By Seth Kushner
I watched the water stream down her naked body. Early morning light filtered through the bathroom widow and it was the most beautiful she’d ever looked to me. I handed her the shampoo, and I felt sad.
I’d decided the night before it was time to break it off with Pam. We sat at dinner without much to say. There was no witty banter, flirtatious conversation or meaningful discussion. Just small talk and wine. Like always.
She stayed over and I embraced her as we slept, knowing it would be the last time. I’d miss her, but I knew a mature decision was in order.
We met online, as everyone did then, and now. Our first date after our initial Starbucks meeting would have given us a great story to tell our grandkids, if things had gone that way.
“Excuse me sir, the waiter needs to see you by the kitchen,” the busboy said. Odd.
I excused myself from the table, and walked the length of the Mexican restaurant to the kitchen, where the waiter was standing.
“Sir, I hate to disturb you, but you have some dirt on your face and I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of your date.”
I thanked him and went into the bathroom to check the mirror, and instead of the small smudge I was expecting, I found a huge black mark on my cheek. It looked like a hit-and-run by Al Jolson. I washed it off and returned to the table.
Pam was curious about the situation, so I explained it to her and asked why she had failed to mention the gallon of schmutz on my face.
“I was going to, but I wanted to be polite,” she said.
When the waiter returned with our Sangria’s, he tapped Pam on the shoulder and said:
“Excuse me miss, you have some dirt on your face.”
Earlier, he had been helpful, but now he was just annoying. Pam laughed nervously. After we had eaten, the waiter returned with the check, and this time he had a big black smudge on his face. I was slightly amused, but he might have been taking it a bit too far.
We laughed that night and got drunk and shared a kiss when I walked her to her door.
The first time we had sex was the first time another human being had touched me in months. There was nothing amazing about it, and in fact, she had screamed and moaned tad over-dramatically, and the rather thick hair on her legs tickled me. She had embarrassingly admitted to not having had a chance to have shaved her legs that day. But, by this point in my dating career, I was far past being disturbed by such trivial things. I had left behind the concept of “perfection” months earlier.
For several months I saw Pam 1.7 times per week. I knew she wasn’t the one, but she was a one, for the moment. She kept me occupied, but we were never exclusive so I never stopped hunting. During this period I had several fix-ups from my mother (which went absolutely nowhere) and I also went out with two different girls named Jen, neither of whom interested me. Because I already had Pam, I had a little more confidence than before, which I’d hoped would serve me well with the new girls.
Late one night, while in my bed, Pam attempted to talk to me. She had difficulty getting the words out, but I knew this was supposed to be the ‘talk’ where we discuss what we were to each other; I’d been through it before, with other girls. I decided if she couldn’t say it, I wasn’t going to help her. I was being an asshole.
“Adam, so are we just ‘sex friends?'” she asked.
Sex friends? Wow, that sounded so…salacious. I never had a “sex friend” before, not to mention such a classy one–most girls would have just used the term “fuck buddies.” But before I could even answer, she did, to her own question.
“Well, I guess we also go out to eat and see movies.”
“There you go,” I said.
Even a shcmuck like me knew it was pointless to keep the relationship going. We had little in common other than we both had no one else. I knew I had to end things before it got any messier. But, I wasn’t in any rush to do so. I’d do it soon, I told myself.
We kissed under the shower head. I think we both knew it was a goodbye. As we toweled off, I thought about how I’d tell her. I’d do it over the phone and take the coward’s way out, I decided.
I called Pam the next day and told her we had to talk.
“Yes, we do” she agreed.
“I like you, Pam, I do, but I just don’t feel we have the kind of connection we should have by this point.”
“No, we don’t, do we?
“So, I guess we’re not going to be getting married,” she joked.
“No, I guess not.”
“Well, thanks for not being the type of guy who just never calls again.”
It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t difficult either. We agreed to be friends, but frankly, we never had much to talk about anyway, so what’s there to base a friendship on?
So, there I was, all alone. Again. Like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode. He was the last living person on Earth and surrounded by all the books he always wanted to read. Then his glasses broke. I felt like the last living person on Earth, and I was surrounded by all these women, but unfortunately my glasses were in fine shape. So, what was broken?
Read past installments
Whenever Seth Kushner did anything foolish growing up, his mother would call him a “Schmuck,” that beloved Yiddish term of not-so-endearment. So, of course, it’s the title of his new comix semi-autobio on TRIP CITY, an online multimedia arts salon. Renowned for his books The Brooklynites (with Anthony LaSala) and Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics (With Chris Irving) and the webseries CulturePOP Photocomix, photographer and author Seth Kushner now throws his hat into the comics arena. SCHMUCK chronicles the period after his being dumped by a girlfriend, and the ensuing cascade of blind dates, Internet hook-ups, and comically tragic situations he endured with the hopes of finding “true love.”
SCHMUCK sheds a brutally honest light on 20-something relationships. Adam Kessler, our “hero,” is based on Kushner, ten years ago – a pop-culture-obsessed photographer torn between pleasing Mom by finding a “nice Jewish girl,” and figuring out what he really wants. His internal monologue is filled with the standard inane, perverted and self-deprecating thoughts we all have but are ashamed to admit. Meanwhile, his shit-talking, sex-obsessed Brooklyn boys stand by with their own, often wacky, advice.
Chapter One “Beer, Babes and Bowel Movements,” illustrated by Kevin Colden, (with “Photocomix” by Seth) debuted on Monday, January 9. From there, a new chapter will appear on TripCity.net every second Monday for one year. Every fourth Monday will see the release of a prose piece, “THE SCHMUCK DIARIES,” which will act as supplements to the comics. 2012 will see the release of 12 SCHMUCK comix and 12 SCHMUCK DIARIES.
SCHMUCK is an anthology series with different artists illustrating short “schmucky stories,” which can be read individually, or together to tell the complete narrative. SCHMUCK artists include; Sean Pryor (Pekar Project), Bobby Timony (Night Owls), Omar Angulo (Hurricane Wilma), Shamus Beyale (The Grimm Fairy Tales), Ryan Alexander-Tanner (To Teach), George Schall, (Dark Horse Presents) Nathan Schreiber (Power-Out), Leland Purvis (Resistance), Stephen DeStefano (‘MAZING MAN) and more TBA.
What to expect: heartbreak, diarrhea, painful STD removal, rejection, Kung-Fu, Natalie Portman, vomit, boobs, self-loathing, unkempt genital regions, sex with an ex, drunkenness, sexual dysfunction, depression, misogyny, and somehow, hope.
Influences on SCHMUCK include; Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison, Bob Fingerman’s Beg The Question, Dean Haspiel’s Street Code, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Curb Your Enthusiasm, works by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Ames, Woody Allen, Adrian Tomine, Jeffrey Brown, Chester Brown and Joe Matt