How to Get Along with Women

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Authors: Elisabeth de Mariaffi
first day we worked together, I was sitting down behind the counter and he came up behind me and started massaging my shoulders. He pressed his thumbs into the hard spots. First I thought, Here we go again. But then I thought about Marguerite Duras and how I could learn a lot from an older man, and my shoulders really stiffened up.
    Del said, Relax, honey, I’m not a perv. I’m just an old fag. He wore a wedding band, which wasn’t common in those days.
    We used to go to dinner all the time, but the sicker he got, the less he could eat. We went to Ginza and he sat in the restaurant and let his bowl of soba noodles go cold. It was my last year of high school. We’d known each other for a couple of years. I just talked and talked so we could both pretend not to notice how much he wasn’t eating. I’m going to borrow my mother’s car on Sunday, I said. Isn’t this wallpaper nice?
    Del’s boyfriend was a hairdresser who worked out of their kitchen on Church Street. We came in after dinner one night with bottles of mix for margaritas and Jeff was standing over a TV host I recognized, clipping away. Skinny lines of coke on the Formica tabletop. I asked Del if he minded the coke. He said No. He can do what he wants with his nose, is what he said. Del’s problems had started after Jeff hooked up with some other guy at a rave, but Jeff wasn’t sick. Just Del was.
    I once smoked a joint that was laced with crack, I said.
    How was that? Del said. I didn’t know if he meant, how did that happen, or how was the high.
    The same I guess, I said. I didn’t really notice. Someone told me later. We were at a party, I probably only had a couple puffs.
    Nah, don’t lie to me, Del said. You’re a coke queen. You know it.
    We sat in Del’s bedroom until the kitchen turned back into a kitchen again. We had the blender with us and Del was chipping frozen lime mix out of the cardboard tube with a spoon. It was scooping out in tiny chunks, chink chink, against the blades in the bottom of the blender.
    Del said, What am I doing? I’ll just throw it up anyway.
    We thought we’d try the margaritas for fun. At least you’ll be drunk, I told him. Those were the days before they gave you free pot just because you had AIDS.
    After Jamie tried to kiss me in the schoolyard, we walked home like nothing had happened. I went inside and he got on the bus and that was it. I watched some TV and ate a piece of cornbread. Jamie’s family lived in a very big old house near High Park, and he did bizarre things. Like if you went over to his house he might make you a pear omelette. He was probably my best friend from high school. He had a hookah that Del sold him after a trip to Morocco, and sometimes we’d cook a little hash in it and pretend it was opium.
    Hanging around Del always made me feel like I was very sophisticated about drugs, but mostly I smoked a little grass between classes and that was it. At my high school, rolling was a very gender-specific activity. I’m still not much good. It’s one of my biggest regrets. So a guy could pass you anything rolled into a joint and you would smoke it. My friend Larissa claimed that she’d had the best sex of her life after we smoked that crack. I was on the ceiling, she said. And I could see my body down on the floor. I was looking all around the room.
    Maybe you should have kept looking down, I said. What was your body doing that was so good? But Larissa said her body was the same; it was the crack that made the difference. I was pretty sure her boyfriend had made the crack story up. Who did they even buy it from? They had a hard enough time getting decent grass.
    The boyfriend’s name was Bill. He and Larissa spent a lot of time fighting. Bill had a car and he liked to drive to other cities and party with other girls. That was a sticking point. I dragged Jamie around with me wherever I went, which gave me some protection

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