By Ian Presnell
Ian explicative to Kathy explicative show details Oct 7:
I cannot believe how many emails we sent each other. I have a word file that’s over 137 pages of emails. It’s so strange too when I just move to some random spot I can’t tell whether or not it’s me or you. Just looking randomly there was a email that Sam sent you. It was so strange until I realized that it was Sam and not me or you. Like these emails I’m sending you. I’m reading Susan Fauldi again. About the desperate broken sense of masculinity in America. Does it even matter if you know about it or not? I mean does that knowledge really count for anything? It’d be nice too if there was one movie I hadn’t watched with you. The book is so depressing and there are so many trends. Every wife leaves their husband if they lose their job. It’s not an outlying thing. I cannot write anything if it’s not to you. That’s probably why my writings so horrible. Every wife will. Until they find a muscular masculine ideal. I hate you so much Kathy. I hate you so fucking much for being this plate to put my entire identity on. Because if it’s the best thing you’ve ever had in your life you think that it will last forever that it has to. That it has to last forever.
I was an asshole though right. It wasn’t going to work. It was broken. It was all broken. Beyond fixing. Beyond a hundred million emails. But I still hate you. Do you have any fucking idea what its like to come back here? After you. You weren’t a savior. You can’t even save yourself. And I can’t take this anymore. And I can’t fucking take that you are the one thing that I think I need to cling to. Stiffed is the book. All of us stiffed. I’m going to kill myself tomorrow.
He wants out. It’s not a new feeling—this wanting out. It’s been there. Festering. Growing. Sometimes he can’t see any other way it can end. The fact that it’s not anything special or new or unique makes it worse somehow. Yeah it’s the city but it’s him too. Every single thing he is so sure will make him happy ends at a brick wall at the end of a tunnel. He’s in a cage. The feeling’s been with him so long that he can’t really remember what it was like before, even when he tries hard. More than anything he wants to get out of the cage but he’s pretty sure he will have to blow up the whole show to get out. It’s almost to that point now—blowing up the whole show to get out.
He makes plans and sets goals and feels inspired but it always withers out. A few days, a week, two, and then he lies down. He hates being alone and he hates other people, and institutions, selling out, acceptance of things that are unacceptable. He hates the world and he hates himself. Somehow when he wasn’t looking everything became a contradiction—a confining maze. He realizes that this is his life but it does not feel like his life. It feels like he should be doing more. And if he blows the whole maze off for good what’s he even going to have to show for all the time he hung in is a big reason he hasn’t. It’s become more and more abstracted but somehow clearer and more inevitable too. He doesn’t even really understand it. He’s scared is a way bigger reason he hasn’t.
It’s not anything anybody wants to hear about. Nobody wants to hear about someone else’s depressing life. He keeps it to himself. The only time he broaches it seriously is with girls right after he’s intimate with them. After, when that unbelievable high close feeling hasn’t yet cooled and he feels like he could tell them anything in the entire world. Most of them listen, coolly appraising in the dark looking for their underwear on the floor. Or they share their own feelings and stories. A high percentage of them know what he’s talking about. He has a knack for being attracted to girls who know what it’s like.
He’s never close to them for long after. He will find an excuse to go to the bathroom or get up to change the music and then sit across from them in a chair before he begins to tell it. It’s like the telling of it requires a physical distance somehow. They don’t know it, but it’s more intimate for him than the sex. But he can’t tell it without the sex. If he had a gun to his head he’d probably say that he appreciated the ones who didn’t say anything at all the most while he’s telling it. Because it’s the only time he ever gets to tell it and he wants the floor. Strangely he’s found that the girls who talk the most at every other time are the quietest at that moment. Maybe because it’s the only thing he talks passionately about—or the only time his words aren’t cocooned in a layer of sarcasm so they can’t ever tell when he’s really serious or not. It has to be in the dark too. The physical distance and the darkness make it more intimate and freer for him to tell it. Darkness for the sex is a preference but not required. He’s okay with his body when he’s lying down, and when he can really tell he’s pleasuring a girl his self-consciousness evaporates. He can only ever get off when he’s sure the girl’s into it. It’s more important that they get off; but that’s selfish too he knows. They have to get off for him to tell it. Him getting off is another preference but not required. It’s sick he knows. Foreplay disguised as sex. A serious need to tell it disguised as something that just materialized in his head out of the blue.
He loves them the very most right before the moment when it’s for sure he’s gonna take them back to his place. It’s more arousing for him when he’s not sure. It’s in their eyes. Their eyes will change—dim and then grow into whole worlds. That’s when he knows. That’s the climax right there. When he knows they want to. Because that’s the whole point—not the sex or even the intimacy after but the intimacy in that exact moment—the only time he ever really feels good enough in his skin, good enough to himself through their eyes.
He’ll approach it cautiously at first. He usually begins with an observation about the glass doors in front of all the busiest subway stops. Who are they stopping really, he’ll ask. When they could just go thirty minutes away to a less busy stop and throw themselves off there? What kind of selfish suicidal person would throw themselves in front of a subway train knowing that everyone else on their way to their own shitty jobs would have to wait while someone cleaned the mess up. Only of the girls ever commented how maybe worrying about holding other people up was maybe the last thing on a suicidal person’s mind.
“I mean,” he’d say, “You should either do it where it didn’t bother anyone at all or make a BIG mess. Go out with a bang or a whimper but not halfway. Quietly or take as many people as you could with you. One of the two.”
He’ll smoke a cigarette while telling it, sitting in his little nook in the kitchen watching their silhouettes doing whatever their female individual self’s do after intercourse. The first moment he has alone in the bathroom he’ll touch himself down there and then smell what they smell like. Whether he’ll go down on them the next morning or on another night is dependent on that smell. The amount of hair they have down there is also a factor.
He enjoys it if he brings them all the way back to his apartment and they act like they don’t want to. As if they were coming here for anything else. The ones who give it up without a fight or some kind of feminine declaration are a disappointment. If they’re too eager he usually doesn’t even want to. But he will. One girl he was only mildly into went down on him in less than five minutes and then when she took her clothes off she had excessive amounts of hair down there and he made some mild comment lying in bed after that she sure had a lot of hair down there. They met up again a few days later, even though he didn’t really want to, and she had shaved herself completely bald. That she had done that because of some vague unobtrusive comment he’d made was pathetic and disappointing in some way he couldn’t even describe. It humiliated him. They went to the same University and he would see her on campus sometimes and would discreetly pretend to look at his watch or focus very hard on something in the distance whenever she came near.
Since Kathy he has never been intimate with any individual girl more than three times. It’s like a rule he’s made for himself. If he legitimately likes a girl he does not bring her back to his apartment. It’s not like he dislikes the girls he brings back; some of them are nice…even interesting. But the ones he brings back are temporary fixes to his loneliness. If he really likes a girl he prefers to not see them for a while, letting them simmer and glow in his imagination. He’ll think about all the funny, witty things they said but he’ll think mostly about the funny, witty things that he said to them. Then ideally he likes to hang out with them with a group of people and be funny and interesting and entertaining to the group as a whole while the girl’s there to see. It’s strange but he can’t be substantially funny or witty or interesting when there’s not some girl there he genuinely likes or wants to take back to his apartment. He tries, but if there are not any girls he’s attracted to there then he can’t see the point.
It all probably goes back to his mother who had what his last psychiatrist called a personality disorder, which is different from all other diagnoses in that people with personality disorders don’t ever change, is what the psychiatrist told him. He has dreams about her sometimes, some of them sexual and he wakes up soaked in this freezing cold sweat feeling ashamed and sinful. But of course it’s not like he controls his dreams or that he wants to dream about having sex with his mother. One time a girl was lying next to him when he had one of these sexual/mother dreams and he held on to her while she sleepily whimpered. He was so glad that someone was there to hold.
He’s not really handsome or desirable to women, but when he sees there’s even the smallest crack he can fit into he focuses all of his social wit and charm to get them to like him. He’s subtle about it though. Alcohol helps. And he knows that his smile is his best feature and that a certain smile (that he practices in his bathroom mirror) at just the right time while he’s charming them and subversively flirting will make their eyes dim and grow a substantial amount of the time. It’s not his real smile. His real smile doesn’t convey his charm as much as the one he’s practiced. He found three times with a girl to be an ideal number. The morning after is also a big part of it. The whole thing’s got a delineated plot-line to it. The initial approach, the putting himself over, the subtle flirting, and then if their eyes dim and grow the taxi ride home (if he’s got enough money) the ride up the elevator, the foreplay, then sex (of course) and the telling of it sitting 3-4 meters away inhaling his cigarette with extra-long inhalations, the sleeping side-by-side, and the morning after.
Three times because that’s usually when he can’t even stand to be around the girl anymore. Where there’s this awkward tension the whole time and then the girl for the first time is trying to get him to like her. Where now it’s all reversed and they’re the ones trying to kiss him simply because they can tell he doesn’t really want to anymore. He needs this third time—it helps him to be ok alone until the next girl. Two times and he’ll all of a sudden start thinking about the girl in a radiating positive light again after however many days. Doesn’t matter if he couldn’t wait to get rid of her on the second morning after when she’s complaining about her throbbing head because of the three beers she drank and apologizing about the complaining and saying she’s sorry about all the complaining but then will (the girl will) continue to complain. He’ll forget it all after a couple of days. Then will start actually missing her and remembering things differently than how they really went.
The whole thing’s deeply psychological and frustrating but the third time wipes all misconceptions out the window. When they’ll be eating dinner (which is another part of it) across from him and telling all about their life and he’ll suddenly realize that they’ve already told him that exact story, and he’ll sit there judging them inside his head wondering how many times they’ve told that whatever story in their lives. Kathy used to say that she liked his real smile better. She said she felt completely insecure when he smiled like that and about how she was maybe boring him or that she wasn’t even there and that he was only smiling to try and get her to feel something about him. And what was at the beginning just playful picking on whatever flaws they’d revealed (an essential part of the flirting) becomes simply meanness on the third time. And but the thing is they’ll want him more than ever at this point—when he’s trying so hard not to be mean to them but will be so bored that he’ll drink a lot to try and make it feel fun but it will only highlight their flaws more and make it easier to be mean to them.
Then after that maybe they’ll text him or call and he’ll completely ignore all their calls and texts. To his credit a part of it is that he doesn’t want to be mean to them. But it’s mostly because they’ve become so unimaginably boring that he would rather be locked in a completely empty white room then spend another night with them. Of course they’re not all the same, but the way he feels about them doesn’t much vary after that third time. It’s sick but he kind of likes knowing that there are girls out there who he charmed into liking him and then just completely ignored. Each girl out there who he has ignored add up to a sum or tally that gives significance and meaning to his life. Any night he’s lonely he’ll just think that if he had wished he could have had any of those number of girls with him tonight…if he had wanted.
Kathy was different. She had stayed enchanting for a year. Literally months passed before he ever consciously looked at her and thought to himself…”I’m bored. She is boring me.” The beginning with her had been almost magical and such an unexpected turnaround in his life that he clung on to her even after it got worse. From the very beginning she had fed his shit right back down his throat. She wasn’t having any of it. There was this energy-this electricity from the very first moment. She was beautiful but she wasn’t gorgeous, and she actually stopped to actually really listen when he was talking and not just pause to wait to say whatever she had to say, which he was extremely attuned to (listening vs. just pretending to listen). And was willing to give and give to get back from him. Not the sex. Not that that wasn’t amazing too. Not her body. But her entire self to him on a plate but with a warning—a string attached that said he had better be really fucking careful to this self she was giving him.
And that fake unreal persona that he transformed himself into around any girl he liked or wanted to X actually became who he really was around her. He became that great guy even after he knew he had her. Somehow it was actually better that he had her, which was doubly strange because that was how it was supposed to be but never really was. The reciprocation. Instead of less he actually liked her more after she gave herself to him. It wasn’t about just him with her. It became the two of them. A togetherness he’d never really ever felt before.
Since Kathy he’s only ever been with dark-haired girls. It’s like he can’t even get attracted to girls with medium-light hair. And forget about blonde, or honey-blonde, or strawberry-blonde. Not even highlights. No light hair anywhere. Another hair preference is he likes short hair because maybe his least favorite thing to find in his apartment is a long piece of female hair. It’s always knotted, and there’s always a piece of dust on it and it’s always in some random place not even anywhere near his bed. Not to mention that when it’s actually on the girl who’s lying there beside him it’s always getting in his face and he has to smile and pretend like it doesn’t bother him. Long-haired girls always look the worst in the mornings too. And they usually had this elaborate washing/conditioning/drying routine which means they won’t even like get in the shower with him in the morning, and he’ll have to be around them all morning with their crimpy unwashed hair. But he can get over the long-hair thing if he hasn’t been with a girl for a while or if she’s exceptionally beautiful or responsive. But the blonde hair rule is insurmountable, since Kathy.
He’ll never actually have sex with his mother in the dreams but in the dream it’s implied that it already occurred and he’ll be like sitting at the dinner table with her or some familiar family place and she’ll be all nonchalant about it like it had never even happened, which makes it worse somehow. He used to keep a dream journal but all his dreams revealed so many unresolved internal personal Freudian issues that were so textbook and cliché that it made him physically ill to read them still. The dreams.
He has a couple different approaches that he uses to approach woman. He prefers bars where there’s music but low sound. It’s easier if they’re alone. His favorite is to walk up to the girl and pretend like the bartender just said that she just bought him a drink and he’s coming over to thank her for the drink etc. He makes direct eye-contact at all times, and if a guy she knows comes up to them while he’s being witty and charming it’s pretty easy to gauge whether or not he’s a boyfriend or just a guy she knows casually. If it’s a boyfriend he’ll (the other guy will) sort of put his arm around the girl and relay this non-verbal communication that she’s taken. Like the girl’s his personal piece of property. Another kind of guy is some loser friend she’ll have come with and he’ll hover by them trying to engage the girl with personal things that only he (the loser guy) and she know about. If he’s already engaged the girl though and she’s into him, the loser guy will get all defensive and give these looks when the girl’s not looking. Looks like: I’ve been friends with this girl for months asshole and who are you to just walk up to her and engage her. It’s really pretty easy to see what the deal is without any words being exchanged. Girlfriends are harder to placate. They usually travel in packs and all have the same hair and will not have any sort of agenda beyond not getting him laid. They’ll drag the girl away sometimes even if he can tell she’s into him. He’ll come back from the bathroom and find that she’s just vanished.
Steadily drinking but never actually getting drunk is also very important. He tends to become talkative when he’s drunk and sometimes even slurs. He’ll go too fast and reveal all that he’s worked to keep hidden. One beer for every beer the girl drinks or one for every three the biggest sweatiest guy in the bar orders is usually sufficient. More than one shot is out of the question if you really want any chance of Xing a desirable female. Buy them shots. Bring up things they said earlier in the conversation to show you were listening and to give the relationship a linear aspect. Don’t sweat. Don’t smoke, even if they do. Be realistic in the girl you chose. Be funny and charming. Find a platform to build on. Do NOT act too desperate or interested. Suggest don’t pressure. Look into their eyes. Find some small fault with their appearance or personality and make fun of it once every three or four minutes. But don’t act uninterested either. Let them know what you want without ever coming right out and saying it. Girls want to be desired not worshipped. Don’t bring up any faults about yourself. Do NOT sweat. Don’t hold your glass neurotically or look bored. It’s always good to have another girl nearby to introduce to the girl who can relate that you’re a standup guy without actually saying you’re a standup guy. Don’t leave her for any reason until you’ve established a rhetoric and then only for a few minutes. Act protective but not like she’s property. Smell good. Make sure there are prettier girls in the bar. Make them feel like they’re inadequate in some small way. Ideally your female friend should be prettier than she is. None of these rules apply for any long-term sort of relationship. Do not under any circumstances talk about Kathy.
Another approach he favors is walking a direct bee-line over to them without any sort of fear or hesitation (letting them see him do this) and saying, “I’m really self-conscious about walking over here to talk to you because your so beautiful but I thought I would just tell you how self-conscious I am right up front and that your beautiful and be really up front about the whole thing.”
A light, draft beer is usually the way to go. You have to be ready to be rejected and then still have the confidence to approach another one. You have to learn how to not to take it personal. Bars are usually the easiest places but there are others. Never neighbors or co-workers. Any place where you’ll see the girl you x’d on a daily fucking basis is not worth the situations that will arise. And they will. He doesn’t always use a condom but he will if the girl wants to. He and Kathy used a condom for over a year, until one time they didn’t have one and it felt so good that they just stopped using them altogether. They’d always talk seriously about it after and agree that they couldn’t do it again without a condom but then they would. She finally went on birth control but it made her dry down there and it wasn’t ever really the same. If a girl has condoms with her he won’t feel as charming. The fantasy that she wasn’t fucking planning on getting x’d is a big part of the fantasy as a whole. That he got this girl who wasn’t planning on having sex at all to go back to his apartment and have sex with him makes it more arousing.
The next mornings can vary from girl to girl. He’s never sure what his own feelings are about the girl until he can gauge her reaction of what she thinks about him. He’s usually very good at reading other people’s perceptions of himself but the morning after he’s just x’d a girl’s embarrassment can get misread as guilt, regret as a hangover, familiarity with love, dislike as self-consciousness. He’ll usually want to get rid of them as soon as possible. But he’s not a dick about it. He never actually comes out and says he wants them to leave. It’s sort of implied by the way he paces around and doesn’t say much. He always feels what feels like affection for them if they go into another room to change. The changing is more intimate than the sex somehow.
The best part of Kathy’s beautiful body was getting to watch her dress in their apartment. Self-consciously slipping into a thong or analyzing the different parts of her naked body in the mirror while he watched. Telling him all the things she didn’t like about it, as if he weren’t there, which was the most intimate thing: to be so comfortable with someone that you can do the things that you only ever did alone. There was a flip side to this, but since there wasn’t anything bad about her body it was this great intimate thing they shared together.
She always had the most amazing underwear too, which he’s kind of spoiled about now. Most women have some thing about their naked body they’re not comfortable with. It’s like a female requirement. With Kathy it was her concave ribcage. Another girl had these birthmark scars that went up her side past her left shoulder. One girl wouldn’t let him take her bra off until the third night when he’d gotten her really drunk and kept politely insisting that she take it off. She’d been vague about why she didn’t want to take it off, and he kept subtly fumbling with her bra until he finally he made it seem like her not taking it off meant that she wasn’t comfortable with him and acted all distant and insulted that she wouldn’t take the thing off. The bra. Until she finally said O.K. she would, and he watched her face as she took it off. Her eyes closed, wincing, maybe even crying a little—he can’t remember, he was drunk too. And then he looked down and saw the most horrible breasts he’d ever seen—sagging and wrinkled. Then he had to act like they weren’t bad breasts at all—but he remembers he didn’t stop her when she started to put it back on. The bra. And when they were having sex a few minutes later he pretended for her so hard that he was into the sex that she had cum three times.
When all he was really thinking about were those awful breasts and how she’d probably think now that when he ignored her later that it was because of those breasts and how she probably wouldn’t even show them to her husband, later. It was worse for him though when she did call a few nights later. Each ring (and there were a lot) made him feel horrible and selfish, and he wished he just could pick up the phone and tell her that he didn’t want to see her again but that it didn’t have anything to do with her awful breasts… but he knew she wouldn’t believe it. Anyone who has some disfiguring thing about them can’t ever think that people don’t like them because of anything else other than that disfiguring thing. It’s like they can blame it for every bad thing that happens to them. The disfigurement. And he thinks that maybe that’s better than what he has—to be able to blame all the unanswered calls on one specific thing. And to actually believe that if that one thing were different, then they’re whole life might just be different. Bearable. Good even.
It’s not like he doesn’t know what it means. It’s not like when he’s alone he doesn’t brutally analyze himself in terms of how he treats these girls. He knows he’s a supreme asshole. And even though these girls are letting him x them on the very first night they dialogue it still feels wrong somehow. It’s not ideal. It’s not what he really wants. There’s been really only one girl since Kathy he really liked. He met her on a bus to a Buddhist temple stay and randomly sat down next to her and talked to her for the whole three-hour ride and wasn’t bored in any measurable way. She was funny and receptive and beautiful. There was this thing she did with her mouth while talking where she like had this pursed beautiful mouth and was awkward and beautiful simultaneously. He fell hard.
At the first stop—the first time alone he walked into the bathroom and was giddy and manic beyond description. She wasn’t sexy. She was cute and naïve and young and he was already imagining a future with her. The bus was the perfect setting. She couldn’t leave. She was trapped with his wit and charm for three hours there and three hours back. He got her number before they got there and in every picture later he was right there next to her…leaning. The body language said it all. And later that night during the Tai-chi he watched her kick and thrust and move that awkward beautiful body in the very front row. He didn’t sleep at all. Not a wink that night next to all the snoring male bodies. He could not get her out of his mind. The next morning at six they went to meditate, and he sat behind her and imagined enlightenment as being with her and being her boyfriend and all the wonderful things that that would entail. The bus ride back was even better and then after he got to her to have drinks with him and made plans for later that week.
With Kathy the majority of the initial infatuation was through email. They had met in a bar through a mutual friend, and she had been elusive and sarcastic but had kept up with him through all of it. He had had to lay on the insults to keep up with all the ways she was putting himself down. Only though, only when a girl doesn’t dig you at all you can tell because she doesn’t say a single fucking word. A girl doesn’t go out of her way to insult you if she’s not intrigued. They ignore. They dismiss. They act bored. The way to tell a girl’s really into you is when all the people around you comment on how much you’re not getting along. When you just met and your already enemies. When there’s this unbearable pressure, and the tiniest comment can mean the difference between hatred and infatuation. Cause that’s when you don’t let on at all that you’re into her—when you just act like she’s your sworn enemy after some fifteen minute conversation. When she’s getting loud and agitated and flustered and ignoring the whole group dynamic or the best friend she came with to argue you with you about some completely irrelevant thing. That’s what it was like with her that first night. Enemies. Love disguised as animosity. Not love, but this clear understanding. Of who they each were. Already. After five minutes. That’s how it started–as competition to see if they could really keep up. Pushing. More and more. To get to that point where the voices will either diverge and split or cohere. To test its strength. If it’ll break that easily or if the individual parts can stand up to the force and the insults. It can’t be faked. There’s a point where it cannot be faked. You either can or you can’t. There’s no phone numbers exchanged with a girl like this this first time. Cause it’ll ruin that dynamic.
She came over to his mother’s house later that night. No touching. His boys were there and one of them called her and she came over and they watched a movie. Three boys and a girl, and then in the morning she was gone. He woke up and she wasn’t there. And all the next day he couldn’t stop thinking about her—whether she really hated him or liked him as much as he secretly liked her. Then at another bar later that night—approaching her and that same ugly friend. Covering up his fear and grabbing his balls and actually approaching this sworn enemy. And was rejected. He was. Completely rejected and like looks were exchanged between her and her ugly friend. And he played it off and wandered back over to the bar like it wasn’t a big deal. Dialoging with all his friends, but in his mind the whole time hoping she was watching—looking for her in the mirror behind the bar. Then finally seeing her across the bar where it swerved to a right angle.
Making direct eye-contact. Then his knees suddenly went weak and he looked away but continued smiling cause he knew she was still looking. Then completely exhausted from watching her all night even when he couldn’t see. Leaving. Not looking back. Giving her up. Stumbling back homewards to go back to college the next day. Trying so hard to forget her on that stumbling walk home. And then that fight with his mother the next morning, smashing the T.V. and swearing he’d never come back there and then to get back to his University and to get that email from her. That made it all O.K. To make him feel like he really was as good as he thought he was sometimes, sometimes late at night—in the dark alone…must be but was never recognized for until that email from her hundreds of miles south now, back at her own University. That transverses all for him. Everything. And makes him forget about that fight with his mother and imagine this wonderful girl out there who really did feel like he did.
And they emailed like that. Back and forth. These wonderful insightful emails. Flirting and saying things they’d never have the courage to say in person. Until she came. Until she actually came to visit him on Christmas break when everyone else was gone and he was isolated in his cheap panel campus apartment and she came. She actually said she’d come and she came and called him. And she couldn’t’ find the place, and he went and met her and she was on the phone the entire time with some other female friend and parked and walked upwards with him to his isolated campus apartment and made fun of his tiny T.V. on the phone to whoever the female was on the other end of the phone and then finally hung up.
Then it was there. Cause she’d come and the emails where they’d said almost all, and she was there with him completely alone with him and yet still they’d acted like there was all this animosity between them because it was too soon to be infatuation, and he picked on her and smiled and flirted by throwing things across the room. And then she’d found his library and read his own books to him…read to him without asking if it was O.K. Read to him his own words that he’d cherished alone…isolated by himself. That he’d only ever read alone. Appreciated by himself. The words. And she picked up Ayn Rand first and there’s this picture he took of her. With his own Ayn Rand book held out from her body reading and smiling. That he still has. This picture. That he still has of her…the only single picture he hasn’t ripped or torn or burnt. Of her. The very first picture with his own cheap paneled fake-brick wall behind her…reading his own Ayn Rand book to him without every asking if it was O.K. Just picking it up out of his dozens of books and reading it to him on his own small bed while he sat there on his chair a meter away transfixed. He can’t remember taking that picture. But he did. He must have because it exists. There wasn’t anyone else there. On a cheap disposable camera. This picture of her on his bed reading his book to him. Just picking some random page and reading to him like they weren’t strangers. Like she hadn’t just come on a whim. And him sitting there on his chair, picking on her because what she was doing was too serious to actually acknowledge.
To pick that book. That author. Out of the dozens books in his library and to sit back down, and without even asking if it was okay to start to read. To him. Because there was no one else in the room. Just the three of them. And that picture he could not burn or rip or tear. He tried. God he tried. Her hair was different in that picture. Blonder. She never looked exactly like that in the two years after. Younger. Happier. In that picture. Innocent. Completely new. Fresh. His. She was his in that picture more than any picture after. More than the kissing pictures or the naked ones she sent later or the pictures where they posed for whoever took them. The Thailand ones right before she left. Or the drunken bar ones with new friends in a strange new country. Or at the concert. Or at her parent’s house. Or at his mom’s house. None of those pictures conveyed that sense of having her like that single picture of her reading his own book to him. Before they knew about each other’s families or their own disappointments…before the cheating occurred. Before any of the long-term relationship bullshit. She was his in that picture. Even though he wasn’t even sure she was his when he took it, or even though he can’t even remember taking it. She was his in that one moment—when she had driven two hours drunk to come and see this guy she’d only ever met for a few hours a few times. To stay.
She stayed for three days. From the day after Christmas to the day right before New Year’s. And they hadn’t left for more than an hour each day. Completely isolated together in his tiny campus apartment. He’d cook, and she’d shower. Then they’d shower together. Then he’d cook while she sat at the table watching. They’d lay in bed for twelve hours talking and touching and teasing. To this day it’s the most wonderful time of his life he can remember. He remembers while it was happening he was just waiting for her to leave so he could just have time alone to just analyze it and worship that time. But he wanted her to stay forever. She’d keep saying how if she was intruding she’d leave… if he wanted her to leave. And he’d almost laugh, saying how if she wanted to leave she could leave but that he wanted her to stay. Saying that honestly truthfully he wanted her to stay unless she wanted to go. That if she wanted to go she could go, but that if she was really asking him if he wanted her to stay that he did. Want her stay.
They were still self-conscious. These two isolated people. Of course they were. Asking but is this okay with you but no is it okay with you but no I mean with you is it okay cause it’s okay with me but if it’s not okay with you then… They didn’t have sex for two days. The touching was too electrifying to even try. Foreplay for two entire days. Can you imagine it? It was like some dream to him he didn’t even consciously accept as real. Some dream he could wake from at any fucking second. He was tentative and slow. He didn’t really think it was real. No chew for three days, when all he’d been doing was chewing tobacco alone in his apartment. It’s like all his bad habits flew out the fucking window. Three days with her. And that one picture. That first picture where she’s blonder than any other time he can remember her. Blonder than any other picture. Like two hermits. Touching and intimate without the act. Intimate without the act. He still thinks about those three days. Years later. About how could all the shit that came later ever come from those three days. Completely isolated and fast-forwarding their lives for each other so they could both catch up. The depression ,and the pills, and the ex’s, and the families—all the worst. But the best too—the novels and the looming graduations, and the writing, and the ideas and the hopes and dreams. Their selves. Their bare selves—their voices in the dark giving turns to listen and then tell. Not one voice or any bullshit. Two voices—a dialogue. A real fucking dialogue with someone equal…better. To listen and to say and to listen and say and then touch and hold and sleep. Then to wake up next to that other with this shortish blonde hair that was even more beautiful in the mornings somehow, before all the bullshit and the fights and the cheating and hatred and anger. Before all the bad, there were these three days. Three days of giving and giving. Just to give. Not to get anything back. To say all the things they’d only ever thought in their own isolated screwed-up heads. To another. To be heard by someone else who had somehow in three days become the closest thing they had in the world, even as she felt like a dream. Kathy. Say it. Kathy.
Who ruined blondes and the name Kathy for him. Who left. Left him. In another country completely alone. And never looked back. Two years and five months after those three days. And never looked back. Not a word. Not a single word. Just left him back alone after he’d become so used to having her there, even when she was boring or predictable or unsexy. Who just fucking left one day. And who still obviously reads his emails but doesn’t say a single fucking word back to him. Who reads them. Who he know reads them. Who reads every word—no matter how fast. Who still reads them for what? For what Kathy? To what end? To feel better and like she has this guy who she knows she can have only when she doesn’t say a single fucking word. Who knows that that’s the only way to have him in the entire world. To hide behind a gmail account. To hide and pretend like he’s still not the one who knows her better than anyone in the entire world. Like she’s going to find anybody genuine who doesn’t have all this horrible baggage. And who knows that if she said a single goddamn word he’d feel like he’d won and then he’d move on. But she doesn’t want him to. Move on. She wants him to be stuck because she knows that she can never be better than those three days. To him she can’t. And that he knows that she knows that he knows that she can’t ever be special to herself. That’ll she’ll always need someone to tell her she’s beautiful or special or unique and that the only goddamn way she’ll ever get that from him is to not say a goddamn word.
Ian Presnell is a capricorn. He’s way younger than he looks. He’s just decided that he’d be happy being either a famous comedian or a famous novelist. If he had a gun to his head he’d have to say that David Foster Wallace, Ayn Rand, Cormac McCarthy, A.M. Homes, Jonathan Franzen, and Hemingway are his favorite authors. More than anything he loves sleep, flirting, alcohol, books, being funny, food, and animals. if you see him say hello