Am I on a roll, or what? That’s not a real question. This week we discussed Hemingway and this is my Hemingway impersonation. I was trying to convey his conflicted feelings about women and sex, but even with these mock-ups I feel you can’t help but essentially remain yourself. Hemingway writes from a personal place, it seems to me, and he’s held accountable for the beliefs of his characters as if they came from him personally. This piece similarly comes from a personal place, in me. I think I’m creeping everyone out. This may be a phase. It may be I’m at that phase in my MFA career where I think that everybody hates me and thinks I’m a terrible writer. Oh well.
When he broke up with D, just three weeks ago, his friend’s advised him to fuck a lot of women. “Not just a few women,” they said. “A lot of women.” It was the typical advice that men tend to give other men in times like these, but when he actually stopped to think about it, what the reality of that entailed, it made him a little queasy. Just the notion of confronting so many foreign bodies like that. His own body was disgusting enough. Pale and hairy, moist crevices, and the exhausting effort it can sometimes take to get to that stage with women… still, how many had there been since he and D broke up, three or four? He hadn’t had to do anything to get this one. She’d scolded him for his bad behavior and in the same breath invited him back to her apartment. It was disgustingly easy, and her apartment was disgusting.
She was sort of beautiful but incredibly crass. She was uncomfortable in her body and had a weird gait. You could tell that she didn’t think she was beautiful at all. Her apartment was gross and she sort of thought she was gross too. It was the morning after. He wished he hadn’t spouted a lot of bullshit about being a vegetarian and treating his body like a temple because now he was dying for a cigarette. They were sitting up on her bed and staring at elaborate cut outs of birds she’d pasted to the walls. She must have done them months ago when she cared something about the way the place looked. Now they were sort of tattered and hanging off carelessly. There was a mallard and a female duck swimming together. The female duck swam ahead but the mallard was in the foreground.
“What do you suppose that says about men and women?” He heard himself ask her, although he hadn’t the foggiest idea why.
“They’re just fucking ducks,” she said. She actually sounded bored or irritated. “It’s not a treatise on male, female relations. The point is that they’re cut out so carefully. It’s an art, cutting them out of the background with such precision. That’s the point. It’s not about how much you hate your mother.”
Later they were on her front porch and he was incredibly irritated. He looked at her shyly. In the harsh light of morning they both looked ugly to him. She hugged him.
“God, even the way you hug is gross,” he said.
“That’s not true,” she said. She sounded bored with him. “Kiss me on the cheek.”
And he did.