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Life

EX #4: David

In her comic series, EX, author Linda Rosenkrantz investigates what went wrong with her ex-boyfriends.

a couple kissing on a couch
Lauren Cierzan

Just before my novel Talk was first published in 1968, I had the idea for another taped book. The concept was to invite a number of ex-boyfriends over for dinner one by one, serve them each the exact same meal. I'd turn on the tape recorder the minute they came to the door of my New York apartment, and keep it running until they left. Then, I'd edit the recordings into a book, hoping, in the process, to discover What Went Wrong.

I invited — or at least considered inviting — twenty guys; in the end, twelve showed up, including a crime reporter, a radical radio personality, two sculptors, an auctioneer, and one businessman. Each encountered a different version of me. The shortest session was only seven minutes (after which the paranoid invitee fled at the sight of the microphones); the longest lasted until late the next morning. Certain things didn't play out as planned. The menu changed from homey Jewish to more classy career girl, and there may have been a little too much wife talk. One purist was disappointed that the tapes would be edited and not exposed raw; another said he'd kill me if the book were ever published.

This story is part of a series of five excerpts from the taped dinners — but not that last guy's. You can read the first installment here, the second here, and the third here. This is David.

M:  I remember hassling around on that sofa bed you had in your place on Cornelia Street, listening to Bobby Dylan when he first began.  I just heard last night, by the way, that he never had an accident, that it was all a manufactured story. D:  Oh yeah?  Well I’ve heard Dylan rumors that range from motorcycle accidents to rumors that he was dead.  I heard rumors that he was in a mental institution—I spoke to someone who said she received a phone call from the institution where he was being held against his will.  The truth is that he’s been staying with me all along. Hey, do you remember the first time we met? M:  You mean after my Italian lesson?  When I brought Peggy along? D:  Yeah, and you told me over the phone that I’d fall in love with her. M:  And didn’t you once tell me that you would have if I hadn’t said that?  But that it made you feel sorry for me? D:  It was almost like you were telling me to, to give yourself another thing to be hurt about. M:  You used to say that I was screaming ‘You don’t love me’ so loud that I wouldn’t be able to hear someone say he did love me.  I also remember very clearly that one night when we were waiting for the ship Tom was coming back from Italy on, it was freezing cold, down on the docks, and something happened which I treasured as a super-romantic image for years afterward.  I was thirsty and you went to the water fountain and came back with a kiss full of water.  I loved that so much. D:  The only difference is that now I wouldn’t feel hung up about doing it for everybody who was there. M: And I remember the first time you kissed me.  It was like a Disney cartoon, with bells ringing in my head and birds chirping.  I even let the telephone ring without answering it for the first time in my life.  D:  Yeah, I remember.  It was very poignant. M:  Let me just go and get some water. D: (alone, to tape recorder) I guess you won’t hear this till you play the tape, so I can kind of write a secret message to you.  I wonder if you know that I really did love you and I do love you.  You’re a lovely person and I wish I could help to make you happy.  I’d feel awful if we only saw each other through this book.  I want us to be friends.) This should be on film.  I don’t mind saying it to your face.  You look so lovely. But I think I’m going to have to leave now.  It’s been a lot of fun and warm memories for me.  Thank you.  Dinner was good, but the side dish was the most lovely of all.  You know it’s sad—something really got lost between us, Marshie, something got lost to the world.  I keep thinking how lucky I am that the phone doesn’t ring right now, because this time you’d answer it as I’m kissing you goodnight. M:  I’m afraid I would.
Lauren Cierzan

Linda Rosenkrantz is best known for her taped novel Talk, recently republished as a New York Review Books Classic, and she is also the co-founder of the popular baby-name website nameberry.com.

Lauren Cierzan is an illustrator based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her scribblings and more can be found at laurencierzan.com.