My Life as the Reincarnation of Dorothy Parker

by Talita Valle

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1993, and I am the reincarnation of
Dorothy Parker. I know because when I was eight years old I dressed up as her
for Carnival. I wore my grandpa’s patent leather shoes, a Snow White dress, and
purple fake eyelashes. It’s not easy, let me tell you – I was born with the ego of
the wittiest woman in New York and the social skills of a pale little girl with the
depressive gene, in post-dictatorship Rio. I was nervous of the ocean, and
ingrained with the impulse to arrange my social life around tables – therefore my
prepubescent years were spent away in after-school excursions to the
McDonald’s at the mall.

And the 2000s were the golden age of malls. There was then a kind of violent
anti-aesthetic to them that no person under 30 can now claim to not feel
nostalgic for, a kind of black hole for all of the world’s banality. They weren’t sad
in the way of a “sleazy cafe”, of the kind of place you could go to when you were
feeling sleazy – when you were angry and proud about it the way 12 year olds are
meant to. By the time I rolled around, there weren’t any “sleazy cafes” left in Rio’s
South Zone. There were overpriced juice bars with squeaky clean orange seats
and walls lined with posters of dragon fruit, and there were touristy seafood
restaurants by the beach that served draught beer and prawns. And there were
malls. I was the reincarnation of Dorothy Parker and spent every afternoon after
school sat on the floor of McDonald’s, moodily colouring in the activity sheet
that’d come with my Happy Meal. I was trying to scandalize and entertain.
Whatever random group of friends I had latched onto that day, I referred to them
as “my adorable weirdos”. I got into a habit of sucking on straws as if they were
cigarettes, then blowing the hot air upwards as I leant back, a gesture of
deliberate contemplation I cherished as my trademark. Everyone else thought it
was a worrying thing for a sixth grader to be doing.

We went to the movies sometimes, and threw popcorn on people and made dirty
jokes out loud, which I thought was all in prime society-defiant, satirical fashion. I
was desperate to be witty, and thought being witty meant referencing French
movies. Sometimes I’d march through the food court yelling “New York Herald
Tribune!” – that was usually the highlight of my month.

Or I’d sigh and mutter “Les temps sont durs pour les rêveurs”, and drag on my
straw.

It was around that time that I first saw Dudu, drinking alcohol out of a Coke bottle
at a school dance. I was 12, he was 16, wearing a T-shirt striped red-and-white
and the kind of haircut they’d give someone in a 1980s indie film if they were
trying to make him the relatable teen lead – supposedly uncool, but in a
universally appealing way bound to get copied by a generation. Dudu seemed
boyish only in a Platonic sense, evocative of the ideal, ultimate youth, with just
enough flaws to make him completely perfect. He had flaws like slightly too big
ears and a ripped knee on his jeans. He was the first boy I’d ever seen kiss
another boy, which at the time only made him more fabulous to me. For over a
year I just enjoyed watching him, watching him smoke at the school gate,
watching him read Harvey Milk’s biography when everyone else was in gym
class, because he was one of those kids who just didn’t do gym class, watching
him be a part of the walking mass of generalised merriment that were his friends, augh and hug them and jump on their backs and squeeze their butts and kisstheir lips all in good fun.

I actually called them “the Bohemian crowd” (for I am the reincarnation of Dorothy
Parker) – the green-haired kids that always had Friday night plans. My friend Gabi
had been out with them a couple of times, but was dismissive at best and vague
at worst when I asked her anything about it. “I know, you think they go around
discussing philosophy in dark alleys,” she said. I did think something along those
lines. I figured “going out” meant for them poetry slams and cleverly themed
costume parties – a French Revolution party, maybe, or a Beat Generation one.
Gabi told me they mostly got drunk on tequila shots and danced to Panic! at the
Disco, sometimes ironically but that was it. I was a bit disillusioned but Dudu
didn’t stop being fascinating to me.

One day I just added him on MSN Messenger on a whim, fretted for a few
minutes over how I was going to introduce myself, and attacked when he came
online with what was about to become known as “my pick-up line”: “Hey, do you
have a good recipe for churros?” Our online conversations never lasted long –
mostly, they were a manic back-and-forth of nonsensical literary exercises that
we both felt insecure about being able to pull off, and there is only so much time
one can spend engrossed in that.

dudu says:
Homeopathy works. My mother takes it and has been the light and joy of our
household for over twenty years.

my new haircut makes me look like jean seberg says:
Smuggling sucrose pills into the cupboard at age three. It’s pitch black. They melt
on my tongue the way cheap chocolate truffles always promised to but never did.

dudu says:
I believe in cheap chocolate truffles. I wish my shampoo smelt of them.

my new haircut makes me look like jean seberg says:
I’d only ever take two or three pills at a time. Fear eating me from below as
sweetness did from above.

I was undeniably in love. At school we never talked – but we nodded and smiled
knowingly whenever we walked past each other, and that alone made me feel
like I already belonged in his life more than I’d ever thought I was worthy of.

dudu says:
I suggest a bustling shared life for us. Wearing identical bowler hats, asking each
other for book tips. And peppermint tea! Do you like peppermint tea?

my new haircut makes me look like jean seberg says:
I love peppermint tea.

We met the next day in front of the school gate. Gabi came with us, and we sat in
a McCafé for an hour or two as she and Dudu idly filled the silence by throwing
in-jokes at each other about their mutual friends. I laughed and sucked on my
water straw and blew out hot air. “I love your outfit,” was just about the only thing
Dudu said directly at me – his voice was higher and feebler than it’d seemed before, when I’d only ever heard him speak in enthusing interjections as part of
the Bohemian crowd.

Gabi’s bus arrived before his, so we sat quietly at the bus stop; we spent a
moment synchronizing the dangling of our legs to each other’s, we giggled, we
didn’t raise our eyes from our feet. When his bus arrived he handed me a 25 cent
coin. “Here’s 25 cents for you, you deserve it.” I smiled a bit too widely at that.
How quirky and delightful of him to pay me 25 cents for my time. High times we
were living in. I was the reincarnation of Dorothy Parker. I was so uncomfortable
in my skin.

Dudu stopped coming to school a few weeks after that. I asked Gabi if she knew
what’d happened; she laughed nervously, muttering he was a just a weirdo. For
nearly a month he didn’t even show up online. When he finally did, I messaged
him immediately, asking bluntly “Why haven’t you been at school? Are you ok?”
That was the most personal thing I had ever said to him.

dudu says:
I got upset.

I don’t know exactly what he meant. I didn’t press him further. But that evening I
sat on my bed feeling defeated, and truly world-weary for the first time I can
remember – as opposed to the half-smile during Christmas dinner, texting my
friends under the table kind of world-weariness I had known until then.

why must one talk? says:
Hey do you want to get some coffee this weekend?

dudu says:
No I’m an idiot idiot idiot and he fell with the wind.

why must one talk? says:
You know, that gets tiring.

dudu says:
What does? Me being an idiot?

why must one talk? says:
No, the “he fell with the wind” bit.

dudu says:
I agree!

I told him I loved him once. I said “I love you, dammit” because I thought that was
the least embarrassing way there was to say I love you, at least to someone I
knew was gay. Then I said, “Sorry.”

I can’t remember the last time we talked. The whole thing just ended up fading
away within a few weeks, in the same inconspicuous way it had started. Those
were difficult times for dreamers.

There was also my friend Rodrigo, whom I smoked oregano cigarettes with and
whom I taught how to behave in bookshops (“If you pull a book off the shelf, you
have to spend a long time flicking through it. At least five minutes. You don’t want people to think you’re just picking books at random because of their funny titles,do you?”). He was the reincarnation of Oscar Wilde – so we had our differences.

There was Olivia who told me I would never make any real friends if I was just
trying to be witty all the time. She took me to a jugglers’ convention and offered
me ecstasy. I was 12. It was out of my comfort zone. What was in my comfort
zone was loving Hemingway as if I had hormones and people-watching at
McCafé – mostly middle-aged receptionists on their lunch break, sometimes they
talked about sex though.

I came out of my childhood as the reincarnation of Dorothy Parker a socially
anxious, borderline misanthrope terror. Any progress in this lifetime has been
slow and inconsistent, but there has been some: I can finally cook for myself. I
am now bored of wisecracker types and prefer long earnest conversations about
feelings, but I still pine after the little house in the country with the blue shutters, it
might happen this time around. I might finally get some rest. I’m so tired.


TalitaTalita Valle is a 21-year-old nursery teacher and aspiring-aspiring-writer currently based in Buckinghamshire, England. She writes the zine Other People’s Shit, curating everything and anything related to miseries that are not her own.

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