Fifteen Minutes

Jimmy Chen



— Hi, are you Joshua?

— Yes, Leigh?

— Yeah, nice to meet you!

— As in Lee or Lay, I had been wondering.

Lay, as noted in my profile.

— I might have skimmed over that. I did look at all your pics though.

— That sounded creepy.

— Sorry I’m ten minutes late, had to ask the guard where the Marilyn was and he thought I was talking about someone I knew.

— They should really give those guards an introductory class on Art, and for some of them, English. We’re a country of immigrants. I get it, but like. It’s just classic how the definite article was lost on him when you asked where the Marilyn was, in front of which, by the way, I figured we should meet, instead of wandering around the entire museum looking for each other.

— The Museum Store would have also worked.

— I know, I thought about that, but the idea of such conspicuous consumption irked me, like we’re already subscribing to a butt-load of cultural paradigms just by having this date, since on some basic evolutionary level, or at least sociological, we don’t want to die alone; that is, we want to procreate at least once before dying, as a kind of existential insurance plan, I mean it’s not a huge coincidence both of us confused loneliness for horniness last Sunday when we were both swiping yes to almost anyone on Tinder. So here we are. And it was more like fifteen minutes.

— I guess I’m a little ambivalent about, quote, meeting someone from Tinder at the museum, end quote. I mean just saying that out loud made me cringe a little, right? No offense, of course. You look nice.

— Hey Joshua, can I call you Josh? My brother is Joshua and I feel weird.

— I’m not used to Josh, but okay, and I know I’m talking a lot. I’m obviously not a social butterfly and find catharsis in dialog when I do go out, what my roommate Erik has characterized as, quote, going off. End quote. I mean what a dismissive phrase, going off. I’m not “going off” like some car alarm or small obnoxious dog in a purse, but simply expressing my thoughts as they come to me, which may seem erratic, esoteric, or both, to the less witted. Yeah.

— Hey Josh?

— Like you know how this countenance might seem like I’m disenchanted with the person I’m with? My mother says this makes people wonder if I think I’m smarter than everyone, by which one might become abashed or hurt, which depends on the company of course. It is a shame that one’s sense of worth is contingent on how my face fucking looks in their presence. Look, you’re cool. You don’t have to be the smartest person I ever met. I like your dress. If you want today to end romantically, just say so. Erik said he’d stay in his room and wear ear plugs all night. Do you like art? You can tell a lot about someone by how they respond to art, like this one here. What do you think?

— Well, Josh, I like how her face is purple.

— An intuitive reading, Leah. Here Warhol is invoking the market’s inextricable presence on art, like the grotesque purple dye supplanting what might be a more appropriate flesh tone is a metaphor for the economy inevitably asserting itself over naturalism, or rather replacing it, and our oblivious complicity as fickle consumers. The red over the lips as lipstick is, however, entirely sarcastic. He’s pandering to the popular class by being condescendingly literal with the lipstick. He’s saying ‘You want red lips? Fine.’

— Did you like major in Art History or something?

— Philosophy, but I’ve branched out.

— Don’t turn around, but some Korean girls are taking like a million pictures of the Marilyn. I think we’re in it.

— You mean we’re photobombing it?

— Probably.

— That’s amazing. I wrote an essay about radical democracy in photobombing for The Atlantic, basically about how anyone can usurp a photo and assert themselves as this rogue subject, ultimately becoming the subject. Same goes for Duchamp making the urinal about himself, then the guy who took an axe to it, in Italy I think, making that gesture about himself, which may seem like a spiral of appropriation, though such a notion is somewhat antiquated now, like it’s ultimately more than that. It’s about the conviction of one’s vision, like for example fellatio in porn from the point of view of its intent reception.

— Not sure I’m quite following you.

— Okay. So like every revolution is preceded by an imperative act of violence. Look at Bastille or Mao, like everything is PR until there’s actual blood on the streets, then you have something real, or even that monk on the Rage Against the Machine album, to which I used to really rock out. Self-immolation is a kind of spiritual photobomb if you think about it. So if you do something revolutionary or drastic, for example in a wedding photo, like stick your finger through an open fly like it’s a penis and then make a retarded face, you are essentially colonizing that photo and claiming its historicity. Forever. The intended subjects, like my sister and her bridesmaids, are now the victim. The same would apply to animal photobombs, that is a gopher who sticks its face right in front of the camera just when the timed-flash goes off, though animals don’t count because they aren’t sentient, or at least not self-aware of their representational capacity in this larger context.

— So what issue was it published in?

— When I said I wrote it for The Atlantic, I meant like with them in mind. They haven’t responded yet.

— Oh. When did you submit it?

— Ten months ago.

— They might have passed on it, Josh. I’m sure was a nice essay.

— It was indeed a very nice essay, already formatted in their house style, with tips on the art direction. I even started drafting some replies to likely comments. It should have went viral, then like caught the attention of New York Times, who would invite me to write Opinion pieces, to the acclaim of a boutique readership, followed by a book deal. I know it sounds cliché, but besides Tinder, this is how people get blowjobs. In the first two months of my submission, I remember waking up in the middle of the night and checking my gmail to see if it got accepted, compulsively refreshing with a down-swiping thumb, until a wave of despair hit me.

— Hey Josh?

— I don’t want a blowjob, or even a job. I just want to be viral, or short of that, respected. I never heard back from them, or the Paris Review, who were probably at some photoshoot looking like a J. Crew catalog. Too bad I’m not one of their hot interns with a Kate Spade bag, nubile tits, and a few under-the-table handjobs on my resume; too bad I don’t go to like, every single fucking party every single fucking night to schmooze it or lose it with ingratiating nepotists habitually tagged at parties holding a gratuitously garnished cocktail, you know the ones with the sprig of thyme; too bad my choir preaching blog doesn’t get like a thousand likes every time I sneeze, or that my professionally taken “press ready” author photo isn’t 7000 pixels wide; and sorry that 13,000 word photobombing essay diverged into ADHD, amphetamines, the fascist corner of Reddit, quantum theory in relation to Larry David, and finally, socialism and dystopia in Toy Story 3.

— Josh?

— Sorry, I never did get that invite to that dinner party in Brooklyn behind that gallery with the weird shit on the floor, the “private party” in back with all those vintage light bulbs hanging above, you precious motherfuckers, and like the super long probably $8,000 dollar table where everyone sits so amazingly next to each other, with the long ass table runner punctuated by foraged bouquets and plates of beet soup ladled in by some Borderline case hostess who thinks she’s Mrs. Dalloway except for all the face piercings; and sorry, but that book sucked ass. Joan Didion meets Busta Rhymes, big whooping deal. Still unclear why my ex liked her so much. I read a few random pages once, something about her freaking out over an orchid when everyone was in the hospital or something. People always use the word formidable to describe her, which is what the thesaurus spits out for scary. Yeah I’m scared, Joan. Of your face.

— Hey Josh, can I be honest?

— What.

— I need to take off now. Please don’t text me. Not trying to be mean or anything, but, like, sometimes we have to be mean, right?

— I’m confused.

— It’s okay, Joshua. It’s okay.