New Phone, Who This?
What do you even do all day? the Internet troll asks.
Well, first I make myself a cup of coffee.
I usually run out of pods--I have a Keurig--a gift my father got me for Christmas. Everything I own is a gift from my father although not everything is a gift from Christmas. I do celebrate Christmas though, even though I am a Jew.
I used up my last pod yesterday. Oh, wait! Here's one more. Why did I put it in there with the spatulas? I grew up with maids and a mom who did everything for me and so I am not used to doing things on my own. Sometimes pods end up with the spatulas. Anyways, first I make my coffee.
Then, from 9-12pm I watch horror movies on Netflix. It usually takes a movie length period of time to even decide what movie I want to watch. That's what takes so long. The deciding. It's always the deciding. Maybe this is a metaphor for life! But, I'm not smart enough to make metaphors like that I don't think.
Then from 12-12:30 I google things like "models eating Chinese food" to no results. Now I might write a think piece: Do Models Eat Chinese Food? An Investigation.
I don't get it, is she famous? No, Absinthe_dad69, I am not. But thanks for wondering! They do know me by name at the local Coffee Bean (they think it's Jessica though) and everyone at the Trader Joes down the street is very friendly--almost too friendly--as if they agree I am going places one day.
Do you ever shut up?--OfficialRamsFan847
“HEY, MARBLES!!” they would scream.
A rumor is going around that I have a glass eye.
It’s spread by Jon Schulman, who everyone has nicknamed “Tuna Fish,” for no particular reason at all.
“Does your glass eye come out?”
“Can you juggle with it?”
“C’mon, let us use it to play marbles!”
“I don’t have one,” I always respond. “It’s just lazy!”
Around the same time, I fall deeply in love with Matt Geller.
“I will not date you until you shave your legs.”
And then Casey Houghton.
“I will not play with you until you get your braces off.”
4th grade was a tough year.
Casey’s Dad and the Basement
In 6th grade, my friend’s dad invited a bunch of us over and took pictures of us kissing one another in his basement. He said it was for a clothing catalogue for the company he worked for. He didn’t give us special clothing to wear though, I remember that. I was still in my school uniform: white collared shirt and plaid skirt. He posed us, put us in pairs, and started taking pictures. “Now peck him on the lips,” he said. I don’t remember it very well, and I realize this quality about myself with a lot of traumatic events that have happened to me. I don’t remember them. I black them out. There is one incident in particular I am thinking about right now that makes me realize it’s a pattern. The trauma and the not remembering. The thing I am talking about right now happened when I was 8 or 9 and involved a guy who is now a police officer, or so I’ve heard. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t know why things happen this way.
Here’s the thing. In hindsight, an old man inviting you down into his basement when you are young and telling you to kiss your friends while he takes pictures is weird. But when you are young and an adult tells you to do something you do it because kids are told to trust adults and do what they say. I look before crossing because my mom always told me to. I brush my teeth twice a day because I learned to do that.
In 6th grade, I kissed other 12 year olds in a basement while an adult photographed me because an adult said it was the right thing to do.
A mom heard on Oprah that the Native Americans would sit in sweat lodges for three days a year to banish their bad thoughts and reflect on life.
That is when the mother started hiding out in her rec room for days at a time with the lights turned off and the heat turned up and with blankets over her head, hiding from both life and her little girl.
During these times, the housekeeper would keep the girl entertained by letting her catch tadpoles in Topanga creek. Sometimes the housekeeper would braid the girl's hair or show the girl pictures of her family from back in Oaxaca. The housekeeper had a husband there but they never talked and she wasn’t quite sure what he was up to.
“That no good cabrón probably has a whole other family by now.” the housekeeper would say. The girl doesn't know what a cabrón is but she knows it can't be good. “Yeah,” the little girl would repeat. “That no good cabrón.”
The mom would crawl out of her cave pretending everything was fine. The family would go back to meatloaf dinners and matinee movies, play dates and picnics. The little girl believed things would change, year after year, until she moves out at age sixteen with an imagination unable to still play make believe.
Several years later when she's helping her mother up the stairs after she’s had a few too many, the now big girl will ask her mother if she ever feels guilty for letting someone else raise her as a child.
“Sweetheart," the mom will say, "we are all responsible for raising ourselves.”
One time I fell asleep on the back seat of the bus coming home from school. It was 7th grade. Maybe 8th. When I woke up, I was back on campus. I’d missed my stop, and ended up right where I started. The bus was abandoned and it was 6pm. No one had noticed that I was on it or that I had fallen asleep or that I was missing.
I feel like this moment has affected me but I don’t want to peel back the layers to that onion.
Danny was my first boyfriend and when I lost my virginity to him we both cried. He says I don’t have to change his name for this story because it’s been so long now, and his new girlfriend is confident and secure in their relationship. I think he’s saying the last part just to spite me. I don’t really care—it’s been like, 10 years.
I first lay eyes on Danny in our high school cafeteria when I'm eighteen and he's fifteen. He was drinking a red Slurpee that had dyed his braces cherry red. We begin dating two months later. We date for one and one half years.
Danny carries my backpack from class to class and we spend free periods kissing outside my locker. Time goes by slowly in that strange way that first love can freeze moments and allow you to savor them.
When it’s time for me to leave for college in Boston, Danny gives me a Tiffany’s heart bracelet that's engraved with the word “forever.”
When Danny breaks up with me 3 months later I threaten to throw myself in front of a train, but my RA convinces me that the public transit in Boston moves too slowly. I go on a hunger strike and lose weight and gain confidence and compliments instead.
I dropped out of college and my parents put me on Ativan but Danny and I are to this day still friends. He thinks the font on my website is too small.
The Things I Changed About Myself, In Order to Suit You
Hair Extensions, stripper length, covered breasts
Bob, but you decided you hated this
Acrylics, long, pointed, to scratch you
Jayden (Or Why Not To Date Your Barista)
My doorbell rings at 3 in the morning.
“I know we said we wouldn’t, but I was in the area.”
Jayden’s at my door covered in rain, leather, and tears, offering me two packages of premium ground dark coffee, a red locals only mug, and his undying affection—like a sacrifice to the Gods.
He is never in the area again.
Javier is a 5 foot 8 Mexican who drank Crown Royale and beat me up to feel like a man. He is the love of my life.
Javier is a guidance counselor. He tells other people how to live their lives but he can’t live his own. I wanted to save him because that is always what I want to do but never can.
Javier has a drinking solution. Javier drinks. Javier drinks Crown. Javier drinks beer. Javier drinks something called Mind Erasers. Javier drinks until he gets mean. Javier drinks until he forgets which girl I am, so instead he calls me baby. When Javier drinks, I try to run away from him. He grabs my ponytail like a leash, and demands that I stay where I am. When Javier drinks, he pushes me out of the bed at night. He tells me the floor is where whores sleep. When Javier drinks, he calls other girls in front of me and tells me he misses them. When Javier drinks, he calls me fat and tells me my face is the size of the moon.
Javier would cheat on me when he was drunk and when he was sober. Javier cheated on me with a girl with a Southern drawl. At night in his blackouts, I would talk in an accent, hoping he would call me by her name. “This,” I thought, “is the saddest, most pathetic moment of my life.” It’s not.
One night Javier has too much to drink and his favorite football team loses. Javier is mad! Javier and I are walking home through the dark alleyways of our town, taking a detour through my favorite street where I always park, filled with stray cats and old Victorian houses.
I looked at my phone to check the time but Javier thinks I am texting another man—cheating.
And that’s when Javier is behind me. That’s when Javier slams my head hard against the side of a car until I fall back on the concrete. That’s when Javier takes my phone and shatters it on the ground. That’s when Javier turns around and runs home, leaving me alone with my thoughts in the darkness.
I stay with him for another year until I get so dark I almost extinguished my own light.
What The Therapist Said
I have been to three different therapists in my life.
The first therapist was named Bonnie and she would see me in a guest room of her culver city house. She had no children. I would tell her about my dysfunctional at the time family and how I felt alone and unwanted and misunderstood and like I was adopted or an alien and she’d nod at me for an hour and tell me to come back next week.
Then one of those next weeks she sat me down and in stern sincerity told me to run away and move in with her and she would be my new mom because she and her husband could not have kids and she had taken a liking to me.
I never saw Bonnie again. Boy, did that weird me out.
The second therapist was one of those ones who could prescribe me pills. A psychotherapist? Psychologist? I can never keep the names straight. She put me on Ativan and some other antidepressant, I can’t remember the name because my memory is shot, another concern I have about myself that people ignore when I try to address it.
“Mine is too” people always say when I tell them I can’t remember things for shit, even though I am certain my condition seems atypical.
Anyway: the thing about this doctor is I always recognized her from somewhere. Like she used to be a neighbor, or was a friend’s mom, or a teacher from my school. Each session I’d spend the time trying to place her. Goddamnit, who was she? I had to stop seeing her and I never figured out who she was.
The third therapist was a woman in Santa Barbara who my parents forced me to see after I told them I was drinking every day and using cocaine every weekend and my boyfriend was beating me up pretty regularly. She told me that I was an alcoholic and I said she’d only know that if she was one too. I stormed out of her office that day and told her to bill my parents.
I never saw her again but I did stop drinking a year later. I guess she was right about me.
Champagne and Adderall (Or How to Break Into Your Ex-Boyfriend’s House)
I am banging on Jules’ door, waiting for her to answer.
She doesn’t, but her British boyfriend does, Alexy, in his boxers, half asleep, rubbing shit from his eyes. “What the…”
I hold up the box of wine I’m carrying and let myself in. I walk to the kitchen and grab a glass. I’ve done this routine before. Not my first rodeo, as they say. I fill it to the brim. Growing up, my mom called this the “big girl pour.”
I offer Alexy some of the wine but he shakes his head no and sits down on the couch. Maybe stable people don’t drink wine at 9am but I would have no way of knowing that.
I make myself comfortable next to him just when Jules exits her bedroom and looks at me disapprovingly. She always does this so I don’t think twice about it.
“Jules, it’s just a little white wine. I’m not an animal.”
“More like white whine,” Alexy whispers under his breath but has anyone ever whispered successfully?
“TOO SOON!” Suddenly I’m screaming. “It’s way too soon for jokes! You don’t even know what’s happened!” I do that sometimes; I start screaming without realizing it. Sometimes my rage feels ancient. I’m not sure where it comes from. I can’t afford therapy.
I look at Jules. “What is he even doing here?” I’m still fuming but I can tell it’ll simmer off soon. “You pick him up at a club, and a few weeks later, he lives here? Doesn’t really seem like you Jules. Not the Jules I know.”
I look at Alexy and shrug: “But hey, not my business, right?”
Alexy is a British Lord. He knows English gardens and afternoon tea, not 9am distress calls from bleached blonde Valley girls going through breakups. To him, I am the consummate American, the kind he’s only seen on reality tv shows and in Katherine Heigl rom coms.
Jules and Alexy met at a club called The Wildcat in Santa Barbara California. This is the same bar Katy Perry allegedly sings about in her pop single, “Last Friday Night” (the song was number 1 on the Hot 100 chart for two weeks in 2011, and the music video has a cameo by Kenny G.) Jules is so pretty she causes British Lords to overstay their vacations and do things like get work visas and contemplate dual citizenship. They have lived together ever since---three weeks.
“Javier,” I finally confess, “He’s done it again.” It, when referring to my ex, could mean several different things: he cheated, forgot my birthday, stole my car and drove it to Vegas, gave me a black eye, hadn’t returned my calls for a day, threatened to release our private sex tapes on YouPorn, etc…
I collapse in a puddle of tears or maybe I spill my wine on Jules’ antique wooden table. I can’t remember. She takes out her phone and starts dialing numbers frantically. I’m afraid she’s calling the suicide hotline but she insists she’s just calling our friends for backup.
Jenn arrives, then Jenn (there’s two of them) Maggie, then Kristy. They look and smell clean, as one should on a Sunday morning, and I hate this. I resent it. The girls you see at Farmers Market’s, the ones smiling at baby showers, women who look good in jeans and a plain-t. Some girls always look so effortlessly put together and this is not my truth. I fear it might never be.
“Let me guess, Javier?” Maggie asks which she doesn’t need to because she already knows the answer.
Kristy wants to know what he did this time. Kristy’s wearing like, 15 different turquoise necklaces and I wonder why she decided to keep going after the first one. Kristy looks like a Real Housewife of Orange County, but when they cast a new, young wife to shake things up. I look up from my empty wine to notice that I have everyone’s full attention. Here’s the thing about me: I want all the attention but don’t know what to do with it once I have it. I guess now I have to tell my story.
“Well, Javier hadn’t responded to my phone calls or text messages for like, a full 48 hours. So I hacked into his email account.”
“You hacked into his email account?” They seem surprised so I go on the defense. “Yes, I took computer programming in high school. This is besides the point and you should learn not to interrupt,” and I continue.
“I found emails between Javier and his coworker Teresa, this barely legal teaching assistant, a girl he’d always insisted was just a friend, goddamnit, it’s always just the friend. Pics of her naked. She was telling him she loved him. She was wishing him a happy anniversary. She was breaking my heart.”
“I walked to the nearby liquor store where Jack the cashier knows me by name. He invites me to smoke hookah with him and his family in the backyard of the store where he has chickens that lay fresh eggs. I decline. I tell Jack what happened and he gives me two bottles of champagne for free.”
“Jack looks at me like he has never looked at me before and then goes ‘That guy is an asshole. Not knowing what to do with a girl like you. I’d know what to do.’” Saying this part out loud makes me squirm.
“I left before things got weird. Walking home, I found some leftover Ativan in the bottom of my purse and I took it to try to chill out. When that made me tired, I took some Adderall that I found under my couch. I swallowed it down with the champagne. From Jack.”
“That’s when I got angry and that’s when ideas started spinning around in my head and that’s when I knew I had to tell Javier exactly what I thought about this whole mess. It was that Champagne and that Adderall and that rage blackout that made me decide to go confront him at his house.”
Maggie stops me mid-story and is all “Wait wait wait back up, you broke into his house?” as if this is unbelievable, even for me.
“Don’t be ridiculous Maggles, the patio door was open. I didn’t break into anything. It would hardly stand up in a court of law.” And for some strange reason everyone seems to accept this so I continue.
“I rang the front door, but no one answered. His car was there, though, and so was hers. I knew this because I did drive bys sometimes, late at night, when I couldn’t find him, when he’d go missing.”
“Side gate-locked—no big deal, I climbed over it. I walked along the outdoor patio that stretched the length of the house, looked through all the windows of the bedrooms, trying to gauge if his roommates were home. I didn’t want to enter one of their rooms if they were sleeping. It wouldn’t make for a good impression for when I live there in the future, if Javier and I get back together, you know?”
*When they are so mean to you, you always want to get back together—what is that.
“Anyway, so the living room door had been unlocked, and that’s when I stormed into his room and that’s when I found them IN BED TOGETHER.”
“What did you do?” Alexy was on the edge of his seat.
“I pleaded with him. I threatened her. I pretended to be pregnant. Etc…” The usual.
“Javier,” that bitch had said, “I can’t with this guera loca.” And with that she got up and ran out of the house.
“That’s when Javier ran after her. ‘Teresa, stop, I love you.’ For the first time I was able to see what things were like when I was not there. How he treated someone else who wasn’t me. How he treated someone he actually liked.”
“How did it end?” Now Jules was hooked too.
“He came back inside. He picked me up. He physically threw me out of his house. He shoved the door in my face, in front of his new roommate, some guy I’ve never even met.”
I go and take a swig of wine straight from the box. “I mean, he made me look crazy.”
All eyes are on me, like I’m supposed to say what I’ve learned, like this is Aesop’s Fables or I’m Mother fucking Goose.
“Well,” I explain, “I guess Adderall isn’t really my drug.”
I pause for a moment.
“Come to think of it, drugs might not be my drug.”
I stay at Jules’ most of the afternoon, drinking and smoking cigarettes. By 4pm when I can hardly keep my eyes open, I walk home.
By 6pm, Javier is at my door like he always is, letting himself upstairs, forcing himself on top of me while I accept it and beg for his affection.
“I won’t tell her, I won’t tell her, I won’t tell her.” I cry as he slips inside me.
My phone once got stolen on a date.
The man who bought my dinner tracked it down,
To a Starbucks on State Street.
He paid a thug named Marco $50 to get it back.
An hour later we were naked on my bed because hell, I'm not good at saying thank you.
They’re all in open relationships until you come close to leaving scratches on their back.
“Just check. Seriously. Just check!”
There's nothing there. His eyes are frightened and wild. I’ve seen those eyes before. Next day regret.
He says I have 15 minutes to leave his house and I tell him it’s not a problem.
God, all of the sudden I’m so embarrassed to be naked. I’m in bed with a stranger. This isn’t funny anymore. It’s not cute.
Goddamnit Alison, you’re almost fucking thirty.
I cover myself and I dressed. Thigh highs. Jean shorts. Feels screamingly inappropriate for the day but this is all I have. I might not have fashion sense. I might also be...a slut? Am I a slut with no fashion sense? This is really awful.
“Do you know how to get back to your car?” he asks. I don’t. “It’s just a left, and then a right, and then like, another left kind of, you’ll see it.” He makes some motions with his hands but none of it made sense, not the directions, not the sex, not him pursuing me for the past six months when he very clearly has a girlfriend. She’ll be over in 15 minutes, he repeats, again, and again, and again. “15 minutes. She’s almost here.”
I gave in last night. Finally, after months of failed plans and long late night talks I met him at a bar where I downed four Vodka sodas and I stared at his beautiful mouth as he talked about his friends and his parents divorce.
He twirled his hair as he spoke and he pulled at his shirt and every single thing made me ache for him. I'd say it made me horny, but I hate the way that word sounds coming out of my own mouth.
I told him we were all just animals and animals fuck and animals fight and he told me that was poetic. It wasn’t. I was just drunk and he is just a cheater. Come the right opportunity-they all are.
“I’m not ready to go home.”
We were back at his brick walled loft and music was playing and my tights were stuck in my heels and I screamed at him to rip them off. We fuck on the couch and we fuck in the bed and we smoke a cigarette by the window with our legs intertwined. Then we went to sleep and like magic it was morning and I am being kicked out.
“Have a good day,” I whisper, but why do I say that, what do I care?
I’m hardly out the door when he texts me. “Let me remind you that I have a girlfriend. PLEASE don’t mention my name or nothing to nobody. Happy trails. I forgot your name already.”
I cry in my car and email my ex-boyfriend to tell him I miss him.
The last time I saw him he was kicking me out of his house. His girlfriend was coming home. He regrets me. He’s never done that before. No I wouldn’t tell. (I told everyone.) What has he done? Oh god, how could he do this? Yes, I have my things. Yes I know the way home.
8 months later and he is single, contacting me, like they always do.
I tell him I don't do bad things anymore. I prefer Netflix to narcotics. I'm a good girl now. I'm boring. I've practiced this bit time and time again to boys I used to be not a good girl with.
"I'm a good boy too." He is lying. It turns me on. An old pattern, I guess.
He’s made a list of the things he’s done: losing his virginity on a tour bus at thirteen, taking acid and stealing his father’s sailboat, pawning his grandmother’s wedding ring, and finally, sleeping with me. He wants to say sorry. He's decided it's finally time to grow up and become a man.
“Well cheers to us being less fun.”
“The world bleeds.”
Caroline and I are bored and chilling at Jamies' new duplex in Beverly Hills that her rich dad bought her.
Jamie was always seeing new therapists. Dr. Frankel was the newest, fresh after her attempted suicide, which wasn’t a suicide at all, just a misunderstanding.
She had no intention of dying, her parent’s didn’t understand that, she’d just taken one too many pills, and one too many glasses of wine. She’d forgotten to keep count. But for now, she had to go to Dr. Frankel five times a week. It was either that or rehab, and she’d already been there twice before. There was only so many group shares and horseback rides she could take.
Today, the good doctor asked her to draw her feelings.
“Try it you guys,” Jamie laughed. “It’s so weird.”
Jamie pulled out paper and pens for us, because she always had things like that laying around the house. Activities—puzzles, games, Ouiji boards, drugs—she always needed distractions because true connection and real conversation made her so uncomfortable.
She was like a prop comic, always keeping everyone distracted and entertained.
“Go on…” she said, pushing supplies towards us. “Just zone out and see what comes out your fingertips.”
A few minutes in, I looked over at Caroline, her page now completely black and covered in ink.
“What?” she said. “She told us to draw our feelings.”
I once worked at an office
With a coffee machine
But that coffee machine was filled with ants.
I couldn’t understand why no one did anything about it,
They just kept buying coffee every day.
When they would find a stray ant floating,
Body swollen in a pool of caffeine,
They’d leave a post-it note on the machine
To Shannon (the secretary)
“Damn ants again. I need my $1.75 back.”
I started to like the ants and detest my coworkers.
Constructive Criticism (Or, I Quit Graduate School After One Semester)
Stop overthinking it.
Just do it.
Stop learning about craft,
Stop over editing,
Stop taking notes from someone on how to write a book
That isn’t his.
Throw everything you’ve learned
For the past 2 years,
Out the window.
But follow your gut.
Just take a seat,
Take a breath,
And give birth to whatever story has been growing inside you.
Then be confident and be done.
What if everyone’s been laughing at my jokes this whole time just because I’m pretty.