In Real Life
David was smart, charismatic, and weird, everything about his online persona suggested we would make for great IRL friends. This is a chronicle of a friendship I lost to his pursuits of internet fame.
When I get the text about the party, I’m wearing my pajamas. I don’t really go to these sorts of events because I’m not that popular on the internet, something I’ve accepted and something that doesn’t usually worry me too much, but this is an exception. The details are relatively ambiguous –the party is in Chelsea, it’s at a popular gallery, it’s sponsored by Guess. A lot of artists will be there, there’s an open bar, a model-DJ that I’ve heard of before … It will be, according to the text, “very lit.” I’ll even be on the list. Do I want to come through?
This is the scene the first time I meet David in real life.
When I find him in the crowd, he kisses me on the cheek. We both lean in, our arms stuck like Gumby in a strange position at our sides. I notice his cologne. Just like his online persona, it communicates something about him –intelligent, rich, young, pretty, a little weird. Fifty percent Marilyn, thirty percent James Dean, and the rest is all John Waters. I know he likes these sort of things –we’ve been mutuals on the web for months. I’m taken in by him, and it’s difficult not to be. Ever since I discovered his web presence I’ve wanted to be his friend, to be a part of everything he represents. After we say our names, clarify our handles, dust off a few throwaway comments about our mutual followers, he takes me all around his party and says to everyone we meet: “This is my friend, we met on the internet.”
We spend hours going from place to place. At first, I feel special. He introduces me to his closest friends, people I’ve only seen on Instagram or in magazines. They are glittering and beautiful, like bobble heads lined up on a dashboard. I want to touch them, they way I touch fine fabric or beautifully made art. They’re like cartoons, surreal and astounding to be next to. Everyone wants their photograph, and everyone cares what they have to say. David stops every so often to get his photo taken – it’s his work, and it’s going to be in the press, and it’s kind of a big deal. Or at least that’s what he tells me, about fifteen times before I start to have my doubts. It’s hard to dismiss his claims, though, with all these fans milling about, begging to have their photo taken next to him. Begging to have just one moment by his side. I’m living it vicariously. Standing next to him is like being a part of something you see in a movie. A girl wearing an Yves Saint Laurent coat stops me on my way out to have a cigarette. She says “You’re so cool,” and when I make eye contact with David, I decide that she’s right. I find myself talking to a lot of strangers. Why, yes, I am an artist. Yes, I love New York. Of course, I go to these things all the time. I know, it is so weird that we’ve never seen each other. Do you follow me on the internet?
At the after-party I spend a lot of time looking for David. When I find him, he’s backed into a corner. He’s different somehow, the shine dulled in different light. He can’t find his cellphone or his boyfriend anywhere, he says, and he then he mumbles something that gets drowned out by loud, pulsing music. He’s had too much to drink. He’s looking around but never looking at me, searching for something that makes me feel kind of anxious. I find myself looking, too, even though I’m not sure at what. He stops every once in awhile to say “Oh my god, can you believe so-and-so is here? So-and-so is so annoying.” I don’t know anyone at the party but him.