by Barbara Genova
College boyfriend was being impersonated on facebook at the time. Someone worked on this profile: dewy fresh pictures, his full birth name, anticipation chills of a family reunion — a little too into it, the sharing, didn’t super click with the boy I dated ten years earlier, so I tried the other profile and it was him.
When we reconnected, he asked about “my romantic life” in a different language — not his own, mine, a revolting quirk he insisted on — and also, he had been dating our generation’s most acclaimed dramatic actress for six months. He asked me if I knew who she was. Do you — ? Then he ducked into a bodega to get ice cream, he wanted ice cream, leaving me outside to smoke and not pace not stare, we must have been in Red Hook, last body sensation I have is the lick of plastic but that’s a mind glitch — I’m always a child in plastic shoes — and on a square hot stretch of pavement I waited for him to come back as I lit up again and fuck fuck it’s her, her, her, how, and how am I gonna get out of this one.
(Every time I was anywhere for ten to twelve years: how I was gonna get out of that one. Silly girl, you can just leave!: turns out you can’t. Say you’re stuck at dinner with strangers hauling questions at you and nobody intervenes and the one action would be, you lock yourself in the restroom and refuse to come out unless, but then, people talk, they jump on messenger tell their friends the production driver tells the whole crew, and you’re gonna be the one who imploded in a bagel place.)
College boyfriend would have been a double fuck no had I met him as a grown woman: you do not date regular guys, you do not date regular guys if they have visible relatives. Or friends! Those are pure demonic. Entitled to the fine life, front row seats to the career massacre and the stir fry sweat smell. It’s insane. Big cities carry an original sin in their DNA strands, New York it’s ten thousand regular guys who can get close to movie stars if certain things rearrange: if they’re buddies with the boyfriend of the movie star who’s shooting now, they might visit for the weekend and meet another movie star, the girl from L.A., and she might find them enticing or vulnerable, tricky but manageable. They could creep under her skin for half a year.
Regular Guy went on to date the most famous dramatic actress our age, an icon to millions beloved by all, and he asked me if I knew who she was. There had been zero pictures, none.
I killed the real question — wait, how — and I merged into, how did you stay private.
They had pulled a bunch of stunts to avoid getting caught, and to him, at first, it was a thrill. So exciting. She used to run up and down the street ahead, check for paparazzi around the corner, then she’d come running back and adjust reality to what she’d seen. Drop the bag, hold this, walk three blocks on the other side. That’s a lot of hours you’re putting into not being associated with some man — in truth, eternal evidence of you two strumming on the same street on the same day. Five months in and you’re not done playing the camera, what’s the holdup here.
College boyfriend actively disliked being told no, wanted stuff to fall in line with minimal effort on his end; he’d gone to a fifty thousand per year prep school, and he’d played lacrosse there, a detail I recalled only after a werewolf show picked lacrosse game as the event to pin a mid-season finale on.
He used to straight up sulk — bottom lip jutting out, arms crossed over the chest — any moment he couldn’t get what he wished for, nicer hotel rooms, faster trains, family money, but I had filed that under general immaturity and we had been kids acting as adults at the time, so surely — oh no surely nothing. Here’s a picture for you: him, staring at Something Wild on a small screen in the corner of my room, him saying, out loud, to me in the room, this movie is everything he hates about the U.S.A.
Save for a part time crystal dealer who was still telling himself he was a trance producer, I dated absolute deranged people when I was young and I could never get help: they passed. They looked human. What do you mean he’s acting weird, seems fine to me? Had to bounce out of the regular guy pool, because, and that stands, if you’re dating a visible quantity, a profile, you know what’s liable to go down more often than not. You can plan for a bouquet of worst case scenarios, bend reality if you must (hospital cops lawyers publicists — does he want to scream a little). Whereas, regular guys have rack upon rack of demented capital — ideas about marriage and culture and priorities, they’re clack clack clack spinning in the brain all night long. It’s a sick sight, and believe me: they will unload the entire brain on you soon as they get you alone.
Melanie Griffith in a Jonathan Demme movie, now that’s everything a sane person would hate about the U.S.A.
We did have a ten-year cooling off period after he bailed in the middle of the 2000 Florida recount (oh, that he just wanted to move past), and time plus distance made it look good for him and I to have dinner in Brooklyn once and twice and three and I stopped it after an hour spent saying, and then explaining, and then stating that no, I did not, in fact, want to catch a movie with this guy and his second cousin, on the grounds of “I said no” and “I don’t want to”.
Oh fuck me but he had been banging his cousin’s sister the year before and he told me not to tell the cousin and he called it an affair; and he told me when the cousin was in the restroom? Why are you still talking, dude, are you dipping in my mother tongue because you’re self aware enough to know you can’t cut it as yourself, you need to trick women into believing it gets deeper, but you can’t quite face the shame of how transparent you are —
The movie star, he broke up with her. Spy games lost their shine, guy fell out of love. And: he was crazy bothered by the time. Her schedule was busy-busy, she wanted him to be available when she was free.
She’s such an L.A. girl, he said, and he snapped his fingers, go go go.
Core reason I had been dating that boy in my early twenties and bearing the brunt of long distance mood swings on his end was he could get it up and slam it in. Say that you love me. And then: you know I don’t love you. Fucked me in a mirror, his eyes on the wall, not on me. Let’s try long distance and he called it off in two weeks not days. In your early female twenties you endure a ton of demeaning incidents if there’s the faintest speck of you getting railed on the horizon, and it’s a habit I grew out of quicker than some, still, unlocking the explain yourself part of the brain(that’s a lifetime struggle if you’re built like I was). And sitting on a stoop in Red Hook with him reminiscing about his mixed feelings I went, oh so that’s how it happens, I’m bruised, you’re bruised, you’re supposed to be humbled, there’s a closeness, and it didn’t, but if I had made a move, I could see it.
And I got told to bring my hot self to dinner number two and I let that one slide.
God, fuck you, past self. Praise the Lord you’re in the rearview mirror. Stay dead.
Barbara Genova (she/they) is the pen name of a public woman who went private. Poetry and stories written as Barbara have been published / are forthcoming at The Daily Drunk, surfaces.cx, Anti-Heroin Chic, Sledgehammer Lit, Scissors and Spackle, The Final Girl Bulletin Board, Fahmidan Journal, Misery Tourism, Hallowzine (2021), Expat Press, The Bear Creek Gazette, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Roi Fainéant Press, Discretionary Love, and the Hecate Magazine anthology issue #2 (DECAY, winter 2021). She can be found on Twitter and on Instagram.