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Just Lie

Ben The Bartender was annoyed with me.I  was mixing depression with a big mouth, which was as bad as dairy and alcohol. I needed another drink and my attempts at getting his attention were failing. Inhibitions were low, sobriety was inevitable, and desperation was at an all time high… So I wolf-whistled at him.

"You have to stop doing that."

"You wouldn’t look at me otherwise." He didn’t disagree. He wasn’t looking at me now, either.

"I’m not making you another White Russian."

"But you make them so well!" I tried smiling at him, but he called my bluff. I gave up.

"Ugh, fine… What’s that guy over there having?"

"An old fashioned."

"An old fashioned what?"

"It’s a fucking drink!" I jolted back. Ben The Bartender was worse than annoyed.

"Sorry I asked… "

I went back to my spot. The wood panelling I was leaning against was probably the only physical contact I was going to get tonight. I slouched, giving up giving up on posture, attractiveness, and any appeal that I possessed. I closed my eyes, being careful not to lose my balance. No one takes care of a drunk girl at the bar without having a ‘chance’ with her.

"Thanks for the drink." I opened one eye. It was the guy drinking the old fashioned.

"What?" I was just getting comfortable with my solitude.

"Ben said you bought this for me? Just wanted to say thanks."

"Oh, OH. Yeah. I mean, yeah…"

He had a beard, his nose was impossibly straight, and he was wearing a leather jacket. I imagined him going into a store, looking at this jacket and thinking ‘I can totally pull this off.’ He must have thought the same thing before heading out tonight. It looked out of place, but he carried it with the self-confidence only extremely attractive people can possess. He held the glass away from his body, not wanting to give the wrong impression. He saw my empty glass, but didn’t offer to buy me one. This was just a courtesy call. Another metaphorical slap-in-the-face towards my loneliness. And I had to pay for an extra drink.

"Anyway," he said, flattered that I was still staring, "bye."

"Wait!" I touched his jacket. Being directly addressed by attractive people was a weakness of mine. Usually, I was the one initiating conversation. Beautiful people need just one or two genuine compliments before they talk to me out of pity. Then, once I make them laugh, pity vanishes. For my inadequate social life, that was enough. Humor was my strong suit and I used it generously. People remarked that I flirted like a man; mainly because I was proactive and funny. I remarked that they were misogynistic. They would laugh and, once again, pity and judgment would vanish.

"Yeah?" He seemed like someone who used to consider his good looks as a curse, but now used it for his advantage. I had to pander to that.

"I’m writing a story."

"Oh, you’re a writer?"

"Umm, kind of?"


"This story I’m writing… It’s a ‘50 shades of grey’ kind of thing."

"Haha, really? I haven’t read it, but I know of it."

"You’re really hot." He laughed. "I could write you in it."

"You could?"

"Yeah, but you’ll have to answer a few questions. Research."

"LIke, about sex?" He said it clinically, without any sexual connotations behind it.

"Yeah. And what it’s like being a hot person in this visually obsessed world."

"Haha, why not? Ask away."

"Well, do you find it creepy when people tell you you’re good looking?"

"No. People have called me hot before. It’s not abnormal." He didn’t smile. The seriousness with which he answered my questions told me I had struck gold. I had finally found my narcissistic equal. This was going to be a fun night.


On most days, I loved loud music at clubs. Consistent beats you can feel in your chest set to misogynistic lyrics you can feel with your heart. Girls on the dance floor being leered at by guys on the sidelines; both playing the cliche and enjoying it. Everyone united under alcohol’s hegemony. 

But today, the music was stale. Skrillex’s varying beats felt like an arrhythmia. I stood at one end of the bar, watching my friend, Kate, dance with her boyfriend. They seemed happy, and it made me regurgitate acid. I had been here two hours and not once did I get to reject an indecent proposal. The passivity of my dating game was at an ultimate high. I hovered near the speakers, almost-empty glass in hand, unsmiling, waiting.

Kate came over.

"Why aren’t you out there dancing? This is supposed to be YOUR night!"

"I still have some of this drink left."

"Well, okay." And she turned around and left.

I didn’t even have a chance to whine about how miserable I was. I remembered the first time we had gone out together. We had pretended to be British, but our accents wore off when a bunch of guys bought us drinks. They didn’t care. We touched their arm, innocently grazed our breasts against them, and later on gave them our numbers. We had gone home alone that night. It was fun. We giggled in the cab, laughed at our mispronunciations, vowed to always be friends. And now she was starving me for attention. Cunt. 

Good Friends

  • Me: The bartender swore today.
  • Kate: Ben?
  • Me: Yeah.
  • Kate: At you?
  • Me: No.
  • K: So why do you care?
  • M: He was talking to me.
  • K: But he didn't swear at you.
  • M: No.
  • K: I didn't know you had a problem with people swearing.
  • M: Neither did I.
  • K: What did he say?
  • M: The usual.
  • K: Did he call his ex a bitch?
  • M: What? No!
  • K: He always talks about her.
  • M: You've talked to him?
  • K: Yeah.
  • M: I've never talked to him.
  • K: But, he swore at you.
  • M: I mean, before this. And he didn't swear at me.
  • K: Oh right, he swore at Laura.
  • M: Wait, his ex is Laura?!
  • K: Yeah, you didn't know?
  • M: No!
  • K: Everybody knows.
  • M: I… I try to stay away from gossip.
  • K: Oh, right. Sorry, I guess.
  • M: I don't talk to Laura anymore.
  • K: Why?
  • M: Stuff happened.
  • K: And you won't tell me?
  • M: It'll become gossip.
  • K: Right. Sorry again.
  • M: How long were they dating?
  • K: Isn't that gossip?
  • M: But I'm asking for a good cause.
  • K: Do you like Ben?
  • M: What? No. How can I? He swore at me!
  • K: It would be a good way to get back at her for 'stuff'.
  • M: I don't do that. That's just… not how I operate.
  • K: Because you don't gossip and you don't take revenge.
  • M: Exactly. I'm principled.
  • K: A month.
  • M: What?
  • K: That's how long they dated.
  • M: Why would you tell me that?!
  • K: You asked.
  • M: What the fuck!

High Spirits

  • Me: What time is it?
  • Bartender: Around six.
  • Me: Great. I'll have a White Russian. No ice.
  • Bartender: Are you a doctor?
  • M: What?
  • B: You're wearing one of those hospital name tags.
  • M: Ha. Right… Yeah, no. I'm worse than a doctor.
  • B: Hospital cafeteria?
  • M: Even worse. At least they get paid.
  • B: So you're a med student.
  • M: That's very astute of you… Ben.
  • B: I hate wearing this name tag.
  • M: It's dehumanizing, isn't it?
  • B: It also itches.
  • M: You should show it to a doctor.
  • B: Or I could just take it off.
  • M: You could.
  • B: Don't think I won't.
  • M: Between the two of us, you're the one with enough guts to take off your name tag and not give a flying fuck about the system.
  • B: Damn straight.
  • M: You're a lucky man, Ben.
  • B: I used to be a student. I know what it's like.
  • M: Enough to buy the next round?
  • B: Fuck no. I have health care. I pay you already.

Pre-date work up.

  • Roommate: You're going to be late.
  • Me: It's two people. One is early, the other is late. No one can be on time.
  • Roommate: You're never late.
  • Me: I'm playing hard to get.
  • R: You are hard to get.
  • M: Thanks.
  • R: It's not a good thing.
  • M: Did your one-night stand tell you that?
  • R: He did. You growled at him.
  • M: It was a joke. And I wanted to see if you guys would talk about me before fucking.
  • R: We didn't.
  • M: You just said you did.
  • R: We talked after.
  • M: Isn't that worse? That means you thought about me while doing it, too.
  • R: No... We.... Don't call it 'it' like it's something bad.
  • M: Irony. Redundancy. Maybe guilt. Definitely Penis Envy.
  • R: Virgin. Virgin. Virgin. Definitely virgin.
  • M: Freud would be proud of you.
  • R: Freud wouldn't even fuck you.
  • M: Not unless I discuss my roommate before doing it.


They were sitting two seats ahead, obviously in love. She had a loud laugh, and he spoke in long sentences. He liked her because she was pretty. He made her laugh because she got a dimple in her right cheek. She let him come too close to her face. She let him put one hand on her knee. She let him like her.

"Feminism sucks!" he said. I thought I misheard. This wasn’t a courtship topic of discussion. This was a break-up topic of discussion.

She didn’t seem to mind. She smiled and waited for a joke, for a follow-up. She wasn’t supposed to have opinions, she was only the audience.

"It just means equal rights for women and men! And yet they call it ‘feminism’." He said it deliberately, but not disrespectfully. She laughed, not knowing if there was more to the conversation or not.

"Do you think that’s fair?" he asked her, in mock seriousness. She hadn’t been following and said "No." as more of a question than an answer.

"I mean," he continued, but now looked ahead, and his hands weren’t on her anymore. He had practiced this, knowing he could impress a girl one day. It was an authentic performance. " don’t you think they could come up with a better name?"

"They have." I didn’t recognize my voice.

They turned around, annoyed with the interruption. The girl immediately became possessive, her dimple all but vanished. Her side-eye scared me, and I looked down to my book again. I wasn’t breathing. He was still looking at me. This was a plot twist he didn’t expect while rehearsing. “Well?” I looked up, avoiding the girl. “What is it?” He didn’t look at me the way he looked at her. It was more dispassionate, more neutral. I was just a stranger on the bus who was eaves-dropping.

"Egalitarian." He showed no signs of recognition. "Oh. Thank you, I didn’t know that."

They resorted to whispering from then on.


The bristles of the carpet poked my back, and, for a second, I forgot how miserable I was. I lifted myself up on an elbow, and tried to settle in again. I had never been so close to the carpet before. I noticed how each bristle wasn’t the same length, how there were obvious gaps in the fabric, and how the large stains were insignificant at this level. There was a metaphor here, I knew it, but addressing it meant not being depressed, and I was too comfortable on the floor. I turned to my side, exploring the room from this angle. I remembered Kafka’s book, and felt a pang of envy that I couldn’t write a story about this. I saw a missing bottle cap under the bed, and a newspaper under the table. No metaphors here. I lay on my back again.

My good friend of two years had just walked out of this room. She was simple enough to read, so I knew I couldn’t apologize my way out of this. I didn’t want to, either. She was superficial and empty; not some of the qualities I want in a friend. And yet the void she left was significant, and not one I could fill myself. For one thing, I couldn’t put on eyeliner. 

Maybe She’s Born With It

"Don’t make my eyebrows too thin. And I want a darker shade of lipstick."

Laura stood behind me with her hands cupping my face. She lifted my hair up and gently let it down, expecting it to somehow sit better under her scrutiny. She was disappointed.

"You’re not Audrey Hepburn. Thin eyebrows it is." she said it gently, as if explaining an indoctrinated concept to a child. She didn’t care about my protests because she knew, like all women before us, I would finally have to follow the rules of beauty. I still tried.

"But they’ll be hidden behind my glasses."

She laughed in the same tone she used before, to counter naivete. She lifted up my hair again for one last miraculous try.

"Don’t be silly. You’ll wear contacts."

"But they’re my Alex Vause glasses!" I was shocked at my whining.

"Listen to me…" she was becoming impatient. " No one even knows who he is. Even the salesman didn’t know! I let you buy the glasses because you promised you wouldn’t wear them."

"It’s a ‘she’!" 

Laura rolled her eyes as I frantically googled Orange Is The New Black. 

She walked to my closet and inspected it with disdain.

"There are too many T-shirts in here. And all of them crew necks. Eugh." Her disgust grew when she made the mistake of sniffing one. She held each T-shirt up with just two fingers and flung them away.  "Boys like girls who look pretty. Minimal makeup never hurt anyone. Sure, waxing hurts, but…" She stared at the pile of clothes, and back at the empty closet. "Where’s the dress?!"

I looked up from my phone. I hadn’t prepared for this. “What dress?” The guilt in my voice was evident. I shot a look at the garbage bin. There were a few remains still left.

"The pink dress with the flowers we bought last week. You even wore it." 

I looked her in the eyes. There was no cushioning this. “I burnt it.”

Laura’s expressions went from confusion, to horror and back to confusion again. I waited until it settled on anger and she could speak again. She didn’t.

"It… It was the night I got dumped! I was upset. I had to do something!" My hands were raised, begging her to understand. It was my money, my dress, my humiliation, and yet she was the one who needed comforting.

"So… what? You’ll wear a prison jumpsuit to your date?!" She finally saw the search results. It wasn’t helping.

We stood looking at each other, a void of unfamiliarity between us. 

"I’m sorry." I said, not meaning it. It was what she wanted to hear. After an hour of antagonism, it’s the least I could give her.

"Why can’t you just try to fit in? You’re always making things difficult for yourself, with your deranged goth look, and those ideas about loving women…" she shuddered.

"It’s noir, and the other is feminism."

"See?! Why can’t you just talk about normal stuff?"

"Like what?! RomCom movies? Ryan Gosling’s baby? Justin Beiber?"

"Please, leave Beiber to the tweens." I could always count on her to ignore my sarcasm and use it as a weapon against me.

"These are things I believe in. Why shouldn’t the guy I date like them, too? What is so outrageous about that concept?"

She laughed. “For that you need to find someone to date. The way you’re going, that seems unlikely.”

"So, what? You’re here to give me a ‘social makeover’? Is that what this friendship is about?" As I said it, the truth in my words became evident. She had singled me out, taken me shopping, set me up on dates, taught me how to shave my pubes. I had assumed she just wanted a sidekick to make her look better, and that I could ride her popularity to get noticed. But reality was far more acidic. I was a pawn in her game while all this while I assumed she was one in mine.

She was unapologetic. “I just wanted to help.”

"Frankly, my dear…"

"Ugh, damn you!"

And she never came back. Not even to get her good tweezers.


On the Tracks

Val Eden boards a train in New York City bound for San Francisco, where she plans to meet up with her friend and emotional spirit-guide Dana Holmes. On her three day trip, she reflects on her past travels with Dana, as well as the struggles she faced being too smart for her friends…

Deep Pink And Some Grey

"You’re not holding it right…"

He took the cigarette back from me.

"It’s in the wrist. And you have to bring the cigarette to your mouth, not the other way around."

He laughed at his own joke and took a long drag. He looked away as he blew out the smoke, wanting me to observe, to swoon.

I waited. He stepped closer and offered the cigarette back to me. As I took it, he held my hand and placed the cigarette near the tips of my fingers.

"That’s where a girl should hold it."


"It looks sexier."

My eyes narrowed instinctively. I was learning how to smoke to avoid sexual stereotyping and here was this guy pushing me into it. Any argument would be wasted on him. Demonstration was my best option.

I held the cigarette between my thumb and index finger like a junkie in the middle of winter. I craned my neck down and inhaled. He looked confused. I leaned in to his ear, exhaled down his back and whispered,

“Isn’t this sexy?”

I expected him to move away, or at least to be embarrassed. I expected to have to avoid eye contact with him for the rest of the year. But instead, he put a hand on my waist.
Now, I was embarrassed; I moved away.


He was concerned. He held his hands up as if to surrender, or show me he wasn’t doing anything. He looked at me for any signs of what had gone wrong. I was just pacing. It was a narrow space behind a building. On one end was a dumpster which no one could stand next to. The other side opened to the road.

He was hot. No one saw it because he spoke in a painfully deliberate manner and made sarcastic comments so subtle that they mostly went unnoticed. But he had a good body. And he knew Photoshop.

"What?" he asked again.

“You have to ask before you can do things like that.”

He did an elaborate shrug.

“You were basically asking for it when you… when you… “

His hand went up to the side of his neck I had leaned into. He looked at his feet. In a calmer voice, he continued. “When you asked if you were sexy.”

I decided to try the arguments. “You can’t just objectif-“

He cut me off. “You should flick it.”


“It’s going to burn you.”

The cigarette was still between my fingers. I took a drag and crushed the stub against the wall.

"Rookie mistake." he said. I looked at him. This was that hidden humor. He was calling us both rookies. It was, in his way, an apology.

"Pick me up at eight tomorrow."

And I walked away in a cloud of smoke.