Lauren Holmes: Barbara the Slut and Other People

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Lauren Holmes Barbara the Slut and Other People
  • Название:
    Barbara the Slut and Other People
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Riverhead Books
  • Жанр:
    Современная проза / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2015
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Barbara the Slut and Other People: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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A fresh, honest, and darkly funny debut collection about family, friends, and lovers, and the flaws that make us most human. Fearless, candid, and incredibly funny, Lauren Holmes is a newcomer who writes like a master. She tackles eros and intimacy with a deceptively light touch, a keen awareness of how their nervous systems tangle and sometimes short-circuit, and a genius for revealing our most vulnerable, spirited selves. In “Desert Hearts,” a woman takes a job selling sex toys in San Francisco rather than embark on the law career she pursued only for the sake of her father. In “Pearl and the Swiss Guy Fall in Love,” a woman realizes she much prefers the company of her pit bull — and herself — to the neurotic foreign fling who won’t decamp from her apartment. In “How Am I Supposed to Talk to You?” a daughter hauls a suitcase of lingerie to Mexico for her flighty, estranged mother to resell there, wondering whether her personal mission — to come out — is worth the same effort. And in “Barbara the Slut,” a young woman with an autistic brother, a Princeton acceptance letter, and a love of sex navigates her high school’s toxic, slut-shaming culture with open eyes. With heart, sass, and pitch-perfect characters, is a head-turning debut from a writer with a limitless career before her.

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Lauren Holmes


Barbara the Slut and Other People

For my family

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK TO YOU?

In Mexico City the customs light lit up green, which was lucky because I had fifty pairs of underwear with tags on them in my suitcase. They were from Victoria’s Secret and they were for my mom to sell to the teenagers in her town for a markup of three hundred percent. She managed a hotel in Pie de la Cuesta, a fishing town six miles west of Acapulco, and she said the kids there wanted this underwear more than marijuana. I thought this sounded like a second grader’s plan, but I said I would do it because I hadn’t visited her in three years.

In addition to bringing my mom the underwear, I was supposed to use this trip to tell her I was gay, to ask her to start talking to Grandpa again so I didn’t have to feel bad about taking his tuition checks, and to generally make up for the ten years I was in California, in middle school and high school and college, and she was in Mexico, in the city and then at the beach.

She was supposed to meet me at the airport, but at the last minute she told me it was safer to take buses than cars late at night. She said I had taken buses in Mexico before but I was pretty sure I hadn’t. All the other times I’d visited my mom in Mexico, she’d been living at her parents’ house in Mexico City, and Grandpa’s driver would come and get me at the airport.

My mom told me to take a taxi from the airport to the south bus station, a bus from there to Acapulco, and another bus from Acapulco to Pie de la Cuesta. In Mexico City, the taxi passed the exit for Río Piedad, and I wished I were going to Grandpa’s house. My mom had told me not to tell him I was coming, but now I wondered if it would be a good way to get her to talk to him, to tell her she had to come to his house if she wanted to see me. In the meantime I could go to sleep right away, and swim in Grandpa’s pool, and have his driver go get me tacos.

I slept on the bus to Acapulco, and when we got there it was still dark. I was half awake waiting for the bus to Pie de la Cuesta and when it came it wasn’t a bus with air-conditioning and a stewardess and soda and chips like the one I’d just taken. It was a city bus that wound along the coast at what felt like a hundred miles an hour, but when the bus wasn’t turning and I wasn’t looking off the dark cliff, I realized it was probably more like twenty. The five other passengers were asleep. Only the bus driver and I were awake and listening to the staticky radio.

The sun rose behind the bus. I started to get nervous when we wound down the cliff. My mom said that when the bus got to town and passed her pink hotel, El Flamenco, I was supposed to yell “¡Bajan!” and get out. As we drove, there were more and more houses on the right side of the road and more and more hotels on the left side, where the beach was. Finally the houses were stuck together, and the hotels were almost stuck together. The hotels looked like motels to me, and there was more than one pink one. Finally I saw El Flamenco and stood up to yell but I couldn’t do it. I sat back down and pretended like, Oh man, I almost got off at the wrong stop again. Five hotels and ten houses later, the teenager in the backseat yelled, “¡Bajan!” and I got off with him. I pulled out the handle of my suitcase and started walking back toward the motel.

My mom was standing outside, under a string of lights.

“Lala!” she said and ran toward me. She was wearing woven shorts and a white tank top and she looked really good. Her boobs were huge and her arms were toned and she was so brown.

She gave me a million kisses all over my face and my hands. She touched my hair, which had always been long but now was short. She started to cry.

“Hi Mama,” I said.

“Hi baby,” she said. “I knew that was your bus. You’re so beautiful.” She took my free hand and I wheeled my suitcase into the courtyard. There was a pool in the middle with strings of lights around it, and the doors to the rooms were around the courtyard in an L shape. The office was separate from the L, between the pool and the street.

She opened the door and we went inside. It was cool in there and I wondered if she was the only person in Pie de la Cuesta with air-conditioning. Her apartment was above the office, and we walked up the stairs. It looked like no one lived there — there were no plants or pictures or glasses of water, just a couch and a wooden chair in the living room, and a square table and two more chairs in the kitchen. In the bedroom she put my suitcase down. There was a bed with no frame and another chair. But the bed had her same white sheets on it, these sheets that cost a million dollars and feel like clouds and smell like clouds.

My mom got into the bed and I got in with her. She traced the spot on my forehead where she said I had a swirl of hair as a baby. Every muscle in my body relaxed. She stroked my head and then I was ten years old and we were lying in the cloud sheets in Los Angeles and I was crying because we had to put our dog Maria von Trapp to sleep. That night my mom had stroked my head until I fell asleep. I don’t know where my dad was — he was there when we put Maria to sleep but then not there later.

After a while my mom said, “Are you hungry, baby?” and it brought me back to the present and being twenty and I felt embarrassed to be in bed with my mom. I wanted to sit up but I was too weak. I tried to open my eyes and my mom laughed at me.

“I’m starving,” I said.

She went to the kitchen and made me an egg sandwich, which is one of my favorite things, with Oaxacan cheese, which is another one of my favorite things. She cut up a papaya and two bananas and she ate the fruit while I ate the sandwich.

After breakfast I asked my mom if I could make a phone call.

“Of course, baby, who do you want to call?”

“I want to tell Dad I got in safe.”

“Oh,” she said. She said that the phone in the office didn’t make long distance calls, but she gave me a phone card and told me there was a pay phone to the left of the hotel.

When I got to the phone I dialed Dana’s number. I had told her I would call her every day but now that I was here I didn’t really feel like it.

“Hey it’s me,” I said when she picked up.

“Hi!” she said. “I was so worried about you.”

“Why?” I said. “I told you I would call you when I got here.”

“I know, but I was worried. How’s your mom?”

“She’s fine. How are you?”

“I’m really great. I haven’t eaten or used an animal product in forty-two days.”

“Oh right,” I said. “That’s good.”

“Did you come out to your mom yet?”

“No. I’ve only been here for like an hour.”

“I can’t wait for you to tell her. I’m so proud of you.”

I told her I would call her the next day and then I hung up by accident.

Then I called my dad and made the mistake of telling him about the buses.

“You got in in the middle of the night,” he said, “and your mother couldn’t pick you up?”

“It’s safer to take the buses at night,” I said.

“This is not what we agreed,” he said. “I’m going to call her.”

“Dad. Please don’t call her. I’m fine. I want to have a good time.”

He said he would wait until I was back to call her, and I said okay and hoped he would forget by then. He told me to call Dana because she had called the house twice. He made me promise to wear sunscreen and to not go swimming. He said he was reading about Pie de la Cuesta on the internet and the undertow was deadly.

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