WARNING: THIS POST IS R-RATED. ‘Bout time!
Being a lawyer, I don’t have much opportunity to do “pleasure reading”. Even when I come home from work at a reasonable hour, I’ve just spent the past 10-18 hours reading and the last thing I want to do is open up a book. No, post-work is for baseball games and Game of Thrones (I’m almost done with Season 1, but loving it). I end up reading about one book a month, and it’s almost always non-fiction. However, a couple of weeks ago my aunt lent me a copy of A Visit From the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan, and I must say I’m really getting into it. I had heard mixed reviews from other friends and family members who read it, but these are mainly people who don’t appreciate quality writing about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. What I like most about Egan’s writing is the way she examines all of her different characters’ neuroses. I guess there’s something nice about reading about people who are even more screwed up than me.
Most of you reading this blog are probably unaware that I actually used to write a bit of fiction. Not much, just a few short stories and the occasional screenplay here and there. But reading this novel has inspired me to write a little fictional piece, for the first time in a damn long time, and I’m kind of excited. I can’t promise anything—I’m barely competent at writing my autobiographical stream-of-consciousness-drivel that I have honed over the past 8+ years, so I certainly can’t represent and/or warrant the quality of my writing in any other genre—but I do at least plan to have some fun with this.
So what am I going to write? Allow me to drag out this introduction for just one (or two—what can I say? I like introductions) more paragraph(s) and I’ll explain. When I lived in LA, I had a buddy who used to sleep with a lot of girls. He was telling me about it one night, at the Coach and Horses (a.k.a. the “Crotch and Herpes”), my favorite disgusting dive bar close to my Hollywood apartment (which bar, sadly, has since closed down). “You see, J, most guys don’t give girls in LA much credit. They assume that these girls are shallow, superficial, vapid bitches who will only talk to guys who look like Brad Pitt and who have tons of cash to burn. But that’s not true at all. LA girls are like girls everywhere else. They only care about one thing—they want a guy to not be creepy. I don’t care how poor or ugly or fat or old you are—you can get any girl in LA, or New York, or Israel or Rio fuckin’ de Janeiro, as long as you aren’t creepy. That is the only thing girls care about.”
With that in mind, I am clearly not out to get laid today, as I am going about to engage in one of the creepiest exercises of my writing career: I am going to sit in a café in my neighborhood that is always rife with pretty girls, select the two prettiest, and write their fictional back stories as I steal furtive glances. It’s gonna be hard for me to write women, as I really don’t understand the fairer sex much at all. As you’ll see, when I try to write women, I end up doing it very obviously through a (slightly creepy) man’s eyes. Back in college I took a creative writing course in which we had an exercise where we had to write monologues in the opposite gender. I don’t remember the context, but I used the word “dick” and one of the female students in the class said that no girl would ever use that word. I asked, “what word should I use?” She replied “cock,” and all of the girls in the class nodded in agreement. Shows what I know.
In any event, this is going to be awesome.
* * *
Rachel stares at her iPad, then at her watch (even though she is aware that her iPad has a perfectly good clock in the corner), and then back at the iPad. She raises one eyebrow, scrunches her face into a tight ball for a good five seconds, then shakes her head with a giggle. She reads the email one more time. “I hardly go clubbing so I guess it’s safe to massage you.” This is from John (boring name, minus 1 point), yet another suitor on J-Date. Was John aware that he had actually written this? How could he have made such an egregious (if not hilarious) error? Was it poor spelling (which would be minus 3 points)? Trying to be witty, but coming off as perverted (minus 3 points)? Freudian slip? That one could potentially be connected to an Oedipus complex…normally minus 2 points, but what do you expect on J-Date? Exhaling a silent sigh, Rachel tosses back her hair (brown with black streaks, but on first glance it appeared to be black with brown streaks), blows back the foam on her cappuccino (they didn’t have skim milk, but really, who gives a fuck?) and takes a sip. She knows that Daniel, her date for that day (her third in a week) will be arriving momentarily, but dammit she needs at least some caffeine before dealing with this schmendrick, and since he texted saying he’d be five minutes late, that was five minutes better spent looking for the next date (well, the next date was drinks at RN74 with Aaron on Tuesday, but that’s irrelevant). Rachel realizes she doesn’t want to look too rude for ordering without Daniel, so she chugs down the rest of her beverage and quickly places it on the table next to her, then shoves her iPad into her purse just as Daniel enters the door. Rachel immediately pops up, put on her best “nice to meet you, I know you want to fuck me” smile, and skips across the room to meet him. “Hi Daniel, I’m Rachel!” She shoves out her hand and he shakes it awkwardly, gulping slightly as he realized that, by some bizarre miracle, Rachel looks much hotter in real life than in her J-Date profile.
Daniel does not look hotter in real life, at least not to Rachel. He does look heavier, but after 2 weeks of this J-Date crap, Rachel is getting used to such disappointments (posting very old photos that don’t show your true physical appearance, minus 4 points). She had low hopes for Daniel since first contact. His first email to her (5 days ago) had been: “I saw your profile and I would really like to learn more about you. You seem like an incredibly intelligent, driven woman. It’s kind of surprising a girl like you is still available. Would you be interested in getting to know each other?” Jesus Christ Daniel, part of the J-Date game is to try to not make it obvious that you use the same exact initial message with every woman you reach out to (a crime for which Rachel deducted at least 5 points). Had he read her profile at all? He didn’t mention anything about 24, Bon Iver, dogs, politics or tennis in his email. Would they have anything in common? He had probably just focused on the picture of her in the very tight black dress. But…he was handsome enough (or had been, in the picture) and worked at a start-up…although after 2 weeks of officially “trying to date” in San Francisco, working at a start-up was starting to seem less and less sexy.
Rachel had intentionally picked the table in the café furthest away from the counter, so she could allow Daniel to see her gloriously sculpted ass in her tight blue yoga pants for a full dozen heavenly steps. That would give him something to think about when he drank his mocha-latte-whatever-the-fuck he ordered (I’m sorry, what a pussy. Men in this town…). Rachel has Daniel buy her an orange and slowly peels it, explaining (for the umpteenth time) that she is actually Ashkenazi, despite her dark skin (California did do wonders for her tan), and that she was been born in Great Neck and lived in The City (and when Rachel says “The City”, she’s talking about The REAL City, which is not San Francisco) for 9 years after high school before moving west just a couple of months ago.
Of course, Rachel doesn’t mention why she came to San Francisco…I mean, yes it was to work at her law firm (a Jewish lawyer, whoda thunk?), but she didn’t mention the fact that just six months after starting work in her law firm in the City, she had finalized her divorce and had asked for a transfer to her firm’s SF office. She had honestly thought that she could stay in New York, and had given it the old college try, but Eddie, her ex-husband, had eventually driven her to the other side of the country.
Her ex-husband. At 29 years old, Rachel has an ex-husband. She doesn’t mention that on her J-Date profile. The problem is that J-Date had options for “Never Married” and “Divorced”, but there was no option for “One of Those Dumb Girls Who Actually Married Her High School Sweetheart (He Was Really Hot and Rich and We Were Totally ‘In Love’) At The Age of 23 And Then After 6 Years Realized She Had Made A Terrible Mistake (Well, Actually I Realized It After Only About 1 or 2 years But I’m No Quitter) So Now No Longer Married And The Marriage Doesn’t Count.” Rachel had slapped her forehead all the way from NY to SF, hearing the laughter of her father on the plane and every day after. Did this shit happen to other girls? A horrible fairytale gone wrong: your first kiss becomes your first boyfriend (Eddie was actually her third kiss, but that’s besides the point), you stay together through high school, he goes to Columbia and you go to Cornell, and that’s not too far to keep up a long distance relationship, is it? All of your new-found college friends encourage you to dump him and “explore,” but instead you transfer to Columbia the next year to be with him. Besides, you did explore: you broke up for a full 3 months and during that time had sex with Chas (a goy!) and gave a blowjob to…fuck, what was his name? It was in a movie theater. The movie was Memento, and you regretted giving the blowjob because during those 11 minutes you completely lost track of what was going on in the film and were utterly lost for the entire last half of the movie. You remember that much, but not the dude’s name (maybe Marcus? Jordan?) But moving on, after you graduate from college, you realize you’ve been with the same guy for 7 years, so that means you two must get married. So you do, and realize that all of your friends at Cornell were right, and that you should have broken up with him long ago. Not just because you need to “explore”. There’s also the fact that he’s an asshole.
But Rachel had known that since nearly the beginning—Daddy had educated her. Daddy had never liked Eddie. When they got engaged, he repeated the same shpiel he’d been spitting out for 7 years. “He’s an asshole Rachel, just like his dad. I’d be thrilled if you were marrying a nice Jewish boy, but you’re not. You’re marrying a Jewish asshole. Jews can be assholes too, ya know. Your fiancé is living proof. Just like his dad.” There were times when her father behaved better, and most of the time he masked his hatred, like on her wedding day, when he threw them an unbelievably extravagant wedding in the Hamptons, expensive even by Long Island standards. Her father had given the hoakiest, cheesiest, bull-shittiest wedding speech in the G-d-awful history of wedding speeches that night, and the audience had lapped it up. Eddie’s father (who was an asshole, daddy was correct about that) had been on the verge of tears. Those times, when daddy pretended to like Eddie, were the worst, because even though Rachel knew he was bullshitting her, life was less fun when Daddy wasn’t horrified by her significant other.
Rachel laughs at Daniel’s joke. At least she thinks it’s a joke. Something about how he never met a bacon-wrapped hotdog he didn’t like. It’s funny because we’re both Jewish, and pretend to be health fanatics, right? But Daniel is not very good at pretending. He doesn’t have a father like Daddy; he didn’t learn from the best.
Daddy, like all Jewish fathers, had a corny sense of humor that embarrassed his children since they were young enough to feel embarrassment. Rachel had waited months before telling him about the divorce, mainly because she was afraid of the horrible jokes he would make (it had nothing to do with her pride, admitting that, for the past however many years, she had been wrong and he had been right). At the moment she told him (and he must have already known, maybe from her mother (bitch can’t keep her mouth shut)), he busted out with a rendition of Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” which worked all too well, “everyone said they were crazy, Rachel you know that you’re much too lazy and Eddie could never afford to live that kind of life…”
Rachel looks at her watch and informs Daniel it is time for her to depart. Daniel, confused, has no idea why Rachel is suddenly leaving—were they not having fun? But, as Rachel anticipated, he is too shy to ask why (which is too bad, because she had a great lie lined up about having to go try on a bridesmaid dress for her friend Maggie’s wedding in Jamaica next month). She gives Daniel and big hug and a peck on the cheek, and his face lights up. “Can I see you again?” he awkwardly stutters. “Of course!” she chirps back, before quickly turning around and walking the dozen steps across the café to the door. She can feel his eyes staring at her ass as she walks away and smiles, knowing that it’s one joy in life poor Daniel will never experience again.
* * *
Ana was nearly 30 minutes late, as Elisha expected she would be. Elisha wasn’t even sure why she had bothered showing up to the café at 1 when she knew Ana wouldn’t be there until at least 1:20 or 1:30, but she had, and sat at the table by herself, sipping iced tea and checking her phone again and again in the hopes that she might stumble upon something interesting (this world really needs a new Angry Birds). While Elisha looked for a new distraction, Ana tied up her toy poodle, Fritz, to the meter right outside the front door of the café and bounded in. “Hi, I’m so sorry I’m late, but Fritz was being completely out of control and I had to calm him down. Were you waiting long?” They hug.
“No, not at all, I just got here.” Of course you’d say something like that, thought Ana. Elisha never criticized, never stood up for herself, always let everybody walk all over her. Frumpy, lacking in self-esteem, book-smart-but-not-street-smart, gloomy, Ana thought of Elisha as her polar opposite. Ana knew Elisha was jealous of the way she exuded confidence, but she couldn’t help it—Ana was confidence. As she got a dish from the barista for water for Fritz, Ana could feel the gazes of several men in the café tearing through her faded orange summer dress and grasping at her pale flesh. She leaned out the window to place the water dish in front of Fritz, then quickly turned around and flashed a glance at the particularly-creepy white guy with dread locks two tables down whom she was sure had been checking out her ass. “Was that guy with the dreads checking out my ass just now?” she asked Elisha. “Um, I don’t know. I guess so? Don’t guys always check out your ass?” A valid point from Elisha. Ten years ago it would have bothered Ana, when the two girls were drifting apart, but today that kind of comment gave Ana a feeling of warm nostalgia.
They grew up on the same street in Westportal, the only two Asian girls within a 10-block radius. Ana Lee and Elisha Kim. Their parents were friends and raised them as if they were sisters. The young girls shared many first-time experiences:
First piano teacher: Mrs. Crane, who taught out of her house on 10th and Taraval. A real bitch. Elisha exceeded from the start; Ana couldn’t handle Crane’s instruction. Ana switched to another teacher after a year, but the lessons never sank in. Elisha continued playing and performing through college.
First trip on an airplane: Their families went together to New York when the girls were 9. Elisha loved the Met and Times Square. Ana was more a fan of the MoMa and Central Park.
First time drunk: When the girls were 12, Ana’s parents went out of town one night and Elisha came over, and the two girls went into liquor cabinet and attacked Ana’s father’s cognac. Elisha said they should drink something different, one of the bottles in the back so that Ana’s father wouldn’t notice, but Ana wanted the cognac because if it was her dad’s favorite, it was probably the best. Ana always wanted the best. Elisha wanted just a sip but Ana made her drink a whole cup. Both of the girls threw up and Elisha wanted to run home and tell her parents what had happened but Ana stopped her. When Ana’s parents came home the next day, her dad immediately saw the lower level in the cognac bottle and demanded to know what had happened. Ana told him that she had drunk his cognac, and received a firm tongue-lashing and a few days’ worth of head-shaking disappointment. She did not mention anything about Elisha.
First crush: While staying up late one Friday night sleepover, sitting on Elisha’s big bed with the fluffy pink bedspread, Elisha let slip that she had some kind of romantic interest in a boy (the first time in her life she had admitted anything of the sort), and Ana pestered her for nearly an hour until she admitted the object of her adoration: Greg Bradshaw, the muscle-bound blonde Aryan-looking boy who was the captain of the basketball and flag-football teams. Of course Elisha had a crush on Greg. All of the girls had crushes on Greg. Including Ana, but she didn’t admit it. She told Elisha that she should “hella go for it,” but then, noticing Elisha’s face turning red, mercifully changed the subject.
First hair-dying: Ana decided that she wanted to dye her hair red the night before eighth-grade graduation, and was set on Elisha joining her. Elisha was adamantly opposed—did Ana know how much trouble they’d get into if their parents even knew that they had bought henna in the first place? Sure enough, when Ana’s parents saw their daughter’s and her best friend’s beautiful black hair splotched with streaks of dirty brown, they were furious. Elisha’s parents were completely mortified and blamed Ana’s mother and father for sub-par parenting. Ana found the whole affair hilarious, and even stuck out her tongue and made a goofy face during the class graduation photo. Elisha ran to the bathroom, thinking she was going to cry. She fought back the tears, but realized that it was going to be more and more difficult to remain best friends with Ana. Elisha never brought this up with Ana, but made a conscious effort to spend less time with her.
They both went to Lick-Wilmerding (Elisha would sometimes tell herself that she could have gotten into Lowell if she hadn’t been best friends with Ana, but never vocalized such sentiments), but did not see much of each other. Elisha was focused on her studies, and Ana was focused on other firsts:
First Kiss: Greg Bradshaw, who also went to Lick. When Ana told Elisha, she could see the hurt on Elisha’s face, and wanted Elisha to lash out at her, to call her a bitch, but she knew Elisha had probably never even said that word once in her life.
First Time Smoking Pot: At a party at Lana Hartley’s house, when her parents were gone in Europe for two weeks in the summer in between freshman and sophomore year. Braden Pratt and a couple of the other “hippies” offered her a hit from a metal pipe on the back porch. Ana took a long drag (Braden commented on her expert ability at “sucking” and his friends laughed), and handed the pipe to Elisha, who shook her head. “What’s wrong?” Braden asked. “Your friend can’t suck too?” Elisha turned red and watched on as the others continued to indulge. This would be the last time for many years that Elisha went to a party with Ana. Later that night, Braden tried to get Ana to give her first blowjob in Lana’s parents’ bedroom (once again commenting on her sucking skills), but Ana declined. She would give her first blow job six months later to Perry Blackman in the back row of a movie theater during a screening of Memento. They had smoked pot in the parking lot before going in to the movie, and about thirty minutes into it she had lost the plot completely and was so bored and confused that she figured going down on Perry would be a better use of her time.
First fuck: The second weekend of junior year, very drunk during a house party at Rob Parker’s house (a huge Pac Heights mansion), with Rob Parker himself, in the master bedroom. Ana was embarrassed about the whole affair and didn’t tell anybody. She had wanted to tell Elisha all about it, but she knew it would probably just make her friend uncomfortable, and besides, they had barely spoken with each other for the past 6 months. It didn’t matter—Rob told everybody and within 24 hours the entire school knew. Ana saw Elisha by the vending machines the next Wednesday and ran to her, to talk to her for the first time in…seriously, how long had it been since the two had even exchanged pleasantries? Elisha didn’t want to talk to her. She said hello, pulled her Diet Pepsi out of the slot at the bottom of the vending machine and muttered that she had to go study before scurrying away.
First tattoo: Two weeks after turning 18, one week before high school graduation. A pair of roses, one red, one pink, on her forearm, openly seen anytime she wore short sleeves. Her parents did not freak out as much as she hoped they would. Then again, they had already expressed deep disappointment that she was going to UC Santa Cruz and not Stanford (like Elisha) or not even Berkeley, for Christ’s sake.
Naturally, college was a parade of firsts for Ana. First trip to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, first threesome, first real boyfriend, first heartbreak, first camping trip, first time taking mushrooms, nitrous, ecstasy (at her first rave), acid, first time snorting cocaine, first lesbian experience (the last two took place the same weekend, during Ana’s first trip to Vegas), first time bungee jumping, first time sleeping with a much older man, first time getting in a fight with her parents and not communicating with them for three months, first time going six months without any communication whatsoever with Elisha, first time snowboarding, first time getting a “C” on her report card, first time leaving the country (to study abroad in Italy), first time being an international heartbreaker, first time scuba diving, first time drinking Dom Perignon–at graduation.
Then came the New York years (there are always New York years), before moving back to SF. For the most part, Ana was done with firsts, except for Fritz, her first pet, with whom she had a somewhat unhealthy obsession. She loved the dog seemingly more than she had ever loved any living thing, and was constantly kissing and coddling him. “You know why you don’t have a boyfriend?” her father had asked her at dim sum lunch a week before. “It’s because of that dog. No man wants to be with you because of that dog!” “Aw, Daddy, but he’s so cute! Besides, if a man can’t love Fritz, how can you expect him to love your grandchildren?”
Ana didn’t care about getting a boyfriend. Boys came and went, and always fell in love with her. At the age of 27, Fritz was the man in her life and that’s how she liked it. She loved the way Fritz made her dates uncomfortable. Two weeks ago she went to a guy’s apartment so he could cook her dinner, and brought Fritz (“oh, sorry, Fritz comes everywhere with me. That’s not going to be a problem, is it?”). The guy had freaked out when Fritz jumped on his couch, and Ana found this hilarious. Later on, when they were making out on the same couch, Fritz jumped onto her lap just as he was sliding his hand up her thigh. She had laughed and said, “aw, how cute. How does it feel to be cock-blocked by a toy poodle, buddy?”
Elisha laughed when Ana told her that story. Although Ana’s stories often made her uncomfortable, sometimes Elisha enjoyed living a wild life vicariously through her old friend. She had been quite surprised when, after 4 years of virtually no communication, Ana had called her out of the blue to meet for brunch, shortly after moving back to SF after a few years in NY. Now they met at least once a month, to catch up and talk about boys, work, life, the universe and everything. Yes, Ana’s life was certainly more interesting (at least in terms of boys), but for whatever reason, Elisha’s childhood best friend was strangely loyal and kind to her and both of the girls (or really, now young women) treasured their monthly hang-outs.
“Wait, I have another one, from last night, this was so funny and so like me,” Ana began, still laughing from the dog story. “I went to Noc Noc, and it was actually pretty happening—I mean, it’s usually dead, right? And there was this gorgeous guy there. Lish, you should’ve seen him. Tall, tan, jet black hair, wearing a tight gray T-shirt…he looked like an Italian porn star, I swear. Hell, you could see his huge cock bulging out of his jeans—some girls think that’s gross but I like it when a man advertises, right? And I want to talk to him and I’m trying to think of something to say, when the DJ puts on ‘The Weight’—”
“Your song!” said Elisha. “Yeah, my song. So of course I go up to him and ask him his name—it was Tone, like…Tone Loc. Really Lish, Italian porn star. And I tell him, “My name’s Ana Lee. Do me a favor, Tone, won’t you stay and keep Ana Lee company?”
“Classic Ana—I love it! What happened?”
“What do you think happened? He was super-hot, therefore he was gay!” The girls burst out laughing. “This fucking city!” Elisha said. Ana smiled, wondering if this was the first time she had ever heard Elisha use the f-word. “Hey Lish, look over there, at that guy on the laptop. The cute Jewish-looking guy. I just saw him staring over here. I think he’s checking you out.”
“No Ana, he was probably looking at you.”
“No no, I’m not his type. He was looking at you. You should hella go for it.” Elisha’s face turned red.
* * *
Oh my G-d, y’all have no idea how fun that was to write. If you enjoyed reading this post a tenth as much as I enjoyed writing this, then I’ve done a darn good job. Let us celebrate with a clip from the Muppets.