"Hey look, 'Live Girls.'" I point to the sign on the side of the strip club as our streetcar makes a left turn.
"Oh. Oh, good," says Emily, grinning. "I'm glad they're live."
"Alive and well," I assure her.
"Necrophiliacs must get so offended when they see those signs."
We get off the streetcar and start walking up the hill near Emily's house. As we approach, I tell her that from now on, I'm only going to make friends with people who live at the bottom of hills. "You can still be my friend, but only because I just made up the rule now and it wouldn't be fair." It's raining.
"I forgot my keys," she says to me over the sound of the rain, "but my housemate is home. I think."
"One can only hope."
She knocks on her door and for a minute it looks like we'll be spending a few hours at Starbucks, but her housemate answers. We've met a couple times before and I don't remember her name but I feel I should, so I can't ask. I'm hoping that Emily will say it but she doesn't.
"You guys are drenched," she says around a toothbrush.
"Judi Drenched," I say.
"Dame Judi Drenched," corrects Emily.
"Yeah, we're Dame Judi Drenched."
"I always think Judi Dench is the chick from Wizard of Oz."
I look at the housemate with no name. "That's Ju-"
"I know it's Judy Garland, I'm just saying, I mix them up."
I nod quietly and look around for Emily, who is filling the kettle in the kitchen. On the table is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I slump into a chair and stare at the book for a bit while Emily enjoys the "home at last" feeling, even though she was here just yesterday.
"Ever notice how Haruki Murakami hates blowjobs?"
She looks at me and her mouth shifts to the side like she's slightly amused but doesn't know how to answer me.
"If you read enough of his books you can learn a lot about the guy. I've read at least eight of them. There are things you notice after a while; things the protagonists all have in common. That's the most obvious one."
"So you think Haruki Murakami hates blowjobs, just because all his characters do?"
"Not exactly. I mean..." I think about it for a second. It's not a polished thesis yet. "Maybe some of them liked it, but you still get the feeling they aren't impressed or satisfied with them. It's just weird."
"Maybe he never got a good one and doesn't see why guys make a big deal about it."
"It's funny, because it's not even the protagonist every time. Sometimes there's a girl who's dating someone and complains that she really likes giving them, but her boyfriend hates it. It always makes its way into the book, somehow. You can also tell that he's... I don't want to say 'rapey,' but none of his characters have much self-control with women. And they all love girls' ears."
Emily gets up and stares at the kettle, which hasn't boiled but is trying its best. "Ears are cool."
"Yeah, ears are pretty good." I fold my arms on the table and rest my chin on them, hoping the tea is ready before I fall asleep right there. "I like Dance Dance Dance the best, but I think it's only because I read that one first. I'm almost positive this one's a better book." Staring at the book again. "But there's no way to know, because of nostalgia or whatever. I should've read them all at once so I could tell which one I liked best, objectively."
The tea is being made. Emily sits across from me and put two empty mugs on the table along with the teapot. Then she mimics my crossed-arm-chinrest posture. Usually she's the one who talks on and on but this morning I feel like there are things to say, so we switch roles for a change. It's like that sometimes. The mugs are way bigger than mine, and I feel slightly jealous. Getting bigger mugs is something I think about every morning, but I'm all about efficiency so I don't want to go out specifically to buy new mugs. I have to wait for the opportunity to come up while I'm out for some other reason, and of course I forget whenever that happens.
"Asian girls in porn always seem pretty bad at blowjobs though," Emily notes.
I thought we were done with that discussion but apparently not. "You're right, it must be a cultural thing." She nods, then pours a cup of tea. Now we're done. I do likewise.
"I think I'm in love with a webcam girl," I confess lightly, while we're on the subject of porn. I'm not embarrassed about it; I think it's pretty funny, in fact.
"Haha, what? That's our generation's version of falling in love with a stripper."
"They are strippers. But it's different." At least, I think it is. She's trying not to laugh, but it looks like she could try harder. "There's a chat, so they can talk to the guys that are watching."
"And jerking off to her."
"That's besides the point," I say, casually brushing that comment aside. "Most of them are just strippers, yeah. Fine. But there are a lot of girls who just hang out chatting, doing whatever, and the nudity is... incidental. I saw this one girl who did the laundry for an hour, fully clothed, while 400 guys watched her and joked around with her. This one had on music from Sonic the Hedgehog when I found her. So I fell in love."
"But you don't know anything about her. You're delusional."
"I know she likes Sonic. And she has a blog," I retort. "And a Twitter. I actually know more about her than most people I know online. We've got a lot in common."
"Yeah, you sound like a stalker."
I sigh. "I know. The internet makes it too easy. She doesn't know me, either. There are a few guys in the chatroom that she talks to every day, but most of the others, she just sort of acknowledges. It's an interesting social dynamic. I wonder if she sees them as actual friends."
"And you wish you were one of those guys."
"No, it's not even that. I'm happy with just being-" I could finish the sentence with "a stalker" but that's not where I was going. "With just being around."
"You're a freak."
"Yeah." We drink our tea. I glance very quickly at my friend's wet cleavage without her noticing, look away with a vague sense of shame, and stand up to put my mug in the sink.