Music inspires so much written art, and it’s fun to think of the music that my characters might listen to. With that in mind, the Huffington Post just published my soundtrack written in the characters’ own words (Natalie, Travis, and Creature from This Is The Part Where You Laugh). Read here, and click the links to listen to each song:
Quite a few fans of THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU LAUGH have sent me emails or messages on Twitter saying that I should write more romance (after reading Creature’s romance novel in progress, The Pervert’s Guide To Russian Princesses). Then there’s my friend KT who says I should write only romance. Just skip the rest.
The problem is, I don’t really know how to write romance. I’m not well versed in the genre. So I’ve decided to make an attempt. But to up the ante a little, I’m only going to write awkward romance scenes.
To begin, I’ll give you this:
“Making Out With Mao Tse-tung”
(The military leader of communist China who lived from 1893–1976)
There are more than eighty biographies of Mao Tse-Tung, the late Chinese communist leader, but this is not a biography. This is a short memoir of one of my intimate moments with a special man I liked to call “Mao Mao”:
We hadn’t seen each other in three weeks. Mao Mao strode into the room in his military uniform – green coat with the red collar turned down. Red “Soldier” armband. Yellow writing on that band.
He was taller than me. 5’11” and 190 pounds. He didn’t acknowledge my presence when he walked in. He turned on his heels and commanded his personal guards to leave the room.
They bowed and closed the door behind them.
Then we were alone.
Mao Mao’s demeanor changed. He walked over to the bed, slipped off his shoes, climbed up on top of the comforter, and got on his knees. He was right there – not far from me – in his white socks, looking young again. That sad look in his eyes.
I smiled at him, but his face didn’t change. It was as if he had lost his mother once more, as if his first peasant-army’s defeat was fresh again in his mind.
I said, “Mao Mao,” gently. Let my voice drop.
He smiled – just a little – and began purring, like a cat, soft at first, then louder. More distinct than the purring of any house cat.
He beckoned to me and I walked over to the bed.
Before we touched, I looked at him. His uniform was always so rumpled. Frumpy. I felt bad during his speeches, embarrassed for him. I wanted – so many times – to mention his need to iron his clothes, but I didn’t want him to be annoyed by me. We were only able to see each other every few weeks. The rest of the time he pretended to like women.
He was right in front of me, on the edge of the bed, and I leaned in. Nibbled the mole on his chin. Sucked at it.
He breathed against my cheek.
As his personal physician was always saying to the press, Mao Mao didn’t brush his teeth. Ever. He simply rinsed his mouth with tea, and ate the wet tea leaves after, from the bottom of the cup. That was what he did instead of tooth-brushing, so his teeth had a greenish hue, a plaqued film over the top of them, with a consistency like soap-stone.
His breath was unique.
We began to kiss, and I ran the tip of my tongue over the mossy sheen of his incisors.
Mao Mao unbuttoned my shirt. Slid his index finger down the straight line of my sternum. I thought of all the places that finger had been. I lifted it to my lips and kissed it.
He leaned into me then. I smelled the musk at the back of his scalp, saw the white flakes of dandruff in his straight black hair. I nuzzled my nose along the horseshoe of his receding hairline. Felt his chapped lips rasping against my throat.
He was breathing heavy – we both were – but he put a firm hand on my chest. Pushed me back. Said, “I’m sorry.”
“No,” he said, “It’s that…well…I struggle with impotency.”
This is something I already knew. Not a mystery. It was not our first time together. I said, “It’s not your fault.”
He started to say something else, but I cut him off. Put a finger to his lips.
I said again, “It’s not your fault.” Then I placed both of my hands on his shoulders, the green wool of his military coat over his soft shoulders. I said, “It’s okay, Mao Mao. It’s really okay.”
He dropped his head forward. Purred softly now. I couldn’t see his face, but I could hear his tears dripping.
Then I held him for a long time.
I guess I can tell you what happened in the stock room now that TMZ broke the story with that video:
This was at the end of last summer. 2015. The start of August. When everything was happening all at once.
Selena came into the room. Selena Gomez. She walked right past the shipping crates. I knew it was her right away. I’d seen a lot of girls come and go during my time writing speeches for THE Donald, but I’d never seen anybody like Selena Gomez, and I didn’t have to Google her name to verify that it was actually her. Plus, she’s that pretty in real life. She looks exactly like she does in her Vevo videos, reminding me of a cross between a young mountain lion and a big-eyed, cartoon Disney princess.
I was hiding out in a back corner, trying to figure out how to fix the latest of what we – on the team – liked to call “straight shooter issues.” I’d already dealt with on-air cursing, off-color debate comments, and – during the last two days – some sticky misogynistic moments. Also, I was trying to spin the persistent rumor that if THE Donald had only invested the “small 9 million-dollar loan” from his father, and had not worked at all, not a single day in his entire adult life, he’d actually be a lot richer than he is now. The problem with this inheritance/investment issue was that I’d done the research…and the financial analysts were correct. Also, the math was so simple that the average 7th-grader could do it.
Thankfully, American voters don’t want to do any math – not even 7th-grade math – so I just needed to twist a few financial facts, declare a bit of “liberal Dem bias,” throw in a red herring or two, add a sprinkle of Ad Hominem against Hillary, and a smooth little non sequitur to get on to a better topic.
Anyway, I was working on solving the inheritance problem, making it go away like everything else.
But Selena Gomez came into the room and I stopped working. She stood right there in the middle of the stockroom. She seemed like the kind of girl who stands in the middle of a room – no wallflower, is probably used to standing in the middle of every room she ever enters – so she was right there where I could see her. But she couldn’t see me because she was looking at her cell phone. Then – still looking at her phone – she turned, and her back was to me.
I was kind of hemmed into a corner, halfway hidden behind two shipping crates, sitting on the floor, leaning back against the sheetrock, my laptop resting on my legs. These are the kinds of places I go whenever THE Donald says something really, really ridiculous. I like to work in some small, backroom sort of place where I know I won’t be disturbed. So even if Selena turned around again, she might not’ve seen me in my slunk-down, half-hidden position.
I knew that I had a long day of research and speech writing. This was also right before Roger Stone quit our team (or, sorry, was “fired” by THE Donald), and it was also the time period when the Fox News anchors were mad about a few things, and I hadn’t even told Roger where I’d be. But he didn’t care as long as I showed up at the end of the day with a clear sound bite, a solid Tweet, and a full-length speech. That was what I needed to keep my job. It was a complicated summer but just like that it was also a very simple summer. The expectations were clear: Make THE Donald look like a titan of industry with at least the political acumen of a Bush brother. We knew that’d be enough to win the GOP nomination and maybe even the entire presidency.
Anyway, Selena was standing in the middle of the room, her back to me, her head bowed to her phone like she was praying, and I had a little time to look her over. I noticed that she was dressed up, too dressed up for the middle of the day, standing in the middle of a stock room in this part of town. She had on a little black cocktail dress, black heels, a small black purse in her left hand, and her hair was pulled up. I could tell that she wanted to look good, and the truth was, she did. Plus, she smelled good. Her vanilla perfume had already permeated the room, making it so I couldn’t focus on the laptop in front of me.
I was watching Selena as she watched her phone, and that was when THE Donald came in. Roger walked in with him and said, “Twenty minutes. That’s all,” and THE Donald gave him a pouty face before adjusting the front of his hairpiece. Then Roger left.
Selena put her phone away, tucked it into that little black purse.
THE Donald said, “Don’t put your phone away. I love the things you’ve been sending me.”
Selena said, “You like the pics?”
“Oh yeah, I like those a LOT!” THE Donald enjoyed emphasizing the last word in most of his sentences, something I’d learned to use all-caps for or a series of exclamation points when I wrote his speeches.
Selena said, “But I heard that you don’t like Mexicans.” She moved her hips a little when she said that, like she was dancing to some kind of music that no one could hear, and I’m sure she got THE Donald’s attention with her little shimmy and shake.
He stepped closer to her. “I would make a Mexican exception for YOU.”
Selena touched the lapel on his suit. “You would do that for me?”
“Without a doubt. You’re such a cute little…” THE Donald touched the tip of her nose, “…foreigner.”
Selena said, “You really think I’m cute?”
“Of course I do.”
Selena tipped her head to the side, and made a sad face. “’Cute’ is something Justin never called me. I tried every trick I knew, but he only thinks…” She stopped.
“Thinks what? You can tell me. My friends say that I’m a great LISTENER.”
“Well,” she said, “Justin just thinks…well, he just thinks prostitutes are cute.”
“That’s CRAZY!” THE Donald said. “You’re cuter than most prostitutes I’ve ever been with.”
“Oh, Donald, say that again.”
“You really ARE. And that’s the kind of TRUTH Obama is always afraid to say, the real truth. The difficult and obvious TRUTH!!!”
Selena started playing with THE Donald’s tie. She was sliding her fingers up and down the stripes, slow and smooth. She said, “I’ve been wanting to see you in private.”
“That’s normal. A lot of people want to see me in private. I’m a wealthy guy and my time is limited. But, of course, I want to see you in private too. There’s something I’ve been thinking about for us. It’s a big idea. World-CHANGING.”
I’d been listening this whole time – even taking notes on my laptop – but now I leaned forward to make sure that I didn’t miss a single word. I was scared of whatever THE Donald was about to say, scared for Selena, scared a little bit for her, but even more scared for me.
` We – on the team – tried to limit the total number of ideas THE Donald was allowed to come up with each week. Roger was always telling him, “This is a one idea week, okay. That’s all we can handle right now. One.” Then he’d hold up a single finger for emphasis and THE Donald would look like a kindergartener who’d been sent to the corner by the teacher. He would lower his eyebrows and push his lips out. His hair would slide forward and flap a little bit on top, and I wanted to tell him to never make that face around the media but unfortunately I’d seen him make that face almost every single day I’d been with his campaign.
But THE Donald wasn’t making that face now. Right now, he looked happy. Or to be more accurate, he looked excited. Selena was still rubbing his tie and he had this big, wide-eyed look on his face as if Roger were allowing him a TEN-idea week. THE Donald leaned in to Selena, his face close to hers, and said, in a stage-whisper, “Run with me.”
“What?” she said.
“Run with me. Be my vice PRESIDENT!”
“Could I?” she said. “I mean, would people really think that I was…”
“Qualified?” he said. “Yes, of course. You’re FAMOUS.”
“Oh, that’s all you need to be?”
“Obviously. That’s all anyone needs to be ANYTHING in this country. We could be famous TOGETHER!!!”
“As running mates?”
“As lovers AND as running mates. Plus, you’d solve my Mexican problem!”
“Oh my god,” she said. “That is so sweet.”
“I know, see? Megyn Kelly was wrong. I really can be sweet to women.”
Selena pulled THE Donald’s face down and kissed him. Then she said, “Be sweet to me, Donald.”
He kissed her, then stopped and smelled her hair. “I’ll treat you better than Ivana.”
“No one, Sweetie. Shhh…” THE Donald put his finger to Selena’s lips.
Then they kissed some more, and THE Donald’s hair shifted a couple of inches to the right.
Selena pulled back. “Wait, I thought I heard that the vice president has to be 35 years old, or something like that.”
“Is that a RULE?!” THE Donald tipped his head back, held his hair, and laughed. “I don’t follow rules. That’s why I’m a breath of fresh air in this election. That’s why I’m something DIFFERENT. That’s why I’m going to WIN!”
“Oh, Donald,” Selena said, “hold me like Justin never did.”
THE Donald’s hands roamed down her body, and he whispered, “You know I will.”
…and the rest of what I saw, I probably shouldn’t describe.
Anyway, TMZ has that grainy video footage that – thank god – I’m not visible in.
Later that day – after a double-highball at a nearby bar to get rid of some lingering images in my mind, then two shots of espresso to clear my head – I came up with the following pieces of promotional material.
The Sound Bite:
Donald Trump has announced his running mate…
None other than the incomparable Selena Gomez.
The Tweet for @realDonaldTrump:
I love Mexicans so much that I’m sleeping with one AND running with one AS WELL!!!
Plus, I wrote the speech that day, THE speech, the one that most people are saying will win Donald Trump the presidency of the United States.