If you are a teenage girl in the year 3000, here are some of the things your mom will be on your ass about:
Not spending all the money you make as a counter girl at the Future Freeze on holograms of pop stars. Taking your brain microchip out before bed or else it’ll dry up. Doing all the extra credit for calculus class (because the future isn’t really that different in some ways). And staying away from Detachables.
What your mom doesn’t realize, because, like, she just doesn’t get it (another way the future isn’t different) is every teenage girl in the year 3000 goes through a Detachables phase. This is because they’re males of well above-average looks and intelligence, attend a special school, and, incidentally, their limbs can be separated from their body.
Detachables were created in a top-secret government lab in Tucson, Arizona, where blasé gum-chewing scientists fused together preserved pieces of exceptional men. The heads of Brooks Brothers models, brains of Nobel Prize winners, biceps of professional athletes. Frozen at age 17, the peak of male health. The five-million-dollar teenager. Their only flaw is a lack of empathy and too much apathy, sort of boredom-induced autism. Ennui Personality Disorder.
Nobody’s certain how the contained experiment spilled out into the general population. Like most teenage girls in the year 3000, you probably fantasize that it was a Detachable Romeo and lab-rat Juliet, like an Adam and Eve of 2050 type thing, a love illicit and strong enough to break the rules of biology.
You are floored when you read in your mom’s morning virtual that they’re ending the segregated educational system and putting the Detachables in regular school. You dance around your kitchen. Your mom glances at the headline and burns her mouth on her coffee.
Popular girls in high school haven’t changed much in the year 3000 – they’re still bitches named Jessica – and Jessica is the first to approach the Detachables at their lunch table. She gives them a basket of cupcakes she baked herself. They thank her politely but they don’t smile, because that’s not something they do, because you don’t have a lot of reasons to smile when you’re a science project.
As Jessica walks away, one of the Detachables reaches for a cupcake and spills milk on his arm. He takes his arm off, sets it on the table and starts cleaning it with a napkin. Everyone in the cafeteria stares.
After a few weeks of failed flirting your friends decide the Detachables are too snobby, cold and unattainable to bother with. One by one they go back to their old non-Detachable boyfriends and sorta-boyfriends, mediocre and sweet with gawky arms and legs fully fused to their torso. Jessica is the first to claim she slept with a Detachable. He just shrugs when people ask him about it.
You’ve never really had a boyfriend. The closest thing was last year when you made out with your bio lab partner in the back of his shitty Ford Levitator after he gave you a plug-in indie mix for your microchip on your birthday, but that only lasted a week. Most boys, you decided at a young age, are boring.
You’re getting a B+ in calculus, well below the standard for the university your mom wants you to go to, and you’re assigned a tutor. It’s the Detachable who supposedly had sex with Jessica. You meet up in the calc classroom after school every Tuesday to go over that week’s lesson. They’re used to getting lots of attention from girls, so you try to pretend not to care.
The third week, he smiles at a joke you make. He starts glancing at you during class a lot and has a nervous habit of rubbing the metal that connects his neck to his collarbone. He calls you “inscrutiable.” The fifth week, you steel your nerves and ask him to the Spring Fling and he thinks for a long time.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” he finally says.
“It’s just, I can’t really…”
You shrug and return to your homework.
“Sure,” he says.
You pick up an extra shift at the Future Freeze because the tickets are hella expensive, they need to cover the cost of renting out the space boat. The theme’s Australia, or more specifically, “Seniors 3000: Down Under” because high school dance themes will always be retarded.
He shows up at your front door in a white suit and makes well-mannered small talk with your mom until you come down the stairs in your dress, a metallic dream. He sees you coming and his hand falls off his arm and lands on the floor with a thud. He stares at it for a minute, picks it up and clicks it back into place.
“He’s very… articulate,” your mom says with a forced smile as you kiss her on the cheek. “Please, please be back by eleven.”
The cafeteria’s glowing with holograms of scenic Australia in dark crepe paper, rotating slowly across the walls and people’s faces. Everyone stares when you walk in. Jessica, in pink, gives you the evil eye. You want to ask him about her, but you’re afraid of the answer. You can only silently reassure yourself that at least you’re skinnier than her, which, to a teenage girl in the year 3000, still feels of the utmost importance.
“This one’s for all the young lovers of the class of 3000,” the DJ croons, and puts on a top 40 ballad, the first slow dance of the night.
You want him to ask you to dance, but he’s staring at the huge projected koala sliding across the wall, unsmiling. He’s smart enough to know that you want to dance, so he must be intentionally denying you what you want.
“Can we dance?” you finally ask him. He shrugs and stands up.
You re-arrange your classes so that your free periods match up and sit with him and the Detachables during lunch. For his benefit, they’ve reluctantly accepted you into the fold. The other ones don’t talk to you much. It mostly just feels like sitting with a bunch of lifesized magazine cutouts.
“We hardly see you anymore,” your best friend mutters, annoyed, as she slams her locker door shut. “You’re always with him.”
You lose your virginity to the Detachable in your bedroom one Sunday while your mom is at work. Right after (or actually, right after you put your bra and panties back on), you look into his eyes and tell him you love him.
“Okay,” he says. He screws his hand impossibly tight on his wrist.
“You seem like, tense.”
But you can’t just let it lie. “Do you love me too?”
“I… yeah, I guess. Yeah. I love you.” He kisses your forehead. “I love you.”
Five minutes after he leaves you call your friends and tell them most of the urban legends about having sex with Detachables are bullshit except a few key ones that are true and may have ruined you on non-Detachable boys for the rest of your life.
At school the next day, you see him hopping through the hall with his severed leg over his shoulder to the nurse’s office.
“What’s with you?” you ask him.
“It won’t stick,” comes his semi-frantic response. (Frantic means something different for them since their speech is usually flat and affectless.)
He isn’t at lunch. The other Detachables tell you he’s still at the nurse. His other leg fell off in AP English and they can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. You go to visit him at the nurse but the blinds are drawn around his bed and the nurse tells you he’s sleeping.
His arms and legs are in a basin next to the bed. It freaks you out. You wonder if that would hurt his feelings.
The school sends a letter home to everyone’s parents about a possible virus catching in Detachables. Apparently he’s not the only one who’s been having this problem. You reluctantly stop by the nurse’s office Friday and talk to him through the closed blinds.
“I heard you got into college.” His voice is muffled.
“Yep,” you say awkwardly.
You hear him take a deep, shaky breath. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
The late bell rings for next period and you say, “Um, I’m gonna be late.”
“Can’t you stay for a minute?”
The nurse is speaking in a low, intense voice on the phone. She keeps glancing towards the drawn blinds and back at you.
“Look, I gotta go, okay?” You nervously shifting your weight from foot to foot.
“Don’t go yet, please don’t go.”
“God,” you snap, “Why are you being so needy?”
You never officially break up with him, just stop coming around, but he gets it. Besides, you’re really busy packing for the dorms and everything.
Projecting the nightly news virtual with kids from the dorm during Welcome Week at college, you’re shocked to see him in the 11:45 “scare” slot.
He’s in a special home with other afflicted Detachables. The anchor sticks her microphone in the faces of the armless and legless. Torsos who make wry puns about talking head interviews.
Studies show that a romantic involvement was the only common link between them. For some reason, once they started caring about another person, their joints began sealing up and rejecting their limbs. Love, the scientists determined, made them fall apart.
“Does your girlfriend come visit you often?” the anchor asks your Detachable, now just a torso reclined on a chair.
“It didn’t work out between us,” he says. His eyes are blank. “Obviously.”
And right there in the common room in front of your new friends you start crying, just crying for no good reason, for your mom who was right all along, for all the young lovers of the class of 3000.
IMDb search: miranda
Did you mean…
Miranda (1997), the little-known sequel to hit children’s film Matilda (1996).
2 August 1997 (USA)
Comedy | Family | Fantasy
Miranda’s family is extraordinary. She… isn’t.
The story of a remarkably bland, plain girl born to telekinetic genius parents. Six-year-old Miranda Silkwood knows she is different. She can only count to eleventeen. She wears Velcro sneakers because her failed attempts at tying knots are frustrating and upsetting. She has to actually reach for the remote to change the channel instead of willing it towards her with the force of her own mind, like her parents can. Mr. and Mrs. Silkwood, using complex mathematical equations and advanced philosophical texts (that they read suspended in mid-air), try really, really hard to love her anyway.
- Pitched by first-time writer/director Rory O’Shea as “Dumbass Matilda.”
- When the budget ran out in the middle of shooting, O’Shea backed the film with his personal funds (earned from a slip-and-fall lawsuit settled out of court in 1993).
- Over 6,000 little girls auditioned for the eponymous Miranda.
- 10-year-old Amanda Goldfond from Patterson, New Jersey was chosen when her vacant eyes and mouth breathing caught the eye of the casting director.
- (2007) O’Shea is the writer/director of HBO drama Dead Man Drinking.
- (2008) Amanda Goldfond currently attends Brookside Community College.
- (2009) Amanda Goldfond recently played the role of “Waitress” on the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 9 episode “Gutted”
Memorable quotes from Miranda:
Narrator: Some of us are less special than others. Miranda Silkwood, for example.
Miranda Silkwood: How do you spell “genius?”
Mr. Silkwood: G-E-N-I-U-S.
Miranda Silkwood: What does it mean?
Mr. Silkwood: Me and your mother.
Miranda Silkwood: What about me?
Mr. Silkwood: N-O-T.
Mrs. Sourdough: Your parents enrolled you in my calculus class, but do you really think you should be here, Miranda?
Miranda Silkwood: Lookit! My dress has a pony… on my dress.
Ms. Silkwood: You’re average, but we love you anyway.
I was seventeen. My mom was drinking a glass of white wine and watching Nick at Nite. Ricky was screaming at Lucy that she had some ‘splaining to do. I said I was going to work (late shift at Dairy Queen), she said be careful and I walked out the door.
I’m twenty-five now, and I have to divorce my father. I don’t mean that in the teenage “tell him you hate him and slam your bedroom door” way. I mean it in the literal way. I’m married to my father.
I guess I have some ‘splaining to do.
My parents separated when I was little, after my father’s unsuccessful 7-11 robbery attempt. He put a pair of pantyhose over his head, stuck his finger in the cashier’s back and asked for all the twenties in the register. She kneed him in the balls and called the cops. I was in the candy aisle trying to hide Milky Ways in my dress. (I was eight.)
My mom bailed him out of jail and kicked him to the curb and he moved to Boulder. For awhile he lived with this I’m-a-dancer-not-a-stripper woman named Liz. But once he ran out of money he was alone.
Imagine my surprise – remember at this point I’m seventeen and basically a bastard as far as paternal care is concerned – when he pulled up at the DQ drive in and asked what the Blizzard of the month was.
“Pumpkin,” I said. I hadn’t seen him in seven years.
“You got big, Ellie.”
“You look like shit.” He did. He had a scratch on his forehead, a parting gift from Stripper Liz, and a band-aid over it like a really bad, really white rapper.
“Get in the car.”
I’ll never forget when I learned what a sociopath was. In the sixth grade I got bussed to the local high school for math because I’d tested off the middle school scale and into pre-calc. I sat in the back and read a book on Ted Bundy I’d found from the high-school library, misplaced on a rack with some YA paperbacks. A sociopath is someone who disregards the rights of others. This person can be charming and attentive and sharp but something is missing. This was when I realized there was a good chance my dad maybe was a sociopath.
“We just need to get back to Boulder,” he said as he pulled onto the freeway. He lit up a Newport and smoked it out the window. “You’re not happy here with Mom, right?”
I took a cigarette from his pack. “Boulder’s pretty far.”
“I’ve got a great condo just out of Flagstaff. With a backyard. You can plant shit.”
“Why are you here, really?”
“Well, Liz left,” he said, “and this thing we cooked up is kind of a two person job.”
First when he told me, it seemed like a great idea. The more I thought about it, it seemed like a great weird idea.
“Follow my lead, El,” my dad murmured.
We sat at the bar and he broke into the geek conversation with some anecdote about standard programming syntax.
One of the hoodie guys moved one stool closer to me.
“What’s your name?”
He was like, “Are you old enough to be in here?”
“Is that any of your business?”
My dad put his arm around me. “Stop hassling my girl.”
“Sorry, man,” said the hoodie. “But you’re a little old for her, right?”
“Age is just a number, son.” My dad shrugged and tossed back his Maker’s Mark. The hoodies were looking at him like he was going to impart some wisdom, tips to lure a young girl or write a great code.
“We’re trying to get to California, but we don’t have the money,” said my dad.
“What’s in California?”
“Her folks.” My dad took a sip of his Maker’s. “’Cause I’m a an old-fashioned man, and I’d like to do this properly.”
“Wait, do what properly?” asked the hoodie, and my father turned to me.
“Baby, I have to ask you something.”
He got off his seat, knelt down and pulled a ring box from his jeans. He opened it. There was a ring in it.
He said, “Will you marry me?”
I took a second, like any young girl would, and then I squealed, “God—yes!”
There was a round of claps and the bartender brought some free drinks and the hoodie said, “How’d you guys meet?”
I saw my dad thinking fast, but before he could say anything I spoke up.
“Expository Writing class. He was my professor.”
I glanced at my dad to check if I’d done well. He looked proud of me.
We called them “Fakeposals.” You’d be surprised at the amount of support people will give the recently-engaged. Cash, checks, free drinks all night, a couch to sleep on. And our age difference didn’t make it completely unbelievable. My dad was a good-looking guy, a little rough around the edges maybe but nothing a dumb young co-ed wouldn’t overlook. I looked older than seventeen, and could pass for a sheltered college girl in her early twenties whose only vice was being hot for Teacher. And the damn ring was a prop cubic zirconia, which I always took off right after we left so that it didn’t start feeling too real.
New York was a natural pit-stop to grab some extra money, and it was a fucking cash cow. We did three fakeposals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and never paid for a single meal. My dad got better and better each time he proposed. There was more emotion in the way he got on one knee – it was like the more he lied, the more real conviction he had. Balthazar, Momofuku, Scarpetta, Craft, the best restaurants in the city. We got $3,000 cash total from New York and God knows how much more in meals. That’s how much people enjoy seeing love.
Valentine’s Day for us was like Black Friday for the retail industry. On Valentine’s Day I had three-hundred dollar steak and caviar at Peter Luger’s on some rich old couple’s dime. They bought us a bottle of 1926 Macallan scotch worth three thousand dollars and my dad got so drunk he fell under the table. I drank whatever he didn’t finish.
In the car on the way back to our hotel, I was wasted and sloppy and my dad was pissed at me.
“The fuck, El?”
“What’s wrong?” I mumbled.
“You shouldn’t drink on jobs,” he said.
“But you do, all the time.”
“Yeah, but you drank too much. It makes me look bad. You seem like a kid.”
“I am a kid.” I fell over to the side and hit my head hard against the window.
He sighed. “Think we’re done with New York, huh?”
If you say a word over and over, like “banana” or “chair” or something, they start sounding like meaningless noise. Marriage proposals aren’t any different. And our “how we met” story wasn’t static – it changed by geography. Once we hit Indiana he was a friend of the family who I’d been in love with ever since we met at a barbeque. It stayed that way all the way to Missouri, when some starchy guy in a suit hit dangerously close to home. It was seven in the evening. He’d just paid for our meal and my dad was talking him up for plane fare with the California line.
“You look about my stepdaughter’s age,” he said to me.
“Hope that’s not how you two got together.” He laughed.
Totally deadpan, my dad said, “I don’t think that’s very funny.”
“You know what I think?” the guy said to my dad.
“I don’t think you’re planning to marry this girl.”
My dad was shocked. “Excuse me?”
“She’s young. And beautiful, and naïve. And you’re taking advantage of her.” The suit shook his head. “You’re in it to hit it and quit it.”
“You’re totally out of line,” my dad said in a low, angry way, “and if I were you I wouldn’t open your goddamn mouth again.”
“We’re in love, man!” I said, pretty drunk off the three vodka cranberries he’d bought me.
“Well. I know a courthouse in Columbia that’s good for quickie licenses.” The suit shrugged and grabbed his briefcase off the table. “Just saying.”
My dad stood abruptly and yanked me up by the arm. “You ready, El?”
“Sure,” I said, assuming he meant “ready to go back to the car.”
“I’ll drive there,” the suit said, giving me this smile like he was doing me a favor, helping me seal this deal. “Just follow me in your car.”
My dad has a lot of monikers from his heist days, and I don’t look much like him, and the paperwork was light. I’m just saying, it’s surprisingly easy to marry your father in this country. The suit was the only person in attendance, still with that shit-faced smile, like he was living his own sinful dream with his dumb stepdaughter. Some little Asian woman took a snapshot of us right after we were married by the on-duty judge. The flash hurt my eyes and I ran to the bathroom and threw up vodka cranberry.
I woke up in the car with the cubic zirconia on my finger. It was drizzling outside and my head was pounding. “You are now entering Kansas.” The Shirelles were playing and my dad was sucking on the filter of a Newport. He wasn’t looking at me. I took the ring off, put it on the dashboard, told him to stop, and I got out of the car. I haven’t seen him since.
Like I said, I’m twenty-five now. I hitchhiked back to New Jersey, graduated from high school a year late in the middle of my class, went to college in New Hampshire where girls wear pearl earrings and this kind of thing doesn’t happen to people. I met a boy on the lacrosse team, a journalism major. We’ve been dating for five years. He’s amazing and I’m pretty sure he’s going to propose soon, which is why I need to divorce my father. I haven’t told the boy. Maybe I never will. All I know is that I don’t want him to ask me to marry him in a room full of strangers.
(printed anonymously in the East Side Hebrew Institute Alumni Newsletter, 2006)
Twenty-seven teenage girls were expelled from the East Side Hebrew Institute for Women in 1979. I was one of them. ESHI never released an official reason for the expulsion, and the twenty-seven of us swore silence in order to avoid the wrath of our parents and the community.
We are in our forties now, most are observant Orthodox wives and mothers, and I’m sure the majority would be thrilled to let the story fade into obscurity, but as the years have passed it’s weighed me down, and I need to air it for my own well-being.
So it was 1979. I was sixteen years old and everyone at ESHI called me “Bones,” because I’d had a three-inch growth spurt that summer without gaining a pound. My homeroom was run by Miss Moritz, a severe young Midrash teacher who may still be at ESHI (assumedly now a severe old Midrash teacher).
There were two things Miss Moritz would kick you out of class for:
One, not having your uniform pressed.
Two, associating with Rachel “Chell” Cohen, my best friend at ESHI, whose real name I can use because she’s long dead of leukemia, and even if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t give a shit.
“Way to go, Bones,” she’d probably say, scrunching up her nose in her trademark smile, and then she’d drag me to McSorleys for a beer.
Chell was raised Chabad like the rest of us, in a small, dirty apartment on Delancey Street with five little brothers and sisters. Her father was a rabbi and her mother a dutiful rebbitzin, setting the table for the young scholars from the seminary and members of the synagogue who dropped by with a bottle of vodka to talk Torah with Rabbi Cohen. Often, these visitors were our fathers. Often, our fathers were drunks.
Chell’s parents were pillars of the community. Chell, on the other hand, was a complete abberation.
The dirtiest pages of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” were pasted in her schoolbooks. She played poker with the janitors at ESHI and never lost a game. She talked me into seeing Deep Throat and laughed at the shock on my face in the theater. She drew comics of ESHI as Dachau, complete with Miss Moritz as Hitler. She distrusted religion, politics and anything else that even remotely resembled authority.
I realize now that where Chell belonged was a liberal college campus whose green lawns echoed with protests and riots and shitstorms, where she could argue about Proust in lecture and smoke grass with boys who drank brandy and wrote on electric typewriters.
But Chell had always been that way – that wasn’t what made 1979 remarkable. What made it remarkable is the flasher.
He got chubby Ellen Liebman first, last on the way out the door after PE.
“Do you like my coat?” he’d asked her. He was standing on the bottom of the flight of stairs.
“Sure,” Ellen answered timidly. She squinted at his bare legs under the trenchcoat. And then before she could bleat some excuse, he spread the trenchcoat wide.
It spread through ESHI like wildfire that Ellen had seen some guy’s thing. It was the biggest news since Chell’s last second-base rendezvous with one of Rabbi Cohen’s seminary students. At first she was ashamed, but Ellen started liking the attention after awhile, and by homeroom on Friday she was as blasé as a movie star about it.
“It’s just a body part,” Ellen said, dramatically rolling her eyes. “It’s not like, the living end or anything.”
“This from a girl who thinks you’ll get pregnant if you swallow,” Chell repeated under her breath, chewing on her pencil. I snickered. Miss Moritz smacked her chalk down.
“What’s this all about, ladies?” she asked in Hebrew, staring straight at Chell. Chell stared straight back.
“Ellen saw a penis, Miss Moritz.”
“Excuse me, Rachel?”
“A male sexual organ.”
Miss Moritz pressed her lips together until they turned white. “Four demerits for Rachel Cohen. Detention.”
“Oh, come on!” Chell threw her book down disgusted. “Is it because I said ‘penis?’ I could’ve said ‘cock.’”
“Cock, cock,” Chell said. “Cock. Cock, cock, cock.”
The classroom was dead silent.
“Twenty-five demerits in two minutes.” Miss Moritz marked them down in her ledger. “I think you’ve broken a record.”
It was about this time Chell found out she was sick. She had gone to the eye-doctor and he noticed she was seeing double. When she told me she’d be dead before commencement I was inconsolable for a whole week-end, skipping meals and sobbing in bed, but Chell was remarkably calm.
“I just have a couple things I have to do,” she said.
The following Monday in homeroom, he was back on the steps. Chell had been staring obsessively out the window all morning, and she pounded me hard on the shoulder. I leaned back in my wooden chair to catch a glimpse and nearly fell backwards. Miss Moritz glared at me and I looked back down at my textbook. But many of the other girls were staring out the window.
When the final bell rang, a crowd of us – half of Miss Moritz’s homeroom – bolted through the hall, Chell at the lead. She pushed open the front door of ESHI and froze at the top of the stairs. He was at the foot of the staircase, just like Ellen had said, clutching the edges of his jacket. He seemed taken aback by the number of us.
“Say, uh,” he said, and shifted awkwardly from side to side. “You girls like my coat?”
“Don’t be nervous,” Chell told him reassuringly. “Do you want a cup of coffee?”
The flasher’s name was Neil. He wasn’t homeless as I’d suspected, but lived with a roommate in Chinatown. He’d attended Hunter College for a year, he said, until he was turned on, tuned in and dropped out. He paid his rent by hustling in bars, letting old queers buy him a few drinks and take him home. He was deeply damaged from drugs but we thought it romantic, a necessary prerequisite for a soulful young man, like Keats’ opium addiction.
We started having lunch with him every Friday afternoon, digging into our allowances to buy him a proper, greasy lunch at the Minnetta Lane Inn. Soon Miss Moritz’s entire homeroom was coming to lunch with the flasher – all twenty-seven of us.
He was shy at first, hesitant to learn our individual names, like he’d rather think of us an amorphous group. We each tried to win him over our own way, with home-baked bread or clumsily crocheted mittens, but as the most secular and relatable of the group, Chell was his clear favorite.
“You know, if you cross your eyes, he looks like Warren Beatty,” she whispered to me once in math class.
“Warren who?” I said.
It was Chell’s idea to follow him back to his apartment one afternoon. We trailed a few blocks behind him when he left the front steps of the school, clustered in groups of three or four. Finally, a block away from his walk-up on Attorney Street, Chell strode out in front and tapped his shoulder. He whirled around, wild, ready to throw a punch.
I counted out sixty dollars into Neil’s hand. His eyes nearly popped out of his head.
“Invite Chell upstairs,” I demanded.
“You want to make it with me, Rachel?” he gasped.
“That’s the idea,” said Chell.
Neil stared blankly at us, our identical schoolgirl sweaters and long, modest skirts.
“Come on, Bones,” he said, frantically pushing his hair off his forehead. “You’re a sensible girl.”
“So? Don’t act so scandalized. You do it for the queers, don’t you?” I said.
“So, I don’t think your friend here realizes what she’s getting herself into.” He scratched the back of his neck, uncomfortable.
“I’m the one who collected the money,” I told him. “We all put in a couple dollars. For Chell.”
“Sex is serious business.” Neil bit his lip. “You’re too young to get it.”
“You want serious business? I’ve got a tumor in my brain the size of a chicken egg, okay?” Chell snapped. “I might kick it before summer. Hell, I might kick it right in school.”
There was a long pause, a standoff.
“You’re really gonna die?” Neil asked in a small voice.
“Yes, Neil, I’m really gonna die.”
“Oh Jesus, man,” Neil said, and his face crumbled.
“Hey, it’s okay. Don’t cry. Just um, I paid you so… I want you to give it to me. Good. Okay? Don’t cry.” Chell awkwardly patted his shoulder. “Where’s your key?”
As Neil fumbled in his pocket for the key, we took it as our cue to scatter. I shot one last look at Chell as Neil took her hand to lead her up the stairs. Her eyes were dark, glittery in the shadows of the stairs.
Nobody knows who told Miss Moritz about Chell’s bargain with Neil. I’d put my money on Ellen Liebman but it could’ve been anyone jealous of Chell or trying to kiss up to Miss Moritz. Whoever it was ratted out Chell, me, and all the girls who donated to Chell’s fund. In the end it was twenty-seven of us expelled, which didn’t really matter because most of us weren’t headed for college but marriage, and so our education would have been completed in just another year anyway.
On our last day at ESHI Chell and I bought a skin magazine from the corner bodega and pasted the pages on Miss Moritz’s chalkboard. By that time most of Chell’s hair was gone, and she was wearing this crazy dreadlock wig I got her from Harlem so that she didn’t get confused with one of the married women from our synagogue. Sometimes people congratulated her anyway.
“Don’t worry,” she explained to the poor confused well-wisher if they were embarrassed about their awful faux pas. “Marriage and cancer are pretty similar.”
I’m ashamed to say I rarely saw Chell once she went to the hospital to wait it out. We were so close by then I couldn’t stand being near her at the end, it was suffocating. Neil visited once, she said, and then didn’t come again. He had looked thin and sweaty and was probably on drugs. Rabbi Cohen had seen Neil come in, Chell said, and probably banished him from visiting again. I doubted that was true, it was far more likely poor addled Neil had just let Chell slip from his mind, but I didn’t want to ruin her fantasy.
I married shortly after, and did all the things I was supposed to do at the time I was supposed to do them as an Orthodox Jewish wife and mother. It’s as if Chell was never in my life, which was the only way I could continue to live it. There are special, brilliant, fleeting people too big for this world, and there’s everyone else, and neither group should be condemned.
The look on people’s faces when they figure it out is always the same. Like they’re taking a big shit.
“Dude, you’re his kid?”
I make some non-committal gesture. If it’s a guy he’ll high-five me, grinning. A lot of guys at Stanford, where I’m a sophomore, have this reaction.
“I was obsessed with that show in high school—he’s the man, yo! Tell him I said that.”
“Seriously. Plus, first boobs I ever saw.”
He’s referring to the boobs of Lisa Spivak, who played the frigid psychiatrist on season 2 of Dead Man Drinking (2000– present).
“Me too,” I say, except he’s talking about the season 2 finale when the frigid psychiatrist’s husband leaves her because she’s frigid and to prove she’s not frigid she has angry sex with a patient, who happens to be Rory O’Shea (my father), reluctantly in mandatory therapy after discharging his weapon.
I, on the other hand, am talking about when I was eleven and walked into the living room and Lisa Spivak was on her knees in front of the white leather couch. She was topless and knelt before my big brother Devon, who sat slumped and shuddering with his hand over his face. She was moving like a bobblehead. She saw me first.
“Shane,” she said. Her voice was croaky. The funny thing was, she was supposed to have been dating Nick, my father’s business partner and co-producer, at the time.
Dev looked up, squinted. He chucked a throw pillow at me.
“It’s my birthday,” he yelled, and I ran.
It had actually been his twenty-second birthday three weeks before. He turned twenty-three in rehab.
You know what kind of show this is. From 2000 to 2005 it was a critically acclaimed HBO epic of crime and redemption. From 2005 to present it’s a pulpy, soapy softcore guilty pleasure. There are Emmys in our kitchen and Golden Globes on the nightstand. I wonder if Stephen Collins from Seventh Heaven has kids in real life. I doubt they’re as fucked-up as me and Dev are. But I bet they don’t get laid as much.
Dead Man Drinking’s Rory O’Shea and Rory O’Shea my father have some things in common. The name, for example, because the co-producers wanted to cash in on the reputation he had already carved for himself based on the following traits: alcoholism, womanizing, Irish Catholicism, misanthropy, misogyny and masochism. Rory O’Shea and my father get gold stars in all of these.
My parents have been together for twenty-three years. They married right after college, when my father was skinnier, paler, angrier and a struggling comedian. He was from South Boston, where my Pop Pop still lives. My mother was a Dean’s List girl from Connecticut. She probably thought she was doing him a favor.
“There’s a vagina in my neck,” says my mother, pointing at the photo on her MacBook Pro screen. It’s her new author photo, for the book jacket.
“I don’t see it.” That’s a lie. There’s a gaping geriatric hollow in her throat.
“Can’t you Photoshop it?” she asks.
“The photography studio already re-touched it.”
“So tell them to re-re-touch it,” She rubs her temples. “Give it a full-fucking-body massage.”
My mother is the author of “Bee Yourself: A Guide to Honey Products for Natural Beauty and Wellness.” She was on Oprah once. Unlike my father, her fame means almost nothing to me, except a couple weird memories of Dev shoving beeswax from jars in the bathroom up my nose when we were little.
My father writes, produces and directs Dead Man Drinking and this is evident in the frequency and uncanny similarity of the sex scenes. Always rail-thin young brunettes who get on top and want it rough, attack him like they can’t help it. It’s weird to not only A) know what your dad’s into, but B) know that it’s not your mom, because your mom is a blonde with broad shoulders and C) see it in a Multiplex.
The summer of 2002 my mom held my hand in the private theater during the second season test screenings, and during the sex scenes she squeezed my hand so hard the tips of my fingers turned purple.
Dead Man Drinking’s Rory O’Shea has two children, twins named Mikey and Erin O’Shea. Mikey O’Shea is a shy, bookish kid who hates violence and confuses his policeman father. He was, and still is, played by Robbie Greenberg. My father wanted an all-Irish cast, but Nick insisted that Robbie’s quiet intelligence would balance out the crassness of the rest of the family. Nick was my dad’s childhood sidekick in the rough streets of Boston, a chubby kid with glasses. Nothing changed, except now he wears sunglasses.
Nick and my dad in 1999, sitting by the pool smoking Camel Lights after Robbie’s screen test:
“What if he grows up to be a fag?”
“He’s not. That’s just how Jew kids are,” Nick said.
There were two Erins, Megan Callahan and Bonnie Lindquist. Erin O’Shea started stripping at a club called Private Eyezz to rebel against her religious father in season 4 and Megan Callahan got fired because of the no-nudity clause in her contract, but there was this weird overlap where both the Erins were contracted to the show and they both came to the Christmas party and had to act gracious about it except Megan Callahan got pretty drunk.
At one AM she was coming out of the bathroom as I was going in. She grabbed me by the wrist. She was nineteen with a Southern accent. I was fifteen and so of course I had a raging-fucking-crush on her.
“Shane,” she mumbled into my shirt.
“Do you think she’s hotter than me?” She burped. “Bonnie?”
“Maybe we should sit…” I sort of angled her back towards the bathroom.
Megan’s eyes were tearing up. “I bet they didn’t even screen-test her. She’s probably one of those girls who lets Rory fuck her in the ass. Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She could have told me the sun was hurtling towards the earth.
Megan burped again and started unbuttoning her dress.
“I mean, is this acting?” she said, and burbled a sick little laugh. Her dress fell down around her feet. Cotton underwear and a plain bra she unhooked and handed to me. I tried not to look as she walked past me and threw her arms in the air.
“Is this what y’all want? I’m acting!”
Nobody at the party could convince her to put the dress back on, and someone called her mom to come get her and bring a robe.
They start pre-production for Season 9 right after I go back to Stanford. TV Guide does this whole write-up on Dead Man Drinking, said it jumped the shark when the long-lost brother joined the cast and said my dad was fading fast, becoming a joke of David Hasselhoff-esque proportions. My dad calls me in the middle of moving in.
“What would you do if you knocked a girl up at Stanford?”
“Why, did Mikey knock a girl up at Stanford?”
That was the only reason he ever asked me questions like this. Sometimes I thought Mikey O’Shea was based on me. Or I was based on Mikey O’Shea, who really knows which. My dad wanted his character on Dead Man Drinking to have two sons, but Nick said teenage girls were automatic Nielsen-boosts. And Erin O’Shea has pieces of my big brother Devin, in the way she speaks and how she treats her father. If Devin was a girl, he’d probably be a stripper, and if he was a stripper it would definitely be at a place called “Private Eyezz.”
“What would you do?” he asks again.
“I’d marry her,” I say.
He doesn’t say anything for a second, then he goes, “You’re good, Shane.”
“Try to stay that way, OK?”
In the middle of Season 9, Mikey O’Shea drops out of Stanford and enrolls in the police academy. TV Guide has a field day with this one.
This is about a man we’ll call the CEO.
The problem started in 1993, the summer that he founded the company and David was born (listed in order of importance). The first twenty employees were fresh out of graphic arts programs, designers and developers eager to claim their patch of the unexplored Internet. Once the company took off, the CEO’s wife Dannica converted the dining room into an office and started running her charity work from home. Her contact at UNICEF was number two on the kitchen speed dial. Shanghai Kitchen was number three, and the CEO often found himself accidentally ordering chow fun from Oumar, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh.
The first order of business was the company t-shirts.
The just-hired 24-year-old creative director created the logo and displayed it in 7-foot projection in the conference room for the CEO’s approval. The sedign was simple: the company name and, underneath, a little lightbulb with wings.
“A. Flying. Idea.” The creative director said, emphasizing the words in the air with his hands.
“Where’d you go to school again?”
Every Friday was mandatory company t-shirt day. Ubiquity was key. They’d just launched an account with Zima, and the CEO knew it was because he had made a point of scattering bottles throughout the office, even in the bathrooms.
He wrote it off as coincidence the first Friday. There was this junior biz girl named Regina who smoked weed in the bathroom and never washed her hair in the morning because she always overslept and dashed into the boiling subway at five to nine. The first time it happened, she came to his office to drop off some files. The summer of 1993 was hot as fuck because they were still signing the invoices with Cool Breeze and Regina had rolled and tied the hem of her company t-shirt just above the waistline of her jeans.
She bent over his shoulder to indicate “sign here” with her pen and he felt his dick harden. Like with a cartoon noise, practically. Sproiiiingg. But she was cute enough, he told himself, in an offbeat kind of way, a Sarah Jessica Parker-in-Square-Pegs kind of way, that it was an isolated incident.
Unfortunately this was not so.
Pamela, the company accountant, came in every Friday to pick up the invoices. She was heavy, in her 50s with a faded brown bowl cut and had always reminded the CEO of Kathy Bates in “Misery.” But one Friday she was wearing a company t-shirt and baseball cap, and as she waddled past his office the same affliction struck him, a mix of arousal and embarrassment with an intensity that he hadn’t experienced since adolescent summers at Jew Camp.
The CEO never spoke to Dannica about the problem because she always seemed busy with Operation Smile. At some point during the last two months, anonymous scrappy Hispanic middle-schoolers with overbites had taken priority over their marriage. Not that he had a problem with Hispanics.
One Friday in mid-August, in the middle of a sales pitch, the CEO got a boner from Kevin Kachich in Human Resources walking by the glass window in his company sweatshirt. It was the most profoundly disturbing thing his body had ever done to him. He’d never done anything to deserve that. He got fifty-dollar haircuts, ate California rolls for lunch, had a membership at Crunch, and before his marriage had enjoyed sex with (not too many, just enough) women (of similar age and socioeconomic class).
Let me say that again, because he’d want me to— he enjoyed sex with women.
This betrayal took him to the edge of sanity. Why was this happening, this love of his own image, this idol worship? Where did it end? Would he get an erection from a dog wearing his company’s t-shirt? His children? He didn’t dare test these theories, but obsessed about them. He canceled mandatory t-shirt Fridays and sat at his desk on panicky autopilot for months. He considered therapy, but it was too self-indulgent. He considered divorce, but it was too expensive.
Then one Sunday morning he woke up with such a deep feeling of clarity it was like he’d spent three years in meditation with Tibetan monks in one night. This phrase kept repeating in his head:
“Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.”
The CEO thought he’d made this up until he remembered over his breakfast grapefruit that it was a fortune cookie he’d gotten from Shanghai Kitchen recently, but this didn’t decrease its motivational value.
He promptly re-instituted mandatory t-shirt Fridays. And mandatory baseball cap Tuesdays, mandatory sweatshirt Thursdays, mandatory thermal Mondays. He was determined to be master of penis rather than mastered by penis. For the first couple weeks he shuffled around half-erect from 9 to 5, but by the fall, the affliction was gone.
And by the winter, his ability to have an erection was gone completely. He didn’t particularly mind. He was his own master again, in complete control of his impulses.
Weirdly, time moved faster now that there was no sex to break up the monotony. Over the years there were departures and new hires, cleaning companies, office assistants. No deaths, because no employees were over 30. No births, but people got dogs and bigger apartments.
The CEO promoted Regina, now a senior employee but still smoking weed, to New Biz Executive and started inviting her to his office to get high during office hours. There was no sexual attraction at all, he’d long forgotten about that. While they were stoned he usually just asked her for advice about David. He was twelve now, and starting to perpetuate the age-old teenage ritual of hating his father.
Not even the best porn director in the Valley could make a takeoff on The Office, because it’s more or less impossible to “wryly” cum on someone’s tits.
There has been some confusion and I would like to re-state that this is fiction. I have not, to my knowledge, had sex with Ira Glass.
His wife is out in Calabasas visiting her sister, who just had a baby. The fact that he didn’t go with her, and chose instead to speak at your small liberal arts college in the woods, speaks volumes about their marriage. Or so you think.
As a person, the vessel of output for the slightly nasal voice you’ve gotten used to hearing disembodied, Ira Glass looks older than you’d imagined. He also bears a passing resemblance to every second cousin you have, but you want what you want.
After he’s done speaking you approach him with a question about semiotics that he’s enthusiastic about but doesn’t quite answer. Immediately after he concludes, he says something about his wife, which means you are doing something you often do, which is set off the alarm bells of married men.
You tell him your thesis is on Roland Barthes’ theory of bourgeois cultural signifiers. For example: wine, in a culture like that of the French, is associated with health and robustness, so an image of a wine bottle in France signifies these values. In our crass American reality, wine signifies alcohol, and when we see the image of a wine bottle, we think about getting drunk.
As he becomes engrossed in the conversation, the friends you came with slink out, embarrassed.
On the way to the bar, you turn to speak to him and find him five paces behind you, tenderly placing a five-dollar bill in a homeless man’s coffee cup. Every interaction he has with a person could be described with the adjective “tenderly” – too compassionate to be patronizing, too detached to be loving. Inexplicably, he knows the homeless man’s name is Nick.
You take him to Woody’s and he insists on ordering two beers on tap, even after you explain that Woody’s is the kind of place where you only want to drink things that were given to you sealed. He insists that he wants the full experience. Two sips in, he orders a Brooklyn Lager, and so do you.
You tell him about your childhood in the suburbs in Connecticut, spent voraciously reading Harry Potter, and how you half-expected to receive a Hogwarts acceptance letter well into your teens. By now you are both drinking scotch. At this point, he has stopped mentioning his wife.
You excuse yourself for the ladies’ room. There’s a high flush on your cheeks from the alcohol. It’s amazing how easy this has been, even though you have no sense of your own sex appeal. Like one of those decoys on To Catch a Predator, twenty-somethings who pretend to be fourteen to snare Internet pedophiles, you feel like an impostor in the body of a woman.
When you get back from the bathroom, he is advising the bartender on how to do his taxes, and you are drunk.
The walls of his hotel room are covered in maps, which you half-notice through the dark and your beer goggles as you whip your T-shirt over your head.
It’s for a show they’re doing on directions, he explains as he exactingly takes off and folds his pants. The first act is on the origin of the compass, did you know it was invented in China during the Song Dynasty?
You stick your tongue down his throat.
Not only is Ira Glass is the kind of guy who’s into sodomy, he’s the kind of guy who’s into sodomy as the Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra plays in the background. After doing it the first two hours, sloppy drunk and normal, he goes over to the dresser and wordlessly hands you a large flesh-colored strap on that looks like a gag gift. Then he lies facedown on the bed like a victim, disconcertingly at your mercy.
So you strap the thing on even though you’ve never done anything like this before, and Fred Hersch’s double bass riffs endlessly on, and two minutes in you’ve lost your focus, instead thinking “God, I should really go to grad school.”
You have a work-study job at the college library, consisting of sitting at the circulation desk and Googling your name for $9.50 an hour, which you manage to stagger to the next morning. Five hours into your full-day shift, he text-messages you about meeting him for coffee. You suggest a popular local café. He suggests a significantly less popular, inconveniently located café, and you meet him there after work.
The way he’s looking at you across the table makes you think he’s already pinned you down as a manic young free spirit. Like, the kind of girl who wears vintage fur coats and will take him on an quirky, appealing tour of the neighborhood and then cry because everything is so beautiful and then have sex with him. This is a common problem for you. Ever since Juno came out, you’ve had to watch the process of slow disappointment that people go through when they realize you’re not Juno.
You go back to his hotel room after one cursory cup of coffee. He puts on Getz & Gilberto this time.
There are a couple more sexual encounters not worth mentioning, and a little correspondence when he goes back to Chicago – an email or two, dirty text messaging mostly from you, phone sex once. It trickles to a stop and neither of you mind. His wife is around again, anyway, and he’s smart enough to know these kinds of risks are overrated.
After awhile you begin to think of him again as an abstract, disembodied voice. A bourgeois cultural sex symbol. This is a coping mechanism for you, because nothing he said or did in the flesh was terribly impressive, and it’s always hard to realize that the extraordinary is ordinary.
Mike jerked off a lot. Like “four times a day – stop what you’re doing – in a Dunkin Donuts bathroom” a lot. He knew it was becoming compulsive, but he also knew the root of it wasn’t specific to sex, just fantasies in general. So by not jerking off, he would be removing the symptom, but not the cause.
His dad had been a computer programmer for the past twenty years and didn’t seem to do much fantasizing. He was a good father, methodical and rational and slow to anger, and had a severe peanut allergy. The only thing Mike had inherited so far was the peanut allergy.
He was turning seventeen, and asked his parents for a $150 starter Yamaha kit for his birthday because he’d just read an article in Rolling Stone about his favorite band in which the lead singer mentioned it all started when he got a $150 starter Yamaha kit for his birthday.
He told Dave Miller, with whom he smoked weed down the street on school nights, to do the same. Dave was generally less carried away by romantic notions of rock and roll than Mike was, and had to be convinced that a beginners’ electric guitar, basic chord book and amp the size of a balled fist was worth three shifts at Domino’s Pizza.
“Give me some Adderall,” Dave said, “and tell Kacey to stop calling me without making me sound like a dick, and I’ll think about it.”
After Mike completed these tasks and a series of similar favors, Dave was on board. He was also on the JV track team with this kid named Sam who had once mentioned on the bus to a meet in Lawrenceville that he played drums. So Dave texted Sam and Sam was also on board and the three boys formed a skeleton crew of rock.
Band practice was always at Sam’s house, partly because of the drum set in the basement but also because his TV was big and his mom was hot. Every Wednesday after school Mike and Dave flew out of standard pre-calc, grabbed their guitars from the back of the band room and waited for Sam to get out of AP English Language.
Sam was the kind of guy who always had a girlfriend, and Rachel was the kind of girlfriend who always gave them a lift to band practice in her battered Seville even if it meant blowing off Philosophy Club (she was the president) to shuttle the boys through the semi-projects that circled the high school over to Sam’s upper-middle-class neighborhood.
Rachel wasn’t the hottest girl at school by a mile but she was okay-looking and smart and well-liked by everybody except Mike, because he fucking hated that she always parked the car on a side-street and helped them carry their shit into Sam’s house and sat silently in the basement watching, judging, as they jammed.
It drove Mike crazy, Rachel sitting there. Sam never talked about having sex with her, so Mike figured Sam was still a virgin like he was, and it was retarded to be pussy-whipped without getting the pussy. Rachel thought she was too good for all of this, Mike figured bitterly, being an honors kid and all up on extracurriculars and shit. She was in an SAT prep class, too, and probably didn’t even know what weed smelled like.
The first real hurdle the band overcame was figuring out the name. Dave thought of “the Pinballs” but Mike, being well-versed in these things, said it was too derivative. They went to Pinball Machine, then just The Machine, which felt too metal. Everyone was getting frustrated, except Rachel, who was obliviously hunched over her Kaplan test prep book at the counter.
Just then Sam’s big sister Talia, home from college and tan in her rolled-up Soffee shorts, padded through the basement looking for her cell phone.
“How about the Assholes?” she said as she rummaged between the couch cushions. And that was that.
Their first real song was “Border Woman.” Mike wrote it about Nancy Ortega, a chubby Guatemalan girl who sat diagonal from him in study hall and for the past three months had worked on the same doodle of her name in bubble letters on the front of her binder. He’d never spoken to her before. Mostly because she was in ESL and he figured it’d be a waste of breath.
The chorus went:
Border woman, desert skin
Open your gate girl, let me in
Sand in the hourglass, shake your hips
Taste tequila on my lips
Ooh, ooh, border woman.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, border woman. (x2)
From behind the drum set, Sam raised his eyebrows.
“It’s about Salma Hayek,” Mike said.
The Assholes’ first real gig was at the Yak Association for Men, an organization that Sam, Dave and Mike’s fathers were all members of. It was the annual Yak Cotillion, a cookout and semi-formal for the Yaks, their wives and children. Sam’s dad, the chapter secretary, got them a five-thirty slot right after the potluck appetizers and in the thick of pre-dinner Smirnoff hour.
They helped themselves to some salad and Pizza Bagels on the potluck table and chilled backstage, dragging around amps and tuning up. Mike peeked out of the curtain and saw all their parents at the table and Rachel with Sam’s family.
Suddenly his neck began to itch and he excused himself. In the bathroom mirror, bejeweled with stag horns, Mike saw bright welts starting to raise from his skin. He ran out and grabbed Dave around the shoulders. He could feel himself sweating.
“What the fuck,” Dave said, and pushed Mike off.
“I think there was a peanut in my salad.” Mike felt his throat constrict.
“Can you still sing?”
“Yeah,” Mike said, leaned over and puked on the yak hide rug.
At Sam’s family’s table, Rachel put down her calc textbook.
The gig was flawless. Sam’s drums were crisp and precise, Dave’s rhythm guitar was appropriately funky. And Rachel, her hand delicately wrapped around the mic stand, added a distinct touch to “Border Woman” while still delivering the raw sexuality of Mike’s words.
“Ooh, ooh, ooh, border woman,” Rachel sang as the Yaks and their wives swayed on the dance floor.
“She’s got a touch of Janis, don’t you think?” Mike’s mother whispered to his father as Mike puked up Pizza Bagels in the bathroom.
It was peanut extract in the salad dressing. Mike’s father, though afflicted with the same allergy, was methodical and rational enough not to eat anything in a potluck.
The following Wednesday they were sitting on Sam’s patio before practice. Sam’s mom came out with a pitcher of lemonade, smiling, and she leaned over the table to pour some glasses. Mike looked down her shirt and briefly forgot things like his middle name or the first line of the Declaration of Independence. Sam was talking, though.
“What?” Mike said.
“We were just saying how good you’d be at the triangle,” Sam said.
Immediately Mike looked at Rachel. She stared back at him, unflinching.
“Everyone is good at the triangle,” said Mike.
“You can still write the songs,” Dave mumbled apologetically, looking down at his sneakers. “We have a gig on Friday at Starland.”
“Fuck your triangle.”
Mike stood up, downing his lemonade with an indignation usually reserved for straight whisky.
“You guys are assholes.”
“We changed our name,” Sam said. “We’re Anne Frank and the Frankfurters now.”
The Starland gig created some buzz and sold some t-shirts and got written up in the county Time-Out. They got a small-time manager and some gas money for tri-state gigs. Before final exams ended, Rachel started skipping class to hide out in the library and write songs. Dave quit his job at Domino’s.
Mike graduated with a 3.3 GPA and went to a local community college. None of the Frankfurters were at graduation. They had a show in Connecticut that day that Pitchfork Media ended up covering.
By what would’ve been sophomore year of college they were doing regular cross-country tours. Mike talked to Dave on the Internet sometimes and chilled with Sam at a bar once when their schedules matched, over some winter break. They went to McGinty’s, a bar on the highway that they’d always driven past when they were underage. The floors were wet and Mike talked about college. Sam mostly listened, but mentioned they were all on hiatus from school, focusing on the band. They bro-hugged in the parking lot and that was the last time Mike spoke to any of the Artists Formerly Known as the Assholes.
Three years later Mike and his girlfriend were in bed flipping channels. He landed on Saturday Night Live.
“Leave it,” Mike’s girlfriend ordered, so he did. The musical guests were performing.
They looked like the Assholes’ more attractive, slightly plastic cousins. Rachel had extensions. Dave was wearing eyeliner. They were in the second verse of Border Woman, which somewhere along the five-year journey had acquired a ukulele, three ethnic backup singers and a synth player who struck just the right physical chord between alternatively and conventionally attractive and probably had a drug problem.
“She sounds kind of like Janis Joplin, doesn’t she?” Mike’s girlfriend said, and Mike agreed.
Later they turned off the TV and she gave him a handjob, but there wasn’t really any enthusiasm.
If Mike had bothered to re-route Rolling Stone to his new address, he’d have seen a two-page spread on Anne Frank & The Frankfurters that featured a photo shoot in full World War II regalia as well as an interview with all 4 members (in which the synth player, named Josh, discussed his drug problem).
They were lauded as controversial, brash young talents, but amidst all the glory, Dave was the kind of guy who tried to keep his feet on the ground. When Rolling Stone asked how the band had gotten together, he told them it all started when he got a $150 starter Yamaha kit on his birthday.
There should be a finite amount of time designated to think about a person who ultimately doesn’t matter.
Say I found a sumo wrestler with a preternatural awareness of my mind, or answers a projection in the sky like Batman. I’m sure I could find one on Craigslist under “domestic gigs” or something. And every time I think about you for over an hour per day, that sumo wrestler will crash through my window and headlock me and for one brief moment, as my skull threatens to cave in between his sweaty elbows, I won’t be thinking about the kind of genes your parents must have had to make your eyes so green. A deus ex machina for hire.
All this thinking is a waste because, like I said, you don’t matter. It doesn’t feel that way right now because it is intense and prolonged but shelved in the back of my head behind the churning emotions and analysis of every look and conversation is the knowledge that you will soon be replaced by someone else cute and blank enough to project on.
It happens so often that eventually, even the sumo wrestler would give up on me. I’d give him his last paycheck and he’d wish me good luck with sympathy glittering in his little black eyes and I’d watch as his massive, fat-rolled back disappeared down the street. He’d be shaking his head and I’d know he was thinking, “Damn, girl, he’s just not that into you.”
Because, yeah. He’s never that into me.
But he’s just part of a cycle. He’s a season. He barely exists for me except as a passing thing, like bird flu or Chinese slippers or the word “phat,” and eventually, all by himself, he will fade away.