Imagined Friendships I Have With Various Literary Figures
Joan and I meet regularly in restaurants in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and order oysters and iced tea. We sit in silence and avoid making eye contact with each other. She wears large sunglasses and looks intensely into her lap as she cracks each oyster. Occasionally she makes small whimpering noises. We take turns telling sad stories to each other.
Sometimes, while recalling an incident from her upbringing, the soft whimpering noises will grow louder. “What’s wrong, Joan?” I ask her. Tilting her head upward, her voice wavering, she’ll reply, “California.” And I will know exactly what she means.
I met Thomas Pynchon when the guy trolling the “/lit” boards of 4chan impersonating Thomas Pynchon (after several email inquiries and a rapid-fire trivia literary trivia session via gchat to verify his identity) turned out to actually be Thomas Pynchon.
People tend to believe that Thomas is a recluse, and that he has perpetual writer’s block, which explains why the period between his novels is so long. But it’s not true that he isn’t writing, in fact he spends several hours daily writing — just not novels. Over the years, he’s built up a rather substantial following among online Twilight fanfiction communities. He’s contributed countless new complementary narratives to The Twilight Saga, including three additional sequels to the original four, all under the username: “Thomas4TeamEdward”
“I went through a dark phase where I pretty much exclusively reblogged pictures and .gifs of those cuties from One Direction pushing the swoops in their hair up,’” said Tom when explaining why he would “rather not send me his Tumblr URL” one night on gchat.
We have never met in the IRL.
My relationship with Kurt is nothing if not extremely endearing. In exchange for bringing in his paper every morning and cutting his lawn every weekend (he’s still alive, by the way), Kurt lets me sit at the foot of the rocking chair in his living room for an hour every Sunday and ask him questions like, “What do you think about Mitt Romney?” — and sometimes, just sometimes, if I am very lucky, he will shakily stand up from his chair, thrust one clenched fist in the air and shout something declarative with the word “nincompoop” in it.
My relationship with Jack Kerouac alternates between three different interactions that all take place over the course of one night, and usually in this order:
1. Sitting on opposite sides of a room with our backs toward each over, hunched over typewriters, murmuring in hushed voices as we type, standing up periodically to shout things like, “Yes! Oh yes! Brilliant!” and every couple of hours ripping the current page out of the typewriter, tearing it to pieces, then pacing in circles in a candlelit loft, hands covering our faces, sometimes shouting, kicking things in extreme circumstances.
2. Standing up and facing each other to read the poetry/ meandering prose that we spent the last four to five hours writing. We do this simultaneously. Neither can hear what the other is saying, eventually it turns into a sort of contest in which both of us see who can yell our composition the loudest, and/ or recite it with the most dramatic diction and arbitrary stretching and emphasis of certain syllables. Sort of like that one Sh*t Girls Say clip.
3. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder three or four feet apart from each other, with our backs against the same wall, chain smoking in silence and “meditating on the nature of America and art” in the absolute best bodily position one can be in when one wants others to know that he/she is an artist meditating on the nature of America and art while casually chain-smoking: with one leg outstretched and perpendicular to the wall, and the other bent, foot tucked underneath the other thigh, heel at the base of the “crotch region,” slouching down the wall just slightly. Maybe your arm is behind your head.
*This best friendship takes place in the 1950s.
A few months ago, James got his second DUI, which resulted in him getting his license revoked, but he still needed a way to get to his court-appointed sex addiction counseling sessions every week. I contacted him after seeing an ad posted at a local Irish pub that read, “I’ll do my best to tell you what certain indecipherable portions of Ulysses mean if you take a few hours to drive me downtown every Wednesday night to court-appointed sex therapy.”
Every week, when Wednesday night rolls around, he inevitably cancels on me via text message: “Srry Karim. Not rlly @ peace w/ god 2day.” And I’ll text message back, “bruh, let’s go play ultimate Frisbee.” And then we go to a park, and we play ultimate Frisbee with a large group of friends.
*In this friendship fantasy, I am a person who would use the word “bruh” sans-irony, and has a large group of friends who hang out at an Irish pub and play ultimate Frisbee. I am also old enough to be admitted into bars.
Of all my literary friendships, this one is probably, definitively “best” as it’s the only one that’s made it to “matching friendship bracelets” and “we decided to be quirky and funny one day by changing our Facebook relationship statuses to say that we’re in a ‘domestic partnership’ with each other”-levels of best friendship.
Judy’s really nice in that, at any time I can just text her something like, “Hey Judes, I woke up this morning with, like a bazillion pimples and idk if there’s a god!” and she’ll text back, “I know, right? You’ll get through this!”
Lately though, I’ve started to question our friendship. It feels like everything is growing right now. My breasts are growing, and so is the distance between Judy and me.
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