Apr 12 2012
A few months ago, an author named Marie Calloway became instantly internet-famous by publishing a story titled "Adrien Brody" on Tao Lin's Muumuu House website. The story told of the protagonist's affair with what appeared to be the editor of a famous New York magazine named like a letter, a mathematical sign, and a number. Many people found it scandalous. We didn't.
Here's the story that picks up where that one left off. It's called "Jeremy Lin." We don't really know what it is, but we read it all the way through, in one go, which is much more than we can say for most 11,000-word stories out there. So, here it is. Enjoy!
“Jeremy Lin” by Marie Calloway
I emailed Jeremy Lin a story that I wrote at the behest of my friend. Not soon after, he emailed me back with this reply, “I liked it, if you make the capitalization normal and send it to me I'll publish it on the website of my publishing company, muumuuhouse.com.” A few minutes later, he sent me a follow up email, “I got an idea. I’m going to France on December 3rd because they're translating my books. If you are in Paris from December 4 on 7:45AM until December 10 on 5:45PM, you can stay in my hotel room with me. But you have to 'cover' the entire trip, as if you are a journalist, in the style of all your other pieces, then get it published somewhere. (I'll help you find a venue). If I were rich I would pay for your plane ticket but I honestly have like $300 right now. But I am willing to pay half the amount of your plane ticket later, when the piece is published. I'll pay $700 of the ticket price after the piece is published. The piece should be at least 10,000 words.”
I replied, “Okay, I edited the story so the capitalization is standard. I have attached it to the email. As for Paris, I’m interested but I might have trouble getting the funds. I'll keep you updated. Thank you very much for your interest in me and my writing of course. I feel very flattered.”
“No Problem. Sweet re: Paris. Sweet re: story. I will post it in one to seven days.”
We emailed back and forth, fixing technical details in the story. Then he published it on the Muumuu House website. We arranged to chat on Gchat one afternoon about Paris.
“Hey. I feel like I was in a really social mood when I thought of the idea, now I feel like it'll be way too stressful,” he typed.
“Okay. I probably couldn't get the money anyway.”
A few days after Jeremy Lin published my story, I received an email from a reporter who wanted to do a phone interview with me about it.
“Hi Marie. I'm a reporter for the New York Observer. I'm writing because I read your story and admired it and want to write about it, and maybe first person writing/the Internet more broadly. I was wondering if I could interview you. What do you think?”
After thinking about it for days, I apprehensively agreed to do the interview with the encouragement and support of Jeremy Lin and my friends. The interviewer and I talked for an hour on the phone about my motivations and intentions with regards to writing, sexism in the literary world, Jeremy Lin, and aspects of writing on the Internet. The reporter ended the correspondence by saying that she would email interview Jeremy Lin for more information.
The day after the interview, Jeremy Lin forwarded me the responses he gave to the questions that he had received from the journalist.
“Tell me about how you met Marie Calloway. What did you think of her writing and also her as a person?"
“I've never met Marie in real life. Based on her Facebook, writing, Tumblr, etc., I think she's funny, kind, discerning, interesting, and attractively confident.”
“‘Why did you decide to publish her story on Muumuu House?’
“Simply because I liked it. I read it all at one time without stopping and was surprised, later, to learn it was ~15,000 words. It has similar qualities (detachment, focus, attention to certain funny/interesting details, lack of a good/bad agenda) of other writing I like that's autobiographical and first-person. (I'm thinking The End of the Story by Lydia Davis and Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys), but maybe her writing is even more extreme and direct and even less sentimental.”
I read this email several times in awe.
I felt anxious and uneasy the entire day before the piece came out. I had no idea what the article would say or how I would be represented in it. These feelings didn’t subside after it was published; it was titled “Meet Marie Calloway: the New Model for Literary Seductress is Part Feminist, Part ‘Famewhore’ and All Pseudonyms” and the article itself was full of gossip (“compared to Ms. Calloway’s other stories, 'Adrien Brody' made bigger waves in literary New York because Mr. Brody was fairly well known here”) rather than any focus on my story and “first person writing/the Internet” as I had been told it would. The reporter made a lot of conclusions and judgments about me and my writing that I didn’t agree with (“with writing like Ms. Calloway’s, it’s tempting to believe that there is some sort of feminist impulse at work, that she derives power from humiliating men with her sexuality, the same tool they used to objectify her”). I felt uneasy to be suddenly upheld as a “feminist writer,” which I had never thought of myself as and which seemed like a tremendous burden.
Jeremy Lin and I Gchatted about the article immediately after it was published on the web. He was also concerned about how he had been portrayed in the article. He quoted one of the mentions of him, “'The poet/novelist/deadpan literary provocateur [Jeremy] Lin, once rumored to be the author of Hipster Runoff, made a documentary about [Internet fashion model Bebe Zeva] early this year, in which Ms. Zeva, now 18, poignantly tells him about growing up without a father. Later, Mr. Lin sprays whipped cream on her face and rubs it in her hair'” and said, “I feel like I definitely come off as like I'm trying to prey on young girls and as an unseemly presence in the piece.”
“Yes. I was concerned about that. I’m sorry that I helped to create a Jeremy Lin is a creep meme,” I replied.
“I don’t care. I feel like I feel nothing from any negative press about me anymore.”
“Oh. Were you ever bothered?” I asked.
“I'm not really sure. I think since I didn't know anyone, and wouldn't be in contact with anyone who would have the opportunity to think bad things about me in real life, it just concretely had no effect on my life, which I was able to focus on. Now I feel like I always assume that I will probably like the person getting shit-talked and, based on experience, not to believe what's written. And I feel like the few people I'd be able to be friends with also think that way, so it doesn't affect me concretely. In terms of publicity, there was a study that showed that bad publicity helps more than good publicity, because it gets more attention. Then after like three years people forget if it was good or bad publicity, they just remember that you got publicity, which seems true.
By the way, I feel like in the past I've felt really sensitive about pieces about me, like I viewed every single thing as negative, as you seem to be. For instance, when I read articles about me, other people would think what they were saying was good, but the same details about me I would think are bad. But I think that’s just from being sensitive.”
The day after the article came out, it was discussed on Gawker, a popular Internet gossip site, and HTMLGIANT, a popular literary site. There were hundreds of comments.
“How is she going to feel when all her friends and family find out about her explicit blog about being a hooker in London. I am pro-sex and sex work and everything but this is not feminism, it's attention-whoring and its going to blow up in her face when it's no longer cute.” [female.]
“I'm just offended that every teen who makes her diary public gets referred to as a "writer," as if sharing what are essentially Penthouse Forum-quality passages is some kind of challenging profession.” [male.]
“This is the literary equivalent of two straight girls making out on a keg in a field party. If this can be described as 'chronicles of women's sexuality,' so can Penthouse Letters. Anais Nin this ain't.” [male.]
“It bothers me that anyone would consider this scenario remotely compelling—a young girl desperate for attention and validation solicits a random, married writer twice her age in a position of relative authority for sex, he cums on her face (easily one of the most degrading sexual acts, and one heavily influenced by porn culture), she writes about it in awful prose that's borderline pornographic, and you manage to find something redeemable from it all.” [male.]
“feminism as pure opportunism. let's fuck famous people and tell how shitty they are. or let's pretend to fuck famous people and tell. the younger we are the better. americans are such prudes. this whole deal would be so much more *edgy* if she were 15 or better yet 13. what's the legal limit? the sasha-grey-azation of society. It's my choice whether i profit off my documented degradation! if i profit, then i am in control! if i profit, i win! look at me! i can fuck famous people and hit buttons on a keyboard! i can take 10 cocks and then write about it! i'm a writer! joyce ain't got shit on me!" [sic] [male.]
"To write something like this pseudonymously in a fashion that outs the other person certainly meets the author's self-definition of 'fame whore' with the accent on the whore." [male.]
"She's confused attention with power and has let herself be used, sexually and now by other writers who are more savvy than herself (who profits here?). Her sexual exploits seem to be traumatizing experiences that she orchestrates to tantalize people who get off on the degradation of women (including herself). She has written repeatedly about how she is frigid, how sex is painful to her and how violence turns her on because she was a victim of rape. Just gross... and sad." [male.]
“marie calloway is a lazy boring writer who i know through a friend to be histrionic, predictably ‘unpredictable’ and most likely autistic.” [sic] [female.]
I spent the entire day reading all that had been written about me. I incessantly ruminated about all of it to the point of mental exhaustion, working myself up to a panic attack which finally culminated in me hiding from my parent’s Christmas party in the guest bathroom. There, I curled up into the fetal position and hyperventilated. After an hour and a half, I got up and logged onto my computer and went onto Gchat. Jeremy Lin immediately messaged me.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Is it possible to pull my story off of Muumuu House?”
"I feel aversion to that but it's up to you.”
“Yes. I don’t know. I guess I should not decide while I'm panicking.”
“I feel really good about all of this.”
“Why?” I asked.
He sent me a long email titled, “why I feel good about all of this.”
Benefits for Marie
1. More people know about you and your writing, which makes you and your writing more valuable, which ensures you a larger chance of financial security. Financial security means that you will feel less pressure to do things that you don't want to do. Financial security also means that you will feel less pressure to compromise any of your views or art or writing or anything.
It also ensures you a larger number of people who know about you and view you as worthy of attention. This means you will have a wider range of people with which you can choose to talk to and be friends with. This means you will be less likely to 'settle' for someone in terms of friendship or romance; you have more of an ability to 'choose' who you like most. This is what I think when I get negative coverage or people say I'm an ‘attention whore.' It's to ensure financial security, not to gain something called 'fame' which is an abstraction and so is something I have no concept of. I can't 'get' fame.
Benefits for People like Me
1. I'm excited about all this. I'm excited you exist. I feel less depressed because of this and your writing and you, in the same way I’m less depressed when I read any work of art that I like. This entire thing is so unlikely and exciting to me and in a way that is also positive, I feel, for society and everyone involved. As an 'art project' this is exciting to me. Something that I feel is morally good and artistically original/exciting is happening now and I feel less depressed or bored about life because of it.”
“I’m glad that you are glad that I exist.” I responded.
Jeremy Lin’s email opened a floodgate inside of me, and I told Jeremy Lin all about my worries about writing, my feelings of alienation, as well as the guilt, humiliation, and anger (“we didn’t talk about ‘feminism’ or ‘famewhoring’ or ‘revenge’ in the interview at all and I specifically asked the reporter not to focus on any gossip and she said she wouldn’t. I was so stupid to not have known that would happen. I feel completely ashamed.”) that I felt in a rapid fire stream-of-consciousness over Gchat. I concluded it with, "I feel like I will be embarrassed of this spill tomorrow. Please reassure me that you don't mind or think less of me."
"I enjoyed reading all that, thanks for sharing. There's nothing that you can say or do at this point that will make me think less of you, I feel. To me, I view this as: I’m happy to know someone like you, I have an increased chance of financial security (via increased knowledge of me), and that I’m happy to read your writing and see what happens with you and your writing in the future.”
I then told him about my fears of what he had meant with the invitation to Paris, about how my friends and Internet commentators had said, and how even I had wondered, that he was just trying to get me to have sex with him, and that that was the reason he had even published my story in the first place.
“No, I didn't want you to come to Paris to have sex. I like talking to you and I like your writing and your personality and sense of humor and willingness to publish things. I thought that I wanted to meet you and probably would at some point, and the most interesting way to do it would be to preempt you writing about it by making it the focus. I also knew that I wouldn't be able to do anything without consciousness of it being written about which seemed exciting, but only in a certain mood.”
“I can’t go into a situation knowing that I’ll write about it,” I responded.
After we were done chatting, I replayed the phrases “I'm excited that you exist” and “there's nothing that you can say or do at this point that will make me think less of you, I feel” over and over in my mind; it was successful in tampering the negative phrases that had been playing in my mind all day. No one had ever said anything like those things about me, and I realized that deep down it was what I was always longing to hear from other people, that all of my social interaction with other people were really just out of a want to hear those sentences, and so I felt almost existentially relieved by talking with him that night.
However, the intense criticism of me and my story on the Internet continued to grow. I began to receive death and rape threats over email. I mostly fought the compulsion to reply to the comments, and simply deleted the negative emails that I got. Nevertheless, a comment that essentially called me an “ugly slut” pushed me over the edge, and I broke my silence by responding “fuck off” to it. Right after I did that, I was immediately intensely embarrassed, but there was no way to delete my comment. I emailed Jeremy Lin out of desperation for consolation about everything.
“I am worried about how ‘attention’ makes me act weirdly. I tend to crack under pressure. I feel embarrassed about responding ‘fuck off’ to an idiotic comment on Thought Catalog. I feel like all of this ‘attention’ on the Internet is all very draining and exhausting, yet also addicting. I feel like it will be difficult for me to be able to write for a while due to reading all of these things about me, as stress and expectations on myself, and also the perceived expectations and opinions of others, make it impossible for me to write well. It seems like if I want to become a ‘successful writer’ it will be a lot harder than I imagined and in ways that I did not imagine. Maybe it won't even be possible due to how I crack under pressure. I just felt like telling you all this to get it out, by the way. I’m not expecting you to act as my therapist or something like that.” I wrote.
“I feel like you already have enough for a book, so maybe you can relax for a while and focus on what you've already done. I feel like you navigated this as well as I can think. I feel glad to have been a part of this in some way. I feel like the most shit-talking you will ever receive has probably already happened, with this, and it will gradually decrease from now on, so there will be less stress maybe. Overall, just good job, thank you for sending story to me in first place,” Jeremy Lin replied.
“Thank you. I feel happy that I made you ‘proud’ of me, and that I helped you get hits.”
After this message, Jeremy Lin and I Gchatted later that day.
“What do you think when someone says there are flaws in your writing, or when someone says you have talent? Do you think any of those people are right, whether they say you are good or bad, or do you think that everyone just has different preferences?” he asked.
“To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it.” I replied.
“If someone says your writing has flaws or is good, that implies they know a concrete goal that your writing has, which can be measured in numbers, and that the number would be higher or lower if you changed your writing in a certain way, I feel, but that seems incredibly hard to measure, even if two different people had agreed upon a purpose for your writing that could be measured, like 'increases heart rate in reader' or something. But it can be depressing to never think in terms of 'good'/'bad' without defining contexts/goals in each instance.
I feel like it's two completely different ways of using language, to (1) never use abstractions with 100% seriousness especially qualitative ones, without defining contexts or goals. (2) To use them. (2) makes it so there's always some purpose, there's always some people who you view as having 'good taste' and others as 'bad taste' and there's always that 'conversation' happening, that argument. I think that like 98% of people are (2), but I can only do (2) self-consciously, because I know that it's not accurate. But out of all the people on the Internet, I've found some people who write things who do (1) mostly and have published them on Muumuu House.”
I said that I appreciated his thoughts, but that I wasn’t in a cerebral mood at that moment. In actuality, I was very interested in Jeremy Lin’s opinion, but thought that I needed to do more reading and think on my own about this before I formed an opinion. But I was too afraid to tell him all of that.
A few days later, Jeremy Lin and I were invited to participate in a letter in the mail writing project, and also participate in a reading that was to be held in New York in connection with it. Jeremy Lin then arranged a Muumuu House reading to be held around that same time. He emailed me about the Muumuu House reading, “would you want to confirm the reading for February 21?”
“Yes, the 21st it is. I just booked a plane ticket to New York today. I feel very grateful towards you.”
“I’m excited that you're coming and that we have readings. I’m really glad that you're coming,” he replied.
Until then, my interactions with Jeremy Lin had been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Perhaps this led me to a false sense of complacency; that he would like me no matter what I did. Even with Jeremy Lin’s emotional support, the onslaught of hundreds of comments calling me a horrible writer and attacking me personally got to me. Out of want for support, I emailed a writer that I admired. After I sent it to her, I forwarded the email to him, hoping that he would comfort me, even though the email contained these lines,“The ‘attention’ positive and negative is making me get into an unhealthy obsessive/self-hate cycle and I developed massive writer's block and I lost my voice and confidence in my ability to write. I know the thing to do is just to ignore all of the comments, but I can't help but read things about me. I hate how I’m being described as some Jeremy Lin imitator or groupie. I don't want to be really associated with Jeremy Lin/Muumuu House (as a writer), I really want to escape that shadow.”
Jeremy Lin responded to the forward, “There will always be people talking about you if your writing is available. The more people who read your writing, the more money you'll make and the more people will talk about you. If you don't want any personal attention I think the only way to do that is to completely make up an identity and write only completely made up stories. Even if you have no Internet presence, if you publish a book, people will be talking about you. I think the only sustainable solution is to just learn over time to not be affected by what other people say or think. As for what you want or don't want to be associated with, focus on what you like and publish your work at places you like, and talk to people you like, and that's what you'll be associated with and if it's what you like then that won't be a problem. But being associated with things is unavoidable also.”
I could tell that he was upset with me. I wrote him a reply email, “I’m sorry if I came off as rude or offensive with regards to what I said about not wanting to be associated with you or Muumuu House. I didn't mean it like that, I don’t know. I really feel very grateful to you for publishing me on Muumuu House, and all of the advice and support that you have given me.”
Jeremy Lin replied, “can you elaborate on 'I didn't mean it like that, I don’t know' as much as you can or want to? I feel that it would decrease the awkwardness I feel now, and also I'm interested. I’m also interested in any elaboration of your original email. I would like to know more. Who do you seek validation from? From reading your blog and Facebook, I feel like you place more value in writing that is political and uses academic terms, but your fiction is nothing like that. I think it's interesting, the difference. I can see how you wouldn't want to be associated with certain things. I am interested in hearing more, both out of interest and to decrease the awkwardness.”
“I'm sorry. I don't want things to be awkward. I don't want you to dislike me or think less of me. I'm not sure who I seek validation from. I feel like I would be unhappy and insecure unless every single person who read my writing said they liked it and got what I was intending to do 100% and obviously that is impossible. I think deep down I published things because there was a desire to be understood by other people, but that didn't really happen and it now seems kind of ridiculous to think that could happen. Instead there was just a lot of people misunderstanding me and totally misrepresenting me as a stupid Jeremy Lin puppet attention whore.
I guess those people don't matter but it was very frustrating. Why do other people feel they understand my motivations and intentions with regards to my writing? Why do they feel like they can write in detail about my mental health? Why do they feel they get to decide if I’m ‘degrading’ myself, and assume that I have no understanding of those things? Why do they get to decide that just because my writing seems straightforward and direct, or that because I’m a 21-year-old ‘girl’ that I can’t have any intent with regards to my writing that isn’t directly stated? And so on... I guess I just feel like I don't want to be associated with you as a writer in the way that it brings people to think my whole writing efforts are just to impress you/get famous/attempt to write exactly like you.
As a writer and as a person I admire and like you a lot. I like how you are very intelligent but don't feel the need to show it off and are completely sincere and unpretentious, and I feel the same about your writing. Probably I was trying to use publishing as a way to bypass forming real life relationships with people, which is very difficult for me to do via awkwardness and social anxiety. I also feel like I desired to be validated by people as a writer and wanted to be able to see myself as a writer. I realized that I do want a book though I know I won't make much money or probably be reviewed well. I can't say why really that I write. I don't really aim to make money so much as like you said you did (not that I think wanting to make money is a bad goal). Writing is just something that I've done everyday since I was like seven years old and it feels like something I have to do, the same as with eating or whatever, but I feel like I come off as pretentious or taking myself really seriously if I say that. I don't want to be pretentious or ambitious and I really dislike those qualities in other people. I hate any sort of artifice. I feel like I can see myself becoming someone who is very ambitious and careerist and tries to suck up to people and who brags about being published in places, and I don't want to be like that, and I can't really operate or write under those conditions,” I responded.
“Thanks for typing all of that, I feel less awkward. Some people understood you and your writing. Wanting to connect with people is also a main factor as to why I write and publish things, forgot to mention that. Don't you feel you were successful in that? You've met a lot of people through writing. You didn't feel ambitious before? What were you thinking when you were sending out stories and emailing me a lot of times even if I didn't respond, with your writing? Is it different now? I’m interested in what you think about Muumuu House, because I honestly feel that Muumuu House is the least careerist, sucking up, 'contest'-like thing for writing there is now that I know of, since I and most people published that I know of on the site honestly believe that there is no good or bad in art (for example I 100% believe a 10-year-old's writing is not less good than James Joyce's, or replace either with any people) and have demeanors where it's impossible to fake interest or 'suck up.' I feel like someone who wants to avoid those things you listed would feel an affinity with Muumuu House. But I also think that you want validation and it’s an environment where you won't get much. I don't value intelligence and feel aversion to the word 'talent.' I feel like based on your stories I would think that you would like my writing, but based on other aspects of you I feel like you wouldn't like my writing. I feel like if there is anything I'm the opposite of it's probably essays I've read by n+1 people. So I've felt vague about what you think about me and why you repeatedly send me things. Can you elaborate on that? Also, what do you think about all the advice people have given you? I've felt aversion whenever I've read any advice people have given you. I feel like you know what you're doing and when I read other people's advice it makes me feel like I want to help you feel like you don't need their advice,” Jeremy Lin wrote.
“It's true that some people understood my writing, and my friends who knew me well grew to understand me more. For instance, my friend said, 'my girl friend in high school really likes your writing and admires you. I think there are a lot of people, girls especially, who intuitively understand what you're writing about and feel excited about it.' I guess it's hard for me to focus on that, though. It’s also true that I started to talk to a lot of people I really like because of my writing. I guess it just comes back to insecurity; a desire to be recognized by intellectuals or everyone, even. I don't know what to do about that. I don't know why I sent you things. I feel like I was just on autopilot and did those things because they intuitively felt like the thing to do and there wasn't conscious thought behind it. I didn't know or think much at all about Muumuu House before, and I had never read any of the writers there except I read a few of your short stories and Richard Yates, but I read those way after I published writing on Thought Catalog and sent you writing. I see some competition, ambition, and sucking up though it is in a different way than in other places.
I admire how firmly you feel about all art being subjective. I don't know how I feel about it. I haven't thought or read enough about it, though my intuitive feeling is that it isn't, totally, but now I'm thinking more and more that all art is subjective, but again, I don’t feel like I’ve read or thought about it enough to have a legitimate opinion. The most cynical part of me feels like it is a cop-out, with regards to my own writing, if I were to believe that all art is subjective. I haven’t really thought about or read about ‘talent’, though I can imagine that it is similar.
As for you with regards to your writing, I liked Richard Yates, and a few weeks ago I bought Shoplifting from American Apparel. Before you published my stories, my interest in you was sort of ‘sociological’; I was more interested in you as a sort of cultural entity than as a writer or person and I read Richard Yates through this lens, as well as the idea that I acquired of you (without thinking on my own) that you were just a talentless, gimmicky writer. Now, it's different, of course. I think, partly, that sending things to you was just kind of a social experiment. I was curious as to how you would react. I never expected you to publish anything by me.
About liking and admiring academic and intellectual writing but my own fiction not being like that, I feel like I’m fascinated by that kind of writing and I think it's more interesting than fiction. I think a lot about politics, but I'm not confident enough to write about those sorts of things directly, only indirectly through fiction. Maybe I’m not intelligent enough, either. It’s really frustrating to be someone who is genuinely interested in things, but perhaps lacks the intelligence to directly contribute to any sort of meaningful intellectual discourse. Also, the way that I think is not so rationally, but often intuitively and emotionally, and I make ‘high ideas’ cognizant mostly through the lens of myself and my personal experiences. Obviously this doesn't work for that kind of academic writing.” I wrote.
“Why do you think that thinking your writing is subjective is a cop-out? It makes life even harder for you (because you won't be with the 95% or whatever that believe otherwise) and (I've written about this elsewhere but don't know where exactly, just trust me that I've thought about it a lot) it's moral, it reduces pain and suffering in the world, to view art as subjective (basically it reduces hierarchical thinking and reduces qualitative-abstraction thinking; outside of morals it's historically, I estimate, more original; finally, it's more accurate, going by natural laws). In terms of how much you work on your writing art being subjective or not is irrelevant. Everyone still has their ideals if art is subjective and it will take as much work for someone to make a story into their ideal if they believe art is subjective or not.
I’d be much more interested in reading political or other essays by you than something via n+1, something with a lot of terms and received ideas. I feel like, based on what I know, a larger percentage of advances in whatever field have come from non-academic people who were able to think concretely and without the use of terms (or something). In your fiction you're able to write how things are, I feel, not how one would think they are, having read thousands of novels. I feel like you have a brain that is able to view things without preconceptions, in terms of your fiction, but you are resisting using that for other things. That you were really seeking validation is what I sensed whenever you asked me for help or advice.”
After this conversation I thought about how I admired Jeremy Lin’s obvious intelligence and thoughtfulness, though I wondered if he was trying to mold my thoughts and ideas and felt uncomfortable.
The rest of the week leading up to the readings in New York, Jeremy Lin continued to at times emotionally support me and give me advice on publishing my writing over email, and I felt touched when he expressed concerns about his own writing to me. He mailed me a booklet of drawings of koalas clutching onto cats that he drew for me, and I looked at it often.
I arrived in New York City on February 17. I was staying at an Internet acquaintance's house, and the night culminated in me coercing him into holding me while I cried and shook from the immense anxiety I felt about being in New York to meet Jeremy Lin and to do readings, an anxiety which I summed up to him in one line, “I just feel like I owe everyone something, and I can’t deliver.”
“They like you because of the work you produced. You don’t need to offer anyone more than that. You don’t owe anyone anything. Look, even if Jeremy and all of those people hate you in real life, which won’t happen, you don’t need them. You don’t need any of those people,” the acquaintance said.
Laying there I thought: I know that I don’t “need” Jeremy Lin to be a writer, but that’s not what I’m concerned with. Or perhaps I do need Jeremy Lin, because I know that without his emotional and public support I would have cracked. I want Jeremy Lin to like me a lot, though I don’t know how much I genuinely like him as a person and how much my feelings are distorted by him being Jeremy Lin. I then thought about how I couldn’t explain to anyone how I feel that my entire social existence amounts to a burden for other people, about how guilty I feel for making them interact with me, and how I know that the only hope for anyone to enjoy interacting with me is if I’m somehow able to conceal my real personality.
On Friday, I emailed Jeremy Lin asking if he wanted to meet me on Saturday. He said that he couldn’t, but that we should meet the day of the reading, a few hours before the event. On that day, we arranged to meet at a smoothie shop called One Lucky Duck. I took a taxi there and stood outside of it, smoking. I had to wait a while because I had arrived about twenty minutes early. I had been very afraid of being late as I had gleaned from his books that Jeremy Lin hated lateness.
After waiting about half of an hour, I saw Jeremy Lin walking towards me, carrying a MacBook. He was smiling. I started to smile when I saw him, and I wondered if it was because I was happy to see him, or if I was happy because he was smiling when he saw me.
We said hello to each other. Inside, Jeremy Lin helped me pick out a smoothie and bought it for me.
We sat side by side in a booth.
“Is that a tattoo?” Jeremy Lin asked of a name written on my arm in black sharpie.
“No. It’s the name of my best friend. I wrote it today so that I would feel less nervous.”
Jeremy Lin nodded. We sat in silence for a few moments.
“I liked it when Adrien Brody said ‘Am Appy’ in your story.”
“Yeah, that was funny.”
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