Boy (after Jamaica Kincaid) by Cecelia Mayer

This is how you roll a cigarette; this is how you bum one from your friends; this is how you bum from a girl you want to impress; this is how you ask for a light; this is how you reference Heidegger; this is how you reference Kant; this is how you preach communism but dismiss Heidegger’s fascism; this is how you dismiss Derrida over a six-pack with your female friends; this is how you scold them for not knowing the recent history of feminist theory; this is how you link Aristotle to Yeats; this is how you flirt with your students; this is how to decide who to make out with at your birthday party but go home with someone else; last weekend I heard you confess at a party who you’d lost your virginity to; this is how to do whippets; only smoke pot with your best friends; this is how to mosh in a dark bedroom with music streaming from a laptop with a German keyboard; this is how many of your friends know all the words to “Paint It Black”; this is how your friends know that you persistently insinuate yourself into new social scenes for novel intellectual conversations and girls you haven’t yet slept with; this is how to talk about your grievances with the Brooklyn literary scene; this is how to disguise your budding beer belly under a hoodie; this is how to take your sister’s shopping advice; this is how to ignore her while on vacation to western Mass when she manifests rebellion by not liking to read; this is how to shit-talk her to your friends over coffee spiked with gin until the day she texts you to ask what it means when a boy calls her ontological; this is how to freak out about her eating disorders years after she’s started work for the NSA; this is how to get your friends to change the subject, and to refrain from reaching to hug you when you’re sober; this is the cheapest place in Inwood to buy a case of Rolling Rock, but you better give a couple bucks to each of the bums on the sidewalk outside; this is how to convince your friends to crash at their girlfriends’ so you can sleep on the empty mattress on the floor rather than take the train back to Sunset Park at 3 a.m.; this is how to tell your female friends not to touch a guy unless they want to sleep with him; this is how to ply them for secrets they think you already know because you’ve cast an empathetic smirk alternated with a knowing glance in their direction; this is how to show up three hours late for a dinner party; this is how to tell your friend the hostess seven months later that she’s so housing-insecure, she’ll be too broke to buy the requisite wine to get invited to dinner parties by Lucy, who doesn’t even host dinner parties, in five or is it ten years; this is how to tell your friends that their other friends’ sex lives are boring; this how to make mulled wine; this is how to befriend assholes; this is how to talk to mathematicians; this is how to talk about hipster parties; this is how to avoid inviting the riffraff; this is how to set off fireworks; this is how to keep your exes upset about you long after everyone’s moved to other cities and you’ve sworn off all normative reproduction; this is how to moderate a conversation of your friends’ early masturbation memories; this is how to tell your mother to divorce your father; this is how to fight back when your alcoholic friends want to see your fists; this is how to sing along to the Mountain Goats; this is how to punch when a girl says she wants to; this is how to tell her in bed at night that your best friend called you a little bitch years ago and you’re still pissed; this is how to calm her down when she catches word that another of your friends called her a good witch more recently; this is how to fake familiarity with Wallace Stevens when she alludes to his blackbirds in an email; this is how to whip up your friends scrambled eggs at a party; this is how to watch Pretty in Pink but I know you won’t see Funny Ha Ha and did you ever listen to the Buzzcocks?; this is how to brownbag in a churchyard; this is how to listen to the rain; this is how to listen to your roommate in consulting express a desire to plant a garden on the second-story overhang; this is how to tell the story when the cops find your unpaid open-container ticket after you’ve pissed behind the shed off your own subway platform; this is how to repay the ex-marine who scales up the scaffolding nextdoor to let you into your locked building when the cops still have your phone and keys and the Dominican kids sitting on your stoop will talk to neither strangers nor you after school; this is how to get stopped and frisked as quickly as possible; this is how to leave a party last; this is how to take the bus back to New Bedford; this is how to reference Sebald in German via email to a lesbian in Iowa City; this is how to go outside to smoke; this is how to recommend Portrait of a Lady.