Photos of People by Rachel Hawatmeh

Mayda is a classy woman who is gorgeous from the inside out. I was sitting next to her while she was eating breakfast with her daughter and a relative. Mayda was ecstatic when I approached her for a photograph, she told me I asked the right person. She immediately struck a pose and held it patiently as I snapped away. She then asked me if I was Armenian, and I told her I was Jordanian, but she herself was Armenian. Her eyes immediately started to swell up with tears as she explained to me why she was in Los Angeles (regarding family matters). Before parting ways, she pulled out a delicious date-filled, home-made cookie from her purse and wished me a beautiful marriage in the future. - Rachel Hawatmeh

Rachel likes food and taking pictures of people. She lives in LA. Find more photography by Rachel Hawatmeh on her Tumblr.


A Nietzschean Reevaluation of Necromancy

Part 1: A History

It becomes necessary at some point to shed the cumbersome conceptions of pantheons and gods. What pantheons and gods truly represent is a system to describe the natural world. In fact, gods are merely inhabitants of the world as it is. They are not shadows of a higher world any more than reality as humanity perceives it is. There is no play with shadowboxing here, no puppeteers. They are able to tolerate living in the real world.

Here, again, another division in conceptions becomes necessary, namely that between the “real” world that is perceptible to the senses and the extensions of the senses, such as an electron microscope, and the real world, that which evades the senses and the significatory process, the world of interpenetrated opposites, the Dionysian, in Nietzsche’s nomenclature. The world as we perceive it, that is to say, the “real” is determined solely by language. Something that does not have a name cannot exist, and there is a name for everything. Indeed, Heidegger lays this out in Sein und Zeit, chapter 4, when he says that existence is language. The real, that is the Real, the Kantian noumenal, the Dionysian, that which is perpetually out of reach, where language breaks down, this is a world that can only be illuminated by the blackest of lights. Borrowing a turn of phrase from the necromantic revival that accompanied modernism, this latter world will be referred to as the Second World.

Gods and pantheons then are an open acknowledgement of a literally supernatural, extrasensory world, which is shut to humanity.1 This is the world that a necromancer must access in order to gain the wisdom of the world. However, how different are the rituals and magic words that the necromancer must employ in order to access the Second World from the logical tricks and linguistic tongue twisters that a philosopher must perform in order to reach hints of the truth?

Perhaps the most important group in the establishment of the necromantic tradition was the Druids. The Druids were the intellectual class of Celtic society, which, at its height, stretched from Ireland to central Europe and south to the Iberian Peninsula. These people were the barbarians that lived beyond the gates of the poleis about which the Greeks exchanged hushed whispers. Yet the Druids were highly sophisticated. One historian claims that the true nature of the Druids was a mishmash of careers; the Druids were “philosophers, judges, educators, historians, doctors, seers, astronomers, and astrologers.”2 The culture of the Druids survived part and parcel until the beginnings of true Christian dominion over European thought.3

Druids derive their name etymologically from the phrase “dru-wid – oak knowledge.”4 Lactantius in his commentary on Statius, a first century BCE Flavian poet, said that the Druids believed that ritual magic and enlightenment could only occur in oaken groves “dense and ancient, untouched by human hand and impervious to the beams of the sun.”5 The Druids professed a special connection with nature. Nature was something wholly sacrosanct that could not and should not be grasped by humans. Yet they tried to take natural wisdom about the nature of reality from the trees.

It is worth fixating on the belief that the groves in which Druid ritual magic was practiced were “impervious to the beams of the sun.” However, in Druidism, the inky blackness of the forest grove was believed to be the home of wisdom. Freedom from the light deprives the eyes from any stimulus, removing the world of sensory perception from making an appearance. The early Druids did not use a written language, but this does not mean that they were illiterate; they simply refused to write anything down. This is yet another way that they deprived themselves from the pleasantries of the world of appearances (a common Nietzschean refrain). The rituals and ceremonies were totally blacked out; the only interaction was purely human communication with the Second World.

The Druids, in all actuality, would most likely have agreed with Heraclitus. Rivers, in their throbbing perpetual motion, were sacred for the druids, who claimed “that the river’s bank, the brink of the water, was always that place where éicse, wisdom, knowledge and poetry was revealed.” There was always the notion of an unceasing flux. One can easily imagine a Druid priest preparing a sacrifice for Amairgen, god of the ocean and all the waters of the world, who also was said to embody “the primeval unity of all things.”7

But it was most likely due to their status as “barbarians” that the Druids eventually found trouble. Druidism (and all of the movements that came after, many of which, by geographical proximity alone must at least be considered descendants of the original Celtic mythologies) opposed the philosophia of the Greeks, except the pre-Socratics. By their very barbarian nature, the necromancers of the Druids and their posterity opposed and upturned the nature of the Greeks, Heraclitus excluded.

The posterity of the Druids was the pagan tradition. This includes the folk beliefs, traditions, and even the religious aspects of the peoples that populated the “countryside” of Roman and later the Germanic Holy Roman Empire. Importantly, this definition (the correct philological definition, derived from the Latin pagani, referring to the rural and agrarian; a true pagan would be a backwoodsman) excludes the Greco-Roman-Christian tradition, favoring the more-often-than-not Celtic traditions, which would have at least been tinged by Druidism. The pagan traditions, especially the traditions of necromancy, are the inheritors of the barbarian status.

However, during the first millennium of the Common Era, magic experienced a serious split, dividing it irrevocably. Because of the Greco-Roman-Christian intrusions into the pagan world of most of Europe, magic, itself a purely negative phenomenon, as each utterance of a magic word provoked a chasm to split open reality, was subjected to positivism. Primitive forms of the scientific method were foisted upon necromancers, some of whom leapt at the chance to prove that their endangered sector could stand up to so-called scientific scrutiny (which, of course, it could not). Even more so than the primitive scientism, a greater threat to the pagan magic tradition was the appropriation of the Celtic/pagan traditions by the neo-Platonic strains of contemporary Christianity (this can also be associated with Augustinism, so-named after St. Augustine). The schism of the two magics was then between that which had been Greekified and philosophied (mostly astronomy/astrology and some alchemy), hereafter referred to as light magic, and magic that maintained its original barbarian character, which was given the name Nigromantie, punning with nekros and negros, which is now in the parlance of today referred to as necromancy or “black” magic.

Most of the “magical” disciplines existed prior as a quasi-science. Of particular interest is the notion of committing “experiments” through fiction and lying, instead of through any sort of positivistic scientific method. As Paolo Zambelli said of magical texts, “they were often falsified.”8 In other words, by their very nature, they were fictional and adhered to a different mode of writing than the “logical” scientific writings of the Greeks. Black magic was a “negative science,” to borrow slightly from Theodor Adorno, freeing itself from the tyranny of the burden of proof. Light magic, however, found itself tested into extinction; once subjected to Greek rigor, it became a byword for a joke, nonsense, or poppycock. Contemporary light magic is something practiced on the boardwalks of the world, with every two-bit shyster willing to read a palm for a few dollars or tell the future based on one’s horoscope. As light magicians began to use statistics and apply a primitive scientific method to their work, their position became untenable. Any magic that lays claim to being based in logico-positivism simply cannot be magic at all. One could not be a magician and a scientist. True magic, therefore, must be black magic.

Pope John XXII, the second pope of the Avignon Papacy, did not recognize this, however. This pope began to see sovereignty struggles in terms of metaphysical issues and he issued a series of bulls condemning policies that he viewed would weaken his material power. As Isabel Iribarren noted, “Pope John XXII launched a doctrinal enterprise of some import: the assimilation of practices of black magic into the crime of heresy.”9 Of the bulls, the Spondet quas non exhibitent was perhaps the most important in the condemnation of black magic. Only light magic was allowed to continue. Any form of necromancy or communication with the dead was lumped with witchcraft, which of course the Bible handles with the famous quotation, “Never suffer a witch to live” (Ex. 22:18, King James version).

Part 2: Reading with Nietzsche

“Whatever is profound loves masks… Every profound spirit needs a mask.”11 With these words, the door to necromancy is opened. Necromancy is not a despectralizing process, but rather spectralizing itself, or, more accurately, respectralizing.

Despectralization involves making something palatable and understandable, indeed classifiable. Is this not the process of naming that the human race employs? We find ourselves startled by the Second World. But by classifying the world, the specters are lost. These specters are things that defy the law of opposites; they originate from behind the genealogy of morality and languages (if those two could ever be separated). The profound spirits are in need of a mask, for otherwise the entire society of the human race would collapse. Who masks, though? No one other than the positivists. Haunting, then, is the re-intrusion of the originary meaning of these profound spirits, who chafe at the edge of their names.

Respectralizing, through the process of necromancy, is nothing more than de-masking what could barely be masked in the first place. There is a certain sense to holding rituals in the deepest groves of the forest. The first step to employing the negative science of necromancy is blindness, uninterrupted by a world of forms and appearances. This is an overcoming of traditional morality, an assent to the inherent phantasmagorical role of everything that can be perceived when captured in a moment of intoxication or ecstasy. Without sight, a necromancer does not see a sparrow fluttering in the wind or the flag of some soon-extinct nation state filled as though a sail, he feels the wind against his face and is immediately raised aloft as though he himself were the sparrow.

This is the ecstasy of assent to the Second World. “In this case, intoxication has done with reality to such a degree that in the consciousness of the lover12 the cause of it is extinguished and something else seems to have taken its place – a vibration and glittering of all the magic mirrors of Circe.”13 Intoxication is not necessarily brought about through the ingestion of rogue chemicals or drink or sex, but the radical yes that motivates those indulgences, a willingness to see perception bent. This is the role of the necromancer.

The necromancer defeats death, but he also defeats life. He unmasks the delusion of thought that inspires us to name the continual process of life-death-redispersal. Through the radical yes that motivates his experiments (Versuche) in the negative science, he/she is unafraid to commune with the specters beyond life and death; specters that are “irreducible to classical ontology.”14 Derrida mentions that these specters cannot not spook, that we must always be spooked by them. However, this hinges on the holding onto of modes of classical ontologies. The role of the necromancer and of the negative science itself is to oppose the high priest and positive science, locked in dialectic.


The Versucher, necromancer, philosopher of the future must not be afraid of specters and must attempt (as is the very nature of he or her) to respectralize. This is what Nietzsche was hinting at in his works, especially in The Gay Science, the source of his doctrine of the radical assent, namely Nietzsche’s Epicureanism. A hauntological utopia, like all utopias, remains impossible, and indeed is itself haunting. Nevertheless, it would be helpful to continue along the lines of this thought experiment, including the works of Aleister Crowley, especially his works on the grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon, detailing the various methods by which many spirits, almost all of them able to undergo multiple readings on multiple valences, can be conjured by a gifted enough necromancer. Are these rituals able to be read as poetry is? And what does that say about poetry? These are both questions that must be dealt with at a later date.


[1] These words should elicit a strong reaction from any Nietzschean, who famously stated in The Birth of Tragedy, “Excess revealed itself as truth.” (Back)

[2] Ellis, Peter Berresford. The Druids. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1995, 35. (Back)

[3] It can be argued that some aspects of Druid culture never truly went extinct. There have been several Druid revival groups in the past two centuries that claim to be the true successors of the Druids. Winston Churchill himself was a member of one of these groups, specifically the Albion Lodge of the Ancient Order of the Druids. Nevertheless, for the most part, Druidism in its most pure form disappeared upon the dissolution of the Celtic society. (Back)

[4] Ellis, 37 (Back)

[5] Ellis, 62 (Back)

[6] Ellis, 118 (Back)

[7] Ellis, 71 (Back)

[8] Zambelli, Paola. Astrology and Magic from the Medieval Latin and Islamic World to Renaissance Europe: Theories and Approaches. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Variorum, 2012, I1 (Back)

[9] Irribarren, Isabel. "From Black Magic to Heresy: A Doctrinal Leap in the Pontificate of John XXII." Church History 76, no. 1 (March 2007): 32-60, 32. (Back)

[10] Zambelli. (Back)

[11] Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New York: Vintage Books, 1989, 50-51. (Back)

[12] or necromancer (Back)

[13] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. New York: Vintage Books, 1968, 426. (Back)

[14] Edwards, Elizabeth. "Spectres That Cannot Not Spook: Work and Fear in Derrida." Dalhousie French Studies 82 (Spring 2008): 107-21, 109 (Back)


Storytelling with Natalia

I started this project in December 2013 because I liked the idea of people's appearances not mattering in a world where pictures and videos dominate. We live in a world full of completely unique perspectives: no two people think the same way. I wanted to create a storytelling sphere dedicated to the sharing/exploring/comparing/understanding/loving/hating/accepting of people's individual thoughts and experiences. - Natalia Lehaf

Listen to more stories from Storytelling With Natalia on Soundcloud.
Find more from Natalia on her website.



words by Natalia Lehaf

The Boston Bullies is a pop rock band formed in 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts by Luke Mahoney and Brendhan Geraghty during their sophomore and junior year (respectively) at Emerson College. "Emar" is the band's first album and the band anticipates they will begin work on a second album soon.

Their goals as a band are learning to work with people on finding their sound and connecting with their listeners. Luke considers himself a "dad rocker" when it comes to his musical influences, which include Electric Light Orchestra, The Kinks, Steely Dan, and Moody Blues; meanwhile Brendhan’s musical preferences range from Fun. and The Killers to Bon Iver and James Blake.

Here are three fun facts about each of the boys behind "Emar": Luke is working his fourth year at McDonalds, has never seen Star Wars, and doesn't like music festivals because of the crowds; Brendhan has six college IDs, his favorite TV show is Six Feet Under, and he once said Green Day was saving music.

Find them on Facebook and Bandcamp.


Spacebook Episode 10 – The Mess

Spacebook is a documentary web series that seeks to explore its subjects lives through their spaces and belongings. In episode 10, the most recent episode, we look at The Mess.

The Mess is a rooftop "living room" space where artists can engage in conversation with other artists, both literally and through performance and other artistic work. Dorothy Lam; ZiHong, is a Brooklyn-based artist who helped start The Mess.

Find out more about The Mess
Find out more about Dorothy Lam; ZiHong.

Read more about Spacebook.


Taco and the Tramp

About a year ago, a friend and I were drunk-eating tacos at 2 a.m. when a guy approached us. He teased us that we were eating our tacos Lady and the Tramp style, and as we continued talking, he and I started discussing Catholic versus Jewish guilt. He asked for my number, and I gave it to him, not expecting to ever hear back, and pretty much forgot about the whole thing.

Several days ago, however, I got a text from an unknown number saying that I was saved in his phone as “Kathryn Guilt Catholic Taco Tramp.” I reminded him of how we’d met, and when he asked me out, I said yes, without knowing his name or what he looked like.

Taco Boy and I were planning to meet at an oyster and liquor bar, but he texted me a few minutes before our meeting time to ask if I wanted to first stop off at his apartment because the weather was “super gross!” His apartment was on the way to the bar, so I agreed to visit, and then proceeded to freak myself out about the possibility that I was going to be abducted or killed in some Law and Order style incident. Instead of telling him that I’d rather meet him in a public place, I just texted a friend his address, and kept my mace in my pocket. (Luckily, he spent so much time checking his phone that even if I had truly been in danger, I could have easily escaped during one of his frequent phone breaks.)

If you’re curious, Taco Boy has a real job but is working on a startup. When I asked what the startup was, he said “productivity.” That’s it. “Productivity.” More questions about it revealed no new information, and while his stated ultimate goal is for the startup to be about productivity, he sort of admitted that he doesn’t know what that’s going to entail exactly. I got the distinct sense that he would not appreciate a joke about how he might need his own startup to actually create a startup.

He then invited me to a seminar that a friend was leading. I soon realized that I’d been invited over in a bait-and-switch style operation, and now I doubt that the plan was ever to go to the oyster and liquor bar.

He told me that his motivational-speaker friend was going to be leading a talk on “personal development.” When I asked him how his friend became a motivational speaker, Taco Boy said that he “didn’t have anything else going on,” as if his friend simply fell into it. The irony of having nothing better to do and deciding to become a motivational speaker was not lost on me, but apparently was on my date: when I commented on the contradiction, he gave me a blank look.

Taco (as we are now on first name basis) then clarified that his friend spoke about not only personal development, but also spent a few minutes at the end of each seminar on how to pick up women. As the conversation progressed, however, Taco revealed that the talk was mostly on how to pick up women, but I was assured that if I wanted to go, there would be other women in attendance who were “just really into personal development,” and am I into self-help stuff at all? (No.) Either way, there would be a ten-minute discussion on the subject. “Some guys,” my date promised, “aren’t into the pick up artist stuff at all and show up in suits with notebooks just to learn the self-help part of it.”
Taco warned me that the talk may seem slightly misogynistic and sexist, but in his experience, his friends that have dabbled in the pick up artist community follow the same three stages:

  1. Nerdy, uncool, uncomfortable around women;
  2. Really absorbed in pick up culture, become “super gross” and misogynistic, very unpleasant to be around; and finally,
  3. Through their sexism, they transform into suave, “super cool” gentlemen who don’t even need the tricks they learned as a pick up artist, “so I’m just like, ‘Okay so you had to be super gross and now you’re like on the other side of it and just cool,’ you know?”

About two years ago, I wrote a paper on the subject of how men speak to other men while in the presence of women – how does men’s behavior change when women are around? In doing research for the paper, I stumbled on the pick up artist community, and got completely sucked into it. It’s fascinating to me – especially since the culture feeds off of a very open contempt for women while simultaneously exposing a very naked need for women’s approval and sexual adulation. These men clearly dislike women who sleep around, but the community’s main goal seems to be to sleep with as many women as possible.

To this day, I still regularly read articles on pick up artist sites – of which there are many. My personal favorite is ReturnOfKings.com, which recently published an article called “35 Signs The Girl You’re Dating Is A Whore.” I thought the article would tell men how to find out if their girlfriends are or were promiscuous, but I realized that it’s about how to tell if your girlfriend literally makes her living as a prostitute. I highly recommend the read, if you’re ever unsure about your significant other’s chosen profession.

So when Taco was warning me about how misogynistic I might find his friend’s talk, I was delighted, and reassured him that I wouldn’t be offended. And so, off we went to the Hotel Pennsylvania’s Gold Ballroom.

Taco wanted to find an UberX to take us to the hotel, but didn’t want to pay full price, and then there was a surge overcharge, and then he tried to find a promo code online but couldn’t find anything, so we settled on a taxi. Traffic was horrific, so in our three block, $9 cab ride, we had a lot of time to talk.

For inquiring minds, Taco was wearing $500 jeans from “straight off the runway,” whatever that may mean. His real passion is for shoes, including their smell – “of the new ones, I mean.” He has a friend whose girlfriend is six feet tall and “literally a model,” and just last weekend she was grinding with DJ Tiesto! I don’t know who that is, but his tone told me I should be very impressed.

He has another friend who lives by his favorite vegan juice bar, whose girlfriend is Karlie Kloss. Fun fact: Karlie’s face is the front page of Taco’s startup’s website. No word on what Karlie’s boyfriend thinks of that, unfortunately. Taco Boy gave me a look after telling me all this, “You know who that is, right?” Yes – but only because I heard that she’s shacked up with Taylor Swift. No word on what the boyfriend thinks of that, either.

Wanna know another thing Taco Boy hates? Models in his favorite coffee place, especially during Fashion Week. It’s not their fault, you know, but they crowd up the place and he’s just trying to get some work done. Just the other day, he told some girl off about that, but she totally knew he was joking.

By the way, isn’t it the worst when really hot girls are “super bitchy” because they’re so pretty that men never say no to them? A lot of his female friends are like that – “super hot” – and again, it’s not their fault per se, but men shouldn’t give in to them. (Noted.)

We discussed all this in the taxi to the hotel, with frequent, loud interjections from him about how the taxi driver was cheating us. Eventually my date insisted that we exit the taxi and take an Uber after all. But he really wanted a promo code, and still couldn’t find one, so we settled on the subway instead.

Upon finally arriving, we didn’t enter the hotel through its front entrance, but rather through the hotel’s steakhouse, on a winding path that lead us through the dining area and kitchen to ultimately reach a dingy back hallway with an elevator to the ballroom. The reception hall before the ballroom was empty except for some plastic tables, a few folding chairs, a water cooler, and at least a dozen discarded plastic cups scattered on the ground. I started worrying again that I was going to become fodder for a future Law and Order episode. We quietly snuck into the ballroom, Taco greeted his friend at the door, I was instructed to surrender my phone, and we took seats in the back. The seminar had started at 5 p.m., and we arrived just after 8 p.m.

There were approximately one hundred men listening, rapt, to the speaker – who as it turns out, was not Taco’s friend after all, as his friend was only the speaker’s assistant. The speaker was named Todd – I didn’t have confirmation at the time, but could tell that he was one of those guys that spells it with two Ds. I did a little research later and confirmed that I was right.

Is it just me, or is there a certain type of person who calls himself Todd?1

What I first noticed about the audience was that there were a lot of backwards baseball caps, paired with a lot of Ed Hardy-style shirts. I was the only woman in attendance, despite my date’s fervent promises to the contrary. There were some men taking notes intently, and as I looked around the room further, I saw that some of the men there were my age or younger.

Let me get this out of the way: Todd is not an attractive man. He looks sleazy, with dark, shiny hair slicked back with so much gel that I could see it from the back row. He was wearing two dark v-neck shirts, both unbuttoned to his collarbone, in a style that you can tell he thinks is Johnny-Depp-hip. He’s maybe in his early to mid-thirties. The men in the room had paid $300 to hear him speak for the two-day workshop, a “LIVE event” experience for which Todd claims you’d otherwise “easily spend $10,000 or more. Period,” per his website.2

When we arrived, Todd was showing a clip of him approaching a woman in Washington Square Park. She’s sitting on a bench, headphones in, and he approaches her while his friend hovers nearby, awkwardly and surreptitiously filming the interaction. Todd first showed the pick-up in its entirety, and then he started it over again to break down each step of the conversation with his commentary. He started with an “opener” about how the woman was sitting, and she challenged him in response with a “shit-test” by objecting that she was only listening to music. (A shit-test is a “combative response” to whatever the pick up artist has just said.) Eventually, after several more shit-tests, the woman agreed to go get yogurt with him. There’s more hidden camera footage of Todd and his lady walking to a 16 Handles, more footage of them sitting outside eating, and even more footage of Todd walking the woman back to her apartment – which is turns out, is the NYU freshmen dorm Hayden Hall, where I used to live. The cameraman is left outside, but Todd alleges that he was able to sneak into the dorm without being signed in as a guest, went up to the girl’s room, and then hung out with her and her roommate for awhile. I want to add that Todd met her while the sun was still out, and then walks her back to her dorm well after sunset – the cameraman must have been following them for hours.

Todd warned the audience that they should watch out for the “super tight” security in NYU dorms, and do their best to sneak past the guards in the lobby as often as possible. Although some audience members did seem to be college-aged, most were in their late twenties or early thirties, or older, yet none balked at the idea of hanging out with an eighteen-year-old college freshman in her dorm room.

Todd really emphasized “sneaking one past the goalie,” which is just as nauseating as you’d expect. Todd’s prime example of this technique was telling a girl that he’d like to have “unprotected sex in a disrespectful manner with her in a public place.” Basically, there’s just so much wrong with that statement that she simply can’t disagree with it all! Says Todd, “If she says, ‘Unprotected sex? No, you should always use a condom!’ then she’s not disagreeing with the sex! If she says, ‘Disrespectful? That’s so rude!’ Well, she’s not disagreeing with having sex with me!” I’m not sure how this plays out in real life, but apparently it’s extraordinarily effective; once you’ve pointed out to the girl that she hasn’t objected to having sex with you, I guess she’s duty-bound to fuck you. (?) If you’re really just looking to have women sleep with you because they feel conned into it, this technique might be what you’re looking for.

Another tip: get the woman emotionally invested in you. The 18 year old in Washington Square Park was emotionally invested in him as soon as she called him a “cocky liar.” She’s begun “qualifying” him, which demonstrates his “value.” It’s just a slam-dunk from there!

A third tip, courtesy of Todd: when you’re shaking a woman’s hand, don’t shake it as you would a man’s, as that’s too business-like for ladies. Instead, rotate the palm of your hand up when shaking her hand, which seems more “personal.” You’ll want to be gently cradling her hand in the palm of yours. This wasn’t a recommendation of Todd’s, but I imagine that if you do it quickly enough, you can probably break her wrist in the process. Then you’ll be able to accompany her to the E.R., which I expect would probably lead to a ton of that super valuable emotional investment you’re going for.

After analyzing three “pulls,” including one in which the woman tells Todd several times that she has a boyfriend but gives him her number regardless3, it’s time for role-playing. The first exercise is “Yes, and” statements; when a woman shit-tests you, you should affirm what she’s said, and add something else to it. By saying yes, teaches Todd, you’re telling the woman, “I accept the world how it is.” I think Gandhi used the same technique.

The lights were turned on and we were instructed to stand up and break into groups of three. Another friend of Taco Boy’s had sat next to us in the back row, and so he became our third group member. He was cute, actually, and seemed charming – but had been diligently taking notes through the seminar, which seems like a wild red flag.

I was not very good at “Yes, and” statements, and in case you’ve never tried it, it’s a thoroughly unnatural way to hold a conversation. Also, with the lights on and everyone out of their seats, I felt much more uncomfortable, and was much more noticeable than I had been while sitting in the back row, in the dark.

You get a lot of looks as the only female attendee in a room of over one hundred men who have paid several hundred dollars to learn how to meet women.

Looking around the room, though, most of the men seemed to be well-dressed and at least somewhat attractive. I wondered why they thought I was there, and also why they were there – frankly, if some of them had approached me in a bar, without using one of Todd’s idiotic “openers,” I wouldn’t necessarily have turned them down.

After a few torturous moments of our Yes, ands, we moved onto “I love” and “I hate” statements. Todd instructed us to start off every sentence with either one, and to say the first thing that came to mind, no matter how idiotic. I was slightly better at these. Taco and Friend encouraged me to think of this as a free improv class, but Friend told me I should probably work on my “cold approach” – i.e., approaching strangers on the street with the intention of hitting on them. I told him that was a skill I was never going to use. (By the way, no indication of whether Friend had paid to attend the seminar, or had snuck his way in for free also, although I suspect he did the former.)

Todd kept staring at me without blinking, and the amount of eye contact became increasingly unnerving.

Lastly, we did “qualifying statements,” in order to get our targets emotionally invested. Todd, unblinking, assured us that they could be as stupid as we wanted them to be! It doesn’t matter, just say anything! They had to follow the format, “You’re so _____, it’s like _____.” My date thought of a charming one: “You’re so stupid, it’s like pathetic.” Todd pointed out one participant in the front row who was wearing an ugly patterned sweater: “You’re so sweatered up it’s like you’re a penguin!” Unfortunately, the young man was staring at me and didn’t realize Todd was talking to him. His fellow group member had to swat his arm to get his attention.

Another prime example, courtesy of Todd: “Your posture is so chill right now, it’s like you’re a Buddha!” The Buddha in question grinned and pumped his arms in the air, presumably ecstatic. There was some sad, scattered applause.

I refused to do a qualifying statement, so Friend started off, “Your hair is so carefree, it’s like fluttering blossoms blowing in the breeze.” Taco’s statement to Friend: “You’re so racially ambiguous, it’s like you could be in a Target commercial.”

A quick note: Yes, ands, can be a way to carry on a conversation, however awkward. And “I love” and “I hate” statements aren’t difficult to think of, nor do they feel particularly unnatural to say. But the third exercise has a distinct I’m-trying-to-hit-on-you vibe. To watch a group of one hundred allegedly-über-hetero men try to seduce each other is something I can’t recommend highly enough. They were practically yelling across the room to each other, trying to stand as far away as possible. There were a lot of feet shuffling, looking at the floor, aggressively crossed arms, and averted glances. The emotional investment was palpable.
Unfortunately, one of the event coordinators came up to Taco and I and indicated that we had to follow him, cutting off the third exercise for us. I stood around by the door while Taco and the coordinator talked – I got the sense that we were in trouble, but that the men would handle it for me. I was told to produce my ID, and then after it was returned to me, I was asked to take my phone and leave.

If attending the seminar wasn’t embarrassing enough, getting kicked out certainly was.

Turns out, Taco hadn’t really cleared it with his friend the assistant or Todd that he could attend for free. Until Todd was able to confirm that that was the case, we needed to either pay $300 each or leave. Seeing as they kicked us out at 9:15, and the seminar ended for the day at 9:30, paying didn’t seem quite worth it.

Taco had also told me that paying attendees were allowed to bring dates or girlfriends for free – a provision that makes fiscal sense to me because there aren’t likely to be that many men attending that have women to ask, and also because I doubt very many women are likely to go. While I have to admit that I think it’s a little hypocritical to be kicking out the only female attendee, to be fair, I was very clearly an interloper, and I’m sure my Jane Goodall-esque attitude didn’t help things much.

Either way, Taco and I left the hotel and he told me that he was going to get Chipotle and then try to return to the seminar. I was invited to join, and to go clubbing with him and the literally six foot tall Tiesto-grinding model, but I declined both. We hugged awkwardly, he told me to text him, and I haven’t heard from him since – which is assuredly for the best.

[1] I tried Googling “Tod versus Todd” but didn’t find any significant results, although there is a doctor with the unfortunate name of Tod Todd in California who specializes in holistic treatments and has written a fictional thriller novel titled 444 The Key to the Island. FYI. (But seriously, you guys must intuitively know the difference between a Tod and a Todd, right? I can’t be alone in this, can I?) (Back)

[2] In the interest of Todd’s privacy, I won’t call him by last name, although it’s only a quick Google away if you’d like to attend the seminar yourself. You’ll know it’s him by the awful hair. (Back)

[3] Todd admitted that nothing happened with the woman with the boyfriend, and an audience member asked what happened with the NYU freshman, at which time he reluctantly stated that he only hung out with her and her roommate before leaving. A third video showed him picking up two dancers in Times Square. One dancer was very clearly uninterested in him and his shtick4 and when that came across in the video, Todd interjected that she was “much less hot” than her friend, who was coincidentally fawning all over Todd. Even so, Todd took both women out for coffee, got the hotter friend’s name and number, and kissed her. Then she and her friend drove back home to Jersey and that was the end of that.

It’s exceedingly curious to me that Todd chose those three videos, which are evidence of him spending considerable amounts of time on a total of four women, to only net one quick kiss in return. I wanted to stay after the seminar’s conclusion to ask him what his goal is. Is it collecting numbers? Is it sleeping with these women? Is it creating a relationship with them? (Back)

[4] Another note: when Todd could tell that a woman was on the brink of rejecting him, he would demonstrate his own “value” but saying something like, “I mean, if sexy, charismatic, confident, funny, successful guys like me aren’t your type, that’s fine and I’ll leave you alone.” But the really astonishing part was that it seemed to work! These women would feel insulted that he would insinuate that they don’t have good taste in men, and in another instance of “sneaking one past the goalie,” they’d then be drawn into continuing the conversation. (Back)

Kathryn Leslie is a human being living in Brooklyn.


Young and in Love

It was June of 2012, and everyone in my family was getting boned except for me. My younger brother, Willy P, had his first girlfriend, who I’ll call Alejandra. Alejandra was hot. I mean, Gillian Anderson-level hot. If I were a lesbian who didn’t know that my brother had been in her orifices, I would so be into her. Every time she visited, she always brought cake or cookies or something else she baked. And besides just being pretty and being able to cook (since women are useful for other things, too) she was from Easter Island and had travelled all over the world. She was a talented singer, excellent painter, and when she talked with you, she made you feel like the most interesting person in the world. I don’t know what she saw in him. Granted, he’s my brother, but he’s also the guy who didn’t know Buck was a dog when he read The Call of the Wild in 7th grade.

With the exception of getting into college and having my cat die first, I was behind my brother in achieving every milestone of adulthood. He had a real job (that wasn’t working at our mother’s office every summer) before me. He went to a college party the week before I started college. He had his driver’s license before me, a task that I blew off after I failed the test the first time. I shrugged it off that I’ll be going to NYU, not realizing that I might be home for the summers or moving to LA after graduation. Oops.

I have a cousin, whom I’ll call Ashley, who, as of June 2012, had never left New Jersey (with the exception of once going to New York City and once to Amish Country on a school trip). Her parents had recently gotten a divorce, so my dad thought it would be good to take her mind off things and take the family on a day trip to Washington, D.C. It was going to be fun. I had the week off from the airport where I worked. (I decided I was too old to be working for my mother and I got a job as an assistant teacher for this airport that taught autistic kids how to fly airplanes. The woman who ran it was the epitome of the American Dream. She used to smoke inside the airplanes. She had about nine kids and they all ran around the airport barefoot. One of them was autistic, so she decided to run a camp for autistic kids and have them fly 4-person airplanes to beaches and parks.) Every day was an adventure, but today was going to be an adventure where I wouldn’t die at the end. Or so I thought.

Ashley wasn’t that bad. She was a little socially awkward and learned about current events a year after they happened, but not too bad. She had this boyfriend, who I will call Gabe, who came over for 4th of July that year, and when I went to hang out with them and my brother and Alejandra, Gabe told me ten times I couldn’t because I didn’t have a date like the rest of them, which was weird, because we weren’t in middle school anymore. But they were madly in love, and Ashley had tattooed his name in gel pen on her arm.

The worst part about the day was going to be my dad’s girlfriend, who I’ll call Donna. I don’t want to compare myself to God, but it’s definitely a God vs. Lucifer situation whenever we’re in a room together. This woman made fun of me for crying on the car ride to my grandmother’s funeral, because “that’s not where you’re supposed to cry.” She threw piles of garbage into my room because my brother forgot to put the ketchup back into the fridge. She used to call my brother and I obese when we were younger, even though Wil wasn’t fat at all and I was just growing boobs like a normal 11-year-old girl. She had a handyman giving her estimates on our house, and when I needed to get to the job interview at the airport, his car was blocking my brother’s. I asked the man if he could move it because I needed to leave, and she flew into a red-faced rage about how I needed to respect people’s time. The man moved his car because he was, you know, normal.

Driving our crew to Washington, D.C. was my dad, who was still managing to drive a car after our family excursion the previous year to Honolulu left him blind in one eye because Germans never give up. Sometimes he makes funny jokes. Wil and I say he is a hybrid of George Costanza and Danny DeVito.

Then there was me, Rachel Petzinger, a soon-to-be junior at NYU who was just trying to live her life. Now that I’ve established everyone in the rented van, probably exactly like Anton Chekhov would have, I’m going to break down the trip using an inner monologue to explain my thoughts and some dialogue that happened during this early summer day in a sort of 24 style.

6 AM - 7 AM

Bruh, I’m awake now. I’m going to listen to some Kid Cudi because I just learned what Spotify is! Let me Instagram doing this, because I also just learned what Instagram is, too!

Uh-oh, I forgot cousin Ashley is sleeping in the room. Music woke her up. Oh, well. Ashley comes over to me and sits in my butterfly chair. “Erase Me” plays on my computer, and she only sings along when he says, “I keep on running, keep on running,” so that it looks like she knows the words to the song. I want to tell her, it’s okay, you don’t have to show off to me that you know how to pick up on a few words.

“Do you have sex?” she asks me.


“Do you have sex?” she repeats.

“I’m not talking with this about you at 6 in the morning.”

She slaps my arm. “C’mon, tell me. Sex is awesome. I like sex.”

I shut off my computer and say to her, “That’s great. I’m going to take a shower,” and I escape to the bathroom.

Three minutes later I hear a knock on the door. It’s Willy P.

“I need to take a shower,” he grumbles through the door. I ignore him. We had a fight over the bathroom a few days ago that got a little out of hand, so now I always spend more time than I need in there.

I get out of the shower and there’s another knock at the door.

“Willy P, ya scrotum, leave me alone, I’ll be out in five minutes!” I yell.

Only it’s not Willy P. It’s Donna, and she’s mad at me for wasting water with my 4-minute shower. I wonder if it would be a waste of water to drown her.

I don’t realize that I say this out loud. Now my dad is mad at me.

The day is off to a good start.

7 AM - 8 AM

Alejandra’s parents arrive. They are nice people. We think that they are involved in some Chilean spy organization because they are pretty quiet about their personal business, and then sometimes they go away for weeks at a time, but that’s awesome because my family is as boring and suburban as can be and we don’t know any spies. I’m just chilling in the back of the van, playing with a lighter, thinking about putting myself out of my misery for the day, when they knock on the door and I greet them.

“So you’re going back to Easter Island on Monday?” I ask.

They nod their heads. We have that sort of discussion you have with people you’re on the brink of being comfortable around, except it’s useless because they’ll be gone forever in five days, taking Willy P’s sexy slam-piece with them. Then my dad comes out with a camera bag and has me put it in the trunk. He makes small talk in a high-pitched voice—you know, the kind of voice people use when they’re trying to be really nice, and it’s not like they’re anti-social, but they haven’t quite yet mastered the art of talking to people they’re not friends with in their normal voice.

My dad goes back inside to tell Donna to hurry up. Alejandra’s parents ask me what we’re going to see, and I explain to them that we will probably just go to the touristy stuff, because Ashley has never been anywhere outside of New Jersey, with the exception of two places. They are amazed by that.

Wil makes me move seats so he and Alejandra can spoon in the back. Ashley puts a helmet on her head because her mother warned her about my dad’s driving. And with that, the Petzingers are en route to Washington, D.C.!

8 AM - 9 AM

Driving. I invite Ashley to watch Slumdog Millionaire with me on my iPhone because she needs some culture.

If I never find love, then I would at least like to be the badass older sibling, as Salim is to Jamal. Who needs a Latika when you can have 1 million rupees?

9 AM - 10 AM

We stop at a rest stop in South Jersey. I pass by a Burger King along the way to the bathroom as Donna is behind me. She sees a heavyset woman, and says (which she thinks is under her breath), “Ugh, if I ever get to be that fat, just kill me.” I walk ahead of her.

Ashley looks like a poor baby animal lost in the rest stop. American rest stops are really only full of diddlers, truck drivers, bikers, happy families going on vacation, and angry families going on vacation. I buy me an iced coffee and her a Cinnabon because she has made some good progress. Ashley says her boyfriend really loves Cinnabon.

I go over to Willy P, who is on his phone as Alejandra is in the bathroom.

“Hey, bud.”

“Sup,” he says, without making eye contact.

“You gonna miss Alejandra?”


A long silence. I take a Snapchat of him and draw a peener in his mouth. He is not amused, unlike usual. So I go back to the car and play the waiting game.

10 AM - 11 AM

We almost arrive in D.C. I regret drinking that iced coffee because now I really need to winky-tink. I ask my dad repeatedly to pull over but he doesn’t because we’re on a non-existent schedule.

“Rachel, help us find parking!” he yells.

“But that starts with P, and I have to pee!” I cry. It hurts. So I go on my phone and look up some tricks that have helped me to this day. Did you know that if you are sitting down, you are not supposed to cross your legs? That puts pressure on your parts, so you should sit with your legs separated. You are welcome.

We park, and it is a photo-finish as I run into a Subway and ask to use the bathroom. The cashier lets me go without buying a sandwich because D.C. is technically the south and people are pleasant there.

When we get out Ashley spots a Barnes & Noble. She asks if we can go in.

“You’re joking, right?” my dad asks. We walk past it.

11 AM – 12 PM

“I have cramps,” my lovely cousin announces as we stop at a deli.

“Kay,” my dad responds.

“What do you want us to do about that?” Donna asks.

“Can we go back?” Ashley suggests.

My dad laughs.

“What kind of cramps?” I ask her. “Cramp cramps or cramp cramps?”

So we go to a CVS. “Do you need lady-time stuff?” I ask her. She insists she is fine.

My dad makes me carry the big camera bag as we make our way to Capitol Hill.

12 PM – 1 PM

Wow. So that’s Capitol Hill, where Congress does its thing.

Ashley looks at her phone. My dad and Donna argue over a map as my brother and Alejandra lay down on the grass.

I remember this one time in 2009 when my class went to DC as part of a weeklong field trip. I was new to the school that year and really had only a handful of friends. There was this girl, Elyssa, who I thought was my bud, but then for some reason on that trip she flat-out stopped talking to me. It was weird. I remember on these steps three years before, after we got off and our teachers said to meet them back here in three hours, I was lost, since Elyssa was being such a bitch. Then a classmate came up to me, and I thought he was going to say I could walk with them, but then he just asked me to take some pictures of his group of friends.

I had this one really cool French teacher who was on the trip. Literally the only French teacher I ever had who never had that attitude that all French teachers have. But later that night we all gathered in front of the White House. I was with some group of people I didn’t really give a shit about, and she came up to me and pointed at a lit window in the White House and said, “Pensez-vous que Obama est là?”

I laughed, “Peut-être, oui.”

Then she introduced me to this group of people, who actually turned out to be people I still keep in contact with today.

I had this revelation on these steps of wisdom, if I can’t have a significant other, then I’ll help people! At least I could help my cousin when she only had me on the trip. My cousin was on her phone, shaking.

“Hey, cuz. What do you think of the city so far?”

“Huh? Yeah,” she responded.

1 PM – 2 PM

We make our way to some fountain. I sit with Ashley as she continues on about her boyfriend and how much she misses him and how she is so excited to go to the beach with him tomorrow.

“You know, beaches are great, but, like, aren’t you happy to be here? With your family?”

“Yeah, I guess. I like New York better. There are more streets.”

“We have literally been here for 2 hours. Isn’t it kind of cool, the buildings are what you see everyday on our money. Or the people? Everyone is super friendly. Or at least knowing you’re in the same city where there is so much of America’s history?”

“Yeah, well, I mean, the history is great.”

My cousin’s intelligent argument is disrupted by my brother yelling, “Alejandra!” Everyone in the city practically turns to see my brother jump into the water to save her digital camera she dropped in. Alejandra thanks him and laughs, “I’ll just go put it in rice when I get home.” She is pretty casual about it, while my brother and father ask her if it’s all right, treating it like it’s a baby about to go on life support. Ashley sniffles a little bit, because that’s something her boyfriend would have done. And she misses him. And can’t wait until they are at the beach tomorrow.

2 PM – 3 PM

The National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian is pretty far out. Alejandra told us we should buy space ice cream at the gift shop, which is really the only reason we went. My dad and Donna went off to go look at rocket ship stuff, and my brother and Alejandra fed each other their space cream. Ashley stared at them for more than an appropriate time, so I took her by the elbow to look at some airplane models.

I said something along the lines of, “Gee whiz, isn’t that airplane swell,” but when I turned I saw her crying. I had never before seen anyone cry over an airplane that wasn’t about to crash. “What’s the matter?” I asked her.

“Just seeing Wil and Alejandra feeding each other. It makes me miss Gabe.”

I tried to block her face, so she wouldn’t be embarrassed. “But, you’ll like, see him at the beach tomorrow. Willy P and Alejandra may never see each other again. She’s going back to Easter Island in five days, for Christ’s sake.”

Ashley shook her head. “You don’t understand. You’re not in love with anyone.”

“What do you do when you have to go to work? Or in school? Do you cry that you miss him then?”

“No, because he’s near me. He’s halfway around the world, now!”

3 PM – 4 PM

I alert my father to Ashley’s tears. He asks her what’s wrong, and she just says her cramps are really bad.

“Rachel, give her something.”

“Ashley, what do you need?”

“I’m fine! I just want to go home.”

I want to tell Ashley to give it up—my father is not one of those guys who would let a thing like cramps get in the way of a day trip. Perhaps Ashley had forgotten, but my father is blind in one eye, and he doesn’t let that stop him from flying airplanes, let alone driving a car. “Give it up, cousin,” I try to tell her with my telekinesis.

But it falls upon deaf ears and brain stems. My father shakes his head and says, “We’re not going home.”

“I would like to go to that Indian Museum,” Donna chimes in.

“Indian is not the preferred nomenclature. Native American, please,” I have to remind her. She is confused and whispers something to my dad.

4 PM – 5 PM

We watch some movie about oppression at the Native Museum of the American Indian. Ashley leaves, not because it bothers her how badly the white man had treated those different, but because she needs to talk to Gabe on her phone.

I tug on my dad’s sleeve. “Should I go out there?”

He shrugs. “She’s fine. Just watch the movie.”

We meet her outside afterwards, and my dad is not happy with Ashley because that movie had cost five dollars to get in. My dad asks her why she acts the way that she does, and Donna interrupts, patting her mouth like it’s a drum, chanting “Hey-yuh-yuh-yuh, hey-yuh-yuh-yuh.” A Native American family walks by, sees what she is doing, and they collectively shake their heads. To keep my laughter in, I run over to Willy P and Alejandra. My brother has his arm around her, but I think she put it there.

“Do you see what Donna is doing?”

Alejandra giggles. “I won’t miss her.”

Wil rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “I know he’s blind in one eye, but he still should see how retarded she is.”

The museum is about to close and my dad tells me to leave Willy P and Alejandra alone and watch Ashley just in time for Donna to visit the gift shop.

“I’m not bothering them,” I argue.

“It’s upsetting your cousin to see them together. Just keep her company – away from them.”

“This is bullshit. And I’m sorry. But I like Alejandra. Just because I’m not boning her doesn’t mean I won’t miss her when she’s gone either!”

It’s pointless arguing, though, and Ashley and I sit on a bench in the museum.

“It’s just hard to see them,” she keeps repeating.

A voice on the intercom announces that the museum will close in five minutes. Ashley grumbles, “I hate your dad’s girlfriend. She’s gonna get us locked in here.”

“Would you just chill out?”

“You don’t understand, Rachel!”

“Yeah, everyone keeps saying that to me.”

“If we get stuck here overnight, then I can’t go to the beach with Gabe tomorrow.”

“But we won’t—“

“You don’t have a boyfriend, you don’t understand.”

“I don’t need a boyfriend to understand that a museum won’t lock you in after they close.”

A minute passes. She wipes away a tear and says, “Can I ask you something?”


“Are you a lesbian?”

“What?! No. Why would you even ask me that?”

“You’re always talking about how hot Gillian Anderson is and stuff.”

“Oh my god, I haven’t even mentioned Gillian Anderson once on this trip.”

“Still, you do it a lot.”

“Gillian Anderson is a very attractive woman and I appreciate her accomplishments in film and television. Besides, I talk about Christoph Waltz all the time and nobody says anything.”

“Well, you’ve never had a boyfriend.”


That made Ashley cry a river, and my dad wasn’t too thrilled about that.

5 PM – 6 PM

We try to find the car for about an hour. This makes Ashley upset because if we can’t find the car, we can’t get back home. My father wants me to hold the camera bag on my back in lieu of being Ashley’s sole advisor, but at some point I cough up a storm and Ashley hits me really, really hard on my shoulder four or five times, probably not realizing that you can’t just slap a person anywhere on their body and they will stop coughing.

It has been forty-five minutes and we still cannot find the car. We grab the attention of a homeless man, who speaks to my dad in Spanish. That’s when Alejandra comes in and she and him have a conversation. At some point after Alejandra says something and he looks at Ashley and laughs. I meant to ask Alejandra later what they were talking about. He got us to our car and my dad gave him a granola bar.

6 PM – 7 PM

We get in the car and assume our usual positions, which means Ashley sulks in her seat. My dad drives around some city sights that we didn’t get to see, just for Ashley.

We pass the Lincoln Memorial. “Hey, Ashley, look, it’s the Lincoln Memorial.”


We pass the Washington Monument. “Hey, Ashley, look, it’s the Washington Monument.”


Next is the White House. “Hey, Ashley, think Obama is in there?”

No response.

7 PM – 8 PM

Fell asleep, woke up to my brother putting a lime in my mouth.

8 PM – 9 PM

We stop somewhere in Maryland to get dinner. My brother and Alejandra hold hands the whole time, and my dad, Donna and I, all try to separate their hands as a joke. My dad takes a knife and pretends to go all Norman Bates on him. Ashley drags me to the bathroom with her.

“I hate Donna,” she grumbles. “That museum stuff with the Native Americans, that wasn’t cool.”

“Yeah, it wasn’t, but you don’t have to deal with her on a daily basis, and she has been surprisingly okay on this trip.”

Then she throws a paper towel in the mirror. “Can you tell your brother to stop holding hands with Alejandra?”

I walk out and say to my brother what our cousin said. Then I suggest perhaps the entire restaurant should have a giant orgy on this table. Willy P likes that idea, minus the fact that I would probably just be watching. Ashley orders just a plate of French fries for dinner, while my meal has a side of French fries, like normal. When she finished, she just kept eating all the fries off my plate. My brother had my back and put up a wall of condiments between the two of us.

9 PM – 10 PM

We drive home. At this point, Donna sits next to me because my dad wants to talk to Ashley about some things. The four of us have our own conversation about the day, then I sit in between Willy P and Alejandra in the backseat and tell her about the details of Wil’s diary when he was little.

“What was in it?” Donna asks, feeling like one of the cool kids for once in her life.

“Dear Diary! I just got my first period!” Willy P recites.

From all the way up front, Ashley says, “That’s funny, Wil, because normally only girls get periods.”

A long silence. “Shut the fuck up, Ashley!” he shouts.

I’m surprised that Donna doesn’t say, “Watch your language.” My dad looks in the mirror and sees I’m not in my seat, so he makes me go back.

10 PM – 11 PM

About ten minutes from the house, my dad breaks the silence in the car and says to Ashley, “Hey, it’s getting late. I don’t think you should drive back to your house tonight.”


“It’s dark out. You’re tired, we’re all tired. You can leave in the morning.”

“Uncle Bill, I have to leave tonight!”

“Ashley, it’s dangerous. There are weirdos out there.”

“Uncle Bill, I deal with weirdos all the time!”

Then I butt in. “Ashley, you live in Flemington. The only weirdo you deal with is your father.”

We pull into our driveway, and because it is on a hill and of the way it is structured, a car cannot get around it if another one is parked on top. My dad stays right there.

She flies into hysteric tears, but my dad calls his sister and she insists her daughter stays there. Alejandra’s parents show up and see Ashley crying in our basement.

“What happened to her?” her dad asks.

“She misses her boyfriend,” I tell them.

Alejandra’s mother looks at the floor. “Ungrateful, she is,” she mutters.

With all the chaos going on in the back, I almost forget that this is the last time I might see her parents.

“Will you ever visit?” I ask.

They smile. “For your brother, we would change the weather!”

Alejandra comes over. “I think I’m coming over tomorrow. Good luck with your cousin,” she says, and hugs me.

11 PM – 12 AM

Ashley reminds me of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre with all the sounds coming from the basement. My dad comes upstairs, wiping his forehead, like I imagine a guy does when he’s witnessing his wife giving birth or something.

“What’s wrong with her?” I ask.

“She’s just going through a difficult time. We need to get a new rocking chair.”

“You know, I go through rough times, but I don’t make things miserable for anyone else.”

“Rachel, one day, you will have a boyfriend, and you’ll understand.”

“Man, I can’t wait to have a boyfriend and finally understand what it is that makes people so crazy.”

He puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “I love you, Rachel. Truly. Don’t go downstairs,” and he goes to bed.

I go downstairs to see what all the fuss is about. Ashley has barricaded herself in and has broken a lamp and a rocking chair.

“They don’t understand… they don’t understand…” I hear from a corner.

“Hey, buddy,” I say slowly. “You want some Tylenol?”

“No… I didn’t have cramps. I just wanted to go home.”

I should have known she didn’t really have cramps. She’s one of those chicks who every time she’s over says she’s on her lady-time.

Upstairs, Willy P does pull-ups in his room.

“Hey, buddy,” I say.

“You wanna get lunch with me and Alejandra tomorrow?”

“Nothing would so much as pleaseth your fine maiden greater.”


He lets go of the bar and gets in his bed.

“Where are we getting lunch?” I ask.

He shrugs. “I don’t know. We might not. But Alejandra wants to see you.”

“Will you miss her?” I ask him quietly.

He looks me in the eye and nods.

“You should lock your door tonight,” I say.

“Why, are you gonna have your way with me?”

“No. It’s just that there’s a crazy person in our basement and there are knives in the kitchen. And you’re an asshole, but you’re my little asshole, and I don’t want you to die for a long time.”

He laughs. I leave his room and I hear the door close and the lock set in place. Then I lock my door.

As I fall asleep, I hear the moans of a wounded animal rise from our basement.

Rachel Petzinger is a writer and comedienne. She writes and stars in Dear Rachel, a comedy web series.

Letter from the Editor, Issue One

This morning I woke up to the door of my girlfriend's bedroom rattling in its frame. It was dark. As I pulled my head up the room seemed to be vibrating along with the door, blood pushing against my eyes with every beat of my heart. It's Jane, her roommates' cat, my girlfriend insists, but what if its not? What if it's a ghost that cannot come in unless it is invited? What if, when I turn the handle and open the door, there is nothing on the other side?

Alas, it was just her cat, but imagine if.

Fear and love are, according to Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko, the two driving emotions of human existence. You'll get a bit of both in this, the inaugural issue of Things Created By People, the e-zine published by Roving Brooklyn. Our theme this time is Peril. Risk. Fear. Family road trips. and we have writing, video, and audio that touch on all of those words. (Check out the full table of contents for Issue One.)

Some people, when they watch scary movies, they'll just deny that it's happening. They'll cover their eyes, get up to make more popcorn, or take an extended trip to the bathroom to wash their face. Other people, they'll spend the whole time pointing out shitty effects or crappy dialogue or unrealistic situations. The best people, they just watch it, and let themselves become afraid. Even the shittiest horror movies can be terrifying if you let them soak through your skin, grab a hold of your muscles, burrow into your bones.

I sometimes get chastised by friends for thinking that Paranormal Activity is a scary movie. I watched it for the first time in my parent's living room in the middle of Vermont. In Vermont, when the lights are off, there is no light. In Vermont, when you don't make a sound, there is no sound. But, no, there is sound - there is the wind howling, the house settling, and doors creaking and rattling on their own. When the movie was over and it was time for me to go to bed, I was shaking as I climbed up the stairs. I barely made it to my room alive, believing that around any corner there would be an invisible demon ready to take me.

Of course, it was nothing but a shaky old house in Vermont, but... imagine if?

Adam Cecil
Managing Editor