Years ago, a friend brought me to her 10-year high school reunion. We had slept together a number of times during the months leading up to the reunion—but we never got serious. Although I can’t claim to have been amazing in the sack, I was one hell of a date the night members of the graduating class of ’90-something got together in a small catering hall on the east side of Manhattan. I was social, entertaining, the type of wingman you’d want riding alongside you on any mission into your past.
Even though it wasn’t my alma mater, by the end of the night I felt like one of the popular kids in school—except I was “returning” with a full head of hair and a little more youth than my “classmates” (my 10-year was still some years away).
Eventually, my friend wrote a story about that night. It was one of those memoirs-masquerading-as-fiction thingamajigs. I was a character in it. She named me Otto.
In the same story she also wrote about another guy—with whom things had been more serious than they had been with me. And he had these eyes. Although I don’t remember the exact words she used to describe them—something about an aquarium—I do remember being envious of her description of his eyes. Both as a writer and a lover.
She let me read the story, and I gave her notes. I was able to distance myself a good amount from “Otto”—maybe because she had chosen to leave out a lot of details. I’m not sure if it was because she didn’t want to hurt me—I had been such a great date after all—or she felt that those specifics didn’t serve the purpose of the story. Or maybe it was just that I saw a different story.
I met the guy with the beautiful eyes in real life a couple of times and didn’t see in him what she saw. And I tried to, I did—but who gives a fuck? Those eyes she described were all that mattered. What she saw in them. What they made her feel. What she learned from them. Lessons about herself, about love, about always kinda being in high school.
Maybe a part of me, in spite of the distance I gave to the story, wanted to understand why she preferred The Eyes over Otto. Damn, I really wish she wouldn’t have been so careful with Otto. Otto should have suffered some more in the story. He did in real life. But I guess I have the opportunity to tell Otto’s story, if I want to.
We are material, ladies and gentlemen. The storytellers in our lives have us in their outlines. Most of the time they’re going to draw us either uglier than we truly are or more beautiful than we can ever imagine ourselves being. Sometimes they’ll get us dead-on.
I’ve been mining my past relationships for material for a while now. This shit basically writes itself. I approach the subject matter with humor and a confessional spirit I attribute to my exhibitionist tendencies (“Look at me, everybody! Why ain’t cha lookin’?”) and to the Catholicism of my youth.
My first Confession was huge. Corpus Christi Church. CCD. Sometime before my first Communion. It’s bad enough to lie to a child about the nature of the universe; it’s downright disgusting to make that same child confess his “sins” to some stranger in a box. The Church gave us a choice—ha!—to sit behind a partition and confess, or to sit facing the priest, with no barrier between us and just enough room for the Holy Ghost.
I chose to face the priest. It was funny—only now, looking back—how God’s bureaucrat and the neophyte sat facing one another on identical chairs. I don’t remember if my feet could touch the floor, but I do remember how tears were boiling on my cheeks before I even told him how sorry I was for disrespecting my mother, cursing, and whatever wrongs a second grader commits. In the end I was forgiven. I can’t say the same for the priest.
Now, through comedy and writing, I confess my sins. But I do it without looking for forgiveness—at least not from the Big Voyeur upstairs. I’m looking for something else. I’m looking for the Eyes.
And should you find yourself in one of my stories, or scenes, or jokes, please understand that I mean you no harm. I’m not your confessor. And it’s not your story.
Talia was training for a half-Ironman when she messaged me on OkCupid to ask:
“…Of all the erotic sentences you wrote during that post-college stint, would you mind sharing your all-time favorite?”
It turns out my favorite line of smut is also the best line I’ve ever written:
“I felt like I was all dick, and no humanity.”
Mom: I worry.
Son: Please don’t. We were safe.
Mom: Did you wear a condom?
Son: Yeah, that’s what I meant.
Mom: Why? You don’t like this girl?
Son: What? No, I do like her. But you still have to wear condoms.
Mom: Why? She don’t wantta have a baby?
Son: I don’t wantta have a baby.
Mom: Then how you gonna be a father?
Son: I’m not…yet.
Mom: We’ll see.
Son: You seem certain that I can even produce a child.
Mom: You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Mom: You hungry?
Mom: We’ll see.
Fight stories are like sex stories: all you need are a couple really good ones, and people will think you’re doing it all the time.
This is one of my fight stories.
My ex-girlfriend has a crush on James Franco. She’s not the only person who does, I know, but that didn’t make it any less annoying when we were dating. Because anytime James Franco would pop up on the television or we’d pass his image on a billboard or cover of a magazine, my ex would giggle. A grown woman giggling.
“I’m sorry,” she’d say for my benefit, then attempt to contort her mouth out of a smile. Her face neutral, it would still take a minute for the freckles on her cheeks to stop glowing.
Although she never outright told me her James Franco fantasy—we didn’t have that kind of openness in our relationship—I knew what it was. Because I know what the “James Franco fantasy” is—it’s every woman’s fantasy. (Sure, there are slight variations here and there, depending on the gal, but it’s more or less the same.)
My ex has had her typical long day at the office. It’s late when she gets to our front door. Will she be able to make it to the last yoga class of the night?
She opens the door and sees James Franco lying naked on our couch…with his head in my lap.
I’m running my fingers through his hair.
I shoosh her.
James Franco is sleeping.
But I’ll wake him for her sake.
Did you know that James Franco can only be woken up with kisses?
I bend so that my mouth meets his lips.
Like a baby responding to a nipple, James Franco responds to my lips.
I feed him kisses.
I feed my ex’s deepest desires.
I bend James Franco over the arm of the couch and proceed to do indescribable violence to his asshole.
My ex’s freckles are aglow.
I don’t stop, until James Franco bleeds out…
Hey, it’s not my fantasy. Typical girl stuff. Does he always have to bleed out, ladies? Really? So annoying.
I’m happy we never got to play that fantasy out. Because after the breakup, I know I would have been stuck with that couch.