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Wednesday 12/7/22

The other day I wrote a story that I'm still working on, which is over 3000 words long, called "Your Mother's Onlyfans Page" and I thought I'd describe it.

The story takes the form of a letter written by a young man three days after high school graduation. The letter is to a young woman named Angela, whom we learn in the first sentence that this kid has been in love with since the third grade. The boy writing the letter is intelligent, but he doesn't have it under control. He's awkward, he was unpopular, and he's a series of conflicts as someone this age can be, and especially someone who is insecure but also full of himself in other ways, isn't really aware of how his words come across, gets caught up in how smart and fancy he thinks they sound. Which is a sort of defense mechanism, a shield. But he's very lonely. He has no friends. He was an outcast. He thinks, or hopes, the future will be brighter for him and maybe everything gets to start anew.

He couldn't have written this letter--gone for it, as it were, with this other person--until school got out. Couldn't risk facing her or seeing those who might know about it. But he'd known since the night of prom that he would be writing it when the time came. We don't know his name until the end of the letter, when he signs it. His name, though, isn't the last words we see--he adds a term between parentheses that plays off a way in which he'd referenced himself earlier.

You want the title of a story to be a story. You want it to compel, you want someone to ask "Wow, what's going on there?" when they read it. That's what is happening here. One is instantly grabbed. "Who says that?" we think. Your mother's Onlyfans page?

If someone supported by this system wrote this story, or someone who didn't have the entire system against them, it would explode. It'd be one of those viral stories that everyone immediately knows about, including people who read next to nothing. I have many like that. But this is one of them.

The kid is going off to college in the fall in NYC to study improv. He's proud of this. This letter is his first step in creating a new life for himself in which things will be different. He can start over. He'd like to start over with this young woman whom we sense never talked to him, but she was someone who wasn't outwardly mean to him, and among the "cool" kids, it may have been just her.

A lot of times the kid sat at his own table at lunch. If he wasn't there, it was because he was spending his lunch period with what we learn is an ample-sized friendly teacher named Ms. Kennshaw who talks Shakespeare and plays backgammon with him. He makes a number of references to that teacher throughout the letter, trying to find common ground with this young woman. They were in Ms. Kennshaw's class together once, and it seems to be the only class they had together. We infer that he was one kind of student and she was another, but throughout we also think that she has her own intelligence, and that she's not a cruel person, though we also dread people finding out about this letter that summer, which seems likely. Because she's a series of contradictions, too, in all probability. And this isn't the type of thing you get in your mailbox every day.

He condescends to her early on, like he's this person of the world because he's going to college in New York and she doesn't have any college plans. He talks about her well being, and how hard it can be, being the beautiful popular girl with suitors everywhere, and then being left behind in your home town as everyone else goes on with their lives. He expresses what's almost pity, but he's faking. He's trying to be magnanimous and impress her. She's sexually experienced and he's not. At one point he talks about overhearing a conversation between her and this other girl about going on the pill sophomore year. He tries to act all cool with it, talks about sexual expression as a mode of expression. A creative one, even an artful one.

He has these flowery metaphors at times, where something is just off, or there's a mixed metaphor. In other words, there are errors written into the prose.

Here's what would happen with publishing people: They would never understand that and think I screwed up, because they have no idea what true voice and true authenticity are. Non-publishing people are more likely not to even see what are pretty glaring mistakes, and, depressingly, would be more apt to think those gushy mistakes and errors of syntax and meaning are amazing, deep, poetic examples of writing in and of themselves, because they don't progress beyond a high school level.

The kid and this girl live in what is an affluent town, but we get the sense that both of their families are struggling financially, hers more than his, and by a decent amount. He uses that commonality to try and bond. She was raised by a single mom. The kid is trying to be daring, and he references how he was able to find the Onlyfans page of the mother of this girl. There had been rumors that there was one, and he's smart, persistent, and horny, so add that together, and he did detective work that paid off. That Onlyfans page was why he got his first job, so he could get his first credit card, and subscribe.

He talks about how it's like seeing this girl herself in the future, because the mom and the girl look close enough alike. He tries to make it this romantic gesture. He's so lost in some ways. He tries to be casual with sex and terms, uses "dildo" as a verb, which leads him into telling her about a part of his comedy act, adding that he's never shared his material with anyone until now. He'll be honing it at college in a few months, this act which features nouns that take on new, inappropriate meaning whenever they're used as verbs and things that Black people say during sex, which is fairly racist, though he's not a racist.

He's really this hurting kid. He doesn't know how to behave, and that's so many of us, especially as we become more isolated, more dependent on social media than centered and grounded with actual relationships.

When you live in an echo chamber, anything becomes permissible, "okay" to say, if it's reinforced with echoes, swallowed up by echoes.

In some ways he's writing the worst possible letter, but in others he's writing something true and beautiful and heartbreaking. There are these amazingly wise observations that he makes, but he makes them without even knowing it or knowing what they are. He thinks the grandiloquent, "creative" stuff is the best stuff the letter has going for it. He doesn't even understand.

He eventually explains why it was third grade that he fell in love with this girl, and he details an event that happened, which he surmises she doesn't remember at all. In that moment, he found something that he decided was the most important thing you could have, or he felt this way on some level, and that's what he's looking for, what he thinks he needs, and it's what he even thinks, or is trying to think, he's providing for her now, or offering to her.

He talks about after prom and why it was that night that he decided he was going to say something before he left, and would write this letter, which he's now written four times. So he's had three other attempts that we assume he threw away.

There's this great stuff about maybe going to prom with his cousin, and we learn about his aunt--who owed his mother a favor--and a cousin who live an hour away. The cousin is a college freshman, and he thinks she's a bitch who will get to prom and leave him. Ms. Kennshaw was going to be a chaperone at prom, and the way it would work out he figures is he'd be on his own because the cousin would be off with the cooler kids, and he and Ms. Kennhsaw would repair to her classroom to talk Shakespeare and play backgammon like they did so many times at lunch, only now it would be night outside and not day. He doesn't want that. He doesn't want to go to this prom and have this humiliating experience, and the cousin aside, he has no one to go with anyway.

But he feels like he's been a coward for so long and he wants to do something not to be one. There's this other kid we've learned about named Matt McGovern, star on the hockey team. He has a single dad who apparently spends his life out of town with a series of women considerably his junior. You get that in affluent communities. This is a Fairfield County type of place. We're not told where it is exactly, but it could be there. McGovern's dad is away at something like a Colorado ski lodge with some hot twenty-eight-year-old or whatever, so the big party after prom is at that doubtlessly nice house.

The kid who is writing the letter decided he was going to show up and try to express himself to the person now receiving this letter in Angela. It's his greatest act of courage. He's going to sneak out, take his dad's car, probably get busted after and in a lot of trouble, but he'll deal with that later.

He gets to the party, and no one really notices him. They don't bar his entry. It's late. People are drunk, hooking up or trying to. Angela is on the couch, and it's as if she's holding court. People are coming by to talk to her, spend time with her. The letter-writer starts drinking. He doesn't ever drink. He's maybe never had anything before. He gets really drunk and something happens, which creates this big mystery that McGovern wants to solve, which essentially ends the entire party, ends senior year, ends high school.

Everyone leaves and the kid drives home really drunk. He doesn't get caught as he comes in, and as he's lying in bed, he's so ashamed of himself and he decides he'll write this letter and put it in this girl's mailbox at her house, hoping that her mom--with the Onlyfans page, which really seems like a necessary "put food on the table" kind of thing--doesn't open it first.

Are you reading anything like that from anyone else? Have you ever heard of such a thing? Do you think anyone out there is writing anything like that? And I've just described some of it.

There are 400 new stories like that that these people will not let anyone see, because they were done by someone who is capable of having 400 new stories like that, among many, many, many other things.

The final two words of the story are pitiful, sad, heartbreaking, embarrassing, brave, sweet, misguided, misapplied, tender, utterly unpredictable, though they make so much sense to us when we do see them.

It's a great story. Not done, though. I'll keep working on it.


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