the car stereo, and so I looked through his songs.
He said his iPod was very classic rock based, and it was. I was also surprised by some of the bands he had on it, like U2.
"I thought your iPod would be like more hipstery..."
I wanted to play Belle and Sebastian, but I was too embarrassed to, so I played France Gall then Serge Gainsbourgh, and then Felt.
"Is this Felt?"
We drove in silence listening to music.
When we arrived into Midtown I gave him directions to the hotel. After he parked I led him to the entrance.
"You're staying at the Hotel Wellington?" he asked.
"Yeah. Patrick picked it out."
He talked about how he used to get coffee and lunch there every day when he was working a job in the area, and about how the staff at the cafe inside once knew his name and his order by heart.
I texted Patrick that we were there.
He responded to give him 15 minutes to get out because he had just gotten out of the shower.
I didn't want Patrick to see us on his way out of the hotel, so I grabbed Adrien Brody's hand and led him to the bar next door to the hotel.
"Let's hide in here," I said.
We sat at the bar.
The bartender greeted us and asked what we would have.
"Can I have a Bloody Mary, please?" I asked.
"I'll just have orange juice."
"Can I see your ID?" the bartender asked.
I handed her my passport.
She stared at it for a while.
"Oh, you're not...oh, no, you are 21. I'm sorry," she said, and smiled and handed my passport back to me.
I felt embarrassed that I had ordered booze and he was just having juice. And I was surprised to learn that you could order juice at a bar.
The bar was mostly empty, so we got our drinks very quickly.
We mostly sat in silence, but it wasn't uncomfortable.
I drank my Bloody Mary very quickly, absent mindedly.
"Was that good?" he asked, kind of taken aback.
The bartender also seemed taken aback and asked me if I wanted another one.
I said no, feeling embarrassed.
Patrick texted me that he had left the hotel, so Adrien Brody paid for the drinks and we walked to the hotel and then rode the elevator up to my room.
As I opened the door, I apologized for the mess. The floor was covered in my clothes and packaging from gifts Patrick had bought me.
"Patrick hates how messy I am."
"It's a small room, but being lazy in your hotel room is what it's all about..." he said.
I laid on the bed, tired. He laid next to me. We laid like that in silence for awhile, and I wanted to for a long time, but I realized I had better hurry and change so I didn't kick Patrick out for too long.
I stood up and undressed, and then went to the bathroom and washed my face and then started to brush my teeth.
I walked from the bathroom to the bed and sat naked on top of Adrien Brody while brushing my teeth.
"This is like that 'Sneaker Lover' video," he grinned, referring to a scene it in where Aki Yoshino brushes her teeth in lingerie.
When I was done brushing my teeth, I went to go rinse my mouth out.
Then I told Adrien Brody to turn around and look at the wall until I said it was okay.
He complied, and I picked the black lace lingerie bodysuit Patrick had bought me from American Apparel the other day off the chair it was laying on and put it on.
I told him to turn around, and then I sat on his lap.
"This is too good," he said.
I kissed him and we made out for a while, and then I stopped and got dressed into clean clothes and brushed and straightened my hair and did my makeup.
I decided I wanted to shop for clothes for him.
We left the hotel, and I texted Patrick that we were gone.
We walked aimlessly around midtown, looking halfheartedly for men's clothing stores. Nothing seemed to suit him.
We walked mostly in silence, holding hands.
I talked about how I had gone shopping at Forever 21 a few hours before our date. He told me about an article he was writing about Forever 21 and fast fashion in general, and how the editor he sent it to criticized him for ignoring female subjectivity/"the female shopping experience."
"I always thought that Forever 21 was a really stupid name for a store."
"It kind of encapsulates the whole fast fashion philosophy. Like you're only as old as the latest fashion you're wearing..."
Weeks later I would read the article about fast fashion he talked about then, and when I saw that the opening line was, "I have always thought that Forever 21 was a brilliant name" I wondered if he had written that in response to what I had said.
After a while we gave up the pretense of finding clothes for him and just sat on a bench in Central Park and smoked.
I felt like a lot of people were giving us dirty looks. I couldn't tell if it was for smoking or for him being twice my age.
I asked if he wanted to go to American Apparel.
He said okay, and that he had never been there before.
I was surprised because it seemed like he endlessly referenced American Apparel in his writing.
I asked him if he got turned on by American Apparel ads. He said sometimes but that he didn't see them much lately since he wasn't looking at Hipster Runoff much these days.
We walked hand in hand to American Apparel. We got lost on the way and had to double back a few times.
We weren't greeted when we walked in, which was a new experience for me.
I'm always struck by, at least to me, the beauty of the interior of American Apparel stores.
"Am Appy," he said, looking around.
I led him upstairs to where most of the men's clothes were.
He made fun of the packaging on the clothing, especially the packaging for a bowtie which had a picture of a blonde woman wearing a v-cut black leotard and a bowtie around her neck.
"She's going to an audition."
We looked through racks of clothing. I could tell he wasn't interested in anything. Finally he said, "I don't think I can wear anything here."
"Poor Adrien Brody, so out of his element despite writing about American Apparel all of the time."
The "I'm Going to be a Supermodel" song started to play on the store radio and he said, "the music alone is worth writing about."
We left the store and started to walk back to the hotel. It was around 2PM. He said that he should probably get going to his friend's birthday party that he had mentioned he had to go to earlier today.
We walked in silence for the rest of the time back to the hotel.
I started to feel very sad when we reached the entrance.
We embraced for a long time.
Finally he said he would text me later tonight.
I walked into the hotel and he started to walk down the street towards his car.
I went up to my hotel room and flopped on the bed, exhausted.
Patrick was there, sitting on the other side of the bed.
"How was it with that guy?" he asked.
"It was really good, actually. I feel like, we are like...the same person."
He gave me a Maneki neko coin bank and candy he had bought for me in Chinatown.
I ate the candy and kissed him.
I felt anxious, thinking that now that I had fallen hard for Adrien Brody, I would be even less willing to put effort into the already strained relationship I had with patrick. I realized how truly tepid my feelings for Patrick were, and how disconnected I felt from him, now that I had Adrien Brody to compare him to.
And indeed that afternoon and night I spent with him consisted of uncomfortable silence that finally culminated in fighting with him. I felt relieved when he left New York the next morning to go back to work. And I was happy because I had our hotel room to myself for the last day that I was in New York.
Early in the morning, right after Patrick had left, I texted Adrien Brody.
"Patrick saw us coming back to the hotel. He said you look really tall and gangly."
"He left out gap toothed." He replied.
"Patrick had to leave to go back to work, and so I have the hotel room to myself until tomorrow afternoon. Will you come over?"
He replied that he worked until 10 at night and would come over when he got off work.
I slept most of my last day in New York. I felt pathetic, but i was very tired and nothing seemed appealing. I just wanted to see Adrien Brody again. I thought and wrote about him when I wasn't asleep.
At around 6PM I texted him.
"Are you still coming over tonight? JW."
"Yes. Why do you ask?"
Then around 10:30 he texted me that he was at the hotel and asked which room. I texted him the room number and decided to change my clothes. Just as i was fully dressed, he knocked.
I cracked the door open.
"Sorry it's messy."
There was still clothes and packaging and books strewn all over the floor.
"It's alright. I saw it before..."
I opened the door all the way and he came in.
We laid down on the bed together.
I didn't look at him, I just laid against him with my eyes closed.
We laid in silence until he said, "Did you get into a fight with Patrick last night?"
He knew because I had written an entry on my blog about it.
"Yeah. He read and wrote in my notebook. So I grabbed his Blackberry and threw it at the wall."
"I bet he wasn't happy about that..."
"He didn't really seem to care. He was more worried because I was mad at him. But like, I had never been that angry in my life."
"Why were you so mad? Was it just the invasion of your privacy?"
"It was that, but it was more like that he wrote in my notebook that made me mad. It felt like such a violation."
He didn't seem to understand.
"Do you always wear blue?" I asked, looking at his work shirt.
"Most of the time. Do you think it's a good color for me?"
I started to hold onto him really tightly.
I was working up the courage to say what had been going through my mind since we met.
"I feel weird about having sex with you," I said.
"We don't have do that anymore."
"It's not the sex really, it's more like, like...I don't wanna say."
He urged me to tell him, and that it would be okay.
"It's like, how much can you really care about and respect other people when you're cheating on your girlfriend with me?"
"I think that's a fair criticism to make, that I have no integrity."
"And I feel like you really want to feel connected to someone, so you're like forcing this connection on to me rather than there like genuinely being a strong connection between us."
He sighed and said that could be true, but that he felt more like he could connect with me only because he knew that I would be gone soon.
"You don't want to see me again?"
"I don't know. We're at very different places in our lives..."
"The fact that you're unsure means we won't."
"Well, I'm here now."
"I was naive to think that this wouldn't happen...I guess I was hoping you would just use me. We're messing with dangerous things here. Who are we to do that?"
I didn't understand.
"Do you feel weird about me being twenty one?"
"No. You're an adult," he shrugged. "Should I feel weird about it?"
"No, I was just wondering if you did."
I was actually trying to explore my reverse lolita complex with him, but I backed off after that because it seemed he wasn't into it at all.
"Were you attractive when you were younger?" I asked.
"I didn't think so but I'm not the best judge of that....I had long hair..."
I started to laugh really hard. Him having long hair really added to the picture I had often imagined of him before we met, of him standing around feeling awkward at indie rock shows in college.
"Were you?" he asked.
"No. Like I got bullied a lot in school because of my looks."
"That doesn't mean you were unattractive."
"No, I was. Like I was kind of fat and I had acne...i wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn't gotten attractive. I'd be dead now, probably."
I talked about how mean I felt I had been treated throughout my life for my looks. And how I felt like people judged me less now that I was attractive. How even though it's not true, I can't get the idea out of my head that I feel safer when I look pretty. How I felt like the defining theme of my life has always, always been the way I look.
"It's interesting because people always talk about how women manipulate men with their beauty and have all this power because of their physical attractiveness and ability to have sex or withold sex from men, but I've always felt like my own physical attractiveness is just like a defense from men. I feel like men have all of the power, and they attack you if you aren't attractive. And even men who are attracted to me, I feel like they have all the power because they get less emotionally invested in me than I am in them. But maybe I would have more of that power people talk about if I were more conventionally attractive," I said.
I liked to talk about these things with him because I could tell he was fascinated by female beauty, and what it meant.
"I guess that it depends on what you mean by power and what you want to gain with that power," he said
He asked me what personality flaws I thought people judged me by.
"Oh, I don't know...sometimes I get called a sociopath."
"Do you think you're a sociopath?"
"No. I get called that a lot, but I don't think of myself that way."
"No, you don't seem like that."
"I think 'sociopath' is just what really controlling people call other people when they don't do what they want," I said.
"That seems about right."
"I guess also I'm really voyeuristic, and it gets me into trouble. Like I don't respect people and their privacy as much as I maybe should. And sometimes I keep like drilling people for information about themselves even when they get uncomfortable because I'm so fascinated by other people I want to know everything about them, and I feel this drive to write about them."
"How are you voyeuristic?"
"Like how I wanted to look through your computer and read your emails."
"I want to meet Momus soon, but I'm afraid he won't like me in person."
"Why wouldn't he?"
"I guess he just thinks I'm really smart and interesting and exciting," I said and started to smile.
"But you are."
I realized I was smiling because I realized that I did think I was all of those things.
But I shook my head.
Because it's a lot easier to fall back on pretending that I'm still insecure than to actually present myself as someone who believes they have all these great qualities, since it leaves me open to being cut down, which it seems like people are dying to do.
"No. I come off as really cool on the internet for some reason."
"You don't think you're really cool?"
"No, I'm really shy and awkward."
"Well, I think that you are pursuing this way of living..." That's very genuine and honest, he went on to say.
He said he admired me for "being upfront about your awkwardness. I wish I could go back to being young and do that."
"You're going to admit that I'm awkward?"
"I think...you're a little awkward. I think I'm very awkward."
"I know. Even Tom who loves me and always sees the best in me always makes fun of me for being awkward," I said, smiling.
"Tom was your old boyfriend? The one who loved you?"
"Yeah. He was the first person to like see me as like an actual human being instead of like...like..."
"Some mystical nymph?"
"So why did you break up?"
"Because I didn't love him."
"I guess that is important..."
"Meeting you started off really awkward and embarrassing, when I was running towards you and my shoe fell off."
"I thought that was so endearing. I took that as a good sign. That was just how I wanted this to go."
I felt so surprised, and relieved, that someone could find my awkwardness "endearing." I had never evem imagined that it could be something that someone liked, or even accepted about me.
"I guess that's why most of my friends are guys. They just are like more accepting of awkwardness for some reason."
He talked about how women are socialized to do the social work of putting people at ease in conversations, and how they expect other women to help then with that, and when they don't they get put out.
I brought up an article he had written since the first time we met, about young girls on the internet who were pressured by the internet's "attention economy" and the way social media is arranged to exploit themselves by using their sexuality to get attention. I asked if he thought I was like that.
He said that talking to me definitely made him think more about female subjectivity, but that he thought that what I did wasn't like Kiki Kannibal, but that "what you do seems more in line with that video you showed me of that female artist who posed for porn herself because she didn't want to exploit other women," he said, referring to a video of Cosey Fanni Tutti I had sent him.
I felt relieved.
Then I asked him the other thing I was worried he thought about me, that I was afraid he saw me as commodifying and exploiting myself on Facebook, like he was constantly writing about.
"No. I'm not talking about people who are aware of it. It's just like people who write status updates 'today me and Susie went to the beach...' It's just don't you think there should be more than that tying people together?"
I wondered if only people like us who had been disconnected from others our whole lives could be concerned about that sort of thing.
"What do you think of those feminists on the internet who think that pornography is ruining intimacy?" He asked.
"Yeah, that's what I think, actually."
"I just think it changes the terms of intimacy, like intimacy can be found in doing things that you wouldn't see in porn videos..."
"I can already see it, when I have sex with young guys. Their whole idea of what sex is has been shaped by pornography. They're bored by sex that isn't like violent or degrading, or they think that sex has to be that way."
"I guess it's different if you grew up watching it."
He talked about how he remembered when internet pornography first became big, and how he was thinking about what would happen to the industry now that there wasn't money involved. He was hopeful then, but now he felt that it seems like people are happy to just perform like before, except for free.
I talked about the disillusionment I had with the Left in regards to pornography.
"It's just funny to hear leftist guys one day talking about the evils of wage slavery, and then the next day defending porn based on 'women's autonomy.'"
He kind of laughed, "Don't they see something wrong with how women are supposedly showing their autonomy with the way they act in porn?"
Then I talked about how I was suspicious of third wave feminism and even leftists who had embraced "feminist porn" and things like stripclubs as "empowering."
"I feel like that sort of thing is feminists giving up and just trying to like change the terms of their exploitation," I said.
"I guess that's the whole criticism of slutwalk," he said.
"Yeah, that's kind of how I feel. But at least something vaguely feminist is happening, I guess." I sighed.
"I think the main problem with sex work is how it's romanticized. It's not this mystical Belle du Jour experience. We just need to realize it's just another worker being exploited by capital and unfair property arrangements," he said.
"I can see where they're coming from, since sex workers have been portrayed as less than human for so long that you'd kind of want to like honor them, but..."
I wondered if I should talk about my own experiences with sex work, or if that would be uncomfortable.
I talked to him about my writing, and how I was afraid to publish it.
"I feel like they would edit my writing so it would be technically better, but less honest and expressive."
"Yeah, but I think you can find a balance between those things."
"But I'm not interested in a balance."
"I guess that's legitimate..."
And I talked about how all of the competition and ambition made me sick.
"I wish I could just show my writing and pictures I take of myself to a lot of people without all of the other things that come along with writing to write. Like all of the competition between writers bragging about how they were noticed by whatever important person, and bragging about how they've gotten published in so many places. And all of the ambition that they talk about, like how they want to become rich and famous through writing..."
He listened, but I was disappointed when he didn't seem to understand that I wasn't afraid to compete or be ambitious, but that I just didn't want to.
I laid on his chest.
"Are you an idealist or a materialist?" I asked.
"A materialist I guess...I assume you're a materialist, that goes along with Marxism."
"Yeah," I said, smiling, happy that he was a materialist, too.
We started to make out and we took off our clothes.
We didn't have any condoms.
"Do you wanna just do it?" I asked.
"I don't want to get you pregnant..."
"You can just pull out."
"It's okay. Like I get tested all the time and i don't have anything."
I was really desperate to have condomless sex with him, to become totally connected with him.
"I wish...that it didn't have to be that way."
And I knew that was the last word on the matter.
I asked if I could go home with him, and then take a cab home tomorrow morning.
"No. That's too much."
I was both surprised and not to hear that from him.
Here it is, what I'm used to from men.
"Can't we just go and buy condoms then?"
"That's a good idea..."
So we got up. I tucked my shirt into my shorts he nodded in approval. Men respond much more to hot pants than miniskirts. I had no idea until wearing them for the first time in New York.
I looked at myself in the elevator's metal reflection.
"I look really stupid right now," I groaned.
"No you don't."
We walked a few blocks to Duane Reade.
"What time is it?" I asked.
I gasped, "You're joking."
We got there and he got condoms, and I asked him to buy me beer so we got a six pack of Stella Artois.
We got in line, but I slipped outside while he bought them, embarrassed for some reason to be seen buying condoms with him in the middle of the night.
On the way back to my hotel we walked past a produce vendor on the street.
I thought no one was watching it, so I grabbed an avocado.
"You have to pay for that," Adrien Brody said.
i turned my head backwards and saw the vendor nodding.
"Oh. I thought he wasn't around."
He went over and paid for the avocado for me.
I really liked the image of him taking three dollars out of his wallet and handing it to the vendor for me.
We started to walk again.
"This isn't ripe. I didn't even want it, I just felt like stealing an avocado."
I put it in my purse.
We got back to my hotel room and sat on my bed.
"I'm going to have to leave right after we do this," he said.
I started to drink a bottle of Stella.
"Do you need to be drunk to—" he started.
"You didn't even need me to finish that sentence."
We started to take off our clothes again.
"Is this alright?" he asked.
"No, but, 'this is the life I have chosen,'" I said, quoting him from when he had talked earlier about living a boring white collar life.
"I feel like...I haven't ever met someone I was able to talk to like I can talk to you. The way I always wanted to talk to people, like the way that I think and write. And I feel like we're very similar and I've never met someone like me before. Do you feel like you've met someone like you before?" I asked.
He shook his head.
"No, I haven't, except for you. But I don't know what it means."
I laid down on the bed and he laid down on top of me.
"I want to get you out of your head," he said.
We started to have sex and I was overcome.
This is it. This is what sex is. What I've spent the past three years of my life, my entire adult life, looking for, even though I hadn't realized it until now.
"That's the most incredible thing I've ever seen."
"What is?" I asked, though I knew.
"Your face right now."
I was vaguely aware my eyes were open very wide.
"Do you want to know something? This is the best it's ever felt for me," I said.
"Because I'm going slow?"
"No." I felt put out that he would try to reduce it to that.
"I feel like this is the most that sex can ever be," I said.
I meant it in a positive way, but he agreed and was instead disappointed. He said that he hoped for "some feeling of transcending bodies."
"What does this mean for you?" he asked.
"I don't know. Maybe I'll get really bored of sex after this."
"Will you lift your arm up?" I asked. It was blocking the side of his face.
"Is it squashing you?" he asked and did.
It wasn't good enough; his head was too close...
"And will you move your head up a little bit?"
He did and so his face was now about a foot above mine and there was nothing in the way.
I slapped him in the face.
I started to laugh really hard.
I wish I could say that I did it for a more dignified reason: that I wasn't going to let him use my body for his pleasure, some fake imagined emotional connection that he was forcing in his mind onto us...but really I was just sad and angry about how he was going to leave after we had sex, that he wouldn't let me go home with him earlier.
But then my laughing died down and tears started to well up in my eyes.
"Oh, no. I don't want to be that person who cries during sex."
"Why not? It's really common..."
Is it? I stopped trying to fight the tears and just started to cry.
I could feel him lose his erection.
"Why are you crying?"
"I don't know."
"Because you're feeling sorry for yourself?"
That was his counter-attack. A verbal slap in my face.
"I feel like you're the one who has all the power here," he said.
"You're the one who wants to leave in a few minutes. That's why I hit you, because I was sad that you have all the power."
"I hit the last guy I had sex with, too, because I was sad he didn't want to date me. It's like that again. Hitting you didn't make me feel better or change anything. It's not like I can stop you from leaving."
I'm totally powerless in the face of men.
He pulled out and threw the condom in the waste bin and started to get dressed.
For the first time, I looked closely at his face as he was getting dressed. I realized that he was actually very attractive, just in a strange way. Or a complex way, rather, where you had to look at him for awhile and think about it.
"I'm going to say something, and don't say it's not true. I'm never going to connect with anyone."
"I think that's very fatalistic."
He finished dressing and I laid in the bed naked and quietly crying.
"I know you said you don't want me to say this, but you will connect with someone one day. It's just not going to be me."
It was nice, and I wanted to believe it, but i knew that he didn't know, and that he was just saying that because it was what he should have said right then.
We hugged and kissed and he headed towards the door.
"Goodbye," he said.
He went out the door, stuck his head in again, and then he was gone.