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THE RULES OF ATTRACTION
BRET EASTON ELLIS
'COMPELLING . . . AND SYMPATHETIC TO HIS "LOST GENERATION" THE WAY ONLY FITZGERALD WAS ABOUT HIS'
BRET EASTON ELLIS SHOT TO FAME WITH HIS FIRST NOVEL, LESS THAN ZERO, WRITTEN WHEN HE WAS TWENTY YEARS OLD. THE RULES OF ATTRACTION IS HIS SECOND, A COMPELLING AND CONTROVERSIAL TALE OF STUDENT SEX AND ROMANTIC ENTANGLEMENTS ON A NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE CAMPUS.
LAUREN, WHO CHANGES HER COURSE SUBJECT EVERY TIME SHE CHANGES HER SLEEPING PARTNER, IS THE CENTRE OF A CURIOUS LOVE TRIANGLE WHICH INVOLVES THE SHREWD AND PASSIONATE BISEXUAL PAUL, AND SEAN WHOSE AMBIVALENCE AND CYNICISM CONCEAL — EVEN FROM HIMSELF — HIS OWN ROMANTIC YEARNINGS.
THROUGH EACH OF THE CHARACTERS' VOICES ELLIS PRESENTS A KALEIDOSCOPIC VIEW OF CLASHING EXPECTATIONS AND FRUSTRATIONS, OF THE DREAMS AND TUMULTUOUS DESIRES OF YOUTH. THE RULES OF ATTRACTION PAINTS A POIGNANT AND SOMETIMES HILARIOUS PICTURE OF THE COUPLINGS AND CAPITULATIONS, THE DRAMAS AND DOWNFALLS OF AMERICAN COLLEGE LIFE IN THE 1980S.
First published 1987 by Simon & Schuster Inc., New York
ISBN 0330 30186 I Copyright (c) Bret Easton Ellis 1987
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
"The facts, even when beaded on a chain, still did not have real order. Events did not flow. The facts were separate and haphazard and random even as they happened, episodic, broken, no smooth transitions, no sense of events unfolding from prior events"
- Tim O'Brien Going After Cacciato
and it's a story that might bore you but you don't have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or, actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Cam-den, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin's room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or a Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend's place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but who was actually either some guy from N.Y.U., a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie. She actually had her eye on someone else that night: Daniel Miller, a Senior, a Drama major, only a little gay, with blond hair, a great body and these amazing gray eyes, but he was seeing this beautiful French girl from Ohio, and he eventually got mono and went to Europe and never finished his Senior year. So this guy (she doesn't even remember his name now - Rudolph? Bobo?) from N.Y.U. and her were talking under, she remembers this, a big poster of Reagan that someone had drawn a moustache and sunglasses on, and he was talking about all these movies, and she kept telling him that she'd seen all these movies even though she hadn't, and she kept agreeing with him, with his likes, with his dislikes, all the time thinking that he might not be a Daniel Miller (this guy had spiky blueblack hair, paisley tie, and, unfortunately, the beginnings of a goatee) but was still cute enough, and she i sure she was mispronouncing all these filmmakers' names, remembering the wrong actors, naming the wrong cinematographers, but she wanted him and she could see that he was looking over at Kathy Kotcheff, and she was looking back at him and she was getting incredibly smashed and kept nodding and he went over to the keg to get them some more beer and Kathy Kotcheff, who was wearing a black bra and black panties complete with garter belt, started talking to him and she was getting desperate. She was going to go over and drop some names, mention Salle or Longo, but felt it would be too pretentious, so she walked up behind him and simply whispered that she had some pot in her room, even though she didn't but hoped that Lorna did and so he smiled and said that seemed like a good idea. On the way up the stairs she bummed a cigarette that she was never going to smoke from someone and they went to Lorna's room. He closed the door and locked it. She turned the light on. He turned it off. She thinks she said she didn't have any pot. He said that was okay and brought out a silver flask that he'd filled with the grain alcohol punch before it had run out downstairs and she was already so drunk on that plus beer that she drank more of it anyway and before she knew it they were on Lorna's bed making out and she was too drunk to be nervous. Dire Straits or maybe it was Talking Heads were playing downstairs and she was blind drunk and even though she knew this was like sheer madness she couldn't stop it or do anything else. She passed out and when she came to, she tried to take off her bra but was still too drunk and he had already started fucking her but he didn't know she was a virgin and it hurt (not that badly, only a little bit of a sharp pain, but not as bad as she had been taught to expect, but not exactly pleasant either) and that's when she heard another voice in the room, moaning, and she remembers the weight on the bed shifting and realizing that this person on top of her was not the N.Y.U. film student guy but someone else. It was pitch dark in the room and she could feel two pairs of knees on either side of her and she didn't even want to know what was going on above her. All she knew, all that seemed certain, was that she felt nauseous and her head kept banging against the wall. The door she thought he locked flew open and shadows came in saying that they had to put the keg somewhere and the keg was rolled in, knocking against the bed and the door closed. And she was thinking that this wouldn't have happened with Daniel Miller, that he would have taken her gently in his big strong Drama major arms and undressed her quietly, expertly, taken the bra off with grace and ease, kissed her deeply, tenderly, and it probably wouldn't have hurt, but she wasn't with Daniel Miller. She was there with some guy from New York whose name she didn't know and God only knows who else, and the two bodies above her continued moving and then she was on top and even though she was too drunk to stay on top, there was another person holding her up, propping her up, while another touched her breasts through the bra and kept fucking her and she could hear the couple next door arguing loudly and then she passed out again, then woke up when one of the guys hit his head against the wall, slipping off the bed taking her with him and both of them hitting their heads against the She heard one of the guys throwing up in what she hoped was Lorna's wastebasket. She passed out again and when she woke up, maybe thirty seconds later, maybe a half-hour, still being fucked, still moaning in pain (they probably thought she was turned on, which was definitely not the case) she heard someone knocking on the door She said, 'Answer it, answer it,' or at least that's what she thinks she said. They were still on the floor when she passed out again... . She woke up the next morning, early, on the bed for some reason, and the room was cold and reeked of vomit, the half-empty keg leaking onto the floor. I Her head was throbbing, due partly to the hangover and partly because it had been banged against the wall for she didn't even know how long. The film student from N.Y.U. was lying next to her on Lorna's bed, which during the night had been relocated to the center of the room, and he looked a lot shorter and with longer hair than she remembered, his spiked cut wilted now. And in the light coming through the window she saw the other guy lying next to the film student - she wasn't a virgin, she thought to herself -the boy lying next to the N.Y.U. guy opened his eyes and he still was drunk and she'd never seen him before. He was probably a townie. She had actually gone to bed with a townie. I'm not a virgin anymore, she thought again. The townie winked at her, didn't bother to introduce himself, and then told her this joke he had heard last night about this elephant who was wandering through the jungle and who stepped on a thorn and it hurt a lot and the elephant was having trouble pulling it out so the elephant asked a rat who was passing by to 'Please pull the thorn out from my foot' and the rat made a request: 'Only if you let me fuck you.' Without hesitation the elephant said okay and the rat quickly pulled the thorn from the elephant's foot and then scrambled up behind the elephant and began fucking. A hunter passed by and shot the elephant, who started to moan in pain. The rat, oblivious to the elephant's wounds, said, 'Suffer baby, suffer,' and kept on fucking. The townie started laughing and it was a joke she wished she would forget, but it has stayed with her ever since. It was beginning to dawn on her then that she didn't know which one she had (technically) lost her virginity to (though odds were good that it was the film student from N.Y.U. and not the townie), even though that seemed to be beside the point for some reason on this post-virginal morning. She was vaguely aware that she was bleeding, but only a little. The guy from N.Y.U. burped in his sleep. There was vomit (whose?) all over Lorna's trashcan. The townie was still laughing, doubled up naked with laughter. Her bra was still on. And she said to no one, though she had wanted to say it to Daniel Miller, 'I always knew it would be like this.'
SEAN The party is starting to end. I get to Windham House right when the last keg is being tapped. The deal in town went okay and I have some cash so I buy some weed
from this Freshman who lives in the cardroom in Booth and get high before coming to Thirsty Thursday. There's a Quarters game going on in the living room and Tony is filling a pitcher with beer. I ask him, 'What's going on?'
'Hey Sean. Lost my I.D. Pub's out,' he says. 'Brigid's got the hots for that guy from L.A. Wanna join in?' 'It's okay,' I say. 'Where's the cups?' 'Over there,' he says and goes back to the table. I get some beer and notice that this hot-looking Fresh- I man girl with short blond hair, great body, that I fucked a couple of weeks ago, is standing near the fireplace. I'm about to go over and talk to her, but Mitchell Allen's already lighting her cigarette and I don't want to deal with it. So I stand against the wall, listen to REM, finish the 1 beer, get more, keep my eye on the Freshman girl. Then I some other girl, Deidre I think her name is, black spiked hair that already looks dated and trendy, black lipstick, 1 black fingernail polish, black kneesocks, black shoes, nice 1 tits, okay body, Senior, comes over and she's wearing a 1 black halter top even though it's like forty below in the room and she's drunk and coughing like she has T.B., swigging Scotch. I've seen her stealing Dante in the bookstore. 'Have we met?' she asks. If she's joking, it's just too dumb.
'No,' I say. 'Hi.'
'What's your name?' she asks, trying to keep her balance. 'It's Peter,' I tell her.
'Oh, really?' she asks, looking confused. 'Peter? Peter? That's not your name.'
'Yeah it is.' I've still got my eye on the hot Freshman but she won't look over here. Mitchell hands her another beer. It's too late. I look back at Dede Dedire whatever her
'Aren't you a Senior? she asks me.
'No,' I tell her. 'Freshman.'
'Really?' All of a sudden she starts coughing, then sips Scotch, actually downs it, and says, her voice rasped out, 'I thought you were older.'
'A Freshman,' I tell her, drain my cup. 'Peter. Peter the Freshman.'
Mitchell whispers something in her ear. She laughs, and turns away. He keeps whispering. She doesn't move. That's it. She wants to leave with him.
'Like, I could've sworn your name was Brian,' Deedum says.
I consider the options. I can leave right now, go back to my room, play the guitar, go to sleep. Or, I could play Quarters with Tony and Brigid and that dumb guy from L.A.
Or, I can take this girl off-campus to The Carousel for drink, leave her there. Or, I can take her back to my room, hope the Frog is gone, get stoned and fuck her. But I don't really want to do that. I'm not into her all that much, but the hot-looking Freshman has already left with Mitchell and I don't have any classes tomorrow and it's late and it looks like the keg's running out. And she looks at me and asks, 'What's going on?' and I'm thinking Why Not?
So I end up going home with her - she's dumpy but , from L.A., her father's in the music industry but she doesn't know who Lou Reed is. We go to her room. Her roommate's home but asleep.
'Ignore her,' she says, turning on the light. 'She's insane. It's okay.'
I'm taking off my clothes when the roommate wakes up and starts freaking out at the sight of me naked. I get under D's blankets, but the roommate starts crying and gets out of bed and D keeps screaming at her, You're insane, go to sleep, you're insane,' and roommate leaves, slamming the door, sobbing. We start making out but she forgets her diaphragm so she tries to put it in, squeezing the foam all over her hand but not getting any into it and she's too drunk to know where to put it. I try to fuck her anyway but she keeps moaning 'Peter, Peter' so I stop. I'm thinking about throwing up but do some bonghits instead, then flee. Deal with it. Rock'n'roll.
PAUL. We were already smashed when we got to Thirsty Thursday and the night was still young and the light-haired Swedish girl from Connecticut, very tall and boyish, came on to me, and I let her. Drunk, but still knowing perfectly well what I was getting myself into, I let her. I had been
trying to talk to Mitchell but he was much more interested in this supremely ugly slutty Sophomore named Candice. Candy, for short. I was semi-appalled but what could I do? I started talking to Katrina and she looked very charming in her black Salvation Army raincoat, and the sailor's cap with the one tuft of blond hair peeking out, her eyes wide and blue even in the darkness of the living room at Windham House.
Anyway, we were drunk and Mitch was still talking to Candie and there was this girl at the party I really did not want to see and I was sufficiently drunk now to leave with Katrina. I suppose I could have stayed, waited it out with Mitch, or come on to that boy from L.A., who, despite being too sunburned, was well-muscled (red-muscled?) and seemed withdrawn enough to try anything. But he was still wearing his sunglasses and playing Quarters and anyway, rumor had it he was sleeping with Brigid McCauley (a 'total tuna' according to Vanden Smith), so when Katrina asked me, 'What's going on?' I lit a cigarette and said, 'Let's go.' We were even more drunk by now since we had downed a bottle of good red wine we had found in the kitchen, and when we came out into the crisp October air, it hit us both with a bit of a shock, but it didn't sober us up and we both kept laughing. And then she kissed me and aid, 'Let's go back to my room and take a shower.'
We were still walking across Commons lawn when she aid this, her mittened hands in her black overcoat, laughing, twirling around, kicking up leaves, the music still coming from Windham House. I wanted to delay this moment, so I suggested that we look around for something eat. We stopped walking and stood there, and though
she sounded more than a little disappointed, she agreed and we went from house to house, sneakily raiding the refrigerators, even though all we came up with was some frozen Pepperidge Farm Milanos, a half-empty bag of Bar-B-Que potato chips and a Heineken Dark.
Anyway, we ended up in her room, really drunk, making out. She stopped for a minute and made her way to the bathroom down the hall. I turned on a light and looked around the room, inspecting her roommate's empty bed and the poster of a unicorn on the wall; copies of Town and Country and The Weekly World News ('I Had Bigfoot's Baby,' 'Scientists Say U.F.O.'s cause AIDS') were scattered around a giant stuffed teddybear that sat in the corner and I was thinking to myself that this girl was too young. She came back in and lit a joint and turned off the light. On the verge of passing out she asked me, 'We're not going to have sex, are we?'
Paul Young was on her stereo and I was leaning over her, smiling and said, 'No, I guess not.' I was thinking about the girl I left in September.
'Why not?' she asked, and she really didn't look all that beautiful anymore, lying there in the semi-darkness of her room, the only real light the glow from the tip of the joint she held.
'I don't know,' I said, and then mock seriously, 'I'm involved,' even though I wasn't, 'And you are drunk, though that really didn't have anything to do with it either.
'I really like you,' she said before she passed out.
'I really like you,' I said, though I barely knew her.
I finished the joint and the Heineken. Then I put a blanket over her and stood there, hands in my overcoat
pockets. I considered taking the blanket off. I took the blanket off. Then lifted her arm and looked at her breasts, touched them. Maybe I'll ravish her, I pondered. But it was getting close to four and I had a class in six hours, though the prospect of going seemed fairly remote. On the way out
I stole her copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude and turned her stereo off and left, pleased and maybe a little embarrassed. I was a Senior. She was a nice girl. She ended up telling everyone I couldn't get it up, anyway.
LAUREN Went to Thirsty Thursday at Windham. Thing I sort of started I didn't like and I was thinking about Victor and getting lonely. Judy came by the studio already drunk and tried to console me. We got high and I just got thinking about Victor. Then it's late and we're at party and notalot is going on: keg in the corner, REM or I think it's REM, beautiful, slow-witted Dance majors writhing about shamelessly. Judy says 'Let's leave' and I agree. We don't. We get some beer which is warm and flat but drink it. Judy goes off with some guy from Fels even
though I know she has a crush on that guy from Los Angeles who's playing Quarters with Tony, who I like and who I slept with my second term here, and that girl -a Bernette who I guess is seeing the guy from L.A. or maybe | she's seeing Tony, and there's nothing going on and I think about leaving, but the idea of going back to the studio. . . Someone comes in I don't want to see so I start talking to this Freshman sort-of-yuppie guy. 'Brewski for Youski?' he asks. I look over at Tony, wonder if he's interested. He looks over at me, lifting the pitcher and raises his eyebrows from across the living room and I can't tell if it's an invitaton to play Quarters or to get laid. But how do I get away from this guy? But there's someone here I don't want to see and if I go over there I'll have to pass him. So I keep talking to this square. This guy who after every bit of innocuous info he hands me says in a tone that he thinks sounds subversively hip, 'Hey, Laura,' and I keep telling him 'Look my name's not Laura, got it?' and he keeps calling me Laura, so finally I'm about to tell him off when suddenly I realize I don't know his name. He tells me. It's what? Steve? He, Steve, doesn't like that I'm smoking. The typical drunk (not too drunk) nervous Freshman. Who is Steve looking at? Not the guy from L.A. but at Bernette who wouldn't go to bed with this guy Steve Square Freshman anyway, but well, maybe she would. Can't stop thinking about Victor. But Victor's in Europe. Brewski for Youski? Jesus. The Freshman tells me I haven't touched my beer. I touch it, running my fingers across the plastic rim of the cup. 'Oh that's not what I mean,' he says good-naturedly. 'Drink it,' he urges. Stereotype with a Haircut. Why does he even care? Does he actually think I'll go to bed with him? Why won't that person leave? Is Tony even looking over here? Someone from the Quarters game yells for Sean Yes I Am a Scumbag Bateman. Judy pushes past me rolling her eyes up. I ask the guy Steve what's going on. He wants to smoke some pot with me but if I don't want pot he has some good speed. Help. I want to know why I sent Victor four postcards and haven't gotten anything back. But I don't want to think about it and very instantly I am leaving with the Freshman. Because ... the beer has run out. He asks if we could go to my room. Roommate, I lie. We're leaving now. And I had promised myself that I would be faithful to Victor and Victor had promised me that he, too, would be faithful. Since I was under, am under, the impression that we're in love. But I had already sort of broken that vow in September, which was a complete and utter mistake and now what am I doing?
In the hallway of Franklin House. Ripped poster of A Clockwork Orange on his door? No, the next room. The Ronnie Reagan calendar on the door. Is that a joke? In the Freshman's room now. What's his name? Sam? Steve? It's so ... neat! Tennis racket on the wall. Shelf full of Robert Ludlum books. Who is this guy? Probably drives a Jeep, wears penny loafers, his girlfriend in high school wore his letter sweater. He checks his hair out in the mirror and tells me his roommate's in Vermont tonight. Why don't I tell him that my boyfriend, the person I love, the person who loves me, the person I miss, the person who misses me, is in Europe and that I should not under any circumstances be doing this. He has a refrigerator and pulls out an ice-cold Becks. Slick. I take a sip. He takes a sip. He pulls off his L.L. Bean sweater and his T-shirt. His body's okay. Nice
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