Natasha Lennard: Rants political for Fusion; special projects for The New Inquiry; slobcore.
I must’ve woken up just a few minutes before 12.15. That was the first time I saw when I pawed at my bedside table to retrieve my phone from a mini gauntlet of empty, sticky wine glasses and half-finished coffee cups that I’d steadily been amassing on my bedside table. I usually grab for my phone and situate myself in time as a daily first order of business. But it was Saturday and there were better things to grab for within arm’s reach. Lukas was sprawled to my left. Unrealistically handsome and far too tall for my full-sized bed.
I’d spent my first few waking minutes tracing lines with my fingers up, down and along his vast back. When he stirs his first few words are always in his native German, “wie spät ist es?” He corrects himself to English immediately, but I always love those first untranslated words — fuzzy, tender and unsituated morning moments. He asks the time, in German and then in English. 12.15. He pulls me underneath him and immediately pushes his cock deep inside me. He woke up hard, I woke up wet. We’re making a habit of it. My room, edging from mess to squalor (see #slobcore), was bursting with warm daylight, so we fucked accordingly, like lovers on a Spring Saturday, smiling.
I put yesterday’s clothes back on and doused my hair in dry shampoo (again, see #slobcore). And like lovers on a Spring Saturday, with Friday hangovers, we go out for brunch. My roommate Willie was also hungover, so he joined. Willie’s an editor, a writer and the lead singer of punk outfit Vulture Shit and is going to auhtor a book in defense of looting. He’s the finest man I know. We live on the boarder of Downtown Brooklyn (Fulton Mall discount stores and cheap electronics stores) and Boerum Hill (brownstones and baby-havers…and brunch). So it was eggs and bloody marys and coffees inbetween just few enough babies and the bearers to bear it.
“Two-drink awesome” — a state of being, a term I coined with a great friend and former lover. We left brunch two-drink awesome, with just the right buzz to amble instead of walk. Willie went home to wait for his reliably late bandmates to pick him up for a gig in Philly. Lukas and I ambled towards the sparse, warehouse blocks of Gowanus. Which made us both feel better: there’s only so many self-effacing jokes to make about being a white, heterotypical looking couple walking, wrapped around each other, in the dappled light of Boerum Hill trees. We were still assholes in Gowanus, of course, but at least we felt less need to comment on it, in some sort of quantum hope that observation could change situation.
We stop at a bridge over the canal around Union Street — nothing miraculous, peeled paint, oxidized metal. The swirling sludge water below could pass for sea foam, if the smell weren’t so distinctly urine-rank. I grew up in London, the Thames’ dirtied flows were no dissuasion to my friends and I, seeking to sit at water’s very edge at sunrise. Some parts of the London river’s banks could pass for pebble beaches in the dark. I also have a tendency, verging on need, to access prohibited areas. “Let’s sit by the water,” I told Lukas, point to the concrete and wood jut under the bridge, accessible by a narrow ladder beyond a low locked gate. “Don’t fall, baby,” he said as a climbed down the wrung in heeled boots. “I’d jump in after you, but I don’t want to.” He’s the right kind of protective.
Under the bridge, the stone was cool and a tad damp, the water shone green and light traffic rattled above. I straddled his lap and we kissed warmly. Stepping further under the bridge’s cover, he turned me around pulled down my jeans, bent me forward and fucked me hard and fast from behind. I pressed my palms against the bridge’s iron trunks and didn’t give a shit if I could be heard. He didn’t come, but spun me around, knelt down, and buried his face in my pussy, taking my whole weight in his arms. I looked up at baby blue sky, across to a bus depot and graffitied industrial containers, and along the quiet canal. I melted to Lukas’ warm mouth, came, and collapsed to his lap. We grinned. We kissed. We clambered back to street level. I so love returning triumphant from illicit space, in broad bright daylight. We walked slowly back home, stopping for a few minutes on a row of white plastic chairs outside a small laundromat. Lukas rested his head on my shoulder and I watched the sun tease out the light freckles on his cheek.
We were no longer two-drink awesome, and the Vulture Shit boys, working on punk time, still hadn’t picked up Willie. So the three of us polished off the contents of a box of pale rose wine, which I’d been working on for a few days in some Bacchic hope that the cardboard case contained some mystic self-refilling charm. It didn’t, so, after Willie left, we ran out grab too more bottles. This is little leather jacket season. I’ve had the same tight-fitting bomber since I was 16, it’s my most-adored item of clothing — it’s the time of year for it. It’s also the time of year to start drinking gallons of rose. Not the sickly pink syrup rose. I want that near-gold Provencal style stuff. Loads of it.
Lukas and I have reached bottle-plus amazing by late afternoon and we’re unapologetically listening to Bob Dylan bootleg editions, Neil Young and Lana. At some point I remember to tweet out with plausible sobriety a story I wrote on Friday. At an analytic stretch I’d compared the Boston bomber death penalty trial to the sort of unsettling Shakespearean justice delivered to Iago. So far, at least, no one’s called me a wanker for it on social media; but it’s a sunny Saturday, how many people are really reading news analysis online? I’m certainly not. I’m once again, on my back under Lukas. This time we’re on the brown leather sofa on my living room. He insists I keep on the little neon yellow ankle socks I’m wearing, so I wrap my ankles chokingly-hard around his neck. I think he came in my mouth, but we’re getting to rose-blur territory now.
While we were post-coitally lounging and feeling very pleased with ourselves, the door bell rang. The ring is harsh, tinny and brutal. But Rachel, who was waiting downstairs, didn’t have her keys. Lukas pulled on underwear and let her in. Rachel had been living in the apartment until recently and almost everything beautiful about the space — and it is beautiful, shabby, eclectic, book-filled — is Rachel’s doing. She only moved out a few weeks ago — love reasons, life reasons — and I miss her in my days. I miss sitting in her tiny room, chatting and using her makeup as we’d get ready to go out. I miss our pre-party home rituals. We’ve got a routine to Drunk In Love worthy of 13-year-old girls who practice dance moves in front of music videos on repeat.
Rachel comes up, a surprise visit. She’s been in Calfornia. We catch up, drink more rose and she shows me some weird online app thing that puts one’s face on creepy cartoon avatars. She made one of Zizek’s face on a panda, shimmying to Sexy Back. Rachel has an explosive and full laugh. We talk a mile and minute and essentially ignore Lukas. Who doesn’t mind that sort of thing at all, baby, he insists. He goes into my room and takes a nap. Rachel and I catch up some more, until she has to leave for some event or another.
My mum calls from London. It’s five hours later there and she’s post-dinner party merry (read: drunk). We talk briefly. She tells me she’s so excited to see me next week — I’m spending a few overdue days in London at the beginning of May. I’m very excited, too.
I crawl into bed with Lukas and dose off. We smell like wine and each other.
We wake up again. I have to get dressed and head out to Jackson Heights, Queens — an impossibly faraway enclave of New York for the stubbornly Brooklyn-situated. More dry shampoo, more eye-liner. “Baby, can you remember to eat something?” says my unrealistically handsome German. And make some trashy would-be cinematic comment about being professionally self-destructive since before he was born (we’re about the same age.) I’ve started to accept his acts of care, which verge on paternal and emanate from a brash masculinity. I’ve spent swathes of my adult and not-so-adult life with men — clever men, dirtbag men, callous men — from whom I’ve had to ask for kindness. I’d normalized indecency (not the fun kind, the daily grind). I’m a divorcee at 28, by the way. But Lukas cares that I forget to eat sometimes. My friends and not-male lovers are ubiquitously generous and love kindly; I’ve been known to except much less from men-in-love. A few nights earlier, during one of our necessary atleast-weekly talking, drinking, chain-smoking sessions, Stoya and I held hands and vowed to live lives in which we were no longer astounded when lovers treat us with basic kindness. I’m reminded of the gut-punch end of Hannah Black’s essay about The Over Attached Girlfriend meme. “It’s an achieved miracle, a form of heroism, that you still consent to be touched at all,” she wrote. Read the whole essay.
Lukas headed to his home in Bushwick, I pulled the little leather jacket back on, walked to the corner and hailed a cab to Jackson Heights. In that distant locale, there’s a famed and beloved anarchist house. A red and black flag hangs above the front door. The walls are mural-covered and a portrait of Emma Goodman hangs in the living room. The house has offered free rooms to anarchists from across the world in need of a supportive space. Travelers, former political prisoners, comrades all. Jerry lives there — also the finest man I know. I’ve know Jerry for many years, and loved him since I’ve known him well. Fiercely loyal, he spent 10 months in federal prison for refusing to snitch to a grand jury. We like too much whisky together and Nietzsche and commiserating. Saturday night was his birthday party. Every surface of the Queen’s house kitchen was covered by some elaborate cake or cupcake spread. Anarchists (anarchists excluding me, that is) often have astounding culinary skills.
I gave Jerry the copy of Beyond Good and Evil that I’ve had since I was 18-years-old. He owns the text, of course, but he’s sentimental, and so am I. “Thank you, my friend,” he said. When Jerry says, “my friend,” you feel it under your ribs. I drank rank-cheap bourbon and hugged a happy assortment of comrades. One guy with delicate features and floppy hair, visiting from St Petersburg, explained that there’s a noun in Russian, more of a situational mood than an object, that doesn’t have a direct English counterpart and is difficult to even explain. We were talking about language as reflective of onto-epistemologies, because that’s a New York anarchist party staple. The word, we figured, was something like trashy, or passe, or faux-pas, but not quite any of that. And it’s the sort of word people apply to a situation as a way to excuse themselves from the slightly embarrassing fact of being in it. I would have liked to have that word earlier that day, white near-hipsters having brunch in Boerum Hill. I ate two cupcakes.
Lukas had texted, saying that if I wanted to come to his after the party, I should. A friend with a car and sobriety heading that way drove me to Bushwick. We cursed the ill-thought intersections and decided that we might as well blame everything on Robert Moses anyway.
I got to Lukas’ place on Himrod. We usually stay at mine. His room is bachelor-sparse. Two mattress piled up on the floor make the bed, one dresser, piles of books, a little desk. The white walls are totally bare. My bedroom’s pretty barren, decoration-wise, too. He’s only been in the US since last Summer and might be leaving for Berlin again this Summer for good. He has the bedroom of someone not ready to let roots grow beneath the wooden floorboards, which might hold him in place. He could pack up is his life in a few big bags. I’ve been in this country for 6 years, and while I plan to stay, I could pack up and go as quickly as him. Buying a sofa would be a scary act indeed.
Jerry always asks that I text him to say I’ve got home safe at night. It’s a Jerry care quirk. “Home safe, I love you,” I message. “You too, my friend,” replies the birthday boy.
I pull off my clothes and collapse on to his floor bed nearly immediately. He struggles and finally succeeds to light some cheap church candles. He lies next to me and massages my back with one, giant hand. I’m drunk and the meds I take are putting me out. “Sorry,” I say. “What for?” he asks. “For falling asleep.” He laughs. I laugh too. Smile, eyes closed, welcoming decency.