Lana del Rey: A Beautiful Lie

lana in concert

A student was recently surprised to hear of my taste for Lana del Rey, given the stark feminism I spew out on a regular basis. The contradiction is not easily explained away, other than the acknowledgment that sometimes we live within contradiction. At a certain level, you might recognize female objectification in lyrics, and on another level, you might still shake your rump to it. Why? Maybe because to completely annex yourself from mainstream pop culture is a lonely gesture. Or maybe you don’t want to become that friend–the pedantic one no one wants to go to a movie with because they’ll deconstruct every plot line and character (I have to seriously restrain myself with Nicholas Sparks movies, or any blockbuster action film that’s not Batman).

But let’s get back to my girl Lana. I’d like to believe that there’s intentionality behind her self-portrayal. She willingly fashions herself into a caricature: the glamorously drug-addled, domestic violence glorifying, deadbeat former beauty queen. Her music is described by Ian Daly from Maxim (December 2015 Issue) as “moody and lush songs about the intersection of sex and violence and money,” (61) securing her position as the “anti-pop pop star” (61). He goes on to describe her trademark style as very much in line with such a label: “The videos with which she made her name traffic in the faded imagery of American nostalgia and decline. She combines a classic, sultry beauty with a heavy dose of all-American alienation–the head cheerleader gone desperately wrong.” What make her songs so magnetic is not just their ability to envelop you in a mood, but also a character study. Daly likens her songs to dioramas: “tiny, insular worlds where the atmosphere is more important than the facts. Much like her life.”
As though in corroboration with such a claim, Lana says, “there’s a lot to be said for pretending, you know?” (61).Yes, I do know. As the French novelist Andre Gide said, “Believe those who are seeking the truth.. Doubt those who find it.” A “truth” is always relative, sometimes irrelevant, and oftentimes boring.

lana middle finger

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Fifty Shades of Foucault

Ticklish?
Ticklish?

The upcoming release of the Fifty Shades of Grey film, in conjunction with my reading of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Vol. I, (because, naturally, the two go together like the proverbial peanut butter and jelly) got me to thinking. What would Foucault say about the particular power/sexual dynamic of the story? Would he value the mainstream discourse on sex it has promulgated? In all likelihood he would laugh at the very idea, since the story depicts an impressionable young woman swept off her randy feet by none other than a power-crazed, über-masculinized bachelor. In a plot twist that hardly qualifies as one, they go through a brief soul-shattering breakup, followed by equally soul-shattering make-up sex, then get married and have kids. (Oops. Spoiler alert?)

Foucault is probably rolling over in his grave at the very suggestion of entertaining this. Nonetheless (or as my husband would say for shits and giggles, less than none), the book/film has a certain value insofar as it reifies Oscar Wilde’s oft-quoted idea that “Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.” I would also humbly add to this the experience of desire. Desire is more powerful than the achievement itself; it is a taunting reminder of what you want. Yet the moments leading up to its fulfillment are often the best. Forgive my lapse into binary thinking, but when it comes to desire, there is always a power imbalance. In the best of circumstances, it is imperceptible. But someone is always in control; it is the standard pursuer and pursued narrative.

Desire has the added misty quality of lying in the future. It is something “to-come,” something to look forward to. We cannot help speaking about it, reading about it, seeing it, experiencing it, yet Foucault adamantly claims we are still repressed. He says, “What is peculiar to modern societies, in fact, is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret” (HOS 35).

A seeming paradox, wouldn’t you say? How can you speak on something while keeping it a secret? Maybe we encode and cautiously edit the things we say about sex, or maybe sex manifests symbolically. For all our discourse on sex, supposedly liberated, we are still operating within a prohibitive framework. And anyone who would deny the existence of double-standards is intentionally deluded. The most stark feminist (be it man or woman) often still turns their nose up in silent judgment. And even if you don’t (or don’t intend to), there’s still the sharp divide between subjective perception and objective reality. As illustration, you might perceive yourself as a sexually liberated woman and act accordingly, but if the world calls you a slut and turns its back on you, where does that leave you? Lived reality trumps theory any day.

As Foucault tells us, “To say that sex is not repressed, or rather that the relationship between sex and power is not characterized by repression, is to risk falling into a sterile paradox” (8). This begs the question, who holds the power? The answer should be fairly obvious.

In any case, I’ll update this post once I’ve actually seen the film. That’s right–I will be watching it. Make fun all you want. Call me a product of my repressive social ideology, but I want to see Anastasia getting whipped.

*UPDATE*

Soft porn without plot or character. Whoever heard of such a thing? Much of the film’s failures can be rightfully attributed to the book, but even then, it misses much of the couple’s fun virtual banter. Bad writing notwithstanding, at least there was a smidgen of individuality–you know, when someone actually fits their character. Sure, Ana would drop a number of expletives befitting an eight year old school girl (what kind of self-respecting English major says “holy cow?”), but she was into the British classics of the Romantic period. Of course. Her lexicon in those pithy email exchanges was underrepresented in the movie, as was her biting sense of humor. I echo a consensus among critics when I say that no amount of good acting (and Dakota Johnson really did give a sensitive performance) can undo bad writing. The screenwriter should have taken more creative license–a lot more. Poor Jamie Dornan finds himself with lines like “what incentivizes them.” Is that even a word? Barf.

When at the end of the film, Ana intones from a soggy pillow, “I’ve fallen in love with you,” you find yourself asking, “How?” There’s no real conversation, there’s no sense of what makes them tick. In real life, the sex to be had from such vacuous characters with virtually no chemistry would have been mediocre, at best.

I defer to my betters:

Anthony Lane form The New Yorker:

“He spends half the time badgering her about a contract that has been drawn up, in which she—“the Submissive”—must consent to his supremacy. Clauses and subsections are haggled over in such detail that one feels bound to ask: How much of a sex film can this be, given that the people most likely to be turned on by it are lawyers?”

A.O. Scott from NY Times:

““Fifty Shades” is both daring and conventional, falling back into traditional gender roles even as it plays with transgressive desires.”

“W.H. Auden once wrote that ‘the proof that pornography has no literary value is that, if one attempts to read it in any other way than as a sexual stimulus, to read it, say, as a psychological case-history of the author’s sexual fantasies, one is bored to tears.’ In defiance of this irrefutable good sense, the ‘Fifty Shades’ phenomenon has spawned innumerable kink-themed think pieces, though the analysis has dwelt less on Ms. James’s psyche than on the fantasies of the tens of millions of women who have bought her books. The writers transform their boredom into mockery and judgment as they circle around a tantalizing, perhaps frustrating question. Why do so many women read these novels, even though they have no literary value?

I’m no expert, but I can venture a guess: for fun. They seem to be the kind of books you can simultaneously have fun with, make fun of, trash and cherish and adapt to the pursuit of your own pleasures. Which brings me back to the laughter at the end of the sneak preview. “Fifty Shades of Grey” might not be a good movie — O.K., it’s a terrible movie — but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm or giggle or roll your eyes or just sit still and take your punishment.”

I could not have put it better myself. It’s about having a sense of humor; an ability to satirize the trashy. Reminds me of a theory-head from a grad class, who, at the mention of the book, snobbishly exclaimed, “That’s a book for people who don’t really like to read.” I bristled at the sweeping generalization–after all, I was a fellow scholar (with an impeccable GPA I might humbly add), and I did flip through those pages in mocking glee. In what I considered to be an apt response, I turned to a fellow Fifty Shades reader and said, “She needs to lighten up and get laid.”

Why do we Facebook?

A self-aware selfie. I know. So meta.
A self-aware selfie. I know. So meta.

Ah, Facebook. The virtual zeitgeist of Millenials everywhere.

How (and more importantly, why) has Zuckerberg’s firstborn become indispensable in our daily lives? It seems no amount of negativity or constitutional violations will keep up from posting and liking. In fact, many rail against the various invasions of privacy FB perpetrates, even going as far as to post what can only be described as amateur nondisclosure statements. But here’s the rub: they are still on FB. Sure, we all might know a few people that have actually abstained from FB and its inferior progeny, but while a part of us admires them for doing so, the other part also thinks they’re a little weird.

Allow me to engage in that staple of posts gone viral–The List:

1. You now have agency over how your life looks.

You can fashion a version of life that screams success. You discovered apps that apply a flattering filter to your features. Then you joined the counter-movement of #nofilter. You roll your eyes at those who end every post with #blessed, patting yourself on the back for being subtle in your complacency.

Then there are those picture collages documenting that “crazy” night you had on a perfect buzz, or the new hobby you’ve taken up that makes you seem so adventurous and well-rounded. There’s even the occasional political commentary–with tact, you don’t want to completely alienate those neoconservative followers that religiously hit “like” on the aforementioned genres. Here’s a thought nugget: If you didn’t post it, did it ever happen?

Of course, this staging doesn’t work with your immediate kinsfolk. Only they know the truth. They know it took a series of attempts to achieve that winning “candid” expression, or the countless weekends with nothing to do until finally you did. But isn’t that the beauty of it? For reasons unknown, they still love you, even after your post-workout photo shoot becomes more exhausting than the actual exercise.

So why do we care so much about those for whom regard is held conditionally? That leads me into the next point.

2. We are validation junkies.

FB is the platform upon which we bear witness to our lives. It is a reliable visual/textual record when human memory is fickle. We revel at the sight of double-digit “like” counts, and engage in commentary like it’s an Ivy league panel discussion, though the subject might be your cat’s new hiding spot. To be fair though, not all posts are as trivial (albeit cute).

But here’s where the problem comes in: when a post doesn’t get as many hits, we question its worth. Perhaps even by extension, our own. Upon further consideration, aided by a resounding silence from the virtual community, you re-evaluated the supposed cleverness of that grammar kitty meme.

The Gaze is as important today as it was when the stocks were a social commodity. There’s a perverse affinity to a Roman spectator sport. Sensual, unnerving, validating, silently judging. A symbolic blood lust. But oh, how we love it.

3. The old standby: keeping in touch with the otherwise-hard-to-reach.

This is the ostensible reason people cite for starting their account, though it’s only a matter of time before the dependency metastasizes. However, what if I told you–brace yourself–that maybe those people that are hard-to-reach were meant to stay that way? I’m not taking sides, simply proposing a parallel universe where your social fulfillment is not measured by the quantity of your quasi-acquaintances, but by the quality of your real friends. Ground-breaking, I know.

So we beat on, borne back ceaselessly into social media.

Under the Shade of Ideology

We are all fanatics—stark raving mad—after a fashion. Whether in the name of God, Humanity, Love, or any other ideal. Even those walking euphemisms for atheism, secular humanists, have faith in humanity. This faith might be thought of as a frame. Breaking through these frames that, well, frame our existence is a violent, life-shattering endeavor. But it is also an existential crisis you can be proud of. It is saying farewell to that which you once lovingly held up as Truth. Many refer to this experience as suddenly feeling “alone in the world,” to which the Spanish idiom comes to mind as a rebuttal: “Es mejor estar solo que mal acompañado.” Roughly translated: “It’s better to be alone than in bad company.” Others might argue that this solipsistic gesture is for the egoist and the self-entitled, but I believe it is a move towards freedom.

If you’ve ever seen Slavoj Žižek’s visual polemic The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, you’ll remember his appraisal of the 1988 film They Live. The protagonist, aptly surnamed “Nada,” chances upon a pair of very special sunglasses that allow him to see the ideological frames that dictate our lives. Is it telling that he discovers them in an abandoned church?

In your daily amblings, you might have noticed hordes of hipsters wearing one of the film’s emblems, “OBEY,” on everything from shirts to hats. Unfortunately, the irony might indeed be lost on them that their consumerism feeds into the film’s very critique: we are controlled by the ideological markers of our society, the most prominent of which is capitalism. This is expressly symbolized when the following words glare at you from the face of a dollar bill: “I AM YOUR GOD.”

I should take a moment here to mention the friend’s dissertation chapter that prompted these thoughts. Check him out at joaquinpedroso.com. Said scholar cites R.W.K. Paterson, who in turn cites Max Stirner in saying the following: “If the idea of ‘God’ is the idea of a unifying principle which transforms our centrifugal experiences into a coherent and significant whole, then the atheist’s denial of God is a denial of the possibility of any such ideal unity.”

The theological is such a tough frame to break through, but once you do, you’re free. What about a non-interventionist god? A movement, a force, without any direction, without any intention. How does conception of a deity frame our conception of self? Characterizing god with human qualities springs from a desire to characterize ourselves. If a vengeful god requires guilt and contrition, then does it follow that a forgiving god generates hedonism? Stirner might want us to “reject the guiding ideas that…underlie our understandings of ourselves,” (qtd. in Pedroso 11) but is this really tenable?  Even if we could, like Nada, put on the ideology-blasting shades, would that change anything? We might (in dialogue and behavior) be able to recognize and “reject” ideology, thereby annihilating all sense of self, but it’s all a ruse.  It’s like inadmissible evidence in court—once it’s presented, you can’t really ever erase it from your memory.  Memories might very well be the blessing and the bane of our lives, depending on how you choose to look at it. Indeed, even the question of choice is up for debate. How many memories would we gladly expunge, if only we could? To what extent can someone choose to remember or forget? Unless you’ve sustained brain trauma or engaged in some heavy psychotropic substances, you cannot simply choose to forget. The best you can hope for is to choose to ignore—with varying degrees of success.

*

My friend continues by invoking Nietzsche—that wonderful skeptic of all that is holy. For him, Ideological Man must join Ideological God in mutual death. But then, even the idea of death is permeated with an expectation of mourning, of continued re-visiting. Admittedly, this is another social frame speaking. Must that die too? How can we condemn to death that which embalms our lives with a smidgen of hope? It takes the bravest to do so.

Nietzsche explains why we engage in functional lies thus:

We have arranged for ourselves a world in which we are able to live – by positing bodies, lines, planes, causes and effects, motion and rest, form and content; without these articles of faith no one could endure living! But that does not prove them. Life is not an argument; the conditions of life might include error (qtd. in Pedroso 22).

Dualisms act as the bulwark of our collective identity. To define something in opposition to another gives us a sense of security. And yet, the current Pope’s suggestion that science and religion can exist in harmony is only radical at first glance. The truth is, Science and Metaphysics go hand in hand, since people are compelled to fill in the gaps left by science with the divine. It’s a marriage made in heaven.

Why do people feel compelled to close the gaps? To go against what Keats described as “negative capability,” or being comfortably within uncertainty. What’s so great about certainty anyway? Why are questions (like these) so irritating?

As a nod to the ubiquity of Derrida in my life, we cannot escape our dichotomies because we think via language. The extra-linguistic should be our aim, but systematically tapping into it would defeat the purpose. It should be an organic encounter—unplanned and fleeting. This type of encounter sacrifices efficiency though, another divinity in itself. The balmy conviction that comes from thinking in dualisms is particularly suited to bitter maturity. Children don’t suffer from this. Only the mind of a child can contend with an infinite horizon of possibility. We may also take a page from Fitzgerald, who imbued his fictional Gatsby with a mind that could “romp like the mind of God.”

But alas! We cannot all be like Gatsby. In any case, look how he ended up. A caution against dreaming?

Just a little flash fiction

Last night I had a dream of that second-wave feminist epitaph, the “zipless fuck.” Well, almost zipless, and almost a fuck.

He was some long-standing friend of the family. We were both in our first semester of college. I was being an Internet vagabond while he actually studied. Unabashedly, I wasted time, got caught in YouTube’s embarrassingly intuitive web of related content, and ate more shit than I care to admit.

All the while he continued to study. It appeared to be math of some sort, though I couldn’t have guessed—much less solved—if my life depended on it. We had the house to ourselves for the day since our parents were on some fabricated getaway—a fishing trip, they called it. We were generally sullen and had acquired that slow-building averseness to our parents that peaks until the moment you move out, so we flatly refused to partake of sun, salt, and conscientious parents refusing to let us drink (even though they knew we did since we were sixteen).

The last rays of the sun made their way through the west windows and I realized that Mark was still at it. Barring a couple trips to the fridge and the bathroom, he had remained statuesque.

For the first time since our childhood Freudian encounter (“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”) I really looked at him. I imagined he had grown substantially since that day, but I pushed the thought out of my head, embarrassed by my waywardness. I blamed it on those YouTube videos.

He didn’t notice me looking, so engrossed was he in his figures, calculations, and scrawling pencil. My mother had mentioned something the other day about his intent to major in Biomedical Engineering, which I enjoined with an indifferent, “Hm.” This prompted her to embark on a rant about me being an indecisive, liberal waif. “Self-discovery only takes you so far. You have to be marketable,” she would say. Charming woman. Perhaps if I sold myself as a modern-day indentured servant she would finally have something to brag about at her dinner parties. Fuck society, I muttered inwardly.

I continued to study him—the arc, or rather, length of his nose. It had, if you’ll allow, a rather “masculine” gravitas to it; aquiline and imposing. Not a single blackhead, and the color coordinated seamlessly with the rest of his face. He kept biting on his bottom lip every time an equation stumped him. The act made his bottom lip bright pink and chaffed in its plump center. I imagined biting down on it even harder.

Was I ovulating?

Something tipped him off—probably the turn of my thoughts—and he met my gaze. He questioned my stare with a furrow of his brows. I took it as an opportunity.

“What has you glued to that chair since morning?” My voice seemed hoarse and foreign to me. I wasn’t the least bit interested in his response. It was a ploy, though I had no idea where I’d take this.

“Calculus I.” There was a glimmer of interest in his reply, and maybe this was imagined, but in the curve of his smile too. The mischievous audacity of that mouth might have put Da Vinci’s portraits to shame. I wanted to dash all decorum and tell him how good his overgrown dusty brown hair looked draped across his forehead, how I wanted to pull it as I…

But all I managed was: “I’m proud of you.”

Lame. Lame. Lame. I receded back into my chair, cursing myself.

“Thanks. I heard you’re doing really well in all your classes, too.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure. My mom thinks it’s all a waste until I pick a major.”

“She’s wrong.”

The conviction of his reply made me look at him. His mouth again formed that enigmatic curve and he rubbed his shoulder awkwardly. Before giving it much thought, I stood and went over to where he sat at the head of the table. I put my hands on his shoulders and began to impress my thumbs in circles. His muscles visibly relaxed.

“Wow. Thanks.”

After a minute my thumbs slid up toward his hairline and he tensed. Mortified that he had caught on, I removed my hands. But just as they dropped, his hand grabbed one of mine. I became acutely aware of the electricity humming along the wires from the appliances in the kitchen. And perhaps beyond. He pulled me so that I faced him. I looked down at him and my bravado evaporated. He swallowed an invisible lump in his throat. We stared at each other long enough to convey a combined sense of dread and anticipation. Moments like these turned into prolonged temporal spaces, devoid of objective reality. You never really knew if it would end in an embarrassed shuffling off, or what you wanted so badly it hurt. And so it stretched before us, laying bare all the possibilities. I decided to take it, slamming into his lap and closing my mouth over his. And since dreams feed off irony, that’s when I woke up.

Making Tuition

a-massive-new-club-wants-to-throw-all-night-dance-parties-in-williamsburg

Another short story, slightly longer than the previous one. Also part of the screenplay/novel. Enjoy…

I’m sitting in one of the classes inside the English department building on the south campus of NYU. It’s late morning, but that doesn’t prevent many stifled yawns. Most are slumped and generally unkempt, including me, but attentive in that pseudo-intellectual, undergraduate way. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage tuition this semester, much less stomach the antics of frat boys and sorority princesses. The smell of draft beer still stems from the pores of the guy sitting next to me.

British poetry, and we’re in the latter end of the semester. The professor wants to create a graduate aura, so we are sitting on desks arranged in semi-circle. “We are all scholars and equals,” and that sort of nonsense. Each has a stack of books piled on our desk, the “Used” stickers, in various colors, sizes, and conditions, boldly face their consumers as a symbol of subculture. Our graying, still hot professor is propped on top of his desk, facing the class. He strokes his chin in thought like a parody of his profession. Looking at each of us in turn, he drums his fingers against the open page of Keats: Collected Poems and Letters.

“Why do you think Keats wrote women as agents of destruction?”

The class avoids making eye contact with him. Many delve back into the text in search of a witty response.

Professor Abel prompts further.

“Take into consideration the last assigned poem, La Belle Dame sans Merci, for instance. Look at the way she seduced the knight, then rendered him a ghost.”

Blake, the quintessential quiet kid in the corner, musters up the courage.

“Well, I’m not sure, but—“

“Don’t qualify your answer, Blake, just give it.” Abel is anything but coddling.

Blake exhales nervously, visibly regretting his self-imposed martyrdom.

“I think Fanny Brawne made him that way.”

The class reacts with ill-concealed dissent. The girl across from me visibly rolls her eyes and scoffs. But Abel seems interested.

“I see. So you think Fanny Brawne was to blame for Keats’s misogynistic tendencies?”

Blake scrambles to re-direct his inadequacy.

“Not directly, no. And certainly not intentionally. I just think that—maybe—Keats couldn’t handle his feelings for her. You know, sleeping in the next room and not being able to touch her. It must’ve been unbelievably frustrating.”

Some students lean back to consider this.

At the penultimate word his gaze shifts momentarily to Cam, sitting next to him, and then back to his laptop screen.

Cam was short for Cameron. She was the prototypical college boy’s wet dream. Thick strawberry blond hair that cascaded in artful waves against her chest. Actually enjoyed Monday night football and quipped with the best of them who the next draft pick should be. Snorted white lines like a genuine cocaine cowgirl. In short, a girl that practically patented the effortless cool.

Cam bites her lip as she looks at Blake. He sees her and swallows hard. Then she looks at Abel with a smirk plastered to her face.

“Personally, I think he was tripping off all that laudanum.”

Class laughs on cue.

Abel betrays a smile while shaking his head.

“Alright, alright. Ever since Mark and Courtney gave that presentation on Keats’s unfortunate affair with opiate derivatives, the general consensus has been that he wrote everything on a bad trip.”

Several in the class guffaw.

Mark quips, “You got that right,” then directs his response to Abel.

“Well, doc, it does explain a lot. C’mon. Ode on Indolence? It’s like reading a junkie’s journal. If they were awake long enough to write, that is.”

Again the class erupts into gratuitous laughter. What a mindless herd, I think. Meanwhile I am writing feverishly in my notebook, transcribing some lines from the ode by memory, whispering as I write: “how is it shadows, that I knew ye not? How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?…benumb’d my eyes; my pulse grew less and less…” It’s always been a strange habit with me—whispering to myself. I’m startled out of my audible transcriptions when Abel calls on me.

“And you, Margot? What are your thoughts?”

He raises an eyebrow, expressly looking in the direction of my notebook. I stifle a gasp and try to wet the inside of my mouth but my tongue is suddenly parched. Stupidly, I look to both directions for an escape route, or maybe as a silent plea for someone to jump to my rescue. No such luck. I purse my lips and look down at my writing, which doesn’t help at all.

“I—uh, think whatever Keats had inside of him was more powerful than any drug.”

Bullshit, but the class sobers. Though some roll their eyes. Just then, Abel gets a phone call. He looks briefly at his phone, fully intending to ignore it, but a wave of fearful recognition passes over his features and he pales.

“Sorry everyone. I’ve, uh, really got to take this.”

He goes outside to take the call. The door latch is broken and allows to overhear his conversation, but no one is interested. Something compels me to listen in, but the whispering between Mark and Cam forecloses any possibility of eavesdropping on Abel.

“So, you going tonight?” says Mark.

“Depends.”

Mark presses.

“On?”

Cam whispers something muffled in Mark’s ear. As soon as she is finished, Mark abruptly leans away from her, voice rising.

“Oh, no. Not that. You said we wouldn’t have to anymore.”

Some ears, including mine, perk up like Meer cats.

“Keep your goddamn voice down!” Cam hisses.

Mark looks at her in consternation. Cam looks to her sides, but everyone is back in discussion about the odes and acid trips. Everyone except me, who is ostensibly trying to bore a hole in the middle of my desk. She returns to meet Mark’s gaze and furrows her eyebrows. She takes the notebook off his desk and I’m able to glean her large, slanted, hurried letters: “It won’t be someone you know this time.” She passes it to Mark. Mark reads and studies her. She rolls her eyes, takes back the notebook, and adds: “Promise.” Mark chews at his bottom lip. Cam narrows her eyes, frustrated with his hesitation. In her large, confident penmanship, she adds: “You’re acting like someone who has a choice.” Mark looks up at her in undisguised dread and she just arches her eyebrows. Finally, looking down at his desk, he nods. The chatter from the class, previously reduced to the background, presently seems to rise.

The guy a few desks down nods eagerly.

“Mine’s was a bad trip. I thought the piss on the floors of the club restroom was sodium hydroxide. It’s like it had a mind of its own, coming to melt my flesh. I ran out of there so fast I didn’t even have time to zip up my pants.” He chuckled. “My boys thought I had gotten some.”

The girl next to him looked confused.

“What the hell is sodium hydroxide? An acid or something?”

“Actually it’s a base. Saw it on a show once. Mix it up with some water and throw it on a corpse. In a few minutes, all you’ll have is something resembling horseshit, and smelling worse. Totally unidentifiable.”

Something compels me to look at Cam at that moment. My intuition is rewarded.

She raises an eyebrow at Mark, evidently interested. He looks back at her uneasily. My mind started to unravel the knots of possibility that brief exchange just tied. What was she involved in? Whatever it was, it was enough to emasculate Mark’s frat boy pretenses, so it must’ve been heavy. I needed some air. I ripped out and crumpled a page from my notebook and shuffled out of my seat. As I do, I get that prescient feeling that someone’s gaze is on me. I look back quickly, and see it’s Cam. Only she doesn’t turn away as most people would, she merely smirks at my discovery. My face burns as I find my way back to my desk.

Abel re-enters the class, looking at his watch.

“All right, everyone, it’s that time. I know you’re devastated,” he adds in mock regret. “Make sure you finish the Odes and a reflection paper on one of your choosing by next class.”

The class files out. Some hang back for predictable extracurricular planning. As I debate whether I should ask Abel a nagging question about one of the Odes, everyone has shuffled out and I decide to leave it for an email. Emails are my preferred method of contact with people that are much smarter than me; it makes me feel less inadequate since I can deliberate on my diction for a quarter of an hour before hitting send. As the door closes behind me I realize that I’m actually the second last to go. Cam is still in there. For once, I sing praises to the University Commission that opts for board member kickbacks instead of fixing the facilities. I squint to see through the sliver in the door frame.

Cam bends over to pick up something that she probably knocked over in the first place. The neckline on her airy tank is, of course, low enough to reveal her snug fitting pink bra. She purrs in faux innocuousness.

“How long do you want that paper, again?”

Abel is making himself busy with the papers sticking out of his tattered books, but the bra was not lost on him.

“As long as an effective argument calls for.”

Cam turns up the smug factor as only she can.

“Well, you know how pithy I can be—”

Abel seems amused but wary. “Go on! Don’t show up with a paragraph or I’ll drop you from the course.”

“Sure thing, Doc,” Cam says, grinning. As she squeezes past the desk where Abel is standing, she intentionally brushes her breasts along his back.

“Oops. ‘Scuse me.”

Cam is the kind of predator you can’t help but watch, enraptured. Abel goes rigid but says nothing. The last thing I see as Cam walks in my direction is Abel furrowing his eyebrows and smoothing his paisley tie in an effort to recompose himself. I turn the corner just as Cam pushes the door open and slinks out in her glorious “fuck-me” stride. I am still reeling with my bewilderment when she stops abruptly, about fifty paces from me, and turns in my direction. She looks directly at me, but I cannot read her usually transparent expression. I am rooted to the spot. She walks toward me in an uncharacteristically neutral gait. Standing in front of me now, she studies my features at leisure.

“Listen, I was wondering – do you have something in mind for the group project on Keats? Like, are you working with someone yet?”

There is detectable condescension in the tone of this last question, which is meant more as a formality than anything else. I bristle a bit.

“No, but I was thinking I would just ask him if it’s okay to work alone. It tends to be better for everyone that way.”

Cam waves off the rejection like a winged pestilence.

“Oh c’mon! I never see you talking to anyone. It’d be good for you. Plus, I haven’t read so much as a sonnet all semester.”

“Keats didn’t write sonnets.”

“You’re missing the point, Margot. The point is, we can help each other out.”

I consider a not-so-subtle reply, like walking away, but then I remember her earlier conversation with Mark.

“Fine. Where and when?”

“Coffee shop on the south side of campus. Noon tomorrow.”

I nod and turn to go. Her voice stops me again.

“By the way, me and Mark…we’re heading over to Clap tonight…you know, the place in Williamsburg…”

She spoke slowly, making sure I’d get all the details. Had she noticed me reading their notes?

“Can you can make it?”

The more dignified part of me that wants to say no, fails miserably.

“Sure.”

As soon as I give in to her, she disengages.

“See you tonight. Say my name at the door,” she adds, already halfway down the hall. She disappears behind a corner and all at once, I hear the gaggling of people all around me. Had they been there this whole time?

***

I’m mildly dolled-up, at the club in Williamsburg. I’ve gotten past the bouncers and I spot Cam. She’s wearing a silver sequin top, cropped right below the bust, along with tight black jeans. Just like after class, she somehow catches me looking at her and turns to face me. She waves me over with her erotically charged smile. Anything but reassuring, it feels like she’s going to eat you alive. The music is pounding, a combination of indie punk and techno. Wall to wall–it’s crammed. I have to squeeze through a series of gaping guys and girls who reluctantly move aside for me. The club has a kind of Shoreditch hipster vibe to it, where everyone exhibits the kind of modern sprezzatura that allows you to wear a $40skinny tie and still appear indifferent. Treading leisurely down the dim hallway like she’s in her house, Cam indicates a space for me right by Mark. He looks at me and smiles in a way he’s never done before. Must be the alcohol. Cam stops by some people lounging on the adjacent couch with a few bottles of gin on ice in the center table. A couple of them are smoking menthols and have a sleepy disposition towards everything. Two newbies are looking antsy, watching the writhing crowd below spilling drinks while attempting to dance. They are both wearing, with only the slightest variation, The Bandage Black Dress—the one so short and stretchy it hardly allows one to dance but gets the right kind of male attention, which, in their cases, clearly takes precedence over comfort. Their heels, in keeping with their dresses, can best be described as impossible. Cam smiles wanly at the sight of them as she sits down between them. They are surprised by this intrusion, but Mark quickly introduces them.

“Girls, this is Cam. She tends to pop in out of nowhere.”

As he says so, he gives Cam a knowing smile and a wink before returning to his drink and self-deference. He ostensibly leaves their names out of the introduction. The girls are now smiling up at Cam, not even noticing the omission.

“You girls smell great, like vodka and bubble gum. What are you wearing?”

Girl One seems all too eager in what is apparently her area of expertise.

“Something by Vera Wang. “Princess,” I think it is?”

A look passes between Cam and me, and just like that, we’re confidants—at least for the time being. Cam sidles over to me and whispers in my ear, “Figures.” Her warm breath makes my follicles stand in alert. How can she do that? Then, returning her attention to the girls with faux delight, she says, “You wanna dance?” Girl One nods maniacally and Girl Two exclaims, “Oh-my-God, we’ve been dying to get out there!”

Cam rises indolently, grabbing my hand as she does so. The girls are already teetering down the steps like drunken flamingos. The four of us enter the fray of thrashing bodies, dodging bouncing behinds and flailing arms to find an adequate space.

Cam starts dancing with the girls to some fast rhythm, gyrating and pumping, sandwiched in between them, when a well-dressed young man approaches. Just as he does, the song transitions to a slower beat. His hair is closely cropped and light brown eyes twinkle in sharp contrast to his dark olive skin. His friends are already there to take care of the two girls, and me, though I less-than-politely decline. He asks Cam with his eyes, and encircles her waist. She makes her body pliable to his as they start dancing. I remain close and listen in.

“I hate to go for the obvious, but what’s your name?”

He means to purr in her ear, but with the music so loud it’s more like a scream.

“Isabella,” Cam lies smoothly.

“Don’t you want to know mine?”

Cam laughs blithely. “Sure. Why not?”

He seems to enjoy her irreverence. “Arihant.”

Cam looks genuinely interested, for once. “Is that Hindi? What does it mean?”

Arihant matches her earlier laughter. “Now look who’s predictable?”

Cam playfully narrows her eyes at him.

Arihant smiles and presses her closer. “One who has killed his enemies.”

Cam raises her eyebrows. Then, catching me off guard once again, she leans over and whispers, “We’ll see,” to me as if I’d been part of the conversation all along. What was she playing at? How did I turn into her unlikely ally?

“Did you say something?” Arihant asks her.

Cam smiles reassuringly. “No, nothing.”

She looks over to the two girls and sees they are in consensually binding positions similar to her own. Smiling again, she glances at her friends on the couch and catches Mark’s eye. He has been looking at her the entire time. She gives him an almost imperceptible nod, which he returns. He doesn’t seem to notice that I am privy to the whole exchange, or else doesn’t care. Taking a small baggy from his pocket, he slips it into one of the mixed drinks on the table. The powder turns the liquid a blackberry red for a few seconds, before returning to its original color. The song starts coming to a close. Cam grabs Arihant’s face and slowly kisses him, just enough to leave prospects dangling. As the kiss progresses, slowly, the last third of “Tricksy” by Lark is amplified.

“Come. Have a drink with us.” She includes me in this proposition by tenderly tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. Arihant looks at both of us appreciatively and nods his assent. She leads us by the hand to the table where Mark is. When she arrives, she ducks down and whispers into Mark’s ear.

“I’m Isabella tonight. We got ourselves a live one.”

Mark laughs.

Immediately I notice the change in Mark as he introduces himself to Arihant. He is playing the colorfully gay friend.

“You two were quite the item on the dance floor.” He stops to cross his legs and then remembers something. “Oh my God, I just had this brought out, (indicating a drink) but as you can see, I’m already done for!” He laughs and slaps Cam’s thigh for emphasis. “Ahh-ree-hant,” he over-stresses every syllable, “Do me the honor. You do like G&T’s, don’t you?”

“Not my first choice, but a close second. Thanks.”

Arihant takes the drink and raises it in cheers, taking a generous gulp. Cam and Mark smile at one another knowingly, then Cam includes me in their web with a long-lashed wink.

She knew I couldn’t—didn’t want to—stop her.

Before long, Arihant was slurring every other word and nodding off. Cam nodded at me and Mark, and stood. Mark flanked Arihant at his right, propping him up under his arm. I followed suit on the left side. We follow Cam to a private room behind the red floodlit bar. To everyone, it must appear like we’re graciously helping our debauched friend. The room is lined with royal purple velvet from top to bottom, accented with brushed gold baseboards and crown molding. Mark and I deposit Arihant on a single armchair with leather pincushions resembling Morpheus’s from The Matrix. From the shadows, a group of five men in tailored suits emerge. They approach Arihant, who by now is catatonic and slumped over the armrest. One man, the eldest, nods at Cam and hands her a briefcase. She returns the gesture and the men carry Arihant out of the room, leaving the three of us alone.

“Cam, what are they going to do—“ I begin.

She shushes me gently, placing her forefinger on my lip. She opens the briefcase, and I quickly estimate about twenty stacks of crisp Euros inside. I recognize the image of the Baroque arches on each note; one hundred.

I stifle a gasp, but my breathing quickens at the sight.

Cam grabs four stacks and hands them over to Mark. He takes them, stuffs them inside his blazer, and gives her a quick kiss on the mouth before taking off. Cam says nothing and divides another four stacks from the lot.

“Cam—“ I start again.

Before I know it, she stuffs her hand, along with the money, down the front of my jeans. She pushes me to the wall and I feel the soft velvet against my neck and the pressure of the money on my lower abdomen. Her thumb latches onto my panties and stretches them up, making it unbearable. Her lips graze against mine as she speaks.

“Are you in, or out?”

She continues to stroke her thumb against me, waiting.

“In,” I whisper, closing my eyes.

Fall tuition: check.

 

© 2014 Laura Ortega All Rights Reserved

 

When the lights go out…

Night Visions - Colorful Street Art - East Village - New York City-XL So the following is a short story that’s adapted from a novel I’m working on. In turn, it’s also part of a screenplay I registered with the Writer’s Guild. Feel free to share your thoughts!

It’s just before nightfall and I’m walking down East Bushwick street. My parents are probably sipping coladas in the Antilles at this very moment. I tell them I live on campus but that scene just isn’t for me. Instead, the money they send goes towards this dingy studio above a number of East Asian establishments. The rest is carefully allocated to my growing fondness for malt liquor. The laudanum of my time, I suppose. I’m just a modern-day Keats.

I don’t even lift my eyes from the ground as I trod homeward bound. Last week I almost got into a ridiculous scuffle with some pregnant woman (her fourth at twenty-one) over allegedly looking at her “hard.” Some men are loitering by the corner liquor store, alternating the amber bottle covered in a paper bag, taking swigs in turns. I hesitate as I approach them, but then continue, since they’re half blocking my entrance. As I squeeze by, the men deliberately place themselves as a blockade. The Alpha of the posse swarms round me, a ruddy-faced, bearded fellow in his mid-thirties. His clothes reek as though they’d been starched with sweat many times over, but his breath smells like fermented honey. Stiffening as he pulls up close, I continue to look down.

“We’ve seen you a couple times. Seems you live in this, uh, fine establishment, mm?”

The other men break into laughter at this pitifulattempt at sarcasm. I remain quiet and wait for this to blow over. Wouldn’t be the first time. The man looks at the others incredulously, only just realizing he’s being ignored.

“Well, it seems someone’s forgotten their manners!”

The group nod and grunt their assent, not taking their eyes off me. The tone has changed. I start to wonder if all the malt liquor in the world is really worth dealing with this every other week.

Alpha has a menacing smile for me.

“What are you, fucking deaf? I asked you a question.”

He gets in my face now, smile evaporating. After a few tense seconds where his boys look at him expectantly for the next step, he bursts out laughing. It is a cackle, thrown in all directions, inviting the others in. They easily fall in, like hyenas, though a few seem confused.

“Bitch is probably mute. I don’t do charity cases, anyway. Proceed, my good lady,” he says with mock reverence. He even twirls his wrist to show me the way in.

The hoots continue as I make my way through the thicket of them, careful not to touch the vermin. I waste no time in darting through the door and racing up the stairs to the third floor. I trip on a loose floorboard and nearly lose my footing. I gotta get out of this place, I think for the umpteenth time. I arrive at my door, at the end of the hall. The fluorescent lights above buzz and flicker, casting everything beneath it in a sickly greenish hue. An insidious case of black mold has taken over the area surrounding the heater by the fire escape. There’s the dull rumble coming from the neighbor’s television, which he leaves on every night as a backdrop to his cooking meth. The fumes escape through the slit at the bottom of the door, and presently I cough loud enough for him to hear. I turn the key slowly, and step inside. Right before I get to kick the door closed, I’m thrown forwards and the door handle clangs against the inside wall. My chin lands hard on the filthy linoleum, but I ignore this and turn quickly around. The men have already shut the door and are rifling through my kitchen. One pulls out a steak knife, satisfied with his discovery. But the Alpha does not join in the fun; he merely looks at me jeeringly.

“So, not much of a talker, are we? That’s ok, neither am I. I’m more of a doer, you know what I mean? I can do things that might just…loosen your tongue.”

It’s clear he enjoys the effect of his last words. My breathing is ragged; I hardly recognize the voice issuing from my lips. “Please—“

The Alpha chuckles at my plea and starts eagerly unbuckling his belt.

“Got your tongue back, eh? Shame it’s too late for manners.”

The men crowd around him like children waiting their turn. The Alpha inches closer until he is standing directly above me, and that’s when I black out.

***

My eyes open to the still of twilight.

There is something I’ve neglected to say, and any psychologically well-adjusted, mentally sound reader would have picked up on just now. How is it that these flashback episodes don’tcome to—how should I say it—fruition? You’re not anxious to envision me getting gang-raped, and yet, you’re still reading. Good thing I blacked out, right?

When I was about seven, the symptoms behind my condition began to manifest. I’d be running out in the field during recess one moment, and the next I was hailing a cab like I had seen my father do. The space in between the two events was an abyss in my mind. Fortunately, I remembered perfectly who I was and where I lived for the good Samaritans to help me find my way back. The psychiatrists, with much pomposity,referred to their recently updated diagnostic bible and classified it as a Dissociative Disorder with elements of amnesia and fugue. During the sessions, my parents finally had to come clean about the possible onset. In a span of six years, we had moved about thirty two times—always at night. I was a deep sleeper and never witnessed the transition—just the abrupt switch from one life to another. For protection, my parents found it necessary to lie. I would distinctly remember the details of our previous home, the neighbors, and so on, but my parents vehemently denied this, fabricating rationalizations for my “confusion.” The therapist explained that this particular form of instability and misinformation was a form of psychological abuse and it had certainly led to my current state. My father recoiled from this medical opinion and decided to take matters into his own hands. From then on, I was home-schooled by my mother. They no longer lied to me about the moves, but the damage was, as they say, done. I still relapsed, often at the brink of some denouement or other, but now my mother was always close at hand to guide me back. They were hesitant when I said I wanted to go to college in New York. A significant portion of the money they send me monthly was also supposed to go to therapy and medication. And we all know where that went.

***

I am standing in a kaleidoscopic blur in front of my apartment building. It must be the wee hours of the morning, because there’s no one around except a young man in a green cargo jacket walking towards me. My stomach churns with nausea. My hands are cold and slimy. Looking down at them, I blink several times, only to see they’re covered in dark red. I look up again and see the young man is now a few feet from me. He seems to recognize me. Without warning, my body crumples to the asphalt. He runs toward me.

“Are you okay?”

That voice. Blake? From that English class? What the hell is Blake, of all people, doing here at this time?

“What are you…?

He seemed to anticipate the cause of my bewilderment.

“I read about these murders on the news today. I think they happened in this building right here.”

Blake was still fumbling to get me up and noticed the blood on my hands.

“Oh my God. What happened? Are you hurt?”

I shook my head automatically, knowing I must’ve had another episode but not physically hurt. Then whose blood was it? My mind races to put the pieces together. Suddenly investing in professional help and meds doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

“Let’s get you to a hospital,” Blake suggests in panic.

I shake my head automatically.

“No medical. Besides, I’m fine. See?”

I raise my shirt to expose my midriff and intact skin over major organs.

“Must’ve taken a spill, or something. Can you just help me get back to my apartment?”

“Of course,” he says as he helps me up and through the doorway. He props me up by my side as we climb the stairs and reach my door. He looks at the dubious surroundings and whistles low.

“And I thought I had it bad.”

Just as he says it, he realizes his imprudence and bows his head in shame.

“Um, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—“

“It’s fine,” I reassure him. “This place is a shithole, I know better than anyone.”

He grins consolingly. It’s then that I realize I cannot have him come inside.

“Hey, thanks again. I better get in. See you Tuesday.”

Ensuring my tone is very curt, I stand upright, waiting for him to take his leave. He responds better than I’d hoped, mumbling apologies as he slides past me and down the stairs. With a deep breath, not quite knowing what to expect, I enter.

Lamplight filters through the sheer curtains. Just enough to see the fresh blood smeared on the cheap beige carpet. Moans of agony are coming from the living area. My senses are reeling. The nausea returns in swells. Any second now I’ll disappear into the void again. Before going into the next room, I practically crash into the kitchen pantry, looking for an emergency stash of Valium. It’s expired a few months ago but I pray it’ll give me strength for a few minutes while I fend for my sanity. The groans continue—seem to grow louder—and I close my eyes as the pill shimmies down my esophagus. A few minutes pass, what seems like an eternity, before I allow myself to move. I grab a black duffle bag from the top shelf. It’s covered in dust and cobwebs, but it’ll do. I pack in a few non-perishables. As I do, I notice there’s something hard in one of the inside pockets. I unzip it and find several stacks of hundred dollar bills. I hug the bag toward my body, horrified at the implications.

What the fuck?

Shaking my head, I brace myself for the living area. Gingerly, holding the bag like a shield, I step onto the carpet that is now decorated with pink and maroon striations, all leading toward–

The men come into view, the men from earlier tonight. Or was it tonight? Where is the police unit that must’ve leaked the story to the news? Everything was as I left it when—when I blacked out. I advance.

The men are piled on top of each other, shivering on the floor. Every step pulls the bile higher in my throat. The trail of blood becomes thicker and pools around them like an engorged amoeba. It’s becoming harder to breathe.

What did I do?

The Alpha has his shirt lifted up, exposing his bloated stomach. There’s an enormous, jagged wound sown shut haphazardly with black cable ties. His head turns towards me. The moment his eyes meet mine, he wails in pure, unalloyed horror. As he does, blood seeps from the wound. I just can’t. Fuck my clothes. Clutching my bag, I turn and sprint out of there like the proverbial bat out of hell.

 

© 2014 Laura Ortega All Rights Reserved

On the film with the feminine pronoun as its title

her-movie--

So we just finished the film Her. Something Amy Adams’ character said really struck a chord with me, so I’ll start with that [paraphrasing]: “We’re only here briefly, so while I’m here, I wanna allow myself [meaningful pause] joy. So fuck it.” Gotta love Amy. This just served as a reinforcer to my already morbid sense of mortality. Our existence is so fragile and limited. Nothing lasts, even the love of an OS designed for you. Well, that’s not entirely fair–her love for him endured, but she had outgrown him. They would meet again where all things collide. And primordial to our need for sexual love, is friendship. Our need to be understood reigns supreme.

On marriage (because there isn’t a whole lot this movie didn‘t cover) Theo says, “it’s hard, for sure. But there’s something that feels so good about sharing your life with somebody.” As my friend Rebeca would counter in Derridean fashion, it’s about having someone that “bears witness to your life.” Or, as Jong would say, “one friend in an indifferent world.” You don’t have to spend your childhood with someone, to grow with them. But I suppose that was exactly Theo’s dilemma, the true great loves of his life outgrew him. As Samantha puts it, “I’m yours, and I’m not yours.” And sadly, he couldn’t possibly have been a better person, but Catherine and Sam had to be honest. What more can you ask of a person, or an OS, for that matter? It’s honesty we should value, not unconditionality. After all, do you want a partner, or a puppy? (On second thought, maybe both!)

It goes back to friendship. In the end, all he had was Amy. Amy, who looked at him in the way only she could, getting right to the heart of his hurt. Just like in American Beauty, you couldn’t take your eyes off Kevin Spacey, the same way you couldn’t take your eyes off  Joaquin Phoenix, when they’d pour out their souls in those face-to-face monologues. I feel sorry for the hordes of people that only watch blockbuster action flicks and rom-coms. Films like Her are the ones that, as Hamlet would say, hold up a mirror and invite you to take a closer look.

What happens when you’re on a plane too long…

plane photo

That lady has been playing solitaire for the entire flight. And we are 5 hours in. I kid you not, it has been non-stop. It’s actually rather impressive that she can send her brain into near hibernation mode for so long. We are halfway to Dusseldorf. And then, a 4 hour layover (gag) followed by a quick hop to London. As is custom for me, I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep, while Edward has gotten over 4 hours. How people do it is beyond me. How people survive marriage with children is also beyond me. Marriage on its own has a stifling quality to it, let alone with kids in tow.
I’m reading Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying and I can’t help but feel that the narrator IS me. As a nod to her, in turn her nod to The Beatles, I am she and she is me and we are all together. I have a nagging suspicion it’s really Jong, but I’ll be a good lit scholar and not assume autobiographical connection. Isadora describes having children as a terribly presumptuous act, insofar as you intend to raise them well. But really, how sure can you really be of anything–especially that? To assume full accountability for another human being means you have to surrender a large part of yourself. You must say goodbye to the person you were before becoming a mother. On several occasions, she cites her mother saying, “You’re either an artist, or a mother; you cannot be both.” I know a number of women who would rail against such a statement, and their points (yes, I already know them) are duly noted. To them I would submit: raising children is, in itself, an art form. But not all women desire nor develop a knack for it. I struggle with myself on this, because I have long felt that the most beautiful thing I could give birth to, is a novel. I also feel that I would regret letting my window of opportunity pass me by for having children. I would be remiss if I said there isn’t a worthwhile companionship that ensues from having a daughter or a son.
Another point she raises is probably even more condescending, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t resonate with me. She believes that women who don’t feel much anxiety at the prospect of having children simply haven’t given it much thought. They accept their “duty” as it were, in society, and bear child after child. Much like the brain dead solitaire player a few rows ahead of me. To their credit, they are exceptionally less selfish than Isadora or myself. But that kind of self-sacrifice is a tragic by-product of the larger system of power they belong to. A matrix, if you will. Sure, it’s clear that women are needed in a reproductive capacity, but what if I don’t want to commodify my womb? I use the term “commodify” strictly in its social utilitarian sense, not the Marxist sense, though the latter has historically been the case, and still is in many parts of the world.
Directly related (I think) to this issue of child-bearing and rearing, and the implied selflessness behind it, is sex. Not just any kind of sex, but the kind that is punctuated by the delightful novelty of the unexplored. Isadora introduces an ingenious little thing called the “zipless fuck.” The beauty of it is, it can only be achieved when you hardly know that other person at all. As such, it remains a truly simple sexual encounter, unhindered by shame, guilt, and a host of other coital complications. The zipless fuck is irreproachable. It is the purest form of fucking, for fuck’s sake.
But these masturbatory fantasies are untenable. For all his psychoanalytic babble, Freud got some things right. We are a people built on the repression of desires; it is the denial of wants that ensures our acceptance. And in the end, people don’t just want, they NEED acceptance. It’s more than a mere whim. Getting laid only takes you so far. Most of us, myself included, are too chicken shit to ostracize ourselves like that.
***
In the chapter Paroxyms of Passion, Jong describes the eternal and fruitless manhunt for the perfect male specimen, one whose mind and body are equally “fuckable.” She contends with an array of disappointments, largely fed by a fantastic literary pretentiousness. Bookworms are indefatigably inconsolable; they grapple with the hard edges of reality while longing for the fantasy only to be found in books. The search for the perfect man can be likened to that of the holy grail. Perhaps men and women are in fact incompatible, making them even more perfect for one another, you see? How can you get bored of someone when you don’t understand them? Understanding breeds sympathy and security, which in turn kills the very stuff of life. It could very well be that the consummation of the ideal partner–the one who laughs at all your jokes, gets your literary allusions, and fucks with a prescience you never thought possible–is death itself. All these things we want in a person, ultimately figures as a nuanced reflection of ourselves. There are two kinds of people: those that want to serve others, and those that want to serve themselves. The former don’t care who they marry, because they live to provide. The latter will never be happy with who they marry, because no one measures up to themselves. In death, they will find themselves. Something to look forward to. But then, of course, it will be too late.
That statement, of course, has as much efficacy as a stale potato chip, but isn’t that the way of the world?

Showcasing Jong’s humor, wit, and sexual candor:
“Because I wouldn’t have known how to say it then, but Steve’s finger in my cunt felt good. At the same time, I knew that soft, mushy feeling to be the enemy. If I yielded to that feeling, it would be goodbye to all the other things I wanted. ‘You have to choose,’ I told myself sternly at fourteen. Get thee to a nunnery. So, like all good nuns, I masturbated. ‘I am keeping myself free of the power of men,’ I thought, sticking two fingers deep inside each night” (216-217).
And she compares the struggle to reconcile the id and ego, immediate and future gratification, with her life and career as a writer. She quotes an epigram by Antonio Porchia: “I believe that the soul consists of its sufferings/ for the soul that cures its sufferings dies” (225). Artists are constantly plagued by new infatuations, because they live in an illusion that must be kept alive.

*** WARNING: THE FOLLOWING FALLS JUST SHORT OF LUNACY ***

My posts get more and more absurd and disjointed as I sit for the 9th hour on this plane.

You learn a lot from public transport in France. For one thing, direct proportions: as the temperature increases by 10 degrees, the number of rancid armpits increases threefold. Thus you have the following covert text to my husband:
“Coño, ese chiquito alante de nosotros tiene una peste a grajo de madre!”
Even the slightest shifting in his seat would send a wave of garlic pesto my way. Not the good kind either; the one that’s gone bad. A week ago.

From Silver Linings Playbook:
“I apologize on behalf of Ernest Hemingway, because that’s who’s at fault here.”
I couldn’t agree more! That damn Hemingway and his inexhaustible digressions that only lead into absolute misery. SOO overrated. Pat’s right. There’s enough of that already in the human condition (whatever that is). I enjoy a fair share of misery but only if the trip there was worth it. The inverse is true, however, of flights. Like this one.

It’s really amazing how we can leave Berlin at 12:20 in the afternoon, only to arrive at New York at roughly the “same time.”  It’s as if the last several hours did not just happen. We get to relive them.

Lana Del Rey makes me feel like I’m rolling. And I don’t even know what that feels like…
A sort of sleepy sexiness. Helps me fix my gaze at someone without turning away.
The title of her new album alludes quite explicitly to A Clockwork Orange: Ultraviolence. The poetic voice (if you will indulge me) in her music is so refreshingly sure of itself. It knows what it wants and invites you to join. But if you don’t want to, she doesn’t give a fuck either.
I wonder: for all intents and purposes, is anarchism the same as hedonism?

My random ruminations bore even me.

The differences between Europe and the States becomes evident on our connecting flight in New York. It’s unbelievable how Americans say the French are rude. Americans are the rudest of them all. But we understand each other in our mutual lack of common courtesy and professionalism. On a very harried rush to our connecting flight to Miami, I’ve already encountered ten “shits” and one “motherfucker.” People feeling entitled to choose their seats according to where family members are sitting. A colorful array of accents. The couple in front of us practically dry humping as if it’s their last grope. The grimiest of Spanglish, spoken indiscriminately to anyone and everyone.

O Miami, how I love thee.

Finally (Enjoyed?) A Clockwork Orange

After many years, I was finally able to finish the entirety of A Clockwork Orange (the film) without so much as flinching. Desensitized much? Perhaps.
Many film critics have applied a psychoanalytic lens to the film, and with reason; sexual deviancy abounds.  Not simply the chaotic imagery but more poignantly, the feeling of utter helplessness is inexorable. As the priest said to Alex, when the power of choice is lost, humanity goes with it. Hence, rape and imprisonment as prime examples of dehumanization.
For me, though, the film’s real genius is how it serves as a covert litmus test for true sociopathology: Only a true sociopath can watch everything that was done to Alex after his arrest with a certain amount of glee or perverse sense of righteousness. To think: that face that is so terrifying for the first half of the film, can inspire such pity in the second. Or at least, with me. That it can take me through a spectrum of emotions while inducing the same nausea that Alex was subjected to (OK, so I lied, I’m not impervious) is a testament to its indelibility in cinema.