19 April 1995

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

I’m writing this on a Southwest Airlines barf bag. Soon I will be with Teresa. I love it when I see her again. When I came home last week, I drove and arrived late, and Teresa was asleep. I sat down on the bed, and without making a sound she pulled me hard into the bed and put the covers over me.

When I flew to Oakland two days ago, I was walking up the air-stairs, and Teresa tossed me a kiss and then laughed. I laughed too, and tossed one back and thought, we are so funny. But when I called from Oakland to say that I wasn’t dead, Teresa told me that when she tossed the kiss, the teenage boy standing behind me on the air-stairs reached up and caught the kiss in his hand. “Interception!” said Teresa when she told me.

“Is that why you were laughing?”



Someone in my American Women Writers class asked me how many contrary pills I had taken before class. I laughed because it really was funny, but then later I thought, “A whole fucking handful, you fucking fool.” We got into a discussion about reading groups and book clubs, and I was expressing scorn and ridicule—because, Jesus, if you don’t recoil in horror from something like that, what the hell hope is there for you? Well, I didn’t say that exactly, but something like it, and someone said, “Well, those book clubs are good if they keep people reading.”

“If you need a book club to keep reading, you probably don’t like reading very much.”

“I’m sorry, but I think that’s really snobby,” said one woman (the same one who asked me about the contrary pills). I just shrugged. Can you think of anything snobbier and more pretentious than a reading group, which has everything to do with thinking about yourself as a literary type and nothing to do with reading? Anyway. Then she asked me about the contrary pills.[1]

By the way, I ended up reading the comments of the I-hope-it-doesn’t-hurt-your-feelings woman, and what she said about my story was right. What a pain.


We’re about to land. I can see all the spread out lights of the Valley and the Hollywood Hills. The headlights of cars on Cahuenga pass look like a weird, bright river flowing down the mountainside. And when we took off from Oakland, you could see everything, so small and perfect: Bay Bridge, San Francisco, the shipyards of Oakland, the long piers coming out from Emeryville, and the Golden Gate.



[1]  Note added 2013: I was thinking the other day about joining a book club, but no one ever invites me. Maybe they know me. By the way, I don’t read, or barely, which shows I was probably right back then and hopeless now.