In Which We Become A Completely Non-Threatening Friend

Like Me Back

by HAFSA ARAIN

In Pakistan, they don’t let girls make mistakes. We are kept from any type of wrongdoing – for if we do wrong, then we shall never be married. It is almost a sin to be an unmarried female adult. In many ways, my insistence on being alone has been a reaction to that injustice. I am alone in order to prove my independence to the world. I had those thoughts on many occasions: signing apartment leases or job offers, completing college admission packets and receiving fellowships. Girls like me didn’t use to do these things! I thought with a sort of desperation. I am a trailblazer! I had those thoughts when I moved out of my parents’ home at 18, when I traveled the world at 19, at 21, at 22, at 23. I am a trailblazer.

Somewhere along the line, it came to be that this was not enough. Being alone was not enough. Even for just one gloriously short time in your life, you need someone who has loved you and who you have loved. They try to tell you this in movies, and you scoff at it. And then it hits you: they say this in movies, because it is true.

I have been alone always. I have never been attached to someone; I have never been part of a couple. A boy in high school once asked me out, and I refused, citing my religion as an impetus for singlehood. Boys in high school never asked me out, for they never noticed me. And beyond this being a point of pain for me, it was a type of twisted success. I attempted to be as invisible a teenager as I could be – standing out was asking for trouble. Being single was part of blending into the grey, blank walls. I stood by my locker when he asked me. He was nervous and jittery. I responded with broken sentences. Getting asked almost felt like a series of increasing pressures. I would not have known what to wear, what to say, how to act around him. Saying no was a relief. But for some reason, I cried on the way home on the bus.

In college, I asked a boy out once, though I was never fully sure why I did it. I knew he wouldn’t like me as I liked him. He was nice to me, so we went out for tea one time. But he had no intention of carrying on. It was as though I asked him out as a dare to myself, something with which I could test my own courage. It was an experiment in how American I could be: how much I could resemble the other girls in my classes. They had all had pasts; they had all had baggage. (“I just have all this baggage,” they would say, “you know, from past relationships.” Or, “I just find it so hard to trust someone again after what he did while I was studying abroad.”)

It was easier for them, I used to think. Their parents didn’t mind that they dated people, with some parents even encouraging it. My parents were afraid of dating, they were afraid of the whole concept of “the opposite sex.” My parents were not American – they were and are the opposite of American. They were afraid of us being American, because if we were American then they wouldn’t understand us anymore. If we were American, then we were lost to them.

I disregarded the pain of having lost love (a common story among women my age), because I have never been in the position to fall in love in the first place. I had crushes on boys, a solidly unpleasant state when the feelings are unrequited. Though however unnatural the crush feels in the moment, it is probably the most natural feeling in the world.

I chose not to think of the question: who would I have to be for them to like me back? The image of the American woman is so different from the image I project. I am not white; I am not thin. I do not drink alcohol, and I cannot pull off a pencil skirt. I have never been able to relate to any women I have seen on television, in magazines, or even read about in books. Absolutely none of those women were Muslim women, and very, very few were South Asian. Women like me were never part of anyone’s consciousness – it is almost as though no one had ever even considered us.

That, and the fact that I am a woman’s woman. For as long as I can remember, women have found me to be a wonderful and completely non-threatening friend. In junior high, a girl named Sarah told me I had been a “girl crush” of hers for a long time. Everyone wanted to be my friend: for me to read them my lousy poetry in high school, to nod along with my radical thoughts in college, to hear me gripe about my life in my early twenties. Being a side character in someone else’s story became my comfort zone. When we hung out, I was the friend with whom they could always share the cab ride home. Women almost counted on me never having a boyfriend, never wearing a sexier outfit than them when going out, never being flirtatious with their beaux.

So many women, and thusly, men, have reduced me to being completely non-sexual; I am good for homo-social relationships only. I find it so hard to blame them for that assumption. Muslim women are seldom seen as anything other than oppressed. My friendships have become strained on the issue of my singleness: women will sympathetically extoll my virtues in an effort to prove me wrong. “You’ll see,” they’ll say, “There’s someone out there for everyone.” To me, that only sounds naïve.

I have to face the truth: I might never be with someone. I might never have a boyfriend, and I might never get married. I have never met a man who wanted to be with me. I am alone. I have to learn to be okay with being alone – no, with being single. Loneliness is okay once in a while, but being single is never okay. Because being single is not a value you have, but the net worth you own. And my net worth is only myself. No one has ever seen me as sexy: only as a capable, good-humored and worthwhile friend. In the end, I will add it onto my list of failures: I did not get into that Ivy League school I applied to, I did not write that book I meant to write, and I did not find someone to love me back. Not even for just a little while.

Hafsa Arain is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in California. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Paintings by Gertrude Abercrombie.

“Ruckus in B Minor” – Wu-Tang Clan (mp3)

“Felt” – Wu-Tang Clan (mp3)

In Which Katherine Heigl Totally Redeems Herself

Shonda’s Necklace

by DICK CHENEY

State of Affairs
creator Joe Carnahan

“Can we get dinner this week?” a young man Katherine Heigl has used for sex suggests from her bed. “I’ll call you,” she patters back. “But you don’t have my number,” he protests as she walks out the door. We flash back to their time together: Katherine drags him into an alleyway, and chooses to face the wall as they have wintercourse. She does this so she can pretend he is her now-deceased fiancee:

He enjoyed making love to her from behind almost as much as the rando she brought home did.

The sorrow patterning the man in bed’s face now looks like an emoji. Katherine’s apartment is so bizarrely lavish for a civil servant that it more resembles the bedroom of the Ayatollah.

Look away, look away, look away… (It’s a Being John Mallkovich reference. OK ttyl)

Later that day, on NBC’s new Homeland tribute/parody State of Affairs, Katherine – who goes by the name Charleston, presumably after the chew – flirts with a fellow CIA analyst. She’s moved on, clearly. Watching her totter around the Oval Office, looking like a piece of gluten, it’s hard to feel sympathy. That is until we discover her dead husband was also THE PRESIDENT’S SON.

In a nod to Mrs. Doubtfire, Heigl also portrays her own therapist.

For some reason, even though she is merely an analyst, Charlie commands shock troops targeting suspected terrorists overseas. These troops call her at the most inconvenient times – when she’s at the gym, when she is taking it from behind in an alley, when she is having extended Benghazi-esque flashbacks to the perishing of the man she loved. Heigl gets this screwed up look on her face, like, “You’re calling me about this now?!”

Bret Easton Ellis should look into a lawsuit, I’m pretty sure this exact scene was in ‘Less Than Zero’

In almost every single review he wrote, Roger Ebert would grandiously quote Truffaut’s maxim that all war movies end up making war look like fun. This is completely stupid; almost no war movie even did this. Truffaut was an idiot, did you see his later films? I might possible be confusing him with Godard; ever since my quadruple bypass my knowledge of the French New Wave is  tad shaky. If I wanted to watch the work of a communist, I’d go see Interstellar.

Shonda Rimes trembles with anger every time a male showrunner puts a woman in a pearl necklace. My source is Nikki Finke.

Movies about the intelligence community all seem tremendously boring actually. It’s funny to watch State of Affairs momentarily cut to an action scene like they are apologizing for taking us away from the central, important drama of whether or not Heigl is getting along with her therapist this afternoon. “Good doesn’t have to come, I do,” she tells her shrink, explaining why she was so willing to do it doggystyle while outdoors.

This show badly needed David Cross as her love interest

Art imitates life I’m pretty sure – wasn’t that mentioned in the video where Ariana Grande was wearing those svelte boots? Obama’s political innovation, besides adding an uh to every sentence imaginable, is making what used to be captivating, boring. Chris Matthews used to tremble with excitement each time President Clinton made potty; now the Secretary of Defense gets exiled to Antarctica because he criticized the school lunch program and accidentally revealed he didn’t know the capital of Uzbekistan, and the collective reaction was, “Gee, Katherine really has lost weight!”

We live in profoundly unserious times. Pauly Shore has a new show where he portrays the British Prime Minister, and it’s not a comedy.

Alfre Woodard was cast as the president of the United States and the mother of Heigl’s dead fiancee. You could be forgiven for thinking this sounds like either a fascinating story in itself, or a chance to take subtle shots at Shonda Rimes. Neither occurs, no one even tiptoes around Heigl even though the president is basically her mother-in-law. For fuck’s sake her own boss at the CIA orders her detained. (He is fired and, predictably, an actor from Lost takes his place.)

Next time, I hope they cast her as a killer-for-hire/wedding planner.

Heigl has no friends, just work acquaintances and casual fucks. Bobbing around from sit down to sit up, she sort of comes across like a buoy on a windy day. No one catches her, challenges her or even touches her other than with their penis or a folder of documents. Everything is exactly as it should be.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. Have a great holiday with your family and friends. Make us feel like we destroyed an indigenous people for a reason.

“Some Kinda Angel” – Owen (mp3)

“Girl In A Box” – Owen (mp3)

In Which We Consider This Problematic To Discuss With You

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,
 

My boyfriend recently updated his iPhone, and a lot of his settings were reset in the process. One of these settings is the ‘Read Receipt’ option for text messages. Now I can see when he has read my text messages and how quickly he responds after he receives the emojis in question.

This is driving me completely crazy. Why does he sometimes wait an hour to respond to a simple question – for example, “Did you pick up the tickets?” What is the purpose of making me wait to find out the answer? Is it unethical for me to be profiting/suffering from this information without telling him?

Daisy L.

Dear Daisy,

First of all, your boyfriend is eventually going to figure out that he committed this magnificent technology faux pas. When it does, you want to be prepared with a semi-plausible answer, such as, “Oh, everyone has their read receipt on! Who cares when you answer a text?” If he buys this, you are well within your rights to judge him for being a moron. If he doesn’t, move on to the next most useful excuse: “What? You had read receipt on? I thought only people over 50 didn’t turn it off? Idiot.”

Secondly, it is probably best not to inform him that you have secretly been seething about this since iOS 8. There’s a bunch of reasons he doesn’t respond in a timely fashion.

1. He doesn’t care enough.

2. He’s with another woman, probably an NYU grad named Cheyenne.

3. He’s fumbling with all the Christmas gifts he’s purchased for you and your mom and he can’t reach his phone.

4. Since he doesn’t know how to use read receipt, he probably is afraid of using his iPhone lest he accidentally dick pic a family member.

5. You’re overwhelming him with your neediness.

These possibilities have one thing in common: you should pick a more tech-savvy partner next time.

Hi,

My friend Judy Liederschmidt recently split up with her boyfriend of five years. They went around the world together and took lots of photos in exotic places, such as Bali, the Alps, Papua. New Guinea and Mindy Kaling’s birthplace.

These photos are very prominently displayed in the home they used to share, and everytime I go to see Judy Liederschmidt, who is not dealing with this situation all that well, I feel like her ex is staring a hole in my gullet. He cheated on her and it doesn’t seem healthy for her to be reminded of it at all times.

How can I broach this subject with her and what do I say?

Frederick R.

Dear Frederick,

You have a few options, each with its own drawbacks.

The first of these strategeries involves heavily complimenting her appearance in a way that conveys the idea that these photos are an outdated, disgusting version of her and she requires new snaps to convey the current state of her gorgeous repose.

Failing that, find a friend who is purportedly single and bring him over to her house. She will probably hide the photos before the young man’s arrival, but they may reappear upon the suitor’s departure.

At this point, it would be time for full measures. Has she read John Berger’s Ways of Seeing?

JK, although someone once gave us that book and said it changed his life.

No, instead you have to pretend it is you who has a problem letting go of someone. Be casually having a thing where you throw romantic letters and trinkets into a fire for some reason — it doesn’t have to be the possessions of a love interest, it can be anyone in your life. Heck, it could even be Judy Liederschmidt if she doesn’t straighten her fucking shit out.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

“Are You The Matador?” – Black Whales (mp3)

“Red Fantastic” – Black Whales (mp3)

In Which It Calls For A Different Type Of Drink

A House I Would Like To Live In

by NATHAN JOLLY

Past the long, dipped driveway, proud hedges block the neighbours out, while a bent basketball hoop guards those big, barn-style doors you pressed me against the night I knew I loved you in a different, more permanent way than I had loved before. The inside of that garage is still as messy as it was that night, but at least now it’s an ordered mess – we know which box the CDs are in, and that the remote control boat we’ve only used once is in the clear blue plastic box under the piles of blankets we push against the inside of the barn doors when the rain begins sprinting down our driveway.

We know exactly how sharply that driveway slopes because we adjust for this with our bounce passes, and you sprained your ankle that night after the drunken RSL raffle where we won the meat-tray and hosted a second raffle to offload, buying twelve dollars worth of chocolate with the proceedings. Our daughters know how the driveway goes too, because they sit on skateboards with their laces tucked into the sides of their shoes, and slide down those same slopes until they crash into the barn doors.

You’re on a computer near the front of the house, annoyed and late for some deadline your boss secretly set two days early to allow for your hopeless internal clock, and the girls pretend they can’t hear you yelling at them to go out into the cul-de-sac and stop hurting the poor barn door. The girls laughed the first time you ever said that to them, because you showed them how it looks like a sad face with droopy eyes and a mopey handle-mouth and now every basketball dint is either a cute dimple or a gross pimple depending on which daughter describes it first – Barney is now a character that the girls wave goodbye to when we drive 90 minutes up the coast to stay at your uncle’s beach house, which is in a nice enough area to deal with the handful of self-congratulatory references he makes to his own generosity each Christmas when we see him: “It’s a good life down there, isn’t it mate?”

It is making him money just by standing there, he tells us. It is his reminder of where he’d rather be. He bought it with the life that won’t allow him to visit. You started sending him postcards each time we were down there, because you realised he just wanted reassurance that it was a good idea to buy a fibro-cement house on the beach a little too late for a little too much, and that it is waiting for him to return, yet keeping busy entertaining visitors. “Anyway”, you asked him one afternoon with the straightest of faces, “why exactly is a 58-year-old guy holding onto money anyway?” You were right, and that was when I realised that maybe you and I were just getting started instead of settling in somewhere. Life is long.

This afternoon I am arguing that the dents in the barn door add to the charm of our entire house, our entire life. You made our grumbling babies stand against the doorway, skimmed a school ruler through their hair and tracked their growth with permanent markers every few minutes. The barn door is another permanent marker: of our giddy girls smashing trikes, of our doctor hitting a cricket ball from the cul-de-sac into our door – in surf-shorts. We don’t need the girls breathing in paint fumes either, and neither of our next-door neighbours know us well enough for us to breathe easy dropping them off there for a few hours – it’s too cold this time of year to bundle them into the car and drive aimlessly, too.

You laugh at my flimsy excuses not to paint the door and then push me up against up it, softly this time.

When we moved up the coast to breathe salt instead of smoke, to wake early by choice, and curse bindis again, we couldn’t believe we could afford this house; we were fresh from the trap of city prices and sizes and stoops sold as verandahs. We couldn’t believe the takeaway store down the road with its ancient arcade machines, and fish plucked that same morning from an ocean you could see. We couldn’t believe there was one local policeman, and that we knew his first name, that he lived in a four-room plywood extension carelessly nailed and glued to a store-front federation-era cop-shop, and that we bought stamps and parcel packs from his wife, and didn’t inherently tense up when walking past him – unlike those policemen in the city that could own you just to own you. We’ve seen him eat coleslaw at a backyard barbecue in faded surf-brand shorts, and now we know a policeman by name, and a fireman and a shopkeeper, and a doctor – and we’ve seen them all in surf-brand shorts.

We stopped talking to our old friends, then we stopped talking about our old friends; pubs and doorways and bus-routes faded like the Darling parents and the idea of inhaling breakfast while buttoning a shirt and rushing around looking for ear-rings and squashy heels started to seem faint and comical. One Sunday newspaper came with free carrot seeds as part of some misguided promotion; now have a veggie patch, which gives us a new, more natural gauge on how time passes.

There are secret, future plans for that veggie patch but for now it sits sagging over the path as a grown-over reminder of two months last summer where days stretched into each other and we drank coconut rum because a new season in a new town called for a new more postcard-friendly drink.Tomorrow I have to go back to the city. I know that it will try to coax me back, and I know that I will let it. Tonight, I watch my daughters sleep, and watch you watch TV, and eat potatoes grown just down the road.

Nathan Jolly is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Sydney. He last wrote in these pages about communal living. He tumbls here and twitters here.

Paintings by Alex Colville.

“The Prettiest” – Adna (mp3)

“Rain” – Adna (mp3)

In Which Communal Anything Is A Nice Idea

The Host

by NATHAN JOLLY

We are at a house party, walking from room to room, while Charlotte points out the tiny signs that the host is a functional junkie. Things that only someone who had been a drug addict before would ever notice: slightly bent paperclips, odd items in rooms they should have no occasion to visit, snowflakes of ash on bookcases, slight burn marks on pillowcases, the ‘Lost In Translation’ soundtrack perched on the stereo.

Charlotte was once a drug addict and is now a drug user because even bread has habit-forming qualities and is probably killing us just as quickly. She was right about soy snacks, about plastic and fake sugar and Susan’s old boss, and she swears she is right about this, too – so I believe everything she says. Charlotte fell asleep on her arm two nights in a row, and it scared her enough to slide slightly straighter. We split up weeks after that, and neither of us argued hard that this wasn’t the real reason. This kitchen is immaculate, which Charlotte notices and now I notice, and she assures me this also means something, and I nod, and she smiles, and we wonder how firmly we need to ingratiate ourselves with the host before we can change the CD. I like when house parties have CDs rather than iPods, and I like when they have punch, too, because we all learned early from the same ten TV shows that punch equals party and therefore this is a common bond we share with every single host who serves punch – even if she is a closet junkie who spends hours manically cleaning and organising her fridge by food group. Charlotte tells me you can instantly tell a house party will be filled with terrible people if there isn’t a bookcase and a stereo in a common room. We argue for a bit about how books are often kept in bedrooms, especially in share houses, before Charlotte points out there should be more books than bedroom storage, especially in a share house. This presents another wrinkle: does the overflow mean the books in the common room are an accurate representation of tastes – three people’s least precious reads – or a greatest hits collection, a boast which vastly overstates each individual’s true tastes, making the more-interesting seem less, and the less more? We can’t decide. I helpfully point to a cracked tile, but it doesn’t mean anything apparently – sometimes tiles crack.

The living room is filled with people I will never know. The stereo is loud and muffled, like it has been ordered to shout but is embarrassed by what it has to say. I take this music as a personal attack on me, but Charlotte sees it as a shortcut, the way she has seen most human behaviour ever since she changed majors from economics to sociology then back again. Charlotte never finished her degree and her mother still doesn’t know. She has never needed it, and come to think of it, neither have I. “I need a T-shirt with a photo of Yoko on” she says lazily, before collapsing into a cane chair. Charlotte once told me the best time to interact with society while being on drugs was before 9am, because everyone looks like a shaken mess that early in the morning anyway. It made me skip back over every morning spent with Charlotte to try to remember signs: to remember her eyes, her reaction time, her pale, speckled face. But Charlotte was always quicker and much smarter than me (than I?) and now her eyes are dancing because she caught me looking at them for too long; I realised I didn’t know what color they were – or thought I didn’t – until I knew of course I did. She kisses me on the lips sharply, then slowly for a few seconds longer. I realise I’m now sitting in her lap, on a cane chair in a lounge room swimming with strangers, so I get up and walk with purpose towards the stereo, but am too scared to stop the music.

There are piles of blankets near the door leading out to the back porch; the evening is stupidly cool for an October and our host is kind in that pure-hearted way where she steps out future scenarios and makes sure she is prepared. I want to tell her that I’d noticed this but since she doesn’t know me, it can’t have anything resembling a positive effect, so I don’t. The punch looks a different, more troubling color than it was when we first arrived, so I decide not to risk another dip in the bowl; communal anything is a nice idea but it runs a short race. Charlotte’s friend Lucy is already asleep, her neck craned uncomfortably, and because the three of us had walked to the party together, we’d signed on to bring each other’s bodies home – especially because this house is across from the dark corner of the dog park where the floodlights die and no taxi dare roam. I grab a bunch of blankets and cover her, and try to find a cup clean enough to fill with water and sit near her. She flinches and grabs my face and whispers to “Charlotte” to “try to bang [me] tonight”, because “he is being so obvious” – I stay and stroke her hair until she either falls asleep or stops moving. I slide under her limp, coathanger arm, and head out into the yard to find Charlotte. Past the fire and the five-stringed acoustic guitar, she is scrunched against the fence, her phone shining a light on her face. “I was trying to find you” she smiles, and puts her arms out, as if she needs me to drag her to her feet.

Nathan Jolly is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Sydney. He last wrote in these pages about cataloging. He tumbls here and twitters here.

Paintings by Julian Opie.

In Which We Attempt To Remove Ourselves From The Situation

pearlsrtrkt

When We Finished

by TRACY WAN

The caveat is that the feeding hand gets bitten, but no one warns against the bitten hand that keeps on feeding. It’s a process I was largely unfamiliar with, having never been the type to linger, having built up immunity against the very idea. Most of what we think of as virtuous — patience, tolerance, forgiveness — depends on stasis. To forgive, you have to stay. And I’ve always despised still life: a shark’s death.

But it’s almost June and the air is intimate, pressing tightly to skin. When your body temperature approximates that of the breeze, there are few movements that feel necessary. Of those that do, few are sharp; everything is covered in a sleepy gauze. If we close our eyes, it’ll be morning again.

In summer mistakes don’t feel real. Everything is equal parts possible and impossible; attainable without consequence, and forgettable in the same way. One day I returned home from the lake with a mild sunstroke, and found out he was sleeping with a girl — much in the same way he had been sleeping with me for the past two years. Intimate, pressing tightly to skin. She was the one who told me.

I laughed to myself, and wondered why I was laughing. Was it because I did not expect this life? Was it that I knew this would happen? Nothing made sense except the fact that I had to leave, be in a space that was not decorated by his clothes, a space in which I could degenerate and reconstitute as someone who would survive this. I grabbed a bottle of whiskey, put on lipstick.

Around midnight I came home and told him to come over. I wanted to throw everything he owned out of my window but couldn’t; I wanted to slap him, but held his face in my hands. He cried while picking up his things, but it was then three a.m. and I wasn’t feeling cruel, just devastated. It is almost impossible to retain anger in its purest form; it takes years to be able to speak the body language we covet. The hand that was bitten keeps on feeding.

When he asked me why I let him stay, I replied: to remember that we once gave to each other. He cried more. I kissed him – salty. In the tar dark he whispered I’m sorry and I said treat my body like it’s yours for the last time. He misheard: Like the girl I was with last time? I don’t want that. But he did. This was the proof. This was the fruit.

I cried when we finished, without moving, the tears falling ripe onto his face. It pooled with his into a dark puddle across my pillowcase. We slept with his knees folded into the small of my own: a first. I shifted away upon wakening.

+

It takes a rare degree of mastery to untie knots with the same grace and speed at which you secure them. This is because the knot is usually what we desire, far more than its dissolution: in shoelaces, ties, most boating situations. It’s a skill, something to learn as a child and practice frequently. Knotted, things stay together, and they do not part lest we want them to. The sheer numbers of this life dictate that we are more often apart than we are together; only endeavour, and will, bring people to each other. They separate effortlessly.

In life we “tie the knot” happily, willingly, but when the relationship nears its end, these bonds “dissolve” and “fall apart” — responding to a force that is bigger than us, or so it would seem. We rope ourselves in when it’s good, but are cast away by circumstance when it’s not. I watch this happen weekly. “Things just didn’t work out.” “I don’t know where it went wrong.” “We did all we could.” This was not a narrative that I was going to accept for myself.

+

As my relationship ended, the most common advice I received was to make a clean cut of it. In other words, violently pull yourself away and tend to the wound later — at home, in the company of friends, sad music, dairy products. This did not appeal to me for several reasons. For one, sad music played the role of any music in my life, which was going to be unremarkable. Lactose intolerant, I also found french fries to be a far inferior wallowing food than ice cream. As for friends — I didn’t believe in breaking up in their company, since I didn’t really fall in love in their company. Intimacy where intimacy was due.

When you make a clean cut, the sacrifice is always a part of yourself. I did not want to emerge from this with a phantom limb — after all, one with a proclivity for devastating music should not be expected to recuperate quickly. The alternative, I reasoned, would be a gradual, self-dictated breakup; so that by slowly slipping out, I could loosen the grasp in time to make it out unblemished. This’ll be like kicking a caffeine habit, I thought,  the dynamics of which I was painfully familiar with. If a relationship is formed through an accretion of time with one another, then it can be taken apart in the same way.

not to be pouoeof

+

Hours before the discovery that led to our dissolution, I had booked tickets for us to Montreal — where he lived, and where I was from. We were going to spend two weeks together before I began my internship in Toronto. Those two weeks were allocated to moments we were going to share — brunch at a favourite restaurant where the owner knew us by name, trips to the mountain at sunset, lying awake in a bed that I left him when I moved. When all that became no longer viable, I stared at the tickets until my eyes lost focus. Time seems to fall to half its rhythm in solitary. What was I going to do?

And, true to the constitution of anyone struggling to kick an established habit, I said ‘fuck it’ and went anyway. If choosing the structure of this breakup was something I wanted for myself, I wasn’t going to give up two weeks in my favorite place in the world — even though it had shifted during my own earthquake.

+

When the métro slowed to a halt at my best friend’s subway stop, he reached over to grab me, and kissed me on the cheek. We had spent the previous six hours fluctuating between touching and not touching each other, unsure of its degree of consequence and regret. In many ways, the end of a relationship (should you opt for the one I did) mirrors its beginning: every decision seems more crucial and paralysing than the last, every gesture ripe, almost fermented, with meaning. The first night we met, at the same subway station, I leaned over to kiss his cheek, and his mouth had met mine. He was nervous, the same way I am nervous at this point in time, two years later. This time, I wasn’t going to kiss him. This time, I didn’t want to get closer.

“I’ll call you every day,” he said — in the way that boys do, revealing, without a doubt, that they did not believe the rules of the universe applied to them — “You can pick up whenever you’re ready. I want to know what your days are like and how you are. Every day. I love you.” It seems hypocritical, but isn’t, in the same way that hurting yourself does not imply a death wish. Advocates of clean cuts hate this. They want to throttle him, pull him from sight. I just wanted to touch his face, the very instinct that I’ve felt since the day we met.

I took a step back.

“I’m going to go. Before this gets complicated, you know?”

Tracy Wan is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Montreal. She twitters here. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

legion crime

“Song on the Radio”  – Amelia Curran (mp3)

“I Am The Night” – Amelia Curran (mp3)

In Which We Make A Convincing French Woman

Blame the Mob

by ELIZABETH BARBEE

The Hundred-Foot Journey
dir. Lasse Hallstrom
122 minutes

I ate a microwavable chicken fried steak, several under baked cookies, and a couple handfuls of reduced fat Cheez-Its while watching The Hundred-Foot Journey. My meal felt ironic and a little perverse, because this movie is a two hour ode to good food.

It opens in Mumbai, where Hassan’s family has owned a popular restaurant for generations. His mother, the head of the kitchen, is superstitious and takes a mystical approach to cooking. She says obnoxious, new-agey things like, “To cook you must kill. You cook to make ghosts.” While this sentiment leaves me squeamish, it only whets Hassan’s appetite. He learns to prepare dishes using curry, cardamom, and sea urchin. He develops a fetishistic relationship with the last ingredient, one that haunts him throughout the film.

When he is in his early-twenties and terribly handsome, the restaurant, and the sea urchins contained within it, is destroyed by an angry, fire-wielding mob. The source of the rabble’s wrath is unclear even to the protagonist. “There was an election of some kind,” Hassan offers in way of explanation. “And there was a winner, and there was a loser.” He leaves it at that. Everyone escapes the flames but his mother, and even she lives on in spirit. When Hassan’s father later mutters to himself in Hindi, it doesn’t mean we need to turn up the volume (I tried that) it means he’s communing with his dead wife.

Her influence leads the family to make a series of terrible decisions. They move to England and then France, where they purchase an abandoned building just a hundred feet away from Helen Mirren. She plays Madame Mallory, a raging bitch and the proprietor of a Michelin starred restaurant that operates more like a boarding school. All the chefs seem to live on site, and their artistic impulses are frequently stifled by their rigidly traditional boss.

Mirren makes a convincing French woman. Her accent slips at times, but she has the stereotypes down. She walks with her nose stuck in the air, wears lots of scarves, and believes no other culture is worthy of existing.

When Hassan’s father decides to convert the abandoned building into an Indian restaurant, she is at equal turns disgusted and threatened. Why she thinks people craving quiche will suddenly decide they’re in the mood for Tikka Masala is beyond me, but I don’t have a fickle palate.

Her fear of losing business turns out to be baseless (obviously). Maison Mumbai is empty the night of its opening, and Hassan’s family essentially pimps themselves out to get customers. The father changes into his most elaborate turban and instructs his daughter to stand on the side of the road so passing cars can see how pretty she looks in her sari. You can hear Edward Said groan in the background. This isn’t the only instance of Orientalism in the film, not by a long shot. Though the French characters usually walk in silence, sitars follow Hassan’s family everywhere they go.

The movie is rated PG, but it is highly sensual. Every bite (and there are lots of bites) is accompanied by an orgasmic sigh. Women’s mouths are a camera favorite. Hassan falls in love with one of Madame Mallory’s employees, a French girl named Marguerite, presumably because she picks her own mushrooms and chews with her eyes closed. Marguerite is frustratingly coquettish. She rejects Hassan’s advances, but gifts him suggestive recipes. “Mix until silky to the touch,” one instructs. “Pour into a pan. Spread your cherries over the top and bake until the skewer inserted into the batter comes out clean.”

Though this is clearly a metaphor for sex, she doesn’t let Hassan touch her until he starts wearing blazers and working at a Parisian restaurant that is more science lab than brasserie. The blazers are hot, as is the new gig, but Hassan was a babe from day one. I suspect Marguerite has some deep seeded childhood issues that prevent her from accepting love. What she lacks in openness she makes up for in Anthropologie dresses. Practically every scene features a new one: some plaid, some lace – all ethereal, gorgeous, and much more expensive than they appear.

It’s no surprise this movie was produced by Oprah Winfrey. Her aesthetic is everywhere. I’m familiar with Oprah’s taste, because my mom subscribes to her magazine, which I flip through every time I visit. The pages are always filled with brightly colored images and stories that are inspiring without being controversial. The Hundred-Foot Journey is similarly luminous and nonthreatening.

I had an ex-boyfriend who refused to watch movies unless they were rated PG-13 or higher. He said sex and violence contributed significantly to his enjoyment of a film. I was initially horrified by this reveal. “What kind of freak am I dating,” I thought. But when I ran through the list of the movies I love most, they were all a little scandalous, a little gritty. There is something unsettling about a movie for adults that ignores, or in this case talks around, some of the most important facets of adulthood. The Hundred-Foot Journey wasn’t bad, but I might have enjoyed it more if an F bomb had been dropped or Marguerite and Hassan had consummated their love. That’s just the kind of depraved individual I am.

Elizabeth Barbee is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Dallas. She last wrote in these pages about an apartment. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

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