Jeremy Lin gave me Xanax so that I would feel less nervous during the reading, and we split a tablet of MDMA. He put it directly into my mouth with his fingers. I thought about how people on the Internet would write about Jeremy Lin “drugging young girls” if they knew about this.
He turned to look at my face and sighed, “I can’t believe I’m twenty-eight.”
He started to tap on random keys at a rapid-fire pace on his MacBook. “I’m typing the URL to my secret blog,” he said. I laughed.
He wasn’t talking, just hitting random keys on his MacBook out of what seemed to me like boredom.
“Am I doing something wrong?” I asked.
“No. I feel like I can talk to you.”
He asked me what I had been doing in New York so far.
“Yesterday I met with the guy who wrote the shit-talking post about me that you responded to. He said he’s going to come to the reading, but he doesn’t know why because he hates Muumuu House. He hates n+1 too, though.”
“I feel like there’s people who like Muumuu House, then there’s people who like n+1, and then there’s those other people.”
“Yeah. I thought that people usually like one or the other. He was really nice and seemed really smart, though. I think I have a crush on him.”
“I don’t get crushes anymore,” Jeremy Lin said.
This seemed sudden, and kind of severe to me. I felt a little taken aback.
We sat in silence for a while.
“I feel like you don’t like me,” I said finally.
“No, I like you, I like you, I definitely like you.”
I pinched his arm with my index and middle finger. His arm felt tiny and bony and I didn’t like the feel of it.
“What are you doing?” He asked, and I stopped. This was my blatant attempt at flirting, and it had failed. I said that I was sorry and felt buzzed from the Xanax.
Then I said that I was attracted to him. I wasn’t sure if I was attracted to him or not, but said that I was because I was confused as to how he felt towards me and wanted to know.
“In what way are you attracted to me?” he asked.
“Isn’t there only one way to be attracted to someone?”
“Like you would have sex with me?”
“Who wouldn’t you have sex with?”
I felt offended by this, but just smiled and said, “frat boys at my school who hit on me.”
“That’s…” he said, brushing me off.
“I thought you only liked really tall guys,” he said.
“I care mostly about age and intelligence, I guess.”
He said that he thought that before we met that I had made a point of saying that I wasn’t attracted to him.
“I just said that because I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“You are attractive…I’m just not attracted to anyone. I watch too much porn,” he said, smiling.
“I’m sorry. I feel kind of affected by the Xanax. This is a really awkward conversation.”
He said that it was fine, and that he liked awkward conversations.
He said that he had to meet his friend at a bar, and so we left and started to walk towards it.
He began to talk about the email that I had forwarded to him.
“You are so smart and like, confident in your writing. I want to make you feel like you don’t need those people’s advice. Like I feel like there’s like fifteen versions of some writers, but…” I guessed the implication was that there was only one Marie Calloway. I was flattered, but I also thought about how he was urging me not to listen to anyone’s advice, while at the same time he frequently gave me advice. I wondered if what he really wanted was for me to only listen to his advice.
He asked me exactly what I had meant about what I had said in the forward about him and Muumuu House.
“I feel like I already told you, in that email I sent to you.”
I felt confused and frustrated by his disbelief and lack of satisfaction in my explanation, and wondered if perhaps that this was the result of there being something about the way that female writers are treated that male writers can’t grasp.
“I just feel like there’s something you’re not telling me,” he said.
“I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me,” I said, wondering about why he was badgering me about this issue after I had explained it to him the best that I could.
“It makes me feel like you’re using me to further your writing career.”
“No!” I said, and stopped in the middle of the street, my arm stretched out towards him. I was completely shocked that he thought that.
“What are you doing?” he asked, laughing.
I walked to the sidewalk where he was standing, and he started to walk again, but then I stopped and started to rub my eyes, halfway in between actually crying and forcing myself to cry. I wanted to cry so he would see that I was a good person and not a calculating user, but he seemed completely unfazed by my tears. He discussed people using other people in the literary world, and how most people had relationships like that, and about how it was okay to be honest and acknowledge them.
“I feel like you’re projecting qualities of other people or yourself onto me,” I said. I didn’t really think that, but I couldn’t think of any other way to articulate that I thought that he was wrong.
“I don’t think I am,” he said, smiling and shaking his head.
I thought then how it seemed impossible for me or perhaps even anyone to outsmart or manipulate Jeremy Lin, at least when it came to interacting with him on an interpersonal level.
“Can we start walking again?” I asked.
“Yeah. You were the one who stopped.”
We began to walk again and were silent for a while until Jeremy Lin said, “you didn’t get Good Morning, Midnight, did you?!” in a playfully accusatory tone.
“No, I got it,” I insisted, and felt relieved that he had dropped the issue of the email, though also sad about how he seemed to believe that I was indeed only trying to use him.
“But you didn’t start reading it yet?” He asked.
“I started it but, I don’t know. I like writers like Raymond Carver and Tolstoy and Joyce Maynard.”
“I feel like Jean Rhys is a lot more similar to how you write than how Raymond Carver or Tolstoy write. Are you not interested in reading writers who are similar you?”
“I don’t know.”
We reached the bar and Jeremy Lin and I met his friend, a writer who would also be reading that night. They talked about drugs, facing each other with their backs to me. I sat staring ahead at the bartender. I ordered a beer and drank it rapidly, feeling suddenly very alone. I thought about what a quiet, ignorable presence I had. I wondered if for as long as I was with Jeremy Lin and there were other people there, I would always feel like a hanger-on.
Jeremy Lin, I, and the other writer walked into St. Mark’s Bookshop together. There were about eighty people crowded inside. I felt simultaneously excited and high on a sense of ‘celebrity’, and yet intensely ridiculous for feeling that way, as well as anxious. This was to be my first reading.
We all separated and I talked to the friends who had come to see me read as well as to a few fans of my writing who approached me.
After about half of an hour of talking and waiting, Jeremy Lin came to the microphone and announced that the reading was going to begin. I was sitting in the very front in a row of seats that had been reserved for all of the readers.
Jeremy Lin opened the reading and introduced himself. He read from his Twitter feed (“horror movie titled ‘Flying Shark that can Open Locked Doors’”) and after reading thirty or so tweets ended abruptly by saying, “that’s all I’m going to read,” and introduced me. The crowd applauded. I walked to the microphone.
“Thank you very much. I’m Marie. I’m going to be reading from a story that I wrote called ‘Adrien Brody …’ I continued to awkwardly explain my story. I felt strange, but I had thought before how I should explain it, because otherwise I would come off as arrogant, a sort of unspoken “of course you’ve heard of me and my story.” Through the corner of my eye I saw Jeremy Lin smiling as I was explaining, like he was embarrassed, embarrassed of me.
“I’m sorry, I’m really nervous,” I said, laughing, as an apology to Jeremy Lin.
I began to read. I kept my eyes firmly on the paper and was able to become unaware that there was a crowded bookstore full of people watching me. While I read I felt like I was able to become like an automaton. I recited the words on the page without thinking or feeling much. But near the end of my reading, someone laughed after I read the line “I could feel him lose his erection,” breaking the audience’s silence. After the laugh I looked up from the paper I was reading from at the audience. I was terrified by the sight of a hundred blank faces, staring. I quickly looked back at the paper and (shakily at first) began to read again.
When I was done reading everyone applauded and I walked back to my chair and hung my head down, with my face in my hands. I thought I had done well, but that I should present myself as being ashamed so that others would judge me less.
After the reading, Jeremy Lin and the rest of the Muumuu House readers went to Blue and Gold, a nearby bar, along with all of their friends. While I was talking to my friend, Jeremy Lin came up behind me and placed his hand on my shoulder. I thought about how I liked the feeling of his hand on my shoulder.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“I feel like I didn’t do well.” I did actually think that I had done well, or at least okay, but I wanted him to say something nice about me.
“You did a good job,” he said.
We didn’t talk the rest of the night. Jeremy Lin talked to his other writer friends, and I talked to my friends who had come to see me read. But at the end of the night, I hugged Jeremy Lin before he left. As I embraced him, I felt like he hadn’t wanted me to hug him and felt uncomfortable. He felt very thin, even skeletal, to hug.
I was left thinking that he hadn’t liked me.
The next day Jeremy Lin emailed me, “how's it going, how was your day? What'd you do?”
“Hi. In the morning I took the train from this guy’s house to back home. Then I went to meet this literary agent. He was very kind and seems to really like me and seems interested in representing me, I think, maybe, but says my next move is to get published in places like Harper's before releasing a short story collection. That's what people want first, apparently. After that I slept a lot. I feel lonely yet sick of people.”
“I’m interested in hearing about you and the agent. I feel like there would be an agent who would want to sell a book by you now, if you put a book together out of the things you have and maybe one more thing first then approached them with that. I don't think Harper's, etc. is necessary. I feel like it's nearly impossible to get published in Harper's unless you have major connections but you can get a book published without connections.”
“I’ll think about all of those things and ask people about it. Do you want to hang out today? I'm meeting this guy for lunch today at 1:30 and then I’m free until the reading,” I replied.
“You can ask me about book things. I feel like I know what I'm talking about re: agents and books. I'm meeting someone at 6:30 or so but I want to hang out with you. I’ll be done with the library at 4:30. I'm at 79 Washington Sq. South or I can meet you wherever. I'll have email or text until then. I can give you some Xanax if you want.”
I took the R train to 8th street and we met outside of the station. Jeremy Lin examined my copy of Monthly Review, and then he led me to a vegan restaurant because I said that I wanted a drink before the reading.
When we arrived, I sat down and ordered a 32-ounce Sierra Nevada.
“How was meeting with the agent?” he asked.
“I think he liked me a lot.”
“Why? Why would anyone like you?” he asked in a jocular tone.
“I don’t know,” I said, laughing.
He must like me, you would only joke like that with someone you really like, I thought.
We started to discuss the reading. He read the last line of the piece he was going to be reading that night (“when I read my mom’s e-mail I cried also”) and asked me if I thought that he should add other reasons that he had started to cry then, like how he had no friends at the time.
“I think that’s kind of a cop-out,” I said.
“It’s more honest.”
In the end he decided to read it as it was originally written.
We started to walk to Housing Works, where the reading was being held.
“Who do you think is the biggest fan of your writing?” Jeremy Lin asked.
I smiled. “I don’t know. Probably no one.”
When we arrived at the reading, Jeremy Lin separated from me to be with his friend, who was thin and pretty and blonde. I sat in the seats reserved for readers, and spent most of my time watching Jeremy Lin chatting, huddled up with the blonde woman, looking at his iPhone together. The first reader read, and then it was my turn to read. I got on the stage and read like an automaton again. When I was finished, the audience applauded me, and then I returned to my seat. I didn’t pay attention to any of the readers. I only looked at Jeremy Lin talking with the blonde woman.
After the reading was finished I went over to Jeremy Lin and stood next to him. As we were talking, he was approached by a large group of fans. I stood there awkwardly as Jeremy Lin turned towards the group and began to talk with different people.
As I stood there looking at Jeremy Lin and his crowd I thought about how I desired to be close to him, for him to like me above all, and yet also how I felt overshadowed and stifled by him. Here, literally, as audience members flocked to him everyone ignored me, and also as a writer, as my most honest thoughts and experiences were summed up by many as a Jeremy Lin imitation; a gushing groupie's love letter to an older writer she desperately wanted to be fucked by. I thought back to a comment about me I had read: “a story by a young, immature writer who’s trying to impress her writing idol [Jeremy Lin]” and how it would probably always feel stifled and overshadowed unless I were to somehow totally disavowal Jeremy Lin from my life and career, and accept all of the difficulty and pain that would bring. I wondered if I would ever be able to reconcile my ambition to be a serious writer with my desire to be loved.
At the end of the reading, Jeremy Lin, the blonde woman, my friend who had come to the reading, and I decided to go to Jeremy Lin’s apartment. There wasn’t enough room in the cab for all of us, so Jeremy Lin told my friend and I to take another cab and meet them. When we arrived on Jeremy Lin’s street, he hadn’t been waiting for us. I thought of a documentary I had once watched featuring an interview with Cynthia Lennon where she talked about being left behind by John Lennon on a train and how she knew then that their relationship was over. Then I felt ridiculous. I texted Jeremy Lin for his exact address.
My friend and I arrived at Jeremy Lin’s apartment. He and four other people were there. While walking in, I was struck by the starkness of it. It was dimly lit, and was totally bare except for a bed and other necessities.
I went to Jeremy Lin’s desk and took two tablets of MDMA, and an Adderall.
I went over to Jeremy Lin.
“Can I smoke in your room?” I asked.
“No, no no no…”
I smoked outside of the window, along with the four other people there. The blonde woman who Jeremy Lin had been conversing with at the reading tried to talk to me. She said kind things to me while I thought mean things about her.
I went onto Jeremy Lin’s bed, where his MacBook was lying, with his Gmail open. I typed “Marie” into the search bar. I clicked on an email conversation that he had with another writer who had read at the Muumuu House reading.
“I like Marie in person, but I'm not attracted to her,” Jeremy Lin had written.
“I expected to be more attracted to Marie in person. Also, I felt Marie read ‘poorly’, but she has a good reading voice,” the writer had replied.
I stopped reading.
“What did he mean by that?” I asked to Jeremy Lin who had come to sit next to me on the bed.
“It’s in quotes. You know what it means.”
“Like it was conventionally a poor reading?”
“Yes, that’s what it means.”
I felt like I was acting like what men refer to as “difficult and needy,” but on drugs I couldn’t restrain myself.
“Why aren’t you attracted to me?” I asked.
“I’m only attracted to girls who weigh like 100 pounds.”
“You think that I'm using you, like a sociopath,” I said.
Jeremy Lin moved away to talk to the other people in the room.
I got onto his MacBook and google searched “Marie Calloway” and intentionally sought out negative things that had been written about me. (“It was just a girl mimicking [Jeremy Lin.]”)
Jeremy Lin saw what I was looking at and scoffed. He ordered me to stop looking at those things because “it’s just going to make you sad.”
“Don’t you think there’s more things in life than just being happy? But, no, actually I feel silly that I cared so much about criticisms of me. It seems so immaterial in the face of doing readings and meeting with an agent and being surrounded by encouraging people…”
I got off of the computer and talked to my friend, who was standing near the window. We talked about men and body image and writing.
“I remember that you said that one day you want to write a story that’s completely incomprehensible to men,” my friend said.
“Yeah, I do,” I said, smiling.
“That’s sexist. You’re the most sexist person I've ever met,” Jeremy Lin interjected.
I flopped down on his bed, sighing, “men are so oppressed.”
“Me and my friend were talking about how it seems ridiculous to call you a ‘feminist,' but you support a lot of female writers through Muumuu House and you wrote that article about how female writers are taken less seriously than male ones.”
“I did write that… I think everyone is sexist and racist.”
I lit a cigarette and started to smoke it in Jeremy Lin’s bed.
I said something to Jeremy Lin about inconsiderateness.
“How am I inconsiderate?”
“In your books,” I said, thinking in my mind how a review in the New York Times had referred to the Jeremy Lin character in one of his books, Richard Yates, as a “psychologically damaging bully.” I thought about how calling him a “bully” was too harsh, but that he had seemed really controlling and intent on molding the female character in that book, and that this was interesting to me because I thought that he had been trying to mold me as well.
He was going to respond, but then I sat up, revealing cigarette ash all over his white sheets.
“This was incredibly inconsiderate!” This was the first time I had ever heard, even heard of, Jeremy Lin raising his voice.
“Well, now you’ll always have a part of me in your bed,” I said, smiling and laughing.
He looked me and I averted his gaze. I could tell he was disgusted.
“I need to write.”
“What do you need to write?”
I didn’t know. I didn’t have anything in mind, I just felt that I had to, in that moment. Jeremy Lin slid his MacBook to me and looked over my shoulder. I typed about how I felt that Jeremy Lin owed me something, that he had a responsibility to me.
“I feel like I have given you a lot of publicity,” he typed back.
I felt annoyed that he seemed to not understand what I had meant.
I typed bad things that had happened to me in my life, and that how I thought that usually male writers wrote female characters poorly, but that his portrayal of a teenage girl in Richard Yates was exceptional.
Jeremy Lin got up off of the bed and walked away to talk with his other friends.
My friend and I lay on Jeremy Lin’s bed and talked intimately. Then Jeremy Lin addressed me, standing up, holding a copy of his book, Bed.
“I didn’t like that one. I liked Richard Yates, though,” I said.
“You don’t like pretentious prose?” he asked, smiling.
I asked him if he would give me a copy of Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee because I had enjoyed the author’s reading.
“Won’t that book just make you jealous?”
“Why would it make me jealous?”
“You know, she is my wife.”
He threw four or five Muumuu House books at my head.
The other guests at the party decided that it was time to leave, and left. Jeremy Lin and my friend urged me to leave as well, but I said that I didn’t want to yet, and that I would catch up with my friend in a few minutes.
Jeremy Lin was lying stretched out on the other side of his bed, as far away from where I was sitting on it as possible. I said things, and he didn’t respond.
Finally he said, “your friend is waiting for you,” with a high degree of irritation in his voice.
I thought about how normally being some place and interacting with someone when they don’t want me to, as Jeremy obviously didn’t then, is one of my worst fears. However, while I was on drugs I didn’t care about any of that. I thought that it was interesting how I was for the first time in my life pushing past the desire to never interact with someone in a way that they didn’t want me to.
“Oh, yeah.” I had genuinely forgotten about her. I realized that I should leave for her sake.
“I just don’t want you to lose interest in me and stop talking to me, Jeremy,” I said quietly.
He said no, and that he only publishes people on Muumuu House that he thinks he will be interested in for a long time.
I got out of his bed and walked out of his apartment.
When I got back home from New York, the first thing that I did was email Jeremy Lin.
“Hi. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable at the party thing. It’s just drugs make me spill my guts. I feel like you would be interested in that in my fiction but not from the high, crazy girl at a party. I'm not sad you aren't attracted to me, really, by the way.”
“It's okay. I usually like talking in that manner, just not at that moment. I had also felt irritated by your other actions, like how you got cigarette ash everywhere. So I didn't feel like talking like that at that moment. But I liked talking to you at other times. Did I give you you are a little bit happier than i am? Almost all of it is about a girl I liked that I wanted to be closer to who didn't want to be closer to me. I feel like I felt how you felt when you were lying in the bed not wanting to leave. It's in one of the poems in there, where I don't want to leave some girl's place but she's kicking me out.”
I wanted to ask why he had told me about that part in his book, but I was too afraid to.
“I don’t think Jeremy Lin likes me anymore. I’m afraid that he’s lost interest in me,” I wrote in an email to a mutual friend of Jeremy Lin and I.
A few minutes after I sent that email the friend responded, “I don't think you understand him. You expect him to see you as a sex object, but he sees you as a person, and as a writer. You should stop thinking of sex as your best thing and realize, like Jeremy has, that writing is your best thing.”