winter(verb): YouTube Celebrity

YouTube Celebrity

Months later, in a Barnes & Noble in New Brunswick, NJ, one of my former students approaches me.

“Professor, you’re famous!” he says.

“What’s he talking about?” asks my friend.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“The YouTube video. I saw it,” says the undergraduate.

My face turns as red as the passion-fruit iced tea I’m sipping.

In my defense, my senses had been overwhelmed by Venice Beach: talented skateboarders showing off their hard-earned tricks, men dressed in head-to-toe kelly green advertising marijuana prescriptions, muscle men earning a day’s dose of self worth, hopeful salespeople peddling painted ceramic skulls and handmade hemp jewelry. Under the spell of my own dizzying fascination, I was accosted by a group of four young men with professional camera equipment.

“Do you have a second?” asked the leader of the pack, a young Korean man named Josh.

“I’m not sure,” I said, frowning at the camera pointed at me.

“Just one question. For my YouTube channel,” said Josh.

“Alright, I guess.”

What I show my friend in the Barnes and Noble, using the YouTube app on my smartphone, is the following exchange.

“So far, how many kisses have you gotten this year?” Josh asked, his arm around my shoulders, pivoting me toward the camera.

The “year” in question had only lasted two weeks.

“One, I guess,” I said, remembering a prosecco-fueled, Times-Square-ball-drop kiss in my married friends’ apartment.

“Want to make that ‘two’?” asked Josh, pulling me toward his face and planting a dry-lipped kiss before I could protest.

A perpetual “good sport,” I managed a smile for the camera.

“Make that two kisses,” I said. “I may have found my soul mate.”

My friend and I watch the rest of the video: a montage of Josh kissing women with varying degrees of willingness.

“Well, that’s it – I’m famous,” I say to my friend in the bookstore, hoping that no one else will recognize me. I sit for a moment, remembering the sun setting on that 65-degree evening. When the cameraman had finally pointed the camera toward the ground, I felt like I could stop acting.

“How long you visiting?” asked Josh.

“How did you know?”

“You look dazzled,” he said. “And you’re wearing a scarf.”

“I’ve been cold for too long,” I said. “I just landed a few hours ago. From New Jersey.”

The winter had been particularly brutal, with sub-zero winds numbing my entire body as I had stood waiting for trains and shoveling my car out of colossal snow drifts. Sometimes, when I had finally been able to enter a heated building or my apartment, I worried that the feeling would never return. But it always did.

“Stay here with me, soul mate. You don’t have to go back,” he said.

“I have a dinner reservation,” I said, walking away.

He gave me his phone number, but I couldn’t bear to tell him that I had already purchased my return flight.



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