April 10. Jazz.

A student comes into the lab where you work cuz her teacher says she has to, she’s your age, and from the moment she walks in you for some reason fall into this comfortable barb-trading, razzing one another’s outfits and haircuts and teeth, and when you sit to help her out with an assignment you get along great, joking and making headway through the work, and if there’s anything flirtatious about the way you guys are joking it’s kept way beneath the surface because, apart from making a mess of the tutor-student thing, she’s involved with somebody, and you’re involved with somebody, both parties happy with those involvements.

She has a son. He’s 6. She collects and repairs and fawns over old cameras and would like to do more of it but for the fact that, as she puts it, she “just had to choose the fucking most expensive hobby, of course, and so…”

She trails off a lot, finishing her points with nimble-fingered gestures and, occasionally, a weight-lifter’s lunge. You go down to the cafeteria with her for a colada one afternoon and she does a pirouette at the register. Says she woulda been a great dancer if her parents had enrolled her.

The two of you meet at a music thing one night after the semester’s done, a couple of mutual friends in the mix. Later she drives you back to your car and in those couple minutes you both get uncharacteristically direct (a few months of casually insulting each other has made this weirdly easy) and the conversation culminates with one or the other saying, “So we’ve got crushes on each other,” and then quiet awkward yeahs.

“Bad timing.”

“Yeah.”

Something just barely mournful to your voices, like it sucks, but also something relaxed and contemplative, because it doesn’t suck.

You’re involved with someone, and happy; she’s involved with someone, and happy.

A relaxed silence between you, like a shrug, and then, smiling, you cheesy fucks talk about moments where one of you swooned at something the other one did. Back when the crush was a secret. That thing you wore, the way you said it, the lighting was just right…

You both laugh about it.

The road’s dark and empty, it’s late, and she drives like a mom with her hands at 10 and 2, her back straight as a board. So much respect for the speed limit.


Grayhaired, comfortable on the porch with a beer, you’re thinking back on old heartthrobs and passions, commitments, dreams.

And then, on a breeze, you catch a tune. Something from your youth. Know that song so well.

Follow it down the street to the gaping door of the old beatdown playhouse and upon walking inside you see a sign for

Thousand Movie Project

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April 9.

These two guys are sitting close at the bar and they appear to be friends but it’s happy hour, people are coming in straight from the office, so who knows.

First guy says he’s got a date this Friday that he doesn’t even wanna go on. Says he’s gonna wear his “Trump hat.” Laughs. “Make a real impression.”

He laughs again at his remark and when he lifts his vodka soda he sips it from the straws and winces.


Last call. The lights go up, the bartender rings a big brass bell under the TV, and you notice suddenly on the chair beside you, it’s been here all along, 

Thousand Movie Project.

Summary of 2015

Probably the most unsettling part of this informal retrospective of 2015, as you jot it on a notepad at Starbucks, is that you find yourself writing these exhaustively detailed notes about a departmental merge that took place at work in the middle of the year — this ostensibly temporary job that you’ve now inhabited for two years. It isn’t even interesting. Why are you writing so much about it?

So OK, here’s one last realization for 2015: it’s time to quit your job.

#

You go on a date with somebody you met on Tinder. Drink three whiskeys while she eats a salad (extra croutons) and recounts for you a controversy that unfolded on The Bachelor and why, on moral grounds, she refuses to watch it as even just a guilty pleasure anymore.

Later that week you delete Tinder.

#

On New Year’s Eve you’re at a bar as one of only seven customers. Everybody gets free champagne at midnight. You climb on the bar and then fall off, shattering a flute, and the sad-looking man three stools down smiles when you hit the floor and says, “Please do that again.”

#

As the year starts out you’re finishing up a book you’ve been working on for several years and you’re involved, in a complicated way, with a spindly brunette who quotes Macbeth when she’s drunk and fans her face with big saucerlike hands whenever she gets excited. The two of you drink a lot together, and fight, but it’s a good time.

Then you finish your book, and the girl moves to another city, and your drinking slows down and you quit the worse of your two jobs and go back to the gym. Life seems to reset.

#

After revising the book twice you start sending it out to agents; excerpting little sections that might pass for short stories and sending those bits out to magazines.

Twenty agents say no.

One says maybe. She asks for more pages, so you send her some more pages, and then two weeks later she says no.

You hold out hope for the excerpts, at least. The stories. But the magazines say no, too. They say, like the agents before them, to not take this rejection personally. “Please don’t,” etc. Because, they say, there’re a million factors and the majority of stories they turn away are rejected for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of the writing. So really. Don’t feel bad.

One of these rejections begins, “Dear Aaron.”

#

You do get discouraged, though. How could you not?

One day over lunch your dad prompts you to explain why you’re so discouraged. And so you go on. Talk about the poor quality of the prose and the overall shoddiness of this thing you’ve written and “the fiction market” this, “the fiction market” that, fears about something you read online and so on, so on.

He listens. Tells you to lighten up. Points at your drink: “And you shouldn’t get into the habit of drinking a beer with lunch.”

#

For a couple weeks you can hear your own heartbeat whenever you get too idle. You start feeling it in your ears — which are constantly hot. After going to the Miami International Book Fair on its opening morning, and actually seeing the reverberation of your heartbeat in the flesh of your stomach, you freak out. Go to Urgent Care. Then Urgent Care sends you to the hospital. Electrodes are glued to you, and you panic. Blood is drawn, and you faint. An x-ray is taken and various tests are run and when finally you see a doctor she scans the results and shrugs and says you should probably just calm down.

An hour later, over Thai food, your dad nods. “Really, though,” he says, “you gotta lighten up.”

#

You become active on Twitter. In the wake of your book’s completion, rich with rejection, you start a new project on (and find solace in) YouTube. After a month of work on this project you feel good, busy, but find that even just reading a few lines of your book can sour your mood for a whole day.

Start writing other things. One of those things gets published, and you dedicate it to the spindly Shakespearean with the wide hands.  You start work on a new book.

#

At an Italian restaurant in the Gables you’re sharing a booth with a girl who doesn’t live here and she sighs a lot, looks around, and when finally she gets her menu she flips it open and tells you in a near-whisper, without looking up, “Since I know you’re not gonna kiss me I’m gonna go ahead and get something with garlic.”

#

Next year there’s a new Cormac McCarthy book coming out, which is exciting, and you should have a new job and should be well into the next book and you suspect, in optimistic moments, that you’ll’ve gotten a better angle on the agent thing. On publishing. Either way: you should probably lighten up.

Here’s to the best.

Cheers.

Summary of August, 2015

Last call and the bar tender’s telling you about this older married couple who keep coming by on weeknights and chatting her up, inviting her out, boasting of their money and of the luxuries they’ll bestow, of their yacht and two sports cars and lavish meals each night.

Manager pulls her away for a moment. Some problem with the register. While she’s over there trying to fix it the manager comes back to where you’re sitting and, after a quick and heavy pour, hands you an egregious amount of whisky and with arms folded he leans back against the liquor display. Tells you with a smirk and a hard stare to “Go on, drink it all, one gulp. Come on. Something to put on your blog.”


A girl who’s stood you up three times before gets in touch to say she’s back from out of town. She asks if you’d like to go for a drink on Saturday and, since you’ve never passed a stove you didn’t touch, plans are made.

To your surprise and delight, she shows up. The two of you meet at a bookstore and then cross the street for a drink, small talk along the way, and meanwhile, like a match dropped into oil, your anxiety ignites to something apocalyptic and vast so that, once seated, you pull down two beers in quick succession to quell it.

Conversation at that point is going pretty well, fluent as it was when the two of you first went out six months earlier. So it appears that the booze has worked, which is great, except that it’s kind of a double-edged success in that, having been soothed by the second beer, you feel emboldened to have a third. Elixir of good conversation. Have a fourth! What could go wrong?

It isn’t until you stand up for the check and the room starts doing Inception things that you realize how drunk you are. Sit back down and, keeper of necessary information, tell this to your date. “I’m a lot drunker than I thought I was.”

“Yeah,” she says, “you had seven.” Her tone is kinda dry and maybe it isn’t so judgmental as you’re thinking but you go ahead and project things on it.

Two days later you and the date exchange pleasantries through text, pledge a mutual interest to get together again later in the week, but old habits resume, the girl goes dark, and you go on to sit thinking and talking and cringing about your fuckup at various bars over the next few days, friends lending their ears. Sleep is sparse and guilt abundant and meanwhile the Earth persists undaunted in its orbit and your dog each night is here with this look to his eyes like, “Hey. Come on.”


Your brother stops over between appointments. Sits at the kitchen counter playing with shrinkwrap and doesn’t make eye contact when he says, “Hey so have you ever tried using online dating?”

This is his way of saying that he knows you’re using online dating.


You have finished the second draft of your book and now get to be that 20-something with a part time job and an unpublished book. Laying up at night and contemplating your credit score in the same bed where you once sat contemplating your first pube.


Your dog in the middle of the night starts roaming the bed. Rising and stepping and then laying and groaning. Repeating the cycle. It’s 2 a.m.

You take him outside, thinking he’s gotta pee. There on the grass with his tail pulled tight between his legs under so much moonlight, the sky strangely purple, you see his hindquarters pitch to the right and then the rest of him goes over. He’s never collapsed before.

Get down in the grass and try bribing him to his feet with promises of every sort of enticement he knows a word for. He blinks, squinting.

Pull on your jeans and shoes and head toward the all-night animal hospital a few blocks away. All through the drive you’re talking to your dog in a perky voice as if to sooth him in his final moments but really probably just so you can feel like you’re doing something, anything, that you’re not quite so helpless while this dog you’ve had for half your life dies in your lap.

Peel into the parking lot at the strip mall where the animal hospital is, throw open the car door, unsnap your seatbelt — and this fucking dog jumps out of the car like it’s his birthday. Frolics among the pavement and grass. Latenight piss fiend, raising a leg to everything.

Take him to the vet and the vet says he’s fine. Probably arthritic. It’s 2:30 in the morning.

So you head back home and take this fucking asshole dog back to bed with you and there in the dark you squeeze him to your chest until dawn and are grateful that certain things can at least be postponed if not avoided.


Your mom, not making eye contact, digs around for something in the top shelves of her closet and calls back to you, “Hey so have you ever tried using online dating?”

This is her way of saying everyone in the family knows you’re using online dating.


Two envelopes in the mailbox amid the catalogs and flyers. Both addressed to you.

Open the first. A collection agency wants $63 for a parking ticket you got almost six months ago and have neglected to pay.

You don’t have $63. Fold the bill, put it in your back pocket.

Open the second letter: A different collection agency wants $63 for a parking ticket dated from the same week as the first one.

Take the dog back inside and keep typing.


“Oh my God.”

“What?”

“You have those fucking glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling.”


Something you’ve been telling just about everybody this month is of a guy on reddit who, after several years in prison, still can’t shake the habit, when he sits on a toilet, of taking one leg completely out of his pants. Why? If somebody attacks you in the bathroom, and you’ve got your pants accordioned down at your ankles, you’re bound. Can’t run.

That even in prison you’ve got people worried about their constraints.

Today You Are 24

Today you are 24, which is good.

You were 23 for a long time.

It was a good year. Productive, educational. Humbling. You worked a lot and you went out fairly often, made new friends, read a bunch. Had so many drinks and so many chats with so many strangers but remember very little when trying to note the highlights. Lessons learned. Epiphanies. What you mostly get are images. Looping film reels. The moments that hushed your thoughts for some sweet moment.


Johnny Walker Black in a Gables hotel room where your companion, whose black eye can only be seen when you pull the floor lamp right up to her face, sits crosslegged on the bed eating a crepe, plucking away the slices of banana and letting the Nutella drip, and while sitting like this she tells you the story of how she got that shiner. It’s a long story with lots of characters, none of whom you know. This calls for backstory. But you listen. An armchair pulled up across from her. Sip your drink and listen. When she’s done with the story, done with the crepe, she puts the whole mess of it on a bedside table, the box and its wrappings and the bones of the wings she ate before it, wipes her hands on a napkin and scoots back against the headboard. Looks at you with a smile. Pats the mattress twice and reaches again for the lamp.


You’re writing at a patio bar when an elderly man on the stool beside you, accompanied by his daughter, compliments your handwriting. “Cursive,” he says, smiling, trailing off.

When his daughter steps away, seeking more wine from the indoor service counter, he turns on his stool to confront you more directly. His hands are quaking and his bottom lip sags. The whites of his eyes are yellow, and webbed with blood, and he tells you in a whisper, “My wife of nearly seventy years died last week.”

You sit on this experience for a year. Can’t figure out how to write about it.


Paying with your debit card at a parking meter when your phone buzzes with a Facebook message. It’s from a person you haven’t seen in a while.

Your favorite professor from college is dead. Yesterday, 11:57 pm, pancreas.

Finish paying.

Walk three blocks to a bar. Jameson shot, held up halfway as though in a toast, and there in your mind’s eye sits a memory of the man in question and how he sat across from you, two years earlier,  with two espressos steaming between you. In this memory he’s dishing praise, encouragement, telling you that you’re a good deal better than you allow yourself to believe.

Two weeks later you write his obituary. Your alma mater prints it in their newspaper. Posts it online.


In a white blouse and black boots she twirls on her doorstep, and the breeze fans her skirt almost up to the waist. At the bar that night she pulls her hair into a ponytail, drinks three gin & tonics, and in a booth at the back recites Macbeth from memory.

“What beast was’t, then…”

Kisses you in an alley by the parking lot.

Best of David Bowie in her CD collection. She pours you some gin, first glass you’ve had of it, and later on, shortly before dawn, she follows your gaze to the bedroom wall and recounts the origin of each rifle mounted there.

For long silences you guys stare at each other and smile in a way that, were this a movie, anybody could probably tell you it wasn’t gonna end well.


Write the last sentence of a three-year project. Stand up, red-eyed, whiskey in hand, your glass uplifted for a moment. Remember the mentor with his manicured hands.

He once told you a story about a woman he loved who believed, in her 50s, that the only reason she’d survived a terminal heart condition that had plagued her most of her life is because an omniscient race of fourth-dimensional beings had ordained that it should be so.

“You get older,” the mentor told you, “and you realize you’re gonna have to live with other people’s baggage if you’re gonna expect them to live with yours.”


After a quarter bottle of whiskey and three slices of pizza she decides she wants to run. So she does. It’s 2 a.m. and she’s sprinting down the block while you walk after her, telling yourself jokes and laughing, streets all glazed with streetlamp yellow. Traffic lights way in the distance blink a latenight redness that can’t exist under sun.

An hour later, after she’s vomited, the companion curls away from the toilet and goes fetal on the bathroom floor. Falls asleep with her head on the bathmat, murmuring. You bring pillows from the bedroom, a blanket from the couch, lay down beside her on the tile and put her head on a pillow, drape the blanket over yourself.

When she wakes an hour later she’s confused. Looks around, assesses where she is, inspects the blanket and then studies you. She sighs. “You’re fucking ridiculous.” She rises and rinses and a few moments later it’s she who’s leading you.


A date is planned with a woman from college. Set for a Monday night. She gets in touch on Saturday, excited, says her night opened up. Asks if you’d like to get together tonight, two days early, and you say that you would. Plans are made. You dress and you shower and you show up at the place you’d planned. She does not. Nor does she answer your calls. She says nothing to you for a month.

When she eventually gets in touch it’s with a long text at 3 a.m., apologizing, asking if you’re free that night. Which you are, and tend to be.

So you get to the place and this time she’s there waiting. You’re both nervous. Conversation hobbles at first but after a couple beers it’s riverrun and you find that you both hate many of the same people and things and that you each took a shot of Jameson before meeting here tonight. An effort to curb your respective nerves.

The odds of that. Her anxiety is gorgeous.

At the second bar she has two whiskey sours and preaches her love for a polymathic grandmother in Russia, a writer of books; politics, mostly. She tells you then of a cousin she adores, five years her junior, and of sacrifices that she’s made for this cousin (sacrifices that she doesn’t seem to see as sacrifices). Tells you of her time working retail at a clothing store and of the executive who came by now and then for evaluations, a fat little man with a clipboard and lots of money, and how this man had a habit of placing his hands on the bare shoulders of young women in his employ, and of discouraging them from wearing bras.

Her goal, she tells me, is to go to law school. Ivy League.

She springs from her stool at one point, brown hair explosive, and kisses you. Twice. A girl has never gone to you for the first kiss. What a feeling. To not kiss but to be kissed. Makes a man feel pretty.

Walk around the neighborhood for an hour. Arm in arm. Confess a shared affection. An interest in going on another date.

But you don’t ever really speak again.

So it goes.


These are things you want to remember. The things you didn’t write about. The 23rd year was eventful.

And now: the 24th. Your big romance, the brunette reciting Macbeth and feeding you gin and turning you on to Game of Thrones, is gone. Another city. Hundreds of miles. Business, business.

The mentor you hadn’t seen in almost two years, but who once played so formative a role, is dead. As much the loss of a friend as it is the end of something larger, it seems.

The book, that three-year project that persisted through so much, is done.

So now’s a time for things to begin. Here’s hoping for the best.

Cheers.