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In the near future, the Bravo network, having exhausted other potential reality shows, sets out to cast for their new series,
(title still in development). They will scour Starbucks and college libraries, parents' basements and internet chatrooms, seeking unknowns with literary acumen and social savvy (or better yet, social ineptitude) to compete for a lifetime supply of coffee and cigarettes, and a $200,000 cash prize intended for student loan repayment. Somehow, they will find me, laying on my couch in a robe and listening to Florence + the Machine at full volume, staring at a blank 100words box.
This is odd, as I don't recall buzzing them in, and I have only heretofore been known for my slight obsession with Grunge Royalty, sophmoric rants, and
loud banging of my skull on the keyboard.
Perfect! they declare, "they" being a portly fellow in sweat pants and backwards baseball cap, and a tall sallow woman, with a genetic predisposition toward perpetual disdain as phenotypically expressed through furrowed brows and a tacky, ill-fitting Ann Taylor suit.
She will fit our sixth position, the Wild Card, they say, and check off what is probably a very important box on a clipboard.
I'm confused, I finally say. I've neither entered any contests nor outted my writings. In fact, I continue, I have a Day Job, and it's miles away from what I do in my free time. How did you find me?
HA! The Woman says to the Fat Man. I told you she's perfect for the Wild Card. They discuss excitedly in hushed tones the various reasons why: The daytime bathrobe says psychopathy, but the finely manicured nails say stability. She can go either way. She will play great against the Slut, the Podunk, and the Highbrow. We need to sign.
He said he was a Superhero, but I dunno, he didn't look like he had any superpowers, and Kenny tells me you can't be a Superhero without superpowers. He had a cape, though, a bright blue one, but Kenny said he was just ripping off Superman. Mom was letting him stay in our garage while he "got back on his feet", but Kenny said that's just grown-up talk for unemployed loser. Well, that's what Kenny's dad told Kenny, anyway, and Kenny's dad knows everything; he gets to stay at home all day and learn things since Kenny's mom works.
I brought Kenny over, and the garage door was open. I saw the blue cape, so I knew he was around; Superheroes don't leave home without their capes. He was laying on his cot by my dad's Camero, his back turned to us, snoring. Kenny says that real Superheroes don't have to sleep because DUH, they're
. We stood there a little longer, the the crunching of Kenny's potato chips making the most noise. Kenny threw a couple of chips at him, but he didn't wake up. I picked them out of his hair and shoved them in my pocket.
Yes, you caught me looking at bedroom porn.
No! No, it's not what you think! Here, come back, lay in bed with me and I'll explain.
Oh, come back, I promise no funny stuff, it's just that I have this fluffy new comforter, and laying here will make you feel brand new, too. But, I digress.
Those bookmarked links, they are not for voyeuristic indulgences, couples entangled, young naifs in barely-there underthings. No, I look at these images for the sunlight hitting the pillows, the ruffled sheets that speak to lazy Sundays.
I also read Playboy for the articles.
Everyday Ordinary Man is doing his laundry at the corner laundromat. It's 3 a.m., but he's awake because he took a nap at 7, and after that went to 7-11 for a Big Gulp. He couldn't sleep, so he figured he'd do his laundry. He's waiting for his boxer shorts to finish drying, something that requires multiple quarter plugs at 10 minute intervals. In the meantime, he reads
Love in the Time of Cholera
, because he has to write a paper on it tomorrow. He smokes a cigarette whilst doing this, because he's been physically addicted since teenhood.
Everyday Extraordinary Man is doing his laundry at the corner laundromat. It's 3 a.m., but he's awake because he watched a
documentary at 7, and the thought of political injustice keeps him awake. He's waiting for his organically woven sweat-shop free boxers to finish washing in a non-toxic baking soda mix. He reads
Love in the Time of Cholera
, because every time he reads it, he develops a deeper understanding of the protagonist, and with that, the plight of humanity. He smokes a cigarette whilst doing this, because there's a hot chick watching across the room.
The Fat Man eyes the open nutella jar on the counter, the spoon left incompletely licked in the sink. Brilliant, he mutters. Idiosyncratic tics make great drama. We need to make sure The Puck snots into this at some point, he says, fingering the rim of the jar.
I'm sorry, I say again, I'm still really confused. I, uh, have used some context clues to discern that you're casting a reality show writing competition. Consider the mechanics: no one wants watch people just write.
Doll, the Woman says. We know that! You actually think you're getting cast because you write?
Well--she reconsiders her words--Do you think you're getting cast because you write well? No. You're getting cast because of HOW you write. The time when you got drunk and made your dog's paws dance out a 100 words on the laptop? Unabashedly stealing quotes from real life that are funnier than you'll ever be? Oh my stars, no. We've been monitoring you, from your evening muse divining rituals to your Kindle library. Nevermind the fact that you'd sworn off the Kindle before--betrayed loyalties, another gem! No, no. Remember Justin Guarini? No is the correct answer here, Doll.
The point is, she says, the journey is infinitely more exciting than the destination. Here's what we're looking to get from you: Quiet introspection juxtaposed with belligerent outbursts, soft tears against malicious calculating. You just got dumped, you can pull from that to get both extremes. See how it works, Doll?
She realizes I'm still skeptical. We can also arrange for a fluffier, whiter bathrobe, she says. Everything you need will be available to you and your fellow 10 contestants in a, howthekidssay, hot toddy loft.
Also, she adds, each week has a guest celebrity Judge. Stephanie Meyer! Jonathan Franzen!
I don't win the first competition--Emotionally Scarring Adolescent Encounters--that's something that goes to the androgynous boy from Fargo who is a ringer for Placebo's lead singer. He humbly accepts immunity for next week's competition.
I am, however, voted Viewers' Choice for "That Time A Priest Came on To Me and Then My Boyfriend At The Time Accused Me of Doing Something To Encourage That". It's more of a pity vote, either for the sobbing that took place during spell check, or the more likely fact that the Viewer majority probably had been hit on by a priest, too.
Go to YouTube. Search for "The Paper Kites, Bloom (official music video)". Enjoy ethereal lovesick indie folk. After the video, follow the links on the side in an attempt to discover like bands. Fall down the rabbit hole. End up listening to Scandinavian existential prog rock band that involves a lead singer named Agda (
Agda) waling on an instrument called a
, followed by a vaguely profane caress of the strings by Agda (
. Strangely undeterred, continued investigation into all things Scandinavian. Affect a Scandinavian accent. Click laptop closed, and reflect on yet another successful evening.
Can we skip the awkward first phone calls? The hours spent getting ready before dinner, the nervous flips of hair, and the overemphasis of things only thought to be mildly entertaining? Can we skip the mandatory perusal of bookshelves, Pandora stations, and Netflix queues?
I will arrange the sectional couch to form a large tetris bed. We will find many fluffy blankets and allow the dog to nestle in between us. I will order a pizza, half with fried tofu, because I already know this is your favorite. We will watch a movie, and fast forward to the good parts.
CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA LA LA LA LA. CONNECT THE DOTS, LA...
I had sat down to attempt a hundred words here when you called. We had a cool conversation where I copped to eating nutella right out of the jar (again), and you told me about your day at work. I talked of going home (where is that, again?) this weekend, the beginning of which would just be the countdown until the end. You talked of hidden Sushi gems around the city, and how you'd take me there. And I wondered if you would get to be immortalized here tonight, when you have already spilled three words that guarantee our demise.
Androgynous Boy sleeps on the bunk above me, and he's yet to toss and turn during the night. It's a little disconcerting, when the norm is The Southern Belle across the room shouting Biblical verses at random shadows, or when The Quentin Crisp rolls in at 3 a.m., does a line of Ritalin, and wisks himself out of the room for another round. I myself have spent restless nights watching YouTube Country videos, jotting down random flits of ideas.
Beer reference tally. Mason-Dixon arbitrary marker?
Androgynous Boy hangs his head over the bunk: "I dig
Gunpowder and Lead
Producer: So, what do you think about Androgynous Boy?
Producer: Well, this is the "confessional", the part of the show where you wax philosophic about other contestants. If you want to shit-talk them, that's cool too.
Producer: So, what do you think about Androgynous Boy?
He's ok, I guess.
Producer: Really? Because he said your style is reminiscent of a 1999 LiveJournal entry.
I don't think he's old enough to remember LiveJournal. Is that still a "thing"?
Producer: I don't know, but the point is, we're telling you he said some nasty things about you in confessional.
Why would he do that?
Producer: Maybe he sees you as a threat. Maybe you suck. Maybe your shitty country music is keeping him up at night. Maybe you need to say something inflammatory in response to these new accusations.
But he seems nice. We share eyeliner. And it's not all country music, sometimes it's Scandinavian prog rock. I'm trying to expand my horizons.
Producer: Maybe you should talk less about yourself and more about how you'd like to stab him in the heart with a quill and then write a sonnet about how much he sucks in his blood.
But I really kind of like him, and he is a good writer. And not
like, I just enjoy his non-threatening androgynous company.
Producer: Okay, so, what I'm hearing is, "I don't think he's old enough...to be a thing... He seems... Scandinavian... But... he... is... threatening... company."
Wow,that reads like a backcover review blurb. Can I be excused? This is about the time of day when I cry into my cereal; you'll probably want your cameramen there.
Producer: Can you do one last thing? Look into the camera and say "WKBB, your home for
But I don't cry into my cereal. The Southern Belle has eaten all the Special K with Berries, and this enrages me to a degree expected of post-breakup psychopathy. Instead I throw the bowl against the wall, and empty an entire gallon of organic 2% into her bed. I can hear her screams later, even from inside the supposedly soundproof confessional. I align myself with camera, shake my head and say, "Well, bless her heart."
Next week's writing challenge (Guest Judge, Danielle Steele) is "Post-breakup psychopathy", and I use the fortuitous opportunity to write about kittens and yarn.
I'm nearly eliminated this week. (The milk incident, I'm sure, helped.) Instead, The Recluse gets sent home--someone no housemate had seen since the first episode's meet and greet. (Later, in the confessional, I cry crocodile tears and talk about what a talent The Recluse was, and how he--
much like me!
Androgynous Boy was voted in the bottom half this week as well, and we stood on the platform, our sweaty palms entangled in anticipation and fear. The Recluse stands apart, adrift in his own thoughts, mindlessly tugging at his ratty
Live Free or Die
New York Times Bestselling Author
Lauren Conrad instructs the judges to reveal who they're sending home.
"Androgynous Boy: Your blatant disregard for punctuation is neither edgy nor inventive. However, your magical realism and heartbreaking narrative was spot-on with Gen-Y's apathetic romantic struggles. You are safe. You may head backstage."
"The Recluse: Your manifesto, while adequately structured, had nothing to do with the challenge. Similarly, Wild Card's kitten exploits speak of too much time spent on YouTube and little to no self-discipline."
"Roah, you are safe."
I thank Ms. Steele for her evisceration, and head backstage.
The house is quieter, now, with only the Final Three remaining. We walk around like ghosts, not quite sure we belong here but also not sure how to gracefully exit.
Southern Belle has kept a healthy distance from me, instead choosing write (with a mint julep) on what she keeps referring to as a
(which is actually the fire escape).
I wander to the kitchen, and join Androgynous Boy at the kitchen island, both of us now stranded, eyeing each other and wondering, if it came to it, would we be willing to eat the other person to survive?
The producers shove us into the confessional and explain that LC will be in to shoot an in-depth contestant interview. Southern Belle immediately starts primping. The producers ask me,
for the love
, to please tie my bathrobe shut.
I'm between Androgynous Boy and Southern Belle; Androgynous Boy starts tugging his ear (a nervous tic, he's told me), something the he developed after his Father the Marine found nail polish in his room.
When LC does arrive, she's given cue cards and told to ask one question at a time, and have us answer in order, starting with Southern Belle.
LC: Who are your influences?
-Eddie Izzard, Brian Molko, Richard Dawkins, and my mom.
-The Dude, Pfizer, napping, and Detective Stabler. Oh, and Ludacris.
LC: What made you want to join the competition?
-To help humankind with my words.
-Free ticket out of Cletusville, USA.
-Your producers broke into my house, and somehow convinced me that leaving with complete strangers was a lesser path of self-destruction than the one I was on.
LC: If you win, what's the first thing you will do?
-Call my momma, and Whitney, and Stacey! Hey girls!
-BWYAAAHAHAH?! Wait, uh what?
The penultimate episode will serve mostly as a show retrospective. I'm pleased to learn they will show the bowl-throwing incident, in slow-mo, repeatedly. My legacy with be
that chick that threw a bowl against the wall over cereal
, and I figure though it's nothing literary, it's a legacy nonetheless.
I meet Androgynous Boy briefly backstage; the crowd roaring beyond us, an admixture of adolescent Twihards, Oprah Book Club purists, and internet commentators.
We embrace, and not really knowing what to say, Androgynous Boy pulls back and says the only real logical thing to say:
Meow meow meow meow.
I feel something like a prodome when we walk on stage: lights, noise...my sense coalesce and I feel lightheaded.
LC introduces herself, the contestants, and the judges. There are no formalities; we're immediately handed our final competition, and my heart drops:
"You can write about anything you want. Anything. Some people open tiny windows into their lives; others write surrealist poetry. Some writers post finely tuned, perfectly crafted vignettes... This is an exercise in disciplined creativity. Writing exactly 100 words at a time -- not a single word more, not a single word less -- isn't as easy as it sounds.”
bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew bawk mew
(*well, twice. Again.)
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