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?”

“Yeah.”

*

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.

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