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I’m Such a Slut and I Don’t Give a Fuck

Story by Jen Michalski (Read author interview) August 7, 2017

Art by Vladimir Agafonkin

Hello, Spokane. You peer into the darkness. You could play your first album in your sleep, but you start with the new stuff. You didn’t promise anyone anything—even Brian Wilson doesn’t sing about t-shirts, cut-offs, and a pair of thongs anymore. Does he?

They haven’t come for you. They came for 1994, when you and all those other bands were kinda famous. They came to remember how uncomplicated their lives were, full of promise, because promise is light as air, before it becomes a real thing, rocks in their pockets, in their shoes, so much of what they thought they wanted, doctorates, marriage, children, mortgages, now weighing them down.

Your new songs are in different keys, not bar chords (in your time away, you actually learned how to play the damn guitar). They’re about different things, too. About your brother dying and about the drunk kids who come into the diner after the bars close and think it’s funny that you were that chick on MTV (they’ve seen YouTube videos) and somehow it’s justification not to tip you or (in their more brilliant moments of sophomoric fuckery) write I’M SUCH A SLUT AND I DON’T GIVE A FUCK on the tip line of the check instead.

Your songs are also about how, after thirty, thirty-five, forty, there is so. much. loss. Your childhood home. Your cats. Your parents. Your coworkers. Your marriage. Your meniscus. Your hearing. All those things that no one wants to hear about—they paid thirty clams to escape those things, to hear I’M SUCH A SLUT AND I DON’T GIVE A FUCK and you haven’t even included the song on the set list but you know you’ll have to give in before the end of the night and not just because of that guy right in front, wearing a vintage TAMPONS t-shirt who’s been yelling it since you stepped onstage but because that’s what they’re all here for. Even you. You came for 1994, too.

Nobody goes in this thinking they’ll do it forever. When you were up here, twenty years ago, yelling into a microphone that you’re high or that you’re going burn it all down, you did think that, were that, then, but now you have a lump in your breast you can’t afford to have checked out and here you are, singing onstage to 200 people, 1800 fewer than in your heyday, because you have other bills to pay, like your student loans (fucking still), your rent, and what were you thinking? You make so much more waiting tables. Was it your ego? Did you have something to prove?

I got old, you say after the smatter of claps for the new song.

Even though it feels like a funeral up here you have to surrender to it, your opus and your curse, and during the second encore you take a breath and strum those chords, strum them like you did in your off-campus house in 1992 that you shared with five other people and two dogs—Jerry Garcia and Smegma—when it was all stoopid and fun, you were so high, just writing songs for each other. You and your girlfriends taped it on your boyfriend’s four-track so you could play it again later, for a laugh. You had ne’er a thought about the things that would come to define you.

You are not a slut. You give a fuck. About the three times you miscarried, how you were diagnosed with diabetes. You give a fuck about your brother’s brain cancer, and how in the end in hospice he looked like a folded-up lawn chair in the bed. He wore a diaper and didn’t know who you were. He died in the thirty-minute interval you’d fallen asleep in the vinyl recliner next to his bed, after you’d bent over him for ten hours, feeding him ice chips, telling him it was okay to let go and his eyes had that mottled, wet, cloudy look that old people have, not forty-year-olds. You give a fuck that you haven’t saved for retirement, that you haven’t found the one, that you have lost your taste for refined sugar.

I’M SUCH A SLUT AND I DON’T GIVE A FUCK. You close your eyes, and you remember the oily smell of hashish and the dusty patchouli incense and the dog hair that covered the Guatemalan blankets that covered the burn holes and cum stains on the couch in the off-campus house, and you remember a little of who you were then. It wasn’t all that bad. You never see those people now, you never go to reunion, but you felt so alive. Like something you did could actually matter.

You want to be that cautionary tale to that sixteen-year-old girl with her own band, MAXIs, who snuck in, and explain to her that it’s not worth it, it’s fleeting, it’s an illusion of control, like building Los Angeles thirty miles from the San Andreas fault. Nothing is forever, you want to point at her in the back and yell, not my tits, not my ass, not anything.

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Notes from Guest Reader Sequoia Nagamatsu

First, I was both intrigued and skeptical of the provocative title. Oftentimes, when I see titles like this, there’s a lot of flash and grit but not a lot under the surface. But I was very quickly pulled in by the prose, the nostalgic setting of this comeback concert of a long washed-up and now thoroughly adult rock star who has moved well beyond a fan favorite song. This story holds the energy of a crowded venue but zooms beyond the moment and into the heart of the most poignant VH1 Behind the Music segment within a few paragraphs. The more I read this piece, the more I want to inhabit the stages of the narrator’s life and the more I appreciate the weight of the title song.

About the Author

Jen Michalski is the author of the novels The Tide King (Black Lawrence Press), The Summer She Was Under Water (Queens Ferry Press), a couplet of novellas Could You Be With Her Now (Dzanc), and two collections of fiction. She’s editor in chief of jmww Journal and host of Starts Here! reading series.

About the Artist

Vladimir Agafonkin is a photographer, musician, and web developer in Kiev, Ukraine. Photograph  via Flickr/Creative Commons

This story appeared in Issue Fifty-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-Seven
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021!

This competition is no longer accepting entries. The long- and shortlists have been published on the blog. The four winners of the competition will be featured in Issue 74 of SmokeLong Quarterly coming out near the end of December.