By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Illustration by Bob AulTen years ago, someone called me a snob. I set out to prove them wrong. I answered a personal ad in a local paper (this was before the Internet) and agreed to meet "Caroline." I drove to Monrovia and sat in a Starbucks. She, with a head full of silver curls ŗ la Arlo Guthrie, exited her VW bus, which was painted, by her hand, into a giant wave. She told me she lived in a basement and was an artist. She was older than she had told me she was. I reminded myself I was not a snob. We went to a cigar shop. She tap-danced in the humidor and sang to the other patrons. I asked her to stop. She replied, "If you don't like it, you can walk 'em." I reminded myself I was not a snob. We hiked to the top of a hill. She told me she was bipolar and kissed me. She came over the next day. She watched me read my novel for my literature class and talked to me about her sexual relationship with her landlord—sex for rent—and how it didn't mean anything. She jumped on top of me. She licked my face. A lot. I asked her not to. She told me I was sexually repressed. I sneezed and stifled it. She told me I had sexual issues. She called her mom and told her I wore lipstick and that she had, indeed, taken her medication that day. She cried that she was alone. I invited her to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' the next day. We got into my car. She told me she had a fear of driving fast, so we couldn't go over 45 on the freeway—all the way to Riverside. I turned on KROQ. She told me beat music made her "agitated." I put on the Wave. All the way to Riverside. She told me that if, while we were driving, she screamed and told me to pull over, I had to do it immediately and ask no questions. We arrived at my mother's house. I went to the bar. She talked to my parents' friends. She told them they were assholes. I told her I had a headache. She offered me one of her pills. I took it. While she learned to shoot a rifle in the back yard, I sat in front of TV karaoke and sang, all by myself, a Jewel song. We left the dinner. I was tanked. We drove down a back road in the hills. It was pitch-black. She shrieked, "You love your mother more than you love me!" I said that was true. She threatened to jump out of the car. I sped up. She spent the night. In the morning, I pushed her out the front door of my apartment—twice. She screamed and cried from the courtyard. She got in her wave and drove to a pay phone. She called me 25 times, cursing me and telling me her psychic said we were meant to be. I packed a bag. I sneaked down the alley of my apartment. I drove to my mother's and stayed the weekend. I was not a snob—I was sane. (Stacy Davies)
* * *
One night, driving back from a screening of Eraserhead, she said she'd never met anyone like me. Told me that we ought to live together forever. Back on campus at USC, I rushed my roommate off with $10 for beer. She undressed in ambient light filtering into the dorm room from a tennis court just outside. She pressed herself against me. Years later, I can still remember the onrushing euphoria—the breathlessness, the vague sense that I was on the verge of uniting with a formerly lost part of myself, of overcoming the very human sense of what Durkheim called anomie. Yes, I was squeezing her bare ass.
She laid down on my bed.
And then I did it. I told her that I wanted the relationship to last, so I was prepared to put off having sex. I'd like to say that I said this from a place of perfect self-discipline—as if to say that I wasn't in this for the fucking. In fact, I can now see from the lofty promontory of years that that is only part of the truth. I was gambling, you see, betting literally on the come, betting that she would be honored by my restraint; I was staking this organic moment of hot sex on the possibility that sex delayed would yield me a bumper crop of amazing hot sex later.
I bet wrong. She dressed. The night wound down. She left. The next morning, she failed to show for a planned beach outing. I called, but she didn't answer. Days passed. I wanted to jump from my dorm window—actually stood out on the ledge and considered the death mathematics that would take me arcing from the building, across a sidewalk and into the courtyard of the cinema department. I climbed to the top of the dorm late at night and told God in a moment of supreme irony that I was now officially an atheist.