[Hipsters is a novel. Start from Chapter 1 if this is news to you.]
[Shimada, Alice. “Does Eliot Spitzer Make Mixtapes for Ashley Alexandra Dupré?” XX, June 20, 2008: Web.] Eliot Spitzer being outed for his taste in hookers is the most un-news news of the year so far. However, what’s surprising many, is that a politician who would be practicing discretion by consorting his “unprotected anal sex” through a third-party sex work firm to avoid test patterns, would insist on seeing the same Five Diamond purveyor. Every. Time. Could it have been love? Here’s what we found out through Ashley Alexandra Dupré’s iheartradio page.
“I told you this would be fun,” Peter said.
The line ahead of us at IKEA moved slowly through a gauntlet of cardboard pallets full of cheap kitchen utensils in varying states of making their way to trash. I tried to focus on Peter as the mother in line behind me yelled at her crying child, calling the attention of all of the strangers in the various queues, to the further anxiety of the toddler, whom I guessed from intonation was no more than 4 years old. I’d heard four year olds before, and knew the timbre of their call; the logic of it. The wailing that meant only that they had no idea what the fuck was going on; not that they were hurting. Not really.
“I’m not kidding, I’m never doing this again,” I said. I was really hurting.
I wanted to reassure the child that he would have plenty of opportunity to make better decisions as an adult, say, to avoid lines at IKEA in the future.
Peter placated me with a hug from behind, practically thrusting me into the handrail of our shopping cart and wrapping his hands on top of mine, leaning his weight into my back. He put his lips on the back of my shoulder and blew a warm breath into it, resurfacing to whisper in day spa voice.
“This is our hot compress soaked in lavender verbena, known to have both aromatic and healing qualities for your sympathetic nerves.” He sang “Sail Away” in a whispered falsetto pretending to be Enya between hot breaths into my shoulders. I giggled.
“You know way too much massage talk for a straight dude,” I said.
“You likee a hot stone massageee?” he said with a bad Chinese accent.
I revolted and sank deeper into my shit mood, flexed him off my back. I didn’t have the temerity to scold him right then. Way too tired.
I nudged our cart forward despite there being no purchase in the queue, and redirected my anger to silently judging the mother of the four year old for yelling at him instead of observing a moment of affection. I let myself assume all the cultural misgivings of judging the mother, who happened to be black, because the fact was when it was white moms, I always just wished they would smack their kids or leave them in a locked car.
Peter started rubbing the soft nodes of my palms, knowing they had a tendency to cramp up. It felt nice. I told him to roll my knuckles, and he knew exactly what that meant.
As we came within one more patron of the checkout counter, and started to make room on the conveyer belt for what would doubtless become a broken storage container within the week, I tried to mentally calculate the total and debated whether we should categorize this as an office expense or Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). I’d forgotten if our accountant had taught us any tricks to the different categories of expenses. I remembered meeting a stationer in Japan who did all his bookkeeping with an abacus and wishing I could learn to use one the way he did. It apparently made people do calculations faster than a calculator. I imagined each of the spaces in the newly leased XX editorial office, filled discretely with our disposable Scandinavian bric-a-brac.
The clerk ran our items through the scanner and announced the total in a completely monotonous line without punctuation, barely looking in our direction.
“Your total is $389.96 and with the Opening Day Special you get your choice of a voucher for free soft serve ice cream or a reusable carry-all bag.”
I said “we’ll take the bag” as Peter blurted “ice cream!”
“Fine, ice cream,” I relented.
Peter handed her a card, already in-hand, before I could manage to pull one out of my own wallet. For an Asian, I am surprisingly bad at winning the check. The clerk instructed Peter to swipe his card and answer a few prompts. The words came out like a string of sounds because they were so rehearsed and I imagine she must have been so disaffected from having had to train umpteen hours to open the first IKEA in New York City for the measly sum of whatever $7.25 was after taxes. She confirmed his payment on a small keyboard and then mechanically swung her hand to a small thermal printer running a mile of receipt paper, followed by a voucher, which she swiftly marked with a highlighter.
“You can redeem your soft serve at the counter by the exit. Have a great day,” she said. She looked dead inside. She looked dead on the outside. I wasn’t going to try to revive her.
I genuinely offered to give him some money for the stuff we’d just bought. I’d hoped we could share all our expenses on XX, while simultaneously relieved I didn’t have to foot the actual credit card debt.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. He added, “It’ll be cleaner anyway if I handle all the expenses so if anything goes wrong and I have to get reimbursed, we don’t have to split anything.” His math made sense, and you know what fuck it I don’t want to pay for this.
It’s just easier if I call all the shots so if anything goes wrong I can take all the blame.
That did not sound as cool, it turned out.
It stunned me how suddenly I was convinced of an opinion I’d only just formed, but I realized then that our separate objectives in the partnership were based on the fundamental experiences we came with and sought out. I was looking for a means to make the work we did together more intimate, which would make my writing stronger, and my life more interesting. Peter was maintaining intimacy with me to keep up the appearance of running a magazine, which he used to compartmentalize the very marriage he’d ended in order to maintain the intimacy. We were a mobius strip of sexual encounters.
After a couple years of any kind of relationship of this caliber, the machinery would take precedence over the results of its work. I still felt fondly about Peter but felt increasingly like we were business colleagues fucking each other to stay alive.
We ambled from the IKEA toward the free ferry dock. The ferry, which was approximately 99% of why I agreed to go to IKEA on opening weekend, already had lines formed for it, in excess of two boatloads. Mercifully, the point at which we were stuck waiting was adjacent to an oversized chaise longue. I promptly plopped our spoils at the fulcrum of the chaise and sat down at its edge. Peter sat behind me and started to rub my shoulders again.
“This line will move super quick,” he predicted.
I scanned the line of quarter-life yuppies with their respective bags of crap and noticed a preponderance of Asian women with white men. I wasn’t sure what that meant for us, but I couldn’t help imagining a universe of couples like us, with Us at the center. There was a Chinese woman in too loose belled Evisu jeans and a glittery Versace tee shirt and espadrilles, with an overweight corporate type wearing weekend cargo shorts and a button down plaid short sleeve shirt on one end. Ahead of us was a couple almost identical in format to Peter and me, but at least thirty years older.
Then there was an Asian guy with a white gal. Both of them were cringingly skinny. She was wearing harem pants and gladiator sandals, her hair in a messy bun, a Cheap Mondays top I almost bought last month on Smith Street. He was wearing tight black jeans and a ruined black T-shirt, noticeably training his focus on an iPhone.
I directed Peter’s attention to him.
“That’s like the tenth iPhone I’ve seen today,” I said.
“I’m definitely not getting one until they release an updated version,” Peter said. Though he pretended to be a gearhead, Peter was just skeptical of anything brand new. I always reminded him that everything tech would be obsolete by the time he bought it. I had already made up my mind that I was never going to buy an iPhone. I already just bought a MacBook and had broken three iPods. Why did I need a smartphone if everything I did was on computers?
The line advanced and I lost my chaise extremement longue. Peter and I started playing thumb war to pass the time.
“Do you think Chris’s radio widget will make us real money?”
“My brother loves it. NPR is already using it for all their radio streams, though of course that’s not making us any money since they’re technically using a beta. Then again I feel like everyone and their mother is making music streaming software now. I guess we just have to hope hers is better,” I said.
“Sounds better or delivers better?” he said.
“Both,” I said. “The answer to that is always all of the above. Whatever it is, we didn’t really have anything to do with it aside from letting her work on it for us first. I don’t know what 8% of an idea is, but vested over several years of proof of concept, I doubt I’ll see any money for…” I suddenly became self-conscious of the people around us listening to me spew venture jargon. Peter interrupted me.
He squeezed my arms and turned me to look him in the eye.
“I thought we agreed on twenty-five!”
“Uh, no. We decided on 16 after a lot of back and forth and we’re splitting that in half…” I said, explaining that if he cared enough to sit in on our meetings to discuss the fine details none of this would be news. I tried to remember if I had in fact sent proper paperwork for him to review. I’m pretty sure I had.
Let me handle it. It’s cleaner that way.
This wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, because the site and our events and the dumb XX-pasties T-shirt were turning a decent cash flow such that the business didn’t even need the potential revenue of an investment. But I could already see where his argument would take him. That he was the executor of our financial affairs and that it stood to reason we should not only assume a bigger cut of Chris’s pie but that he should assume a greater stake in the slice she was giving us as a pair. My counter-argument was going to be that he was so piss poor with reading the fine print that I could not be held at all responsible for any of his oversight.
I was immediately filled with regret. When did I become crazy good at being a finance monster? Chris was right. I would make a decent entrepreneur.
“I don’t know why you’re wigging out. This is all hypothetical money that we don’t need,” I whispered at Peter. He ignored me and started to rant a sequence of numbers, valuations he could count on to make whatever payday he had originally assumed was his to take.
The line advanced again and we were now poised to board the ferry. He wouldn’t look at or talk to me, and shook off my hand when I placed it on his back.
“Peter, seriously. You’re kind of freaking me out,” I said. He sulked and sat at the first seat available and stayed motionless. I tried a sweet voice and asked if he maybe wanted to sit on the top, outside. He continued to sulk. I sat next to him and looked out the window. Outside was the Asian guy with the iPhone, desperately waving around in the breeze for a signal.