Joyland

New York |

The Vampire and Jesse Eisenberg

by mj corey

edited by Emily Schultz

In college I wrote about the Female Vampire in Gothic Literature. Sadly, Twilight — that surreal era when Kristen Stewart pretended to be straight — ruined any chance of hipster cred for vampires in America. I get it; I don’t like nerds who masturbate to their own fan fiction either (even though I ought to, on principle, because such nerds are earnest).

In millennial Brooklyn, the chosen monsters are witches. Trendy girls call themselves witches in hashtags, wear black dresses and lipstick, and get tattoos of Wiccan symbols on their forearms. To appropriate a historically deviant woman is referential and feels vaguely feminist, which is fulfilling for twenty-something American girls who’ve been socialized since birth to feel stupid. Even more important than the aesthetic value: witches are pagan, and pagan is edgy; pagan is void of most emotions, and emotions are embarrassing.

But if you pay attention to what scholars say, female vampires are, if uncool, at least promise-keepers. They pick their person, take the blood, and endure eternally (or till freaked out humans stake them for good). “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one forever,” Carmilla, the doomed lesbian vampire, told Laura, her beloved, bewildered mortal, in 1872.

* * *

I’d already made it to the roof when I doubled over in pain. Clutching my womb, I peered over the ledge to watch my friend Annsley climb the ladder attached to the side of my building. “Why’s this happening? It’s not due to come yet,” I moaned.

“The blood moon,” she offered, hopping up to my side. “It’s making us all bleed.”

“I guess that’s why women are beautiful,” I sighed, straightening out. “How our cycles are entwined with the moon, or whatever.”

“It is cool,” Annsley said. “There’s nothing that connects males to the universe like that. I read a book about it once.”

“Really?”

We sat beneath a cloudless sky and kicked our legs over the side of the building.

“Yes. It was about bulimia. It was called Eating in the Light of the Moon.”

“Oh,” I replied, trying to imagine how the moon could matter to bulimia.

“It was actually very good,” she said. “It sounds corny. The cover was corny. But it was extremely well-written.”

I nodded. I didn’t doubt that the corny book could offer merit. Then we leaned forward to observe all the small strangers down on the sidewalk as they walked to and from the train. Annsley, a generous friend, keeps me company these days.

* * *

A while ago, during a furtive midnight phone call that rendered me a monster, I stared up at a bloodless moon, device to my cheek, and instructed the Phlebotomist, my dark-eyed first love, to “get into” David Lynch’s 1990 classic, Twin Peaks. I liked envisioning my truest heartbreaker stuck alone in her Brooklyn apartment with Netflix, being exposed to a show so spiritual and transforming while I was off in another borough enjoying it nightly with a sad-eyed new love, who was an Angel (the type who whispers everything is fine at night, in a chant, when she accurately senses you are scared, until you get to sleep).

I think I also wanted to prove to Phlebotomist that I possessed newly hip taste in television. I’m not the corny earnest human anymore, who was so easy to dropkick to the curb. I may even start posting unfiltered Instagram pictures of myself making unflattering facial expressions.

* * *

Twenty-five-year-olds in 2015 love shit from the ’90s. I hate a lot of the people I went to college with; I’ve ended up in the same city as most of them. They were white and malnourished, and wore intentionally ripped T-shirts bearing the faces of their favorite ’90s rappers. An especially offensive outcome of their cultivated cynicism was how the wealthy hipster girls wearing two-dollar flannels bullied my wide-eyed best friend, C-, by sending her Facebook messages ridiculing how she, earnest and uncool, always sloppily tried to sleep with the primo pretty boys of our cutthroat campus. I wonder if it later endowed my truest friend with cred that she wound up dying in an authentically ’90s way, a needle in her arm. Do they respect her now, in spite of her hearty laugh, which both trademarked and condemned her?

One way or another, all my loves have gone, and I fear the only way for me to survive is to become ironic and unfeeling in Brooklyn too.

* * *

The day before the moon, sweating in the subway, I noticed a movie poster featuring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart standing in front of our country’s flag: American Ultra. They both looked like women in it because Jesse Eisenberg’s hair fell past his angular chin.

Hope speared me — an escape from this life of human homosexual torment, pictured here as it peels from rusting tiles! I have managed to sexualize a simple man! I won’t have to enter one more cavernous lesbian bar and choke on revulsion at the thought of trying to replace the beloved bewildered women I still cannot recover from! I don’t need to become supernatural to break free, I realized; I just need to become Jesse Eisenberg’s girlfriend!

So I dragged Annsley to the movie American Ultra, probably the only lesbian in New York enticed to buy a ticket because of Jesse Eisenberg instead of Kristen Stewart. The monsters in this movie were government brainwashed human-robot killers. It was hot to watch long-haired Jesse Eisenberg doing kung fu. But we had to vacate the theater early because the fire alarm went off without explanation.

I liked what I’d seen. It was an intelligent, exciting movie, and much later on, when I discovered how unpopular it’d been in the box office, I was angry at my stupid generation all over again.

“Jesse Eisenberg is hot,” I told Annsley, as our confused herd filed out of the theater.

“Is he your exception?” she asked. “I thought Steve Buscemi is your exception.”

I appreciated the insight. Moments of friendship like this remind me that I am not living in a Gothic novella; in fact, there are very sincere people remaining on the planet.

“I’ve replaced Steve with Jamie.”

“You mean Jesse,” she said.

“Yes.”

“So you want him to mount you?” she asked.

I gagged.

“That’s what you need to take into account when you say you’re attracted to a guy,” she explained.

* * *

I reluctantly understand that mortals can’t sustain promises of Forever. An undead woman committed to eternity will eventually, invariably, find text messages to a sidechick named Julie, or will notice, too late, that there are no longer heart-stopping pings coming from her Gchat. Just as humans can’t help but die, so too do their vows.

* * *

I locked my bedroom door when I arrived home, and, in the dark, googled pictures of Jesse Eisenberg.

Hot when he’s the twisted villain in Batman V. Superman.

Not hot when he’s bald.

Not hot when he is regular.

Hot when his hair is at his shoulders and looks dirty.

I am impressed that he wrote a book.

I am impressed by his insights in this interview with NPR.

Was hot in the movie because he demonstrated self-hating mannerisms — veering eye contact, twitches, and speaking stiltedly. I realized I only liked him because he oddly reminded me of Angel, who also had a soft voice and nervous eyes.

Not even bisexual tendencies, I concluded morosely, closing my computer, expecting no semblance of sleep because she was not at my side to use her old spell.

Everything is fine, everything is fine, everything is fine.

* * *

For the Super Blood Moon I went to a party in Bed-Stuy, wearing a wifebeater and a weird black choker that would justify my presence there. In Brooklyn, to go to the good parties, you must dress as a reference. The preferred costumes are witches, schizophrenic grandmas, or Kylie Jenner whenever the nervous breakdown happens and her offensive ghetto-chic goes fully haywire.

There was no costuming in the promises we made. (Tattoos imply permanence, so I even signed my love into my flesh, figuring that even though, yes, it’s true, flesh eventually dies, you would still get the gist of it, the gist being Forever).

My cramps hit me again, in the middle of the cluttered party. I doubled over. At the same moment, so struck my realization: I can’t put my arms around a ghost. (That was a reference! To a song from 2006 which seems to be written about us, though you never gave me the chance to play it for you) Imagine the utopia in which I am a vampire, ice-blooded and beautiful. You, a ghost, I simply can’t drink from; I won’t need you.

(I’m lying to myself. What I really like about the idea: if I were a vampire, my skin, covered in promises to you, could never rot.)

* * *

There was a winding bathroom line. I didn’t see any witches yet, only grandmas and Kylies. A girl in khaki overalls, her colorless hair thrown into ratty pigtails. Another girl wearing a vintage Tommy Hilfiger tube top, a delicate gold chain around her fragile stomach, and a long black skirt. There was a white girl with cornrows, bright blue glitter eye shadow, and pallid shoulder bones like spikes. I wondered when was the last time any of them had cried.

I took slow steps down a spiral staircase. The basement was lightless and I saw silhouettes moving in the dark. Here the witches were. Candles were lit, Drake was playing, and an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was mutedly running on the flat screen. The people down here surprised me because they were dancing. They were flailing around, being ironic about how they were bad at dancing to rap; but still, they were dancing.

There was a girl swaying with extra exaggeration and a blank expression, her dark hair hanging in her face past her shoulders. She was wearing a long-sleeved, black velvet dress and platform boots with straps up to the knees.

“Your aesthetic suggests that you might be able to help me,” I told her.

“Okay,” she said.

“Do you know spells?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Can we go somewhere?”

She pointed to a door on the other side of the room, which was closed but the edges around it were aglow from the light inside.

* * *

It looked like a dorm room. A twin bed was covered in dirty laundry. The walls were white and bare. The desk, whoever’s it was, was covered in Con-Ed bills and zines about performance art. In the light, I saw that the young witch had acne scars. She sat at the desk and began cutting lines of cocaine on a framed family picture. She had pointy black acrylic nails and the letters “FBGM” tattooed across her knuckles. We could hear “Hotline Bling” playing on the other side of the door.

“Fuckin Drake,” she laughed, as though she knew him.

“Do you have any spells that can turn me straight?” I asked. “I want to be free of women and heartbreak. I want Jamie Eisenberg to be my boyfriend.”

“You mean Jesse Eisenberg?”

I nodded. She became solemn. “Spells are tricky things. I’ll do what I can.”

I decided that based on her slight accent she was likely from the southern California area. After the coke, she stood, took my shoulders, and laid me down on the twin bed, right on top of the pile of clothes.

“You wanna be straight,” the witch announced, straddling me. I would have been open to making out if she went for it, but instead she glanced around the room. She caught sight of a mug that was sitting on the nightstand next to us, took it, and dumped its watery, ashy contents onto my face.

“Be straight,” she commanded. “You like guys now. The blood moon will transform you. You’re free. Fuck those other bitches.”

“Thanks,” I said.

I went home because dirty water had been dumped onto my face.

* * *

Slouched on my roof, I watched the swollen moon change from white to black to the blood red that had been promised to us by the news. I turned my back on the beauty to face the skyline, where I couldn’t ignore the precariously tall, starry-bright building the Phlebotomist works in every day, and above it I saw the infinite sky where somewhere hopefully resides my old best friend who was too earnest to survive, and I saw all of the black space around me, where no angel was whispering that everything was fine.

* * *

When I woke up in my bed, I was no longer alone. Jesse Eisenberg was shirtless beside me, his eyes lovely and sad!

“Good morning,” he murmured, tucking some of his tangled hair behind his ear. “You’re free now. She was a real Brooklyn witch.”

“Wow,” I breathed. “It wasn’t just for Instagram.” I rolled to my side to take in the angles of his pretty face. He crookedly smiled back at me. What now? I wondered. Then I realized that the sheets were sticky.

“What’s that?” he asked.

We lifted the covers together and peeked beneath them. Blood was seeping through my white Urban Outfitters sheets. My period had arrived two weeks early.

“I have to go,” he said. His famous face, I realized, was contorting with disgust. “Sorry.” He hopped out of bed, threw khakis on over his red-spattered briefs, and hurried to my door, which he then considerately closed with a slow click.

* * *

What now? The news says this won’t happen again for eighteen years. So I wear the sweaters she left behind, and I read the books she recommended that I swore I’d never open, and I sleep upright, walking dead while alive through this city. I feel strange about my skin, which scars, wrinkles, and wears by the day, and I wonder if, by 2033, the time passed will have brought me nearer to her, or if it’ll age me even further away.