Nina is a TA now because she is moving up in the world and she is sleeping with the professor for whom she is a TA. She says this is affective labor. Nina wants me to sleep with her boyfriend because if her boyfriend is sleeping with me he will be less worried about Nina sleeping with the professor. “Jealousy is the most bourgeois emotion,” Nina says. Nina’s boyfriend is cute but...
How I met Nina was in this writing class at the community college that had a lot of christian girls in it. I didn’t know they were christians at first; they looked sort of punk. Bleached hair and safety pins in their ears. Those leather bracelets with pyramid studs you could buy at the mall. They all lived in a house together up near the university and they invited me, once, to a keg at...
That summer I lived with a hippie girl named Annie and this other girl Natalie, who was at that time the most famous lesbian of Bellingham. It’s a small town. Me and Annie were subletting rooms in Natalie’s house for the summer; I knew Annie from the restaurant we both worked at, where she waited tables and I washed dishes. Natalie was the kind of lesbian who collects fifties kitsch...
a Nina story
I lost two hours once, taking the bus to Nina’s. When I came to I was talking to the driver and the landscape out the windows was field after field of corn and cabbage and other things I didn’t recognize, and I didn’t know the words coming out of my own mouth. “I didn’t,” I said, and stopped, and started again. “I think I forgot to get off at my...
What I remember is the light in her apartment and her car, that big old station wagon redolent of cigarette smoke, vinyl upholstery peeling and a hole all the way through the floorboards on the passenger side, and that she’d pour me whiskey in a coffee cup almost to the brim and I’d say “Too much, too much” and she’d say “Don’t let me think you’re a...
to be hopeful in bad times
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so...
I have been sober for five days and sixteen hours and the tank is almost empty and my daughter stopped talking to me forty miles ago, staring out the passenger window with her one good eye. Tomorrow is her thirteenth birthday. My veins are empty and creaking with want. The last shelter was Christian and staffed with withered ghosts who pursed their lips and whispered us into chapel with all the...