Teen Desire

objet petit a

They make me sit behind her in roll call because our last names are close in the alphabet. If I could rearrange the alphabet I would put U and I together.

The room is yellow walls and windows that are set just below the ceiling to preserve students from the outside world. Just blank blue is visible out the windows and dust motes spangling above our heads, flecks of falling star scraps dissolving into the dim lower strata, into the morning breath circulating among the students in their assigned seats.

Every day I sit at the back and she in the row in front of me. Her shoulder blades press through her school shirt (hydrangea blue). Her skirt (tartan) is shorter than mine, her sleeves are rolled and her legs are meticulously shaved, scraped clean from ankle all the way, well over the knee. These are social signifiers; she is making gestures towards cool. We are not from the same world, we are star-crossed like the starry dust motes, dancing around each other. I think that. And I think, If I could rearrange the alphabet…

Every morning, she comes in with her hair loose, damp, god in heaven, from the shower. She’s one of the kids who lives on a property around Singleton, not in the town proper. I imagine she showers early, having to get up earlier than town-kids and then, on the forty minute drive to school, leaves it out to dry. In roll call it curls, inimitable. And every morning I have to watch her, fingers as a comb, braid it away. Strand by strand, she traps it in a braid.

She is braiding her hair away from me, out of reach, objet petit a. Lacan didn’t want anyone to translate that, not ever. It should be algebraic, pronounced wrongly, never natural to the tongue. It is the inside of the desire that counts, not the container (the braid, the girl herself in front of me with fingers like combs). It is the inaccessibility, the distance between my plastic seat and her shoulder blades pressing into the back of her own, the remainder between need and demand. The container might be anything; it’s just a wrapping for the unfillable lack. The container is not important. Except that her washed hair (braided away) leaves damp spots on her school shirt, sticking it to her shoulders, a miracle in hydrangea blue.

Lacan’s dead, go ahead, translate him

What I desire is not the Other,

A boy adds me on Myspace.

but rather

We had known each other as kids before he moved away. He lives in Newie now, at a better high school than mine, some solid hour-long drive away and I cannot drive. Neither can he.

the Other’s desire of me.  

He invites me to MSN. Myspace is beginning to wane and with MSN we can do the things that he would soon ask for. We talk for hours most days after school and daylight hours on weekends. At first, I won’t video with him or send him pictures so he finds other requests I will answer.

him: who is sexier Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Munro

me: incomparable

him: go on 😉

me: Marilyn

me: if you’re asking about sexiness

him: I would say Audrey. Shes elegant, intelligent and

him: like you could talk to her

It seems to me that, intellectually speaking, Marilyn Monroe is objectively, famously the sexiest. I puzzle over his answer and my own apparently incorrect one without taking into account the subjectivity in his question, the way it rummages for personal desires. It occurs to me that he thought, I – genus girl, species nerd – would see myself as an Audrey, that I would be charmed at his rejection of the obvious Marilyn.

Sometimes he talks for long stretches about how fucked he is, how he’s a bad person and how much trouble he would be in when others found out how bad.

I love talking to him. He’s a musician like every boy to ever make my hands sweat with the precise kind of attraction that is cut with inferiority. I love talking to him even when long spaces of empty air or an out-of-sync reply make me think, he’s talking to other girls. I don’t think I care. But I don’t tell anyone I’m talking to him either.

He has girl problems. He is often in love and more often cheating. His teenage romances are totally foreign to me, in my extended childhood. I let him think I can relate. It’s the only lie I ever tell him.

One day, I let him turn the cam on. I won’t turn my own on and I make that clear before I let him turn on his.

A boy occupies my screen, a slow frame-rate vision. He is beautiful, the fulfilled promise of his confidence. In seeing him, the distance between our intimacy and his strangeness opens. I’ve seen his photo but it didn’t prepare me for motion, breathing, expressions changing, his hands fixing his hair. An unfamiliar male unfolds in an office chair, in a room I’ve never seen, a study full of books. On a shelf, I can see one of those drinking birds with the top hat, dipping forever, insatiable as Tantalus.

The boy looks like any that might go to my school. His mouth is wide, soft, alarming: it is capable of biting, eating and speaking. He looks young. He is young, we are the same age. I knew that.

me: hi

me: its working!! 🙂 🙂

He throws his gaze exclusively at the glass eye of the webcam like a professional, never missing his mark.

me: heyy

me: weird to c u

My messages stack without replies, hailing him.

He perfectly simulates eye contact between us, staring into the reflective lens to cross the gap and get to me. I am the switch-point, a cave that shouts his own voice back to him, coo-ee!


Hollen writes fiction that is memoir and memoir that is actually memoir. They tweet a good joke @faceoddity.


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