Read a letter!

Dear Izabelle:


To the extent that you "don't like talking about yourself," I love talking about myself. I'm a born egomaniac. Fortunately, I've learned to curb my voracious appetite to take over and subdue an entire dinner table with my tales and wanton arrogance, with an attentive ear. But, alas, most people would, in the end, prefer to hear my ridiculous yarns and bombast over the grayed-out tales of their own lacklustre lives. You don't seem like you're much of a talker at all, really. I can understand that, with your looks and intelligence a sure bet every time. Me, I just went berserk, long ago and far away, with making myself smart. Sure, it got me into some interesting spots in Budapest & St. Petersberg & Prague, but it never got me home. That was just dumb luck.




Mandy (aka: "Motherleave")


We got along great with each other; both of our intellects were on the perimeter, and our conversation was as easy as smashing endless glass bottles together with endless piles of rocks at hand. When Mandy sat on my bed, I knew it meant I had to sleep with her, that that was expected, that that was how things were done, that it would be inhospitable, rude, and would cause problems if I didn't.


It didn't feel like it was something I could, without causing a scene, given how well everything else had gone, avoid. So, we had sex. It felt like I was supposed to, that it would be better if I just did. So this, I thought to myself, is what it is like to be a girl. It was just easier for me to have the sex.


Before that, soon after I had written Mandy that night, we had messaged each other; and soon, too, she countered my suggestion that she drive upstate, not I to Brooklyn, or at some point in between, mid-way, to meet me. And, by 2 am, a small blond girl, an elfin one with narrowing eyes, was pulling into my driveway in her pickup truck from Red Hook with a stack of LP's under her arm to play on my tube-amplified stereo.


Divorced and on the loose, writer Egbert Starr reveals the manic days of his six month plunge into online dating. A cringe-worthy read that's hard to let go of, he writes over three hundred letters to women online, just as desperate for sex and love as he is. Funny, cruel, sentimental, heartfelt, and just plain ridiculous, these letters stage the outlandish adventures he ends up on—from bi-polar potheads discovered in the forests of NJ, to crazed Harvard PhD’s threatening to break down his locked front door.


# 147

# 1

Because the cat had knocked the tone-arm off the turntable and broken its delicate harness from which it hung balanced almost weightlessly, the Leonard Cohen and the fistfuls of music she brought could not be played. Mandy tried to fix it, and I saw she could be of use like this, that she liked to fix delicately engineered things that were broken, and could do it.


She was like a surgeon dealing with a heartwreck, but I didn't have the right tools, and it was hopeless for the night. She quit like it was over before it began, a switch in mood that was as sudden as her initial determination to fix it.


Next week I visited her. When I got off the F-train, she was waiting for me in her pick-up truck, beaming. It was beautiful and romantic, and I felt beautiful to have a woman waiting for me, just as we had planned, to the minute. I began to be a little bit put off when she told me that her apartment's doormat that cheesily spelt out Robert Indiana's tilted LOVE-thing was a gift from her husband, from whom she had been separated for five years already; and her recent grief over a year-long relationship with another man who broke it off with her because his wife had become pregnant, was also alarming.


At the same time, even though she mispronounced a few words, such as a flat schwa in "undulate," the sign of an autodidact more than a poseur, her wall that was a map pinning in place her eighteen months of world travels between Iraq, Russia, and India, where alone she had travelled to mourn the death of her father, when she was thirty-seven, drew me in.


I loved Mandy's voice, and had a hard time erasing it from my answering machine. It was polite and clear and confident—like a descendant's of Katharine Hepburn's might be, if you imagined that. Having myself over twenty-five years ago been a sort of land rover, seafarer, I felt both jarred and at home to hear Mandy's far flung stories of being "fucked like a dog" by a Russian ship captain in the middle of the Black Sea; and later, when fearing for her safety from Moscow's underworld, how she stole his address book and fled his apartment; only to return, two months later from Istanbul to give the book back.


When she offered to show me her papers that she was clean from diseases and not to worry about getting her pregnant because she had had a ten-year copper-plated IUD, I was only half relieved.


The next time she came upstate, I returned home in the afternoon after work to find that Mandy, rather than having used the day to work on the book she was writing about her unresolved relationship with her deceased father, and for which I had invited her to spend the time doing, she had cleaned my house from top to bottom instead. It was spotless. "There were black hairs everywhere," she said. The correct assumption I let pass was that the hair Mandy had discovered had belonged to my ex-wife.


She wiped her brow; her hair was blond. She talked about how she had moved the bed. She talked about how she had turned the mattress over. She was fairy-like, five foot-one; it was a king-size mattress. She told me she had done my wash. I told her that the wicker basket that had been full of clothes that she had also washed had been clean clothes. She told me that she hadn't had time to fix the hinge on the refrigerator door that, because of how the door swung, was threatening the refrigerator's seal.


She called me "Dear" a lot, and at dinner began telling me about the recipe she had used tonight, and about other recipes she had gotten from her mother-in-law. Like the tiniest crack of light that gets in, she must have seen a flash of discomfort cross my face. She jumped up from the table and began clearing our dishes and washing them.


While the water from the sink was pouring from the faucet, she shouted at me to tell her what the fuck my problem was. I told Mandy that I would after she had calmed down and we both were seated again. Fifteen minutes later, the dishes drying on the wooden rack, I told Mandy that I'd prefer it if we didn't invite our ex's to dinner, that I just wanted to have dinner with her.


I barely remember any of her anger that came next when Mandy left in her truck. We did not go to the opera Orphée et Eurydice at the Met to which she had invited me and bought tickets for the next day ever.