“The Disgusting Conclusion,” by Elif Batuman

It had taken me months to realize that Lakshmi wasn’t rich. Her clothes de ella came from invitation-only sales in New York that she went to with Noor’s friend Isabel, or from some kind of consignment store where rich women and teens off-loaded barely worn couture items, using the proceeds to buy one another’s anxiety and ADHD medications. I had never heard of such goings on, which Lakshmi spoke of as routine. Lakshmi had grown up in palatial residences in Dubai and Copenhagen, because her father was an ambassador. Her parents de ella had hosted lavish parties, attended by a large staff, without actually owning any of the things in their house.

According to the introduction to “Either/Or,” lots of people skipped the “ethical” half, and even most of the “aesthetic” half, and just read “The Seducer’s Diary.” Kierkegaard himself had said of “Either/Or” that you had to either read the whole book or just not read it at all. Kierkegaard was funny! Nonetheless, I, too, flipped forward to “The Seducer’s Diary.”

“The Seducer’s Diary” started with a description of Johannes, the seducer, and how he was able, using his “mental gifts,” to make a girl fall in love with him, “without caring to possess her in any stricter sense.” When I read that, I almost threw up. Wasn’t that what had happened to me? Hadn’t I been brought to the point where I would sacrifice everything—only for Ivan to leave off without the slightest advance? Because he never had tried to have sex with me, and all the nights we sat up till dawn all we did was talk.

The diary was about how this guy saw some random seventeen-year-old girl on the street, and decided he would not spare her, and slowly, over the course of weeks and even months, he insinuated himself into her life, into her family circle, presenting himself as an honorable suitor. When he proposed, he did it as confusingly as possible, so she would have no idea what she had agreed to. “If she can predict anything, then I have gone wrong and the whole relationship loses its meaning,” he wrote. This was just how I had felt when Ivan told me about the Hungary program.

Once they were engaged, Johannes put on a huge campaign to convince her that engagements were dumb, and got her to break it off. Then he tricked her into having sex with him. . . and then he disappeared forever, because that was his de ella MO de ella Afterward, the girl scarcely knew what, if anything, had happened to her—whether it had been real. “As soon as she wanted to speak of it to another,” Kierkegaard wrote, “it was nothing.” The extent to which the seducer left a girl with nothing was the very mark of his artistry. It meant having the self‐control of her to not get her pregnant or abandon her at the altar. It meant no spectators, no proof.

For Russian class, I had to read a short story called “Rudolfio.” It was about a sixteen-year-old girl named Io, who was in love with a twenty-eight-year-old married man. Io, who was whimsical, maintained that, when she and this man Rudolf were together, they formed a single entity: Rudolfio. Rudolf laughed and said that Io was funny.

One day, when Rudolf’s wife was out, Io showed up at his house. Her breasts from her resembled “little nests built by unknown birds to hatch their nestlings.” Rudolf lent Io a copy of “The Little Prince,” which he, a grown man, had for some reason.

Io and Rudolf took a walk in a vacant lot full of garbage. Io asked Rudolf to kiss her. Rudolf kissed her on the cheek, and said, “Only the closest people kiss on the lips.” I slapped him in the face and ran away, through the garbage.

I didn’t go home that night. She turned up only the next afternoon. Rudolf rushed over and found her sitting on her bed, facing the wall. She would not say anything about where she had been, and she only told Rudolf to go to Hell. Then Rudolf said, picked up his raincoat, and went to Hell.

Cartoon by Liana Finck

In class, Irina Nikolaevna asked us whether Rudolf had loved Io. Everyone agreed that he hadn’t.

“Maybe I loved her a little bit,” Julia said.

“He didn’t love her,” Andrei said. “He was playing games.”

“I don’t personally consider it love, and maybe, after all, he wasn’t capable,” Svetlana, who spoke Russian a billion times better than the rest of us, said.

We discussed the difference between kissing on the cheek (accusative singular) and on the lips (accusative plural). Irina Nikolaevna asked each of us to describe the first time we kissed anyone on the lips.

Julia said she had kissed a boy in a playground when she was nine. Andrei said he had kissed his girlfriend at a Christmas party when he was eleven. Svetlana said she had kissed her cousin’s boyfriend de ella at the zoo when she was thirteen.

I said, untruthfully, that I had kissed a boy at summer camp when I was fifteen.

“Fifteen? Are you sure?” Irina Nikolaevna wrote “15” on the board. It turned out that she thought I had to have been younger. She asked, then, what the boy had been like. I said he played the mandolin, inviting follow-up questions about how and where he had played the mandolin.

“I have played the mandolin everywhere—incessantly,” I said.

“Russian is so weird,” Svetlana said afterward, in the bathroom. “I don’t think when you learn other languages ​​you have to talk about your sexual history. It’s funny—back when I was thirteen, I felt so bad about kissing my cousin’s boyfriend. But it really came in handy today, because if it wasn’t for that I would never have kissed anyone. I was wondering what I would have said. Then I suddenly felt worried about you, because I know you never had a boyfriend, either. I actually almost turned around and told you, ‘Selin, for once in your life, just don’t tell the truth, OK?’ But then you had mandolin boy up your sleeve! I was so relieved!”

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