Monday, May 28, 2012
A story to read
There were so many excellent writers this time around, it was truly difficult to turn submissions down, but had to due to page constraints. Here's a great one by Mark Lerer you will be seeing in WNHP10. I had to ask if it was a true story. I don't usually post whole stories on this blog but here it is.
Jeff O'Donnell sat at the computer in his bedroom while his girlfriend Meagan lay on the rug flipping through old issues of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, and shouted, "Oh my god! Didn't you used to go out with a girl named Alexa Booth? Look at this! She's listed in the masthead of this magazine! That's got to be the same woman. How many Alexa Booths could there be?"
Jeff frowned. He felt the pangs of jealousy and heartache every guy feels when he finds out an old flame is leading a better life than he is.
Alexa Booth was probably the most beautiful woman he'd ever known. They'd gone out for six years, and it was magic. For instance, one time Jeff mentioned that he always liked caramel apples, and so Alexa made a rare foray into a kitchen to hand-dip a batch for him. His eyes widened when she gave them to him. "I can't believe you did this all for me! I'm so touched!" he said. She replied, "Well, you love them, and I love you!" They ate them all up, went upstairs, and humped madly.
She always appreciated how well Jeff could hail a cab. They would climb into the back seat, look in each other's eyes and she would always admiringly announce "I need you to come with me wherever I travel!" They gave each other beautiful gifts. He gave her some exquisite jewelry. She met his family. He helped her kid brother study for his SATs, in gratitude for which Alexa and her parents got him a Burberry raincoat for his birthday.
Then "The Day" came. Jeff was walking across a street when he saw Alexa walking her arm in arm with a tall, handsome guy in a very expensive suit. She was wearing a leather cap and silk scarf. She and this man grabbed eachother's asses and kissed--a long, passionate, and powerful kiss, with lots of tongue--right there on the streetcorner. Jeff's heart sank. Pow. The fact that she then waved and called out "Hi, Jeff!" in a friendly tone didn't do anything. He kept walking. "Jeff? Hello?" She shrugged her shoulders, but he just walked away.
Two days later, he got a message on his phone machine. "Hi, Jeff. It's Alexa. Are you upset with me? Hello? Call me." Awww, he thought, she wants to remain friends. Fuck 'er. Six weeks later, he read her wedding announcement in the New York Times. Boom. Agony. He never really got over it.
But anyway that was a million years ago, and now Meagan was jumping up and down and shouting at him.
"You've got to find her on Facebook! This is amazing! I have to meet this woman!"
"Meg, that was over years ago! I have a you now, remember?" and he kissed her on the top of her head. "Plus, it's kind of creepy to call someone you went out with, what, fifteen years ago? More? And, anyway, what do I say to her? She's married by now."
"No no, no. It's not like calling an old girlfriend on the phone, like, "Hi, we used to go out, are you still available?" That's creepy, and pathetic," Meg explained. "But it's cool on Facebook! Everybody does it. You know, just looking up old friends. You can tell her you have a girlfriend, and you could even start out by saying, 'Hey, I bet you have a family by now!' and stuff like that."
Meagan could only wear him down with arguing so much. Then she played her trump card. "There's a blowjob in it for you." By God, this girl knew her boyfriend's weakness.
Meagan undertook the three-day task of carefully writing the initial Facebook post. She worked extremely hard trying to make Jeff sound curious but also confident, secure in his current life, but not without a brief, whimsical reference to the old times he and Alexa shared.
Every three or four drafts, Meagan would give what she'd written to Jeff to edit. He would tear it to shreds. They'd argue. She came close to tears some times. He was insistent that it not sound like he was still in love with Alexa. She insisted it sound that they were still great friends.
The finished Facebook post read: "Saw your name in Vogue! Every time I see caramel apples, it reminds me of the great times we had so long ago. I still wear the Burberry raincoat, and it still looks great. Anyway, my girlfriend is dying to meet you! I'll bet you've got some beautiful kids by now. Let's all have dinner!"
Four days later, Jeff and Meg were sitting at the bar of a very nice restaurant. Jeff wore the Burberry raincoat. He didn't want to, but Meg insisted. It barely fit, and. Jeff thought to himself, "I look like an idiot wearing this thing, and I'm about to meet the most beautful girl I've ever known, who works for Vogue magazine." He steeled himself for more heartache and jealousy,
Alexa walked in with her husband. Jeff called out to her, "Alexa?"
She'd put on some thirty-five pounds!
The dashing and beautiful woman who so beguiled him many years ago was now fat! Nicely dressed, but fat nonetheless. Sexual attraction was no longer an issue. Greatly relieved, Jeff introduced himself and Meg to Alexa and her husband Walter, and they sat down.
"I loved your Facebook post so much!" Alexa offered.
"We wrote it together. I love Facebook."
"I love Facebook, too."
"I know, Facebook is awesome."
Meagan chimed in with the reason they were all there. "So, Alexa, I was so impressed when I saw your name on the masthead of Vogue!"
Everyone relaxed a little as Alexa started to tell the story of how she got that job. One thing that hadn't changed about her was her uncanny ability to carry on conversations and tell a good story. She always knew the right thing to say, and with the perfect tone of voice. She knew which cliches to use, and when. Even among strangers! Meagan and she seemed to like each other from the beginning.
"I love what you're wearing!"
With the girls safely ensconced in delighful conversation, and the threat of uncomfortable topics vanished, Jeff smiled and turned to Walter and said, "So, Walter, what do you do?"
Walter had been a stockbroker, but "gave it up." He opened a bottle of wine. Jeff was amazed how smoothly everything was going. Not only was Alexa no longer a sexual temptation, but he also found Walter to be really irreverant and entertaining.
"I could only stomach Wall Street so far," Walter said after gulping a glass of wine. "Those goddamn fucking sons of bitches. Now I'm in computer sales." The entrees were served. "They're also a batch of vindictive little cocksuckers, but not like those fucking whores on Wall Street. Goddamn little shits. Couldn't stand it." Jeff found this all genuinely entertaining, and Walter's vulgar language made him laugh out loud.
After two hours it seemed that only minutes had passed. Each of the foursome had changed seats several times as they took turns talking to each other about all sorts of subjects.
They finished their entrees, all declined desserts, coffee came, Jeff and Walter split the check, and it looked like the whole episode would end beautifully. Jeff couldn't believe how well it went, and indeed, started to think that he and Meagan might have this couple as their new friends.
He turned to Meg when Alexa and Walter went to the rest rooms. "Meg, I was so against this. But I think we're all having a lovely time. I have to thank you. I love you so much."
"And don't forget that blowjob you're getting later on!" She winked.
When Alexa and Walter came back to the table. Jeff said, "You know, there's a beach weekend package we read about in the travel section of the Times where Meg and I have wanted to go, but it's for a minimum of four people. Would you two be interested in joining us one weekend?"
"Where, the Oceanside Club?" Alexa asked and Jeff nodded. "Walter and I are life members there! Anytime! Sure! We can even drive us all out there! It's a breathtakingly beautiful ride, and that way you'd avoid that awful train trip. We've been dying to have people over to our cabana for the longest time."
"Ok, we'll finalize the details on Facebook!"
Once their coats were on and they were out the door of the restaurant, Jeff turned to Alexa in a quiet voice and said "You know, I was initially hesitant to get together like this. But Meg insisted, and I have to say I had a lovely time. It's been wonderful seeing you again. I mean that."
"Well, I think Meg is terriffic, and you two have got a great relationship going. We're going to have so much fun at the beach."
His heart full, Jeff gave Meg a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He smiled, raised his hand, and within seconds hailed a cab to take their dinner companions home.
Alexa said "Hey, that was fast! I'm so terrible at hailing cabs. I used to have a boyfriend who could always get a cab in like, two minutes. I was so impressed."
Jeff replied, "That was me."
"Jeff Miller, from high school?"
"No, Alexa. I'm Jeff O'Donnell. You and your family bought me this raincoat."
She slapped the side of her head. "Oh, Jeff O'DONNELL!!" Alexa Booth exclaimed. "NOW I remember you!"
at 9:01 AM