I hate when cab drivers ask me if I want to take the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s like, “No man, I want to kill myself, but on the Triborough.” Anyway, I get Tindr. I get a match. I write, “I’m looking at a plant.” He writes, “You’re staring at plants nice.” I delete Tindr. Had I known I was only going to be proposed to once, I would not have responded, “What about your girlfriend?”
Phillipa asks me how can I let bald men go down on me. She thinks women want to look down between their legs and know, This is my lover or This is my newborn child. Oh god but then I know a woman who calls herself “a lover for the left.”
I tell Phillipa I’m going to marry Asad because I feel safe and smart around him. “That’s because he has a car,” she says. “I felt safe around a man once. Or I wanted a ride home. You see what I mean?” I do, I do.
I go to Lucien for a dinner. A man describes me as “depressed and alternative” and his girlfriend as “popular.” (Last month, I systematically emailed all his best friends to say I was “obsessed” with him.) I’m still waiting for a man to describe any woman as “deeply sane.”
I ask my ex-boyfriend, on gchat, if he’ll marry me. “You care too much about what I think,” he says. A week later he sends me an email for Thanksgiving: “Avoiding turkey because I don’t like it.”
My ex-boyfriend’s best friend emails to say I can pick up the clothes I’ve left at his apartment while he was out of town. I thank him for not throwing them out. He says, “Stop being crazy. I’m going out for Oreos.” I look through my emails from two years prior, and sure enough I have one from my ex-boyfriend that says, “You are crazy. I’m going out for some Oreos.”
I tell the Oreo story to my winter boyfriend and he says, “Sounds like they like Oreos.”
My ex-boyfriend’s best friend says I have to move out of his apartment again because he’s coming back early from Europe. Two days later, he emails, “What a feminist vibe this place has now!” This time I broke the toilet seat, threw out the rugs, left them to get waterlogged in the backyard, and lost his first edition of Leonard Michaels. (Sorry, his “signed first edition of Leonard Michaels’s short stories.”) I think of him as a kind person. He says, “You can stay for a bit if your only other option is homelessness/turning tricks.” Then he says, “But I know you’re a girl with options.”
So I keep telling myself to myself.
I move back to Manhattan—unfashionably east—into an old editor of mine’s empty apartment downtown. I let Phillipa have the spare bedroom. In exchange for rent, she paints an eight-by-five-foot portrait of me sprawling nude on the editor’s grandparents’ lounge chair. In bright, looping yellow letters she writes, “Life is SO easy!!!!”
In December, Phillipa decides she wants to take the painting back to London. Rent is a pair of cashmere sweatpants. “Wish I was with you,” she texts, “but I just puked in the Aegean on some blue fish instead and a bit on the yacht and a bit on my foot.”
I’m at Blue Ribbon with Haluk watching a young girl eating with a real suit. “Do you know what fondue is?” the suit asks. She doesn’t. “You’ve been in New York an hour and see what you’ve learned!” He beams.
Haluk gets bored, pays the check, and leaves me alone in the restaurant to wait for the food. I call my winter boyfriend and invite him to come eat a hanger steak. Whenever he meets anyone I know he says, “You know a lot of . . . characters.” Whenever I introduce him, I say, “This is my winter boyfriend . . . He’s very political.”
I’m waiting outside the Gilded Lily. “Everybody in but the suit,” says the doorman. “Buddy,” he says as we file in. “Hey buddy! You’re the suit.”
I call Phillipa and ask if Haluk is famous. “He’s the Andy Warhol of Turkey,” she says, “which is a lot like being the Jeff Koons of Libya.” He hasn’t made any art since 2008. Underemployed, I walk to TriBeCa in the afternoons and we do facemasks with his maid.
Haluk calls to say that the healer his “Skype psychic” recommended came over and helped him levitate in his living room. Afterwards, she watched him eat a red apple. Next time, she says, she will bring him a pear. Apparently this constitutes a graduated program. How does he feel, I ask. “Well,” he says, “I’ve started wearing gloves.” I honestly can’t say which of us is living beyond our emotional means.
I’m sitting in my new friend’s room at her grandparents’ house overlooking Washington Square Park. She writes poems; I ask her why she’s feeling underappreciated. She takes a pill, and says, quite seriously, “You know there’s this feeling in New York that, like, I’m just going to be an insider secret.” I don’t think that, I say. “Yes! Yes, you do think that,” she says evenly. “You think I’m going to be a person that only people in the know know.”
“Sometimes I feel like an art handler,” Rachel says, of other people. “You know, a little to the left. Better.”
At Lucien, a man sitting next to me asks, “So do you work?” and I’m really touched, having spent so long shaping my personality in such a way as to induce this question. He buys me another round.
I ask my ex-boyfriend to explain why people don’t like me. “Well, Kaitlin’s gonna be Kaitlin. I can’t regulate you, honey.” His new girlfriend is trying to big-sister me, but I think she fetishizes being a millennial mentor. He says he should probably tell her, “One thing about Kaitlin is that if you scold her, she’ll avoid you.” But then he says there’s no point in telling anybody anything. Anyway, I am the most heavily mentored girl on the Lower East Side.
There are two kinds of people in New York: those who think everything is free, and everyone else. And an entire class of people who feel the need to say, to me, quite often, “Kaitlin, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Yeah and I got my personality from a book.
I get drunk and fall down at a house party in Crown Heights and the first thing someone says is, “Kaitlin, do you need to sit down?” as if I hadn’t just . . . done that. I get off the floor and go to the Brooklyn Inn with Phillipa. My ex-boyfriend’s best friend’s editor buys my drinks. “I think you could be special,” he says. “Not without practice,” his friend, an unemployed person, says.
At a birthday, I introduce him as my ex-boyfriend’s best friend’s editor and he says, “You know, I’m more than just his editor.” And the woman next to him says, “Yeah, I mean, he went to Princeton.”
For the New Year, I decide to think Writing is hard. Now, when a piece comes out, I say, “I bet that was hard for them.” I am a lot happier.
My ex-boyfriend’s best friend emails to say, of my first book review, “Liked your piece. Just the right balance of shat and chat.” I review another. He emails to say, “Let no one accuse you of being an uncharitable reader!!!!” I forward his email to my ex-boyfriend and say, “Discouraging women from being charming is a misogynist plot!!!!” But he says, “Honey, don’t conflate ‘charity’ with ‘charm.’ And don’t think of yourself as a woman, think of yourself as a book critic.” I stop writing book reviews, and start thinking of myself as a woman!
I try the “I’m just a woman in control of my whole entire thing” on my psychiatrist. He says, “No, you’re twenty-two minutes late.”
I publish my diary. An agent writes to say I “nailed it.” I wonder if he remembers writing of me—aged 21, then dating the ex-boyfriend—in an email chain: “To her credit, Young Kaitlin neatly sidesteps having to reciprocate the feelings of the grasping, maudlin old man.”
Last summer, a woman who doesn’t bother mentoring millennials took me to dinner just to warn me that I ought to start playing by the rules. What I mean to say is there are two types of writers in New York: those who believe in discretion and those who believe in, above all else, the well-forwarded email. For example, the man who forwarded me the above email chain for my 24th birthday.
“Put everything in writing,” as my father says. “Or, don’t put anything in writing.”
When I was little, he would rewind White Christmas. “Do you see that, Kaitlin?! That’s the correct way to use a soupspoon. Spoon the soup away from you. Away from you!”