Search Results for: fuck

“Who the Fuck Cares About Adam McKay?” (We Do, and With Good Reason)

Longreads Pick

“But success, as we’re obliged to say in the personal-profiles business, has come at a price—bouts of depression, a heart attack, a rotating cast of therapists, a tortured relationship with his mother, and a bitter breakup with his former creative partner Will Ferrell. As it turns out, every movie is the most personal movie Adam McKay’s ever made—until it’s over and he moves on to the most personal movie he’d ever made. On one level, it’s the nature of his art—locating the pulse of the zeitgeist and making entertainment from it before the zeitgeist moves on. And McKay is nothing if not a topical writer and director. But it begs a question: How does Adam McKay move on from a movie about the end of the world?”

Author: Joe Hagan
Source: Vanity Fair
Published: Nov 29, 2021
Length: 26 minutes (6,522 words)

Fuck You, Death: Thoughts on Finishing My Friend’s Last Book

Longreads Pick

In a brief and beautiful essay, Anders Nilsen remembers his friend, the late cartoonist and musician Geneviève Castrée, and describes the difficult process of helping finish her final work.

Published: Jul 26, 2018
Length: 6 minutes (1,723 words)

A Farewell to Fuckboys in the Age of Consent Culture

Longreads Pick

In the second installment of her series on dating while woke, Minda Honey explores the long unraveling of a #MeToo moment in the wake of cultural upheaval.

Source: Longreads
Published: Apr 13, 2018
Length: 19 minutes (4,980 words)

A Farewell to Fuckboys in the Age of Consent Culture

Illustration by Janna Morton

Minda Honey | Longreads | April 2018 | 20 minutes (4,980 words)

 

Let’s start at 16-and-a-half, a half-a-lifetime ago. I was gone off this boy who lived around the corner from me. He was two grades ahead in school, a senior. We rode the bus together. His name sang with alliteration fit for a newscaster. Tall, Black, beautiful in that stony, delicate way only young men can be. Already toxic, poisoned by his father, knuckles split and scarred from fighting. One morning, on the ride to school, he showed me a picture of his girlfriend, his other hand in my lap, beneath my uniform skirt. “You should shave,” he said. I listened.

In the afternoon, on the walk to his house — I’d walk past mine and double back later, just to spend more time with him — the younger boys would crowd around, their white school shirts untucked, sneakers untied. They wanted to hear stories about his fights. They wanted to know if he’d play basketball with them. They were gone off him too. We knew something special when we saw it. When he smiled, his cheekbones rode high and his eyes stretched into slits as thin as pennies.

Once, when it was just the two of us, the younger boys elsewhere, he looked down at me walking alongside him. My backpack’s straps dug into my shoulders, the bag weighed down by AP textbooks. He said, “You’re going to be pretty one day when you get those braces off and stop hunching over like that.” I listened.

School out for the summer, I walked around the corner to the boy’s house and into his living room. I left without my virginity. It was all over before I’d even understood what we’d began. Afterward, he turned on BET and pointed out which girls in the music videos he thought were fine.

***

Back then, there wasn’t consent culture. There were just fast-tailed girls who let their hearts race places they didn’t belong. Girls who wanted it. I wanted it. But not yet. Not like that. Wanting is a welcome mat for danger. There is no safe place for PG-13 lust, for innocent desires. For girls there is “Just say ‘no.’” And for boys there is “Just the tip” — a coercive game that can give way to rape. Only we didn’t know that the first time around. And who would want to play a game like that more than once?

The next time, I say, “I don’t think we should …” The next time, there are no games, just rape. He didn’t listen to me.

He had a problem with taking things that didn’t belong to him. The last I heard of him, one of his friends told me he had a baby on the way and had been locked up for pulling a gun on a pizza delivery guy at his own apartment. It wasn’t hard for the police to figure out where to find him. Who knows if it’s true, but when I Google his newscaster name, a name he shares with many men, the only link relevant to him is a Florida mugshot from around the same time for an out-of-state felony charge.

In the photo, he doesn’t look stony, delicate, beautiful. He doesn’t look like anything to me. He’s wearing a white shirt, just like in the photo of him I have in the box full of high school keepsakes under my bed. It had been taken when he still looked like something special. I don’t ever look at it, but I’ve never been able to let it go.

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‘Fuck’-ing Around

Longreads Pick

The history of swearing is more than just an evolution of social mores — it’s also a politically charged narrative at the “intersection of anger and gaiety.”

Published: Jan 23, 2017
Length: 12 minutes (3,235 words)

Fuck Work

Longreads Pick

Economists believe in full employment. Americans think that work builds character. But what if jobs aren’t working anymore?

Source: Aeon
Published: Nov 25, 2016
Length: 12 minutes (3,021 words)

Motherfuckerland (Chapter 1)

Longreads Pick

[Fiction] A trip from the Jersey Shore to jail:

“My usual connection wasn’t by the pier on the beach. It started to rain, so I pulled my shirt over my head and ducked under the pier. It stank like hell under there, like fish guts and piss. Thunder boomed and the sky tore open. It couldn’t last, though. These summer showers only run about 10 minutes. I was squeezing out my shirt when a homeless guy came up to me from out of the back.

“‘Hey, you smoke pot?’ he asked. The man was hunched over and wasted. He looked like Keith Richards without a guitar.

“‘Why do you want to know?’ I asked.

“‘Some guy was here and he dropped a bag by accident.’

Author: Ed Lin
Source: Giant Robot
Published: Jan 20, 2012
Length: 8 minutes (2,059 words)

Pit Viper Made the Perfect Sunglasses. Then the Alt-Right Fell in Love With Them

Longreads Pick

“Undeniable evidence of the growing problem first surfaced in video footage of the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots, when alt-right personality Anthime Gionet—better known by the online sobriquet ‘Baked Alaska’—was spotted protesting in a pair of red Pit Vipers. (He was later arrested and is still awaiting trial for violent and disorderly conduct and knowingly entering a restricted building.) Two days after the event, Pit Viper responded to that association with a Facebook post to the brand’s 241,000 followers that simply read, ‘Fuck terrorists. Fuck fascists. Fuck racists. If you’re not down with that, fuck off.'”

Author: Max Ufberg
Source: Men’s Health
Published: Dec 22, 2021
Length: 10 minutes (2,591 words)

‘We Are Alive’: Six Longreads About Music

Shovels & Rope in 2019. Photo by Krista Stevens.

By Krista Stevens

My earliest memories involve music. At first, we had an ancient turntable, a penny taped to its arm to prevent it from skipping. My dad loved Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Elvis. My mom was into Simon & Garfunkel and Jim Reeves, a guy I thought profoundly uncool in his knitted cardigan. Later, I remember waking up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons, the Creedence Clearwater Revival 8-Track still kathunking along, blaring “Bad Moon Rising” and “Down on the Corner” hours after my parents had gone to bed following a night of beers and tunes. It took both hands for me to yank that tape out so I could hear the TV. Later still, I recall dance parties at my auntie’s house. With the dining room table pushed to the side of the room, adults and kids alike would be twistin’ the night away along with Sam Cooke. It cost almost nothing; it was fun we could afford. Everyone was happy. I still know all the words to all those songs.

Let me tell you ‘bout a place
Somewhere up a New York way
Where the people are so gay
Twistin’ the night away

Later in life I learned to play guitar and bass, forever chasing that singular thrill of being immersed in music I love. I wanted to get to know it more deeply, from the inside. I’m forever obsessed with all things musical: artists, their inspiration, their craft, their dedication, their instruments, their foibles. When a piece appears on any of these topics, I can’t resist. So here, for the love of it, are six pieces related to music.

Here they have a lot of fun
Puttin’ trouble on the run
Man, you find the old and young
Twistin’ the night away

 

Trigger: The Life of Willie Nelson’s Guitar (Michael Hall, Texas Monthly, December 2012)

For 52 years, Willie Nelson has played the same instrument: A 1969 Martin N-20 classical guitar called Trigger. In this masterful profile, Nelson and Trigger share equal billing as Hall recounts the musician’s career and the meticulous maintenance that keeps Trigger in tune, after more than five decades and thousands of performances.

Erlewine looks forward to Trigger’s semiannual physicals. He oils the bridge and cleans the fretboard, the wood of which is so eroded it looks like waves between the frets. Then comes the lacquering. The mottled area just above the sound hole shows the effects of fifty coats of lacquer applied over 35 years. The darker parts are colored by dirt and dead skin that can’t be removed; the lighter parts are where Willie has dug deep into the spruce. Erlewine carefully rubs the gouges in the wood that run parallel to the strings between the bridge and the sound hole, a sign of the force with which Willie plays.

Like A Shovel and A Rope (Michael Ramsey, Oxford American, November 2019)

In the fall of 2019, we attended a small music festival outside of Athens, Georgia, to see Shovels & Rope, a husband and wife duo who handle all their own guitar, vocals, keys, and percussion, trading duties often during the show. When he’s singing and playing guitar, she’s behind the kit with a stick in one hand and a shaker in the other, singing harmony. When you’re standing there, in front of the stage, and the music envelopes you, it’s hard to believe that there are only two people up there making that magic happen in such an intimate performance. Ramsey’s piece takes you backstage and introduces you to Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent in an ethereal braided essay that intersperses his personal experiences along with the story of the duo’s musical career.

Most rock songs, you imagine either that you’re the singer or that you’re the one being sung to; with Shovels & Rope, you imagine the gate is open and the backyard is full and you’re singing along.

Many of their best songs have a deliberateness on the topic of how to build a life, both wistful and hard-edged. “Making something out of nothing with a scratch and a hope,” they sing on “Birmingham,” their origin-myth anthem, “two old guitars like a shovel and a rope.”

The Spirit of Neil Peart (Brian Hiatt, Rolling Stone, January, 2021)

At Rolling Stone, Brian Hiatt wrote a loving tribute to Neil Peart, the late drummer for the Canadian band Rush, published one year after Peart’s death from brain cancer. What I loved about Hiatt’s piece is that despite the fact that I have never been a fan of Rush, I came away with huge admiration for Peart as a music professional. Here’s a highly acclaimed drummer with decades of experience who remained a student at heart, always wanting to improve as a musician.

In May 1994, at the Power Station recording studio in New York, Peart gathered together great rock and jazz drummers, from Steve Gadd to Matt Sorum to Max Roach, for a tribute album he was producing for the great swing drummer Buddy Rich. Peart noticed one of the players, Steve Smith, had improved strikingly since the last time he had seen him, and learned that he studied with the jazz guru Freddie Gruber. In the year of his 42nd birthday, while he was already widely considered to be the greatest rock drummer alive, Peart sought out Gruber and started taking drum lessons. “What is a master but a master student?” Peart told Rolling Stone in 2012.

Meet the Revolutionary Women Strumming Their Way Into the World of Flamenco Guitar (Lavinia Spalding, AFAR, June 2019)

As a music student, every new song I learn, every new technique earned, is a small victory. (I’m looking at you, groovy and challenging bass line to Taj Mahal’s “Diving Duck Blues.”) I can’t imagine flying across the world to show up at a master’s door hoping to gain a particular kind of instruction, but that’s precisely what Lavinia Spalding did when she traveled to Spain to become a tocaora, a female flamenco guitarist. Dedicated music students will be able to identify with the sweetness of improvement, often evidenced by the physical discomfort that accompanies it.

I’ve been in Spain only two days, and already my fingers hurt. It’s a prickly, high-pitched sting, like when a fallen-asleep limb returns to life. The sensation delights me. It means I’m doing something right.

Living With Dolly Parton (Jessica Wilkerson, Longreads, October 2018)

How do you question a living legend? With grace, care, and deep respect, as it turns out. For Longreads, Jessica Wilkerson took a closer look at the business interests of singer, songwriter, musician, and philanthropist Dolly Parton. There’s no question that Dolly’s work for literacy and science has done a lot of good. But, could Dolly do better? Wilkerson thinks so.

The love for Dolly that I learned was one without doubt. To question one’s devotion to Dolly Parton is to turn the world upside-down. Indeed, it is to question one’s investment in, and rehearsals of, mythologies of whiteness, which are rarely spoken, rarely noted as white. “Whiteness is an orientation that puts certain things within reach,” Sara Ahmed writes. Dolly Parton was crucial to my own orientation.

Because my grandma is right — inquiry is seductive — I needed to question Dolly Parton’s meaning in my and our lives.

I needed to confront Dolly Parton’s blinding, dazzling whiteness.

We Are Alive (David Remnick, The New Yorker, July 2012)

The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen live was on October 31st, 1992 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, about 20 years before David Remnick would write this stunning profile. It was a momentous evening — they wheeled Bruce out in a coffin perched on a dolly, and he popped out to start the show with “Spirits in the Night.” It was the first of many performances I’d see in Minneapolis, Fargo, and even Milwaukee, thanks to being married to a Bruce fanatic. I appreciate Springsteen’s music, but I’m not a massive fan, until I get to the show. Anyone who loves music knows it has the power to move them, be it to tears, to sing along, or to dance. At Springsteen shows, I’ve felt my heart and spirit soar when the Fargodome roof almost blew off during the show closer “Light of Day.” I’ve had the hair stand up on the back of my neck with the opening strains of “The Rising,” an experience that was so intense it continues to this day, happening whenever the song comes on the radio. What I love about Remnick’s profile is that he makes Bruce seem like a regular person, despite being someone whose superpower is conjuring life-altering feeling and emotion in even the most casual fans. He’s a guy whose job happens to be running the E Street Band, the Boss who pays their salaries and struggles at times too — both creatively and with his mental health. A man who, even though it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, is one of us.

After all these years onstage, he can stand back from his performances with an analytic remove. “You’re the shaman, a little bit, you’re leading the congregation,” he told me. “But you are the same as everybody else in the sense that your troubles are the same, your problems are the same, you’ve got your blessings, you’ve got your sins, you’ve got the things you can do well, you’ve got the things you fuck up all the time. And so you’re a conduit. There was a series of elements in your life—some that were blessings, and some that were just chaotic curses—that set fire to you in a certain way.”

The Professor

Illustration by Carolyn Wells.

Irina Dumitrescu | Longreads | November 2021 | 3,065 words (17 minutes)

It is the fall of my senior year and I am at a pub with the professor and a group of his students. At one point I look down and notice his hand is on my leg.

“I’m sorry, my hand is on your leg,” he says with a defiant look. “Oh wait, I’m not sorry.”

I am speechless but I give him my firmest glare. He removes his hand and never does it again. That’s that, I think then, I think so many times later. The sexual harassment didn’t work on me. I dealt with it. It left no mark.

At some point that evening, when the professor is out of earshot, one of the students in the master’s program confides in a low voice:

“I don’t really want to be here. But I want a reference letter from him.”

The professor is famous, a genius, or what counts for one in our corner of the world. Everyone knows that his letters open doors to the best PhD programs. I make sure never to ask him for a reference letter. I can’t say why yet, but even then I know. I don’t want to owe him.

That’s that, I think then, I think so many times later. The sexual harassment didn’t work on me. I dealt with it. It left no mark.

***

My father is my mother’s professor at the polytechnic. My father is a brilliant engineer, so brilliant his own professors cannot bear to part with him. They keep him to teach. My mother is a so-so student who fails her first university entrance exam and doesn’t much care for engineering anyway. She looks like Cleopatra though, so he pursues. She likes charming young men who play the guitar, not older lecturers with glasses and superiority complexes. But her family thinks he is a good idea. Solid. Respectable job. He brings her flowers. He brings her parents flowers.

When my mother has appendicitis, she misses three weeks of coursework, and my father sees his opportunity. He will tutor her. He teaches the material, after all. They fall in love and the rest is history.

This is the love story I grow up with, the great romance.

***

The professor can be very supportive. He lets me sit in on his classes, he corrects my Latin over pints of beer. He calls me clever. I come to feel I owe him anyway. After all, his knowledge is more important to me than a letter, a more valuable gift. He reminds me frequently of his early academic achievements, of his many discoveries and books.

The knowledge is precious, and so is the feeling of being in. Allowed in the inner sanctum. Chosen.

But when it comes to writing a paper for him, I can’t even write the first word. None of it is good enough. None of it could be good enough. I am not a genius. I am starting too late. My head does not work the same way. I write nothing and he puts in a grade and I graduate. A year later I send him the paper I owe him from a different country. I do not know if it really earns the A it had been granted in advance.

***

My father is driving me home from the university one evening. I am upset, and he is comforting me by telling me that I can deal with anything. After all, I am like him. I have inherited his doggedness.

“When we want something, we don’t give up until we get it.”

“Is that how you got mom?”

He smiles, satisfied. “Yes.”

“You know, if you had done here what you did there, you would have lost your job.”

“I would have lost my job there too, if she had complained.”

***

The professor quietly disapproves of my father. We spend a lot of time drinking, and when the other students go home I confide in him. Not much, but just enough for him to guess that something is not right. I resent this recognition. I know my father’s faults, and they are for me to be angry over, not for someone else to take seriously.

At moments I have the sly feeling the professor is trying to slip into the paternal role himself. I do not want this either. One father is more than enough.


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When I decide to go away for graduate school, the professor interprets it as my going to work with another scholar. I think I am opting for the opportunities of a prestigious university in another country. He sees it as choosing another mentor. Choosing her over him.

***

My father has my life planned out. I will study medicine, become a doctor, marry, and have kids. I will buy a house in the same city, and it will be large enough for my parents to move in with us. He will spend his golden years gardening in our backyard. I suppose it will be up to my mother, who has not been consulted on this plan, to help with the theoretical grandchildren.

When I get the letter from Yale, everyone is proud. He is too. Still, he can’t help adding one footnote.

“Just think,” he says, “you could have gone to medical school.”

“And lived at home?”

“Yes!” he says, a little too cheerfully.

***

The professor pays for the beer and the students drink it. It is an act of generosity to our thin pocketbooks. In the old epics, the lord gives his followers mead. In return, they promise to die for him in battle. The price of loyalty is a drink.

The service here is not so extreme. No one dies. Instead, there are jokes. The shy student is made fun of for being shy. The handsome one is made fun of for being good-looking. We hear dirty stories about the other faculty. Who has affairs. Who got a racy postcard from a student. Who was caught fucking in the department. When there is nothing salacious to say, we hear which colleague is silly, or desperate, or stupid.

We feel awfully lucky to be around this table, being made fun of for shyness, good looks.

***

My father does not take it well when my mother changes jobs. Before, she brought the harder assignments home for his help. It just made sense: Even long after he was no longer her professor, he was still the better engineer. But now she finds a career she likes, and is good at. He spends a lot of time concerned.

I have been trying to work out what a student learns when a teacher makes a pass, gives chase, falls in love. I read think pieces and they say she learns her only value is sexual. That must be true, often, but it does not quite fit my story here, the story that made me. What am I to think of a teacher who idealizes his pupil, puts years into her improvement, who sees her as his project to build up and refine?

What if the relationship is not erotic at its core, but parental? What if that is more frightening? The teacher desires to make the student in his own image. We know how that creation story goes. The copy is never as good as the original. The point of a copy is to remind us how much better, and irreplaceable, the original is.

In my first year of graduate school I read Shaw’s Pygmalion, the story of a professor of phonetics who teaches a common flower girl to speak like a duchess. I have always loved the myth of the artist entranced with his own work, but this play brings home its cruelty, its impossibility. No matter how much Eliza Doolittle grows under Henry Higgins’ mentorship, she remains an object to him, worth only the five pounds he paid her father for her. She learns to speak, but he never learns to listen.

I manage to hold in my tears until I reach the classroom door.

***

I am writing a book about complicated pedagogical relationships. About how fear and pain can motivate, or destroy. I am writing about desire too, that inconvenient spark between teachers and students anyone from Socrates to Heloise would have known too well. The book lets me pretend that I am writing about history and literature, not about myself or my parents. The book takes many years. I am slow, often blocked. Even after years of thinking about this topic, there are some words I cannot find. When I do find words, they fall short. What is it about words that must always fail?

What is it about words that must always fail?

***

I am arguing with my father. It is summer, and I am to leave for graduate school in two weeks. I am desperately trying to get everything ready. My mother has given me her old car, a sweet two-door sedan with manual everything and no air conditioning. The car has been smoked in, though, so it needs a proper cleaning. But I am working full time. And my mother is working full time.

The person who is not working full time is my father.

What my father is doing is sitting in the basement and playing computer solitaire for hours on end. Listening to classical music. Cooking up ways to make money that can’t be spoiled by insulting your boss.

I call him from my office desk and ask him if he will take the car in to be cleaned professionally. I will pay, but I don’t have the time to do it myself. He tells me it is a waste of money. I tell him it will be a waste of my money. The argument goes on, as he explains to me why I should not want this basic thing that I want.

I am often angry with my father, but this fury is new. It is in my chest, hot and bulging, as though it might choke my throat from the inside, as though it might explode through the top of my head and melt the roof. I yell at him and slam the phone down, and in that second the lights go out. I am certain that it was my rage that did it. I must have overloaded the grid. I burned the lights out.

A co-worker drives me home, and the streets are slow-moving, blocked. We hear over the radio that the entire northeast is under blackout. During the hours we spend on the road, I dread seeing my father again. That evening, deprived of our usual distractions, of music and television and computer solitaire, my parents and I sit down and talk. My mother and I are trying to break through to him and not having much luck.

At one point in the evening, when my father is out of earshot, I push the words that had long stuck in my throat past my teeth.

“Sometimes I don’t understand why you don’t just divorce him.”

“And what would you say if I did?”

“I would be sad but I would understand.”

Over the decade to come, my father will imagine himself the victim of many betrayals from me and my mother. He will read conspiracies into every glance, fabricate stories based on impossible events, overwrite the past. He will forget his own threat of divorce to her. He will forget that he countered peace offerings with lectures.

But this one conversation, as the city darkens unhindered, it feels unfaithful. The beginnings of freedom feel like treachery.

***

When I come home from graduate school, I make a point of visiting the professor. Each time. I am fond of all those who have taught me, but this is more regular. Is it that I feel gratitude more powerfully if I think I can grant it freely? Or am I still hoping for recognition?

Maybe I am trying to prove my loyalty. I left but I always come back. I do not know it yet, but this is better training for children than for adults.

On one visit I tell the professor how worried I am about my book. If I do not finish it and find a publisher in time, I will be out of a job.

“Do you want a contract? I can have my secretary get you a book contract by tomorrow.”

I know this is not the usual procedure. I need to finish the book, write a proposal, submit the proposal. The press must have it evaluated by experts. Even with connections to smooth the way, there is a process. I say no to the book contract, and try to sound cool about it. I have to do it the hard way.

One of the things I have learned from reading medieval literature is the price of a gift. In the old epics, kings distribute riches to their guests and followers. Rings, hauberks, steeds. The anthropologists tell us the power of the gift: Give something to someone, and it forces them to give you something back. Give them an object too magnificent ever to be repaid, and they will remain in your debt. You will have demonstrated your might. The most powerful person is the one who can give something that can never be paid back.

Maybe the most powerful person is the one who dares to refuse the gift.

***

I finish my book. I am tenured and a professor in my own right, like my father. I work in a group that researches power. We talk about the usual things. Who can demand obedience. The authority to levy taxes and armies. The symbols of kings and emperors and pharaohs. I do not find the words here for what happens between teachers and students, parents and children, lovers, and friends.

My husband reminds me that I read Foucault in graduate school, and he taught me another kind of power. Not top-down, by command, but a force that is everywhere and invisible. The discipline we learn from the world around us, making us obedient even when we are on our own. A force that shapes who we are.

“That’s why facing it is so hard,” I say.

“Yes, because it’s in you.”

***

My father is upset with me. I am not calling enough. I am not calling because I have a baby, and the exhaustion has pushed me to the edge of survival. Each day’s challenge consists of: keep baby alive, keep myself alive, do not murder the neighbors who throw parties loud and late. But my sin is that I am not calling.

My father thinks I am not calling because my mother has won me away from him.

“It is the natural course of things for parents to die before their children, so consider me dead,” he writes.

I consider him dead.

A few months later, my consideration falters, and I send him pictures of his grandson. He takes this as an attempt to reconnect, which I suppose it is. He sends me a long list of events over the past 10 years that I am to explain to his satisfaction if I want a relationship.

I tell him what I really think.

He tells me what he really thinks. About me. About my mother, how pure she was when she was young, how vulgar she became as she aged.

I consider him dead.

***

I am visiting home, which is not home anymore and was hardly home when it was home. I visit the professor and his wife with my baby. They are both tender, playful. The professor smells the top of the baby’s head and says how wonderful it is to smell a baby’s head. From now on I will make a special point of smelling babies’ heads, at the very top, where the smell is the best.

My father has made himself dead by this point, so I do not visit him. He never meets his only grandchild. I did not, after all, explain things to his satisfaction.

***

That the professor does not behave himself is common knowledge. Everyone talks about it and yet no one talks about it. Including me. Why talk about something everyone knows?

Over the years, I notice something funny. I hear stories of women dropping out, women scarred. I do not know any of them. The ones I know are men, men who mysteriously falter, then stop.

I argue with a friend whose confidence seeps away over his years of working with the professor. I think I see a connection between his loss of faith and the way the professor treats his students. Maybe all those jokes about them, about the scholars they might become, left their mark. He denies it. The professor is great. It is his own fault that he stopped being able to do the thing he had been doing well for so long.

Sometimes I think men would rather suffer the whole burden of their failures than admit that someone has the power to hurt them.

But only some men.

***

I am at a conference with the professor. He cites my paper in his talk, the paper I could only write for him once I left. It is going well.

That evening we have drinks with the conference organizer and his graduate students. I ask the professor what software he used for a certain project. He gets angry.

“Why should I tell you? You went to study with her. You’re part of her school now.”

“I am just as much your student.”

“Everyone wants something from me. You do the work yourself.”

“I am asking about methods, not results.”

“Well, I did the work.”

I remember something.

“You had a graduate student do the computer stuff.”

“Well, I paid for the work.”

The local students look horrified, as does our host. I go to the bar bathroom, close the door, and start crying. I wonder at my ability to reproduce patterns, to find teachers to continue the drama my parents began. Then I wipe my face and go back to the table, doing my best to seem untouched.

Later, we call a cab for the professor, who is stumbling.

“I can’t let anyone love me,” he says softly. I give him a hug and fold him into the car. The next time he emails he seems to remember nothing. I answer politely, warmly even.

He did not ask me to consider him dead. But I do.

 

***

Irina Dumitrescu is an essayist and scholar of medieval literature.

Editor: Krista Stevens
Copy Editor: Cheri Lucas Rowlands