AF: So how did Isaac end up working at BuzzFeed
SJ: I was about a year in at BuzzFeed and happy, learning a lot, doing a lot of things I'd never done before. And they were asking for a books editor, did anyone know anybody. I remember thinking, “I know someone,” but they wanted the person based in New York City.
AF: And you were thinking Isaac is never going to leave San Francisco?
IF: I never was! I thought I was going to die in San Francisco. I love that town.
SJ: However, other people at BuzzFeed were reaching out to him, because he had been doing incredible work at The Rumpus with Roxane Gay, and Cheryl Strayed.
AF: Then Isaac moved on to McSweeney’s and worked on publicity for White Girls by Hilton Als, right?
IF: I feel very lucky, I feel like a weird Forrest Gump of the lit world.
AF: I feel like you have this really incredible track record that you won't acknowledge of knowing and encouraging writers, to be perfectly honest, from their roots.
IF: I don’t know about all that, but because of [Hilton Al’s] book, I came to New York more than I had before. When I would come, I would see Saeed, and I realized I was missing out on something. And Saeed had moved to San Francisco for a hot minute and then moved back to New York, and you want to talk about attraction? You want to talk about magnetism?
All of a sudden, San Francisco seemed very small, and Saeed seemed very far away.
SJ: It was only six months. But it was tough!
IF: Then an opening showed up at BuzzFeed, and I was missing the internet.
SJ: I think Isaac needed to literally see the BuzzFeed office, see how happy I was in this space, because it was hard to explain. BuzzFeed is so much about sincerity and earnestness. It is so much about the way the social web and emotion and using a quiz or an article or an essay that you're sharing, and using it to communicate with the people.
Every person who shares Jenny Zhang's essay that Isaac published as books editor, yes they are saying this is a beautiful essay it meant a lot to me, but they're also saying, I'm sharing it with my people because I'm trying to connect. That is who Isaac and I have always been and learned to be even more so with each other.
AF: How do you work so closely with someone you love?
SJ: I had not thought of platonic romance before and now I'm obsessed with it. Now I'm thinking of my friend Nick, and realizing that the first time we went out, it was basically a great first date, and I had never been like, “oh it was romantic.” You know, my definition of love comes from Beloved. When Paul D. says to Setha, “Woman, I did not fall for you, I rose in love with you.”
And because that's my definition of love, I've risen in my love with Isaac. I am more myself. I am happier because Isaac is a part of my life. I have learned to be more honest with myself than I was before I knew Isaac. He is someone who, in the rising of that love, can challenge me and question me and be like, “Bitch, really?”
IF: Sometimes when I'm nervous, or we're having a moment, our hands will reach out to one another—
IF: And that is love. And that is romance. Saeed fought for me when a lot of people didn't understand who I was. When I showed up in New York, I got the shit kicked out of me, and we don't need to talk about all of that, but Saeed has defended me. I know there are roles and projections society expects out of people, and I also know that I have been the damsel in distress in this relationship.
Saeed has been the knight in shining armor, Saeed has been the tough guy, Saeed has gone to fight for me time and time again, and gotten his nose bloodied, and fucking scrapped on my behalf. And that is something I admire in him. And he doesn’t even tell me. These are things I hear from other people.
SJ: I will cut somebody. It’s true.
IF: I'm not joking, this might be the first time you and I have had a conversation about all this. We're getting real real.
SJ: We're getting to the real.
IF: One way to categorize it is he's gay, I'm straight, alright we're like family. Right? Oh, we're brothers, right? Saeed doesn't defend me like family. To be honest, family is not a word that means safety to me. But he makes me feel safe, and he defends me in the way of somebody who loves me, and I feel loved, and I love that.
SJ: I love you.
IF: I love you too.