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August 1, 2006 Fiction


Tao Lin

October photo

At dinner your friend took your cell phone from your bag and took a photo of me and put your cell phone in your bag. Everyone noticed and I think everyone thought about it too but no one said anything even though everyone probably felt either good or bad or serious after thinking about it.

Someone said something about using dogs to fish for sharks and I sipped your drink and I said I felt drunk.

You stared at the left side of my face. You said you were going to make me uncomfortable. Your plan was to make me feel uncomfortable and you moved your face close to mine and stared and I felt serious and melodramatic because I wanted to turn and surprise you and kiss your mouth.

The waiter brought you another drink and the waiter left and you said you didn't want another drink.

I said that I'll have it and I said to give it to me.

'I don't drink,' I said.

'Yeah you do!' you said. 'You told me you wanted to get drunk and throw things in Times Square.'

'I don't get drunk,' I said.

Your friend said she was an intern for Annie Proulx's literary agent.

I left the table and tripped and fell against a wall and recovered and bumped into a silver thing that was there. The bathroom door had no handle and I couldn't get in. I couldn't tell which was the men's room because I couldn't read the writing on either door. On my way back I felt lost and walked into low benches and strange structures that were silver. You watched me and laughed and you glanced at your friend and you glanced at my friend.

I sat down. I sat there and it was the end of something and I felt calm and then I felt afraid. We ate food. You said you Googled me and read my stories and you unfocused your eyes a little and grinned.

My friend looked at me and asked me about Benjamin Kunkel.

'His book is like chick-lit,' I said. 'It's stupid.'

'Good,' my friend said.

I said my book was rejected by twenty people. You said my book was coming out soon. I said I was lying when I told you about the three-hundred-thousand-dollar advance.

You made my friend admit that animals feel pain.

'See,' you said.

I felt compassion and the compassion tricked me and I thought we were all in one family including me and you and dogs and sharks and would all love each other this year, the next year, on holidays and birthdays, and inside of hospitals at the ends of our lives.

For a moment it felt like that but it was just a moment and I don't remember what it felt like.

Outside I patted your head and you kicked my legs.

My friend left and I walked behind you. I wanted to visit your new apartment.

You said I could tomorrow and you bought tea from the grocery store.

I put grocery things in your pockets. I said you would be arrested.

Your friend was serious and she walked around being serious. She walked somewhere and came back.

'Where did you go?' I said.

She said something about cookies and looked very serious.

I found you and I put a can of something in your front pocket and you laughed and your nose changed colors.

At the cash register I felt you looking at me.

At the entrance your friend said Annie Proulx made eighty thousand a month in royalties. I calculated in my head eighty thousand a month for twelve months. I saw some plastic shopping baskets and I went there and I stepped in them and I stepped out of them.

I felt confused and I wanted to jump over the railing and do something fun but I wasn't sure if anything would be fun or just stupid and boring. I thought that the night was over and probably the week too or maybe the rest of the year and I felt serious. And I looked at my shoes.

image: Sean Carman