This past summer, I was in a weird situation in New Orleans—a place that makes sure you’re drunk and acting out regrettably most of the time, so the geography gives this story some context. What happened was, to put an end to an unbelievably annoying all-night-long situation, and out of my own thoughtlessness and cruelty, I texted some pretty mean shit from someone else’s phone to Amelia Gray (author of Threats, published by FSG, and “On the Illness,” which you can find on page 78 of this very issue). Telling the whole story would take too long, and I might lose some friends by exposing too many of the details, but I wouldn’t have any business writing this if I didn’t include the text itself: “You are not hot AT ALL. And I will never love you or your writing.”
Fucked up, I know. Again, without getting into details, I’ll just say that the intentions of sending the text were fulfilled. The issue was now dead, and we went on with our night. The next morning I felt truly terrible about what I’d done. But I never did anything to rectify the situation, so it continued unchecked.
A couple weeks ago, on a rainy evening Peter Pan bus ride from Amherst, Massachusetts, to Springfield, I was looking out the window at the traffic lights through the rain on the glass and turned to the person sitting next to me. It was Amelia Gray. She said, “Can I ask you a question, Gian?” I told her that I knew what her question was and that the answer was yes, I wrote that text and that I had meant to clear things up but just never got around to it. “Can I punch you in the face, Gian?” she asked.
It was strange, but a punch in the face was suddenly the only thing I wanted in the world. I felt it would forge a notable and perhaps fitting ending to my weekend. I felt I owed it to her, too. I immediately agreed: “Please, go ahead. Seriously. You deserve it. Here.” I lifted my chin and turned my face to her. She punched me, but it didn’t really land. I was unsatisfied, and I could tell that she felt the same.
“Look,” I said and took her hand, shaped it into a fist, and showed her how to really put your body into a punch. I turned my cheek toward her yet again and she swung, fully connecting this time. Truly solid landing. Ear buzzing, head vibration, sensation of face inflating; all the symptoms of getting clocked were present.
I asked her if she felt better. She said she did. “Good,” I said, and maybe we even hugged. To be honest, I never felt any bad feelings toward her. I don’t think Amelia’s “not hot,” and I’ve never even read her writing. So my text was, in essence, total bullshit. Before leaving, she told me that her boyfriend, seated a few rows up, was more pissed about the situation than she was, but that she’d keep him cool.
As Amelia walked back to her seat, I pressed my throbbing cheek against the cold glass and said something like “Fucking bring it, dude” under my breath.