You and I


“ ’88, huh?”

The security guard raised his eyebrow and glanced back up at Ross Whelan’s driver’s license to Ross himself – dressed in a black suit, white shirt, no tie. He stuck out like a sore thumb in the lobby of Harris Residential Hall. Judging by his age – 29 years young – he also knew Ross had no place on the University of Southern California’s campus.

Ross was unamused by the guard’s façade. He was just doing his job, but he didn’t have to be a dick about it. Ross was already uneasy about showing up to a college dorm in a suit that was a little frayed at the end of the sleeve. On the drive down the 110 from Highland Park, he wondered if he really was this desperate for money: pimping himself out on Tinder to anyone who would help him pay his rent. Anyone – men, women;

How the fuck did things get this bad?, he thought.

Ross had arrived in Los Angeles two years ago. He was hired to write on a TV show that got cancelled after 10 episodes. It was a network sitcom – one of those shows that only aging baby boomers watch – starring some asshole who was a big deal in the 1990s and “an exciting new voice in comedy” whose Snapchat fame preceded his joke writing ability. The whole thing was a disaster. But man, he recalled while exiting at Exposition Blvd, was that money nice.

He bounced from show-to-show for a year, gradually becoming more and more cynical with the Hollywood meat grinder: fading screenwriters turned showrunners who didn’t care about Trending Topics or diversity in Hollywood – they had fucking alimony to pay; executives who thought Top Gun reboots or giving an Instagram celebrity a talk show was a good idea; everyone talking about the West Coast as “the Best Coast” but they had never seen New York City, London, Paris, or even The Bay Area since George W. Bush was President.

Ross was over all of it, but didn’t want to move back to New York, or get a “real” job, so he took less work, which was how he ran out of money, so here he was: getting eyeballed by a 26 year old dorm security guard while college kids – kids was the operative word – streamed in and out of the building’s lobby. Some of them dressed in sweatpants and unshowered; many of them done-up, ready to be seen and heard in front of a Step & Repeat at a moment’s notice.

“Yup. Honor is expecting me.” Ross replied.

The guard took a deep, contemplative breath, “You know: she doesn’t get a lot of visitors.”

“Really?” Ross, trying to be congenial, kept his irritation in check.

“But when I called up: she said she was expecting you. So I guess you’re in the right place.”

The guard handed Ross back his driver’s license, and asked him to sign-in on the visitor log. As Ross scrawled the cheap Bic pen across a worn page that was curling at the edges, another crew of students herded past them: the girls dressed in Versace, the guys dressed Ben Sherman. USC was stacked with rich and powerful kids: some of them with basic decency, some of them for whom life was a playground. Ross put the pen back down.

“Were we ever like that?” he asked the guard.

“I don’t know, man – I went to Long Beach. It’s a different world down there.”


Ross rode the elevator alone up to Honor’s floor. He took out his iPhone and checked his hair and face in the camera: his green eyes looked a bit tired; the grey at his temples seemed to spread a little further across the expanse of his brown hair; his face was clean-shaven and his skin had a dull glow. He was still a young man, but he didn’t feel young. Of course: he hadn’t really felt young since he had been in college. Ross closed his phone and enjoyed a few more seconds of quiet and solitude, before this whole desperate charade had to start.

The elevator dinged open, and Ross stepped out as another set of party girls pushed past him onto the elevator:

“Ugh. This dorm is so gross.” One of them said, “I can’t wait to move to The Lorenzo next year. That shit’s gonna be tight.”

The Lorenzo was a giant McMansion condo complex, just two blocks off-campus, that lured college kids into expensive luxury leases but without supervision from those annoying R.A.s.

“You know who also lives there?” the second girl said, “Derek.”

“I know. I’ll be fucking the shit out of him every day.”

The doors closed and Ross stood alone on the dorm’s fourth floor – cinder blocks, industrial carpeting, corkboards with campus announcements, fluorescent lighting. Looks fine to me. Ross thought.

He began walking down the hallway to room 434. The click of his heels were muted by the carpet. As he passed under each light, the spaces in his thinning hairline became exposed. Ross could feel his whole body getting jumpy, his heart rate quickening: he was a grown man at a college campus, who was about to have sex with a college girl for money. Maxim celebrated these kinds of antics, but Ross was trying to not turn around and run back to his car.

You’re broke. You need the money. You’re broke. You need the money. You’re broke. You need the money.

He reached 434: a thick wooden door with a deadbolt and several coats of Dirt Brown paint slapped on it – drippings from previous coats were fossilized beneath the yellow plastic number plate.

Ross closed his eyes. He took a deep breath. He opened them again, and extended his fist to knock with the joints of his knuckles.

“Just a minute.”, said a muffled, female voice from behind the door.

Ross sat back on his heels, and could feel himself becoming lightheaded. He shook his shoulders to loosen up.

The lock turned.

The knob turned.

The door opened.

Opposite of the threshold stood Honor – her brown bangs covering her forehead, a blousey tanktop hung from her shoulders with a lacey bralette showing beneath it; she wore black jeans ripped at the knees, and ankle socks. She was 20 years old, but looked 17. She had a pear shape body. Atop her neck was a round face with big eyes – highlighted with cat eye mascara – and red lipstick on a flat, animated mouth. Her skin was pale.

“Wow. You dressed up.”, she said.

“I thought it would be a good idea.” Ross replied.

Honor sighed and showed a disappointed smirk, “I guess. Here – come in.”

Honor stepped aside and let Ross cross the threshold. She closed the door behind him.

Honor’s dorm room was dark. Christmas lights lined the ceiling and expensive lavender-scented candles burned in the room. On an opened laptop, Bon Iver’s “29 #Stafford APTS” played through a Bluetooth speaker. Her desk had a stack of books: Econ 203 Principles of Microeconomics, Pearson Custom Business Resources: Econ 205 Principles of Macroeconomics, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them by Newt Scamander and J.K. Rowling on the very top.

“Harry Potter. Very nice.” Ross said.

“Oh. Yeah. Thanks.” Honor replied.

Ross craned his neck to see the other titles, “Economics, huh?”

“I’m an accounting major.”


“Do you… do anything else?”

Ross hesitated with the truth, “Um…. No. Just this.”

“So, this is how you make a living?”


“…so you’ve been with a lot of people?”

“No! You’re actually my first.” Ross didn’t want to spook her out of giving him business.

“Oh. So you just started doing this.”

“Yeah.” They could both feel the awkward turn in the conversation. Ross looked over her shoulder at the well-made bed opposite of them. The desk next to it had a few indications that someone else lived in the room. “Is your roommate out of town for the weekend?”

“Yeah. But she’s barely ever here. She’s from the Palisades, so she goes home a lot.”


“How should we do this? Do I pay you upfront?”

It suddenly occurred to Ross that he had considered none of this. “Yes!” he chirped, “I can take cash or check.”

“I don’t have either of those. What do you think? I just keep $500 lying around in my dorm for when I feel like getting a prostitute?”

Ross felt a pang in his stomach – it was the first time he’d heard someone call him “prostitute” and he knew it to be true. “Okay. Uh… do you have Venmo?”

In a matter of moments, the transaction was done: all via app; first the meeting, then the payment. Ross verified receipt and then they stood quietly in Honor’s room.

“So, what do you want to do?” Ross asked.

“I like it rough.” She replied.


“I like to be choked and spanked. But, like: I want to cum, too.”

“Sure. Whatever you want. … Do you usually not cum?”

“No. Most of the guys I’ve been with go too fast, or they hit me when I don’t tell them, too.”

“What happens after that?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Now that you have your money, I’d like to do this, please.”

“Sure. Okay.” Ross was uncertain what to do next. “Should we just start?”

“Yes.” Honor replied, her voice becoming tense. “Just… just start, and I’ll tell you what I like and don’t like. Just keep asking me and listen to me. Okay?”

Ross nodded his head. He stepped close to her, only a few inches between them. They looked each other in the eye, and he kissed her. Their tongues swirled and flicked nervously in each other’s mouths. She pressed her body against him, and felt her breasts flatten into his chest. Her right hand splayed across his shoulder blade, her left hand grabbed his crotch. Ross’s hands hung at his side, lifeless and uncertain.

“Pull my hair.” Honor told her.

Ross reached around and placed his fingers across the back of her skull, letting her hair curl around his fingers, and pulling her back so that the roots gently tugged against her skin.

“Harder.” She said.

Ross gave it another tug.

“Harder.” She said.

Ross felt no passion or interest. It was like being instructed on how to change oil in a car. He tugged even hard, and Honor yelled.

“OW! Not that hard!” She pushed him away and he almost fell on top of her roommate’s desk.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Are you okay?”

Honor rubbed the back of her head, looking at Ross as if English were his third language, “Yeah. Um… ow, fuck.” Honor held her head for a few moments: this was not going great.

“Let’s try again,” she said after the pain wore off, “But I want to do a different tactic.”


She approached him again – very close – and said, “Kiss me down my neck.” She pulled her brown hair back and presented her pearl white jugular to him like a girl wanting to take the next step with her vampire fuck buddy. Ross leaned in and softly kissed her neck, working his way down to her chest.

This works. He thought. I think this works.

Honor’s breathing got heavier, “Touch my breast.”

Ross obliged. He continued to kiss her on her chest and cleavage, moving his hands off her breast onto her ass. Honor responded by rising up on her tiptoes. Her hand began to run through his hair as she pushed his face into he breasts.

Okay. He thought. This is better. She likes this. Just be careful.

“Slap my ass.” She said. Ross did so. She moaned and told him to do it again. Ross obeyed.

“What do you want next?” he asked. He brought his head back up to her and started kissing her again.

“I want…” she said, in between Frenching, “I want…” She stopped kissing him and pushed away from him again. “I can’t do this.”

Ross stared at her: confused, but very relieved.


Daikokuya’s dinner rush was dying down after Honor and Ross ordered their food. Their waiter returned with Cokes for each of them as they sat together in semi-silence – trying to figure what exactly was supposed to happen with the rest of their night.

Honor had paid Ross his money, but she couldn’t have sex with him. So she decided on the next best thing: take him out for ramen and make use of the companionship for the night.

“I’ve always wanted to try this place. It’s been around forever in Little Tokyo. My friends never want to come here. We always end up going to Tsujita in Santa Monica. And: it’s fine, but – like – why do we always have to go to the Westside for everything?”

Ross nodded his head, and looked beyond their booth out through the storefront window onto East 1st Street. Downtown Los Angeles was one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Like New York, there were tons of bars, restaurants, or nightlife within walking distance. And yet: barely a soul seemed to be out on the street. It was 10:00 p.m. In New York, that would’ve been the start of the night, but it was the beginning of the end in L.A. It got him thinking about all those USC party kids back at the dorm. They looked like they were ready to see the sun come up; but very few of them probably had or ever would.

Los Angeles is a city filled with people trying to be something they’re not; which gives it a veneer that shielded plenty of ruthless ambition and existential loneliness. Ross wondered if people in this town would ever learn how to have a good time by just being themselves. He returned his attention to Honor:

“So: how did you become a hooker?”

Ross grimaced, “I’m not a hooker.”

“I paid you for sex and you accepted it. So what does that make you?” Honor sucked an edamame bean from its pod as she spoke. Ross was a bit put off – he hated with people talked with their mouths full.

“What are you doing agreeing to pay for sex? You’re attractive.”

“Thank you. But I asked you first.”

Ross took a sip of his soda, “I’m broke. So this was the best thing I could think of.”

“Why are you broke?”

“Because I didn’t save my money when I should’ve.”

“That’s why I study accounting. Because I don’t want to go broke. I want to know how money works and never worry about that stuff.” She pulled another pod from the bowl between them. Ross stared at her with some contempt, but then remembered that she had paid for his company – so he had to sit there and listen to her. “What did you do before you went broke?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Like: books?”

“TV. I wrote for a couple of TV shows, but I’m kind of sick of it.”

“You grew up in The Valley, didn’t you?”

“Why do you ask?” Ross sat back in the booth and couldn’t wait to hear where this was going.

“You look like a guy from The Valley. You look older than your age, and a little more uptight.”

“I’m from New York City. I grew up in Riverdale, and lived in Manhattan.”

“I’ve never been.” Honor pushed the bowl towards the wall of their booth, exercising self-control.

“I hear that a lot.” The waiter arrived with two steaming bowls of pork ramen. The broth was a vibrating yellow, housing noodles, tender meat, and eggs in its watery embrace. Honor’s face lit up as she excitedly unwrapped her chopsticks and dug in. Ross contemplated his ramen for a moment: it wasn’t his favorite dish. But this “date” wasn’t exactly what he wanted, either. She was making dumb small talk and he was wondering when this whole night would just be over. And then he could take his money – with no remorse – and go home to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling until the sun came up. By the time he had unwrapped his chopsticks, she had finished a third of his food.

Honor laid her chopsticks in her bowl with her spoon to the side. She watched Ross as he struggled to keep his meat between his sticks.

“Do you really think I’m attractive?”

Ross slurped up a noodle, “You think otherwise?”

“Look at me: look at my hips, look at my thighs, look at my ass. All my friends are size 1s and I’m a bloated whale.”

“That’s why I’m here then, right?”
Honor watched him eat some more, “I don’t get guys. They don’t want to date me. They’ll fuck me. But they want to date other girls.”

Ross pretended to care, “Like your friends. This must really bother you.”

“It does! I like sex. But I also want a boyfriend.”

Ross finally got a couple bites of pork, “Why does it bother you so much? You got a whole life ahead of you. With your degree, you’ll probably be fine for a job. I wouldn’t worry about a boyfriend, if I were you.” He picked up his spoon and started slurping broth.

Honor leaned forward, “Can I tell you a secret?” Ross nodded his head. “I hate all of my friends. I hate USC. I hate L.A. I feel like my whole life has been me doing things because that’s what I’m supposed to do. And I do them. And that’s fine with everyone, because we all have these… identities we were supposed to be playing. But I feel like: it’s all bullshit. Like, I’m not happy being who everyone else wants me to be. And I’ve talked to my friends about this – like, one-on-one. And we all feel the same, but no one wants to do anything about it. They’re all like, ‘We’re a family. And families have to have one of everything.’”

Ross put down his chopsticks and spoon, and listened to her.

“But I don’t want to be the fun fat girl who you fuck, but you don’t date. Who would want to be that? I want to be: me. And I want to be with people who like me because I’m me. So that’s why I’m not out tonight. And that’s why, I guess, you’re here. And I guess that’s why we’re eating ramen instead of having sex right now. Because I wanted to be myself tonight. And out of all the people I know in L.A. – you’re the only one I can be that with.”

Honor picked up her chopsticks and continued to eat her ramen. Ross watched her eat, and then tried again with the noodles.


Ross stirred awake as daylight broke through the window of Honor’s dorm room. He couldn’t see a clock anywhere, but he’d guess it was 7:00 a.m. by where the sun sat. He had not slept well: twin beds weren’t meant for two people. Honor’s head rested on his shoulder, while her arm and leg clung to him as if he were a body pillow. She was still in her tank top and bralette from the night before, he wore his white shirt – both of them had slept with no pants. Ross moved quietly out of bed while Honor stirred and smacked her lips. He reached for his pants and jacket, left on the roommate’s bed. He was tired – very tired – and pulled out his phone to Google the nearest Starbucks before he would start the drive home.

“Thank you for staying last night.”

Ross turned around to find Honor still under the sheets – eyes closed, pushing words out of her mouth as if they were her last. She did not get up or open her eyes.

“I’ll Venmo you an extra $200.”

“You don’t have to do that.” Ross replied.

“I want to.” She wheezed. “You were really nice about it, so you should get paid.”

Ross didn’t want to take her money. But he knew he had to – he needed anything.



Ross put his shoes on and tied them. He was ready to leave.

“We should do this again.” Honor said.

“Yeah, well. You have my number. I’m around.”

“You’re a nice guy, Ross. I know you’re not happy. But I think you’re nice, and good. You’re not a creep like a lot of guys I know.”


There was a moment of hesitation. The night was over, the transaction had been made – Ross had every reason to leave. But something felt off. Maybe it was sense of pity for Honor. Maybe it was because she said one the nicest things he had heard in the last two years. He leaned over the bed and kissed her on the head. She picked herself up, took his collar, and kissed him on the lips. It wasn’t awkward or nervous as last night. She let go of his collar and went back to sleep.

“I’ll send you $225.”

She turned her back to him – as if she had gotten everything she needed – and fell back asleep. Ross turned and left her dorm.

Outside of the dorm, the 26 year old security guard smoked a cigarette and watched Ross as he left the building. They made eye contact and Ross stopped walking.

“Have fun last night?” The security guard smiled. His teeth and lips were full of judgment. He was a bad comedian hinting at a dumb joke rather than just saying what was on his mind. Either way, Ross got it: he thought Ross was some gross older guy who couldn’t do any better, and he would always remember this encounter to remind himself, “I’m better than that sad bastard who showed up in a suit to fuck a college kid.” Ross smirked, flipped him off, and walked back to his car.

As his Prius sped up the 2 going north, Ross thought about their conversation over ramen last night – Honor’s clumsy, youthful diatribe that struck at the same chord he heard. The question, “What am I even doing here?” Ross’s life in Los Angeles was not going as he’d hoped. And yet: he refused to change anything. As a result, life felt darker, more restrictive, more pointless. He wondered if it would be this way forever. Would his existence always feel so lonely and frustrated? The irony, of course, was that out of pure desperation: he had found someone who felt much of the same. He seriously doubted that his and Honor’s relationship would be anything more than professional. In fact: it would be best if it stayed professional. She was too young and he didn’t the hassle.

Still, he thought, it was nice to meet someone I had something in common with.

The sun got brighter, opening its eye on the San Gabriel Mountains.

Russ could tell: it was going to be a really beautiful day.

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The Bitch Seat with Lyssa Mandel

Bitch Seat

Lyssa Mandel invited me onto her podcast, The Bitch Seat, to read my old middle school and high school slam poetry. *gulp*

I also talk about growing up in South Jersey with a Rolling Stone subscription, my dead dad’s record collection, and Doonesbury Comics.

You can stream/download the episode on iTunes and on the podcast’s site.

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You and Me and Thoughts and Talk with Doug


Comedian Doug Culp was cool enough to invite me onto his podcast, You and Me and Thoughts and Talk with Doug, which dropped today!

We talked about The Survivalist, writing, storytelling, politics, Morgan Freeman, Lyme Disease, and The Unified Theory. Y’know: typical Hollywood stuff.

Episode is available on iTunes and on Doug’s site.

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Fear, Loathing, and Redemption at LAX


Another day, another piece up on Medium: this one about the #NoBanNoWall protests at LAX yesterday. It’s me doing my best Hunter S. Thompson impression.

I’m thinking about writing a follow-up piece for the blog, about something a little different, but related-ish. Check back by the end of the week.

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Paul Ryan and The Republicans Have Failed America

Photo credit: Gary Cameron/Reuters

A new piece is up this morning/afternoon on Medium, talking about my new crush, Speaker Paul Ryan. He’s such a stud that doesn’t seem to care if people have health insurance and die.

Links to my other work is here and here.

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Thank you, President Obama

Photo credit:

As we sit waiting for… Trump to become President, I wrote a new piece about President Obama over at Medium. Give it a read if you get a chance.

Also, a link to my first piece from a couple of months ago.

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Pre-Order The Survivalist by Matt Fried Today!


People of Earth:

After 4 long years, my novel The Survivalist is now available for pre-order!

For paperback or Kindle, go to Amazon.

For iPad, iPhone, or Apple devices, go to iBooks.

Fun fact: if you purchase the Amazon paperback, you can get the Kindle edition at a discount.

Audiobook will be available on Audible, iTunes, and other audiobook platforms in December 2016.


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Just For One Day


Inspired by David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Stranger Things

“I have to go back.”

Mel sat on the edge of the bed, palming her coffee cup. She wore Stu’s shirt from last night. After uttering the words she dreaded, her head bent down and she took a deep breath from the collar. His aqua fir cologne still held the cold air prisoner. The chill slipped her back: to last night, to Times Square, the confetti dancing, the joy, the smiles; him holding her in his arms, his hand splayed on the small of her back. Her body went limp. For the first time, in many months: she felt safe from everything.


Stu picked himself up out of the bed and rubbed his eyes. He could smell the coffee as it bubbled and popped on the hot plate a foot away. The morning light peaked around the edges of Mel’s head, giving her a crown. Her long, brown, wavy hair trickled down her back, adding balance to the white of his shirt.

She didn’t turn around when she said the dreaded words. She just stared out the window. That must’ve made it easier.

Mel sipped her coffee – light and sweet – “Yeah. It’s time.”

The way she said, “time”, echoed in Stu’s brain. Its warm finger pressed itself into his frontal lobe and pushed through electrodes and synapses, and it pointed – all the way – to Reality: at the center, where it chew and blew bubble gum.

“We’re happy here.” Stu got out of bed to pour himself some coffee.

“I’m not, Stu.”

“You could give it a try.” Stu poured a black coffee into the .95¢ Conway mug.

He walked to the edge of the bed – naked – and sat opposite of her. Mel sensed a stiff defense in his demeanor. He didn’t look at her, preferring instead to peer out one of the two windows that faced West 44th Street.

The wind kicked-up snowflakes outside; Mel watched two pigeons dance and coo on the sill as they warmed each other. Coffee steam glowed from their cups. The January cold invited itself in to their rented room.

“Happy New Year,” Stu said, “Here’s to 1960.” He raised his cup to the window.

Mel looked at him, “What’s so scary about 2016?”

Stu paused before his first sip, “Nothing.” He drank.

“Then why not go back?”

“We agreed to move forward together. Here.”

“I can’t. Not with you. I have to go back to my time.”

Stu chuckled. He took another sip of coffee, and began to look around for his underwear. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me, again.”

He got up and hunted for his briefs.

Mel watched him stalk and sulk. She felt a lump in her throat tighten – the physical manifestation of worry. He knew how to control the wormhole, not her. Stu could be small sometimes, but not vindictive. He was always that way in college. He would get so wrapped up in professors playing favorites – anointing certain students and ignoring him. Not being special back then bothered him; she never heard the end of it. But she never knew him to want revenge. At least, she hoped: want revenge on her.

“This has nothing to do with our past.”

Stu found his underwear, “Doesn’t it though?”

“You have a wife and daughter. What are you thinking?”

“That we should be together!” Stu looked up as he slipped his legs through each hole, “That’s the way it should’ve been for the last 15 years! And now: look at what I can do!”

Stu waved his fingers in a circle, and the room seemed to twist. Lines on the floor warped. Air turned empty. Time became a blanket an angry mother pulled off her toddler’s head. It could bend and bleed, all in the palm of his hands.

Stu’s eyes glowed with something: power, maybe malice – he seemed possessed. Mel worried that he was gone, and they would be stuck in 1960 forever. The thought of permanent trespassing chilled her.

“You’re afraid.” she said.

“No. I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You need to accept things as they are, Stu. I have to, too. I buried my husband a week ago.”

“Exactly! You’re so worried about – what? – formality? We’re in love! We’ve always been in love, Mel. Now I have this power – we don’t even have to worry about a divorce, or what people will think of us! We can go anywhere, and be us! Finally!”

Stu sat down on the bed next to her, and kissed her. She touched his face; they kissed, as though nothing could fall. He tried to push her down onto the mattress, but she pushed back. She pulled her lips from his, and looked at him: his thirtysomething face, still youthful but hurt. He was the talky, funny boy she met in acting class freshmen year. But as she looked into his eyes, she saw the loss. To be honest, she recognized it. In Stu’s eyes were the feelings she carried in her guts: the uncertainty of it all.

They broke-up.

They drifted.

They met other people, life moved on.

It was all fine and happy.

But first love… there is something about it.

“We fit here.” Stu said. “And if not: we can go somewhere else. The 80s, the 70s – we can go to the 20s!” The Great Gatsby was Mel’s favorite book.

“Stu…” Mel appealed. “I’m not telling you what to do with your life. But I have to go home. We had our time. I’d rather it stay that way.”

Stu felt his heart drop. His grip on her eased, and he slowly recoiled – his tiny dad gut pooching over his waistband. He fixed his gaze back out the window, and got up to see how the city wore its new year.

Only a few blocks away – through flecks of snow – he could see the rays of flashing neon, whale song car horns, people below crunching powder under their boots. 1960 was a good year to be an actor, he always thought. There was all the theater downtown, not mention the cafes on MacDougal. Bob Dylan wasn’t even there yet. He could make a life in this year. But he’d hoped Mel would feel the same.

“You remember when we talked about being born in the wrong year?”

Mel nodded her head.

Stu kept staring out of the window, thinking about Meryl and Mary. Meryl was turning four in 2016. She liked making snowmen with her daddy. It made winter special – even though Christmas always came and went too fast. Her laugh: it was filled with surprise, the kind you have when the world is so discoverable. Stu would chase her – lumbering as the abominable snowman, bearing teeth, howling at the clouds – before scooping her up. She would squeal as her feet danced amongst the snowflakes, her daddy helping her touch the sky. Mary watched from the porch, so pleased he was taking to fatherhood.

Life is wonderful.” He always told himself, “Life is wonderful. Try to accept that.”

“Stu…?” Mel got up from the bed. “I want to go home. Please take me home.”

Stu didn’t turn around.

He stayed quiet.

He thought.

And thought.

And thought.

“I love you.” he said, still not turning to face her. “I should’ve said that more.”

“I love you, too.” she replied, “You didn’t have to.”

“It was all easier, when we were younger.”

“It was.”

The silence sat for a little longer. Stu finally took a deep breath, and turned around.

“Okay,” he said, “get dressed. I’ll take you home.”

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Dear Internet Dating…


Hey Internet Dating, what’s up?




Yeah, that’s – Well, maybe – No, you’re right… she’s probably a bitch. Probably nothing to do with you.

Listen: that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.

I don’t think we should be friends anymore.

No, dude, I… Can you please stop screaming? We’re in a Starbucks.

Why? THIS. This is why! You’ve become an asshole. You think you’re God’s Gift To Humanity. But you’re this toxic thing that makes people hate each other, and then you act like, “Oh! Well that’s just the way it is.”

You and I have known each other for 13 years, Internet Dating. I’m sure that’s nothing to brag about, but it’s a fact of my life. When we started hanging out, we needed each other. I didn’t know how to talk or relate to women of my age. And you needed a friend because you kept starting fires in the middle school parking lot.

That’s our origin story. That’s what we based 13 years of friendship off of.

I was lonely. You needed a clean police record.

And for a long time: it worked. Through algorithms and personality questions, you kept introducing me to a lot of other cool, lonely people. When those people would ghost on me, you’d help me find someone else. Plenty of times I would get cynical, or bored, or straight-up apathetic. And you were always like, “Come back when you need to, dude. I’ll always be here for you.”

And that was nice. It was nice to know that if things ever got stale, you were there for me.

You matched me with women that – through a lot of my twenties – it would’ve been really hard for me to talk to without you.

But, right around the time I turned 30 and I moved to L.A. … something changed.

I mean: maybe you always were this way, and I just missed it. Maybe I kept you around because moving to L.A., and starting all over again, was weird and really uneven for a while.

But… I don’t know: something changed.

You lost a lot of weight. And instead of personality questions, you just asked for 5 of my hottest pictures. And instead of putting all this effort into matching me with other like-minded people, you just told me: swipe right or swipe left.

So all of a sudden: I’m meeting a lot people that I have nothing in common with.

And on top of that: you’re encouraging us to put in the least amount of effort into talking… before we inevitably fuck, because that’s the only thing we can think to do with these limited resources.

AND: if someone suddenly doesn’t feel like fucking (or actually: just talking) you would tell the person to sidestep me like a piece of roadkill. “Don’t worry, miss: I’ve got 20 hotter options than him.”

Now, I’ll be fair. Maybe, Internet Dating: you had nothing to do with this. Let’s say: you did change, but you changed in the name of trying to be better. You were trying to be a good friend, so you gave me – and millions of other single people – a lot of options. With very little bullshit. And you said, “Here! I’m just trying to help!”

So maybe the failure of this friendship is my fault. I certainly got selfish with the multiple hook-ups with women who reminded me of high school and college friends I never had a shot with.  There were PLENTY of people where I was just like: “Thank you for the good time.  Let me call you an Uber.” And, a choice few times, I would lie to myself about how I really felt, so that the whole pursuit didn’t feel so pointless.

But if we’re being honest: you’re still kind of a shitty friend.

Because, as one person was rejecting me, you were putting another person in front of me with no criteria required. And you were telling me: “Just keep at it. I got tons of ‘em.”

And options are great. But I feel like the whole system is now broken. And you’re okay with that. You’re okay with making people feel disposable, so there’s no real point to wanting anything more than a hook-up.

I don’t know, man.

The more I think about it, the more I see places where we’re both at fault.

So I probably am to blame as well. I’m sorry. This isn’t all your fault. It was me, too.

But what I do know is: I don’t like myself when we hang out now. I don’t like that you make me feel paranoid, or insecure, or even more lonely now as a grown-ass man who has no problem meeting women versus that self-serious twentysomething.

I don’t like that I’m now part of a culture where everyone is dating with one foot out the door, with no real respect or decency if there’s no interest or chemistry.

I miss the days when both of us made a bit more effort. Even if it was fleeting, it still felt better than what you and I have now become.

So, yeah… I don’t think we should be friends anymore. I think I need to go on my own again.

If anything changes in your mind, give me a call. CALL ME. Please don’t text. Call me, like a friend would.

But until then: best of luck. Thanks for the fun decade and change. It was good. It really was.

I’ll see you around.

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It’s the summer of 2008. Chicago. I’m 25 years old.

I’m at a Chinese food restaurant on Halstead Street, somewhere in Boystown – or Wrigleyville; depending on whom you ask. But the more I think about it: I’m pretty sure it’s Boystown.

Sitting across from me at the white formica table is a beautiful girl from Ohio. She’s 24 years old. We met 8, 9 days ago – through She lives in Chicago, and I’m here for the summer from New York City. I’m taking the Improv Summer Intensive at iO (Improv Olympic). Tina Fey and Amy Poehler studied there.

At this particular time in my life, I love improv. I eat it. I sleep it. I’d fuck it, if possible. I dream of it taking me to Saturday Night Live, or The Daily Show, or some kind of superstardom. I believe this is my destiny.

But at this moment: I’m more interested in the girl.

She’s dry, sarcastic… well-read, funny. It’s not that I haven’t dated women like this before, but none have stuck around for more than one or two dates.

That’s not self-pity. I’ve always been a hard sell in the “boyfriend” department. I’m passionate. I’m confident. But I’m self-absorbed. I only think about my future.   It’s hard for someone to meet me and see a long-term option.

I pretend like I’m fine with that. I’m not. But I pretend like I am. I still do.

The only reason I even joined Match was my roommate’s insistence. I live with 2 thirtysomething women in Wicker Park – one newly single, one beginning a divorce. During that summer, I learn a lot about talking to women, about taking myself seriously; confidence. All the shit most men in 2008 turn to pick-up artists for.

The beautiful girl from Ohio was the only one who wanted to go out with a guy in town for just the summer.

When we meet up that night, I tell her I’m in the mood for Chinese and we end up here on Halstead. I wish I could remember the name of the place.

It’s fancy. One of those nouveau, Asian fusion places that white people love. Instagram won’t be a thing for 2 more years, so no one there is turning their moo shu pork into Kate Upton.

I get some kind of Orange Chicken dish, and I remember the chicken being bright, neon, radioactive orange. White rice on the side; I’m pretty sure my date got something with noodles in it.

We sit and talk: me, about my freelance writing career and improv back in New York; her, about her job, her travels through Europe, how much she loves Chicago.

I have other girls back in New York, plus a few I’ve started talking to via Match. But the one across the table from me… she’s different. She seems to like me for me. She’s not being coy, or waiting for a better option, or wishing I had a beard, and an Irish accent, and did yoga.

2 years later, this girl and I will lie together in my bed in Brooklyn. We will have just started a long distance relationship between Chicago and New York. It will have been a long time coming, and all our friends are ecstatic for us. I will look at her and tell her I’m going to marry her one day. She will smile – her face flush – and tell me, “I hope you do.” We’ll kiss.

But that’s a story for another time.

Right now: we’re back in Chicago, it’s 2008. We’re both very much at the beginning of our respective lives. We don’t know what’s ahead or what we’ll do.

We’re just kids (sorry, Patti Smith).

I have a few more weeks of classes, and then I go home. To New York.

She’ll stay in Chicago.

We both know that’s what we signed up for. But we’re not going to cross that bridge until we come to it.

I like this girl. I’m still thinking about the other ones back in New York, but this one is in the front. I wonder why I had to come all the way to Chicago to find her. And why it has to end.

I juggle women. That’s a thing I’ve started doing this year. It’s a thing I still do now, sometimes. I do it so I can feel sought after. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked being the center of attention. I’ve liked girls since I was 5 or 6. It wasn’t until after college I felt they started liking me back.

They come and go quickly. I would be sad if I didn’t love the attention. I will love the attention for quite a few years. What no one knows is how much I can’t deal with pain or rejection. In my career, or in relationships. But at least with women, I can protect myself – I don’t make assumptions, I don’t expect it to work out, I often walk alone. They can’t hurt me if I cover my ass. One goes out, another comes in.

That’s what works for me.

And speaking of “work”: there’s also my improv, my acting career, my writing – which, right now, has gotten me something of an internet following. I write about my dating life, and people can’t get enough of it.

I’ve been warned by mentors and acting teachers to not get tied down in life. Girlfriends and wives only complicate things. Even my parents – for years – told me to avoid monogamy. “You don’t miss what you never had.”

So I’m still guarded, even when I have a seemingly perfect match sitting two feet across from me.

I feel the churn of something for this girl, but I tell myself that you can have one, but not the other. That’s the way it works.

There’s only one Thurston and Kim. Sorry, dude.

We get the bill; it comes with fortune cookies.

I crack mine open.

A simple message: “You will be successful in your career”. I smile.

I look up at the beautiful girl from Ohio, and she asks what mine says. I don’t remember if I tell her or not. But given everything I already know: I assume it’s a good sign.

She smiles back at me. The sun is setting over Lake Michigan. Lights are twinkling out on Halstead. We leave that night, and go back to her place.

The future is unwritten.

It’s 2015. I live in Los Angeles. While I’m cleaning my apartment, I find this fortune – I’ve forgotten I still have it. I’ll never throw it out.

The beautiful girl from Ohio is long gone from my life – we never got married. Barely even got close.

I still think about her sometimes, but we haven’t spoken in years. It’s better that way. Sure: some people can be friends with their exes. But I’m an adult.

The girl is gone. The improv is gone. The acting is gone. But the writing is what remains.

Since we broke-up, I’ve had a play produced off-off-Broadway. I’ve written a novel. I’ve been on The Moth. Zooey Deschanel follows me on Twitter.

It’s pretty cool for a first couple of years. I quit for 2, and came back after the break-up. I moved to L.A. a year later to be a TV writer.

Some days, I’m banging my head against a wall. Other days, I feel like a well-kept secret no one is expecting.

It’s coming. I can feel it. I just don’t know when.

Women still come and go – along with money, status, ego, pizza. I’ve learned to never rely on that stuff for self-esteem. If you do, you only get farther away from yourself. To run from pain or hide from rejection means you don’t have the strength to deal with life.

You choose faith in everything else but yourself.

I’ve made my choice. I don’t regret it too much.

A small part of me misses what I had with her. More specifically: I miss that night in my bed in Brooklyn.

And I’ve learned that it’s not really “one, but not the other” – but “balance” is a relative term.

You can have everything. But one will always outweigh another. In both mind and practice.

I’ve made my choice. And it’s a hard choice, but it’s the one I want. If I must walk alone, then I walk alone.

Behind me: there will always be Chinese food on Halstead Street. The neon orange chicken. The beautiful girl who liked me for me. The fortune cookie.

Two kids, staring at love, playing it cool all summer.

What a fun, terrible, wonderful thing all of this is.

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