I've been waiting to talk about the "In the Flesh" reading 'til I got some photos but, as Paula Cole once sang during the opening credits of the classic television program "Dawson's Creek": I don't wanna wait for my life to be over, I wanna know right now, when will it be? I didn't take any photos, obvs, my camera is so old it's the equivalent of a Zach Morris cell phone and therefore semi-embarrassing to extract in public, and also I was drunk and probably would've just taken photos of Stef pointing all WTF-y at Menudo (the name of the guy who was hitting on us really loud while people were trying to read) (not actually his name) (but wouldn't it be cool if it was?). But someone did. Where are they? I dunno.
[Oh, like o, like h, like hey: Thank You. All of you ... you know what I'm talking about, you know who you are? Thank you for your words. I've got a lot going on in my head right now, a lot of things ... to be figured out, gone through, looked at, talked about. I am so blessed to have such fantastic friends, readers, friends/readers, it's really beautiful.]
So, the reading was super-awesome. Stephanie read with me and did a fantastic job and the people laughed. They videotaped it, which's why I decided to starve all day, so afterwards I went somewhere with Stef and had hummus and pita, which I love. I even loved it when I got to taste it coming back up later. See, I'm being gross now like Lozo. He posts entire entries about a certain bathroom activity that I don't think people should ever talk about. I'd rather hear people talk about vomiting like I just did. Maybe I'll erase this part later.
So so so so I'm going to um, just publish the story I wrote for the reading right here on my blog. Isn't that exciting? I'd publish the first one that I read last year, too, but I feel like that might be against some copyright something since it's going to be in the Dirty Girls book. I don't know, I never read my contracts, I just sign them, it's really a miracle if I can even find a stamp. Anyone who works for JP Morgan Chase can tell you that this habit hasn't exactly worked in my favor.
Oh, there's parts of this story I stole from an old blog entry, FYI, I know that. I steal from myself left and right.
So, in introduction, I'd like to say that last year I read a story called "Fucking Around" in which the protagonist tells New York she's going to start seeing other places: Boston (Boston wants to pick me up and toss me about like his arms are rackets and I’m a buoyant shuttlecock.), Washington D.C. (His apartment looks like a hotel; pressed sheets, organized bath products, neatly folded cream-colored towels. D.C has Magnum King-Sized condoms ostentatiously placed on his bathroom counter. We rub against each other. I feel what I think is DC's dick through his pants but it turns out to be his T-Mobile Sidekick), Wisconsin and Michigan (..I want her breasts on my face, I want to fall asleep that way. When I cum, it won't be normal cum. It will be blackberry jam), Los Angeles (I look in her refrigerator for a beer. All she has are celery sticks and powders for protein shakes. That's when I start to suspect that Los Angeles is a robot.), Detroit (I think Detroit might be good at something and I'm hoping that it's fucking. Detroit rolls me onto my stomach. Detroit actually holds my damp panties to his nose and sniffs them.), San Francisco (San Francisco takes me to an S+M party where everyone is wearing taut leather and has a lot of Opinions. I'm surprised: I met her in the park, she had flowers in her hair and a vintage bicycle. Is she a top or a bottom? Does she want me to whip her? I don’t understand.) and Alabama (He fucks me with the elemental intensity of a man who handles animals and land and dirt. When he cums, I hold him and the look in his eyes makes me want to cry. I feel like he could be crying too but he doesn't know it).
Then she goes back to New York, obvs. I used the same opening and closing this year but adjusted it for a new sort of theme I was playing with this year. Like last year it was that no other places are as good as New York. This year, it was that New York City itself is maybe just an idea, maybe only a dream we keep holding onto and looking for, everywhere, and are always, kinda, not able to find it.
I obviously finished writing it about two hours before the reading started, because I la-la-love the last minute.
Fucking Around #2: Back in the Habit. (JK. I just wanted to reference Sister Act)
Fucking Around #2: Rise of the Machines (JK!)
Me: I told New York I loved her but she wouldn't say it back. We'd just made love, and then I said it and she laughed. I felt like she was holding all my limbs together with her breath and so when she laughed it felt like she was dropping me and pretending it was an accident.
New York: It takes me a long time, you know that, I told you that. But when I do say it, I’ll really mean it. When I feel it, you’ll know it all over.
Me: New York fell asleep but I couldn't. I stood naked at the squashed rectangle of window in the corner of New York's bedroom and watched a man exit a crowded restaurant, put his wife in a cab and then meet a girl on the corner; she was cinematically pretty and looked happier than I'd felt in years.
New York: Come back to bed, baby, what are you doing? If you aren't doing anything, you should be sleeping.
Me: Lying unblinking next to New York in the dark, I couldn't be certain I wasn't sleeping with the tooth fairy, or something else I'd always secretly believed in. New York's always playing hard to get, but she knows I'm not going anywhere.
New York knows if I believed in reality, I would've left years ago, found another place. So I ask her; what if I left now?
New York: You'll be back.
New Jersey: That's what all the girls say.
--and she buys me dinner at a Pan-Asian restaurant next to a shopping mall—
New Jersey: It's my Dad's credit card, he's been like, King Asshole this week.
I can't stop staring at her tits, but I'm guessing that was the idea when she picked that shirt and that lotion.
Jersey: So, when did you know you liked girls?
Me: What do you mean, "Liked"?
Jersey: My best friend and I used to play doctor. You know, doctor?
Me: What did you have?
Jersey: Breast cancer.
After dinner, I let her push me into the backseat of her big car like I'm being kidnapped. She pins my arms behind me with one hand, removes her own pants with the other.
New Jersey isn't wearing underwear. I laugh: "You're not wearing underwear?" but she doesn't laugh, she just removes mine --
Jersey: You neither.
Her fingernails are chipped black except she's got both middle fingers painted a glossy bright purple that reminds me of Bubble Tape, and I imagine her in traffic, flicking off drivers, in photos flicking off the camera, inside me, flicking off. And then she's inside, almost her entire hand, turning circles. Over and over. If I think I'm close, it's another circle, back where we started. But I trust her to get me where I'm going, if only because fucking her is not unlike fucking a live-action sex toy with ambitious sound effects.
If bubble gum was a drug, injecting it would be like fucking New Jersey. She's tacky and delicious and flexible, like liquorice. She scratches me with her nails.
She bites my lip so hard I bleed. She pulls my hair and tells me I'm beautiful. She flicks my bellybutton ring with her tongue and then claws at my abs—
Jersey: How many crunches do you do, a day?
We both cum, we finish, I'd like to fuck her in about five hundred positions but I can't, I know sooner rather than later she'll want me to meet her parents, and I'm in no shape to meet anyone's parents.
I don't know what to tell New York if she asks me about the scratch marks and my lip but I know what I won't say: I won't say it's from New Jersey.
Westchester glides through her house like a figure skater on a clean sheet of pond, shows me where I'll be taking the children, and how. She takes a lot of pills. None of the food in her house has actual ingredients.
Westchester: Don't ever call my husband. He is resolutely unpleasant.
Westchester has a pool with a waterfall, like a wild jungle. We sit at it, she drinks cocktails and makes phone calls and watches me with her children, bosses me around.
Westchester: You're such a bohemian. I was like you once. Are you vegan?
Later, she'll boss me around in her room, and I'll be really good at going along with everything until she slaps my ass with a string of diamonds worth more than everything I own—I accidentally grab for it and she lurches backwards, suspicious.
Westchester: I think my husband gets hand jobs on his lunch hour.
Me: Things could be much worse for you than this.
But, in spite of this, because of this: there's always a meal to prepare, a child's body to transport from one building to another building. I've seen her put "sex" on her list of physical activities for her personal trainer. Westchester is who New York would be if all New York's worst nightmares came true.
On my way out, I grab a pair of her panties and stick them in my bag. They smell like Chanel.
I've talked to Astoria before; somehow all my calls get re-routed to her when I dial the wrong extension at work. But I don't really talk to her til a work party at an outdoor beer garden, I think it's the first time I've seen her with her hair down.
Astoria: I usually wear a ponytail.
She flirts carefully, crosses and uncrosses her legs suggestively, and I like her smart black boots, her lip gloss that smells like a war between pastries and kiwis. She seems safe, like I could never love her and she could never hurt me.
Astoria: Want another beer? They're doing 2-for-1 for the next ten minutes.
Me:I'll take three.
At a picnic table in a dark corner, we drink from our heavy glasses, I try to figure if she's pretty or not til I'm too drunk to care. I'd like to unbutton all her buttons, make her scream and shatter her sallow skin wide open.
Astoria:I've given up men and taken up cigarettes.
Astoria's apartment feels like a punishment: one window, bare walls. She emerges from her long shower, cleanly, removes her shirt clinically, folds it on a chair, spreads her legs, rolls her head back and says –
Astoria: I've had my eye on you.
Astoria knows what she wants. She tells me precisely how hard and where, how fast, how long, and then she makes these little bird-like noises when she cums and then quickly gets dressed again.
Astoria: I'm happy to return the favor, but we'll have to use a Dental Dam.
The next morning, the walk to the train is so long I run out of things to say, and then she says—
Astoria: I get the impression we don't have very good chemistry.
Me: You should wear your hair down more often.
On the train, she balances her checkbook and drinks a latte. I listen to my ipod, play with my greasy hair, wait to get off. That afternoon, she sends me an email:
Astoria: I had fun the other night, did you? anyhow, it's best we keep business and pleasure separate from now on. thanks! :--)
Three days later, she's disappeared. I go to her office and smell the air, I don't know why, it just feels like the thing I do next. It smells like nothing. I remember briefly; she also smelled like nothing. I try to remember her face but I can only remember a paper plate, a computerized smile, a long walk to the train.
When I try to remember New York, it uses up all my senses.
Williamsburg: I feel like feminism had it's moment, and that moment is, like, over.
Williamsburg's like boys I wanted to date in high school, but more predictable and skinnier. We share a cupcake by the waterfront and walk to his apartment, he tries to hold my hand, I rebuff him, we laugh, kiss, tumble; in his room on his mattress, I feel him tightening beneath his tight pants and he's squirming to hide it, he is sweet, I am a cupcake, he is frosting. I grab his hair but that's mostly just to get it out of his eyes.
He's a little boy and then suddenly he's a porn star. He cums all over my face. I remember what he'd said earlier about feminism.
Williamsburg: That usually never happens, I'm so sorry. I mean, usually only like, every other weekend between 2 A.M. Saturday morning til 6 A.M. Monday morning.
Me: That's a lot more than "never."
I'm thinking, fuck you, frosting, picking up my red panties, and he's limp and bony on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands like someone in a movie who's just suffered a minor but important loss, like the death of a family pet.
But--he looks beautiful, just then –naked like that on the bed, head in hands. I want his head in my hands. So I go to him and look at his blue eyes and kiss him and he's wet and tender and soft.
Williamsburg: Do you want to –
Me: Shhh. Don't talk. Please don't talk. That's how good things get ruined.
He's so soft that I can't help but attack him, like I'm testing him to see if he's anything like New York. I straddle him backwards to see if he can fuck me without looking me in the eyes. He can't. He has a few moves he's good at.
I don't know why I stay, but I stay. Our sex doesn't get better, it just gets louder and more physically exhausting.
He's got five roommates in his general age and ambition range, they all have blogs. I feel like I need to do my hair to go into the kitchen.
But I love the coffee, and his small hug, how genuine he is about lying. We fuck, he cries and blogs and takes photos of my body parts in appropriately etheral shafts of light, under which he'll then lay gently upon me, glide his dick inside me, and make love to the part of my soul that still likes Bright Eyes.
On Monday, he doesn't get up to go to work. The apartment is empty and I see that it's not that cute after all, it just had a lot of cute people in it.
Me: What happened to your roommates?
Williamsburg: What roommates? You mean Sarah Lawrence and Bard and Vassar? They were just hanging out, they left, they don't live here.
Bushwick and Red Hook come over for poker, they leave, he posits:
Williamsburg: We're starting this like, artist's collective? There's no funding right now, but we've got a hot web page, we'd love you to model for us.
Me: I think I'd better collect my things.
Williamsburg: I think you're too uptight about this art/life differentiation.
Me: I think that art-as-life thing has had it's moment, and that moment is like, over.
He's too upset to talk, says he needs sleep and as he dozes I look at his mail and see he's getting checks every week from his Dad, The Lower East Side. I wonder if he's actually a freelance designer or just a kid in a vintage t-shirt.
There's a knock at the door, it's a pretty girl with the same haircut on a blue bicycle. She says she's his girlfriend, but they're in an open relationship. I don't care. I'm over him. I know he'll still be here, with his moves, if I ever want to come back.
So while he's sleeping– snoring, dreaming dirty – I sneak out with East Village and we walk Williamsburg's pretty streets talking about his small but important failures. I say he's like New York but hollow and cums faster. We drink hot coffee in clean purple light. The coffee is sweet, like her voice.
East Village: Ready to go for a ride?
I ride on the back of her bicycle to her apartment, and five blocks from there the insistent seat of her bike pushes me to orgasm. I scream, and she thinks it's 'cause of the hill.
She parks her bike and as we head towards the building's entrance, she asks for my ID.
East Village: You need an ID to sign in to my room.
Me: Sign in?
East Village:: Yeah, that's how NYU does their dorms.
Me: How old are you?
Later, New York will tell me she saw my photo on a blog and I'll tell her that isn't me, and she'll believe me. She always lets me decide who I am, who I was, and who I'm not anymore. I could say "I'm a toaster" and she'd say "Well, when I feel like toast, you'll be the first to know."
Greenwich Village isn't gay anymore. I knew her then; now she wears a lot of brightly patterned clothes from Intermix.
Greenwich: I wouldn't say I was ever GAY, necessarily.
Me: You had a Lavender Menace t-shirt.
Greenwich: Well, that's just politics.
Now she lives with Chelsea, platonically, because Chelsea is still gay though his partner died. Chelsea has a lot of friends who are dead now. He has a daughter, also named Chelsea, and she's pregnant with another gay couple's baby. I ask her why she's doing it:
Chelsea: Good karma?
Me:Are they paying you?
Chelsea: Yes, my job is being pregnant, I take it very seriously. I'm not showing yet, but I will.
Chelsea and Greenwich Village both work, so I'm alone always with Pregnant Chelsea. She's like New York, only real.
We make love every morning, it's a lot like hugging naked. It's lovely: how she sighs, rests her arm on my concave waist, the erect bones she could try to hold onto me with, if people were things you could hold onto. I can feel her future kicking through her skin. Her hair is so perfect it makes me feel sick to my stomach, like I overdosed on Gatorade.
Then one night Meatpacking comes home. She has two dead fathers and Chelsea always lets her stay when she needs to. Meatpacking's skin's almost blue, her eyes threatening to give up. For a moment I think she is New York and then in another moment I realise she looks nothing like her. But still, I hang on, just in case.
Meatpacking:I'm so over the scene, you know?
Meatpacking:Because it's such a like, scene.
Meatpacking and I don't sleep for five days. I can't dream, because that's called going back to New York. We just do drugs and take turns tying each other to various pieces of Chelsea's expensive furniture and fucking with glass dildos and not eating. The dirtier we both get, the more we love each other. I let her pierce my ears and when it starts bleeding she wraps her lips around my earlobe and sucks until the bleeding stops.
Meatpacking: You're everything.
Me: No, YOU'RE everything.
Meatpacking: Fuck me now, harder!
We take all of Chelsea's pills, they have pills for any feeling you want to have. We grind pills and inhale from each other's hipbones.
Then Meatpacking almost dies, Chelsea makes it back just in time.
Chelsea: Get out of here. You're a bad influence.
Me: But she started it!
A lot of things are thrown. I try to look Meatpacking in the eyes but I'm not sure either of us have eyes anymore. I walk outside and it's the brightest day I've ever seen, or else there are strangers taking my photograph.
Meatpacking runs desperately to her window and pounds on it melodramatically.
Meatpacking: But I need you!
I look back, Lot's Wife, skeleton's shadow, I'd like to sneak her through the physical world into my arms, and get lost in her forever, until we both burn up and die, or until we grow old.
I know she needs me to believe in her most of all, otherwise she'll die with tears falling off her face as she turns it away from me and from the lights. So I don't tell her where I'm going, I just go.
New York is three hours late to meet me, like she didn't even miss me. Her eyes are green rimmed with red. She looks sick and devastating and gorgeous and she doesn't apologize.
New York: I haven't slept in like, three days.
Me: Do you want to do this later, then?
New York: Why? No, of course not. What are we waiting for?
New York might not know that I can see her veins through her skin now, or the scar from the tattoo she got removed. I liked that tattoo, but I guess I'd never told her that out loud.
I kiss her and she tastes like toothpaste and cocaine,I finger her angel wing shoulderblades, our bones clash together like drumsticks. She puts her ipod on shuffle and sticks it in the speakers and we fuck to The Scissor Sisters and Basement Jaxx and La Triviata and Charlie Parker and Yo La Tengo and Joss Stone and the soundtrack to Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
New York: I've started taking Ritalin before we make love. It helps me focus. I’ve got a lot going on.
New York is wearing expensive underwear and she lets me take it off with my teeth, kissing her inner thighs, and she squeals in a voice that sounds nothing like her actual voice. New York takes off her own bra and she apologizes:
New York: It's from Conway.
Me: All your dirty trashy bras are from Conway, and I don’t care.
New York fucks me. New York fucks me so hard that I cry. New York believes crying only happens when no one's looking and the rest of it is just wetness, like how she's making me all over, all at once, she leads, I board. All at once, we are on our way, all at once, her hand digging into the crevices of bone and flesh, my pussy opening like a long throat, life is long, here is someone, I grab harder. Her fingers make love to the inside of my bellybutton, we're sweating so much that our bodies glide against each other like fish underwater, like my veins are the passageways of a busted pinball machine.
I can't tell if New York likes to hurt me or if she just doesn't care about me at all.
New York's body is hard and thin but also strong. New York fucks like she's killing me with the understood secret that death is orgasm.
New York:I love you.
New York: Shh. Don't ruin it.
When I cum, it's short and pure; a star shoots straight from my pussy to my head and everything goes brilliant white for one second--maybe even less than that--but that split second is worth it. I emerge; the sun is shining, it's raining, it's danger, my body is all bright lights, it's somewhere we shouldn't be or magically it is in fact exactly where I should be. It's home, we're lost, I can't imagine being anywhere else.
What I'm left with is the way she shouts "I love you!" haphazardly while leaving a crowded room, the way, all at once, she shows up, all at once we are on our way, and she's looking straight at me, the way I'm always looking when I'm looking back at her, and I pretend her eyes on me mean nothing when the truth is, I've waited for New York all my life, and I'll keep on waiting.
I look at New York, and I wonder how she does it.