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I avoided DJ StrangeLove for more than two weeks.
I screened his calls, deleted his emails, ignored his text-messages.
And, for a minute, I almost felt bad.
But only for a minute.
I figured that, after a few days, he’d just give up, stop calling, and go back to taking jacuzzi baths in the middle of the day, or having large amounts of strenuous intercourse with women other than his girlfriend, or whatever else it was he did.
During that time, I saw Steph almost every day.
It was new.
It was familiar.
It was comfortable.
We watched movies, cooked dinner, made love.
Another week went by.
DJ StrangeLove wasn’t giving up. He would email me advice, unsolicited. He would ask questions about rumours he’d heard through friends.
And finally, one evening, three weeks after I’d severed all communication, I opened my apartment door, to find him standing in the hallway.
“Ian,” he deadpanned, “what the fuck?”
His timing was monumentally bad.
“Dude, I can’t talk now. I’ve got somebody coming for dinner in fifteen minutes.”
I began to sweat. It was 5:15. Steph usually got off work at a little past four, and made her way by bus to my place by 5:30.
After realizing that Steph was somebody I actually wanted to date, rather than simply a one-night-stand, I’d been living with the constant nagging fear that she would one day discover my online articles(even at one point begging The Dependent editors to take them down), and, as a result, DJ StrangeLove’s presence in my apartment when she got there wasn’t something I wasn’t particularly eager to explain.
He forced a smile.
“Really? Because I’ve got all night.”
We were silent as DJ StrangeLove entered the apartment, and, without asking, settled onto the couch. I remained standing, arms folded, affecting a tense lean against the refrigerator.
“So,” he sighed, “what’s up with you and Steph?”
“How’s it going?”
“How’s the sex?”
“That’s none of your business.”
DJ StrangeLove sat forward, his eyes flashing with anger.
“You’ve got an awful lot of attitude for a guy who’s getting laid because of me.”
I felt my cheeks flush.
“That’s not what happened. You just gave me some ideas. I took what you said, and made it my own.”
The clock on the wall read: 5:22.
Steph was due to arrive in less than ten minutes.
“I don’t want to talk about this right now,” I said, trying my damndest to control the tremor in my voice, “I need you to go. I’m expecting someone.”
He snorted derisively, leaning back against the couch.
“Yeah? Well, I’m not leaving here until we’ve sorted this out, so you better talk fast. Either that, or we can take it up with her.”
Suddenly, I felt my shoulders stiffen, and an electric rage surge through me.
“Fine. You want me to be straight with you? I’ll be straight with you: I quit.”
DJ StrangeLove sighed.
“Ian, don’t be stupid. Don’t push me out of your life because you think I’m the bad guy. Don’t act like you’re suddenly superior just because you have a girlfriend. You’re no prince. You knew what you were doing when you picked her up. Nobody put a gun to your head. I’m not stepping in the way of True Love. You just saw something familiar, and you grabbed onto it as tight as you could, because you’re fucking terrified.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, man,” I shouted, “you’re just a low-rent version of The Game.”
DJ StrangeLove leapt to his feet. When he spoke, his voice was deep and intense. Apparently, I’d touched a nerve.
“Yeah, I’ve read ‘The Game’. But, you know what? I’ve read a lot of books. Books on sales and persuasion. Books on animal behaviour. Books on criminal psychology, for Christ’s sake. I’ve been practicing this shit for years. Picking up women isn’t about lines and routines. It’s about understanding the principles behind them. Learning how to wind your timepiece doesn’t make you a watchmaker. So don’t sit there and pretend you understand my methods. You don’t understand shit. You quit now, all you’ve done is buy a nice pair of pants, and used a couple of another guy’s lines. Every pickup artist in the world uses the same principles. They just name them differently.”
“I told you, I don’t want to be a pickup artist!” I roared, ”I’ve told you that a dozen fucking times, and you never fucking listen! You want to know what you’ve taught me? All you’ve taught me is how to betray what I believe in!”
My cheeks were now hot with rage now, my heart pounding. It was all I could do not to leap across the couch and begin pounding him to death with my fists. It’s entirely possible that I would have tried (and, likely, failed, given my wholesale pugilistic ineptitude), however, at that moment, my phone rang.
We both stood, looking stupidly at it, unsure of how to proceed.
Finally, somewhat lamely, DJ StrangeLove said:
“Okay. Time Out.”
It was Steph. She was going to be ten minutes late. I conversed as pleasantly as I could manage, and, when I hung up again, DJ StrangeLove was looking at me with his hands raised in surrender.
“Ian,” he said, “I need to be honest with you for a second.”
And here, his pitch dropped. He abandoned all of the characteristic bravado and mannerisms that seemed to define him, and sounded, for the first time since we’d met, like a regular person.
“I understand why you’re doing this,” he said, quietly, “it’s the same reason I started doing it. And, I’m not going to lie to you: there are days when you’ll feel like a bad person. But, in the end, you have to put what you think of as ‘morality’ on hold. Not because it’ll get you laid, or make you more popular, but because you have to, in order to learn. You can’t learn anything, whether it’s basketball, or playing the guitar, without practice. In order to be competent at something, you have to repeat the process hundreds of times. It’s no different with this. And, potentially, you will sleep with a lot of women. Because the only way you can practice stuff like this, is to do it. There’s no simulator for this. I’ll never ask you to hook up with somebody you don’t respect. But I will ask you to open your eyes. Let go of your preconceptions about dating, sex, relationships. Say ‘yes’ to things you might’ve avoided. Because, one day, the love of your life will walk through the door. And, when she does, you’d better hope to fuck you’ve practiced enough that you don’t screw it up.”
There was a hint of regret in his voice.
“We’re more similar than you think, Ian. Hell, in my own way, I’m probably more neurotic than you are.”
His shoulders sagged.
And, in that moment, I saw in him the friendless virgin he’d been so many years before. The lonely boy who’d had no choice but to sit down and learn to socialize from a stack of books, who had, like me, watched hundreds of girls pass him by simply because he couldn’t find the right words to say.
And again, for a moment, I almost felt bad. But, at this point, he was already so far past the line, it didn’t matter. He’d shoehorned himself back into my life, despite being both unsolicited and unwanted, he’d threatened to reveal me in my own apartment. And besides, the man was so gifted in social manipulation, how could I ever trust a single word he said?
“You don’t know anything about me,” I spat, “to you, I’m this little experiment. This trophy you can laugh about with your friends. Cute little Ian with all his cute little failures. Well, fuck you.”
He stood, and I shoved him roughly toward the door.
“And fuck your System. Fuck your thumbs up, and your conversation-starters. I’m done. Now, get the fuck out of here.”
He stopped resisting as we approached the threshold.
“You’re fucking retarded,” he spat, wandering off down the hallway.
“Yeah, I think I’d give this conversation about one-and-a-half thumbs down,” I shouted after him. “Pound it.”
Then, I slammed the door, and it was the last I saw of DJ StrangeLove in a very long time.