[Originally published January 19, 2006.]
Talking to a Cheerleader
She is standing next to her locker, wearing her uniform and shuffling her books. You stare at her tanned, muscular thighs. There are rumors, almost credible, that she thinks you’re cute. Last night, you could barely read Proust because you kept imagining Odette in a cheerleader’s outfit, cheering for Marcel:
Marcel! Marcel! That cough will be your death knell!
“What’s up?” she says to you, her eyes glittering like the lights of Combray. Or is it Rue de Flambé?
“Nothing,” you say.
“Have you ever watched the flowers bloom on the Champs de Rue?”
“What? Champs Street?” she asks.
“I take French. You asked me if I’ve ever seen the flowers bloom on Champs Street? Did you mean the Champs-Élysées?”
You can’t hear her last question, because you are already halfway down the hallway, longing for the moment when you can rest your head on your pillow and succumb to the sweet regret of a broken heart, waking only to hear if Mother has come back from her job as a night-shift nurse or to see if they are playing Emmanuelle on Taboo Island on scrambled Cinemax.
Breaking Up With Your Girlfriend
Bebop music plays as French-movie versions of you and your girlfriend walk down the streets of Paris. One of you is wearing a long, black trench coat with khaki pants and a turtleneck. The other is wearing a short skirt with knee-high boots and a beret. Both of you dangle short cigarettes from your lips.
You and your girlfriend appear to be out of sync with the picture, as in a badly dubbed foreign film.
YOU: I would enjoy having sex with you.
GIRLFRIEND: And what of the movie star?
YOU: Katrina? Oh, I desire sex with her also. Sex is pleasurable and sorrowful.
GIRLFRIEND: The pain.
YOU: C’est la vie.
GIRLFRIEND: What’s that mean?
YOU: I don’t know. It’s French.
GIRLFRIEND: Let’s rob a bank.
You pull out guns and run into a bank. Soon you run back out, chased by police into the street, where you are both shot hundreds of times, for a ridiculous amount of time. As you die, you speak to each other.
GIRLFRIEND: If I believed love was possible in this crushing void of an existence, I believe I would express love for you.
YOU: Nothingness. The void.
You die, and break up.
Losing Your Virginity
This one will probably take a while, especially since you’ve been spending too much time on your novel, The Singularity of the Muscle Called Heart, which is written in the fourth person—except for the Uzbekistan sections. It took forever to invent the fourth person, but it was necessary if you wanted the novel told entirely from the perspective of the protagonist’s nonsurviving twin’s fetus. When your parents are away in Las Vegas, and Olivia Martinez calls and starts telling you her sexual fantasies, save what you’ve written, turn off the computer, and invite her over.
Going to the Prom
Of course, this is first and foremost the place to discuss class warfare. Marx will clearly enter the conversation, but be sure not to forget about Warner (specifically, in the context of American society) and Bourdieu. Consider why you are driving your 10-year-old Corolla to the dance with your brother’s girlfriend ( Northwestern sophomore!) while the girl you wanted to ask is in a limo somewhere sitting on the lap of Hamilton Parker, probably promising him a hand job later. In the middle of the dance, after you sit through seven slow dances talking to the guy who brought his mother about the validity of comic books as an art form, you notice that a group of future country-club members and ex-frat boys have started to mosh to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” Of course, they’re not moshing. They’re standing together with their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders and are sort of bouncing up and down. They’ve taken an expression of proletarian rage about low wages and no future and turned it into a glorified conga line. You walk over to them, stare for a minute, and then shove them. They tumble like true bourgeois, controlling the means of production but not the dance floor.
Sleeping With Your Teacher
She may have studied with Helen Vendler at Yale, and is able to recite Chaucer in Middle English from memory. She even knew Susan Sontag, once, after she published a piece in The New Criterion about the radical aesthetics of prewar Hungarian puppetry, and even though you’ve always looked at the photo of the young Sontag on the dust jacket of Against Interpretation and thought you’d totally hit it, come on. Dude. It’s Mrs. Kessler. She smells like bologna—like, all the time. And she wears her pantyhose rolled at the knee. Not even you are that pretentious.