no title | in process

‘I bet you’ve never given a woman an orgasm in your life,’ I say.

This time he does register me. He’s just finished signing my copy of his latest novel, a people-pleaser I hate from start to finish. He spent considerably more time on his name than on mine. I’m not surprised: we’re in a Paris bookshop that looks like it’s been staged to his benefit and that will disappear tomorrow. It has plants and fake junk that’s supposed to look vintage and baristas that draw famous writers’ faces on top of lattes and cappuccinos. I asked for Virginia and they went ‘who’ and drew his obnoxious head instead. There’s instructions on how to lead your life in seventies-colored frames with computer-generated handwriting. Think outside of the box, let it go, I drink to make others more interesting, yet no alcohol in sight. I suppose it’s too real. Many people in here, I notice, have mouths fixed with lip pencils. Afraid their mouths will bleed into their faces.

‘Ok’ he says.

It’s more than I’d expected and not what he had hoped for, I can tell. We both know nobody heard what I said. There’s a group comparing dedications, another group still waiting, repeating to themselves what they’re going to say to him without throwing up in their mouths.

I loved,

l o v e d, absolutely, omg, so, loved your book.

‘Thank you,’ I say as he hands me back my copy. I look straight into his eyes. His irises are trying hard to swallow his pupils and the rest of the realness that showed. I’m in my final PhD year and have no feelings left. It’s visible in many places but maybe most in my own handwriting. Last week, an interdepartmental correspondence envelope arrived, and I could see I’d used it before. Reliable as a boomerang, the envelope showed my repeated attempts at squeezing my supervisor’s name into the grid. Signatures by different hands, they seem. Whereas my initial arches and lines had resembled hugs, they now looked like stretch marks. It was only a matter of time before they would flatline.

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