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Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey Read Online (FREE)


He walked to the minibar.

“That was what, investment banker?”

“Hedge fund.” His back was to me now. “That is how they talk, you know.” Either his voice was muffled because he was facing away or, annoying possibility, I’d actually wounded him. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

“I don’t—I wasn’t—” I shook my head. “Forget it. I trust you, forget it. What’s next.”

“You choose.” He tossed me a mini-bottle of Bulleit and I caught it, unscrewed it.

“I hate making choices.” My voice just a little higher. The a in hate held half a second too long.

“What if”—he looked at me—“I gave you direction.” Coming out of his sulk then, good boy.

“I take direction”—my eyes on his, my body shifting against the bathrobe against the duvet cover against the duvet against the sheets—“very well.”

“Noted.” Stepping closer to me. “Filed.”

“So. Give me direction.”

“Let’s say”—a step closer, his hands on the duvet, his torso over the bed now—“as far from stockbroker as you can get.” His face level with my face, his hands moving up the duvet. “Let’s say none of that generic bro bullshit. But let’s say you still hate him. Have good reason to hate him.”

“You think I want to fuck someone I hate.”

“Let’s say I do.” His face very close to mine and then turning. He stood up, retrieved his glass of scotch, raised it. “Let’s work from that assumption.”


“Okay,” I said, “give me a minute.” A pause, a slug from the mini-bottle. “Okay,” I said, “let’s say he’s a vegetarian. Let’s say he’s a feminist. A Marxist, even, but like, totally willing to consider the ways in which class just might be affected by gender and race. Calls his mother twice a week and says he was raised by a strong woman, says it one-hundred-percent unironically. On the first date, tells you his favorite novel is The Golden Notebook.

“Is what?”

“Is The Bell Jar?”

“Not even a male feminist is that dumb.”

I rolled my eyes. “You know it’s actually—but okay, fine. Not The Bell Jar. And not The Awakening, either, and probably not House of Mirth because he skimmed a thing about how Edith Wharton maybe hated women and that gave him, like, a bullshit ex post facto excuse for not having read her. Okay, so that leaves us with—oh, wait, oh I’ve got it”—almost spilling bourbon in my excitement, catching myself in time—“so he makes a point of telling you his favorite poet is Adrienne Rich but he’s really only read, like, a handful of her essays in some anthology or whatever because of course he thinks poetry is like, so bourgeois, but Rich is such a great feminist he figures—”

“Wait, so is Adrienne—”


“No, wait, no”—my hands flying up—“it’s actually perfect that you don’t—but shut up now, you’ll ruin it.”

This was before Tinder. I had booked a room at a midlevel chain near Fisherman’s Wharf, an Inn of some kind, a Holiday or perhaps a Comfort, or maybe it wasn’t an Inn, maybe it was a Hilton. Honestly I don’t know, I made and canceled the reservations so many times, and always at a different chain. Then I told John that I was visiting a friend from college. That I had a job interview, two days, the company was putting me up. Girls I went to high school with were in town; a riot grrrl group was on a reunion tour; there was a speaker series whose speaker I was just dying to see. All of these things I told him only then my quote-unquote plans kept quote-unquote falling through when I lost my nerve, so many plans and so many times that I can’t remember, now, which one quote-unquote didn’t.