Supremacist, the new novel by David Shapiro – creator of Pitchfork Reviews Reviews and author of 2014’s You’re Not That Much Use to Anyone, is the semi-autobiographical story of a global style odyssey, as the narrator sets out to visit every retail outlet of the cult streetwear label Supreme. In this exclusive excerpt, he makes a stop in Hiroshima, Japan.
When I got back to the hotel room, Camilla had emailed me the address and check-in time for the Airbnb in Fukuoka. I wrote back, “Sweet. I will be there. I am in Hiroshima if you happen to be here too and decide you want to reconvene with me early.”
I took a nap. When I woke up, I checked my email. She hadn’t written back.
It was morning in New York.
I FaceTimed my ex-girlfriend, who I dated for three years but then only saw when I bumped into her at the deli. We went to the same deli because we lived around the corner from each other.
It rang for a long time. I laid on the bed and thought, “I am prepared to keep calling until she picks up or her phone dies.”
She answered. I saw her pixelated face on the screen. She was wearing headphones.
She looked confused.
I said, “Hi, Kat.”
She whispered, “Why are you FaceTiming me?”
I said, “I just wanted to talk.”
She whispered, “I’m at work.”
She lifted the phone over her head to show me that she was at work. People were working quietly on computers at long rows of desks behind her. She worked at Vox or Mic or something.
I pleaded, “Can we talk? I haven’t talked to anyone in a long time. Days. I’m by myself.”
She looked annoyed. She whispered, “I’m at work.”
I said, “Could you go into a conference room?”
She looked around and thought about this for a second.
She whispered, “Fine. But I can only talk for five minutes.”
I said, “That’s all I need. Five minutes of human contact.”
She whispered, “This isn’t human contact.”
I said, “It’s close enough.”
She put her phone into her pocket and walked into a conference room. I could hear her walking.
She took it out and looked at me on the screen.
She said, in an annoyed voice, “What do you need, David?”
I said, “Can you look at the camera lens when you’re talking and at the screen while I’m talking? Just to make it feel like eye contact, at least when the other person’s talking. And I’ll do the same. Otherwise, we both look like we’re looking down.”
She sighed. She said, “Sure, whatever.” She looked into the lens.
I said, “I wish they could put a lens right in the middle of the screen so it would feel like actual eye contact when you videochatted.”
She said, “Are you calling just to annoy me? Or do you need something?”
I said, “How are you?”
She said, “I’m fine.”
I said, “How’s your new boyfriend?”
She said, “Is that why you’re calling?”
I said, “No, I’m just curious.”
She said, “He’s great.”
I said, “That’s good.”
Neither of us said anything for a second. Then she looked at me on her screen with something like sympathy. I love sympathy. I guess I looked fucked up.
She said, “Are you in bed? That doesn’t look like your bed.”
I said, “I’m in Japan. In Hiroshima. In a hotel.”
She said, “Why?”
I said, “Going around the world to every Supreme store.”
She said, “Is Hiroshima spooky? I’ve always wanted to go there.”
I said, “You’re not surprised that I’m going around the world to every Supreme store? I thought you would at least be like, ‘David, you’re so crazy!’”
She said, “I already know you. If you want someone to react like that, call someone you didn’t spend three years with.”
I said, “I see what you’re saying.”
She said, “So is Hiroshima spooky?”
I said, “Not at all. They rebuilt the whole city in like 13 years. Faster than the Freedom Tower.”
She said, “Is there a Supreme store there?”
I said, “No, I just wanted to see what Hiroshima was like. I had a free few days.”
She said, “Free from what?”
I said, “Camilla.”
She said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “We had sex and then she wanted to get away from me.”
Neither of us said anything for a few seconds.
She said, “What’s it like?”
I said, “I’m used to it.”
She said, “No – I meant, what’s Hiroshima like?”
I said, “Just feels like a normal Japanese city.”
She said, “I’ve never been to Japan – I don’t know what a normal Japanese city is like.”
I said, “It’s quiet, extremely clean, everyone’s fastidiously polite. Huge buildings. Tiny cars. Basically crime-free. And all the people are Japanese.”
She said, “I see.”
I said, “Can I tell you a funny story? Or, like, a story. I don’t know if it’s funny. But you might get a kick out of it.”
She said, “If it’ll take less than four minutes.”
I said, “Do you remember the Supreme ashtray you bought me for my birthday like two years ago?”
She said, “The red one? That rips off the Hermes ashtray designs, according to you?”
I said, “Yeah.”
She said, “What about it?”
I said, “Do you remember, like a year after you bought it for me, when I found out it was selling for like $300 on eBay?”
She said, “And you asked me if you could sell it on eBay even though I’d given it to you for your birthday? How could I not remember?”
I said, “Well, so, anyway, after you broke up with me, when I was angry, the first thing I did was sell it on eBay.”
She laughed. She said, “I understand that. How much did you get for it?”
I said, “$325.”
She said, “Wow.”
I said, “But it cracked during shipping. And when the buyer got it, this kid in California, he started sending me these crazy eBay messages, really livid, demanding a refund and saying that he was going to report me to eBay. I think he thought I sold him one that was already cracked and I would argue to eBay that he cracked it. So I could keep his money.”
She said, “What’d you do?”
I said, “I just issued him the refund through PayPal with a request for him to send it back to me. And then the next day, he wrote back saying that he was going to overnight it back to me, and the shipping would be $70, and I should PayPal it to him immediately.”
She said, “Did you?”
I said, “Fuck no. I emailed him back and wrote, like, ‘$70? Come on. I would literally rather you send me a video of you smashing it with a baseball bat in a parking lot than make me pay $70 to send it back.’”
She laughed again. She said, “Did he offer to ship it back in a cheaper way?”
I said, “He sent me a video of him smashing it with a baseball bat in a parking lot.”
She laughed for a long time. I laughed too.
I said, “He put it on YouTube. It has like a hundred-something-thousand views. Maybe almost 200,000 views. It was big on Supreme message boards. I can send you the link.”
She said, “Did you leave him bad feedback?”
I said, “I couldn’t, or he would leave me bad feedback. I need to keep my feedback 100% or it hurts my selling listings in eBay’s search algorithm. I didn’t leave him any feedback at all. I just wrote him back, like, ‘F you, dude. Just, like, f you. Go f yourself. I hope you sit on an f’ing nail. I hope your parents walk in front of a bus.’ Stuff like that. Couldn’t say ‘fuck’ or eBay wouldn’t let the message go through. And then a couple of days later, he sent me $70 on PayPal. Maybe he felt bad. Or made some money off YouTube ads.”
I said, “And he also collected the shards and sent them back to me in a box. The shipping was like $2.38, fucking Media Mail. And then he left me 5-star feedback.”
She said, “Did you take the opportunity to give him negative feedback, knowing he couldn’t take his back?”
I said, “No. I gave him 5 stars too. He earned it. And then I got some gorilla glue and put the ashtray back together. It looks totally fucked up now, but you can still use it as an ashtray. I didn’t even use it as an ashtray before. I didn’t want to damage it. But now, I don’t feel bad using it as an ashtray because it’s, not, like, an objet d’art anymore. Although I am a little concerned about resting the burning tip of a cigarette in glue because, like, inhaling the burnt glue could be carcinogenic.”
She said, “You know cigarettes are themselves carcinogenic, right?”
I nodded. I said, “Different kinds of cancer. Managing my risk.”
I looked at her on FaceTime for a second.
I said, “I miss you. I thought the story was, like, a metaphor for our relationship somehow, but I’m not exactly sure how. The ashtray is like a boomerang cursed by our relationship. I sent it away and it came back to me destroyed.”
She said, “Don’t say anything like that. If you say something like that again, I’m hanging up and going back to work.”
I said, “I didn’t mean sexually. I just meant, like, your company. You as a person in my life.”
She just looked at the screen.
I said, “When I come back, do you wanna come over, have a drink, smoke some cigarettes and use the ashtray?”
She shook her head.
I said, “Why not?”
She said, “I don’t think my boyfriend would like that.”
I said, “He can come too.”
She said, “I think he would rather have a growth removed from his neck than have a drink with you.”
I said, “Does he have growths on his neck?”
We looked at each other again.
She said, “I have to go back to work now.”
I said, “Thanks for talking to me.”
She shrugged and said, “Good luck with the trip.”
I took the elevator down to the hotel bar. I took a seat at the bar and looked at the menu. I looked around for other Westerners but there were none. And the drinks were like $20.
I walked back to the elevator, went up to my room, and chewed up some Mellow Yellow. I took the elevator back downstairs. I went into the workout room. I did the elliptical for five minutes before I got too winded to keep going.
I took the elevator back up to my room. I turned on the bath, got the temperature just right, put music on on my Jambox, Fucked Up, “Queen of Hearts.” I put the Jambox on the floor next to the tub, drank five ounces of vodka, took my clothes off, looked at my weird body in the mirror, and got into the bath. “Hello, my name is David! Your name is Veronica!” Those are some lyrics. I screamed along. I got out of the bath to get the vodka and got back in. “The boot off my throat! Life is returning! Let’s all emote!” I fell asleep with the water running.
In the morning, the bathroom was flooded and the carpet outside was soaking wet. I dropped my room key off in a slot in the lobby. Express Checkout.
I took my last bullet train to Fukuoka, “the Portland of Japan” according to the guidebook. One hundred and fifty-nine miles west on a separate island.
I took a cab to the Airbnb. I entered the door code provided in Camilla’s email and walked into the apartment. It was small and full of trinkets and toy figurines.
I said, “Hi? Are you here?”
I felt so nervous.
I heard Camilla say, “Yeah, I’m here, in the bedroom.” She sounded nervous too.
I walked back through the apartment and came to the bedroom door. Camilla was on a sleeping mat, using her laptop. I didn’t want to have to sleep on the floor again, but I wouldn’t say anything.
I said, “Hi.”
She said, “Hi.”
I put my bags down.
I said, “How are you?”
She said, “I’m better.”
I said, “Are you still angry?”
She said, “I’m over it.”
I walked over to her and sat down next to her. Not too close.
I said, “What’d you do on your days off from babysitting me?”
She said, “Went to Kyoto.”
I said, “Are you sure you’re not still mad?”
She said, “Yeah.”
I said, “How was Kyoto? Did you see the temples?”
She said, “It was cool, but all these cities are starting to feel the same. I saw some temples. Those were all pretty much the same too.”
I said, “Are white peoples’ faces starting to look disgusting to you?”
Camilla said, “Yes! Oh my god. I thought it was just me.”
We both laughed. I guess she was over it, maybe.
She said, “I actually, weirdly, like, missed going to Supreme. I feel like I haven’t been to a Supreme store in ages, even though it’s only been like four days.”
I said, “I feel the same way.”
Camilla said, “Did you go to the Nagoya one?”
I said, “Of course. But that feels like a long time ago also.”
Camilla said, “How was it?”
I said, “To you, same as all the other ones. Same wallpaper and everything. To me, palace of the mind.”
Camilla said, “Did they have any random old stuff?”
I said, “Yeah, the Hardcore Hammer.”
I showed her the Hardcore Hammer on eBay. $188.88 Buy It Now. It was a hammer head mounted on an axe handle.
She said, “How much was it at the store?”
I said, “About $100. I didn’t buy it. It seemed super stupid. I don’t use hammers. But it does go along with my theory of their accessories being underworld-connoted. An everyday household tool that movie gangsters use to smash fingers.”
Camilla said, “Couldn’t you tie just about any household item to either drugs or violence?”
I shrugged. Maybe she was right.
Camilla said, “What was Nagoya like otherwise?”
I said, “Sucked. I’m tired of Japan. I think Japan is the most boring place on earth.”
Camilla said, “Don’t be ignorant. Japan’s amazing.”
I said, “Japan is like Pleasantville. No public disorder. Not even music playing in a car. None of those black spots of gum on the pavement. No, like, street life. You know? Like, what happens here? What’s on the front page of the newspaper? ‘Cat stuck in tree’?”
Camilla said, “Earthquakes, nuclear disasters, stuff like that.”
I said, “But that’s not, like, the day-to-day. I’m talking about, like, walking down the street. I never thought I’d miss getting asked for money on the street outside my apartment. Or hearing people screaming at each other on the street. But then I came to Japan. It feels, like, dead.”
Camilla said, “Why do you call that boring rather than, like, perfect? Or, like, this culture has figured out a way of living that’s more frictionless than ours?”
I said, “I can feel two ways about it. I can contain multitudes. I’ve definitely thought, like, ‘This is the most civilized place on earth.’ But, like, for example, in every place we’ve been in that sells sandwiches, they have the crusts already cut off. Have you noticed that?”
Camilla said, “So?”
I said, “Everywhere in this country, every sandwich has the crust cut off. Doesn’t that strike you as almost self-parodic? Like, ‘Mussolini kept the trains running on time.’ Whoever is in charge here keeps the trains running on time and the crusts cut off all the sandwiches.”
Camilla said, “You’re just wrong about it being ‘boring.’ Boring is the wrong word.”
I said, “It can be both boring and perfect. Like a Toyota Camry.”
Camilla said, “But when you lead with boring, you’re misrepresenting it.”
I said, “It’s not like I’m giving a talk at the U.N. It’s just you and me here.”
Supremacist is out July 5 from Tyrant Books.