We’ve only been dating for three weeks when Nasha takes me to meet her Androgynous Rockstar Dad.
“You have no idea,” she says, “how much this means I really like you. I love him but he says for the sake of my own personal growth it’s best if I’m not associated with him.”
She has a different last name (Jolliet), but the veil is pretty thin: the first day of our Italian Cinema class she gets up to go to the bathroom, the guy next to me and whispers “Did you know that’s (Androgynous Rockstar Dad)’s daughter?” I hadn’t really noticed her before, but when she comes back in I see the resemblance: she’s all angles, and the angles are all in love with each other. This, her famous lineage, and the way she walks through the black-and-white projection of “Nights of Cabiria” like she owns that decade too mean I’m really surprised when we’re making out on her bed a week later. These kinds of things don’t happen to me.
She makes out in a pretty standard way, but nothing else is standard: The bed is a king-size slab of golden cake with no headboard, no visible solid structure. Probably they took all the standard wood and metal and springs out of it and used it to construct six or seven of the torture-device beds like the one I have in my dorm room. That’s different, too: she seems to be exempt the rule that says all freshmen have to live in campus housing.
“I have a room in my name in Carlton,” she says when the elevator opens on the floor of a ridiculously upscale apartment building that she has all to herself. “They tell freshmen if they move in and their roommate never shows up they’re required to notify housing, but who would mind having a single? And even if the girl DOES call housing, when they see whose name the room’s in…” She dismisses any potential hassle with a wave of her hand towards the full wall of skyline in front of us.
I know that comes across really snobby in print, but she has this way about her that connotes an inner depth that shines through even when she’s saying the sort of things a life of that much privilege kind of forces you to say.
Later, My Bloody Valentine’s playing as she’s grinding, both of us still in jeans, into my lap on a couch that is a replica of one in the permanent collection at the Whitney. The giant prints of movie posters on one wall confirm the conclusion of the past week’s discussions: we both love the same things. I look at them while she bites at my right ear. This is amazing, I think. My life is amazing. Everything I thought about me was wrong. I am the sort of person who dates the daughter of (Androgynous Rockstar Dad)!
Even later, we’re spread out on the giant slab of golden cake, and I’m trying to think if the sort of person who dates the daughter of ARD is the sort of person who gets up from this to go to his six PM class or if he blows it off and suggests they try it again on one of the many art-couches. Then I think of how this place is bigger than the house my family lives in in Pennsylvania, and how they could be living in a bigger one if they weren’t paying for me to go to school here, so I get out of bed. When my bare feet touch the hardwood, I tell myself I’m doing it to make myself scarce, so she’ll want it more.
I look out at Manhattan. I’m naked as the day God made me, Manhattan. Behind me, my conquest. Yes, that’s right, she’s who you think she is. And if I can conquer her, imagine what I can do to—
“Where are you goinnngngngngngggggg?”: Nasha breaks my reverie.
“Class, babe,” I say.
She’s wearing a robe, at the door, to kiss me goodbye. When I go to grab my backpack she hands me a burned CD.
“Here. It’s a copy of my dad’s new album. It hasn’t been released yet, so if I see it end up on the Internet…” she pantomimes cutting my balls off. I laugh. Then she pantomimes eating them. I laugh again. Then she pantomimes chewing them. My laughter kind of dies off. She keeps going and going. It’s getting really creepy. I lean over and kiss her really hard; it’s not something I do but it’s something I do now. She comes back at me, and I break off just short of too long. “See you later.” I swoop expertly for the door when I remember it’s an elevator, and we’re on the eighteenth floor.
We stand there, awkward.
“Thanks for this,” I say, indicating the CD.
“Think nothing of it, silly boy,” she says. “But remember:” She pantomimes coughing up my balls, spitting them out, holding them up like fuzzy dice. She grins. It doesn’t come across on paper, but this girl has a smile that can make you forget everything.
The morning of the day of the night I go to see ARD, The New York Times prints a review of his new album. It’s a hard pan:
(ARD)�s latest bid to stay relevant twenty years past the high tide of his ocean of cultural capital is the most likely yet to make the listener want to drown his or herself. He cycles through genres mercilessly on the album’s fifteen tracks, staying in each one just long enough to prove how little he understands about them and how much shamelessly (and cluelessly) he’s aping what he thinks the young people are listening to.
And I have to admit, I kind of had the same opinion when I first listened to it, though I wanted to withhold judgment until I talked to Nasha about it. I get the chance when the limo picks me up at my dorm. She’s read the article:
“What they don’t understand,” she says, “is it’s supposed to be absurd because modern radio is absurd, music is absurd, life is absurd. It’s absurdism. People won’t know it ‘till he’s dead, but my father is the greatest absurdist since Beckett.”
“I completely agree,” I say.
“Like, the fact that I’m groping you through your jeans in the back of a limo in traffic on Houston Street is absurd,” she says, “and you’re just some kid from Pennsylvania, that is absurd. I’m absurd. See what I mean?”
I completely see what she means.
We have sex in the bathroom at the restaurant. It’s done up like a submarine in there.
We’re scheduled to meet ARD at his record release party, which is at Scaffold. A paparazzo takes our picture on the way in, which is really kind of cool.
“Fuck you,” Nasha says.
“Yea, fuck off, buddy!” I say.
The bouncer doesn’t even check for us on the list before letting us in. Nasha thanks him and calls him by his first name (Anasazi Mike.)
Inside, Asian girls, all of exactly the same height and done up like the girl on the cover of ARD�s new album, mill around spreading white rose petals. Nasha drags me through clots of pseudo-celebrities. I recognize one of the catering staff as a girl I was in plays with in high school, but Nasha’s dragging me too fast for me to say hi to her.
We meet ARD in the VIP room, which is a sea of white, no piece of furniture distinguishable from the next. He’s lounging on a horseshoe of cushions next to a hip young auteur director whose movies I like okay now but loved when I was in high school.
“Hi, Daddy,” Nasha says. She leans over, they kiss on the mouth.
“Hello darling,” ARD says. “This is (Hip Young Auteur Director). Say hello.”
“Look at you!” says HYAD to Nasha. Neither of them have gotten up and me and Nasha haven’t been offered as seat. “Look at you! Don’t tell anybody, but I would’ve fucked your father in the seventies, and don’t tell your father, but I’d fuck you now!”
ARD and HYAD almost spill their champagne laughing. Nasha laughs, then I laugh.
“My lips are sealed!” says Nasha.
“That’s what I’m worried about!” says HYAD. Another round of laughs. All of this is shouted because the bass is fierce.
“Daddy,” Nasha says when it dies down, “this is my boyfriend Kyle.”
“Charmed, Kyle,” says ARD.
Nasha says, “(HYAD), this is—”
“PSSHhhhhhh” goes HYAD, cutting off Nasha, looking out towards the dancefloor where white rose petals are falling in time to New Order. “NASHA. Sounds like Nausea.” He gets up out of his seat and leaves us.
There’s a pause, then ARD says, “Well sit down, both of you.”
We do. “That guy is an asshole,” I say to Nasha.
“That guy,” says ARD, “is one of the bravest voices in film today.”
I agree, and tell ARD how his work has grown on me in recent years. ARD stares at me.
“I like the new record,” I say, hoping to break the stare and the silence after two or three minutes of nobody saying anything. “I like the absurdism of it.”
“What?” ARD leans forward.
Nasha grabs my knee and we make eye contact for the first time since we’ve been in the VIP room. She shakes her head “no.”
“I hear you listen to Neutral Milk Hotel,” I say.
He does, and we discuss other tastes we have in common until a waiter brings another bottle of champagne and two more glasses.
After an hour or two and several bottles in the VIP room, I get up to go to the bathroom and the girl from high school grabs me.
“Kyle, what the hell are you doing here!?”
“I know, what the hell are you doing here?”
“I think that’s pretty obvious,” she says, gesturing down at her tray. “What about you?”
“Okay, you can’t tell anybody, but I’m here with (ARD)’s daughter.”
“No fucking way!” she says. “Look at you, Film School!”
“I know, right! Like, it’s absurd. Like, look at you, and then look at me, and then take out our Senior Yearbook, and like, who would’ve thought we’d end up in our respective positions, y’know?”
“Yea. See you around, Kyle.”
“Bye! Awesome seeing you!”
In the bathroom, I wonder if she got the sarcasm in what I was saying, the way I was subtly skewering the situation and the general ridiculousness of the whole thing. And then I remember the guy I am now, and even if she thinks I’m a jerk now, that’s a necessary sacrifice, part of the casting-off process of self-reinvention, or rather self-discovery, since I was always this person, it just took a person like Nasha to see it. The same way I cast off that poster of ARD I had that I brought with me to college that I had on my wall all through high school. The waitress girl is like the poster. Now I have the real deal.
The bathroom is done up like a construction site. I pee into a manhole.
Then when I get out, I don’t head right back to the VIP room. First I stand at the edge of the dancefloor, on a raised platform before the bar. I look out at the club. That’s right, Scaffold. In a single step I’ve jumped right to the top of your hierarchy, past the waitresses and barmaids and Asian girls with rose petals, summer interns and wannabe—
“Careful, guy!” says a man who’s just run into me with a couple of martinis. My back’s cold. The stimulus makes it clear to me how drunk I am.
When I get back to the VIP room, ARD has his hand down Nasha’s shirt. Or that’s what it looks like, but like I said, I’m really drunk at this point.
The limo had to move for an ambulance, so we’re waiting for it to pull around again. Nasha says, “So it turns out (HYAD) was so pissed because dad promised me to him before we got there.” I don’t ask if it’s a joke but I can pretty much safely assume it is, with how much Nasha is into absurdity.
In the back of the limo, in the light of the big Calvin Klein billboard with the black-and-white people fucking, it looks like she’s crying but I ask and she insists it’s nothing. That night she goes down on me three times and the next day she buys me a shirt to replace the one that got martini on it and an iPod with my name engraved on it. I tell her she doesn’t have to but she insists.
That first day of class, before we even watched Nights of Cabiria, we had to free-write, then read what we’d written to the class, then we would all write short critical pieces (like, a paragraph) on what everyone else had written, though they’d never see them. This was so we understood “both the tensions inherent in criticism and making art with the knowledge that it will be subject to such criticism” (this is from the syllabus, which on an interesting note features fifteen occurrences of the words “tensions inherent.”) This is what Nasha wrote, and read aloud:
A child reaches
And he touches an electrical socket
He raises his hand in class
And by the time it gets in the air
It has a manacle on it
He knows what the capital of Wisconsin is
But who will answer
For the world?
And this is what I wrote in response:
Pretty good if it’s a parody of terrible, sanctimonious poetry. It’s a parody, right?
And after class, by the elevators, that’s what I ask her.
“That was a parody, right?” I want to believe that a girl this beautiful is capable of reading satire that good with a straight face, and I’d like it if the two of us were the only ones in on the joke.
“Hmm?” she says. She pulls headphones out of where black hair hides them: she didn’t hear me.
“I liked your poem,” I say, nerve lost. We start talking about other stuff, that magical first conversation where we discover we like all the same stuff.
I never ask her again, and I’m worried a lot of the really funny stuff she does in here hasn’t come across because it’s on a subtle level that really doesn’t translate on the page.
But I’m pretty sure it was a parody.