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Picked up my holds at the library… HOW WILL I GET ANY WORK DONE NOW??
I’ve known Emily Gould since we were twelve. In those days, she bore a striking resemblance to the movie version of Hermione Granger. We were only loosely friends at first— she disinvited me from her 7th grade YELLOW SUBMARINE viewing party because her mom said she could only have so many people and Emily had just developed a new crush, meaning that a boy (me) had to be cut from the list. I was only mildly annoyed; I felt that at least she had a good reason.
The summer after that, even though we were only warmish acquaintances, Emily surprised me by calling me on the phone just to chat. I’m pretty sure the reason for this is that she was going down the list of names in the school directory, calling everyone, and I was the first person who picked up. Most people were out of town. We had a long and probably very bitchy conversation and after that we were actual friends.
It was the year Kurt Cobain died, so she wore lots of baby-doll dresses. I was always trying to affect a grunge look, which usually ended up coming off less Evan Dando and more Gay Pigpen.
As a hobby, Emily was making a comprehensive list of all the pop songs in the world that had the word love in the title. This was before the internet, you understand; you couldn’t just Google it. I don’t think she ever made it to the end of the list, but she did get pretty far.
In high school, Emily started a proto-blog called The Notebook. By this point the internet had finally come along but there were definitely no such things as blogs. The Notebook was an actual notebook. The way it worked was that Emily would write down her thoughts and pass it around during class and everyone else would add their comments. Eventually this got us all in big trouble, but in an uncharacteristic act of largesse, the school administration at least let her keep the book. She still has it and it’s always shocking to look at it and see how smart and funny and articulate she was even then, not to mention what idiots the rest of us all were in comparison.
It’s sad that we never took gym together, because gym is where high school really happened. But Emily was very committed to her Artistic Movement class and there was no way I was giving up Trampoline, so that was that. We had most of our other classes together anyway.
She was always trying to find me a boyfriend. When she masterminded a blind date between me and her Hebrew School classmate Dan Fishback, she had to tag along with us to White Flint Mall (which no longer exists) because we didn’t have cars and Dan and I didn’t want to try to explain to our parents where we were going. Emily was our cover.
Later she arranged a match between me and a friend of a friend from swim team. This time we went on a date by ourselves. We took the Metro to see BEAUTIFUL THING at a movie theater in Dupont Circle that no longer exists and then went to Burger King because we were teenage boys and thought Burger King was a great restaurant. Needless to say, this wasn’t much of a love connection. Emily has never had a great feel for the vagaries of homosexual chemistry, but I will always be grateful that she tried.
The first time I got drunk, it was with Emily. Her parents were out of town and she served a beverage she called Long Island Iced Tea. Really it was just vodka and Country Time tea mix. I know it sounds toxic, but I think we were basically just pretending to be drunk.
When Emily found herself embroiled in all sorts of romantic drama a few months before the prom, we resolved to go together. I would have preferred to bring a dude, but the White House travel staffer I was semi-seeing at the time would not have been an appropriate choice. I helped Emily pick out her prom dress at the Betsey Johnson store in Georgetown, which no longer exists. She wrote an article about it for the school newspaper.
On the way to the dance, we got in a huge fight over the issue of where to park. (We had foolishly judged ourselves too cool to take a limousine with the rest of our friends, and so we were in my dad’s Honda Civic.) On top of that controversy, Emily’s love life was still very complicated and she had other boys to think about.
So she ditched me for the last dance in favor of one of her various boyfriends or ex-boyfriends; I can’t remember who exactly. I stood in the corner alone feeling sad. Luckily, another friend was in the bathroom holding a puking girl’s hair and her date— this really hot swimmer named David— was alone too. He asked me to dance. I said no because I was too flustered by the whole situation, which I still regret. Instead, we ended up just standing there watching everyone else and feeling a sense of strange fraternity. It was nice. Emily and I made up later that night.
Emily went to college in Ohio and I went to school in the suburbs of New York, but after a couple years she got bored of the country and transferred to the New School. She shared a tiny apartment in the East Village on the Hell’s Angels block with a performance artist who had also been a middle school classmate and a girl who played pool and loved iceberg lettuce. The apartment was very glamorous and always filled with smoke. Emily and her roommates had a hobby making miniature food out of Sculpey; they briefly got the notion to turn this into a business but all the boutiques to which they tried to sell their wares already had all the doll food they needed.
One night I smoked this really crazy weed and thought I might have to check myself into a mental institution. My roommate at the time, the artist Lee Relvas, cradled me in her arms on a mattress on the floor and fed me pretzels and water until I fell asleep. The next day I was still feeling pretty out of my mind so I took the Metro-North to Emily’s place in the city. She made me lasagna and I finally felt better. That apartment no longer exists; the building was torn down and replaced by a fancy condo.
After college (and a brief stint living with my parents), I moved in with Emily in Greenpoint. I got dumped by my boyfriend of several years and was trying to write my first book and pretty much became a monster. Emily was working her first 9 to 5 job and wasn’t at her best either. The highlight of this period is that I taught Emily how to blog. But there wasn’t much for her to learn— The Notebook had been good preparation— and she quickly surpassed me in this department.
There were some other nice moments in the year or so when we were living together, many of which Emily covered in her collection of essays, AND THE HEART SAYS WHATEVER. But overall the whole thing was sort of a disaster and it was extremely kind of her to leave the most damning stories of my bad behavior and our huge fights out of the book.
I moved out and we didn’t really speak to each other for a long time, but it didn’t last. Years later, when I broke up with yet another boyfriend and had no apartment, no money and no prospects, Emily let me crash with her in her new place for weeks at a time. I was miserable, but the apartment was sunny, plus I got to hang out with Raffles, her cat who had also once been mine.
That summer her family took me along to the beach with them. Emily’s parents gave me relationship advice. Her father seemed concerned when I confessed that I’d gotten into a phase of listening to Astral Weeks on repeat while I sobbed every night. I was having a hard time finishing the novel I was working on, which would become SEPTEMBER GIRLS, but I got huge chunks of it done on that vacation, sitting on the balcony next to Emily as she wrote her own book. The next year I went on another vacation with the Goulds and wrote some more. Eventually I was done.
Emily’s first novel, FRIENDSHIP, will be published next year by FSG. She also co-owns the feminist e-bookstore EMILY BOOKS. (You should become a subscriber.) September Girls comes out next week. Emily and I will be talking about it at McNally Jackson on Tuesday, May 28th. I’m hoping she’ll read a little from Friendship too, even though it won’t be out for awhile.
I feel incredibly lucky that I get to do this with someone I’ve known and loved for so long and that we’ve both (sort of) accomplished what we set out to. I left a lot of things out of this.
I probably should have put this part at the top, considering it was originally the point:
Tuesday, May 28th, 7pm
McNally Jackson 52 Prince Street, NYC
I really hope you come.
I arrived back in L.A. at night. John picked me up and took me to dinner at an all-hours place with boiling dark air. He looked angry. He kept telling me I had to learn to drive if I expected L.A, to work out for me. I drank too much and took him back to my place. Maybe I felt like I owed him. Maybe I liked him. Maybe the demon whispered, Do it with him! In any case, it didn’t work out. He kissed me too hard and touched me with violent shyness. We rolled awkwardly on my sectional couch; it came apart and almost dumped us on the floor.
“You’re so beautiful,” he blurted.
“I’m not beautiful,” I blurted back. “I’m ugly.”
He reared away frowning. He was taking it as an insult, and with reason. But it would not be taken back. “You’re beautiful,” he said angrily.
“No I’m not. I’m ugly.”
He slapped me. I fell off the couch. He sat on the edge of it and held my shoulders. I could see in his eyes that his heart was pounding. “Stop saying that!” he said intensely.
“No! I’m ugly, ugly!” My voice was ugly.
He slapped me again. I tried to stop him. He held my wrists. Now we were really in it. The room was buzzing with the energy of it. “Tell me you’re beautiful!” he said, coldly now. I wouldn’t. “You’re beautiful,” he said and slapped me again.
“John, please stop.”
“Say you’re beautiful.”
But I couldn’t get the words out. He slapped me until my ears sang. finally, to stop the hitting, I said what he wanted to hear. He let go of me and sat back as if deflated.
“Don’t you see?” My voice broke. I was nearly crying. “Don’t you see how ugly I am?”
“No” he said quietly “I don’t.” He crossed his legs and looked away.
I asked if he wanted a drink. He said no, that was okay. He said he was going to go but that he could tuck me in if I wanted, I said no, that was okay. I saw him to the door; we kissed quickly on the lips.
We didn’t see each other for a few weeks. Then I called him and asked him to drive me to a job, and things went back to normal. except I didn’t see anger in his eyes for a long time. I saw sadness.
-“Veronica” (via sometimesgardening)
Mary Gaitskill. She’s everything (to me).
Tereza Zelenkova, 2012
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