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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in linda eddings (24)


In Which We Leave Or Return To New York

This is the first in a two part series.

photograph by stephen wilkes

Summer Diary


May 4th

The boys and girls dominate a playground, flags wave at them, perilously, calling. My friend Mary was supposed to come into town this week until she saw the temperatures. She called me from her boyfriend's place in the country.

"You wouldn't believe how nice it is here."

"I wouldn't," I said. I asked, what kinds of animals are there? She thought for a second.

"There are loads of bats in the barn," she said, "but you can't see them. They feast on the mosquitos. And I saw a yellow lab puppy. It was eating jello."

May 12th

Bats are not generally friendly to human beings, but it is a lot more acceptance than you can find walking along the East River. Yesterday I saw boys sliding across the wake of a container ship on colored jetskis. I read in the paper that one of them died next to the Statue of Liberty. Mary seemed nonplussed by the news. "I would want to go in an ironic way also, like choking to death in San Simeon." She had to get off the phone because they were going to a farmer's market.

Nothing holds my attention for very long, so I try to think of what would manage to occupy me for more than the moment it would take to make me think of something better. It's not writing.

May 20th

Running is difficult, but not as difficult as walking very quickly. I try to keep a more measured pace. On the way to the mayor's mansion I spotted a homeless gay Indian couple sleeping back to back under the bridge. The amount of costume jewelry on hand is staggering. Even the dog park radiates echoes of disappointment, but I am not prepared to concede I should never come here while I am single.

photograph by stephen wilkes

May 23rd

I finished an autobiography by a woman who was a well-paid actor. She married a man twelve years her senior, I think he was a doctor but of economics, or some other social science. After she marries him, she never mentions him again.

It is hard to be reminded of places in the city that are familiar from another time, like the fake castle or the hollowed out church where we did spin. It makes me want to go to the country to avoid them. Mary said, sure! Come up. I take the worst train on the continent and I was still forty minutes from where she's staying.

Her boyfriend's name is Sam, and he has a relevant anecdote about almost everything. Here is an example: I couldn't find my phone. "Oh, Sam used to work for Apple," she said, "he'll find it for you." It turns up in the car, which is a BMW.

I asked what Sam does for a job now. Mary explained that he had invented a certain type of software that made it easier to develop other kinds of software. I asked what kind of software that was. Sam said, "Mostly security." At the first opportunity, he bought seven eggplants. I thought, for what?!

May 24th

Some of Sam's friends came over and they all gathered around a fire. It was like parties at my high school, hiding behind the largest rock we could find to smoke, only there are only two subjects permitted as topics of conversation: Donald Trump, and the destructive elements of technological advancement. Deja vu reigns supreme.

Sam seemed to notice how bored Mary and I are and he details a game he sometimes plays to pass the time. The game is designed to encourage confessions from introverted or reticent people. It involves suggesting that you are, if only for a brief second, someone else.

It gives me an idea. Pretending to be a different Linda might hold my attention. Here are some fortunate qualities this other me might embody:

– she could outlast anyone at anything, even sex
– she could recall how often and well she hula-hooped in her childhood
– she could develop an everlasting appreciation for the opera and Cicely Tyson
– she could eat gluten
– she could be friend to man and beast, leaving her anxiety behind in the cold morass of dawn on the lilies

Gardening is a wonderful hobby. It's simply not my hobby.

photograph by stephen wilkes

June 2

I decided to return to New York the second I saw it in the background of a movie about a woman who compared it, unfavorably, to wine country.

It stunned me to think I have suddenly become homesick for the place, especially when it is summer and the default condition of the air is exhaust. At my favorite park, it is best not to hang around at dusk because the rats prance out of their nests. A well-informed woman once told me they have no real fear of strollers, which is more than I can say for myself.

Maybe I should be thinking that I could be like these mothers, that I had someone in my life who would have made a placid, yet assertive sort of father. New York is not the place to try to find that type of man again, I'm afraid. It keeps you young, very young, much more youthful than your listed age until it suddenly catches up to you in one prophetic gasp.

I went to eat some blueberries in my fridge, and they were covered with fuzzy moss.

June 11

Mary finally came to visit. When she arrived, I forced her to admit she only made the time since Sam was in San Diego for a conference. It does not make me feel great, but it does not bother the other Linda as much as me.

June 12

After 24 hours, we have fully exhausted the conversation about Sam, examining the relationship from every conceivable angle. Mary's chief worry, and possibly a valid one, was that Sam would prefer to be with someone more technically adept in his field. "You know what they do at these conferences," she said, cutting an apple in half with my largest knife like William Tell with dementia.

"I have no idea what they do," I said.

"Sex!" she said, "it's just an excuse to have human contact with others outside the boundaries of marriage. Haven't you heard of Sergey Brin?"

"No," I said. "Does he know Sheryl Sandberg?" She holds my hips and stares at me like I was silly for playing dumb.

We devise a plan to confirm or deny Mary's suspicions. It involves calling Sam at his hotel a number of times but never saying anything, just listening at the phone. Eventually he picks up, but we just sit there quietly, confirming or invalidating our worst fears.

June 14th

Mary had her mother in the city for the day. Her mom's name is Jeanne and she will not remarry, and she has been asked to do so very often. "It must be flattering," I said, "that so many people want you for their wife."

"Men get to the point where it is the only thing they want," she explained, "if they have any sense." I asked her if she was ever tempted to say yes. She touched my face and giggled like I was the most naive person on the planet.

You can get fruits or vegetables, any kind, cheapest in the summer in the right places. If you know where it is all coming in, which I have learned by now.

You might want to eat the fruit the second you handle it, especially if you have not had breakfast that morning. But wash it first, in your home, because I know a guy who ate a grapefruit he saw and the left side of his face looked like it was on fire.

photograph by stephen wilkes

June 27th

I saw Mary's number on my phone, but when I answered, it was Sam. He inquired for my advice about what to get Mary as a gift. He apologized that his friends talked about politics all night. "It's the only thing that makes them feel alive," he said. I suggested a pet.

Talking to anyone on the phone feels excessively intimate in these times, even when it is Jeanne. She wanted to know what perfume I was wearing that day two weeks ago. I am stunned into silence that so much time has passed. "I wasn't wearing any perfume," I said. "Mary was."

July 1st

In order to develop the kind of attention span that will suit me well in the years to come, I practiced standing completely still, especially while waiting for something to happen.

Mary announced that she does not care what happened in San Diego. I told her I was sorry. She said, "No, no, it's not that."

I said, "You know better than me. You've been through this before. I don't know if there is a real chance of gaining that trust. But in order to do so, you have to be open to it." I relate the phone call Sam had made to me the previous month and that it was innocent and sweet. But when you think about it for long enough, nothing in New York is really either one.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.


In Which We Direct All Attention Upwards



Since attention is inclined to direct itself upwards and remain fixed, special provisions are necessary to ensure the effective compatibility of equality and hierarchy.

– Simone Weil

At the top there is a lancing. Of the spring's ghastly storehouse of agendas, all my feelings about what I tell you float down to the bottom of the glass. I am empty with this. 

Q: Give an example of a time when you sacrificed your needs for his. 

A: It would be easier to say the times I did not. 

Christmas, 2014. He is the brother of my friend's boyfriend Tom. He wears these incredibly soft sweaters, and draws his curly hair straight back. Of his little brother, Tom says, "Imagine a bird with something in its mouth. You can see what it has captured in flight, but the bird can only taste it."

The week before Christmas I threw out all the bad evidence of my last love affair, Chris. He moved to Barcelona. You should see the woman he is with now; she might have come out of a pinata. She is so surprising she comforts you in how much she rubs against him. I miss Chris, but it was time to remove the pictures of us together. I burned it all. That's the kind of gesture I don't generally find therapeutic, but seemed required for me to move on. 

I vaporize my diary too, but not with fire. I drown the ideas in it. 

Q: You say he is brilliant. That is a value judgment. 

A: It is wonderful to be with someone truly intelligent, I think, better and more satisfying on every level than treating with the kind. 

What should I call Tom's brother? This is not the only account of him – there might be one on Vox – but even though I have little faith in my descriptive abilities, I am already sure it is the finest account of him. 

Tom tells us that his brother was engaged to a woman from Kentucky. He had bought a ring for the girl, even, but her family did not approve of the speed of the romance and forced her an end to it. "Did you meet her?" I asked Tom. He said no, but he showed me a picture of her with no pants on. 

Tom breaks up with the woman, Ellen, he has been seeing that precluded my meeting Tom's brother. I ask what happened, realizing that Tom is probably more of my friend than Ellen ever was. Ellen looked in the mirror too much, Tom says. He can't stand that; it makes him want to claw his eyes out. "There was nothing different," he squeaks, "to be staring at yourself again and again!"

Q: Did you feel some sort of attraction for Tom?

A: I think I feel some sort of attraction for most people. 

February 2014. Tom's brother and I stay on an isolated island on a great lake. His best friend lived there since he was a kid. The man is a garbageman now, with angry eyes. Tom's brother tells me not to worry about him, or anything. When I go to the grocery store locals are fascinated by me the entire time. It is freezing, which is fine, since we are forced to warm each other. 

It is a smell surrounding me for years. Fresh soap, and a natural musk which feels like it is radiating inside, precipating the act. Shell game. Tulips touching the glass, bending the function of the abbatoir. What I gave to Tom's brother was in its own way never ending, slightly spiteful. At times I sense that if I ever received exactly what I wanted that I would die of shock. 

Q: What kind of man are you typically attracted to?

A: The kind that uses the expression "riddle me this," before an explanation. A lot of men do that, even ones you think won't. 

Tom's brother convinces me, one night when my resistance to his animal intensity is at its very lowest, not to use a condom. If you are reading this you maybe cringed, or you want to know if I got pregnant. I didn't, but I was scared as hell along the way. 

Chris e-mails pictures of a boxer pup he has adopted. In one of the snaps a woman's hand rests on a pillow. Chris' fat paw offers a bone. Tom says, "He sends you that shit because he knows it makes you scream. The question is, do you like the sound?" Tom is always kind enough to pretend he doesn't know me or my type, but I fear that he probably does. 

Q: What is your type? Not your type of guy, but what kind of person do you classify yourself as?


Tom's brother actually wrote a personality test, for one of his degrees. It featured a variety of ethical decisions, all centered around the concept of altruism. He believes that when we do something for other people, a part of ourselves remains. It is another way of instructing servants to choose their masters. In order to believe in such transference, you must put your faith entirely in the idea that enslavement is only possible with permission. 

Tom's brother left academia, but he still talks about it a whole lot. I did not mind listening to his stories about it – isn't it so revealing what people tell you no matter the subject? "I wanted to work with my hands," Tom's brother often says, with his mouth. Use the tools you are given, I guess.  

Q: Picture me. 1994. I was having the same problem with a boy. You break out of it. You lose the recipe. 

A: Which of them are you talking about?

A friend of mine has a lavish country home outside the city. There is always work to do on it, improvements to make. Small things, like a lamppost or a division of a larger garden. These projects never become all-consuming for them. I was never much for hobbies. 

May 2014. Chris is in Vienna, then at a conference in Leipzig. They sent the dog to stay with Chris' mother until they get back to the U.S. I picture it flying all alone, at the whim of its owner. He tells me the dog cost 550€. "I thought he was a rescue," I write back. It is the first thing I have said to him since we broke up. You can erase something from your mind, but that is all you did. Don't ask me where it lives now. 

European cities are ancient compared to us now, but when you have lost your sense of history, does it matter just how much has vanished? "The Egyptians had working plumbing centuries before it was rediscovered. A great civilization." I don't admire the people of the past, I told him. I don't admire anyone who cannot receive my admiration. 

It is wonderful that these people take such a gainful pleasure in visiting the places of the world. I don't deny them their accomplishments, I only wish that the opposite of wanderlust was given a similar affectation. "That is all my brother is," Tom's brother tries to convince me. "A series of affectations."

Q: I say this with no pleasure, but you need to talk things over before you destroy them. Not everything is so final. 

A: I know.

Chris catches an eye infection and stays in a German hospital. Eventually they fly him back like his dog. He only has partial vision in the eye now. When he views it in the mirror it does not look lazy, but it never focuses. His new girlfriend is on writer's retreat in California for the next six months. He is miserable. 

Back on the island, I had someone to be around, which was itself a relief. It is all right to use people, Tom says, if you use them for the right reasons. He has gone for coffee.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Paintings by Peter Sculthorpe.


In Which We Cared About So Many Of Them

My Friend, Who At Last


My friend said her boyfriend broke up with her last night. When pressed to explain the reason why, he told her, "Things don't feel quite right." They had planned on moving into an apartment with ceilings just as high as the exaggerated windows, too tall to see out from clearly. Cleaning them is such an ordeal.

My friend said she took the train to Saratoga, and saw cows and horses along the way. When she arrived, her host told her that she was late even though she always comes early. Morning somewhere new is such a lucky chance.

My friend said that her boyfriend had become markedly less communicative. She asked me for ways to alter this trajectory. "I don't want to just pull away," she said. I said that it seemed like she was afraid of losing him even more. My friend said she was concerned she might lose herself.

My friend said the high line is the worst time, since it makes no sense to wander quietly away. My friend said that just once she wants to bring a guy into a bookstore and have him not be checking his phone the whole time.

My friend said that when the most recent guy disappeared, she actually went to confront him. "I just want to know," she said softly, since that is the best to express pain without showing its true depth. "I'd like to know why you stopped answering my calls and texts without the slightest word." He sort of brushed back his hair and said that it was August.

My friend said it is best to not expect anything. My friend raises her arms and leans forward to stretch. "You never know what exactly keeps them coming back," she said, holding a picture of herself as a child in the light.

My friend said that a psychic explained the reason why some of us are unhappy. My friend said that the earth revolves around the sun. We are like the earth, she told me, only we do not know what to revolve around.

Flies spring up in this stagnant swamp.

My friend said that she has another test, since the bookstore rules out so many men so completely. "I get in a elevator," she said, "and I press every button. If an expression of utter dread comes over his face, I get out at the next floor."

A spider dropped down from her web, halting before the linoleum.

My friend said that she struggles with intimacy in a way she never did before. "He holds me in his hands, and it only reminds me of other ways this has happened before. I wonder if I am rushing home from work to something that is never there." She has alopecia, and wears a wig when we go out. No one notices except for her.

My friend has this analogy of a strange thing pressing against her leg. She doesn't know exactly what it is that makes the sensation, but she has a general idea.

My friend said that her boyfriend's mother loves her. All her boyfriend's friends love her. So why doesn't her boyfriend love her?

It is best to sample each ingredient. These fine things, arranged on the softest pillow imaginable. Tasting one will give you a sense of the whole. Tasting them all will make you sick.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.