EVERYTHING ELSE IS JUST EXPOSITION by Gauraa Shekhar

  1. Carefully coded a fake Myspace account for Joel Madden—copied the URL from his skull-and-crossbones profile, pasted it into a Layout Stealer, added Steve Aoki and Junior Sanchez to my Top 8
  2. Sent myself love letters from the account
  3. Showed off love letters from “Joel Madden” at band practice
  4. Threw some antihistamine pills from the medicine cabinet into a zip-lock bag. Kept the pills in the back of my school locker to feel beautiful and bad like Winona Ryder and the disaster girls on TV
  5. Once, during a middle school lunchbreak, made an elaborate display of secretly spooning a home-cooked meal into the trash, so the other kids would get off my case about being fat
  6. Had “Joel Madden” message my friends about the dangers of my eating disorder
  7. Drank only cappuccinos for meals to get cast as Christine in the high school production of Phantom of the Opera
  8. Made a display of slowly nibbling at baby carrots backstage so the English teacher slash director would get off my case about looking a little too thin
  9. On the night of graduation, after my dad’s friend handed me a going-away gift, told everyone the tucked lavender note in the jewelry box only said love, henry
  10. At the end of an above-average date, on the drive back home, when “The Boys of Summer” came on, and as my date drummed his fingers passionately on the steering wheel, loudly proclaimed: “when did Don Henley cover The Ataris?”
  11. Hung out with Nick Ramirez freshman year only because he had a poster of Nico’s Chelsea Girls taped to his wall and I liked sneaking 2 AM cigarettes with him in the boys’ shower room 
  12. Once, after chain-smoking Marlboros in the boys’ shower room: scribbled a menacing note in glitter gel and snuck it under an ex’s door with Nick Ramirez
  13. Abstained from correcting the professor’s pronunciation of my name
  14. Intentionally mispronounced my name for efficiency on the phone to customer service 
  15. Kept myself from ascribing names to any first-person narrator I write
  16. Smoked the second cigarette only as excuse to stage a casual run-in with the author after a reading
  17. Knew that getting drinks with my ex’s best-friend’s wife’s mentally unstable ex-best friend was probably a bad idea but I was craving crisis
  18. Lost twenty bucks playing chess in Union Square
  19. Told friends I won twenty bucks playing chess in Union Square
  20. Twice, at a karaoke bar in Chinatown: kissed the same pilot in exchange for my tab
  21. Dropped a blanched broccoli rabe on the kitchen floor next to the mouse trap and bent down with my fork to eat it straight off the ground
  22. Masturbated ten hours after finding out my childhood home was robbed
  23. Couldn’t finish because Bella Donna was on and it was impossible to think about anything besides the white cockatoo resting on the delicate slant of Stevie Nicks’ fingers
  24. On a drunk afternoon in Alphabet City, with an unrequited lover, borrowed a line from a CW show for tragedy points: “I think I could set myself on fire and nobody would notice”
  25. Set my bangs on fire while smudging the apartment with sage; no one was home to notice
  26. Wanted to sleep with someone from the band but instead fell into bed with the sound pretengineer
  27. Double-texted him
  28. Studied the senseless succession of blue text balloons on my phone screen
  29. Semi-confidently, and over fourteen-dollar spicy brunch margaritas: “I make forty-six a year” 
  30. Spent too long surveying tattoos on the backs of strangers
  31. Sleepwalked to the kitchen and came to in the refrigerator light, the soft leathery warmth of leftover pasta clumps on my tongue
  32. Took a year off to write a book about boy bands
  33.  Spent most of it listening to One Direction
  34. Wrote bad poetry on July 4th: and the fireworks looked like cupcake sprinkles 
  35. Had sex while both the dogs were still in the bedroom
  36. Didn’t do laundry all of that September because I relished an excuse to not wear pants
  37. Spent my last two dollars on gas station caramel iced coffee
  38. Only volunteered at the event for the free food that came after
  39. Invited all New York exes to the same party because the rest of the week had been uneventful
  40. Left New York
  41. Missed New York
  42. Wrote about New York in honeyed inflections, first as prophet then as fool: unfinished apartments, creative class appalachian towns in the middle of a city. memories- good and bad and all mine
  43. Half-watched John Cusack films under white linens and fell into soft, three-hundred-thread count naps on embezzled Xanax
  44. “Freelancer” rolled easier off the tongue than “basically unemployed”
  45. Ritually painted my face every unemployed morning to softly make-believe I had somewhere to be after
  46. Moved back to New York
  47. Got a job working the front desk at Gizmodo
  48. Asked if I looked bigger than the woman on TV only when I knew the answer was no 
  49. Lied to a boyfriend about liking Radiohead’s Ok Computer
  50. Slept with someone from the bar, someone who didn’t like Radiohead, while boyfriend was in Stockholm
  51. Told the truth a little too truthfully 
  52.  
  53. Whenever a car blasting reggae music trailed along the block, thought: I could be a person who drinks daytime beer 
  54. Stuck a note on the desktop to tell my boss I quit
  55. Stuck a note goodbye on boyfriend’s fridge
  56. Read the news but didn’t throw out my Ryan Adams records when everyone else did
  57. Let the call go to voicemail because 
  58. I never really liked my coffee black; it just had fewer calories

Gauraa Shekhar is an MFA candidate at Columbia University. Her fiction has appeared in Nimrod Journal and Contrary Magazine. She lives in Manhattan with her husband. Find her online @bloodandGauraa. 

 
 

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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