And then I ruined it all by saying, “I don’t want a relationship”. You shrugged and said, “That’s exactly what the previous guy said,” and you told me about this guy you met on Tinder who was in a long distance relationship. You told me that he was a decent guy with a pretty good body and pretty big dick, but he always kept insisting that he didn’t want anything serious because he was moving on from his girlfriend and that he was confused and bla bla bla, and then I thought, What do I say to get out of this? How do I emerge from this to make sure neither of us are undamaged? and then I blamed you and said, “Well when we first fuckin’ spoke you said you didn’t want to get married,” and you said, “I said married, but I still want to be in a relationship,” and, tapping on the glove compartment, you said, “I shouldn’t have given so much of myself away right away. It’s what I always do wrong,” and I comforted you by saying, “Nah,” and this little debate of ours would continue for the entirety of what we had.
Carol lived with a few people, so I would always enter her place through a back door. She had one of the biggest rooms in the house, and I liked it because unlike my cramped room, she had a large bed with plenty of floor space. In the dark, from her bed, a few things would lay huddled in the corner next to her desk: a large hat, some shiny shoes, empty shopping bags. In a large plastic container to her right would be some old documents, as well as a strip of Ansell condoms she kept as backup. Underneath her bed was dust, and a toilet paper roll, and a packet of pads, and a bra, and abandoned lipstick, and a box of letters and movie tickets from old boyfriends.
I arrived at Carol’s place around midnight. I’d just come from another book reading and I was hungry. Grinning, she served me a bowl of soup.
“Is the soup shit? It’s shit, isn’t it?”
I put my spoon down. “It’s good.”
“No, it’s shit.”
She watched me as I had some more.
“You’re making this whole thing awkward,” I told her. “Stop watching me.”
“I can’t help it.”
“Yes you can.”
“No I can’t.”
“How long have we known each other?” I asked her.
I looked at her. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“I believe in everything.”
“You didn’t say that yesterday.”
“I was a different person yesterday.”
“Who were you yesterday?”
“Yesterday I was the sun.”
“And today you’re the moon?”
“Then who are you?”
“That’s just fucked up.”
She laughed. Her eyes creased deeply when she laughed and she looked about three years older than she was supposed to. I remember visiting her one morning and seeing her without makeup. “Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked me, and two days later, when I hadn’t contacted her, she asked, “Did something happen when you came over? What did I do wrong? Were you disgusted by how I looked like?”
I finished eating and we walked inside Carol’s room and I closed the door and turned off the light and took off her clothes. I ran my finger along one of her tattoos.
“Can I take a video of this?” I asked her. “Of when I choke you?”
Afterwards, she turned on her laptop and we watched the Korean version of The Lake House. She fell asleep and began snoring, so I covered her mouth until she woke up. She looked irritated, but then smiled and fell asleep again. I soon followed her, and when I woke up it was six in the morning on a Sunday. She walked me out, and as we approached her gate I looked at her, and she asked me, “What?” and I said, “Nothing,” and we said bye and I stepped inside my car and drove off.
At some point while I slept Carol had gotten into my car and placed a CD in my stereo. There was only one song in the CD, and it was A Case of You, by James Blake.
This was the fifth time I had dinner with Carol. In some ways I had fallen in love with Carol, and in other ways I hadn’t. There was no doubt that she loved me, or at least wanted to pursue something beyond what we were doing. Who the hell was I not to accept someone’s love? She cooked for me and asked me how my day was. Some people seek the fiction in my writing, but Carol was a real person. I write about these people to either forget them or to hold onto them for one last time. At some point Carol was once in my hands and at some point Carol did press against my lips, and there are noons and evenings and midnights where I have thought about her and her room and the dust on her floor.
Book I’m reading: Tender Is the Night
There’s a particular spot I like to drive to near the Valley. I won’t tell you exactly where it is, but if you turn right at a certain traffic light and keep driving straight you’ll end up in a private area full of expensive apartments overlooking the river. I like it because of the view, and I like it because of the silence, and I like it because the magnificently designed apartments remind me that one day I will have the ability to buy my way into a better life.
After dinner I took Carol to this spot of mine, and as we walked by the apartments and the view she took my hand and asked me, “What do you want to do this weekend?”
“I was thinking about something,” she said.
“I hate honesty.”
Carol tucked some hair behind her ear. “I’ve been thinking like, you know what? I think we already know everything.”
“What the hell are you on about?”
“We know everything. We know how to live. But everyone else’s thoughts, the books we read, our own laziness – it buries what we know and how we truly feel deep inside. When can you honestly say you’ve spent time just trying to find the truth not from the outside world, but from inside yourself? It’s all there. We go and spend all this time and money on finding out the truth but really,” she touched her chest, “it’s all in here, I think.”
“And what truth have you found in yourself?”
She kept quiet for a while, tapping her lip with her index finger. “I don’t know what to ask myself yet.”
We reached a railing. She smiled at me and I smiled back and she put her arms around my waist. She leant her head into my shoulder and whispered, “Everything is perfect. Why don’t you want to be with me?”
And I thought about her vagina, and I thought about the way she kissed me, and I thought about our arguments, and I thought about her face without makeup, and I thought about the things she’d say. I stared at an apartment in the distance.
Graphic novel I’m reading: The Descender
For some reason I was thinking of high school during the first time Carol had dinner at my place. I was thinking of how my classmates and I would always look out of the windows, at the cars passing us, hoping that someone would be doing something sexual. We spent hours in silence, our eyes scanning for a girl giving some guy a blowjob, or a handjob, or at least a guy jerking himself off. There was this one guy in the bus, Todd, who would always yell, “Look at those white pants! I bet she’s wearing a g-banger.” I had no idea what the hell a g-banger was but I’d always nod and say, “Yeah, I bet she is.”
I made Carol pasta and garlic bread and served us both wine.
“I think the world needs to be more positive,” I told her.
“Why? Positivity will get you nowhere.”
“When did you become so jaded?”
“When I realised that things were exactly like the movies and exactly not like the movies.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“You don’t know what?”
“I don’t know how to reply to that. I mean, we’re pretty lucky.”
She shrugged. She looked at her wine like it was an old friend about to leave for a long, long time. “Some things just don’t turn out the way we want them to.”
I knew what she was hinting at but I pretended not to know. At some point in our phone conversations she suggested that she wanted to be in a relationship and at some point I suggested that I didn’t want to be in one. We debated for a long time about it but nothing about what we said chipped away at our own selfishness.
We drank wine and I said a few things and she said a few things and I knelt her down and did what I had to do with her. In bed, our voices were hushed, as if we were keeping secrets from the world.
Book I’m re-reading: Wild Sheep Chase
A FANFICTION LOVE STORY ABOUT DONALD TRUMP AND ALEJANDRO ALEJANDRO
I’d like to quickly interrupt my own love story with a much more important one. It’s a love story that isn’t often told, and when it is told, it’s never told properly.
They met a few years ago, when Alejandro ran a taco restaurant chain and Donald was busy with The Apprentice. It was raining that day, and left with no other options, Donald, covering his hair with a newspaper, rushed inside one of Alejandro’s restaurants.
“Someone get me a fuckin’ towel!” he demanded of the restaurant. “… And a taco too, please.”
Luckily for Donald, Alejandro was in store that day. Alejandro remembered Donald clearly and often teased him about it during the many afternoons they spent in bed: “your wet grumpy face was red like a tomato,” Alejandro would giggle as he playfully ran his fingers over the billionaire’s face. “And your worried little wrinkles? They were deeper than the depth of your eyes.”
What drew Donald to Alejandro was his obvious obliviousness to his own perfection. Tall, tanned and talented, Donald believed that Alejandro could’ve had anyone in the world, but he chose someone as flawed as Donald was. Donald spent countless evenings awake in bed, just looking at the sleeping man next to him and thinking, “Is this the tragedy of love? This hurt and joy I’m feeling right now? How can he sleep so peacefully, knowing that I’m not good enough for someone as perfect as he is?”
It took a lot of work for Alejandro to break down Donald’s insecurities, but when he did, it was as if he’d found a nation full of rich, unguarded oil. Donald told him everything: his dreams of being a singer slash dancer, his love for When Harry Met Sally, his cherished dinners with his daughter, his fascination with the Quran, his fear of cockroaches. “Sometimes I just want to get away from it all,” Donald once confided to Alejandro over the phone after a long day at work. He took a deep breath, letting a temporary, mutual silence envelope them both. “Sometimes I just want to like, run away and not look back.”
“How about this?” Alejandro said in his usual calm voice. “You close your eyes, and you take a deep breath, and you imagine me holding your hand. Are you closing your eyes?”
“Yes…” Donald grumbled.
“Now relax. Just clear your head. Soon, I’m going to hang up the phone, but you’re going to keep your eyes closed a while longer. You’re just going to imagine us holding hands, staring at the quiet, beautiful blue sea. When you open them again, you’re going to call Susan right away and book a massage. Not just a shoulder massage, but a full body massage. You deserve it.”
“I love you.”
Alejandro clearly remembers the first time they made love. “What are we doing?” he asked Donald. “We’re doing what’s right,” Donald grunted into his ear. Even though it was a little unorthodox, Donald wanted to do it missionary so he could stare straight into Alejandro’s eyes as he penetrated his anus like he’d never penetrated an anus before. As he came, Donald quickly realised that people like Alejandro were the reason love songs existed.
“You know what?” Donald told Alejandro one day. They were in bed, holding hands, staring at the ceiling. “Let’s do it. Let’s run away.”
“What?” Alejandro checked his watch. “Now?”
“But you have work.”
“Work will mean nothing when I’m at my death bed.”
“I know,” Alejandro said, stroking Donald’s thick, rich hair. “I agree. But you need to be our president. What a president does will mean many things to many people.”
For a while, Donald remained silent. He looked up at the ceiling. His forehead creased, forming a rare expression on his face that only usually appeared when he would deliberate over items in a lackluster restaurant menu, only to give up and tell Alejandro to decide on what to order. He sighed, squinted, rubbed his eye and turned his back towards his lover.
Is this man crying? Alejandro thought. “Are you crying?” He asked Donald. But he might as well have been speaking to a wall. “Donnie?”
“Once I run for president, you… we’ll…” Donald didn’t continue, but he didn’t need to. The two lovers knew the inevitable, but neither wanted the truth to be a character in their fairytale.
That night, Donald dreamt of the sun. It was large and its light painted the sky with pure, crystal white. He dreamt of a magnificent old Mexican town under that sun, and of a man who lived in that Mexican town. This man was a handsome, energetic man, and ever since birth his mother would tell him, “Create the world with your own hands.” This man’s fondest memories would be with his mother, sister and younger brother: the midnight dances, the Drama Club, the running in the rain, the endless laughter. It was a beautiful life, and it was a beautiful dream – so beautiful, in fact, that Donald woke up with a smile on his face. Donald turned to tell Alejandro all about it but quickly realised that he was all alone in his bed.
“Alejandro?” he whispered into the world.
Nobody really knows this story, and nobody really knows why, on certain campaign evenings, Donald would suddenly become quiet. Silence was an unusual trait for the great leader, and its impact would be so jolting that it could confuse an entire town. Eyes fireless, Donald would gaze outside the window, remembering something that never was.
Book I’m reading: What I Know For Sure.
“I don’t believe in love,” was what Carol told me when we were at Carol’s home, having late dinner that she cooked, listening or not listening to music that may or may not have been playing from a small speaker in another room.
“You believe in love,” I told her.
She sighed. “You can’t just dictate what I do and don’t believe in.”
“Yes I can.”
“How long have I known you for?”
“A few days.”
“You can’t dictate then. You don’t have permission.”
“Why not?” I teased.
“What is love anyway? It’s a word. It’s nothing. Actions are more important than words.”
“Such as saying ‘I love you’.”
“If love were real, you only need to say ‘I love you’ once, but we can’t live with just hearing ‘I love you’ once. It’s conditional. Love has always been conditional, which in turn defies the definition of what love is.”
“But then can’t you say the same about friendship? Why do we need to see friends more than once in order for them to remain our friends?”
“Who says we need to?”
I took a sip of water, thought about her nonsense for a second, then put my glass back down. “Have you ever been in love? Have you ever told a guy, ‘I love you’?”
“Of course I have. But I was stupid. I don’t love them now. I don’t speak to them, and if I see them, I will not have any feelings for them. Even if they begged me, I will never take them back because there’s nothing there. I’ve changed. My body, my perceptions, it’s all changed. Love is meant to be eternal and constant, but us people, we’re always changing. Something that’s constant cannot get along well with something that’s changing. Just like success. I don’t think you should call someone successful until you’re able to see their entire life. For you to see love in its entirety, you need to watch this person’s love in its entirety. Which is impossible.”
“You’ve just been hurt,” I said.
“There’s no one definition of love. Who says it has to be eternal?”
“Who says it doesn’t have to?”
And then we debated Eva Cassidy songs, and then we debated John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and then we debated Love Actually, and then we debated Romeo and Juliet, and then we debated Obama and Michelle, and then we debated Kim and Kanye. By this time I’d already told Carol that I wasn’t looking for a relationship, and I knew this hurt her. We went to bed, and I told her how perfect her body was, which was true. She had an amazing vagina. I’d never experienced a vagina quite like it, and because of that I used it to my heart’s content. I left at about three in the morning, and she told me to text her when I’d gotten home.
Book I’m re-reading: Strange Animals.
“I don’t believe in magic,” Carol said. “I just don’t.”
“Why the hell not?”
Carol looked at me like it was something that didn’t need explaining. When I didn’t say anything: “Where have you seen magic? Tell me, where have you seen magic, Dean?”
“I saw it the other day.”
“Really? What happened?”
She scratched her arm irritably and let out a long, angry sigh. “What guy?”
“Well then it must be real magic if it’s on YouTube.”
“He swallowed a sword.”
“That’s not magic.”
“It was magic.”
“It wasn’t magic.”
I knew it wasn’t magic, but I wanted to see her angry. “It was magic. It was pure magic. Can you swallow a sword?”
“It wasn’t magic.”
“Then how about love?” I shrugged. “That’s magic.”
“Don’t be so corny.”
“Women may not swallow swords, but they swallow cocks out of love. It’s a miracle that they want to do it, if you think about it.”
“That’s got nothing to do with magic.”
“That’s got everything to do with magic.”
We were in a Korean restaurant in the city (the sixth place we had dinner in), and she found a plug to charge her phone with. We ate and spoke and ate. She paid for dinner, and we walked towards my car.
Book I’m slowly reading: Wind/Pinball: Two novels
I knew that things were never going to work out with Carol but I went along with it anyway. I met her at some place I don’t remember and she was drinking some drink I don’t remember.
“We won’t make a good match,” I told her, showing her a photo someone took of us. “We just won’t.”
“You’re right,” she said. “You’re right.” She looked like the sun and I looked like Antarctica.
Carol had small ears and a tattoo of an elf playing the Playstation on her lower back. She looked great with makeup on, but looked like a stranger from space with it off. Carol hated it when people took photos of her, so I took them when she wasn’t prepared, when she was at her most honest and vulnerable. When I look back at her photos, I laugh.
Our first dinner was at Chermside Shopping Centre. Our second dinner was at my place. Our third dinner was at South Bank or something. Our fourth dinner was at her place, and the fifth was at her place again, and the sixth was at the city, and the seventh was in the Valley, and the eighth was at her place again, and I think that was about it. That eighth dinner marked the end of the thing that we had.
These books have shaped me in one way or another. In a way, these books may shape you, too. So read them at your own risk.
By Haruki Murakami. I read this when I was freshly dumped and overseas, on my own. Murakami writes a lot of weird shit, but Norwegian Wood seems to be one of his most grounded books. My favourite part of the book is near the end, with the woman and the guitar.
By Charles Bukowski. I was a bit of a stranger to Bukowski until I stumbled into another book of his, Women. The first chapter of this book was what seduced me, and the hilarious chapter about the woman in the swimming pool kept me going.
Soviet Russia for Dummies.
By Jonathan Safran Foer. I read this book when I was a little younger and couldn’t let go of it. The story of the grandparents and the way the words spill to form something else completely made me fall in love with the art of love itself. I wonder if he’ll ever write another book.
The first book I’ve read by Bret Easton Ellis. What an age to read it, too – I read it when I was twelve.
By Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I’ve read plenty of graphic novels, but this is the only one I can clearly remember. My favourite part? Dr. Manhattan’s part.
I know, it’s such a typical book to like. The rose, as irritating as she was, is my favourite character. An ex-girlfriend of mine wrote her own version of the Little Prince once and gave it to me as a present. I still have it, but don’t tell her that.
Also by Bret Easton Ellis. I watched the movie first (and, after reading it, prefer it slightly over the book). I was eighteen or something, and I was drunk, and some friends invited me to the movies to watch it. The first scene with the vomiting sobered me up, and the snow teardrop near the end got me drunk all over again. After the movie we drove to along the highway and the car broke down so we sat in the darkness of the car, talking about things I’ll no longer remember. We probably spoke about books. I really don’t know. The memory might not even be real.
If you want to talk more about books or recommend any of your own, you can also add me on Goodreads.
Carol took a sip of her drink. “My only wish is that I find good music this year. I mean the music in two thousand fifteen was great, and like, I really got into Spotify and Pandora and that, but like, I mean, The Weeknd’s album was pretty good, but really, I wanted more, you know? Do you ever get that? Like, you listen to a new album by like, Adele, for example, and you absolutely love it, and you tell all your friends about it, and for a straight month you can’t stop listening to it: at first, there are certain songs you can’t stop listening to, like Adele’s Hello, for example, and then after you’ve listened to it enough times you start getting hooked on other songs in the album, songs you didn’t like initially, like that one on track ten, I think it’s called Love in the Dark, and then you really love it, right? So you listen to that a hundred times in a row like you listened to Hello a hundred times in a row, but then once you’ve ploughed through all of the songs over and over again, one day, you’re listening to Love in the Dark, and all of a sudden you think, ‘Why am I listening to this bullshit?’ and you change to track eleven, then track four, then track eight or whatever and it’s all the same – you can’t stand her voice anymore, you can’t stand anything to do with her and you start to panic a little, because you loved her album and told of your friends to listen to it, right? And now you don’t anymore. So you rush on over to the shops or go online or whatever and look for other albums to satisfy your need for music and none are as good, so what do you do? Why do we even need this much music? Why can’t we just cling to one song and be done with it? And don’t even try and sell me Coldplay’s latest album.”
Carol told me this as we were having whatever at some overly priced café that no one will ever remember in the long run.
“How about you, Dean? How was your two thousand and fifteen? Was it any good?”
“I loved it.”
“I read some of your stuff, it’s really depressing. Have you tried positivity journals before? That’s something I want to do this year. I want to exercise more and be more positive, like have more smiling selfies, you know?” She giggled a little at that, but I wasn’t sure if she was joking. She’s the kind of person who’s dumb and smart at the same time. She leant forward. “Look, I know I’m talking a lot and I know you’re dying to tell me some stories, but I want to tell you a quick story, can I tell you a story?”
“Once upon a time there was a space fighter. He had orange hair. He was seventy years old. He wasn’t the best space fighter in the world; in fact he was pretty forgettable. But he was handsome when he was young, and he did enjoy a lot of his life and spent a lot of it eating or whatever with the ones he loved. One day he woke up with a sickening feeling: he couldn’t prove it, but something in the pit of his stomach was telling him that the moon was going to explode. He had to get to the moon, like, ASAP. So he packed up his things, sat in his spaceship and turned on the engine. Just as he was about to leave, however, his best friend the Green Man stopped him for a second. ‘Where are you going?’ the Green Man asked him, and the space fighter said, ‘Ya wouldn’t believe it but, uh, I think the moon is going to explode.’
‘Is that so?’ the Green Man asked curiously. The Green Man had known the space fighter for like, decades or something, and he knew one thing for sure: the space fighter had, like, unbelievable instincts. But then the Green Man was also now incredibly senile. ‘Okay but before you go I want to tell you a story.’
‘What, like right now?’ the space fighter said irritably.
‘My daughter, you know my daughter?’
‘Yeah I know your daughter!’ the space fighter grunted.
‘Even though she’s never met an actual dinosaur, she like, loves them. She loves everything about them. Their shapes, their bones, their history. One day, when you were out on one of your space missions, I didn’t tell you this, but she and her husband conducted a dinosaur symphony, attended by thousands of their fans. The first track was called… Dinosaur One. The second track was called… Dinosaur Two. The third track was called… Dinosaur Three. The fourth track was called… Dinosaur four. As you can see, it kept going like this. One day I asked her and her husband, “Why didn’t you name your pieces? Dinosaur Four sounds like a T-Rex, why didn’t you just call Dinosaur Four T-Rex?” And you know what they did? They shrugged! That’s all they did! They just shrugged at me!’
The space fighter ignored everything about that story and waved his best friend goodbye. He flew to the moon, and he like, stopped it from exploding and stuff, and then he flew back home to hang out with his best friend again.”
Carol and I spent the next hour talking about her friend with herpes before she paid the bill and drove off to a New Year party. She texted me the next morning, HAHAHAing about how her sister lost her wallet and virginity on the same day.