This American Affair

Posted in Uncategorized by anna on July 19, 2009

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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: