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Most pillows are just pillows, but for Jenny Slate, the floral-print puffs arrayed on her pristine white linen couch in her freshly rented apartment in L.A.’s Silver Lake are metaphors

For a bright future. For a new life. For freedom. The Obvious Child star and her bichon frise, Reggie, just moved into this sunny one-bedroom in February, and every time she looks at those pillows, she gets so excited because she remembers how she’d bought them while still married to editor-director Dean Fleischer-Camp, her husband for three years, but had to stow them away because she realized it felt like they were living in a box of tampons. Now she and Reggie don’t have to run their decorating decisions by anyone. “I’ve never lived on my own, because I really did go from one relationship to another my whole life, so I’ve never had a chance to go really girlie,” she says. “And I had my ex-husband over last night and he was like, ‘These flower pillows look great. But they’re just for you.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah! That’s right!’ I love them so much. I just love them for what they represent, which is that all my choices are for me.” She turns around. “I’m gonna pee really quick.”

The bathroom door doesn’t quite close — she’d warned me of this. “You can snoop around if you want,” she shouts. “It’s just a little mouse house. It’s fucking perfect for me.”

I have been in her presence for about two minutes. The first thing she did was offer to loan me a T-shirt because I mentioned I was hot. Slate used to do a stand-up routine about how her mom refused to sew her name into her shirt in elementary school, “because she was like, ‘You’re too friendly, and some stranger would just be like, Jenny! Come into the van!’ ”

There’s an obvious person missing so far from this tale of pillows versus patriarchy, but she’s not hiding anything; we just haven’t gotten to it yet. “When I moved in here, I’d been through my divorce and a breakup,” she says, returning from the bathroom and referring to the ten or so months she spent dating Chris Evans, best known as Captain America, and her much more famous co-star in Gifted, an upcoming film about a family struggling with a young girl’s genius affinity for math. The internet went wild over their apples-and-oranges compatibility: a brash Jewish comedienne beloved for oversharing about her bodily functions on talk shows and voicing Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, a tiny stop-motion conch with a single eye and feet who talks about being so small he can hang-glide on a Dorito, in a series of YouTube shorts she made with Fleischer-Camp — and a world-famous Marvel superhero, who also happens to be a Massachusetts momma’s boy with one of the most insanely ripped bodies on the planet. “We used to talk about what kinds of animals we were,” says Slate. “Chris said it’s like I’m a chick riding on a St. Bernard’s head. We’re an odd match.”

Paparazzi tried to snap them, bloggers scrutinized their Instagrams, tabloids obsessively covered their one appearance together on a red carpet. Slate didn’t read the coverage, but it was extremely kind, with most articles praising Slate for taking a chance on Evans, or noting that his coolness factor had jumped several notches because of his proximity to her. Maybe this crazy thing could work out! There was something beautiful, in a year marked by division, to think of these two opposites finding common ground. He was 35; she was 34. They’d grown up half an hour from each other. They were both outspoken liberals. They’d said really adorable things about each other on Anna Faris’s podcast.

And then, a few weeks before I met Slate, news broke that it was over. In her life, though, she’d already spent several months dealing with that loss and having to find a place to live, crashing with friends in Venice Beach in January. “I watched You’ve Got Mail so many times, it was unbelievable,” she says. Was she weeping most of the time? “Yeah, I did it right.” Eventually, she found this new apartment and purged everything she owned except for a few clothes she loves, books, precious objects, and a velvet chair once belonging to her great-grandmother. “I was like, ‘You need all new things. You are a working woman. Maybe this is an indulgence, but just start over,’ ” she says. “It’s like, Fuck.”
The other night, she tells me, she was sitting at a bar by herself, reading a book about the Holocaust, and finally sent an SOS text to her friend Mae Whitman (NBC’s Parenthood). “I was just like, ‘Can you please help me? I’m so lonely.’ And she came and we got shitbombed, and I woke up the next morning and saw my headphones on my neighbor’s yard. I have no idea how they ended up there.”

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