When a (short) break from the political madness is required

Reading this on a Sunday evening has brought a (much-needed) smile to my face.

Here’s wonderful writer Gary Shteyngart in the New Yorker from June with something lyrical, moving, funny and most importantly, non-political:

I love Pamela. She is what I’ve been waiting for all my life. A chance to lower myself into complete abasement, a chance to beg for someone’s love over and over again, knowing I will never get it. After our first date, when I find out she has a boyfriend (or, as she explains, an ex-boyfriend who is not yet completely out of the picture), I sign off gallantly in an e-mail, “I am at your disposal.”

Except what I’ve written is “I am your disposal.”

I first meet Pamela Sanders (not her real name; not her name at all) in the late nineties, at a social-agency conference about the resettlement of Hmong refugees or something of the sort. She is a serious-minded Program Development Specialist who works at the nonprofit that just laid me off. I am now writing grant proposals for a Lower East Side settlement house. My title is Senior Grant Writer, but I am sometimes referred to as Señor Grant Writer, and people tell me I am not a team player.

She’s in her late twenties, a year or two older than I am, but already there are crow’s-feet radiating from the edges of her pale-gray eyes. But it’s not just her face. Her personality is old. She is a self-described urban hermit and an unreformed shoplifter. When I fall ill, she tells me she loves thinking of me as a feverish little nineteenth-century child with her playing the role of horny older caregiver. When she notices that I use Lever 2000 Pure Rain soap (forty-nine cents a bar at the local bodega), she tells me that it’s bad for my skin and gets me some fancy soap made from olive oil. She plays computer chess until two in the morning. She schedules a week off from work which she promises me will be “FuckFest ’99.” “I have this tingle in my middle region,” she informs me. She calls me Dope, Mr. Shygart, coy little mother, Poochie (as in “Have fun tonight, Poochie”), Pussy-cake, Big Furry Bitch.

She gets upset when I tell her I love her. She tells me that I’m quite “dear” to her, but she can’t reciprocate all this “love,” because of Kevin (not his real name), the not-quite-ex ex-boyfriend. “Oh, the complexities of modern life!” I write to her. “So many goofy, earnest middle-class boys to choose from.”

But here’s the real problem. Pamela and I both want to be writers, we both want to be card-carrying members of the East Coast intelligentsia, but we also both think we’re fakes. I’m a Russian immigrant (before the burst of Russian-immigrant lit of the early two-thousands), and she’s working class. To wit, she’s from a destroyed family in Washington State, her father a Boeing worker always worried about his next paycheck and the next union strike. Kevin’s family is her new family: tender, native-born, educated Jewish suburbanites. When she spends the weekend at their house, Kevin sleeps on the floor next to her bed, pretending that they’re still together in every way. Neither of them wants to give up the ruse to her adoptive parents.

Read the whole thing and smile.

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