good dialogue, with or without quotation marks
[...] Not long ago, one of my former undergraduate workshop students came to visit, and I took him on a walk in my neighborhood. Jeff is a skilled, ambitious young person, gaga over Pynchon's critique of technology and capitalism, and teetering between pursuing a Ph.D in English and trying his hand at fiction. On our walk I ranted at him. I said that I too had once been seduced by critical theory's promise of a life unco-opted by the System, but that after my initial seduction I came to see that university tenure itself--the half-million-dollar TIAA-CREF account in your name, the state-of-the-art computer supplied to you at a university discount by the Apple Corporation for the composition of your "subversive" monographs--is the means by which the System co-opts the critical theorist. I said that fiction is refuge, not agency.
Then we passed a delicious trash pile, and I pulled from it a paint- and plaster-spattered wooden chair with a broken seat and found a scrap of two-by-four to knock the bigger clumps of plaster off. It was grubby work. Jeff said: "This is what my life will be like if I write fiction?"
'Yeah, yeah, I know. But say I hadn't seen it and I said to you, "I haven't seen Reservoir Dogs yet" , what would you think?'
'I'd think, you're a sick man. And I'd feel sorry for you.'
'No, but would you think, from that one sentence, that I was going to see it?'
'I'd hope you were, yeah, otherwise I would have to say the you're not a friend of mine.'
'I'm sorry, Rob, but I'm struggling here. I don't understand any part of this conversation. You're asking me what I'd think if you told me that you hadn't seen a film that you've seen. What am I supposed to say?'
'Just listen to me. If I said to you—'
—'"I haven't seen Reservoir Dogs yet," yeah, yeah, I hear you—'
'Would you ... would you get the impression that I wanted to see it?'
Well ... you couldn't have been desperate, otherwise you'd have already gone.'
'Exactly. We went first night, didn't we?'
'But the word "yet" ... yeah, I'd get the impression that you wanted to see it. Otherwise you'd say you didn't fancy it much.'
'But in your opinion, would I definitely go?'
him obsessing over Laura saying that he hadn't slept with Ian yet
'How did you know Alison?'
'I was her first boyfriend.'
There's a silence, and for a moment I worry that for the last twenty years I have been held responsible in the Ashworth house for some sort of sexual crime I did not commit.
'She married her first boyfriend. Kevin. She's Alison Bannister.'
'What did you say your name was'
'Rob. Bobby. Bob. Robert. Robert Zimmerman.' Fucking hell.
he phone-spaghettis everywhere
“It sounds like you’re not enjoying this process,” my Red Cross friend said. “Looking for a house together should be a journey of joy.”
For a moment I believed her and felt a slow sinking feeling. Then I remembered that she’s always insisting that I need to be more open-minded about the tech world, because Silicon Valley offers many opportunities for storytellers.
“Like what?” I asked once.
“Like Fitbit. You track the Fitbit family users. After they exercise, some guys go to the sports bar; their girlfriends go to the frozen yogurt shop. Which user consumes more calories?”
“That’s a story?”
“Let him come,” I said to my friend. “If we refuse to speak of him, we give him the power of our childhood phantasms. The enemy has revealed himself. Now we can fight.”
“You are a white girl in the park on acid,” he said. “On the border, they are building camps.”
I put my foot out sharply and stopped spinning. One looks at one’s friends and neighbors and wonders who will turn. One turns to oneself.
I do not know if we can organize from a place this disorganized. But I want to believe.
Is your dad as handsome as you are? I said
Why, are you thinking about going there? He's very right-wing. I would point out that he's also still married, but when has that stopped you before?
Oh, that's nice. Now who's hostile?
I'm sorry, he said. You're so right, you should seduce my dad.
Do you think I'm his type?
Oh yeah. In the sense that you greatly resemble my mother, anyway.
I started to laugh. It was a sincere laugh but I still wanted to make sure he would hear it.
That's a joke, said Nick. Are you laughing there, or weeping? You don't resemble my mother.
Is your dad actually right-wing or is that a joke too?
Oh no, he's a real wealth creator. Hates women. Absolutely detests the poor. So you can imagine he loves me, his camp actor son.
I was really laughing then. You're not camp, I said. You're aggressively heterosexual. You even have a twenty-one-year-old mistress.
That I think my father would actually approve of. Happily he'll never know.
I looked down at my own hands. Carefully, like I was daring myself, I said: if I lash out at you it's just because you don't seem very vulnerable to it.
He looked at me then. He didn't even laugh, it was just a kind of frowning look, like he thought I was mocking him. Okay, he said. Well. I don't think anyone likes being lashed out at.
But I mean you don't have a vulnerable personality. Like, I find it hard to imagine you trying on clothes. You don't seem to have that relationship with yourself where you look at your reflection wondering if you look good in something. You seem like someone who would find that embarrassing.
Right, he said. I mean, I'm a human being, I try clothes on before I buy them. But I think I understand what you're saying. People do tend to find me kind of cold and like, not very fun.
I was excited that we shared an experience I found so personal, and quickly I said: people find me cold and lacking in fun.
Really? he said. You always seemed charming to me.
I was gripped by a sudden and overwhelming urge to say: I love you, Nick. It wasn't a bad feeling, specifically; it was slightly amusing and crazy, like when you stand up from your chair and suddenly realize how drunk you are. But it was true. I was in love with him.
also, nice illustration of inside/outside, being unable to see how someone feels about the other, etc. always alone inside our own heads, with our stupid hangups about how no one else is like us!
I've never worked hard at anything, I said.
That must be why you study English.
Then he said that he was just joking, and actually he had won his school's gold medal for composition. I love poetry, he said. I love Yeats.
Yeah, I said. If there's one thing you can say for fascism, it had some good poets.
He didn't have anything else to say about poetry after that. [...]
She seemed irritable, almost about to express something, but then her eyes became calm and remote.
You think everyone you like is special, she said.
I tried to sit up and the bathtub was hard on my bones.
I'm just a normal person, she said. When you get to like someone, you make them feel like they're different from everyone else. You're doing it with Nick, you did it with me once.
She looked up at me , without any cruelty or anger at all, and said: I'm not trying to upset you.
But you are upsetting me, I said.
Well, I'm sorry.
inspo for eve (to neil). because he believes he himself is special, therefore he wouldnt spend time with someone who wasn't also special
Was it not good? I said.
Can we talk?
You used to like it, didn't you?
Can I ask you something? he said. Do you want me to leave her?
I looked at him then. He looked tired, and I could see that he hated everything I was doing to him. My body felt completely disposable, like a placeholder for something more valuable. I fantasized about taking it apart and lining my limbs up side by side to compare them.
No, I said. I don't want that.
I don't know what to do. I've been feeling fucking awful about it. You seem so upset with me and I don't know how I can make you happy.
Well, maybe we shouldn't see each other any more.
Yeah, he said. Okay. I guess you're probably right.
the misunderstanding here is so painful, so brutal, it seeps out of the page like poison
reading someone, concluding the wrong thing (based on fears), then saying something that makes the other person conclude the wrong thing (based on their own fears)...