Tabloid-writer Harper Rostov breaks up with her boyfriend only to fall into the arms of Nick Cavallaro---certified punk-rock God who is considered a genius by fans and critics alike. Harper's newly single heart gets an overdose of chemistry from the Hitchhiker's Revenge guitarist as she falls for his intoxicating charisma.
Over the course of a single week, Harper is swept up in their sexual energy and the allure of the band. But soon she can't help wondering if what she thought she wanted---what she left her sweet, caring boyfriend for---is everything she'd hoped it would be. Plotted with precise timing and set against an incredibly vivid portrait of the ever-changing East Village, Falling Is Like This is a comedic and touching account of the whirlwind affair with a rock star every girl dreams about.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Kate Rockland is a frequent contributor to The New York Times style section and has also written for Playboy, Rolling Stone, Spin, and others. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Kate Rockland is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Style section and has also written for Playboy, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, Time Out New York, Spin and other magazines. She is the author of 150 Pounds and Falling Is Like This. She lives in New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Falling is Like This
By Kate Rockland
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2010 Kate Rockland
All rights reserved.
You give me that look that's like laughing
with liquid in your mouth
like you're choosing between choking
and spitting it all out
like you're trying to fight gravity
on a planet that insists
that love is like falling
and falling is like this
— Ani DiFranco, "Falling Is Like This"
I am going to tell you about the worst thing I ever did, which in relative terms, isn't all that bad. It's probably the meanest thing a middle-class girl from the suburbs of New Jersey could set about doing. And don't think that because this involves the end of one relationship and the quick, hot flash of another means my story is a bunch of girly bullshit. It's about the hardest decision I ever made in my young life: I deserted my smart, caring boyfriend and fell hard for a punk-rock star.
Here's how to leave a man: with shopping bags. Like a leaky faucet that eventually forms a rust stain in the sink, over the last two weeks of September I stuffed random stuff like clothing, jewelry, a rubber-band ball, and my extra hair dryer into Whole Foods bags and brought them to my parents' house in Madison, New Jersey. I did this almost unconsciously, and didn't admit to myself that I was leaving Andy until he was taking out the recycling one night and remarked that we were out of paper bags. Our brief, two-month cohabitation took place in a one-bedroom on Seventh Street near First Avenue. After dating two years, and watching our rent trickle through the system, we decided to suck it up and move in together. (Living arrangements in Manhattan are often nonromantic. They are more likely to be dull and practical.)
To schlep our stuff, we used one of those "man with a van" ten dollars per man per hour deals you see advertised on telephone poles. It's well known they're a rip-off because they send six guys to do the work of two, but I used them anyway. (I'm a sucker for a pole advertisement. You can ask anyone.) Move-in day was late summer. I'd felt sick to my stomach with the sticky city heat, but looking back, it could have been the big ole ball of doubt beginning its slow rot in my belly.
A few days before I left Andy, I absentmindedly stroked the velvet on the back of a photo frame while he played Halo 3 on his Xbox, shooting an alien's head off. The rat-a-tat-tat of the digital machine gun unnerved me. He played video games day and night; it was a constant source of tension between us. Once, I tried to get him into bed for some humping and he asked if he could finish a level on his game first. Um ... awesome. So, when he called out from his seat on the futon: "When are you going to put pictures in those frames, Harper?" the reason came to me so suddenly I flinched: The move in together had been a colossal mistake, and I had no intention of hanging up photos with our grinning mugs. Why do so if you weren't staying long?
As September bled into October, the signs that our relationship had disintegrated were all around us. The space in our tiny apartment felt half as big as it had before, the futon loomed large, Andy's flat-screen television on the wall felt like it was sucking out all of my energy. Even the air tasted stale. I'd open the door to the closet we shared to grab a sweater and get tangled up in the hangers. It felt like the apartment was turning on me. When Andy would go out with his friends from college for a few beers, I'd walk down to Houston and catch a movie at the Sunshine theater, or sit on a bench in the Tompkins dog park, watching other people's dogs play. Spending time alone helped me realize just how much Andy and I had drifted apart. Made me realize it was over.
As I'd pick and choose what things to bring back to my folks' house in New Jersey, the memory of a beautiful Indian girl in my ninth-grade history class swirled into my thoughts. She had become pregnant and let months slip by without getting medical treatment or acknowledging her expanding belly. She walked slowly around the hallways, face lit like chalk. She wore extra-large sweatshirts, not maternity clothing. I once saw her walking into class, her coffee-colored bump peeking out of the bottom of her blouse. Her pregnancy was the elephant in the room. It was hard for our young minds to fathom a baby growing inside our classmate, its body suspended in her womb, legs folded like a colt's. The roundness of her stomach frightened me. We whispered about her behind our hands; her catatonic state seemed crazy to us. I now understood her reluctance to embrace reality.
Part of me wanted it to work with Andy, so I kept up pretenses. Similar to using the man-with-van guys, it's just easier. He knew something was eating at me, but we lived our lives and didn't talk about the giant question mark, asking what were we doing together when we obviously weren't in love anymore. I'd take NJ Transit's Dover Express train from Penn Station to Madison, where I grew up. I spent most of those rides gazing out the window, squinting against the setting sun. Trying to figure out how I was going to leave Andy. Assessing how I'd handle him hating me for it. While I sat on the train and watched New York recede into the background and the Meadowlands flit by, I'd think back on past relationships that also hadn't worked out.
I hadn't had much luck finding a boyfriend during the past four years while attending Rutgers University. The guys were meatheads, with spiky hair and a reverence for the campus gym. They had little interest in ideas or art, and I'd slept around out of sheer boredom, hoping for some kind of spark to ignite. None had. My dating pattern before meeting Andy went like this:
1. Meet a cute guy at a bar.
2. Take him home and have mediocre sex with him.
3. Decide mediocre guy is my one and only soul mate and jump into a relationship that lasts about a year before the inevitable dramatic breakup where I'd go slightly bananas and feel the urge to stalk him, which would quickly end when I'd meet a new, cuter guy at a bar.
4. Return to #1.
I had one boyfriend who actually attempted to force me onto a reality television show. Not too many people can claim that. Like having a third nipple or being double-jointed, it's rare.
It was sophomore year at Rutgers and I'd begged the school paper, the Daily Targum, for a writing gig, any job at all. In my junior year I'd nab the much-fought-over job of music editor, and even branch out to start my own zine, Thrash, about the New Brunswick punk music scene, but as a lowly sophomore I was given the title Reporter at Large, which called up images of some kind of Frankenstein, lurching around the campus, peering around doorways and living out of trash barrels. I was assigned to the men's wrestling team. I don't think there was a women's team, so I suppose I can just say "wrestling team" and leave it at that. Either way, what was the editor in chief thinking? Me, with thirty sweaty, strong men?
These were sweet boys, and they alternated between wanting to protect me like a sister and rip my clothes off. I'd travel to away games with them, where I would sleep on a cot in the middle of the room. Should anyone try any funny stuff, everyone would know it. After a game, I'd tuck my tape recorder and notebook away in my purse, change into my favorite purple-and-white polka-dot flannel pajamas, and lay awake for hours, listening to their snores, like a testosterone symphony.
It was a great gig, just interviewing the coach and two or three of the top athletes before and after each game. I grew to love their cauliflower ears, pushed in and squished-looking from years of having their faces pounded into the mat. Brian became my boyfriend on the bus between Rutgers and Delaware. He was a mediocre wrestler and none too bright, but he was built like a refrigerator and could pick me up with one hand. Brian was also obsessed with "making it," as he put it. This didn't seem to include being All-American for wrestling, which he already was. It meant becoming a famous actor, which with his three-time broken nose, I wasn't entirely sure was the best career choice. Frustratingly, he had no desire to try out for any plays at Rutgers. He wanted to simply be "discovered." He wanted to shoot straight to Hollywood royalty. He had head shots taken in the city; I'd helped him lick hundreds of stamps and send them out to hundreds of agents who probably threw the envelopes directly into hundreds of trash cans.
He was a reality TV buff, watching American Idol and Jersey Shore. He once asked me if he should get his nipple pierced, and I'd stared out the window, pretending I hadn't heard. He'd take the train into the city and go on MTV castings, where they'd make him take off his shirt and dance around in a cold, colorless boardroom to Kanye West with other people our age who also thought they had what it took to be on a reality show.
During finals week, I was particularly stressed because I had to turn in an article on the team and finish a fifteen-page paper for my Shakespeare class that compared the plot of As You Like It to an early episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When Brian asked me if I'd come into the city with him for dinner I begged out of it, but he was persistent, tempting me with chocolate cake for dessert. We went to some Italian restaurant in Little Italy, and I remember taking pictures of the red, white, and green banners decorating the streets that later came out blurry.
Whatever else you could say about Brian — that he was simple, etc. — he was always kind to me. So when he started unabashedly flirting heavily with our hostess, a not particularly beautiful woman with implants and a black dress tight enough to be a scuba-diving suit, I was very taken aback. Then I was pissed off. When he asked her what she was doing later, I was furious. "Hello!" I yelled, waving my hands in front of his face. "I'm still standing here, and I have a shitload of schoolwork to do, so if you're going to stand here and flirt right in front of my face I'm going to catch a train back to New Jersey." And with that, I turned on my heel. Suddenly, out of the wall came a flood of flashing bulbs and a white-hot spotlight camera a man held on his shoulder. I was blinded, and when my vision swam back into focus, I realized the "hostess" was dangling a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill in her orange hand like a worm to a fish. A sheepish Brian pushed his hair off his forehead and smiled at me nervously.
"Hey, Harper, I'm Amanda and you're on MTV's Boiling Points!" the woman said. My hearing seemed to have left me, and her words came at me like she was shouting from the end of a long tunnel. "If you can just sign your name on this contract and take the money, you'll appear on MTV in a few weeks!"
I looked down at her perfectly applied French-manicure-tipped nails and took the money. Then, I crumpled it and threw it at her feet. "Take your money and shove it up your ass," I said in my deadliest scary whisper (at least I hoped it sounded that way), and walked out the door. I felt like Rocky in Rocky II when he beats Apollo Creed. Sure, I'd been triumphant, but at what cost? Brian chased me for blocks. I just kept running. I was Forrest Gump. I ran all the way to Penn Station, where I finally whipped around. Brian, of course, had been keeping pace with me the whole time, not even breaking a sweat, but whenever he yelled, "Harper, just wait!" I ignored him and pressed on. I leaned against a wall, panting.
"Harper, it's a stupid show," he said. "I didn't think you'd get so upset."
"Really, Brian?" I asked. "You think I'd want to be humiliated on national television? Look, I hate to break it to you, but you're never going to be Robert De Niro. Even if you packed on sixty pounds for a role and wore a fake nose you'd still be a bad actor. You can wrestle and you can fuck and that's about all you can do. You want to try and embarrass me? On TV? I don't think so. Now if you don't mind, I'd like to go home. Alone."
I turned then from Brian's gobsmacked face and ran down the escalator, past the big black signboard, and caught the train to New Brunswick a minute before it pulled out of the station.
I cried all the way to New Jersey, big boo-hoos that had the businesswoman sitting across from me shooting me nervous glances. Who was going to pick me up one-handed now?
Brian called me for weeks, but I never spoke to him again. I'd never heard of Boiling Points, but when it came on as I was getting dressed in my dorm room one day, my eyes were glued to the screen. I watched another victim get humiliated, and all I could think was ... she took the money!
So, when I met Andy two years ago at MoCCA, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, I was twenty-one and ready to meet someone who was interested in print, and smart. Thrash had really given me great experience interviewing musicians. We'd profile any punk band that swept through Jersey on tour, and by my senior year there was a grand total of three staff members, including myself. My two colleagues still had a year left at Rutgers, and asked if they could keep printing it after I graduated. I said yes, praying there was still a niche readership for Thrash, even as the Internet threatened to obliterate the entire notion of do-it-yourself zines.
After graduation, I sent out my résumé to a dozen magazines and newspapers, looking for a job as a music editor. Being a girl it was hard getting male editors to take me seriously, but once I opened my mouth and blurted out every single tiny morsel of knowledge about the music scene of the last thirty years, I landed a few good interviews; one at Rolling Stone looked promising. But once I arrived I was informed it was only an informational interview — would I be interested in working down the hallway in an unpaid internship at Us Weekly until something opened at RS? I was. I'd take anything at that point, even if it meant putting off writing about music for a few years. I held the hope that eventually I'd have the opportunity to do what I loved again.
The night I went to MoCCA, a few friends from my internship at Us had invited me along, and when I got there I parted from the group to mosey around. The exhibit was a retrospective of illustrations by Todd McFarlane, the creator of Spawn. The turnout that night looked like a cliché of Generation X; guys with dirty hair and combat boots strolled past chubby Goth chicks wearing funky tights. Andy was working as a music writer for New York. It was 2008; an optimistic time in New York before the recession, when you could still graduate college and announce you picked journalism as a career without making your parents cry.
It was hard not to notice Andy. His skinny, six-three frame leaned against a doorway as he hunched over a tiny notebook into which he was furiously scribbling. He had a frown in the middle of his eyebrows that made the letter V. He stood in front of lovingly framed illustrations of a muted red Spider-Man swinging through the night past the rubble of dilapidated buildings. I remember smiling, recognizing Andy's journalist stance. I spent a few minutes studying his curly black hair, handsome against his mustard seed–colored smoker's jacket. Here's to hoping this guy doesn't quote lines from Old School, I thought, walking over to him. "Are you covering this event?" I asked, and the relationship lasted two years and two months, until one day I realized we'd become roommates, not partners. By the time I moved out we hadn't slept together in six months.
Things about him bothered me. There was no yin and yang with us, probably because we were both writers, and therefore too much alike. I got hired full-time at Us Weekly as an editorial assistant. A year later, New York had layoffs and Andy lost his job. The healthy competition that once fueled our relationship soured. When men lose their jobs it's like they've been castrated and Andy was no different. He accused me of becoming a writer just to mimic him. He stopped letting me use his laptop. His personality changed. I quit telling him about my day, for fear he'd be jealous. He'd shrug on a rumpled brown suit and head out on interviews. Once, while reading Us Weekly in the bathroom, he called out:
"I can't believe you work for a magazine that uses the word 'like' eleven times on one page!"
Excerpted from Falling is Like This by Kate Rockland. Copyright © 2010 Kate Rockland. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Blue skyhe will kill u
I was not a fan of this book. The writing, plot, and characters did not keep me engaged. I did finish the book and it was very unsatisfying. I have read better quick love stories than this.
What a wonerfully captivating story. I adore this book! It is wonderful! From the very first page to the very last page. I was totally swept up in the world of Harper and I read this book in two days. I could barely put it down. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Rockland really knows how to keep the writing fresh and wiity through out the whole book. I will be re-reading this book soon and I cant wait for her to write another book.
Really enjoyed this book....it's full of distinctive personalities! At times, I laughed out loud. Excellent beach read...a guilty pleasure!