There is too much dust.
The dust comprises everything.
I touch the radiator and it’s there and I leave a streak,
a mark on my finger and on the metal.
During dinner I tell the boy I like his pasta.
After, we move into his bedroom where he unzips
my pants like a magic trick.
A disappearing act.
Your body was born a circus, didn’t you know.
He tells me I should watch porn.
He tells me I don’t know
His bedroom is messy. I can feel
coins underneath couch cushions,
but his panting is so loud
I can’t hear the opening act.
Maybe he’s had too many girls.
Maybe the world’s not dead for him,
yet. I don’t feel a thing.
There are dirty dishes stacked
up in his sink. Marvel at my
ability to ignore love-making
to want to grab
and wipe up his counters.
Oh, but this is—
what? This is, well,
love. This is what they
called love. Panting moaning
screaming You should watch porn
and I tell him I don’t, I haven’t
and I never will, wouldn’t.
I think licking out assholes is a dirty
thing to do. He is the kind of boy who wants
to fuck and
He is the kind of boy
that, when you leave,
turns the couch cushions
over so when his girlfriend
gets home she won’t
see the mess he made. Oh,
but this is love, cut
We are almost
at the closing act. When she gets home
their bodies fit
together like two puzzle pieces.
A trapeze swinger and his stuntman,
a magician and his top hat.
I want to wipe
his counters. I want to clean
the dust off. I want to tell
him I’m not his stand-in
during this circus show but he
rips my shirt off
- “The Trapeze Swinger” by Victoria Linhares
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I hate waterskiing. I’ve always hated waterskiing. This has always pained my mom, since it’s one of her favorite summer pastimes. She was one of those people who just “got it,” like riding a bike, at a young age, and now, when she’s getting pulled by a boat she just looks like she’s standing there waiting for the bus. She likes hotshotting across the wake, dropping a ski, spinning around…whatever she can think of to keep herself from being bored while getting pulled across a lake, drunk, at speeds that would be illegal on most city streets with nothing between her and the whipping water but two slats of wood that are perpetually threatening to get caught at the wrong angle and break her ankles.
Mom has tried to buy waterskiing lessons for me multiple times, and I’ve never accepted. This time, though, we were at our annual family resort week without my sister to take any of Mom’s attention. I wanted to get out of the cottage and to interact with other human beings, and Mikey the toned, tanned 30-something waterskiing instructor was pretty much at the top of my list of people in the tri-county area I’d like to be in the immediate proximity of.
He’s the kind of flirtatious goof you know is in his job almost entirely for the captive audience. The kind of guy who knows his element and sticks within it, where he’s confident and relaxed and routinely shirtless. While he coached me on the proper stance, I imagined him tabulating the pros and cons of me in his head. Cons: snobby, pale, stringy-haired. Pros: young, available, maybe has drugs.
He does know his shit, and sure enough, I got up, hating every second of it. I did the bare minimum of water-skiing required of me by the informal terms of my agreement to allow my mother to buy waterskiing lessons for me—I calculated this was 30 seconds—and then let go of the rope, deciding I’d rather take my chances careening off into the depths versus getting involved in whatever was going to happen with my legs when the boat slowed down. I threw my skis into the boat, dropped my exhausted ass into the passenger seat with a loud squelch, and was invited by Mikey to swing by the lodge for cards with him and some other guests that night. Like a McMuffin, I thought: totally fucking predictable, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want it.
By 10:00 that night, Mom was almost passed out in front of the TV and Ron was deep into the latest John Sandford novel on his Kindle. I said I was going to take a walk, and neither barely noticed.
It was easy to find Mikey at the lodge: the front door was locked, but around back the kitchen door was open and Mikey was playing hearts and drinking Busch Light with two twenty-something guys and a blonde woman who I guessed was in her early 30s. Mikey enthusiastically welcomed me and introduced me—hand, of course, in the small of my back—to the team. The guys, Mark and Andy, were on a fishing trip, and the woman, Avery, was in the same situation as me: on vacation with her family, looking to escape.
Mikey tossed me a beer—literally tossed me a beer, probably the first person I’ve ever seen do that in real life—and the hearts game was immediately abandoned for King’s Cup. I barely paid attention to the game, drinking indiscriminately and watching the interpersonal dynamics. Avery was obviously into Mikey, but got the message that he was into me, so tried to get Mark and Andy to compete for her attention. Mark was the better-looking of the two, but Andy had a sly sense of humor that made him more attractive. They were both into me, but over the course of the night Andy started paying more attention to Avery and Mark started flirting, hard and ineptly, with me. Mikey deflected this, and as I sank more and more deeply into my buzz, I noticed how he started growing in stature in my mind. What a gentleman! What a looker! What a decent guy in this bay of buffoons! A hookup started to seem inevitable.
By midnight, Mark was puking. While Andy and Mikey—gallant fellow that he was—helped Mark, I talked about Oprah books with Avery and did relationship math in my head. Yes, I was sort of seeing John, but he’d never asked nor promised fidelity. Veronica says I need to hook up with someone else, and she’s an old friend who knows what I need. Maybe most importantly, having sex with the waterskiing instructor would make the vacation seem like a wacky teen movie instead of like the tedious hell it actually was.
Andy took Mark off to bed, and Mikey came apologetically back to the kitchen. Avery immediately suggested swimming, and Mikey immediately accepted. I was in no mood to offer resistance to anything, so I followed them down to the beach and dropped my clothes next to theirs. I glanced at Mikey as he jumped in, his ass as stupidly perfect as I’d expected. Avery did a lot of giggling and splashing, but I just swam out to the floating dock and back, enjoying the cold water and the solitude. I knew I wasn’t hurting my chances by playing hard-to-get.
And then we were on the shore again, getting dressed. Mikey said goodnight to Avery in a way that, drunk though she was, she correctly interpreted as a polite send-off. She shuffled back to her cottage, and Mikey turned to me and asked me if I wanted to grab a drink back at his place.
I’d planned to go. I wanted to go. I knew I should go. I found, though, that there was a line: an invisible line between me and the northwoods hunk, a line I couldn’t cross. I was invested in John—or if not in John himself, in the idea he represented that I could have a meaningful long-term relationship, a relationship I didn’t fuck up or get bored by or blow off. On Mikey’s side of the line was another idea, an idea of myself as someone who’s fun and spontaneous and wild, an idea of myself as someone who defies my mom’s idea of myself as a nerd…just so I can become more like her.
“I gotta go to sleep,” I said. “Thanks for the beer, dude.”
seems like we havent talked for a while
how is minnesota
how is your nonbf
how is your friend
how is your mom
also im bored
life here is rubbish
i got a new job
im selling crepes in a crepe wagon
bad hours but good money
and lots of boys and girls to meet
and lots of crepes to eat
im thinking about gaining weight
think that would be hot
my tits would be bigger
id have a muffin top
i dated a girl with a muffin top once
i liked it
id grab it
then one day she was like um my muffin top is not a steering wheel
i want a steering wheel
i want cigarettes
i want an orgasm
but by surprise
like id like to be woken up by an orgasm
did i tell you i have a kid
she was adopted
i get pics from her new parents
feel like im running down a clock to be worth something by the time she comes back looking for me
like maybe that was the purpose of her coming into the world
to give me a deadline for getting shit together
almost kept her
then realized id just be keeping her to make my mum mad
not a good reason probably
i like you
i want more internet friends
and friends generally
i just want to keep typing
to see if i scare you off
feel like if youre not scared when you see all this
thats a good sign re our friendship
like you “get” me
im not that complicated
im just like everyone else
im “just a girl”
seems like youre the same
in a good way
but were both trying to be writers
to say something different
to say something worth reading
to say something people will like
people will probably like our writing
were just like them
people like reading about themselves
theyre like ya i like that
this writer “gets” me
im “just a girl” like her
shes so brave to tell our story
shes the voice of our generation
thats what i hope people think
mostly because then theyll pay me money
im sick of “paying dues”
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He’s lying here sleeping and he looks so goddamn sweet and cozy, and what the fuck am I supposed to do?
Last night he cooked dinner and gave me flowers and I fucking hate how well that shit works, but it does, because really, what do you want in life? You want someone who will do nice things for you and treat you like you’re above average and let you fall asleep thinking, okay, I’m not totally screwing up my one chance to live a life on this earth.
I know you’re supposed to find validation within yourself and not in the way other people treat you, but what does that even mean? Like, if there was an apocalypse and everyone disappeared and it was just you and a pile of cans of beans, you’d still be happy because you’re at peace with yourself?
This pertains to writing too. There are people who just write exactly what they want to write, even if it bores 99.9999% of people to tears, and they say they’re just going wherever “their practice” leads them. They’ll write entire novels without showing anyone a word. I sometimes look at those people enviously, because you know I’m checking Tumblr every day to see how many notes my shit got, but the reality is that they’re still looking for the approval of that 0.0001% of people. If that FSG editor doesn’t dig their opus, they’re devastated.
Then I suppose there are the people who journal or whatever, actually for no one else to read, but what are they writing about? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s emo shit just like this, about how he likes me but does he like me like me and should I care about whether he likes anyone else and omg I’m a wreck what the hell is wrong with me because he this that and the other thing.
Yes, I just wrote 320 words justifying feeling warm and fuzzy because he cooked me goddamn dinner and bought me a bouquet of fucking cheapass daisies. I’m still going to keep my promise to myself to put it to him whether he’s sleeping with anyone else, if he hasn’t said anything within five days. For now, I’m going to close the computer and jump him and you know you’re jealous.
1. James Gandolfini died.
2. If a guy is stressing me out, he’s not worth it.
3. New York is crazy for cronuts right now.
4. Lots of women absolutely love their implants. She’s considering them, and so should I.
5. Her mom and dad had sex on Tuesday. She could tell because their sex towel was in the hamper.
6. David likes morning sex, because then he can drink at night. The problem with that is that Veronica doesn’t want to be gently made love to at sunrise, she wants to be fucked at midnight. She’s still sure David’s The One, though.
7. She knows she’s in the minority on this, but she’d do James Gandolfini (pre-death) before Peter Dinklage. She just can’t get into a guy who wears furs—sorry, Notorious B.I.G.
8. I should let her introduce me to the cute manager at her Starbucks. I need to hook up with someone, because then instead of feeling anxious about John, I’ll just feel guilty.
9. The new Arrested Development sucks.
10. That Internet girl is a scammer. She’s going to ask me to PayPal her some drug money. It’s the same thing as a guy coming up to you on the street with a sob story.
11. Sports mascots get laid so much, it’s not even funny.
Do you think someone’s breaking up with you every time you open a letter from a girlfriend? I guess since we’re not dating, that’s not an issue in this case—although does anyone ever write anyone a letter any more for any reason other than to break up or say sweet nothings? Whatever this letter is, it’s the answer to that—or it would be, if it existed on paper, if it were actually a letter that I was going to deliver.
First matter of business: what the fucking fuck is up with that obnoxious energy-saving bulb? It buzzes like an electric gnat from hell. Sorry, don’t need to cover that ground here. That’s something I’m not afraid to say to you in person.
Why am I afraid to say anything to you? What do I have to lose? Being crazy and waking up paranoid and still half-drunk at 3:00 AM? A summer fling? Maybe I’m just hanging on to this because this has been such a weird, late-starting summer that I feel like I’m trying to cram a whole summer into half a summer, and losing a summer fling would mean that I’d be left with that ground to cover. God knows I don’t need another of these.
How can I feel this intensely about something that’s been going on for less than a month? Maybe I’m just so worked up because you won’t commit, because the are-we-or-aren’t-we phase of the relationship has been stretched to its breaking point.
Listen to me (or, more precisely, read me on this blog that I’m supposed to be using for publication-worthy writing instead of this histrionic shit): “its breaking point.” People stay in are-we-or-aren’t-we relationships for weeks, months, years, and nothing “breaks.” Is that my nightmare?
Clearly I like you. Clearly you’re hot, to the point that I wonder:
I don’t think I have either an artificially inflated or an unhealthily deflated sense of self-worth. I just don’t like feeling this vulnerable. You’re smart, funny, hot, and allotted on my own personal plan be a disposable space-filler: Summer Before Grad School Guy. You’ve already exceeded all expectations for someone in that role. So why am I going fucking crazy?
Here’s the answer it took me 433 words to get to : I just want to know whether you’re fucking anyone else, or whether you would do so while we’re hanging out this summer. I’ll just put that question to you directly, tomorrow. Or, at least, this week. Within a week. Within seven days from this moment. From now. From when I publish this. Hold me to that, anonymous Internet commenters!
Oh my God, I’m asking anonymous Internet commenters for help. I’ve truly come to a low place.
what are you doing
Re-watching “Girls” like the stereotype I am.
Lena Dunham’s show?
is it good
Yeah, it’s really good. I’m too into it.
why too into it
Because everyone else is into it. I feel like I should have more distinctive tastes.
you like my poems though
True. You seem to have a big audience on Tumblr, though.
just a medium audience
More than I have!
its quality not quantity
you should post more pics
that’s how you get followers
Yeah, I don’t think so.
I’m not as good looking as you, and I’m not ready to get naked.
that doesnt matter really
when you post naked pics people just start yelling at you for not being more naked
just like post pics of your face
Is that why you don’t use your real name?
i dont care about that
theyre just tits
mostly i dont want people to know about my poems
irl people just judge
like you’re supposed to be sylvia plath
people didnt even like her that much
you cant win
on the internet im just some crazy girl
theres no point of comparison to my life
my poems just exist
That makes sense.
But aren’t you proud of them?
i show some people i trust
mostly i just like internet people to read them
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“She’s pretty hot, right?”
“She’s very attractive, yes.”
“So you see what I mean?”
“I suppose so, yes.”
“You’re quiet. What are you thinking?”
“Hm? Nothing. I don’t really know what to say.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just awkward, when the person you’re with asks you about other women.”
“‘With,’ as in, like, on a date with.”
“Right. Like, you don’t want to be rude or dishonest, but it’s kind of a can’t-win situation.”
“Oh. I’m sorry! I just meant…”
“I mean, it’s no big deal. It’s nothing.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“No. Whatever. Anyway, it was good to meet Veronica.”
“Who was your last girlfriend?”
“While we’re on the subject.”
“I mean, of other women. Just, as long as it came up, I was just wondering. Just out of curiosity.”
“No one serious.”
“Ever? Oh, well, I mean…I’ve just been pretty typical. Like, one high school girlfriend, one college girlfriend, one post-college girlfriend.”
“What happened to the post-college girlfriend?”
“It was nothing dramatic. We dated for about a year and had a very amicable break-up. I guess she just wanted to be more serious than I did. She turned out to be more of the marry-young type.”
“Is that usual with you?”
“Dating people who want to get married young?”
“Dating people who want to be more serious than you do.”
“Not necessarily. I was totally into my college girlfriend, and she cheated on me. It destroyed me.”
“Oh. Shit. I’m sorry.”
“No, I mean…whatever. That’s in the past now.”
“Is that why you’re not big on being serious any more?”
“No. I’m not necessarily against being serious. I just want to be…gradual about it, you know? Not put too much pressure on or anything.”
“Right. Shit. Listen, if I told you I cheated on someone once, would you hate me?”
“You’re being quiet. You hate me!”
“No, I don’t hate you. I’m just surprised, that’s all.”
“It was a really weird situation. Girls were always throwing themselves at him, and I got nervous. I freaked out.”
“Did he cheat on you?”
“No. I’m such an asshole!”
“Maybe you were just confused.”
“Yes! Yes, that’s it exactly! I was just nervous and confused and stupid.”
“But you have things figured out now.”
“No. I’m sorry. Come here.”
“Oh…um…hey, it’s okay. Let’s just go to bed. Seems like we’re both pretty tired.”
“I’m sorry. That was weird.”
“It’s okay. Just….it’s just late. Please don’t apologize.”
“Let’s go to bed.”
“Are you crying?”
The Dark Rom-Com About My Single Mom: The cute baby. I played my role perfectly. My mom even has a story about me ruining one of her dates by puking biscuits in the middle of the rug. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it was a date that deserved to be ruined.
The Adam Sandler Movie About My Preschool: The kid who eats all the time. I was so obsessed with snack time that my teacher called social services to see whether I was getting enough food at home. They discovered that we were fine—my mom just wouldn’t buy Goldfish at home because she was concerned about sodium. In the movie, Adam Sandler would have fought me for seconds and then hooked up with my mom.
The ABC Family Movie About My Grade School: The bullied kid. Between her hippie values and her undiagnosed depression, Mom did not make it a priority to make my hair un-scraggly or my outfits coordinated. Like a deer herd, a class of children will push the weakest member to its outskirts and hope that when the wolves strike, they’ll take her first. This movie could have taken a dark turn, but instead, it just ended with me transferring schools and being told, “Now, Margaret, you can have a fresh start!”
The Sitcom About My Junior High: The snarky kid. Not the Daria kind of snarky where you sit quietly in a corner and make dryly hilarious observations—the Kimmy Gibbler kind of snarky where you stand in the middle of the room and loudly recite unfunny quips that you scripted three months ago.
The Musical About My High School: The theater kid in denial. Everyone always told me I should be an actor—so of course, I thought that being an actor would be way too predictable. Instead, I tried lacrosse (I was terrible at it, but I liked sharing fun facts about the sport’s Native American origins), yearbook (my plan for purely ironic senior superlatives was unanimously voted down), and robotics (too much math, not enough welding masks). Finally I caved and showed up to Hello Dolly auditions, where the music teacher greeted me with an obnoxious I-fucking-knew-it smirk.
The Indie Movie About My College: The girl who finds herself through writing. The most stereotypical of my roles, this might have featured a montage of me whacking away at my laptop—I’m a loud typer—under a tree in pile of autumn leaves, in a sunny library alcove, in an empty lecture hall, at a party with red Solo cup in hand, and under the covers while my roommate had sex. (Of course, I was writing on my LiveJournal about my roommate having sex.)
The Web Series About This Summer: The narrator. It would be one of those Web series made in a college film class, where there needs to be a voice-over narration because there isn’t enough time or budget for expository scenes—so the first half of every episode is a series of close-ups on all the characters while I explain what’s been happening in their lives. At the end of the series, my identity is revealed as the middle-aged version of one of the characters, chain-smoking and drinking box wine while I write my memoir about those crazy days of youth.
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It’s a good fact to share when someone makes you play one of those party games where everyone provides an obscure fact about themselves and the object is to match the fact with the person. Unless they went to college with me, no one ever guesses that I was the one who dated a star quarterback.
Before we met, I had a crush on him—just like everyone else on campus—but I couldn’t even fantasize about him. He didn’t seem real. He seemed like an action figure; if you took his pants off, his crotch would just be a little mound and you could see the screws fastened into his waist.
I suppose the situation was reversed when he came to see the production of My Fair Lady where I played Eliza. Even for a theater person, it’s surreal to meet in person someone you’ve only seen onstage. You see them dressed differently and speaking differently, using different mannerisms, and you imagine that thisis the performance: that the character has stepped offstage and assumed a false identity.
The fact that the star quarterback had come to our show and, in the lobby, made a special point of congratulating me, was the talk of the cast party. Everyone joked about what would come of it, and I laughed and got drunk and hooked up with Henry Higgins (because theater people, me included, are total stereotypes) and came home the next morning and discovered that the QB had Facebooked me.
Our first date was essentially in secret—we drove to a restaurant in the next town. He turned out to be a guy you could actually hold an interesting conversation with, which meant that our relationship proceeded in a series of interesting conversations, awkward public outings that felt like scenes from a bad movie, and hookups where his chiseled physique turned out to matter less than the fact that he was obviously very experienced. That was nice, but it was also distracting—I couldn’t help wondering, where did he learn how to do that? Then I’d look up at this Zeus-like physique poised over me, and sometimes I’d just laugh out loud. He liked that.
That relationship seems more real now than it did at the time. We’d go to parties and every woman—as well as a lot of guys—would broadcast availability in his direction. I could write a book about all the different ways people flirted with him. Consciously, unconsciously, subtly, unsubtly. He didn’t have to flirt back: all he had to do was not be an asshole, and they’d take it as encouragement. When you’re with a guy like that, no matter how good you feel about yourself, it’s hard not to do the math and think, it’s not a matter of if, but when and how.
So I cheated on him, and made sure he found out about it. You’d think that would have surprised him, but it didn’t seem to. I don’t think I was the first, and I probably wasn’t the last. It was out of character for me—I’ve never cheated on anyone else—but the whole situation seemed so unreal that it seemed the only logical response was to do something dramatic and decisive. Looking back, I think that I started feeling like I was in a competition with the rest of the world, and was only hanging on to victory by a lucky shred. If I’d just told him it was over, it would have felt like a surrender.
So I got drunk, and went to a party where I made my way to a set designer who I knew worshipped me like an unattainable goddess. He was so nervous, he wouldn’t even unhook my bra. It felt good to have that kind of power.
In the last game of his junior year, my quarterback ex-boyfriend sustained an ankle injury that his football career never recovered from. I don’t think he deliberately allowed himself to be hurt, but I suspect he didn’t try very hard to get his game back. I think he wanted out—because when everyone wants you, no one can have you.
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