In Love With an Anarchist

by Adalena Kavanagh

I was in love with an anarchist.

He gave me a list and directions to an underground bookstore in the East Village so I could learn how to be an anarchist, too. I bought the books but I didn’t read them; I thought I could fake it–being an anarchist. It didn’t seem hard to do.

My anarchist was looking for a squat in Alphabet City and while he talked to a wired man with a shaved head about stealing electricity from ConEd, I tried to pretend I thought this was normal and that I wasn’t scared of the muscular dog wearing a thick chain around its neck.

My anarchist was a junkie. He said when you get out of rehab you have to find new friends; you have to start over again.

My anarchist said he just needed fifty dollars to get the latest print of his documentary film developed; did I want to buy his bike?

The day we sat on the grass in Tompkins Sq. park to practice our breathing a rat ran across and I jumped up shrieking, shattering the illusion that I was the kind of girl who wanted to work on her breathing.

When I went back to school my anarchist told me he met a Russian Princess. He said his mother was crazy because she grew up under Stalin. I said my mother was crazy all on her own.

My anarchist told me to buy my pots at the Goodwill—as if I needed lessons on how to be poor.

I used a baby voice all summer to coax people into completing telephone surveys about things like boxers vs. briefs. I got five dollars an hour plus commission, but if your survey on pornography is more than twenty questions long, forget about that commission.

When all I had was rice and beans my mother deposited ten dollars in my bank account. It took her two and a half dresses worth of labor to earn that ten dollars.

My anarchist said I sounded lugubrious. After we hung up I looked up lugubrious in the dictionary. I thought I’d sounded happy.

The next time I called I heard the disconnection notice. After five confused minutes it sounded like a mantra.

Outside the Strand, next to the dollar books, a patrician homeless poet pinned me with swimmy eyes behind cracked lenses. He’d been a librarian at UVA until his wife cracked up and went to Richmond and danced naked in a fountain. He said my anarchist owed him money, did I know where he was? The patrician poet asked for my address so he could send me poems. I gave him a dollar for stamps.

To save subway fare my anarchist used to walk home across the Williamsburg Bridge. The only time I visited him in Brooklyn he wanted to give me dinner so we walked up Bedford Ave. past Metropolitan, the chlorine from the new pool a clean sting in our noses. We turned right toward the water and stopped in front of a warehouse. He shouted until a man looked out a window and my anarchist asked for his $5. The man looked at my anarchist for a long time before going back inside. When he came back he lowered a bucket with a soft wrinkled five-dollar bill weighed down with a broken brick.

We had bodega fettuccini alfredo—noodles with milk and cheese from a can. He played his guitar. I banged a wooden spoon against a tin pot. He said we should form a band.

My anarchist worried about turning 30 (I was nineteen). He said he had to get his life together, but then a man in an orange robe, walking down Avenue A, anointed my anarchist with hash resin and said, “now you’re clean”. My anarchist thought it was a sign, like he forgot what irony was.

After five months absence my anarchist finally called.

He said he got strung out on dope with the Russian Princess. His mother wired him money to take a bus to Milwaukee, to rehab, to get straight.

My anarchist said don’t worry this isn’t goodbye; he said don’t worry, I’ll write, but my mailbox said otherwise, and time says:

how lucky to be forgotten


Adalena Kavanagh is a writer living in Brooklyn. She has published interviews, essays and fiction in various publications, including Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Gigantic, and The Golden Key.