Hemingway hates women. I think they’re okay…

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, luckily we found a company that could deliver cigarettes to your door. 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.


Just more words.

Note: This is a knockoff, homage, imitation of The Isaac Babel story, First Love. It’s from a class I take in college where we read hotshot writers, talk about them, and try to write like them. Isaac Babel kind of had it rough. Comparatively I can’t really say the same. If I had to choose I would say the worst thing that happened to Isaac Babel was getting shot by Stalin’s army.

Last Love

When I was 28 years old I responded to an ad on craigslist regarding an apartment with an extra room for rent. The place belonged to a handsome couple named Swen and Amy. Their last names were both Smith, weirdly, because they were not married. Upon first meeting them I locked eyes with Swen and felt an immediate, suffocating desire that seemed painfully reciprocated. Amy was insufferable, ogrish, and I’d have liked it if by some miracle she had dropped dead on the spot. Instead, with full faculties, she eyed me up and down while candidly expressing her discomfort with the situation. There had been some confusion. My name is Chris and all the preliminary correspondences had been done over email. They’d assumed I was male.

Still staring into Swen’s handsome blue eyes, I did what I often do in these delicate situations, which is to say the exact opposite of what I am really feeling. “The truth is, I’m a lesbian.”

And so we lived together for some months in this unfortunate arrangement. Swen and I brushed hands at the coffee maker, stole glances during commercial breaks, and generally felt the heavy weight of misery hanging down on us. All the while I took care to stifle any overt signs of heterosexuality (moments of shrillness, romantic comedies) and accentuated the homosexual (flannel). On the loneliest of nights, through thin walls, I could hear them making love, signified mostly by Amy’s harsh commands, a voice ravaged by too much smoking and vinegar. She insisted loudly where to stick things and at what speed and duration. It caused me great agony, but what’s the use of talking about it? Our unhappiness persisted.

A mob of hired murderers ransacked our shared apartment and murdered Swen and the kittens. For 14 years of my life I had dreamed with my whole soul about kittens. Eventually, through a series of convoluted circumstances, Amy permitted me to bring home two of them, and then this unpleasantness. I found Amy there on that sad morning cradling Swen’s remains, his entrails spilling out like long strands of sausage links. When she saw me walk in, the truth of my subterfuge suddenly came to light. In revenge, she lunged toward me with a handful of red kitten sludge and smashed the mess into my temples.

“Now we should probably clean up,” Amy said. “We should clean up, Chris. Our hands and faces are covered in fur, and the fur is bloody.”


White men that I admire, deceased. The tragedy of wanting to be loved, etc.

There’s something happening lately – forgive my hippy sensibilities but I attribute it to the end of the winter solstice. Never mind the whys, point is, it feels like the bleeding, infected openings of fresh wounds are everywhere. Artists I love are committing suicide (Mark Linklaus of Sparklehorse. Why, Mark? I loved you.) I have been of late obsessed with the remembering of other artists I’ve known and loved that went the same way: David Foster Wallace, Elliot Smith, Richard Brautigan, countless others I’m forgetting. Even if they made it through without dying (Thom Yorke, Charlie Kaufman) we’re all so fucking sad. And it’s abundantly clear that making great art can’t save us. Writers, artists, musicians, we’ve got to get this through our head. First of all, fuck your ambition, it’s gross. You’re probably not going to “make it.” Second of all, if you “make it” it’s not going to make you happy.

So that’s art and that’s just a small piece of what I’m talking about. Some people go so far as to say the only real impetus to even make art is to be desired, or to put it crudely, to get laid. Simplistic? Yes. Annoying? Yes. I would agree only in so much as it seems to me that lots and lots of things stem from a striving to be loved, and wanted, and understood. And we go into this world so fresh and bright eyed and bushytailed, and if we were lucky our parents didn’t horribly hurt us, so we expect that the world is not a dangerous place, and then we get to find out we’re wrong! Fun!

But I hang with weirdos, freaks, and otherwise doomed persons, so most of our parents did hurt us. I don’t know, let’s say for example your father left when you were three years old, and he never explained why, but he came back sporadically and gave you love sometimes. You might go shopping around to have that experience repeated in every single man you meet, because that’s what you think love is. And whoever these men are, they have their own perception of love based on whatever their mothers did to them, and then you pile into bed and make some disgusting soup of a relationship until you can’t take it anymore. Just for example.

Oh my god I don’t know what I’m saying. It just seems so out there lately. Everyone’s pain seems raw and on the surface, and I feel weirdly psychically in tune with all of it. I feel like I could look at a waitress on the other side of the restaurant, and I could say to her: “so your Dad was a sex addict and you found the S&M polaroids in a shoebox in the closet when you were 6, and that’s why you want to cringe every time your boyfriend touches you?” Are any of you out there having a similar experience?

Oh, me. I love men that don’t love me back. Men and women love me that I can’t love. We’re all like dogs chasing cars, what the fuck will we do when we catch them?

Anyway, it’s the end of the solstice. We’re shedding our winter skin and it’s like peeling a band-aid. Things are going to get better for us. If we could just learn to love each other without all these chips on our shoulders that are really more like anvils, eh? That would be nice.