Satin doll [book]

NOVEL

Ch 1: Dripping springs

On a beach in Florida littered with beer cans and untidy men in swim trunks, Lola sat down with a pineapple cooler — supposedly alcoholic, though so far it wasn’t doing the trick. The red-haired bartender with freckles who’d served it had been having trouble articulating. “Do you want that virgin?” he’d asked a few times. Lola had merely shaken her, “No.”

She’d always been inarticulate, herself, so Lola already liked the guy. She thought she would leave him a nice tip when she moved on from this last bar. That depended on whether she had enough money. It was a private hotel, and she didn’t have a room.

Lola cocked up her laptop on a beach chair near the bar, facing the water. She was careful not to get sand on it, as it would damage her contents, still not backed up on the Cloud. She took off her T-shirt, a black and white striped one she’d borrowed from a surf shop, and folded it beneath the laptop. Except for the bandana in her hair she wore just a black bikini. Lola looked around self-consciously and noticed a man in a fishing cap, watching her from a barstool.

“You old enough to be here?” he yelled out.

Lola nodded once. The man took it as a cue to move nearer.

“I’d buy you another one,” he said. “But I just closed out.”

She lifted her sunglasses. The man’s grin softened around the edges so it looked like he was about to cry a little bit. As often happened when older men spoke to her, Lola felt sympathy well up her larynx, unsolicited. She didn’t know what to do, so she just, was kind.

“That’s okay, I’ll pay for it.”

After that he kept asking questions: what her name was, where she came from, whether she knew she was pretty. “Is that a joke,” Lola thought, still just nodding on and realizing he must be working class, like she grew up, so, tacitly they were comrades. She owed it to him to smile back. In the rests between questions she thought about whether she’d be able to handle a night with this guy, not because she wanted to spend time with him, as a practical consideration, that’s all honestly. When the man finally wandered back to the bar, Lola felt more vulnerable than before he apprehended her solitude. Any iota of good nature from a stranger made her feel protected — blessed, even — since she’d begun to take it for granted that most humans were cruel. And usually they didn’t know it.

Lola tossed back her pineapple cooler with such clodsy vigor that her Raybans fell off her forehead and onto the beach. She picked up and checked for scratches though already she couldn’t see quite clearly enough to tell even. They were fine, she was glad. And getting drunk, it was working. She’d paid for the glasses herself, the other day. But she didn’t want to think about, money, just this moment in time. How she felt free from it.

For a while now, Lola had entertained the idea of buying junk. Nothing else would be good enough. She could tell that people resented her, lately. She thought she had a good read on human nature, whether people liked her or not. Usually not. Guys occasionally did, what fun. She wanted to go to Canada, where people were nicer. So she heard.

On her laptop Lola composed an e-mail to her father, in case he noticed a few weird charges on the credit card. She stuck with her alibi. She was spending the summer with a close friend from college. They’d taken a trip to the beach for the weekend, Lola explained to her dad. If he decided to glimpse at her social media, he’d immediately know the reality of her situation — she wasn’t with her friend — but she kept a low profile. She doubted he would keep tabs on her internet presence. On the credit card charges, perhaps.

The hostel where she was staying, somewhat affordably, was an assortment of tents in someone’s backyard. It was an hour-long drive from the beach by bus. Using the same website that brought her to the hostel, Lola typed in a street address in Vancouver. Not quite a random one. She’d found the address while researching the world’s most well-known junk shops. She wanted to stay somewhere nearby, a hostel if she could sleep alone. Not one of those shared dorms. With the money left on her debit card, she could afford a flight and a few nights in Canada. She could also afford another drink.

Lola stood up from her seat, not bothering to put on her T-shirt. She glanced toward the bar and noticed the red-haired server with freckles, eying her. His eyes bore some ferocity, now, at odds with the tender freckly bro role he’d probably been stuck in since youth. She felt the will to perform. Lola had never liked the feeling of her tits, how past 130 pounds they loomed soo noticeably unless she covered them. Almost always, she did. For that guy though, she let them stay out as she walked toward the bar. She kept it vague whether the was approaching the server or the restroom. Occasionally she shifted the shape of her path, so it could go either way.

“Lola, have a nice rest of your stay.”

A red flash, Lola turned on her foot; the man in the fishing cap was well on his way. She waved bye. Now she just felt so confused. A few steps later, she reached the bar and took up a vacant seat. The redhaired bartender didn’t approach her for at least two minutes. Of course she’d assumed, self-importantly, that he’d even been watching.

“Did you want the check,” he asked; she had no idea how many minutes later.

“No, thanks, I want that same drink,” she said awkwardly, adding in a lower tone, “do you have to ask me if it’s virgin, seriously, like durr.”

He seemed taken aback.

“Liqueur,” she said. “Sweet.”

De fuhhh does cool mean to me, not much, Benny thought, brushing the edge of his steering wheel with a cigarette, causing it to drop ash on his brown Dickie pleats. He was thinking about an insult from a former friend, a white girl. Stealing cars must be cool but it didn’t really matter since nobody had been in the backlot to watch it. They would have been surprised, if only they’d seen.

Unless they were cops, surely not, woopitty doo da; Benny remembered what he was looking for. From the passenger’s seat he grabbed a black nylon backpack, which contained a wrench, and pulled into the lot of an abandoned Blockbuster store. A Sedan hazed mercilessly by sunshine had caught his stolid gaze. It was instinct, long before this moment (fated, he literally believed), that convinced Benny to pack a wrench before his trip out West to go skiing with some friends from Horace Mann. His best friend from high school wasn’t among them, which is probably why the whole trip from the get-go felt like a toothy bite in the jack. Not in his, but basically yeah. By hurting Clyde he hurt himself.

Benny crouched in front of the rusty Sedan and started cranking away at the bolts that held the license plate in place. It took a lot of strength — a man’s job, he thought sarcastically — and he regretted the day he stopped working out and took up smoking. (It was what all the artists were doing, na.) He had no desire to live a long life, himself, unlike the bolts on this old Sedan. They wouldn’t let go.

Forty minutes later, Benny was back on Route 66 heading East. He’d replaced his plates and felt fine about where he was heading. He kept thinking he heard sirens in the distance, then realizing he was wrong. Sometimes when he heard things, Benny worried he was schizophrenic, just like his mom. In her own early twenties, while living back home with her dad (Benny’s grandfather), she’d had a seriously bad fight with him then hitchhiked to the city. It was never discussed, but Benny suspected she’d been raped. Suspected is an understatement. Obviously he knew. Years later at a family reunion, she began shouting graphic imprecations about at least one time she’d been abused, accusing her dad’s “energy” of causing it. Her father swiftly denied this allegation and sent her to a mental institution, where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia — though Benny always wondered if, throughout the whole ordeal, she’d been treated unfairly. He saw his mom like twice a month and knew she was insane, but, felt closer to her than to his grandpa.

Benny had a tendency to imagine relationships in his head, like most 24-year-old guys he guessed. But suppose it was abnormal. He knew some guys who’d never suffered from such intricate abstractions. Benny realized he created reality in his head, just to barely handle much worse real life events. There were some drawbacks to having a wicked imagination; he couldn’t hold down relationships. And as long as he was spending all his time in his head, if removed from creature comforts he would easily collapse. Do something dumb. Each time Benny heard a siren on the highway, he thought a couple things. Either he was being pursued by cops, or (here was the crazier thought) he was being thought-about by a girl. A specific one. That one he was obsessed with, her name was Selena. He could even judge the nature of her thoughts based on the volume and pitch of the sirens, or whether they were issued from an ambulance, firetruck, police car, or combination of em. The sound of cop sirens was a fixed signifier that revealed to Benny, he was still loved by someone. Come to think of it, huhr — he realized now while driving — the whole notion was so nuts that he should have written it off long ago, but, Benny seemed stuck on the superstition about sirens, a bit like faith in ghosts from back in childhood, or the certainty from his late teens that as a black singer he’d bring jazz back into the mainstream. He just couldn’t kick the belief even though jazz (like God) was so obviously deceased. So life made no sense but he needed to believe, some answers would be found by him. And only him? Who else? When else? He’d be given recognition or he’d force it over from hands that held it greedily and lied to him that he was crazy for just-surviving. They must not know how it felt, to just-survive for years and years as their baseline. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so callous. They still had their humanity, and they squandered it on fancy ski trips their parents paid for. They despoiled the hotel and had over chicks. They posted pics on Instagram, of the chicks.

Pursuing dreams had nothing to do with whether they were realistic or even wise, for Benny, but with the threat letting go presented to his unstable mind, always playing reruns of its own grandiose one-man show. That must be his heaven, but it wasn’t even close. He couldn’t sit alone in silence. The truth would crack him up. He wasn’t special, no one was.

Benny used to assume his need to compose just meant, he was a monster. At least he was a good person, not human though. Now doubts were creeping in. What could he do about it, but prove himself wrong? He needed to feel like a man. So Benny stole an old car, which he could admit had been dumb. Maybe he should have taken a nicer one, to be sure he was stealing from someone who could stand the loss. Not some dweeb who owned this piece of shit. The Sedan he was driving, sucked. When he stole it, he’d been thinking of himself, maybe underestimating what he could pull off.

If he ever thought about others!! Probably not, though. Benny crossed the border into Nebraska. He got anxious each time he passed a toll, like they’d check the plates and just know, he’d ripped off those and the car, but so far no problems. He was free to go. Still he tried to pay in cash. Maybe he was lucky or maybe he was pushing his luck. He kept wishing he were naïve enough to believe in determinism, like a child star who never fell off completely, or someone who’d made it by their early twenties (Kanye or Abel). He didn’t feel fine, suddenly, about where he was headed. Benny feared that he was schizophrenic, actually though, right now. That he’d just left behind all his old friends forever on their ski trip, the healthy friends, to stay with some poor chunky Jew with a drug problem (Clyde) in New York, who like him was sinking steadily into a worse mess. He was terrified, and though he didn’t think of himself as a coward, his fear wasn’t irrational. It was built on facts. He’d learned about testing reality, a bit. He didn’t know how to kick the terror in him, though, it occurred to Benny — stealing a car hadn’t been the best short-term investment in his sanity. The terror wouldn’t let him off. He kept driving. His stupid delusions kept leading him on.

The sound of a single patrol car waned from the West. Then maybe an hour of silence. Benny decided to pull over and rest.

He found a lot of old strip mall shops, protected by a battered fence of rusty chains. Benny parked just out of view of the highway. He stepped out of the car, looked around at his surroundings of white stucco buildings with shaded windows, old signs advertising car sales and repairs, though like the Blockbuster, these places had gone out of business long ago. Benny was reminded of the feeling that he’d stepped into a haunted theme park, a feeling that used to tickle his consciousness as a child when he went swimming with his mom. An ice cream truck would pull up, to serve the kids, and he’d always feel more haunted by the jingles than particularly, excited.

Kick a rock, why not, it rolled, the sound grounded him. “It’s a Small World” stopped playing in his head.

Benny turned a corner and found himself faced with a colony of dark mangy cats, and wondered if he was hallucinating. If so whatevs. They were cute, just so dirty. When he kicked the same rock, one of the cats leapt up and ran under a dumpster, what a scaredy. Benny felt the weird impulse to kick the rock again, or even throw it at the cat. He recalled an old superstition, involving black ones. How awful to be black, Benny got eye contact with the black cat he’d been pursuing, their stares were unevenly matched. One of its eyes was badly swollen and seared of fur so that Benny could see bare and burned skin around its right lid. The furless spot extended around the eye to behind its left ear, where the skin was not just pink, but speckled with brown lesions. In its left eye–the undamaged one–Benny thought he saw an expression of pain. Not physical pain. (The fur-searing burn had happened years ago.) Pain that extended beneath the eye to the cat’s soul, relatable. That’s what Benny projected from his soul, onto the ugly cat. It was a look of resignation, head high though, not defeated from it, like the cat wanted Benny to go and that was it.

So he did, Benny turned away from the scar-faced baby kit and gazed instead at a gray tabby with knotted fur around its feet and ears. Next to that cat, several kittens lay napping. One of them got up and yawned. Benny could see a small ribcage through its fuzzy colored skin. He looked around for a cat with some pregnant paunch, to identify the parent, as though he felt responsible for making sure the cat had someone loving to watch over it. But he couldn’t find any mom, around. The kitten laid its head back down.

Back on the road Benny thought, he thought too much about the cats, came up with a theory that was irrelevant to humanity, to anyone but him — these poor little cats all ended up colonized because they were unwanted. If black cats turned up in litters they’d be turned loose, people were so scared of superstitions. And what if not even humane societies wanted them. This colony was too remote, would have been too much. Lost cause creatures. Poor things, Benny really went far with thinking about them; he realized it was time to just, focus on driving.

The cotton candy sunset turned to a tarry blackness speckled white. Benny hadn’t seen so many stars in a while. Most places he’d lived were too polluted for skies like this. He wished he could share the scene with a friend. Maybe he should have taken one of the cats and cared for it. If they’d been less rank, he might have actually done it.

A moment ago she’d been in a dune with her eyes closed, tracing patterns in the sand, wishing it were the skin of a real guy near her age. She’d been aware that people were watching her and that she was alone, and basically topless in this bikini which didn’t fit right, but she didn’t give one if she was being watched all the time. Especially because she just assumed it wasn’t true, she didn’t have proof they were watching her, those dudes over there, they could just be looking across the water not at her. The fleeting euphoria that heavy liquor gave her was enough to forget about the painful phase of post-drunkenness that left a girl feeling melancholic and self-disgusted.

That’s where she was now: in pre-hangover purgatory and she didn’t know what to do besides sit in a booth at Red Lobster and drink water. She had to use the bathroom, but to the same extent that she didn’t care earlier now she really cared what people thought of her. The restaurant was crowded and she felt like the patrons would know she was blitzed and if they saw her stumble they would, well, judge her. She didn’t want to feel judged. She thought of the man on the beach with the fishing cap, if he saw me now, he’d never have spoken to me, that’s a sure one. For better or, like, not? He was kind of off, why’d she been so nice to him. What is wrong with me. Lola laughed out loud then looked around to see if anyone had heard her. No one had, she was wigging.

A waitress came up. Lola placed her order — some sort of salad with grilled shrimp — and asked for more water please. “Sure dear,” the waitress smiled tenderly and Lola thought for a moment, this waitress, she was really pretty. She turned from the table and walked off with a feminine gait that looked like it came unthinkingly.

Lola’s greatest vulnerability was her lack of grace compared to other young women. If another girl insulted her appearance — and this only happened in hear head, around prettier girls, but she was also fairly sure she wasn’t imagining it — yeah, it really eviscerated her will to live. Ever since she’d begun acting in New York, she had to just come to terms with it: her face. It had some problems. As an adolescent she wasn’t particularly enamored with the thought of plastic surgery but not now she spent hours and hours on the internet, trying to figure out what exactly she’d do to fix her jawline. She couldn’t afford it yet, but maybe at some point, she’d have the spare cash. She could never have afforded to keep up with the richest girls at school, the white women who didn’t spend time with her ever. There was something different about their and hair and skin and literally perfect figures. Alone in her saddest moments she didn’t have the energy to put words to it, the exact differences. Her split ends, her arms, her chubby thighs, and of course her overall weight, she wouldn’t have dwelled on these errors in her beauty if she hadn’t been called out on them by other women. By comparison to these gorgeous people Lola looked pathetic no matter how hard she tried to groom and starve herself. At some point she’d resigned to having the soul of a slum rat. Mouse would have been her preferred spirit animal, but sometimes — often — she heard in her mind the word “pig.” Those days made her feel suicidally sick.

“If you can’t be the best of the best,” Lola’s mother’d once said, “you can be the worst of the worst. I’m guessing that’s why I stayed with your dad.”

On a television above the restaurant bar, a local news station covered a gun massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. This American shooting was worse than most. 49 dead, 53 more wounded. This report claimed the gunman was linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS. Other said he did it because he was homosexual, maybe, still in the closet, apparently not keeping it under control. What a fucking piece of shit.

Lola thought about how so many mass shootings had to do with sexual problems. Frustrated men. She thought that was self-evident, though it could just be how she interpreted them.

Everything was about sex, everything now. Sometimes she wondered if she was the repressed one. Fucked up. She hadn’t lost her virginity until she was 21, while living with her father in Queens after what she liked to call her first “near-death experience.” In a dorm room at Columbia, she’d overdone it on sleeping pills, then been discovered naked on the floor of a shower by building staff. At Mount Sinai, they’d pumped her stomach. Lola had a tumultuous relationship with her dad. So, being sent home from college, at that time, felt like a cruel form of punishment for handling her death wish so clumsily. She could have done better than that.

In her time out of school (luckily, she guessed), Lola’d come in touch with a boy named Benny, who was attending Juilliard for jazz. She met him at a Starbucks on W 57th. Lola wanted to make films. He wanted to write musicals. Woop di doo. In Lola’s bedroom in Queens, they used to help each other cope with depression through sex. At least to her that’s how it seemed, the sex was so sad. When Lola wasn’t with him, she made goofy-girl comedies in the basement of her dad’s place. She’d just like, set up a camera and play all the roles herself. Meanwhile Benny played jazz in his dorm room, on a keyboard. He knew different instruments technically but just did it all with sound effects. She always wondered why he didn’t just, hire a band. That would sound better wouldn’t it, man.

He was writing a musical about a real-life gunman: a male college student who shot several innocent sorority girls at a school in California. The shooter had posted videos of himself on the internet, alone, documenting his shitty life leading up to the incident — which to Benny, seemed eerily reminiscent of Lola’s tendency to make one-woman films.

Yeah, she wanted to be a filmmaker, but every time she asked another woman to work or just give feedback openly on a project, it turned into some big dramatic thing that ended in rejection and veiled online threats. She never had trouble involving male actors or crew, though sometimes she suspected they didn’t even watch her shit. The ones who did, she appreciated. But she couldn’t make a film with just them. Lola had overheard enough creepy comments from men on her sets that she’d become more selective with whom she gave access to her secret visual realm–the same way she’d been, at that time, selective with people and sex.

Lola and Benny’s “relationship” fell to pieces. In the aftermath, Lola fell apart too. For her the emotional tumult of a bad break-up seemed harder to endure than just like, ending it. This was too much. And it hadn’t even been serious. So double whammy, she felt pathetic for caring, when she literally didn’t have a right to. But she knew better than to act suicidal by proxy to handle her pain, even if it’s how she felt. She channeled her feelings into her writing, filmmaking, schoolwork. She also made a Twitter account no one knew about and, talked to herself. That was weird.

Creativity is the best drug, she insisted to herself when posting weird shit. Better to be stable, sober and crazy-on-the-internet, than unsober in real life and miserable — ya?

From her booth at Red Lobster, Lola was struck as though by Cupid’s tranquilizing dart by a strong need for bed and solitude. She used the restaurant’s Wifi to book a room at a Day’s Inn near the Fort Lauderdale airport. Yeah, damn, she needed a night off from this hustle of being an addict — somewhere other than the tent hostel, to take several baths. Think about the future. Maybe even write a bit.

Not that it mattered. An “entire” nano film budget (which she’d been saving for months, in total about eight months of steady savings) was going toward hotel rooms and airfare to Canada so Lola could buy some junk. She’d even put her camera up for auction on eBay–but she’d gotten a bad feeling about it and deleted the page. Lola would rather have her camera than junk, so selling that, it would have been a step too far off the deep: a line crossed in her own subjective boundaries. She would rather have her Bolex camera, a gift from her dad, than some other piece of junk. And per her true self, she’d rather make some cheap-shit movie at some point, somehow some way, than no film at all.

The waitress came with the check and offered to box up her salad. “No thanks” Lola said, she planned to eat one of those mini containers of Fruit Loops from a drugstore for dinner. It would probably end up being Fruit Loops and another visit to a corner store in the middle of the night, when she couldn’t sleep. Lola realized this kind of eating was terrible for her budgeting. An Über brought Lola to her tent at the hostel. She felt too weak to take the cheaper bus. Another Über (starting to cost a lot…) brought her to a Duane Reade near the Days Inn. Lola walked an extra two miles to the hotel with her bags, only two. One rolling, it had her clothes in it. As soon as she got checked in and entered her room, she climbed under the covers and rested.

It is moments like this, Lola smirked at her nastiness, that make me wonder if all the suffering is just foreplay to some better future.. this is like some Genesis porn shit.

A half hour passed and she felt her gray matter was balanced, enough, to get up and do-something not nothing. She hadn’t slept, she hadn’t touched herself either, but she’d had some interesting thoughts in bed. Benny once made her a personalized jazz playlist which she now was just obsessed with. She thought she’d listen to that, but as she yanked her headphones from the ugly [edit*** what kind get specific ***] backpack she’d been using (just another item from her past), she noticed they were damp and covered in sand. She had tossed them in her backpack with a wet swimsuit top. Lola put them over her ears and tried playing a song. Tough luck, the headphones were shot.

The death of these headphones for Lola felt like punishment, and was just as tragic as losing a relative; especially one on her mom’s side. Probably because she spent so much time alone, she grew attached to objects like they had spirits, certain articles of clothing, her laptop, these headphones which (she couldn’t believe) were gone. Already they were battered from a dog having chewed them and bandaged with brown packing tape. Like a desiccated infant she cradled them and considered the energy it would take to resuscitate them, maybe, even though she just knew they were a lost cause. She put them in a trash bin and picked up a television remote.

Back under the covers Lola browsed channels, stopping on an old episode of a show called Cocaine Lovebirds. It was about some wealthy New York girls in their twenties, fictional characters played by hot clone stars of every girl she ever wanted to be that wasn’t herself, poorly-written, poorly-acted, well-costumed, it was fun! She used to love this rom drom in high school but, now she couldn’t even get through five minutes. Yuck. Food, on a sick stomach, it just didn’t mesh with her sensitive head. Something different and quite specific was upsetting her, and she probably fathomed this, she knew it reminded her of something, but Lola couldn’t quite place it. She turned the TV off, rolled over and slept like a rock.

Oh, duhrr, maybe it’s how she used to watch that show all the time with her stupid bitch friend from high school, named Selena, life-ruiner, shitty person, talented writer despite all that, and above all a sycophant, she at least deserved to be “friends” with everyone on earth but Lola. That’s what Lols thought in her sleep at least.

A sweet dream, she still cared enough to think that little of her which was generous, and that was the end of it.

[Chapter 2: Good on my own]

Selena was the kind of girl who could enrapture full subway cars with rants about her sex life. With the rhythm of her bitchy soliloquies she drew from deep within Lola the natural instincts of a primordial bitch. She spun a powerfully seductive of narcissism tempered by humorous self-contempt — a dark enchantress with a manic mind that ignited the loins of men and drove jealous women nuts.

“He calls me, his lamb. And I’m thinkin like, I dunno if I wanna be a lamb.. they’re hooved, first of all, which seems almost like, inelegant or I don’t even know, and also like am I submitting too much, what do you think Lola.”

“You’re asking me.

Selena kind of nodded then said, “mhm.”

“Okay, I think inelegant is poor word choice, for you. Lambs are swag.”

“Swag, I like that word.”

“For me where I’m at, it’s fine. I’m wearing last season’s Nikes with this velvet dress. By the way is that a problem.”

“I kind of like it,” Selena said.

“I’m just saying, you don’t know he sees it. But maybe it’s just not a good relationship, or hookup, is it a relationship.”

“It’s, well. Yeah he’s my boyfriend.”

“Wait, are you serious.”

“Yes.”

Lola paused like actually not sure what to say. “When did that happen. Okay. I mean. Is he the one, if you don’t like being described as that, his lamb. Just like hypothetically I wouldn’t like being called someone’s pig.” She blushed and turned rosy periwinkle. “Actually it’s not like that, I don’t know why I said that, nor why you’re complaining, nor why you’re asking me like I’m an expert I’m not, nor why you’re f–“

Nor?

What?”

“–just, forget it.”

“Um,” said Lola.

A pause, confused na. The girls were on a train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. In the darkness imbued by the tunnel the ceiling lights gave off a more putrid fluorescence, and Lola noticed a spot on Selena’s face where the concealer wasn’t rubbed in. She would never had said anything, she just knew Selena would be upset, mortified to term it unhyperbolically, if she knew that Lola had borne witness to a beauty error that would have been so easy to fix. She wouldn’t have been mortified because it looked bad, but because it showed, that she had been putting on make-up — and apparently, sucked at it. Lola didn’t know if Selena was trying to look effortless most of the time but this incident got her even-thinking, about whether it was her fault that Selena put on concealer (or was it foundation that didn’t match her skin?) for this event. It’s not like she had bad skin, she just didn’t look she had a skin care regime. The concealer basically was unnecessary and awkward to have witnessed.

Lola, on her part, was fine with how she dressed. Did she have on make-up, that night? She wouldn’t be able to remember, later in life, but the answer is yes. She had on a little eyeliner, it wasn’t rubbed in right so it was more like stage make-up, and a black velvet dress. The cherry on top was that necklace. That horse necklace.

It had on a horse on it, Pegasus, a gift from her mom who had passed.

“Maybe he thinks of me as like a sacrifice,” Selena said, “sexually I mean,” and Lols couldn’t believe her 23-year-old friend was still so naïve to talk like a child expounding on inappropriate details about a private experience. Self-conscious on Selena’s behalf, she looked around the train.

“Wait, what kind of–sacrifice?”

She couldn’t tell if anyone was listening but definitely felt embarrassed. For like several reasons. Lola had been thinking about her mom so she was a bit distracted, anyway. Anxious again. Still she thought about how Selena was overcomplicating the lamb-thing, like all these pretentious New York intelligentsia brats, she was interpolating meaning and symbolism into something very straightforward, out of real-life not a piece of literature. If Selena were working class she literally wouldn’t have had time for that, let alone to read work by intelligentsia brats and get anything but stuckness in someone else’s solipsistic time trap. Navel-gazing, never going anywhere but out of their own minds. Literally Selena’s new “boyfriend” probably just thought she was cute, and called her a lamb because lambs are cute, but Lola didn’t have the energy to get into this; she could tell Selena wouldn’t listen, also it was just kind of awkward to be the white friend who other white girls talked about their black friends with. Either they were bragging or asking for advice on like, how to handle it. It was just so many levels of questionable, that Lola felt herself wondering if she’d rather align with the black guy she hadn’t met, not Selena. Maybe Lola’d, like, manipulate Selena into knighting him to her own [Selena’s own] detriment! That would never work, anyway, but Lola smirked villainously inside herself when she considered it, like that. Selena’s the one who should want to get a “pass,” Lola thought. Selena would just never, ever, consider it like that. (She might? But knowing Selena’s casual air of condescension, toward her and toward almost everyone, Lola assumed the worst about the dynamic with this new boyfriend. If she was ever so kind to him, baaabyyy love, it was somehow self-serving; Lola knew this woman Selena, she wasn’t even in touch with her self, just ambition, almost male by its very nature.) Would Lola have slept with this black guy and been upset about the lamb-thing? At 18 she was too young to ever predict. Screw everyone who was screwing each other. Lola was a late-blooming virgin. She felt like telling Selena, “please, I don’t want to know all this.”

“… he always ask about the condom, he’s been into pulling out…”

Na na na, Lola thought of the time her mom raised her up, with her legs, and let her pretend she was a flying snowman. At the Bedford stop they stepped out beneath a gray balmy sky, suffocating in its humidity, tossing storm clouds around like lint. Selena suggested they hop in a cab because it looked like was about to snow. Lola said she didn’t care what they did — it was up to Selena.

Selena was indecisive, this was an issue. An even worse issue was that she knew she could be unkind, and was good at cruelty. As an up-and-coming writer Selena’s cruelty, she realized, made her sought after; either by men who needed humbling or by publications that saw how many clicks she could get, with a bitchy gossip column for an elite audience. She often felt like an outsider rolling with elitists, and sometimes she liked to call people out on their elitism. Other times she felt like it was getting the best of her. In a fair number of her friendships, the majority of them, her shameless coldness made her the cool one. At parties, it gave her a greater chance of being invited again, for there’s nothing like a high incidence of rejection among revelers to draw in a crowd. But in relationships with people who mattered to her, Selena’s bitchiness crossed subjective boundaries, which she didn’t observe until it was too late, and by then they’d called her a sociopath and told everyone to stay away. That’s why she felt lonely tonight, even though she was with Lola who was super sweeeet and so funnyyy but was younger, and in Selena’s view looked fat though she would never say this, Selena did say she kind of liked Lola’s shoes, and they were on their to a party with some of Selena’s friends who she wasn’t sure she could even call “friends.” But they still always showed up, if she texted them they’d be there in a flash. It worked this time for Lola. She’d just needed someone to show up with, a vaguely but non-threatingly cute female friend.

They were headed to a birthday dinner of a guy they’d both met, Bergman Jentz, who by the end of boarding school had already founded a successful literary mag called Blootmuni. For essayists and fiction writers under the age of 27, a feature in Blootmuni could cinch an immediate crop of fans in New York. The magazine was known pretty much by all the intelligentsia, who ironically didn’t brand themselves as such, and were flattered whenever they were tagged as intelligentsia, like in a little bio before think pieces, pieces that were stylish [to share on social media] but really about nothing at all, often thoughtless like a stream-of-consciousness diary entry that somehow got picked up and liked and liked and liked on the internet. This is what you could expect get from Blootmuni. Some validation. They weren’t intelligentsia! They were just writers, doing their thang, having fun really, with friends, in recorded interviews and essays about their friends, who weren’t friends though to be real. Acquaintances perhaps. All the better if they were hot girls, more clicks, or not another cis white lame guy. Actually though, most writers in Blootmuni never wrote stream-of-consciousness (sent immediately after completion and edited for somewhat finer syntax), because they never wrote anything at all. And most never read! They just used Twitter and tried to stay in. If they ever read, it was to find a specific quote, maybe they were hoping to sound smart at cocktail parties or make the guest list of some release — for books by vaguely famous novelists who liked to take pills beforehand and talk about themselves on a stage before an audience that was only there to take pics of themselves, there at the event, and post it right away. After such an event, each attendee might leave with 1-5 more followers on Instagram. Blootmuni could only be found in a few New York bookstores, and it sold out within hours of being published, only three times a year, unless there was what-they-deemed a major tragedy: they might do an extra one just about the tragedy. This happened after the Paris bombings, at least. Not every year.

“How do you feel about Bergman?” Selena asked Lola in the cab. Lola was getting paranoid that she wasn’t asking because she was interested, but because she wanted to steal Lola’s opinion and then parrot it like her own at the next cocktail party she attended, which obviously Lola would not be texted about at the last minute.

“He’s not the best toward women, like sadistic I’d guess,” said Lola. “But that’s totally just my instinct, he’s a talented writer I think. I mean. If he has a whole literary mag with all these accolades, he must be.”

“Well, he’s good about publishing people of different perspectives.”

“Like different races and genders,” Lola said with an eye roll.

Selena said nothing. Then Lola was like, oh fuck, she almost backtracked but knew Selena wouldn’t hold this against her and use it to discredit her like most humans in America definitely would do, to Lola not to themselves. She also knew Selena wouldn’t hold her accountable, for clarifying what she actually meant with the eye roll. That was up to Lola, but she didn’t clarify. Her friend just didn’t seem to be listening, so. Yeah.

And then she became distracted, a hole formed in her chest, when she saw Bergman, looking at her.

Selena had fucked Bergman, it hadn’t been great. He wasn’t sadistic, it was just more of the same. If he’d been better in the sack she would have felt more compelled to read his magazine, but honestly she didn’t read it. So she couldn’t advise Lola on whether he was a good writer. She just said, “mhm” in that voice that sounded deceptively saccharine.

Bergman’s party was at a place known for its steaks, in Hell’s Kitchen, which (Selena explained in the cab) doubled as a “cloak-and-dagger jazz speakeasy.” (What the fuck, thought Lola when she said this.) Selena didn’t know a thing about jazz, but she probably knew when steak just tasted awful. Lola wouldn’t know, how to tell. But she did know a thing or two about jazz, yeah. She was looking forward to seeing what this place was about, but she didn’t tell Selena she was just going to lurk essentially. Lurk, what a word, she thought. It might even be creepy. Sometimes a major reason she never went out was because, she thought in such situations she came across as a psychopath legitimately. If she were anorexic she could have been a psychopath, without being held accountable — but she didn’t look anorexic, so she just got seen as a psychopath, which was distinct from being seen as psychotic. Selena, the way she talked loudly on the subway, might be seen as that.

“At least it’s not at a vegan place,” said Selena.

“Oh,” said Lola. (She kind of liked vegan.)

The restaurant looked like it could have been an old blacksmith’s shop run by a closeted gay heir to an unwieldy fortune, who used it toward stuff like converting this restaurant into an all-male brothel at night. The walls were ruddy brick and lit with red electric torches; the floors a slick polished black cement. Near the podium where the host stood was a large steel statue of a bucking bull with a genderless lead hunk on its back, (maybe an orangutan? Lola thought), plated with sheets of silver glass that worked as mirrors. Looking around, she was surprised to see the servers dressed in all-black outfits, and not just leather merkins.

“Selena!”

She didn’t want to talk to people, like at all, so she took the corner seat by the wall at one end of a long mahogany bench. Selena watched her settle in. From that secluded corner, she now sat with a surly expression that was not entirely unbecoming, but coupled with everything else about her was maybe just sad. If she were nicer to people they might really like her, a lot. But she wasn’t ever. Lola’s hair was dark brown and pyramidal. She had a face with features that were somehow soft and chiseled simultaneously, which would never work for pop culture. Selena knew she’d wanted to be a comedienne, but Selena honestly didn’t know if she had the face, not for success in that. Actually though, objectively she didn’t. Maybe, just perhaps, for high art if she lost weight and met the right friends, but Lola didn’t know how to hold her own at these kinds of parties, or she wouldn’t be fat, still, even after all Selena’s covert insults of Lola’s fatness.

She’d once said this, in a room full of girls including Lola, “the reason you like horses so much is because you look like one.”

She wasn’t incorrect, but, that was just one example of the grating insults. So maybe Lola should be up on her Nike hooves, kissing ass. Honestly though she kind of wished for this party, she’d gone with the modest flats. Even if they made her look fatter in Selena’s eyes! They also made her look like a girl. If she hid her feet, the whole night, it wouldn’t matter she guessed. Not that she thought people would judge her, she just didn’t want to deal with hearing them say “I like your shoes” because, that would just show, they were the only thing people noticed about her. (If they said “I LOVE your shoes,” it would show they were bullying her.) Yeah, something about her choice to wear the shoes was annoying, in her heart, it bummed her; it made her feel like, she wasn’t sure of her self. Or was trying to be someone, she wasn’t rightfully. She just knew these shoes were authentic for what-they-were at least, because she always got complimented about them, in Queens.

Whatever, she’s a sweetheart, Selena sat down next to her younger friend. If Selena wasn’t filling the silence, nervously, they usually just didn’t talk. They might watch people, that was all. From where Selena sat, she had a good view of Bergman. He stood by the entrance with one hand in the pocket of his blazer, which fit really well around the backs of the shoulders (tailored) like any male with a legitimate background in business, where they taught men about the importance of a good suit; some very specific criteria. He was not just another influencer, he’d been an economics major, she knew. He was still greeting guests. But he kept glancing at their table. Selena could tell from the way he spoke down to certain girls, then looked up to see if Selena was watching, that he was hoping to get laid that night, by her.

She had an inkling men liked her in their beds but the reasons weren’t clear to her. She didn’t think of herself as, hot. Lola even with her face might be seen, by some others, as hot, actually though, because she was soft and a sweetheart sometimes to people who were lonely. It was almost creepy. Selena, no. Never nice to those men. Was she pretty? She wouldn’t have just asked Lola, girls don’t ask other girls if they’re pretty. Lola would have said, the anorexia creeps me out. Not that it’s a problem, to be thin, I’d die for that figuratively, too; no, the way it affects your brain. You’ve gotten creepy Selena. But other than that you’re pretty, just like, insane.

I’m not insanely pretty, myself, that’s what Lola would have said. If she made an effort her exotic beauty could make her the most desired woman at a party. Selena that is. It was an energy thing, mostly, but not even that. She didn’t like ungulates but Selena was tall and slender as an elk, female, which aren’t always that slender but they can be if they’re well. Her face just looked tired, and psychotic, depending on the moment, never well. That’s what I meant by creepy. Lola didn’t like when Selena hung out with men who just liked controlling grown women, pushovers (themselves in bed), sick, the older-type who Epstein would have kept as a gatekeepers and “friends.” If Selena became like one of those pathetic, desperate old, rich evil cunts, Lola would never, ever look back at their friendship. She wouldn’t go near it in any plane of her still-beautiful young brain.

Because of her anorexia, Selena was occasionally sadomasochistic and extremely hurtful to Lola; also to herself, might as well have been the same. Back then, they spent a lot of time together, and Lola noticed everything she did and said. It put her under an influence, which it took Lola years to look back on, and finally describe as, legitimate but probably unhealthy attraction to this older female person.

It was true, possibly, though it was just Lola’s take at the end of the day — beyond her graceful turns of bitchy phrase in writing and in chats, which people noticed and couldn’t compliment her on because they didn’t want to seem like bitches themselves, also, how well-read she was genuinely — Selena’s appeal might be related to her talent for obsequious friendship to powerful men.

Lola just hoped her friend Selena saw this as a weapon, not as her only source of relevance to the world. That would be actually pathetic, much more so than being, fatish.

Which Lola wasn’t even, according to some men. A man with shaggy black hair and a soul patch had managed to wiggle his way in to the corner where she was at. The place was crowded enough that it wasn’t quite skeezy in a sick way, just kind of aggressive toward Lola. She so clearly wanted to be alone, he so clearly wanted a girl to be cozy with. She was too young to know he was trying to bang. He kept asking why she looked so angry.

“Do I though.” She smiled and laughed through her teeth, more like exhaling with girth.

He introduced himself as Lorenzo, said he was part-owner of the place. He kept namedropping celebrities in a way Lola felt was suspect. “Just the other day, [so and so] was in here,” he would say. “I’ll let you try the steak we made for him.” This type of thing had happened before. Men giving her treatment like she was a celebrity. Now he was getting her a steak, she didn’t even want to eat. Felt like force-feeding. She knew she wasn’t a celeb, so it felt like they were teasing her, these men. Or priming her as though she herself was their meat. Excellent. She supposed men acted this way out of some ego need. If they treated her like she was something special, to them, then it made them special somehow. Literally though that wasn’t the case, she couldn’t pretend she liked them more than was truthful. Like they knew how to give a good hour or two, big ass woopitty. It never had to do with her, really. Never, ever had to do with her but with them. She knew how men were. Not that she was much different, ultimately. There was no reason to flatter people who didn’t deserve the compliments, unless she wanted something from them. If the compliments were real then they were real friends. But otherwise she wasn’t keen on complimenting, no, not others to her. You’re lying to my face that I’m pretty, she thought they were monsters like that, you just want to fuck me anyway. And that’s not my problem, it’s yours. I know how I look! And you’re literally, all fucking fags.

From near the statue, Selena caught sight of Lola — she leaned forward a bit like, “um, help me out here, pleeeease.” Selena kept walking, with Bergman, away from her.

Lola might have come across as pathetic, with that face, she knew Selena thought this much, or little of her. She only thought of herself, Selena. But Lola, despite wanting to be a comedienne, in this life, was not joking around. She knew she had a dark side. Very dark, self-destructive, it was oddly seductive, it would seem, forebodingly back then. At 18 she was poor and not particularly popular, sometimes it felt like all she had. That odd seductivity, the dark power she derived from it. And her beautiful brain. She was smart. Few people could see just how smart she was, because she played dumb, they fell for it. It fit everything about her externally, it was something they couldn’t see. Her brain’s potential, her beauty. Not everyone but most, they just fell for it hook line. Her bluffs. Be it that she was dumb or something else, just to keep people away, usually. Selena could tell though. By looking in her eyes she knew that Lola had something different, the heart of a gonnabe sinner which she still kept safely padded in fair manners around guys and Pegasus charms and forced smiles to veil rage. But her eyes, they brimmed like they were filled with something toxic, she might just light a match and blitz her self away. If not someone else, who actually gave consent to that, lol.

Selena preferred this “look” to what happened when Lola grew hopeless, and they felt distant and retarded like suicide e-mails. She could read the danger in Lola’s eyes because she’d experienced the same feelings, of course. Never to the same dark degrees but in her own ways. She also had a hard time with life, with people, with them not-knowing her name.

It was alienating to have had a bad childhood. Most kids their age, they hadn’t seen shit. Most kids were stupid, they might get better grades but what gives. That’s why these two girls got along. But their dark sides, the same dark sides that brought them together, caused each to believe the other was about to betray her. They both probably had that potential. Especially Selena, not ME, Lola understood. Trust was precarious between them (as it should be, between any pair of smart women early in their friendship, unless they’re in it to fuck), and yet, they still trusted one another in ways that couldn’t be breached. They knew each other well enough to attack the other’s deepest, most nuanced, literally grossest vulnerabilities. It might have kept them on their game, or just been dysfunctional from day one.

At the table by Lorenzo, Lola finished the third cocktail he’d ordered and got up to pee. She felt sick. On her way to the bathroom, she saw Selena with Bergman. In a booth he was sitting with an arm over hers. She saw them snap a pic. A selfie, wow how cool, guys. Lola hated how Selena wielded power like a celeb, mainly because it was a delusion and was embarrassing. If she was going to pretend she was a celeb, which she wasn’t, then maybe she shouldn’t do it so wickedly. Real stars — toward Lola — weren’t wicked, nor were they creeps. Selena never, ever took selfies with Lola, not even once in their years-long correspondence, which Lola didn’t even want to call a friendship anymore, it was so fake. Selena had only been sitting with Bergman a few minutes and he was already her priority.

In the bathroom Lola felt morbidly sad. She looked fat, in the mirror, like even fatter than she’d looked earlier in her bedroom alone. For a good five minutes she washed hands in warm water. It felt like taking a bath, she thought of her mom again. After that she used the mirror, basically scared of it. A black dress that wasn’t quite the right size, tights, a tear in one of them. That face which was swollen, she didn’t know why or have the energy to figure it out, just yet. In some years she’d work it out. And that necklace. At this moment Lola understood why Selena had shunned her. Basically, she looked unrefined. Why would anyone just wear clothes that, didn’t fit right.

She took off her flying horse necklace and dropped it in the toilet. Flushed it with the sole of her left Nike so she didn’t have to wash her hands a second time. The impact of the liquor was loopy enough that she was able to pretend that Pegasus was flying as he spun around the ceramic bowl. She held back tears, knowing that she would regret this. But she’d have to let it go, forget it.

It was on her walk to the subway station in the snow, glad now she’d worn last season’s tennis shoes, that Lola realized how much distance had set in between her and Selena. Maybe it was an age thing, maybe it was demons. She hoped when she was a little older, she’d feel cool enough to qualify for a selfie flex. For now she might want to forget this night ever happened.

Benny ditched the stolen Camry in a side street by Newark airport. He hoped it would get picked up by a rental car company. Before he left the car behind, he gave it affectionate pat on the hood. “It’s been good,” he said. He was talking to himself.

An airport shuttle bus took Benny into the city and dropped him off in Times Square. It was midnight when he got here. He didn’t tell a soul he was back in town. Worst case scenario, he’d go another day smelling like exhaust fumes. He kind of liked it. It fit his vibe.

In the Westin lobby he sat down at a table with outlets built in, it looked like a polished hunk of a large oak tree. He turned on a playlist of Sondheim songs on iTunes. Then he started a new match of his favorite video game: World of Warcraft. His grandpa told him, everything about him was basically perfect, but when he played that game for hours he turned into a retard. Why, Benny, his grandpa said.

If he ever were to fuck up his music career it would have been because of his addiction to WoW. He played it listening to jazz, played it every day. Sometimes to switch it up though he listened to musicals, he didn’t like Sondheim as much as his white peers but he’d rather be compared to him than to Lin, he was nuts, Benny, he wanted to be great in many decades not just this one — as an artist not an icon. Great great great. Benny figured his obsession with the made-up reality in the game had to do with a lack of stability in his real-life. Relationships no good, no real home. At least in WoW, the rules of the game never changed, there were numbers. Numbers that proved to him, absolutely, he was a formidable player. They couldn’t touch that. They couldn’t touch that part of him, it was proven he was fine. They couldn’t cause him to fall out in this game. They couldn’t gassum. In real-life the odds of failing were much greater for Benny than they were in this video game.

Benny played the game in the lobby of the Westin, he played it for three hours before anyone bothered him. In the middle of the night, that’s when it happened to him. A group of obese Southerners came up an escalator. From eavesdropping Benny understood they’d spent a night at a gentlemen’s club, where they drank and took something with dinner. Before going up to their rooms to crash, the guys hugged and rubbed or slapped backs with their hands. They were so drunk that a pair of them, while hugging, fell over together. He noticed Benny glaring at him furtively from behind his laptop screen which felt like a shield, for a second, when one of them said this.

“*** ***** ****, ****.”

Now all five men were staring at Benny. He kept the same angle to his glare, didn’t adjust it, looking down left center at his screen with the fallen men in the backdrop. With his peripherals he kept an eye on the fatasses. “What the fuck is he playing star wars,” said one of them, from the floor.

“He’s probably just a retard, leave him.”

If they sensed he was sneering derisively they were truly correct, but truthfully, his face held no expression. In a drunken herd they made way to the elevators. One guy went to a couch as though he was waiting for someone, then quickly fell unconscious. Benny waited like ten minutes, not playing the game anymore but pretending, he was a player, the words “pretty women” carving figures, collapsing, the planes of his brain, the planes furthest removed from reality, from actually fuckable women in his life, containing the characters of his who he ended up e-mailing later not sober with Clyde. He had so many characters that he fucked but no one real to lay with. Poor Benny, fee fi fo fum. After he packed up his laptop, he approached the man. In the pocket of his Brooks Brother blazer, he could just see a yucky wallet. The lobby staff wasn’t paying attention, he could feel that stuff. They were just focused on their nights, looking forward to leaving, he knew these jobs he’d been in them. He was in sync with his fate and he needed the wallet, he took the fatty’s wallet, boo, removed the shit and put it back, then he went to another hotel to book a thick clean mattress and do what he had to, in his head.

The Marriott Marquis, it was more his style anyway. Or maybe, like, more in his league.

In his room, he took a shower and played another round of WoW wearing just his size large briefs. He ordered Grilled Cheese (two of them, yeah he literally did that but he’d never tell everyone). Then he played some more warcraft. Benny thought this must be the most unadulterated happiness he’d felt in years, perhaps. So happy he was suspicious of it, unconsciously though. He didn’t think about that, how it was too much. Like a one-man beat that’s just analog, he would have preferred it had some nuance, this happiness was overwrought. With the money he had left, he couldn’t afford another night, not at the Marriott. It would have been wiser to just have found a cheaper room in the first place. But the one-night-only element just, kept him alive, fleeting pleasures, he still thought, were the greatest!

He thought about sex. Sex with his ex-girl Selena. She’d really torn him up, bloody buzz saw, he’d known from day one it was a fling but he kept chipping away at her until she was finished, with him. She won. He hated her. Now anytime he had sex with another girl all he could think about was how much lovelier it’d been with Selena, back then. Like she was the only girl who could bring him to his knees, he was the loser. She’d been so lovely, he hated her, without her he was none of that, he was trash.

[3: Chiroptera]

Rosie’s moral worldview had been warped so it was sideways. Like the Tower of Babylon it had fallen down. Instead of light and dark, heaven and hell, everything was balanced and parallel.

She used to walk into churches as a child and feel she was caught upward in an invisible upward beam, like heaven was shining a spotlight on her and asking her to make perfect choices. To perform perfectly. Then maybe she’d be rewarded by someone not so unkind. God had been cruel to her, back when she believed, God and her parents. She wasn’t ever mean, Rose. She was just fragile, she pushed people back who were heathens to her. But she hadn’t walked in a church in a while. (They were triggering, to be honest they were.) The nice thing about this new moral worldview was that she didn’t have to bother, with choices. All she could do was walk forward. Not up, not down. Not into light or darkness. Just on, abidin’. If she believed in anything it was patience, but that sounded, um.

It sounded privileged. Never making choices, Selena walked along a white cement sidewalk to look for cigarettes in a Santa Fe corner store. Might sit in a bar and wait for beer to be served to her. She was followed by Rose, a close friend from New York. When they drank together they smoked all their cigarettes and woke up with sore throats. Almost felt like fellatio, the morning after, one of them once joked.

Another thing happened, a dream which hadn’t made sense to Selena. She’d been on a deserted block in the neighborhood where she grew up in New York [where*** why don’t you just give a place], surrounded by black shadows. She didn’t want to know what the black shadows were but she thought they were spirits — dead spirits, she figured, or was that like wishful dream interpretation. Too on the nose. It was just a nightmare place of hers where the shadows happened to be black. What if they’d been white shadows? Would she have woken and told Rose? She’d had the sense in the dream that one of the shadows (the black ones) belonged to an old friend who, as far she knew, was still alive and well. But as noted she just didn’t want to know, so she’d wrestle it out of her mind until she couldn’t hear it whispering.

“Black, shadows..”

“I don’t really believe in anything,” Rose would have said, not wanting to believe she was shit, so, erasing herself, preaching the word. “It’s your consciousness alone.”

For her twenty-sixth birthday, Selena had been invited to accompany Rose while she did interviews with migrant workers who were doomed to staggeringly-unprocessable extremes by Trump’s recent election. Selena saw them, the workers, and couldn’t help but feel glad she wasn’t writing the article. Rose was writing for a popular online publication in New York. When Rose wasn’t doing research — mostly interviews, not just with “slaves” (it’s a word she put in the article, in context she promised it made sense) also with border patrol officers, who occasionally hit on her — the girls made the trip a vacation of sorts, staying in motels along the highway and sunbathing alongside pools so chlorinated they tried not to go in them. Might poison them, they were paranoid about this, getting poisoned, or poisoning themselves, in this case. To be honest the trip wasn’t particularly relaxing. Selena’s fair skin made her susceptible to severe sunburn and she hated, hated, hated to ever work, even if it was help a friend, on her article. Selena preferred to write articles that were fun, never as fun to read as to write and one-up everyone. Gossip pieces that were shared by friends at Blootmuni on Twitter. Rose was not relaxed about the migrants, as they pertained to her reputation, she almost but didn’t quite feel that Selena was corrupting her integrity as a writer — which is something she didn’t have but figured it would be good, to have — with pleas to just-hang-out with her. Rose wanted to do a good job, never great but good, she didn’t believe in great, it was all subjective, since part of her identity was pretending she was passionate about journalism, though, it would be truer to say she was passionate about herself. Her brand perhaps, not as though it made her much different, from everyone in this generation. Yeah, part of her style, which made her sought-after she figured (I mean, maybe not, she backtracked in her mind when she assumed, her many followers just liked her), was to sort of insert herself into everything she wrote. She wasn’t sure she could do this with the border patrollers. But, she thought about maybe dropping hints that she’d been nice to the migrants and cold to the officers, who (Rosie thought, she might not be mistaken, but she might be) were creepy and kept hitting on her.

She had somewhat of a following but the publication had more, it might score her a few hundred followers.

“Numbers are power, Chiquita,” Rose said in a windy voice like a weirdo.

“You speak hispanic?”

“You know I don’t. Spanish is such a shitty language to have taken in high school, I mean, but I did it,” Rose sighed like heh to Selena, who didn’t even know if Rose was being racist or just sarcastic or what even. At this point in the writing process, she must be bugging, Selena forgave it silently. And she wasn’t exactly ultra-PC but she, honestly didn’t know how to respond so, honestly without thinking twice, she seemed to be playing along.

Then Rose did a motion with her hand, by her dusty brown hair, brushing it back, like fwitt, there’s nothing left, her soul had fallen out.

Selena by that time was just kind of like, neh. She looked at the sky and imagined airplanes doing flips. She thought about how hungry she was, not.

Sometimes they felt they lived a lobotomized existence. Not because they weren’t smart, they knew they were smart. There just wasn’t anything, left. There wasn’t any candle in their chests behind the breastplates to keep them focused on much other than spending time with friends and not gaining weight. To be fair they were wiser in some ways than some of the most famous, biggest, female stars in America, but, pretty much they banked the strategy of being submissive, call-it-feminine accoutrements to writers and artists who just cared more. About anything. They lived vicariously through people who cared. Even about them. They didn’t feel it. They themselves, were objects. They consented to it. It’s how they thought of themselves. The drawbacks to caring about nothing, was boundarilessness in all matters to do with, sex. If they didn’t care about anything, not love or spiritual fulfillment in this life, that would make total sense. They just talked about sex like it was nothing.

A summer breeze, the smell of chlorine and soft focus brought on by Camel blues.

“How’s Mari been,” asked Selena. “Is she still in school.”

“My sister? She’s gooood.” Rose knew good was not the right word, but didn’t feel the need to share too much with Selena, who she suspected was too much of a gossip to be let into her and Marigold’s vulnerable reality at this precise time.

Rose was protective of her sister Mari, just out of college, living with their mom and dad who have yet to be introduced. Truth was, Mari had gone downhill, after being fed the wrong cocktail of prescriptive meds by a psychiatrist to handle generational depression. She was sober now but that might not be better, she didn’t feel like things would ever get better; this may or may not be true. Rose told her it was true, for her alone. For Mari. Not for the world. Things would improve.

Marigold wasn’t as weird as she thought she was, she just had a weird name. She had dreams about the weird name. Hard to explain. If she stepped one foot out of her parents world, into the private quarters of another, it became immediately clear what she’d been missing out on; a life that wasn’t, like this. White trash! A life where there was a routine you stuck to and you got up when your alarm went off in the morning, you didn’t skip work or class or the gym if you liked the gym or meeting so-and-so (whether you liked them or not), because there just wasn’t an option, to live differently. She didn’t tell people she read essays by Du Bois because what kind of white girl did that, where she was from, unless she was trying to post about it on social media. Marigold was just trying to understand this feeling of having a double consciousness. Maybe one was straight one was gay, maybe one was rich one was poor, maybe one was a white girl and one wasn’t. Did aligning with the white girls mean choosing to be racist or not, somehow that’s how it seemed, the shit she heard, they didn’t hear themselves even saying the shit, not words but poorly constructed phrases — but she was alone either way, with them or alone at her place, so. The choice was obvious, a choice that didn’t have to be a choice but was one absolutely, but no one ever asked her because no one could, so, it was for her alone. She just chose and kept at it, so what. It was hard to know where her allegiances were, being no one, never being asked about her day. To strangers she just tried to be kind, by proxy, but no good deeds went unpunished; people felt awkward, they’d self-protect and attack her with words, she heard in her head. She wasn’t the type they’d ever, ever want to schmooze. She might be the type they’d, drag or dox or abuse. It wasn’t smart to be kind if you were kind of a weirdo, it was really stupid. But she wasn’t as weird as she thought she was, that was at least part of the problem. When she was younger, she’d gone along with the rich girls. Not everyone at school had, she fit in good and fluidly. Rose too, and Rose had stayed with a rich boy from the boonies. They’d never had the rich girls over to their house, the two sisters, if they did it was an occasion they prepared for. But Marigold couldn’t make that cut anymore, and she didn’t want to be friends with just anyone. She stayed unmired from anyone and thus nerve-racking to everyone as a whole.

It got weird. She wasn’t as weird as she thought she was, but people needed ways to sort of catalog someone. So she played it up. Marigold wore windbreakers and tennis shoes, that weren’t actually that weird, but they weren’t the outfits she’d have chosen if she were trying to meet someone; a guy, not a woman. She wasn’t as weird as she thought she was, and she wasn’t as gay as she supposed people thought. But she played it up. It was a strategy, if she weren’t playing gay she’d just be an awkward ugly straight girl, also a poor one. She’d made some mistakes, she was convinced, she had an interesting body and face, never would be gorgeous. She kept wanting to fix it, someday when she was less poor, but then realizing she couldn’t, she couldn’t make her self less unappealing to guys with some actual standards for who they showed to their white parents and friends, she wanted to be their gorgeous white girlfriend. Instead she stayed a mess, she couldn’t help it because she was programmed that way; changing her ways would require additional hands, and it wasn’t going to happen for her, she knew that no one would help. She knew, humans, she obsessed over how to become one, not someone mutant locked in this cage — planet earth — with the rest of humanity, around whom she felt inhuman. This was the real world, she never saw a way out of the real world with its hierarchies that people liked to pretend, conveniently, did not exist.

That wasn’t, of course, until she met Valerie Brown on a study abroad trip to Alsace. Things broke down. If only for those months. It was comfortable, not always so flummoxing. Marigold found she wasn’t counting down the minutes every second they were together, just ready to leave and go home and use the internet or have a sad meal by herself. In Alsace they hadn’t flirted, or been together, they hadn’t done anything, but Marigold kind of suspected that Valerie, for all the long talks they had about men and bland relationships, would have taken her up on coffee if Marigold had ever made clear — this time, it was a date. And she knew because she knew her like that, this girl Valerie who was American would keep asking her to hang out, but would never be the one to initiate.

Marigold would do that. She would still, or, well, no that was nuts, but she probably would have! The thing about being queer and knowing it (because people had just about done-everything-but told Marigold directly, “you’re a fuckin dyke, and a WHORE, don’t pretend you’re not–“) yet still not-wanting to identify with a thing to do with lesbians was that, there were always these girls who had been with other women, and talked openly about it. They’d dated a few girls, it was casual it was just nothing to them. Vally in Alsace was like that, she’d hooked up with girls, she talked about it, honestly in detail to Marigold. But for Marigold evidently “being with a woman” would be different, it wouldn’t be something she told everyone or even necessarily anyone, especially not what they did; she didn’t really do flings ever, hookups with guys sure, it would have been more relational, she knew this, she just didn’t want to take that leap because she’d grown up in the boonies, and knew that most humans not in cities were actually harboring some old stereotypes about these kinds of things: gay things. If she were in the same room with her old friends from high school and identified as openly gay, it would be assumed in the boonies, she was checking them all out. Dangerous to have her present, or just a bit confusing so leave her off the list. Sometimes she even started defending herself as though she was always hitting on girls when she wasn’t actually, ever; if she returned to the memories, as they played out in reality, any women who bullied Marigold for her unspoken lesbian-thing were narcissists probably. It took her a while to realize this and forgive herself a bit for being mistreated by them, she didn’t like calling people narcissists because a lot of people were. It just got old, to pull that card on others. But she knew from such experiences with vain people male or female: it would probably cede too much power, to identify as a gay person, in their presence. She wasn’t ready to cede any power, she already felt so powerless. Why would she make herself more powerless, by giving up one of the few things she had going: her unthreatening presence when she dressed boringly, her straightness. Her whiteness on the other hand, she’d give that up any day, but that would be literally stupid, which was a source of such anguish: she must not be that smart, educated.

So she wouldn’t, she definitely would never. She literally never could have been gay. To herself she made that promise instead of vacillating in the morning, in the mirror. She’d just be the so-so mediocre white girl. Not beautiful. Unthreatening, she clung to that description. She actually really liked men, sometimes they were amazing. She felt herself seize up around them, their certainty about how the world just-is. So when Valerie bitched and bitched about men, the male race, the stunning men she could get and screw over, Marigold almost felt defensive, as though she stood with one foot in the male camp. Like “imagine being them,” then maybe you wouldn’t be complaining all the time, to me, you brat. It made her question whether she had a male mind; her mom had always said so, it let her Marigold perform well in math, much better than Rose. But then she heard men wanting girls who just understood them, and she knew men past a certain age and after a few failed relationships liked girls who weren’t assholes, and could forgive some flaws if their beauty was interesting (as long as they weren’t hideous), she just wondered if she’d hold out for that one guy, someday, maybe she could pull it together enough to get him.

Because girls, it’s not like girls weren’t terrible. Especially if something that was never-something, fell apart.

Girls were terrible to Marigold, past age 23 when something switched in her brain. The only true friends she had anymore were ones who took her seriously as an artist; which is why, sometimes, she didn’t regret it ironically. Ironically? Ironic only because, the types who took her seriously for her art, her sometimes hideous gross art (not intentionally gross just kind of icky because that was her truth at that time), were also the types who wouldn’t be caught dead in public wearing sweatpants or leggings. Marigold was the type who only wore them, because they fit her ass better, like aesthetically. Therefore it was ironic that her art, which was icky, kept her in sync with finer women who didn’t need to wear leggings because, they could just wear jeans that didn’t look just-bad. She needed to buy new clothes [not leggings, some tailored pants would be best, someday] to get with the program. She was robust, wide shoulders and tough, taurine, it wasn’t going to change. If she were small still her mom would have used the word “waif,” and Marigold would have been a waif in a better-looking life, if she’d had the choice. Maybe when she was younger she did have that choice, she’d been a waif her mom agreed, but, Marigold wasn’t like other girls, she had evolved (lol) and she could tell it was permanent. She was not as weird as she thought she was, or used to play up, just-given her face and frame, which might not be as weird as she thought they were, but were not great. She had proof they were not, great. She’d been treated by white girls with disdain. She didn’t trust herself to come to accurate conclusions on these things but she found ways to make more objective assessments — by putting herself out there, then observing responses — and she knew to be careful, not only around the certainly-pretty women who thought she was hitting on them, but around women who wanted her to be the fat friend or even the very ugly one. Those friends were, real. “Friends,” hm. Were they were real friends. Maybe they actually were, REAL TALKERS, and, that would afford her more power than anything? Just, being, ugly. Embracing it, that is. She just really was struggling with her gendersexual mainly visual identity, which she thought was a joke, that someone would choose all their friends based on whether they came across well or worse in posts. It was REAL TALK though. She looked terrible, it was getting in the way of female friendships, her anguish over it, and she really hoped it was all in her head. But was it? Probably not at all, in fact it definitely wasn’t. She just couldn’t ask these kinds of questions, literally that would be so inappropriate in any real conversation ever, to ask another woman with high standards too, if that woman, thought Marigold could still be hot or if she looked like effin hell which she did; it could be quite devastating if she asked, and if she said [censored] to the woman, there would have to be some sort of reciprocity, in the exchange of honesty, otherwise Marigold would offend the girl or render herself weak in that exchange, it just was getting so bad, everywhere she went. She wondered if this kind of “social” actually SEXUAL anxiety was caused by the internet. It was everywhere. She couldn’t even go in public, she looked or felt or was so sick in the head and occasionally even her V. How horrible. And would it get better or would it get worse, and worse. She thought it would probably just, get different. That was her best bet. To accept she had to change, not improve absolutely. Change in hue and focus. She had to leave the boonies, she had to stop thinking about all this, she had to be quiet, which made her feel more trapped but it wouldn’t be forever if she could someday be talkative (around a significant other, she wanted this, Marigold was a real talker in private), she had to develop self-respect in the meantime, she had to but she struggled to just do it. Easier said than outwardly seen.

She knew, she didn’t want to admit but she knew, if she didn’t make this choice for her alone, the choice to do what it takes, she would go insane. She knew when she kept saying stupid shit, and then would go to a bathroom wherever she was and start crying, sometimes getting on her knees, like she actually couldn’t stay standing, like why did I say those things in just that way, it’s great, surely it was perceived as hurtful and what were you trying to prove, that you’re right. She wasn’t right, she was left-brained for language. She knew her brain was poorly programmed, she knew on the wrong pills, once she’d lost it all. All words. She’d lost all words and that was a different place. A safer one. She knew it was words, they were the attackers, here. Lost from everyone. In her head where she had imaginary friends who were based on real people. They’d never caused this much harm, the words, or the finer friends. She’d never cared this much to reprogram it, maybe before she’d been a broom. She knew because it showed to people who saw between the lines, who read. It showed in the style, she wore her hair like a broom, they could see when the style got boring, or still betta yet. Her eyes. They got stilla. Glassier like clean, she could trust them, but not glossed over like na. When it made no sense, the words, she just had to do something to sweep it out. She knew other people sort of knew her, better than she wished they did. She didn’t know actually but she thought she knew. If they bothered to come back, they knew how she unscrewed herself to oblivion. And she wept after screwing herself to uncomely shreds because, nvm. It wasn’t funny to make jokes about sex, certainly not sex with oneself that she knew was just-herself, and she felt older all at once and ugly and stupid like a heartless retch who’d been pretending she was more innocent than she was and younger, because she could, she could weaponize her youngerness against them, but more wickedly than that, her retardedness. She used it. To just never make that choice and live complacently like duhh I don’t care, when she did care, she just was scared, of everyone, and to care about anyone, because she might just be a retarded creepy white girl not like the rich educated white girls who literally everyone wanted to know — not like them, she could be the retard creep who never got off her weird shit. Who wanted them in bed, forever with her friends, her favorite imaginary dyke who she’d do makeovers with, the dirty stuff, M’s nearly black oblivion.

She couldn’t find her way out of the present, but she could find her way back into it. Find her way back into the details that make relationships suck but also fine to just-have-there. Find her way back into her figure and features unseemly and fine. Her round weary face, her middle section. Her pretty mind. She was glad she hadn’t been married to a guy — she’d gotten close enough — because maybe she could get it right, the truth approximately, which had to do with the whole experience of her life, not living in a bubble that kept her feeling better than others (like potentially racist and a shitty whorish person, why not say this, to remind herself what’s at stake): that would have been the reason, not to make this choice, and instead to have been with someone who she didn’t actually feel loved by, not coveted by, they probably had enough without Marigold by their side! It didn’t appeal to her anymore, to date someone who pushed her to be the best they’d ever had and shown off to their ma. To show her off, that’s cool but not kind. What about when she wasn’t showoffable, in ten years or five. No thanks from now on. And whether or not the other one looked good to her naked, always or never, she didn’t really care that much. They probably would anyway because true bi doo deep dog-attraction can be kind of messed up. And you never know, maybe you’ll stop time with that one.

She sure wouldn’t be the prettier one or quite a man at all but that might be how it seemed to others just because they needed a framework to figure out in their minds. She’s not a hard white man under the covers, to the contrary she acts a lot like a Jew in her very private life. And Jews do what Jews do bi doo, she knows how to rightfully love all the people who lie that she was never there, inside.

Rose and Selena went on a walk in Sante Fe, and Rose said, “yeah she’s goooood, just figuring out some things.” The last time she’d seen Marigold, she’d been wearing a sweater that said When I die I may not go to heaven, I don’t know if they let cowboys in, and a pair of men’s jeans. They’d gone to a restaurant in Bannockburn, Maryland, where she was living in their pretty decent but not beautiful house, which she called the boonies even though it wasn’t at all — it just felt like it to Mari — and she’d ordered soup and had some of Rose’s fries. Walking with Selena in Sante Fe now, Rosie recalled that Selena had once poked fun at her sister for looking like a tranny, when they’d all been hanging out: in retrospect, she’d been right.

“Is she doing alright.”

“You weren’t wrong,” said Rose, she didn’t say about what.

“About what,” asked Selena.

“I don’t know even, we’ll prolly all know for sure soon enough.”

They came to a corner where light panes from between the overcast sky hit the ground like shards of colored stained glass. It was remarkable how the universe surprised her, Rose wondered where the colors came from. Then she looked up and realized, it was paned glass she was noticing, they were outside a Church. “Oh Christ,” she thought.

Selena suggested, “let’s go in for a second and sit, l-o-l, I’m tired.”

They went inside and it was quiet, a priest walked about. Rose saw him and thought of her sister (or brother) and joked halfheartedly, “I’m just gonna use the bathroom now.” She actually wanted to look in the mirror. In the mirror she just dwelled on how beautiful she was, she didn’t know if it complemented her atheism, to be so beautiful, besides well, besides how she knew that it took some effort — it wasn’t magic, she’d been up and down on herself and just knew it wasn’t a miracle, to be pretty. Yes it took some work. But then again. She wasn’t forcing it, to happen. She turned and looked at her shoulders from the side and just figured she was privileged enough to be well these days and to look like it. She wasn’t blessed, she was privileged.

That’s what she told herself, punitively, when she thought of herself as gorgeous. And she thought of Marigold.

Back in the Church pews Selena sat down and looked at her phone. Not much was new on the internet, she figured she might post a picture of her beautiful friend — who she figured, was bugging still, she could use a few minutes in silence too (in fact that had been her intention, to give Rose some space) — when she came back down the aisle. Selena didn’t know if she was religious, usually though she said “no.” She just knew too much, she’d read too much to believe one thing or another for certain. But sometimes in churches she thought of her mother.

Her mother who she never talked to anymore, her mother who her therapists agreed was a loony catatonic never-present-at-home empty-hearted cold and hard but genetically bright white woman. That was Selena’s mother, people agreed. It was not Selena, it was her female parent.

[4: You love it though, I know]

In crowds she looked around and saw faces cruel and stony, inhuman, far gone from self-love. In the air people threw their arms and cried her name and said they loved her, they loved her book and how she looked tonight. And her tan skin was glowing! And she looked good and deep in their eyes and saw they were satisfied with themselves, for being there with her, more than with her. They didn’t know how much she could see. They were smug and sang all their praises out of key. They said “I get it, bae” to Cate and put a hand on her shoulder because they had sacrificed plenty to even get there by her side. But not as much as she had. She, knew that. In her memoir, she hadn’t even written it all down. Some of it she kept off their sites. To be near them even, was heartbreaking, but she would rather be near them than near nobodies. She supposed it was better to be with them than to be nobody, she’d been nobody.

She never quite performed like she was running out of time.

Just like she wanted to get it over with, a bit. The writing, why not botch it a bit longer; she wanted to but not alone, die, die. So she played their games until she mastered their questions and answers and edits. She played their games and turned her botty thotts off until she found herself in private and took a bath alone and felt her whole story rush back like a fresh wound congealing, rolling wet down the backs of her eyes, like ice over stillborn expanses of grief.

And it felt, alright. S’alright, she told herself, it didn’t really matter what she did this girl was really dope, potentially quite fine and actually doing well.

Pride must be anathema to junkies. The worst drugs drained you of every fleck of pride left in your system and taught you to get used to an undignified life. Get used to prostrating yourself for pity and a place to sleep at night. That’s what school as a chunk and her parents, both addicts hardly recovered, and exposure to rehab mantras, from them, had taught young Lola. Forget pride, what’s it for — forget your bareback ass-self. But at this age and this stage of her journey (she’d booked, a flight to Canada, literally just, for this, and she’d started brainstorming a film inspired by these events, by then, it wasn’t a mistake at all) she felt that pride was the only thing spurring her to cop some, or she’d feel guilt. Guilt are you kidding? It was her responsibility? Whutt!? Who knows how she rationalized that one, too late, she was on this junky street called West Hastings and she was thinkin’ creepy-crawlies. She’d gotten so used to feeling screwed over that she felt the will to self-destruct sink its toothy kinks in her cumquats like wee. At least she called the shots. It felt so distinct, like smoke in her eyes that made her wince and feel something, to feel again, even if it was silly pain!! That feeling, of only wanting to do something, to get up and do it, if it was insane. If the only smile she could concoct and come up with was some eyes rolled back, whut duhr. People had already seen and written off her gremlin face which she’d messed up with chewing gum, her lunk frame, but, her according-to-one-guy perfect V? She was proud of it, pride alert, zippitty gee!! But it was creeping up on her judgment, she’d tried to give that pride stuff up to survive. I mean like what would you do, if you were her in 2016. What would you do, no one told her to stop. No one told her, don’t do it, ho. Truthfully though, at that second, more likely, they wanted her beneath.

Plenty of people knew who she was, no one wanted to admit it. She literally had so many signs, they’d rejected her outright. They knew they’d done it, she knew they’d done it too. It might have been her fault that things got weird. But she didn’t have the perspective to even know it was weird, until later. A few people pretended they were there for her, it wasn’t right. To pretend. Why pretend. And she forgave everyone but never wanted to know them unpretendingly. If what goes comes around that is just it. Then she just did what it took, she didn’t pretend-it. That’s the only way she presently could find peace with what-she-literally-did that day, some dope shit. She could have stopped herself, but she was being herself, she never would have not-literally-done-it, and no one knew her well enough (or cared to know her enough) to tell her no, just no no. She’d always hoped it might be different someday. But that day, she was no body. She put in her earbuds and listened to Amy, Amy told her she’d done drugs too, she came out better for it.

Beauty, not her, not here. The music led her on. In the Vancouver sidewalks, where the feral stares of drug addicts followed Lola down the sidewalk and sized her up as either predator or prey — she didn’t feel insane. Through veins in a thin shroud of clouds the sun shot life into a city that was barely breathing. Humans encased in blankets rolled over like molting larvae. It was too early in the day for the homeless to get drugs so most were in a state of dream deprived desperation that hardened their blood. The lack of empathy in their eyes made them seem dead, and Lola felt strangely that she was walking through an exhibit of stuffed bugs. It was an empty place to feel herself slipping like a centipede on wet sink sides. Where even ass was she!? Everything was fun, was this where she would die. She searched left and right for someone mammalian and saw a guy crossing the street before honking traffic, dragging a brown and black striped pitbull on a leash. He was in his forties at least, with a svelte sickly frame and scabs that suggested to Lola, he’d overdone it — too far gone, too much fun.

No no, in his older age he’d gotten doufy.

No no, Lola don’t do it, ho, she was still young.

That would never happen to Lola like to her family, she figured she’d probably die first, maybe even today, shit, probably not but she kept shimmying with the thought. The guy began speaking to Lola. Like his face, his voice seemed gentle and harmless and also probably on drugs. Something about it made her think of cartoons, like goofy Christmas-themed ones from girlhood. She thought of her mom. “You lost? I seen you three times now, walking up and down the streets. And you look lost to me, hun.”

She kept her eyes on the dog not on the man, it seemed more sensitive honestly.

This is my shot, she thought, wondering it would be a good idea to say, “can you tell me how to get to the Cambie?”

“Okay!”

He took her duffle bag over his back without her even asking. “Follow me, this way!”

All the times. Men liked her. She knew she must not be a total hun. On a beach later that day he pulled his cock out and said he was in love. (He actually said, “not bad huh,” and unexpectedly it wasn’t that bad, Lola agreed; he’d really gotten thin, for his size, she could imagine how he’d once been healthy and strong.) She didn’t sleep with him, she hardly ever slept with men, but he kept showing up that week at the Cambie. They’d just done drugs, she’d used him, she didn’t care for him much.

“You’re so pretty Lola, like a fucking angel!” He held her face in his palms.

She didn’t believe anyone under the influence that much. She just tried, stuck unmoving between his palms, to smile and nod, to keep from making some weird face when she was being looked at this proximally close to someone, dumb.

It was looks that made Lola want release from the life she felt locked in. Mostly looks. Looks that felt insulting. Insults about her looks. Memories of them. The look her daddy had in his eyes whenever she lived with him. Looks were the reason Lola spent all her time alone. Looks made her run away from people and push them off. Looks made her choose the worst stuff. This stuff got her inside for once. And when she felt it in waves that weakened her, it was such a relief. She’d never gotten that from someone.

Lola, a narcissist and either closet dyke or bisexual for a good five years in her early twenties before she had to admit what she’d been pretending (that she was STRAIGHT and a remotely respected artist) just wasn’t true, had literally woken up from more sex dreams about this bitch named Rose than anyone, though she didn’t have a huge issue with sex dreams and wished she would have more damnit, yes, it was probably true that Rose made her way into one or three. This woman who was Selena’s friend, who Lola had never met but occasionally saw on her Instagram grounds some late evenings.

Rose’s articles weren’t bad, she got it right, when she wrote about gendered violence, though sometimes they seemed a bit limited by her cut-offness because as far as Lola knew no one was ever going to tell Rose to “shut up” about just her self-involved perspective, which Lola was used to being told, as a young woman much less popular and less appealing than Rose physically though she didn’t resent it or want Rose to be ugly or fat like herself. Literally she just observed the realities of their dynamic in dreams. In articles or when Rose was talking in-person, people must smile and nod but not actually be listening to this older girl rambling though of course Lola wouldn’t assume: Rose was performing her prettiness. It was possible that it could get in the way of what she wrote and verbally said, and whether all that was honest — Lola guessed but couldn’t be certain. Lola listened to Rose but not more than she felt was, not fangirly. Fangirldom got in the way of discerning judgment calls on whether work was good or not. Sometimes Rose’s articles went on and on, and the one she’d just put out about migrant workers, Lola thought was trying to prove how unracist she was — it pulled Lola out of it. It was something Lola noticed in white people a lot, and it was hard to know what to do (besides write) when someone powerful was either like that or worse, willing to say that word around other white people only, and for the former-types she also [thought she] noticed that they wanted her, Lola, to be racist. Either so they could talk about it or just think about it and feel better. Those weren’t her true friends, black or white or purple just kidding. She didn’t know if these valid fears or concerns or confessions anyway, and she didn’t know if she was racist, it should be obvious she supposed [NO NO NO], and if handed a switch that said “racist or unracist or anti-racist” she would flick it to the very latter — even knowing that could cost her, she knew — but she also knew her brain was traumatized from the times [upcoming in this text] that she would game with black men, consensually at first but not to how they treated her after or by the end of their relationship, she thought people including non-white people suspected she was racist, and she never let people’s suspicions about her define how she behaved in her very private time. Not before bed when she overate so she could sleep, that didn’t count. No no, not then: later, deep at night on a subjective plane in private she became her self just-maybe. With her right hand, solemnly swearing. She didn’t do her hair down there yet. So, who was Lola really, she will not define. She didn’t think deeply about how non-white people were racist too because she was quite clearly lazy, she’d rather just die and she might. It was fair to say that objectively in-the-vivid-dreams Rose, older Rose, was the one whose attractiveness gave her an edge in their non relationship; Lola by contrast for years was plagued by a sinister degree of unbecoming confidence since foregone after she lost everything, female hubris that, in dreams, would resort to mocking or bullying other women, say, for being nervous around her — sometimes lobbing low blows, occasionally yes even vaguely racist remarks but not without qualms in her unconscious (and something like remorse and self-loathing upon waking up, confusion about why her unconscious self was such a piece of white shit; maybe this is defensive but it literally felt like she was acting up in the dream just to like get noticed by the real-seeming person in the dream flesh, who she’d fantasized about literally meeting, and in this dream time together she was behaving reprehensibly) — despite, or as a result of, her self-awareness of how she fell short compared to them in noticeable, outward-facing aspects: women and their looks! Not a joke for those ambitious, therefore sometimes competitive, in spite of themselves.

In the dreams she couldn’t hide. Her meh-looks or even aggressive shit-eating grins, not cute objectively, even scary unless she saw herself hideously just in her head, were almost like the reason she was proud of herself with a brash ego, unduly proud, perhaps, because when she did that (far more than when she dressed nice, did hair and make-up, got her weight down a bit) she managed to draw a small crowd of people toward her — her old female friends from high school who once envied her and looked much better than her now, in the present, or alpha white boys her age who creeped her out — despite perhaps maiming herself of any potential in those moments to make the A-list as a woman: say, for any worthwhile New York event in real life. It just never went away, the self-empowering, actually disempowering, mean filthy hoe shtick, white, fat feeling ugly, clearly not playing hideous, if only for just a tiny dose of power or some attention which, should go without saying, wouldn’t actually lead anywhere but to feelings of remoteness from everyone and chronic patheticness.

If Lola was racist then she outed herself in dreams around people she cared for, because, she didn’t want it to fuck them up.

To fuck herself, up her life (her literal not dream life), maybe, fine. She could do this like a cunt.

Not ever like a man though, like a dark silk sweetie pie cunt. It had been late afternoon before they’d gone to the beach, she and Doufy, when Lola finally took a seat on a dusty knoll in Victory Square in July 2016. The park felt innocent that day, she felt unworthy of its peacefulness, packed with tourists and college students who Lola hoped weren’t watching as Rick (his actual name) dumped powder into a sterile cap from the harm reduction center on West Hastings and used a lighter to heat it from beneath. The smell hit her fast like the Sallie Hansen hair remover she used to put on her upper lip which left a chemical burn there, only she could see, but it was definitely there and would show up sometimes in HD. She watched and felt wonder inside her when watching his hands remove the stopper from a 0.3 cc syringe and stirring the powder in the cap, like stinky hair remover on a plastic dish — or more like, lotion in a basket — yeah, she was literally in awe for some reason that should have disturbed her deeply but didn’t yet, in awe of the meticulousness required for this process, much more than she’d ever put into cooking or tending to her face in the morning or doing dick-stuff with her hand to the first boy she loved named [X].

If her soul were a creature it would have been a mantis rubbing palms and tittering at the sight of such elemental wrongdoing, no no no.

Now, it was probably clear from how young and healthy she was compared to other junkies in that part of town that she was a baby, relative to Rick. She hadn’t done this. She was aware of a woman slightly older than her in a black blouse and jean skirt, with hair-braided chestnut, kind seeming (Lola’s street smarts told her this woman wasn’t just some voyeur, she was fine, refined-looking, not watching Lola but noticing her), nearby on a bench with a talkative man carrying a guitar case. She seemed aware of Lola’s every move, or Lola of hers, and Lola definitely felt concerned for. Or Lola imagined it. She felt like she should get up and leave Rick, like, “you know — I changed my mind, this is literally so retarded.” She would still do it, she would have, if she could do it all again, which she couldn’t.

No, she didn’t stop the man much older than her, he said, “You’re gonna feel a sting. Then it’ll take a second. It’s normal to suddenly want a shag.”

“What? — Oh.. wait, shit,” Lola said, as she watched the needle go into the cephalic vein where the forearm hinged with her never slim bicep, her own blood filling the piston. All she could think was how dark it was. It was actually shocking how dark it was, not even red. Crimson or darker. She turned away wincing and saw the woman on the park bench, still looking. Immediately from being seen, doing this, she felt some regret. If no one had been watching she might have felt different. But there’d been a witness whose judgment she trusted more or less, she knew it had been seen, she couldn’t pretend this wasn’t literally happening right then.

And then she felt it! The China White hit her bloodstream.

Itchy like silly Daddy oozing long the tips of his toes and tongue, simultaneously, so base he’d be more comfortable with his skin torn off, surely burly he wouldie. Ten millies in the nozz would be totally enough to cut him off, enough enough, okie dokie, so well for so long, got me a JOB, got me a LIFEY, got friends to cut me loose, loosey-goosey, enough to let me back inside, not now… oooooh. Imagination was ruffin shtuckin, suffocushin, mask of latex pulled taught. His mouth and nose, couldn’t breath, speak, see, hear, touch the black holy that meant enrapturing bliss for Clyde, reprieve from the dread and pleasure and pain and the angel he saw, flapping her bat wings and it wasn’t pretty, it was deranged like a bat’s nest tangled knotty if there was such a thing. Like batty botts every flavor jelly globs snotty not clean. Spooking his rookie ex girlfriend scenes in mookie bad movies gone sluggy. Bloop bloop! She was botty to him, a lady-creep. He loved it though. Then silence, overtook him, a few skeets of sudsy velvet and he could smell bleach, he could feel, his tongue, on his moderately-thick number three. Again he could think, could feel, alive. Again he could just feel like a Jew on his Jew-thing, the Jew-thing, he wanted to get away from the Jew-thing and now he was right back to it and it felt like, he couldn’t be, snuggery in lurff with this thingie on his tongues soapy sweet, swish-swish licky few times quickly, lip me, sweet sweet Mami, please.

So mean-filthy, he loved his little dopey, he would worship she, he would call she his mummy despite being a creep, he would hone his horn music till she took him inside her white holey sheet. She was talking to him he swore it, she said calliiiiitttty!! I LOVE you — CLYDE!! SAAYYY… CAN YOU WRITE ME ANOTHER PIECE!! ANOTHER ONE, ANOTHER. NUHHR NUHH AND EVERYTHING ABOUT IT, NOT A THING IS WRONG, WITH IT, no EDITS, it’s per-feet, IT’S PERRRFFECTO, YOU, Killed it. CLYDE I LOVE IT!!!! You’re a genius!!CLYDE!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAH HA HA HA HA LUFF IT Clyde don’t..

His reed broke, oaff, a gutty sting like flat stinky, TMG, in the basement of his composer-bro’s place he lost the shit he was on and he couldn’t even tell if he was hearing his horn or the sound of ambulance sirens because next thing he knew, he was in the back of one with his whole body feeling globby like his brain wasn’t catching up, and there was a mask on him, he just wanted it off. Clyde saw the ceiling of the vehicle and thought it was about a lot smaller than it truly was. It was like his brain was growing, and shrinking, the same time. He gave up.

He always wondered what he said in those two hours, when the doctors later told him he was “really out of it,” the speedballs must have had fentanyl in them. But he was a talker, he was talking a lot. A bit like when his grandma not on the Jew side had lost her mind for years, at the end, he wondered if that’s when he got to know the real her; not back when she was still sane, when she’d loved her grandkid.

….

[5: Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do]

“Hands up, don’t shoot. Don’t shoot me boys.”

“Look out sir. You’re walking down into the up-escalator.”

Lola stood by a set of escalators at the Port Authority bus terminal, with an obese guy, black, who she’d just met and her own new friend from the bus stop, King. (He asked her to call him that, she agreed, his real name was Kalif.) They were in front of about six white cops dressed in all navy, holding AK-47s that looked more fit for a war zone than a public transit station. The guy they’d just met up with, Mr. Don’t Shoot, kept turning around in circles and saying those few words.

“Don’t shoot me.”

“Come on man, give it up.”

Kalif grabbed Lola by the arm and took her down the escalators. The friend lagged a bit behind. They all met up in a deli, where the big guy (she didn’t know his name) bit off the top of his Guinness then drank the whole bottle in ten seconds. Then he bit off Lola’s cap of Mike’s lemonade, and handed her the bottle which she probably wouldn’t drink.

“Ok,” she said quietly.

“You hear that? Don’t go touchin her,” King said. Later she overheard the big guy ask what the fuck Kalif was doing with this girl, and Lola felt some allegiances toward King’s friend, not King, but then the guy left them. Anyway, she should have been asking herself the same thing, what was she doing with King. When he’d asked her to call her King, did she mind, he held the back of her neck and pulled her sort of tight. He’d said he needed a white girl for a music video, she didn’t look like an extra so she knew that was a lie.

King took her around the waist and kept crossing the street through busy traffic because he said he had a sense by now, of the rhythms, and Lola thought he was crazy but she wasn’t about to tell him “stop walking me into moving traffic, you idiot.” She just went. He took her up some stairs around West 40th street, past 8th or 9th somewhere. Supposedly he lived up there but didn’t even have a key to get in. “Feel that,” he said, like The Weeknd to Julia in Uncut Gems. But they weren’t going up there to screw her up, as far she knew, who knows because it didn’t happen, it was only 3pm. He just wanted to pick up his stash, from a friend, clearly just a dealer? He’d been popping Mollies, and he was all out. She was out on the lookout for her own needs, which did not include making love, with this man. “That’s the only way I could stay up for three days!! Three days!! I been waitin three days for this girl… Now look at me, I want you to give me one week to prove myself, one week. You gonna look back and be laughin‘ at who you were. A few months ago I met a shy plain-jane kinda girl like you, and in three weeks, just three weeks, she was a different person!! A different person!! Get your nails done, I need all that shit in place.”

“I mean I like that too,” she might have said. “I’d just need time I should think.”

“Three weeks!! We both walk down the street, and right away, people’ll be jealous.”

“More than three weeks.”

To this day she didn’t know if she was in it for the heroin after having just tried it in Vancouver, loving it, or a place to stay off the train to New York so she didn’t have to move back in with her dad. She probably though, was doing it for the street cred. Which is, sad. She wasn’t writing scripts that week but she still knew she was a writer and her film was about a whore named Ava who, like Don Quixote, believed she was the greatest white hoe who ever lived. Lola was 22 when she was being such a dumb shit. King was in his thirties, he wanted her to turn tricks for him. For that there was always a sort of initiation-moment, not sure, she knew about this.

In prayers, in her subconscious, in writing, in her bed, she planned to make a masterpiece for the one she couldn’t have. Maybe he could have her. That’s how she would make it up to the one who’d been hurt so bad. Who could say how many failures she’d make, leading up to that. She wasn’t sure that her one would be there to listen back. But she knew she had to do it before she was dead. To die before it happened, would make her family feel so, bad. 

In the dark she clutched her pillows and thought about skin. She tried to imagine something better without sinking back in all her sins. By day she tried to tear apart what was real and fake. By night it felt so potent, it could not be explained. She tried to detach and no longer care. Her one sent in troops to claim who was theirs, blood rushed and carved a moat round a corner of her heart. She built a bridge over water with a song, hoping one day it would actually catch on.

Some nights she couldn’t sleep because it hurt to be loved. She didn’t think she’d ever been loved this much. They decided, around the same time, not to give this one up. No matter what fate threw between them! A true love, beyond passion, probably not known by most adults though she can’t speak for them. All by herself, the flames she felt, accompanied by terror. The closer it came to coming true, the bleaker her surroundings felt. If in real-life their flames ever met, they wondered if they could save more than them two selves. Because it took such courage, to finally know the other one. It took such courage to be unimaginably loved. 

It wasn’t till many years after they actually met, that he began hearing rhythms. They popped up in his head, not quite fully formed, nebulous—but hard to dismiss. His faith had been tentative, until that started to happen. Yes it was honestly like he had to write it down and he had to work until he felt sick. No he wasn’t schizophrenic but she heard a voice somewhere close to God in his head. He didn’t really feel comfortable, talking about it. Not like God was talking to him but just like the thoughts he had changed so they weren’t bad. It was something few people (besides her) would probably ever get. The rhythms he heard ebbed and flowed in waves. Wavelengths of fear reflective of those years. 

In her private life: a phase of isolation and unhappiness. She imagined and wrote better than she ever had. Sure this retch was such a stupid mess, but all in context, more gorgeous than he’d ever been.

She couldn’t have done it for anyone else. Not for recognition, only for a pal, who was more than that but not everyone would know, she guessed it might have to stay secret because how else. Yet she knew some compositions sort of had to get shared, again and again. To hide them when asked that annoying question, “I’d love to read some of your work sometime,” this time though — to not share it, would feel like a sin. 

Lola’s throat hurt and her gut hurt but she wondered if it was actually the good kind of pain, that’s how sick she was back then — oh god, literally. As if to play the victim, she got on the subway and listened to Sia (of all things) and wondered how much money she had left, where would she go. Why was she so wary of going back home. 

She ended up going to a practice room in the basement of a Columbia dorm called Schapiro. In undergrad she often went into practice rooms, not to play music though she’d overhear people practicing next door, like prodigies, legit; no, she wasn’t a very good musician, she would just go into those rooms to do homework, and be alone with her work, except for that one time she got drunk in a practice room and just talked with the friend — the Southerner — who she’d told her dad she would be staying with all summer (before she left, went to Florida, yeah). That night after probably being raped by King she took the velvet cover off a grand piano and slept in a practice room; she would end up making a habit of this for about a week, until she got caught a few mornings in a row by the same cleaning guy, who she suspected might report her to the school. She just had a feeling. By that time in her life she’d spent nights in parks, and was always either woken by cops who asked her to please go, or literally much worse, by men who thought she was a whore. So instead of trying that again, Lola mustered the courage — courage, perhaps, if that’s what you wanted to call it — to email (not call) her father and ask if he’d be willing to front Lola some money, she was tired of living like this. 

“You’re scaring me.”

Lola used to say that to her mom as a young child, when her mom was having one of her yelling fits. Usually the fits were caused by something completed unrelated to Lola: simple things, like being late to work and not knowing where the car keys were, or accidentally burning dinner, or misplacing her Nokia phone. When one of these things happened, Lola’s mom would cuss and yell and occasionally tear up the house, throwing pillows or her purse upside-down so all the contents fell out. Yet nothing made Lola’s mom more furious, than her husband (Lola’s dad). His alcoholism which was bad, his empty pockets, or his parents who’d always been covertly cruel to Lola’s mom. On these three topics — or a mashup of the three — she had Lola’s dad would argue at least a few times a day. Screaming arguments that ended with broken pieces of furniture in the living room, their house was always kind of trashed inside anyway. If Lola tried to break up a fight, they’d calm down for a second and tell her, “it has nothing to do with you, nothing.”

She’d go in the other room and play videogames. At age ten, her favorite game was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on Gamecube, a Gamecube which she’d bought nervously one year with her own money — it was probably the most expensive thing she’d bought at that moment, with her “own” money (holiday gifts from relatives, always relatives on her mom’s side never the other side, checks sent in the mail); that’s what made her nervous at that moment, spending, money was nerve-wracking for her at the time — at the Toys R Us in Times Square. There was a dope electronics section, there. 

“It has nothing to do with you, nothing. Nothing. It’s probably got do with his parents, Lola, I hate them.”

“I KNOW you do — do I have to go.” 

By late middle school Lola probably started asking why her parents didn’t just get a divorce, literally this was so fucked up. It seemed like their marriage was a shitshow long before Lola was even born, so. Yeah. She asked her mom what the fuck was up. 

“Where there’s anger, there’s often passion,” her mom had explained to Lola.

“I don’t know mom.” (I think you’re nuts, she thought.)

Lola’s favorite sound, which fell over the house in the middle of the night, was silence. She’d wake up in the middle of the night and inhale it like drugs. Silence like being in a bathtub with the water running and earplugs. But sometimes in the silence, she still heard sounds. 

You’re nothing, you’re pathetic, you’re a wretched bitch. 

That was Lola’s own voice in her head, it never shut up about this.

What caused Catherine a.k.a. Cate to question her faith, were the aspects of fame that weren’t at all like a God dream. Say she was lucky—blessed, maybe. But fame wasn’t like a music video featuring strobes and sexy extras. People prayed for this? Why? Even her slightly-less-famous friends seemed jealous of all the attention. Fame didn’t feel like a God dream, no no. It felt more like standing in a freezer. A giant bright freezer that hadn’t been washed out in a while. The people taking pictures were sometimes so icky, inside. Why didn’t they look in a mirror, instead of all up at her. The people forming opinions about the pictures were so awful, online. Why didn’t they find a life with some finer self-worth. 

Seriously, pathetic. 

That’s what she thought when she was younger: why did people crave celebrities so heavily, why did people feed so hard. Though Americans weren’t starving—not quite (she thought aggressively, judgmentally, of most American people, family members even; until she outgrew her judgmentalness)—they were starved of something inside, which they hoped Catherine and that notorious Ex could give them. There was coldness all around. The least Catherine could do, was provide warmth. Warm white light, which seemed to deflect the flashes, for a fleeting minute, softer. After shows she felt, she’d done these people well. 

Catherine would feel victorious if she made it out alive—after all this.

She was proud of how she handled the press, like an artist would be proud of any great performance. But she didn’t feel like she got enough credit, for what happened in private.

From attending hot pilates frequently and eating clean, Catherine Delaluna possessed a body like a whitewater slalom canoe, while most Americans were still crammed side-by-side in intertubes. On her way home from a photoshoot for another article celebrating the overgeneralized genus of “inspiring women who make art,” she was in a dopey mood. 

Who can I text?? She could stand another body to gnaw apart and lay siege to. She needed to have sex so nuts it left her numb. She needed someone who could handle the worst of her, and not crack or collapse or but fight back for even more of it. Her greatest fear, besides betrayal and abandonment from lovers and/or friends, was that the worst parts of herself might accidentally burst out somehow in public; if not literally in public, then of course, on the internet. There was no metaphorical cop standing between her and a destructive post on Instagram. Not always conscious but later she’d realize, wtf was I on. And she seriously needed her violent feelings to be addressed, right now, so. 

Who could she LOVE.

Catherine occasionally had, occasionally usually not, a hard time deciding whether to look upon some people as losers or to cooperate with them. The danger of too much sympathy was becoming one of these people. Of saying, “it’s fine,” and falling into the same tired traps they’d fallen into.

As bitchy as this sounded, it wasn’t that bad, because the people she personally considered the worst “losers” ever to have lived, tended to be other celebrities, like herself, worshipped by many millions of humans. They just didn’t know the truth, the private truth. Catherine felt obligated to filter through all the bullshit. Some people, TBT, were overworshipped. She knew.

She didn’t want to admit it, but each time someone revealed (often by accident) to Catherine, “I’m obsessed with you bitch,” it worked against them in her unconscious somewhere. She was sick of having her ass kissed, it made it hard to trust any compliments. Were they sincere? She didn’t want to assume they were, but sometimes she accidentally took them at face value. Not because she was full of herself (which, she sometimes was), but because she was sick of people’s weakness: if they were going to compliment her, then, she’d take it and lead them out of their weakness with her strength. It was unbecoming to grovel. She would almost rather be left alone or censured by the American masses, than be worshipped by such silly-dumb-in-love fanboys and fangirls. That wasn’t love, were they pretending? Or did they just not know? 

Did SHE just not know? What about that Ex, or The Stalker. He wouldn’t let her go.

Catherine Delaluna was a star for being a lover like no other. She picked the right men. Actually she was a star for being a beautiful actress and now-memoirist—a famous performer—but it was all connected. 

Sure, she had a lot to be grateful for, that much was certain. But when she considered her life so far, she felt the impulse to cross her hands over her cervix. There was just as much pain in her memories, as happiness. She actually kind of liked the pain more. The happiness wasn’t fun to make art about, it bored her a bit.

Sometimes it felt like the pain outsized the good moments. But she monitored the story she shared so well. The people, after all, needed reprieve from themselves. She gave them heaven, even when they gave her hell. She deluded them at the price of her own mental [and only possibly, her physical] health. Her family and friends wouldn’t believe all she put up with. There was a fine almost indistinguishable line between psychic and psychotic. 

If she did bring it up to her family or friends, this is what Catherine would have said. 

“I think I’m still in love, with Justin.

“Nooo.”

“Psych, mother f**kas!! I’m foolin.” She totally was. Middle fingers up, Cate of her mind, was outties. Long gone.

Marigold kept thinking, she wasn’t a he, but then she looked in the mirror, and just thought, it would come as a relief, to just be.

Was Rose not to blame if she threatened to hurt herself, and then did. Did Rose not take her seriously.

Who would, Marigold supposed when considering herself a trans.

She wasn’t clowning around. She didn’t like all these artists, who pretended they were clowns (Abel, Joaquin). For her it was too close to home, it was creepy that people thought this was actually good art. It certainly wasn’t funny, was it. That creepy video by Abel, hideous. Rose had shared with Mari a recommendation for a youtube video called Lady Meets the Reaper, which she’d been shown by her friend Selena. When Rose had mentioned Lola she’d referred to this younger girl Selena knew, with a disclaimer that she didn’t mean it, as, a stocky wigga.

Marigold had started watching it, she didn’t get through. She didn’t think of Lola as a wigga, merely of course as a kike. She didn’t have a problem with Jews, she just, didn’t want to submit to the advice of one (on Twitter for instance, and Twitter, was so different from guidance in person). Marigold was fine taking guidance from herself. She was depressed in the boonies, reckless with her life story but not too bad, only reckless in the sense that she didn’t care if nothing happened, but she didn’t feel any need to foment life-or-death ambition in herself; Lola might have that, because she was a Jew, and Jews and other people who weren’t white, sometimes tended to have that. If they had very little to lose, sure, why not pull out all the stop hatches. That, ambition?

“Or torture me slowly with your silent disdain,” a line from Lady Meets the Reaper, was something that registered for Marigold toward her sister Rose, of all women.

She thought of wicked wigga Lola as a boy sometimes, in dreams where she slipped in accidentally. Lola wouldn’t have cared if she was a boy for her or a Jew for the world or a wigger or a ho. She just didn’t care, where she ended up (Lola didn’t care, that is) — and that kind of bothered Marigold, just a stranger who’d seen this student film. Too much to disregard it completely because, this was something that kind of affected her feelings, not her mood, for days and days, just her feelings occasionally in the morning if she’d gone to sleep hopeful that this person actually was a dark lady-creep therefore she didn’t have to worry about it: yeah, this girl Lols was a lost cause, her sense of humor if you could call it that (disturbed, literally, no, thought Mari), so anyway, she herself Marigold could keep being a sexy young boy on her own because some people might find that attractive. Or obnoxious! Which is why she did it, to punish Rose for leaving her and torturing her with neglect. It was self-destructive.

As though they weren’t equals, this wasn’t fair, she was too deep a person to keep pretending that she was basic. Marigold would change her name. She wouldn’t settle for someone, who made her feel basic. Sometimes that’s how she felt around her biological sister; that wasn’t fair, she felt more basic around Rose because her sister wasn’t basic, what could that mean.

Not Marigold, no no no, she wasn’t basic, she might not be as smart as her sister but — she went for queens, not basic cunts. She’d be trans.

It’s what God wants. When two people love each other…

Mari blocked out weird thoughts and played cards on her bed alone and read books, sometimes about knights errant, but she sought out nuance online in the stuff she tried to read.

This girl Lols, she didn’t even know, who she’d found out about accidentally. She had that sense of quiet in her eyes when she’d said that thing. 

“That thing” like what Mariel Hemingway’s character had at the end of Manhattan, no, not that thing. This girl [freckled up close but her skin carried speckles, blemishes] who clearly was so isolated, she didn’t have friends on social media, any friends, it was definitely worth sometimes reckoning as “creepy,” if just to kind of test out the possibility in one’s mind. But Marigold didn’t know, actually she couldn’t. She could go by instinct but that would be too much of her energy invested, it wasn’t even worth the instinct expended. Instinct like animals had. That was no good, that was bad. As a human being, Marigold just kind of, framed Lady Meets the Reaper in her mind as something she’d seen on the internet, just another strange thing on the internet, that she might as well not have seen but had accidentally, witnessed. 

 

In the morning he wanted a way to remember his stay at the Marriott Marquis. He pulled up Photobooth on his laptop and took a picture of himself with the hotel room in the backdrop. Benny didn’t like how it came out; he thought his bare chest looked fleshy. His belly was getting pudgy na, he knew he had abs from working out but they weren’t showing up. Body image issues were supposedly a chick thing but he had them pretty nuts. For at least ten minutes after taking the selfie, Benny browsed old photos of himself on his computer. He wanted to figure out whether he’d grown more or less attractive. He had a complicated relationship with his former selves which might be described as competitive. Resentful even. The trouble with having been in shape and a jock, popular at school among girls (white chicks too, especially) in the past, was that Benny knew it was possible. So anything less than that looked so wonketty-ratch. He felt like he needed to be at prep school to feel like a man, but he abhorred people who clung to their high school laurels. He abhorred them, because it struck a chord with him, a meaningful pitch that wasn’t quite, off. He took success very seriously, his success had to be better than theirs, it absolutely did or he should just die. He felt that, he wasn’t sure he always had, but he knew it now. He knew that was a condition of being, Benny with his lunk frame and goofy dog mouth. In high school everyone had told him, stay on track, stay on track, but what kind of advice was that, were they talking about track and field, it occurred to him later, what were they implying, and now if he saw them what would they think. He resented that, it’s their fault he felt like a bitch in the morning. He went there in his music, he went, there, nobody liked him but they’d pretend, that’s why he’d left them in the morning, his friends from Horace Mann.

Wake up Benny, here’s your life, shit on a silver platter, room service, you earned it, big man.

At the Marriott he had another grilled cheese, literally for breakfast. Felt like puking it. Arfh. Like a dog eating its own barf. Why did he keep making mistakes when he knew better. A therapist told him to have mercy on himself for his mistakes. But his therapist had been white, so, that would make sense; to give that advice as though it would apply to him just the same, as to wiggers, which is a term he’d never use but which sometimes seemed appropriate for his these friends from private school. Or just this word: losas.

On the other hand his favorite old pictures of himself were sometimes unflattering, he convinced himself. Yeah, he liked it when he looked disheveled. Sometimes even fat, like the fattest pics ever shot up by his friends, the great friends and amateur paparazzos, they caught him with them, fat in their lovely spaces, or worse — themselves somehow god-knows lost in Benny’s shithole habitat, such as, a Starbucks where the toilet paper was out, he loved it when they wandered in, to be with him, she wanted it, thinking they could take pics, it was a freedom thing, this young white woman, he loved it but not her (she could eat shit or literally his cock). A good memory, murdering his goofy-cunt. The bad pics where he just looked like an imposter among them, they loved him so much. It gave him more leeway to have physical flaws in the present, his present though, it felt like a great symphony being played wonkily by iconoclasts in periwinkle, a creepy handjob to a cocky trumpet sound, string of errors, he wanted to feel like his a kid self again, and didn’t write the possibility off but giving up was so tempting, he would have to fight to not-die like someone hospitalized in agony not administered the actually good dose of pain meds. That feeling of just wanting, something, to die, it plagued him relentless. Every, single, day — Benny wanted to die but, instead, he did music! Then he could just, say wayhayhay too much, in his confessional music, and never hear back from the women he sang-about (not sang-for), even though he told them in his songs to please call him now. They never did. 

[6: Parasols]

There was almost no movement in the life Mike got stuck with. Just a bland amorphous blob of stagnant space. When he was sober the blob was a sick and lonely prison. When he was on drugs, he was shocked by the neon lights above the Junkie McDonald’s on 34th and 7th. (This was his spot. That’s where he sat with a sign and cup.) Then the stagnant blob turned to a spinning sphere, and the part of his head where feelings festered lit up and ticked like the clock on the Swarovski crystal sign across the street. But when he came down from it, his whole head melted. The sphere stopped spinning and turned to a blob again. He sat and waited for change.

“Yo Mike!! — got any dog food? I need you to front me some,” he heard a passerby ask him, a junkie he knew and didn’t trust anymore.

“I don’t have it,” he just shook his head. “No.”

“Come on man, what the fuck.”

Around his head, Mike wore a bandana at all times, to keep his dirty brown hair from falling in his face. The first bandana he ever snatched from a street vendor was black with patterns. He considered it lucky. Mike had been wearing it the time he fell out on junk and had to go to the first floor of Bellevue, he’d lived. 

The night Lola first showed up at his spot, she wore a black bandana like his.

“It’s my doo rag,” she said. He knew from the second he saw her lols’ing about the punk she was with, deranging, to him, that Lola wouldn’t be just another bitch, to him. She would be a person.

The punk she was with was a blonde boy with long locks, who she’d met outside the worst hotel in New York City: The Bowery Grand. He’d walked up to her, on drugs — Ecstasy and like a lot of Xanax, he told her later — and immediately took her hand and brought it to his junk. Seems like guys really liked doing that, lately, but they were always under the influence so. She was like, “okayyy,” but figured because she wanted another kind of junk (it’s like all she wanted, it really did feel good that first and second and third time in Canada) she’d been putting out the energy. She asked if he could get her some.

“Come with me, I know a guy.”

In the cab he glommed onto her, she stared out the window with glossy eyes.

Once they linked with Mike they all ended up on a platform leading down to the subway by West 34th. She and Michael started to talk about movies. The blonde boy was falling asleep, on Lola’s lap. “My purrents want me to go to Rehab, in Florrrrda, should I go.” Mike was like “fuck, if I could afford to go to rehab on the beach, I’d go.” Lola honestly felt the same way, or was influenced enough by Mike in that moment that she seriously hated the blonde kid. He looked like a little boy sleeping, on her lap. Little brat. Lola turned to Michael; he nodded back at her. She lowered his blonde locks onto the tiles of the subway platform, he didn’t wake up. They got up and left him alone down at West 34th — he’d be fine, they didn’t even take his money, if someone else did then he’d still be fine — and she and Mike went to the basement of Penn Station. They talked about films his friends had been in and music and stuff. Amy Winehouse came up, Nirvana, Rihanna, whose music they agreed had something twisted somewhere in it. They didn’t do drugs that night though, they didn’t have the cash yet.

“We’d get these creepy guys to come with her into a hotel room, and we’d pistol whip them, like pay up.”

“Oh my god,” Lola said.

“We could do that, shit, you have just the look.”

“Maybe there’s another way, I could do a cash advance.”

At the ATM her card got rejected, she knew it would already. She was out of it, used the card that wouldn’t work.

“Say,” Lola suggested, “I took these phones from guys, do you think we could sell them.”

“Yes,” said Michael, “this one’s shitty but that other one.”

“It’s an iPhone,” Lola nodded grinning, yeah. “Once I took 160 dollars off some dude’s dresser.” She felt like bragging to Mike, who’d started calling her sweetheart.

Her guy Mike said he made up to 140 bucks just sitting out with his cup in Times Square, some days. She was like really, I definitely work too hard for no money. He’d done dope from the same guy whose batches killed Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “the same stamp.” He used to deal so people knew him as a dealer, but Mike once was caught selling to minors (privileged kids, she figured that much was obvious). One of them had overdosed so, he was arrested and sentenced to four years. Otherwise his fat ass — which was not noticeably obese when she met him, he’d definitely lost some weight in jail — would supposedly have been in Heaven Knows What instead of Necro, who Lola had seen playing in Camden Town once, in London: a club where Amy’d been.

When it comes to life’s thorniest moral ambiguities, the truth is in the humor. If there is a god who’s humble enough to admit the world he made has a few flaws, he resides in the thin crevice that divides misery and mirth, where pure laughter blossoms like weeds in the Garden of Eden. Pure laughter is not sadistic. Those who poke fun at a tyrant with a track record of being a jerk fare better than those who poke fun at powerless losers. At least this thought can be comforting to folk who can’t afford to get away with a more grandiose spiritual arrangement—for those who may not have a leg up in nature’s brawl, but like to have a good laugh when the chips are in the dregs.

“Don’t feel bad for her. She’s humiliated plenty of people, the way she grades so harshly. Her view of the world’s just so self-involved that she thinks people have the time to devote hours and hours to her fucking class. She does it to herself! Seriously, do yourself a favor and laugh at her. She’s not worth your time. Besides, she’s dating a man 15 years younger. She’s a creepy person Lols.”

“I don’t think that’s so weird. Or creepy as you say. I mean men do it constantly, she’s super hot for her age. But, whatever.”

In high school, Lola — who wore size 8 clothes back then — was found by Selena fretting over a humbling grade on an essay from an English professor; Selena, for some reason (probably her sense of humor in those days, how Lola was laughable for her), was trying to be her best friend. The girls stood in line to see a 16mm print of Quatre d’entre nous at a small indie theater in the West Village.

“I think I could have worked harder on that essay, it was bad,” Lola added. “But next time I just might.” 

In their last year as friends, Selena, then in college, and Lola, just finishing high school, together attended a frat party. For them, it wasn’t fun. After the party, they went back to Selena’s apartment — she’d never been to Lola’s house in Queens, but Lola had been to Selena’s dorm. They fessed up to being losers still despite efforts to overcome.

“I think it’s just painful, to be one of the people who can… tell.” 

“Tell what?” 

“When someone’s laughing at you, versus with you. Lots of people are assholes…” 

“But what’s so bad about that?” asked Selena back then. “Being laughed at.” 

Lola had responded with a quizzical look, then a frown. “Well it’s sadistic. I think laughter should be equalizing. It shouldn’t discriminate.” 

“But inside jokes are like the point of having a sense of humor,” Selena had said.

“You can be exclusive without being elitist. Also, there’s no proof someone’s jokes on Facebook statuses or wherever, like, even make sense. What if they’re word salad.” 

Selena had nodded. “That’s an interesting thing to say to me, what are you suggesting.” 

“I dunno — watch out, Selena!!”

Selena had looked over her shoulder, wigging suddenly, as though experiencing a scene from The Birds.

“We’ve talked about this…” Lola said like grr.

“How can I tell if a joke doesn’t make sense if all my friends are just kissing my ass about everything I do and say,” Selena might have asked.

“Well that’s never been my problem unless I’m on the receiving end so, I won’t be doin that to my truer friends — laughing at their expense,” Lols’d maybe have said with eyebrows, raised.

Different people had an effect on her consciousness that was like adjusting the lens of a camera. Some people made her see life as a long shot. Others, a close-up. With Selena it constantly shifted. Around her, Lola could see life at like five different angles at once.

The girls paid for their tickets at the small indie cinema in the West Village, then went to get concessions. They split a bag of popcorn. In the theater, they passed the bag of popcorn between them; Lola probably ate most of it. 

The movie started. 

A woman ate from a bag of sugar, naked, onscreen. After what felt like a few minutes of this, Selena started laughing. Lola laughed too. Onscreen, the bag of sugar spilled, but the woman kept eating. It was so funny for some reason. The woman eating from a bag of sugar like she was oblivious to them, binging in a room of her own, but she must sort of know it was funny—the woman onscreen? Otherwise they wouldn’t be laughing like this, not at her, no way. Lola looked around as she laughed. No one else in the theater was laughing; they all watched with expressions sterner than security guards on either side of the Holocaust museum. And it wasn’t funny, this is true. It seemed Selena and Lola were on some dumb shit, sober though, the only ones in the dark auditorium who found it even remotely humorous. And still they couldn’t stop laughing. They laughed so hard Selena dropped their shared bag of popcorn on the floor and it spilled like a sack of yellow diamonds. Lola thought it must be the queerest thing she’d ever laughed at, with another straight girl. 

… 

You’re covered in blood. Not all of its yours. You stick your FireWire cord into her jack and see sunsets, over cities covered in as much blood as your flesh. You take the HDMI cable and gently plug it in; you see the moon, shaded in blue and red. Blue from the surrounding planets. Red from the burning earth. You hear faint eruptions and feel yourself picked up and thrown against the mattress. It’s your turn to hurt and be healed. She places a hand on your open audio jack and you emit sounds. She takes her other hand and puts it in your mouth and says, ssssh. Neither of you can be found like this. Because you aren’t wearing disguises. You’re Morgan. That’s who you ended up. Right now you’re safely hidden under a white sheet, stained with blood. But outside, the walls are collapsing. Behind the collapsing walls are strangers. Sadists. They don’t want to see you together. Not like this. They’d rather see one of you dead. Because they’re envious. As the sadists rush inward like crimson rivers over collapsing walls, she yanks the FireWire cord from her own jack and sticks it in yours. Now your HDMI cable is in her jack, and her FireWire cable is in yours. Your cords are all tangled up. No matter how hard you try you can’t seem to disentangle them. And you have the same vision. The same vision of the rest of your narrative. From now until that very last moment. And both of you start crying. It’s just too beautiful and feels so good, you can’t stop the salty flood from rushing inward and sinking you together in a blood-soaked bed. The end. 

Lola didn’t have a good feeling about the McDonald’s on 126th and Lexington, even though there were a few signs that suggested that it was the right place to be. The first was Charlene. She handed Mike her receipt and gave up her place in line for the toilet, just because she noticed Lola looked sallow and sick. Charlene and Mike chatted for a while about friends she knew who were so addicted to dope they were always throwing up in public. (Lola chose not to listen, she’d really get addicted.) At some point Charlene turned to Lola and said, “You go ahead. I got enough friends on that shit to know that you probably can’t wait no more.” 

“You sure?” asked Lola. She felt a small urge to cry because Charlene seemed so friendly. It was the last thing she’d expect from a woman in line to use the can at McDonald’s. 

“All yours baby. If I went in there and did my thing you would probably just walk in and throw up.” 

Lola thanked Charlene a few times while glancing nervously toward a police officer stationed in one corner of the restaurant. Luckily she hadn’t gotten eye contact with the cop; he was distracted by a woman making a fuss about being overcharged for her french fries. Lola took this as the second sign that she should stay in the McDonald’s. 

“Let me see your eyes,” said Mike in a soft voice. He took Lola’s chin in his hand and turned her face toward his. “I want to get a before-and-after shot in my head. This dope is so good it’ll change you… I just wonder what’s taking so long.” He glanced up and down between a stolen watch on his wrist and the locked door of the restroom. Finally it opened. Out came a woman in a large purple hoodie and zebra leggings, holding hands with her two-year-old daughter. 

Mike stepped forward and caught the door as it swung shut. He held it open for Lola. “Come on! The fuck,” he said. 

But something kept her from entering. Lola moved a few paces away from the door of the bathroom toward the front of the restaurant. Her eyes flew around the joint like flies locked in light fixtures. This time she and the police officer got eye contact, for what felt like a few seconds. 

“Don’t you worry about him,” said Charlene from the sidelines. “That same cop been here for three days, and he ain’t bothered no one.” 

Lola thanked Charlene one last time. Then she followed Mike into the bathroom. He shut the door, locked it, and asked Lola for the stuff. 

She watched as Mike poured the powder into a metal beer cap he’d found on the sidewalk. Some of the toasted blue substance got on his hand; he licked it off his palm like powdered sugar. Then he tore up the butt of a cigarette (also picked up from the sidewalk) and handed Lola a tiny swab of the filter to hold onto while he blended dope in the cap. Lola sat down on the floor and began to wrap the gray string of her sweatshirt around her arm. Mike asked for the filter back, then used it to soak up the new brew and suck it deep into a syringe. 

Someone knocked on the door. 

Mike hardly seemed to notice; he was too focused on mixing dope a few inches from his face. But Lola lost her nerve. She got to her feet and answered the door of the bathroom. In the back of her mind she knew she was in denial about the stakes of this situation. She felt as if she and Mike were two children playing a harmless game of house: Mike was helping prepare dinner, she was greeting guests. She expected to see the beaming face of Charlene on the other end of the door. Instead she found a lady in blue scrubs with her arms folded, fiercely pissed about having to wait another second to use the can. 

“We’re leaving, I’m sorry.” 

In a panic Mike tossed the beer-can cap containing dope into the trash. Now he was mad. “There’s a fucking cop out there! Don’t you know? You can’t just answer the door like that, Jesus Christ, kid—what the fuck is the matter with you!?” 

“I’m just… getting a bad feeling about this place, ok?”

Near the entrance of many New York apartments are gated enclosures set at basement level, where trash is tossed in cans, newspapers stacked in soiled heaps, cardboard boxes wrapped in twine to be taken on recycle day. Lola spotted a drained bottle of vodka on top of a blue bin at the bottom of a stairwell on the corner of 125th and Lexington. Hoping to procure the metal cap from the bottle, she climbed down a steep set of stairs. In her quest she found an abandoned room in the basement of the apartment complex with floors and walls of gray cement. This is like the best hideout ever for homeless junkies, she thought, feeling blessed, stupidly. Even better than like every McDonald’s in New York. 

Lola climbed back up the stairs and waved to Mike. He lumbered across the street with his hands gripping his sweatpants on either side. They kept falling so low she could see the skin of his legs beneath his boxer briefs. “Pull up your fucking pants,” Lola said under her breath. 

“Sorry,” said Mike. “I lost the drawstring.” He looked left and right for any cops before following Lola on her descent to the underground space. On his way down the stairs, he tripped, but caught himself before he really fell. 

“How are you feeling,” Lola said. She suddenly felt concerned. 

“The guy we bought the dope from wasn’t kidding. I mean, I wondered if he was fuckin’ with us but this shit is heavy. Really girl. This shit’s gonna fuck you up all day.” 

Earlier that morning, on their way to pick up Mike’s methadone from a clinic in Harlem, he and Lola had run into a man with tats around his eyelids who held a silver cane even though he looked too young to need one. The man convinced them to give him a twenty in exchange for access to good shit from a dealer down the block. Mike had gone off with the guy while Lola deflected bug-eyed, half-naked, totally delirious junkies on the street. Mike came back with three tiny bags of the good shit, one of which he’d immediately shot up behind a garbage truck alone, while Lola kept watch. (The garbage guys who were driving the truck noticed what was going on, but waited until Mike left to get back in the vehicle.) Lola insisted on shooting up somewhere indoors. Hence the trip to the McDonald’s restroom, where Lola remained paranoid. It lost them one of their bags. But this secret cement bunker seemed to have been worth it. 

“Can I just do half the bag?” asked Lola. She’d already pulled the gray string from the neck of her sweatshirt and tied it around her arm. 

“I want you to feel what I’m feeling,” said Mike. “It feels so good.” 

By now Mike had poured the full last bag into a bottle cap. He took some water from a small McDonald’s drink cup into the syringe, released it into the cap and stirred it. Then he filled the needle with the good shit. Lola pulled tightly on her makeshift tourniquet. She still didn’t know what she was doing, but wanted to seem like she did. Mike slapped her arm to make the veins stand out. At the moment he pulled the trigger on the syringe, Lola closed her eyes. She felt wicked and woozy again.

Catherine was on vacation, horseback riding on a Saint Lucia beach. And she was all grins. That morning she’d had a FaceTime chat with that Ex, who was back in Los Angeles. And it wasn’t so bad! She distinctly remembered thinking about (but not actually having) terrific sex with him. 

What she was feeling now, was how she assumed it always felt for normal people telling their stories on Instagram. Except for she didn’t have to tell her own story, because her story was being recorded so well. Suddenly she had a reason to perform a little more than priorly. She knew someone was watching, who wouldn’t get on her case if she lost her cool and went temporarily HAM in front of flashing cams. Her fear of getting papped in public (and what the paps were capable of) was so extreme, she often felt like she was risking her life, by exiting her house to go out to the car. Her survival depended on an impervious performance. She was scared if she even flinched, they would rip her to shreds, then laugh about it. 

“What am I going to wear tonight??” thought Catherine, about twenty hours after she thought about having sex, with him. To go out to eat in Saint Lucia with friends, who she knew would be snapping pics on their phones, she put on the sluttiest outfit she’d worn since the last time she had a man to impress. In this body and these clothes, the felt such control, she actually might be the world’s most powerful ho. And it felt alright.

Coming down, well. That was another thing. She ended up with lesions on her ego. (Hickeys.) In the hours that followed media feeding time, Catherine was worried she had lost all the momentum she’d picked up after dumping her last boyfriend. She felt lonely, and crazy, and inadequate for being so blessed with fame and fortune compared to, like, everyone else. She felt younger than all the people she wanted to impress, but older than her ex. She was worried, however, that she’d damaged her rep.

Her pastor and mother would give the same advice. “Forgive your enemies,” they always said.

As a youngster Catherine worked with Nickelodeon and was called, a loser, by her friends.

Maybe the forgiveness approach would work someday if she found herself with more power, covert power, not the obvious power that came from having a hundred million followers among other things and either very-distant or fake lovers who put all her baggage on their tracks. Until then, there was a fine line between being a good person and just, being a coward.

If not a coward then a weirdo. She loved everyone. But she wanted revenge this time, grr.

Carol Quick, a Hollywood pop star, found that she was thinking often of her old industry friend, Catherine Delaluna. Both girls had been famous since they were young. Both girls had been through a lot more, than was publicly acknowledged, and each believed in karma. If it weren’t for Catherine, Carol Quick would feel as though every young adult woman in Hollywood, besides herself, had yet to grow up. Both girls seemed to have an endless supply of friends but now and then possessed lost eyes and expressions, stranded on islands, quizzical looks that were hardly evident to even the most visually sensitive. 

Her feelings lately were purer than in the past. Her will to seduce was replaced with a will to impress. She wanted to be chic yet cling to some edginess. She wanted to inhabit adulthood, but also return to who she was as an unselfconscious kid. Sometimes she felt aggressive, like she wanted to shove all the love she could into a periwinkle box and hand it to someone, just so they could tear apart its giftwrap. She wanted to create five different versions of that same box for her fans to do it again and again and again. Carol Quick was so glad she met Logan Sloman when she did. Timing was so important, in all relationships. Like when you sing a certain way on a recorded track, and you know, that’s the one you’re gonna use, cause you hit it saw good. Woo. She wanted her lifestory to have proper rhythm, not rushed or anything. 

She kept being thrust against stable gurneys by a set of hands stronger than she was, again and again so she felt like she was drowning in a dark mass of really tiny eyes. Eyes that hurt. Open eyes at the ends of needles containing black static.

Lola woke up under bright lights at a hospital in Harlem, a sound like a buzzsaw in her head. It wasn’t really there. She just felt it.

Immediately she got off her gurney to go find a bathroom where she could vomit—but she was stopped by the cord of an IV in her right arm. “Are you okay?” asked someone.

“I think so,” said Lola.

She caught sight of herself in the dark reflection of a window looking out into the crowded main drag of the ER. She saw her own face. Lola was shocked by how much weight she’d lost in so little time, literally days. She was carved out and bloodless. Quite honestly she looked like she had died and come back: as people tend to look how they genuinely just-are. That’s where she was at, on her face she practically expected to see blots of blood spray suddenly from sources unseen. She felt briefly thrilled by how scary she looked, mainly how skinny.

Alongside her own reflection in the window, Lola noticed a large box containing a Mac computer she’d taken out of storage, to sell with Mike. It had been tied to the back of her gurney with cords.

Then Lola started to cry, because she got scared.

“What happened?” she asked a young lady nurse, whose blue oceanic stare had a calming effect on her. “I’m so sorry…” Lola’s voice felt rougher and deeper than she remembered. From crying, her throat hurt.

“They shot Narcon into your nose twice. Usually that does the trick but you wouldn’t wake up, and then you went into cardiac arrest. So they got out the defibrillator…”

Lola leaned over and heaved on the floor; she tasted salt.

“Sorry I’ll help clean that up.”

“No, just stay here.”


The nurse left to go find a custodian.

She heard the chirping of another patient’s heart monitor somewhere down the hall. Lola found a clock on the wall: it was 3AM. She thought of making a phone call, but the thought of radio silence at the other end of a line was more frightening than just sitting with her thoughts. And even though she wouldn’t make a call to someone in her contacts, anyone, well. She still had her phone.

She wished that she had those arms. Those legs. The transition from the legs to her upper half. And her abdomen. Just above there. God, if there was someone composing at his best. Softly. Her bare skin. Her skin a soft ballad. Of course. Her face. Of course that face of hers. Her eyes the main reason. Her nose like the clef sign for a choral symphony. All of it. This whole thing. A body like this. So much better than her own. Lola wanted this face. The chin and eyes and lips. Especially the lips. She needed that. All to be her own. She could only have a picture of it, though.

It was 5AM when Lola left the hospital and stepped outside to find the moon was full. Maybe this should matter to her. Maybe the way grace seemed to fall like mist from the clouds and carry her to a hotel — which she paid for with the money her dad had fronted her — should have been what saved her. But the novelty value of having had a near-death experience had worn off by this time. She felt nothing at all. Either she had gotten what she wanted (no pain for a change, no fear) or she’d finally died so her whole life felt like it was being watched from the eye of a bird above her. She was not enjoying it. It wouldn’t have mattered if she’d been walking beneath an asteroid shower, or fallout from a nuclear bomb that burned the sky a searing red. It wouldn’t have mattered if she’d been walking through the gates of hell. It was all so boring. She was warned about this: if you try dope once, it’s pretty much over. Once you’ve felt that good there’s no going back to feeling “better.” Sobriety just ain’t it.

Lola got on a train that took her straight to 34th and 7th. Mike wasn’t there yet; she thought he must be at his methadone clinic. So she left a note where he normally sat that asked him to meet her later that day. She went to her storage locker on 44th and 12th Avenue and put back the Mac computer she’d apparently intended to sell for money (unthinkingly). She went to a diner and sat in a booth. She ordered a bowl of Cheerios with a banana and skim milk, for breakfast. When it came to the booth, Lola formed a face using the banana as a mouth and Cheerios as tiny eyes. Pathetic, she thought to herself. She couldn’t eat it.

So she went to another restaurant, half-expecting it to be closed. The door opened. Lola went inside. In the restaurant she recognized the owner, Lorenzo, at a table near the front with two young Italian men who she thought might be his sons. They all looked her up and down. She was wearing a sweatshirt with a whole arm missing; it had been cut off by the paramedics.

“We’re not open yet, miss.”


“I know, I know.” She put a hand on the entrance to leave.


“Are you okay?” asked Lorenzo. “How did you find us?”


“Do you know someone named Selena. Or Rose, maybe.”


“I do know her husband, yeah. But these people are customers. They’re clean and come here to eat.”

“Sorry.” She raised the remaining sleeve of her sweatshirt to her face.

Lorenzo frowned. “Do you know them?”

“No, I definitely should go. This is pretty insane,” she realized, grimacing and regretting the tracks she left, like the stalker she’d actually become. The creep.

  <!– wp:paragraph –

She went back out in the world. She told herself that blood was pretty. She saw blood and told herself, “it’s pretty” honestly to keep from slitting wrists or shooting herself literally in the feet again in a world that contained so much carnage. But bleeding was most beautiful when it happened inside, she figured. She taught herself to see emotional pain as pretty when she was a girl, to cope with her own troubled girlhood. Otherwise she was too sensitive. To keep from crying and contain her pain in silence, she taught herself that silent carnage was pretty. She saw the silent carnage of herself as the prettiest thing in the world. She wished she could see the silent carnage of others as pretty. Especially those who had hurt her. But when she cast her pain upon others, she often found they couldn’t handle it. At least, they couldn’t handle the intensity of it in a way that was pretty. So she performed her own silent carnage. She told herself that her own pain was pretty. And she thought it was her duty to hurt herself for people who couldn’t handle pain in a way that was beautiful. That was her purpose, Lola thought, for a minute there. When she still believed in purpose. And Justin Bieber. And Jesus coming to save her. And, that she was a beautiful girl.

“You have deeper veins than most of my patients,” a doctor had said at the hospital that morning. He was putting an IV in her arm. “I can’t seem to find one. I’m sorry if it hurts.”

“Don’t worry about it!” He stabbed her again, “thank you,” she insisted.

Recently she had seen something evil on the internet, while reading about a fake terrorism stunt that took place during an international film festival on the coast of Italy. A boat containing men, dressed up like ISIS terrorists, had pulled up to shore near the festival. It caused a panic among festival-goers. The panic was resolved when news outlets said that the boat was just a prank by an online advertising company called Imagen to self-promote. Lola had never heard of Imagen. She looked up the company on Google and clicked on several sites. One of the sites was a blog that contained tons of photoshopped faces. Famous faces. The faces of Hollywood actors and popular musicians. Catherine and Carol, and the Ex who Lola personally didn’t care for anymore though she could agree with the most of the world he was super pretty (she didn’t always go for that though). The famous faces had been morphed using photoshop, to appear disfigured. Their eyes were deformed to be too tiny; their mouths warped into menacing grins. She X’ed out the page and never went back. Lola thought it might have been the scariest thing she had ever witnessed. Next to these faces, a brain damage victim or post-op tranny — or, her  wn lazy eye, her jaw which hung funny and how she sometimes stumbled on words or while walking, since the two drug overdoses, the fat on her tummy and the back of her neck, all of this — might have been the only thing to bring her down from the shock of it. So she looked in the mirror and was like, y’know, fuck it. This is you Lols baby. You earned it.

[7: Drip drop ticks with slack lips]

“She used to chain-smoke on the toilet while you were in the bathtub, with the door locked. That always sort of worried me. You in there with her alone. She’d be chain-smoking on the toilet with you in there, like a whole pack of Camels. Talking on the phone. She never stopped talking, did she? … And you were only two? Three years old? I don’t know, kid … Anyway, you should really quit smoking. It’s not good.”

Lola’s dad gave her a pat on the back. They were in the backyard in Queens, some years before.

“Sorry. Dad.”

“I’m about to light the charcoal, if you want to sit outside with me.”

“No, I’d rather go up to the coffee shop, to do homework.”

“Oh. Is [X] gonna be up there?”

“No … He started neglecting me a while back, awkward.”

She went back into the house and glanced in the mirror. She looked just fine, but not so well. Not so hot, that is. She needed a lip wax but she was lazy, lately, about her appearance and she knew [X] didn’t give a fuck about her so she didn’t bother to fix it. Maybe it was self-sabotage. Honestly not an act of aggression. So she didn’t bother to put on make-up. She grabbed her wallet and leather backpack, and walked a few blocks to the coffee shop. Turns out [X] was there, even though he usually left around 5pm to go spend time with his mother and biological bros. It was almost 8pm. He was playing board games with his guy-friends, which was dorky in itself how they did that in high school but she didn’t really hold it against anyone. When he saw Lola, he did something he did often: flinched. He was a frequent flincher. It was one of the things she loved about him, actually. The frequent flinching. It was adorbs. But she thought, this time, that his flinch looked carefully timed and deliberate. She was paranoid for sure. He was with his guy-friends. His guy-friends were nice as hell to her, nicer than he was. So maybe she didn’t look that bad. But, she kind of knew she did, she had her own gaze which she trusted. She was obsessed with what he thought of her, even if it was out of her control. She tried to control it and made herself deplorable. She was obsessed with his eyes on her. He wouldn’t even look at her. And if he did, he flinched. Oh [X], what a man, to her.

Slavedrive
by Benny 

There’s someone out there, you decide is your master

Knowing all along, who you’re really after

Tell em ‘baby for you I’d become anyone’

But who you show up as, isn’t how you make love

Think you know them better than they know themself

They can’t hear you, but left you with hints they aren’t well 

Is hell inside worse than hell out there

Who carries the antidote to a lifetime of fear

They’ve gotten so jealous, you’ve felt em tense up

When you pull back and run to your master in lust

But such profound envy you so can condone

You’ve never felt someone so violently alone

She wasn’t a standout, how would she fall in love if no one stood out to her. If she blended in, basically, so would everyone. Everything. How could she fix this.

For Mari it was hard-to-say whether Max would have come about if, Marigold hadn’t been sort of killed as a girl. But soon as she thought she was okay, she kind of spent a day where it was clear she didn’t have a body that men wanted to, protect. To pillage perhaps. It was just her body, she didn’t ask for this. She didn’t feel safe around just any women, she saw how they looked her up and down. Like, “yes, I win.” Not even her friends, she didn’t feel safe around them. They were the same ones who, she by now knew, from how she used to be herself around them (to fit in, gossiping with them, to get a pass — ambitious enough to stick with these girls, the white women), would have bullied her: when she was Marigold in her hard times. Her gained-weight times. Her weird-art times. Her mundane-times. For some time, Mari believed not all people were corrupt, that some one wanted what was best for her too; not just, for him.

Now, she didn’t believe it. So she became her own him. Anyway if anyone could, she could handle it!

She’d always been her own thing! She’d always felt like, not herself, and didn’t even care if who-they-got-to-know, was not herself. She didn’t even care about what they thought to the point that it, imploded into a lifeskill. Everyone said, I don’t care what they think, but they probably sort of did care what people thought, and, she really didn’t—unless they were people with power. Then she became, what-they-wanted: in the eyes of the person with power, she became their thing. It was her strategy, otherwise she was just identityless. It worked until she sort of got killed, then she realized that it was real. Identity that wasn’t just, for someone else. Identity! It might not be something one was born with, something that was fated to turn out a certain way. But now that she was Max, that she’d become this person, somehow, some way, it felt important to stay with him. Actually: to stay him.

He protected her, definitely. She felt safe again. She felt sane, though to be honest, always, always, in pain.

A fly in the bathroom light fixture had begun to make sounds. She opened her eyes and watched it toss itself repeatedly against the glass, as if to shatter it. Then it occurred to her the little fly might be able to see her too. With her clothes off. She heard her father watching television downstairs: some sort of sitcom with a loud laugh track. Lola ran a finger along the bruised veins of her left arm, looked down into the bathwater and let out a heavy breath.

Her most awkward yet important dreams sometimes involved baths. In the last one, an unnamed character from earlier in the text was in a bathtub next to Lola, and both girls were shaving their legs. Not a sex dream—more like siblings. The girl alluded to Lola’s body image issues in a way that suggested they didn’t even make sense. Lola said in return, “what issues?” And the girl just gave her a look. Lola said, “I was being sarcastic.”

“We’re asking that you do the intensive care outpatient treatment route. You’ll talk to a psychiatrist, therapist, yogologist and mindfulness guru, group of depressed kids your age, pseudoscientologist, psychogynecologist five days a week for twelve weeks total.”

Her dad had driven her to a treatment center and dropped her off for an eval. “So the Medicaid covers it?” he asked when he picked her up. “When does it start?”

“I don’t remember… I’m not sure–“

“–you’re doing it!! Don’t bolt on me again!!”

“Dad, I can’t.” She shook her head, three times.

“I caaaan’t,” he said perhaps mockingly. “I don’t like that expression. That’s not going to serve you, in life.”

You can dish it out but you can’t take it, Lola considered telling him, look at YOUR life, so I don’t have to go dishing.

Lola went to the program and dished, a bit definitely not everything, in group therapy. 

The lead therapist, running her daily group meetings, who wore bellbottoms (and heelboots), was a few months from getting her doctorate and was proof of the adage that true inner confidence is what’s most appealing about anyone because all the depressives in the room rolled over to her. Like a svelte Jewish rabbi she listened with this really empathetic look in her blue eyes, heated chlorine pools—while patients in group talked about their eating disorders, most girls have them definitely including ones who don’t look the part, or getting raped, horrific flashbacks to liquor or drug detox, times spent with their psycho ex who stole several years of their life, never finding their passion or purpose—and then the rabbi-like therapist said something like, “sounds like there’s a lot of pain there,” before pausing longer, just long enough.

And then. She’d give some very general advice that could really apply to anything painful, such as, “sometimes when we’re stuck just where we don’t want to be, we have no choice but to deal with what’s trapping us inside.” Lola wondered what it was, trapping her. 

Around 10pm after a long walk in Queens she walked into her house to the rank scent of weed and dog shit. She didn’t like dogs that much, not after this phase of her life. People took better care of them, it seemed, than of other humans in need, or themselves. That was her oversimplified view of things. Lola gathered that her father had not walked the dogs and had gone straight to the basement, to practice his music. She used to wonder why he never made it big—because obviously she was in major danger of falling into the same trap as a wannabe film artist. And after she cleaned up the dog shit, she listened. Obviously not for the first time, nor the last. It wouldn’t have mattered how much he practiced. He was a terrible singer. People had told him many times in his life, that he was a terrible singer. She guessed he chose to ignore it. He was the frontman in his self-made band, and many bands before it—a few of which broke apart because some member of the band got annoyed with his singing. It might happen again. Lola didn’t know exactly how her daddy’s disconnect from reality might have rubbed off on her, though she didn’t feel compelled to figure it out. As was customary for that time, living with him, she ate up to 500 calories above her daily limit and just went to bed before self-destructing even worse, unable to focus on anything but rest, an escape hatch—literally sometimes around 6 or 7pm, depending on how long she could each day without eating again. After twelve weeks, she figured, she’d really have lost her figure. And probably, her shot at being a film artist in any capacity as a female person. She could have left but, she actually realized, as sinister as it sounded, it could be much, much worse. So? Is this how her mom had felt, all those years with this man? Why had she stayed with him, all those years? Why hadn’t she left him?

Oh wait, Lola fathomed, she did leave us.

At first Lola thought at age sixteen on a trip to the Safeway with her high school friends, a year before her mom passed, who’s that lady eating directly out of the salad bar? She couldn’t stop.

And then she realized, it was her mom.

And people thought this woman was being rude, which she was. Lola’s friends, luckily, didn’t know who it was.

Her mom didn’t see Lola in the store, honestly wasn’t paying attention to anyone. She didn’t even think it was wrong. Was it? Lola decided it would be better to overlook her mom’s flaws, and just carry on. But now years later, they were plaguing her. There were some things you couldn’t really say about people you wanted to protect, no matter how hard you wanted to be protected by someone else. If that last phrase doesn’t make sense, then, who can tell. There was no clear way to respond. So Lola never talked about it. Never. Lola tried to love people who couldn’t control who they were, or how they ended up, as though it was so horrible? Was it? Though? It wasn’t really her mom’s fault, she realized. And yet everyone — her dad’s whole family — hated on her.

Reeeally??” her mom had once said when she’d received a call from the school nurse’s office, informing her that Lola was bulimic.

The high school nurse gave her the number for treatment. Her mom didn’t even write it down.

Her exercise habits, living with her dad, were to run twice a day and walk literally wherever even up to ten miles. And still she was fat. Her eating habits consisted of destroying her food deliberately so that it was barely edible, by mixing it up and breaking it into such small pieces that her plate looked like an abstract work of art. But she still struggled not to eat it. She existed always on some ambiguous plane between definitely-fat and not-extremely-fat. (Her body was once described by [X] as “fuckable.”) If the beta males who’d grown obsessed with Lola physically were being honest, then she must be appealing in a non-traditional way.

“Lola!! Can you make less of a mess with your food tonight?” said her dad as he came up the basement stairs. “It’s getting tough to do the dishes.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, too embarrassed about just her eating habits generally — and the fact that he was doing her dishes — to even mention all the dog shit she’d found. 

For Catherine Delaluna, thoughts of suicide came and went like scattered brain storms, violent. She didn’t actually want to die but yeah sure whatevs, she sometimes thought about it. Didn’t everyone? Honestly no, not everyone did, it was clear from how people spouted tips on how to improve Life, that they’d never really fathomed death to the extent that she had. Catherine thought her nagging depression had to do with loneliness—but how could she explain that to any therapist? Or to anyone? What about your team. What about your fans. What about your men. What about your family. Yeah, she knew that she was respected and worried about and worshipped, etc. She knew people watched her every move, to make sure she was okay and happy and still living the dream (not nightmare ever). She wasn’t alone! She was so, needed! But being looked at, was not the same as being understood!!!! And Catherine lied to like, everyone. Not to attract followers, or to be manipulative—more because, it made her feel god-forbid-even lonelier to talk about really intense stuff and have people say, in low tones, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Or worse: to give her lame advice that could only come from people who never ever ever had felt what she had. Maybe she was just more intense! Or literally, clinically bipolar! It’s whatever, but—no matter how much support she was handed (without actually asking for it), it was hard to find a truly deep connection. Not some approximation of it. And though she’d fallen deeply in love with guys, and them with her, Catherine still lied to them when they asked her, “what’s the matter?” Because, well. There were some things that men would never ever ever understand. That’s what she thought. What struck Catherine as suspicious about her new boy Benny’s lyrics, was the number of times (seemingly, to different women) he said the words “I’m right for you” and “I’ll always be here” and “you’re literally perfect I’m nothing but I will be for you” etc. It seemed perhaps narcissistic, and not purely honest, to suggest that he would be able to love all these different girls so intensely and so well! And, at the same time?? If the love was different per each person, then he’d better get specific or it was clear, by now definitely, he was a lyin’ man!! What did he want from Catherine, that he couldn’t get from all his other imaginary number ones (in love) that he’d never, ever, EVER let go this time? How could Catherine know he wasn’t just saying “I love you” to get inside her? Was. That. Luff? (It was need, violent.) The only way she could judge if she was actually loved — or worshipped, or coveted, or lusted after — was at those most very scarily vulnerable moments. The sexual moments, those situations, the ones you couldn’t mention if you cared tenderly for someone. That’s where, she realized, the truth was kept. 

“That’s the remarkable thing. The fact that your father was a horrible alcoholic and your mother was a whore who died of heart failure, and you were even born. It’s something else… A screenplay about heroin and jazz?”

“Almost a fine porn, I don’t watch porn.”

“No?”

“Ya. It’s for her and, she didn’t die of heart failure I didn’t say that. I said she passed.”

“Well, I knew Miles. When I met him he was fucking women in this basement, he had a line of women girls in front of him, with his pants down. He’d say, no no bitch gotta suck it better, then point to the next one. He couldn’t keep it up, from using heroin… Do you mind if I ask how dark the pimp was, who approached you? It sounds like he didn’t know what he was doing. Back when I was living with only niggs I observed a general hierarchy based on how dark or light their skin is. That’s usually how it works.”

“I don’t mind, no. He was like normal level black. But why do you think he didn’t know what he was doing.”

She tried to imagine how the guy masturbating in front of her — right now naked, herself not him, but not doing anything but sipping a drink — might be remembered in the long run. Probably less as a great artist than a skeeze. Who knows, Lola thought to herself, or of herself. This was so, so, so messed up. She knew it, she knew. She knew it wouldn’t when her any, to talk about it. She would get what she rightfully deserved. Lola just wanted, to leave. But that’s how she felt literally everywhere for those years.

“It’s so unfair that your suicidal — you’re beautiful and young, and all these MORONS I know are not and they never would kill themselves, it’s wrong.”

“Well thank you.”

She’d met this guy in 2014, just standing on the street, he was a serial predator, everyone knew who he was. This was humiliating. It was all over the internet. Why was she doing this. She’d even been called out on it covertly by a friend’s mom. 

“You’re the only one whose had that much on impact on me distantly without any dick to pussy contact, I can’t stop thinking about you.”

“Thank you,” she insisted again. She thought of advice from a writer she liked, to say “thank you” when insulted. But she wasn’t actually that insulted by this, just sort of puzzled, by the whole situation. She didn’t feel unsafe around him.

“Do you think you could get on the bed and masturbate for me.” 

“You always ask me to do that, and,” the author of this text is not saying what happened because you’d have to know Lola personally and no one does anymore because, she no longer exists. “Anyway I think, like most fucked-up people, I had a rough time growing up in some ways.. sure, and there were slash are parts of my childhood which I want to believe in, and recreate. And so I like—blew up the real-life character of my mom and all her elements, and projected them onto, characters in my hoe screenplay. Because I wanted so bad to, believe in those parts of maternal-love I missed, or missed out on, or got but alongside such pain. I wanted make that happen, to remake it. Not every character contains residual elements of, who my mom was, or could have been, but… pieces, like, the street names. I know it’s insane. She’s not dead, to me yet.” A pause, then she sipped — more like finished her third — drink.

“Did I TELL you they ASKED me to ghost-write speeches for Trump? I met with him.” This was some months before the general election which Trump won.

“What’s he like,” a young Lola yawned, lioness-like and drunk. “I’m, curious.”

After that they went out for more drinks (no sir!! I caaan’t, Lola of course thought), at a bar where they welcomed this guy like some sort of king. At the very least like, a man. She can’t remember the place literally at all besides that there trophies all over the walls, some very nice ones. 

At an Apple store in DC, Max brought in his laptop for repair, or just to buy a new one. It had fallen off his top bunk bed by accident, and was ruined. He’d already been having a bad day, and when he arrived at the Apple store for his genius-bar appointment, the day got worse. There were about fifty employees, milling around, talking amongst themselves or staring at the screens of their iPads. They knew he was there. How could they not see him? He had been waiting in line for several minutes, and there was no line behind him. But still, no one looked at him. He was standing in plain view.

This is new, he thought.

It had always been shocking to Marigold, how much her worldview changed when she was around a man. This time, she wasn’t referring to love. It was just how men got treated. It was how she got treated when she was with a man. It was so much better.

This wasn’t it.

In the living room of Lola’s house in Queens, on the couch, she and [X] used to play videogames. As a high school senior—a year and a half older than [X]—Lola was slightly more advanced. She’d graduated from the Sorcerer’s Stone (on computer) to games like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty (on Xbox 360). On the couch, while [X] and Lola played videogames, she and [X] traded turns fiddling with the controller versus fiddling with the zipper on the other player’s pants. It was a challenge to stay alive in Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty while sitting on the couch with [X]. A fun challenge But there were some things that got in the way of Lola’s fun; for example, the profound fear that one of her parents would come home at any minute. Plus there was that damn dog in the house that always started barking in the middle of sex. It was hard for Lola and [X] to relax. When they weren’t playing Xbox 360 or having sex, she and [X] used to talk about stuff like it didn’t matter. Like nothing matters. None of it. Well, she doesn’t really believe that anymore, though frequently that feeling comes back for Lola. Feeling like nothing. Sometimes [X] made her feel like nothing—when he didn’t text her back. When he ignored her on purpose. When he stopped playing games with her. 

The one time Lola introduced [X] to her parents, it was awkward. She and [X] sat side-by-side on the living room couch. [X] seemed nervous, but he did well. They asked what he’d been up to that summer; [X] mentioned that he’d been playing New Orleans jazz piano for some friend in the neighborhood, or something, which reminded Lola’s mom of way back when “she used to listen to a lot of live jazz.” She started dropping all these tidbits about doing dope with famous jazz musicians in the seventies. Lola’s dad remained silent. For Lola, it was awfully strange. She rarely heard her mom talk about the near-decade she spent as a heroin addict in New York—now all of a sudden, she was bragging about it in front of [X]. 

That was the last time [X] ever came to Lola’s house.

Mike never felt like a brother. He felt like a dog around his family. That’s how he saw himself. When he used to play Wizard of Oz with his older sister, he would ask to play Toto.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” his sister would ask, and, he’d be assigned the cowardly lion instead.

“You’re so funny!”

His first girlfriend once told him this while stroking his hair, around when they’d both just got hooked on heroin. “Scully, give me a kiss.” The name had stuck. She used it throughout their relationship. 

Year later in 2016 Lola would pick up Michael from his spot pan-handling in Midtown, and she would bring him with her to Columbia’s campus to grab some clothes she’d left in a random classroom in Dodge Hall, the arts headquarters on campusMichael looked around the campus with an expression like someone walking out of a concentration camp, into the Garden of Eden.

“Look at this place, these people actually give a fuck,” he said, watching a crowd of well-dressed students smoke cigarettes in front of Dodge“I really fucked my life up,” he kept saying over and over. Lola didn’t know how to respond. He kept saying it.

“It’ll be all right,” she told him. “And just so you know, you’re smarter than most of the kids I’ve met in college. It’s not even like, worth the tuition.” She was being kind, probably not entirely sincere. Genuine, but not sincere.

“I really fucked my life up,” Michael said again. Then he looked Lola in the eye. “And just so you know, I have a tendency to really fuck things up. If I were you I’d get as far away from me as possible.”

It was true that Michael had been responsible for the time that Lola had overdosed on heroin. He’d been the one who shot it into her arm. But also the one who sprinted to a payphone and summoned an ambulance to the underground bunker where it happened. He didn’t get in the back, fearing he might go back to prison, but, he witnessed the whole thing and told her about it later. He almost cried, but didn’t, when he saw her stop by his spot. Soon after she was resuscitated, two postcards from New York City (sent anonymously) arrived at Lola’s house in Queens, with messages scrawled on the back. The gist of both postcards was the same: If you love Lola, get her home.

When Lola was living at home after overdosing on heroin, she got a voicemail from Michael.
“Hi sweetheart, I heard you from a guy in Midtown you went back to your dad’s?” he said. “I don’t know if I believe it but, call me back.” She never did.

[8: Ask my teacher what that neck do]

Selena’s latest job was for an online-only publication that spread sensationalized stories about celebrities. Selena hated her job, but she was paid much better to come up with clickbait headlines, than she was paid to write book reviews for respected print magazines. Selena did her crappy job and did it well using the mantra, “all celeb followers are loners with imaginary friends.” So instead of making her headlines mean, she directed them at the audience and got their hopes up basically for nothing. For example: “Catherine Delaluna will give you the best sleepover of your life.” This article rehashed quotes from an interview on a late-night talkshow, in which Catherine described a sleepover with Carol Quick. The sleepover supposedly involved a midnight drive-thru run and Cocaine Lovebirds marathon. Selena privately suspected the entire sleepover story was a lie or very embellished, made up on the spot by Catherine, but she didn’t say this in the brief article. Selena was just trying to get clicks and keep her job.

She wasn’t even convinced Catherine and Carol were real friends, but maybe they would become that, if Catherine kept pushing it. Carol Quick was probably like, “nice!

By the way, Selena Gray used to hate Carol Quick because of some stupid single called “Dug u” which starts out sounding like a break-up song, but actually turns out to be a sort of clever acronym for “Don’t u give up” and was a plea for her current lover—who wasn’t nearly as well-known as she was, in his own right, but was a terrific catch probably because he hadn’t been famous his whole life—not to give up on her just because she could be accidentally insensitive to their private bond, given how acclimated she was to the whole fame game and how often she tossed out scraps to keep her fans from getting peckish. The reason Selena hated the song, “Dug u,” was because no one understood the song and thought it was about Carol’s last break-up when it was really about her current relationship—though if it were about a break-up honestly it would have been better, from Selena’s subjective perspective, because it hurt to hear someone pleading “don’t u give up [on me]” when she herself dealt with the same sentiment but didn’t have enough talent — well. — not enough self-esteem or power to come up with a smash hit single that would do the trick and convince people to stick with her! She’d lost a few friends. Whateverrr. If she were literal Carol Quick, they might not all have left her.

Selena had given up on true love, was the problem. And no one else, certainly not a Hollywood pop star, could (figuratively) raze dead Selena. Of her mind, she was outties. Honestly what she might need was some psychiatric help, no offense, to Selena. To the contrary she was not a lost cause!

Literally, not at all, she’d recently been promoted to an editor’s assistant. Moving up. Even though, she’d done jobs like this before. Her new female boss was controlling. As always in these jobs. She didn’t want to lose her job, but at work, she could never relax. Having grown up with a successful businessman for a dad, Selena was familiar with the various benefits of being a sycophant at work. On hiring new employees, her father always used to say, “It’s much better to hire an arrogant person who you have to bring down, than a genuinely insecure person who needs constant reinforcement.” Although of course a combo of perfectionism and confidence was ideal, Selena’s dad said, “sometimes it takes a while to get there. Drive is what works.”

What got Selena hired in the first place (to be frank) was manipulation, which counted as a form of “drive” in her book. If she had the impression someone was trying to impress her—for example, the man who interviewed her, who was in his forties and still had the unshaven complexion of a virgin boy—she had a tactic of staring a person right in the eyes and making them feel like the most important person in the world. Then she could get them to do what she insinuated, unless they were street smart. She’d always had trouble with the slummier ones.

Like good ole Lols.

As a high school freshman, in the lunchroom, Lola once told Selena, “Stop staring at me like a snake. Your energy is giving me chills. The bad kind.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, you’re a fucking snake, Selena! PLEASE fix it. It’s off-putting.”

After that convo she stopped responding to Lola’s phone calls and texts, and was all like, “I was going to call you back! I forgot.” Lola didn’t know why she’d stopped calling, she was just trying to help. But it was clear, both girls, got hurt in the end.

“Epepepepepep before you start on the Excel sheet, can you finish proofreading these articles about a defective toy that gave all these poor kids a rash? Thanks babe!” 

Babe? Was she at work in the city? Was this her boss? Selena’s boss unloaded a stack of pages in front of Selena. At a desk by her boss’s office door, Selena wondered how she ended up just a slave to some master. Four years of college. Several unpaid internships. All she got from professors and bosses were reminders that she was a small fish in this rank shark pond. All she got from being stressed out all the time was an unkempt appearance. All she felt like, lately, was a dime-a-dozen female journalist. The only thing that separated her from the crowd was that she was a better writer. Right? Lately she felt her talent was being forcibly taken from her. Am I another deluded narcissist? Selena felt nauseous. Is my writing just shit? She opened her inbox: 33 new e-mails. She felt no good.

At the very same time, in a classroom at Columbia in 2017, Lola was trying to present a Powerpoint on her favorite female filmmaker. 

“So like, homogenous units of timekeeping, like goose-stepping seconds, I think… I think… in my paper I explain how it’s part of a system that’s not the best to women.. I s’pose.” (Whew this is going well.) “But! These movies kind of escape that, sorta, though. The silence is like, a heterogeneous thing. It’s a new temporal space, where there’s no ticking…” 

Her professor—who used to know this female filmmaker personally—was looking at Lola with an expression she just decided was inscrutable even though, whatever it was, it looked like it wasn’t, good. “You forget to put the s in Bergson,” he said, correcting a typo on her Powerpoint. When he said s, his tongue made a sharp sting.

She found herself so inarticulate that she ended her presentation a bit early, “I’m sorry, sometimes I have trouble using the, right words. I’m sayin’ though… GUYS. It’s quiet, it’s quiet.” 

Fffuck no, thought Selena from her desk in the office. Her nausea imploded into a murky headache. She felt as though her brain was a drain for sewage. Just finish. You’re so effing close. She scrawled a few marks on the pages in front of her, which in their unedited form were abysmally written, and began to transcribe them to Microsoft Word. 

In her experience, when Lola grew so self-conscious she could hardly speak, it meant she was being judged at an emotional distance by a person or group. If she was already “the other,” there was no point in trying. At the end of her seminars, she didn’t bother to say bye to anyone. Lola beelined out of the room and building, she would soon be underwater.

Selena plowed open the door of a stall in the bathroom. She couldn’t feel the top of her head, she felt so execrably ill. In the past, vomiting was fun for Selena, until she realized it altered her complexion and caused her lymph nodes to swell. In an office toilet, she began to puke. 

Cool water. Fluorescent lights. The flapping sounds of human flesh in the pool. I effing hate this place, thought Lola on the verge of her mandatory swim test. She poised herself, fat but fit as hell, on the edge of the pool. Lola wondered if it would ever feel worth it. Consensual enslavement to a college that took all her confidence in exchange for a slip of paper that contained her name and other words, not “bitch to the old world” but she sure felt like it. “It depends on whether you want to be liked in the present, as a comedian or critic, or whether you want your shit in a library’s database for maybe even hundreds of years if no one sweeps the system,” was how Selena once convinced Lola to go to an Ivy League school instead of Oberlin. “My shit excuse me, no Selena this is the issue don’t say that, just because you ain’t shit? Ho,” Lola’s favorite memories of adolescence, definitely before the other girl got there, were moments when she ever felt in some way remotely victorious or like she was the smart girl. Flick-of-the-wrist moments, speeches, sports won, and A+ tests! Selena’s dad the businessman once said, in his own words though: “It doesn’t matter what happens in the future—if my kids know deep down what it’s like to have rella confidence, then that’s fire. Cause they’ll always want that back! Some people never know what that feels like, to earn pride, not have it given to them.” In the swimming pool, Lola did an underwater flip, imagine it. Imagine it!

Selena wiped saliva off her mouth and neck, the kind that sort of hangs there. Usually when she finished throwing up she felt anger well up inside herself like, never mind. What she couldn’t stand about most female writers (except for a few) was a sort of lovey-dovey docility that made her literally lose her mind. She’d seen a number of great journalists over the years give up their voice in favor of traditional “feminine” ideals—pleasing friends and lovers at the cost of their freedom of self-expression and own time. Then again, if Selena read another sterile fluff piece about self-actualization after a bad break-up, with a sharp pencil she would slash a beast’s throat.

Lola finished her swim test and went straight to the corner, store, no library to study. In the library, she thought about the various benefits of consensual enslavement to a school. Without someone on her case—pushy professors—she stultified and grew too comfy. Her next step was to care less about pushy professors and spend more time out in public.

At her desk, Selena made a tweet, about work today, lols. She wanted to but it wasn’t practical to quit her day job. It was a dream. Selena knew from experience and self-awareness that the most reprehensible humans to be around were lazy losers who stayed indoors all day in self-contained fantasies and wrote stories. Life wasn’t easy, if you were actually existing. 

When all d’other voices went bankrupt I cashed in on yours. Dain’t do what she wanted but what you told me do first. I dain’t do what was smartest but what feltest best. Yours was the voice I dug into my head. That’s how we gotta sound together like france. Don’t know if yours was the smartest or sharpest. Not loudest or richest or proudest or best grammarest. Not even most famillee; I mighta knowed you lessa than celebs in my head. The sickest, perhaps, it mighta been that. Those were my choices of voices back then. But what did it was prolalee this. To me your voice fella soffest on my leps. So yes. Yours was the voice I finally kessed.

Donna Simone may have only ended up, a war hero, because she was well-aware of the extent of eeeevil fangs in ‘that industry.’ Of vanity, of naïveté. How destructive those fangs could be. And those fangs weren’t what she stood for, but, were unavoidable—in the snowilderness battle post she was blundering online. For relative relief, from the industry beasts (for whom she played fawn-like)—Donna sometimes thought, she’d rather be a plebe. Not actually, but, she’d thought about it once or twice. How it might change, the frequency, of her ash-gray reigning-on-me mournings, and, or, sex-slavic nights. 

But if Donna were a born-plebe, not born into status and the pressures that came with it, she probably wouldn’t give up the peace by choosing to be so dangerously revealing, like Benny for instance—always lowering his odds of non-infamy in this life. Still she understood, it wasn’t easy being [even slightly] green. Eugenics were, sharp HD fangs. But, it wasn’t the worst blow from beyond, a maimed ego, for those seeking immortality it could be the very boost to places beyond the human botty.

Was it na. If they died, oh wayell. They was living in h31l.

As props for preaching, the truth, when faced with many lies, embellished confessional rhymes were a wise option on Benny’s part. They just weren’t such a surefire route, in the direction of, living contently. Get me out of here, Benny found himself thinking, on rainy mornings.

Puliss, I might øxually vonna die!!

Benny did much better, the first time he slept next to Donna Simone. ’G.m.o.o.h,’ wasn’t his first in-oxhaled thought upon waking up. He was once-again grateful to exist, to be, not-unalive. His suicide songs, went over so well with the masses, because he never really chose, to want to die. They were war melodies, truthful to what was taking place outside. The sentiments were timely.

For Donna Simone, the first model mistress of Benny shortly after he popped off—the points of fame that didn’t stick were like, where are the humans. Bots outnumbered. Something not quite, cloxing-up. Where us there hart go. She looked in their eyes and felt as though she was slipping, almost falling not quite, off the top of a black glass tower with no railings on the sides. She once cared for Benny Bluman more than, like, anything alive including herself, but she’d worried about his survival (in this hellhole of inhumanity) like, all the clocked-off time. 

These days Donna wanted to feel safer, in her own home. She wanted to feel more sensitively at a steadier tempo.

She wouldn’t actually mind feeling more, like a human, instead of literally-according-to-science the most beautiful living female creature in the entire world, maybe universe depending on your beliefs about extraterrestrial life.

The author of this text was surprised, upon seeing pictures of this woman on a beach, that Donna Simone could read. It compelled her, to write in weird ways. The amount of weird botty stuff she got rid of while writing was so astounding she does not feel compelled to ever say. She wished she hadn’t seen the religion of this Christian woman on the internet, because just given everything about the realities of being poor and a Jew, not a greedy one but a self-hater as her diaries lay plain, in spite of her true self being just fine with actual Judaism not the stereotypes surrounding it (Morgan Wilcock was Jewish), it fanned flames of distrust and the will to one-her-up, this woman who probably couldn’t read between lines because she either was a robot or just acted like one. So yeah, Morgan wanted to one-her-up. Not as an artist, but as a human.

We’sa survived past childhood and then we’s started dying. I keep saying, I wanna get bax to howsa things were, but truth is—we’sa been dying and maybe done dying for sure. We’sa survived and realized the world ain’t bigger than the cage. The cage gets caught in your skin. It’sa walks around witha cage all clung to these fleshes. It’sa hurting all the time, but the cage be pulling off alls I gotsa left to survive. The ways I expect things to get good again. I’sa still a child. The ways I spect she won’t rape me again, cause I asked all polite. I’sa still a child. Still a child. And you’sa driver. You the enemy, and I’sa hope I just die. Sometimes. Allsa time. I’sa keep up the thoughts about dying, cause it’sa how I stays alive. You tell me be’sa quiet but that’s ma whole life. I can either die, or I can keep fightin. That’sa why a serf don’t kill emself even though they hates to keep alive. Cause they’sa gots a life to fight with and then to sacrifice. Nows I see why yous gon beat me. Cause that’s all I can be. Don’t spect to get better. You’sa a bad Liar.

In Kindergarten, Lola got laughed at. She used to have her head ground in the sand on the playground. This one six-year-old named Antonia chose Lola to use as her designated patsy and punching bag. She did this thing during class where she would poke Lola under her seat and then look away. And then laugh, but not out loud. Just with her eyes. Her eyes were laughing. Even if Lola “told on” Antonia, the girl never got in trouble. There was just no proof. Eventually young Lola just gave up. She stopped standing up for herself. The teachers noticed she got her head ground in the sand by Antonia but never stood up for herself. They told Lola’s mom they thought, she might be retarded. 

“She’s not retarded,” said her mom. “Sometimes Lola just goes mute.”

But her mom was worried about it, how come little Lola never stood up for herself? 

Lola’s dad had shut the door of her mom’s bedroom. It made a loud sound; little Lola woke up with a headache. On his way out of the apartment as usual her dad stopped in her room to say “hi.” Little Lola said nothing. 

He gave her a funny look. Then he left.

At school, his daughter got picked on. The thing about Antonia that was weird was the way she followed Lola—and not just around the playground to beat her up. Like this one time, Lola drew a picture of horsies in pink Crayola on paper. Then Antonia drew the exact same picture of horsies in Crayola on paper. Like the exact same picture of horsies, but not as good. 

Both drawings were hung on the wall of the classroom. Little Lola said nothing, she just felt hurt.

“Only a few more questions,” said a social worker from outpatient, conducting a halfway-point interview with Lola’s dad in the room. “You mentioned some childhood trauma relating to your mom, who passed. Have there been any more recent sources of trauma, in the past few years, leading up to this visit?”

“Well,” Lola’s dad cleared his throat. “Something she hasn’t mentioned is that she, uh, took some time off college because of depression, and ended up making a movie last summer. And maybe there were parts of the movie that weren’t quite finished—”

“—I think a big reason I’ve been down is that it was a failure. And a bunch of people watched it, and it was so humiliating, for me. I really wish no one saw it.”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe failure is a strong word,” said her dad.

“It was a failure,” said Lola, firmly. “I didn’t want to show anyone the movie, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t act like it never happened, so many people I knew contributed money, right, I couldn’t pretend I never used the money I said I’d pay back if I made more someday — I had like 10K to work with — and I also felt like if I hid it then nothing would change. Then they were all like ‘congrats!’ as if the release was good news, I’m like I don’t feel like that’s the right word. I stopped hearing from all my friends in New York, or I just got so self-conscious and distant from everyone that it seemed that way. I don’t know, I don’t want to, know… Only one person came up to me and said ‘it was good.’ That was Lucianne of course, who I went to spend the summer with down South, that summer, before I went North to Vancouver for reasons that I feel subjectively are complicated. Lucianne could be a great artist, she’s literally a genius screenwriter but, together we were both becoming psychotic. Delusions of grandeur, like legit, it was actually nuts. She was like ‘it’ll be beautiful’ when I said I wanted to work with women, as actresses, who aren’t actresses, women who I was literally stalking like I’d show up places or send disturbing emails with the words ‘finna kill myself’ in them. And sometimes I’d be texting Lucianne when I showed up places. At least well. At least Lucianne understood that the technical issues in my student film were beside the point! … I told her it was literally part of the form that I could hardly finish … And I don’t think I looked good in it and that really messed me up I had no idea how bad it would hurt to feel judged for that, rejected by film-inclined men I used to work with. And worst of all, by women artists. And I’m not a dyke but. I might have looked like, one,” Lola didn’t say all this. “How can I make another film after that? Not acting in it obviously, but still, it was just too traumatic. When I think about that experience, it’s like, no wonder I ended up on drugs — the summer of that year?”

“Why..”

“I don’t know, I was mentally ill. Like severely, why do you think I’m here. I didn’t understand, but it kind of shows up in the thing, Lady Meets the Reaper. I guess no one interpreted that, I thought of it as like a suicide film.”

“She was listening to a lot of Amy Winehouse that year, kind of glorifying that, kind of junkie aesthetic.”

“Which, I never pulled off.”

The nurse jotted a few notes, then accompanied Lola and her father to the waiting room, where they sat while she went to review the notes with other staff at the facility and decide on next steps. Lola’s dad seemed to feel seriously ill-at-ease after the intake interview.

“Now I know you and I have a lot of differences, but…”

“But,” Lola asked.

Her father didn’t say anything else. He looked down at the tan carpet, and folded his arms.

On a stormy afternoon in late October, Clyde arrived at a recording session that Benny had scheduled with some of the greatest jazz artists in the city, courtesy of Juilliard. Most of the jazz artists were older black men. The recording session was to be evaluated for Benny’s senior thesis. When Clyde came in the room and began assembling his saxophone, the drummer looked at him, scoffed, and left the room without a word. He didn’t come back. Benny had to cancel the session. Afterwards Clyde took the subway to West 34th Street, where he was unable to locate his old drug dealer. He walked back to campus on West 66th. Clyde had been sleeping on the floor of Benny’s dorm room, ever since he was evicted from his Harlem apartment. When he arrived back at the student dorms, he found that Benny’s room was locked. Since the door could only be opened with Benny’s ID card, Clyde had no way of getting in. He tried calling Benny several times on his cell phone. Benny didn’t pick up. So Clyde went to a computer lab. He checked his e-mail. Nothing good there. Clyde left the computer lab and took a taxi to a quiet area a few miles from the Triborough Bridge. For a few hours, Clyde walked aimlessly in the rain with no umbrella. It was dark out by the time he reached the Triborough Bridge by foot. Melodramatically, he stood on the edge of the bridge and counted to twenty-one for each year of his life so far. Clyde tried to come up with twenty-one reasons that his life until now had been not been just a wash.

Did she want a girl instead of a boy? She always had a way of making Clyde feel like a girl. Among his two brothers he was the youngest. He’d mentioned it to them but he never brought up the way she had him in diapers until he was five years old. He didn’t need to be in diapers at night. She said he had a bed-wetting problem but really he didn’t. Like a girl, she made him wear pink. He didn’t need to wear pink. Or want to. She didn’t do that to his brothers. Maybe she did it because she was scared of him looking at her like a boy. So she could masquerade around naked upstairs with him around. So she could give him baths. So she could come into his room at night and cuddle with him. He didn’t always want to be cuddled. He wasn’t her toy. He was just a kid. Not a girl. A boy. He didn’t need to be slept with at night but she said he had trouble sleeping without her. He had dim memories of being breastfed when he was far too old. He never mentioned it to his older brothers. The extent of it all. The dependency she forced between them. When he got too old to be slept with she gave him money and called him ungrateful when he refused to take it. She yelled at him. He cried a lot. He couldn’t help it. His older brothers didn’t seem to understand. They called him a pussy or a brat and hurt him even more. But he wasn’t a brat or a pussy or a fag or a girl. It wasn’t his choice. The way their mom treated him. It wasn’t love either. It was a need to be needed. Clyde didn’t feel taken care of. He felt controlled. Maybe he needed her when he was a child. Not anymore. All he wanted was to be left alone. Only so he could move forward.

Clyde got himself off the damn bridge and kept walking in the dark and felt, he honestly didn’t even deserve to die yet! His Jew fro flapped in the wind. Clyde felt like, a creepy clown, that night. He hated himself, just wanted to be on drugs again.

The girls stayed in the backseat. Rose undid her seatbelt and slid open the van door. Max, in Marigold clothes again, didn’t budge. He looked prepared to spend the whole night in the van.

“Hurry up, I don’t want to go in alone.”

“I’m not coming,” said Max.

“Why the fuck not…”

“The last time I saw Grandpa he said that all of Frida Kahlo’s paintings were hideous.”

“I mean, they are.”

“No they’re not.”

Rose said, “He’s been nice to us, recently.”

“It’s Grandpa’s consistent beliefs that define him. Not his occasional kindness toward pretty, young women like YOU. And he thinks he’s an artist! It’s not magic. It’s hours and hours of practice and pain. It’s waking up in the middle of the night to practice. It’s ignoring your friends and your feelings and turning yourself into a monster. Don’t you dare make it into some theoretical psychoanalytic analysis of my character and family history. This is who I am. And not many people are like me. No one, in fact. You think it’s cause I’m ‘sick’ that I’ve let go of my health to finish all this work? Can you even wrap your head around that? So go ahead and let him call me a weirdo, I’ll kill you.”

She didn’t say any of this, at the dinner table inside Max felt himself drifting back into girl mode. She felt repulsed by any of the fitness on her flesh, from working out back at her parents’ house, she just wanted it gone from under her skin. She slumped her shoulders over and didn’t move. At this moment she remembered an incident involving Grandpa Williams. After the holidays last year she’d received a letter from him in the mail unexpectedly. The letter was several pages long. In the letter, their Grandpa said that he was relieved that Marigold had begun to act more feminine in her twenties. He said that when she was younger, she moved and behaved more like a boy than a girl. By the time she reached adolescence and still hadn’t come into her own, he found her behavior peculiar. He said that women who behaved like men were nasty, and he was glad that Mari had found a way out of that in college. He wrote that he’d noticed a “change in her gait” and “shape of her body” over the holidays. The last line of the letter was: “I hope you find a man with a hairy chest so that you can marry and have beautiful grandchildren for me and Grandma.” A post scriptum explained that he only wrote this letter to his granddaughter because he cared about her so much. Marigold thought it was more or less obvious that this was untrue. He wrote the letter to hurt her. She was tired of people trying to act like they were cruel to her “because they cared.” Cared about their own needs from her, whatever the hell they couldn’t admit. If she happened to end up stronger as a result of their cruelty, then, Marigold deserved credit for how she handled their BS. They couldn’t handle it themselves? Someone else did.

They did not deserve credit for causing her to suffer, to feel literally so bad about herself, though perhaps part of her anger about male aggression stemmed from the fact that arrogant men were more likely to be honest with her — you know? She might not want to hear them just be honest with her. She was ugly, she got it, holy shit.

It wasn’t girls he was addicted to. It was the feeling of unlocking them. He found it so funny how easy most girls were. How easy it was to get inside and convince them he actually cared. The reason he got so hung up on Lola— even though she was poor and pathetic and only pretty when she put in an effort—was that she was smarter than the others and hard to seduce. He was determined to fuck her. It became an obsession. Totally irrational. He felt like a locksmith. She was his challenge. He had to break into her.

If he couldn’t break-in, then he would just, break her. He would never break though.

The reason he did that was because, he was bored and could do it, and, he wanted to see if he could get away with it, aaand—she was the weakest one [not] in sight, and no one would know, if he fucked her up, or if she died, no one would know, and he did it because he could hahaha. He’d done it before and been fine. He could do it. He’d done it, before. And he didn’t know what changed, but he couldn’t stand her anymore. And he could stand, to get rid of her. So he did that to get rid of her. He wanted her gone. He could do what he wanted; she could not, stop. The reason he did that was because—compared to her really, he could do anything! What could she do back? (Run.) The reason he did that was because, he wasn’t as happy as he felt he deserved—sometimes, he even wanted to die, but he was wayhayhay too important to die. So he just, got rid of her. Rid. Of. Her! She wasn’t helping him, get his rocks; she got what, she deserved. No one. The reason he did that was just, like, to see, how it felt to win again. To feel, the charge. And t.b.h. it felt great—the charge(s) from reaping her. And great news, he won! (As always.) He won just what she, lost. Loser. (Still runnin’.) And she lost just what he, reaped. 

Luckily for Lola, that guy was not the one.

Oh, the lengths he would go to for the feeling of wrongness that makes sex extra thrilling! He didn’t like it any other way. He had a predilection for girls up to a decade younger than him. They wafted a certain virginal air. He had a habit of convincing girls to let him take off the condom midway through sex. It was shitty of him, he knew, but most of them were on birth control anyway — so no harm done, and. There was always Plan B.

Because he didn’t want to use a condom. (Literally how many times has this happened, does it really feel that bad.)

Because it just didn’t feel as good. With a condom on inside of her. Because she was looking at him in this way that was just asking for it. Because he wanted his dick inside of something, right then. Because he wasn’t the type of guy who could be kept waiting. Because he needed it right then. Because she was vulnerable. Because her cup was open and she wasn’t watching. 

It was devastating, for Ellen, when she woke up after a long grass-induced nap in a tent and realized she’d missed Janis Joplin’s performance. God damnit… she thought. That was the only thing I really cared about.

The reason Ellen had missed Janis’s performance was because she’d fallen asleep. She would have been more careful, but she had been too distracted by this loser, Jason, who kept handing her joint and joint of marijuana and never backing off. Jason had long hair and a terrific body with his shirt off. But he was dumb as a stone.

“Ellen!! Ellen!! Come dance!!” It had started to rain again. Jason was shaking his body like a tantric shaman, wearing just a pair of denim shorts and ankle deep in earthy mush, bare torso smeared with sweat and mud.

She didn’t know where her friends had ended up. Ellen had driven up to Woodstock in a station wagon with four other kids from her high school, Walt Whitman High School in Maryland. (Two girls, two boys, all age nineteen like herself.) By the end of the second day, she’d smoked so much grass that the whole event was a bleary haze in her memory. But at least she was having fun.

When Ellen smoked grass, she liked to boogie. Today it was raining. She danced in the mud with this loser Jason.

Where are all my friends??

Little did Ellen know that her friend Beth Eisenberg was back in the station wagon, having sex with their mutual guy-friend Gordon Joel Levitt. She wouldn’t learn this until years later, at a high school reunion not long after she’d come home after spending nine years in New York. Ellen attended the high school reunion wearing long white gloves over her swollen hands and a long indigo dress with white floral print.

Back at Woodstock, Ellen managed to evade Jason by telling her she had to go change her tampon.

Really she just wanted to get to the front of the stage to watch The Who perform.

Like a solo stampede she plowed through crowds of people, stopping only when the naked muddy masses were too densely packed to permit passage. Ellen had this issue where she just couldn’t stand it when people walked around with half-assed la-di-da attitudes that got them nowhere in life. She supposed its was a hippie thing. Seriously, as she shoved her way through the crowd toward the stage, she felt like people were just asking to body-slammed so she could make it through. It was their fault for being so lame and limpid, just standing there like that. Like, do something with yourselves.

Ellen finally made it to the front of the stage, just as The Who came out to begin their set. She now stood within twenty feet of guitarist Pete Townshend, onstage. He was a terrific performer, Ellen thought. The way he spun his arm around like a windmill in Don Quixote. While high on marijuana, he looked like a knight in shining armor to Ellen. Just look at him play…

Then she remembered, isn’t he gay?

Oh yeah… She’d heard rumors that Pete Townshend had sex with other men. Specifically with Mick Jagger, who Ellen was obsessed with. Looking at Pete Townshend now, she noticed that he did have sort of an effeminate way of holding himself. Huh, thought Ellen. She didn’t have a homophobic cell in her body—but she sort of wished all of a sudden, that she had picked the side of the stage by Roger Daltrey. Come to think of it, he has kind of a gay thing about him too…

She even heard a rumor that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards watched WWII propaganda films as a duo, then fucked each other.

[9: Out the window of the Montage]

Really, after one night with Sadie, some boys would transform into different people. They’d walk with their chins slightly raised and less-sloped shoulders. They’d start texting Selena several times per day (even if she never responded) with updates on how their lives had suddenly gotten better. Things about grades on exams, job interviews, college acceptances, etc. 

This might be unkind. But Selena could not care less, if she tried. She didn’t know what to do though. Since she’d been so nice to the boys on the initial dates, she couldn’t just reject them. That would wreck the progress. So, Selena did the only thing that seemed practical and pulled the crazy card, it wasn’t actually a lie though she might have exaggerated a bit.

“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to dinner, I was having an episode.” 

“What?” 

The guys would get all concerned. They’d ask what kind of episode. She’d switch up the answer: manic, nervous, psychotic. She didn’t actually know the difference by definition, concerning these episodes, she just needed to get off the phone. She was winging it. But then the boys would just ask how they could help. 

“Do you need anything, Selena? Let me know if you need anything,” they’d ask over the phone. 

“Um.”

“… Are you ok?”

“Nuh.. uh. Don’t.. try to save me, please. It’s not for you to feel like you did.” 

Selena was just being up front. Truly.

“Don’t be silly,” the boys would reply, obviously smiling (she could hear through the phone), as if they found Selena cute or somehow amusing. “You’re coming out with me next week! It’ll get your mind off your problems.” 

“Silly..? No.. I’m not.. No,” she’d hang up and say it again, “no..”

Benny would be lying if he didn’t admit, he still harbored some unsatisfactory feelings toward Selena for what an indifferent bitch she’d been to him. But, you know, he’d never been the type to let a woman’s bitchiness prevent sex with him! 

YUH!

On a tour bus, breathing the smell of gas exhaust and female musk, Benny Bluman took Catherine Delaluna in his arms and ran his teeth along her neck as he kissed her in the soft seat, right next to him. He wanted to make her fall for him. He had a touch that made women roll over to him. That was the best sight in the world to Benny these days. A pretty girl, in bed with him.

C: him him him him him
L: don’t you wanna be with
C: him him him him him

[key change –>]
C: somewhere safe and distant
with no cameras, my new guy
will turn of all devices
and hold me when i cry
L: my new guy don’t take sneak pics
sees me more than with his eyes
he and I can go the distance
and this needs a better line

“I called them all ‘secret’ Instagrams and Twitters—wheww, you should have seen the Twitters!!!!—but really that’s probably a way to excuse having so few followers and posting really fucked-up stuff in online brawls with specific people I’d never met. I kept deleting one account then making another one, then deleting that one. I think to throw people off my track, it was like doing drugs or something.”

“Did you ever say, something racist,” Lucianne asked the pre-treament Lols.

“You tell me, if so, I’m determined to fix this. I agree the social media if you can call it that, was fucked-up. I don’t even know. Though if it was an addiction like doing drugs, I would like to come clean of it.”

Catherine collaborated with Benny Bluman on a one-night-only read and singthrough of CATS at Lincoln Center, for which Benny played piano in the pit to fulfill some college credits. That was where they met, she was the star, he literally was just a musician in the pit. There must have been a strong connection there because, next thing, Catherine was spending all her time with him and being photographed in public. Subsequently, Benny’s music was discovered YouTube, then remastered and released. It was a solo series in seven movements that took three hours to play; honestly, a masterpiece that could be studied in a college music seminar, it was that good even if sometimes the lo-fi sound effects came off as tinny and his singing imperfectly pitchy. The only reason it ended up so long was because Benny made music to ease his pain. He kept adding more songs, thinking he was wasting his time because no one was listening and his whole life had fallen in disarray.

Selena covered the event, for the online-only celeb publication she wrote for. Afterwards she and Benny, still unfamous on that night, had a talk — almost the breakup explanation they never got before.

“Selfish?” asked Benny. “How was I selfish…”

“Don’t ask me that. And seriously? Whatever. That’s for you to figure out yourself.”

Benny put a hand to his forehead. “Is it a sexual thing?”

“No…” said Selena. Benny interpreted a sarcastic timbre in her tone. That’s what he heard.

Benny looked up at the sky outside Lincoln Center, which was coated with a grim billowing cloud cover, and said, “Clyde was always right… you only fuck with me so you can humiliate me…” He looked back down, at Selena. “It’s so fucking obvious.”

Then she got pissed, initially about his use of the present tense, but she just went off.

“Christ, Benny. I knew you were going to make this into a race thing! Can’t you fucking see? I’m not the one fucking you, I’m the one getting fucked!”

“What!? Are you on something, sweet.” He looked left and right around the outdoor party. “No one said anything about race..”

She let out a frustrated moan which resembled a sex noise; Benny, she thought, laughed with his eyes. She fell on her heel and grabbed the cocktail table they were standing by, said “fuck,” then started rattling off her feelings about to cry. “Are you capable of thinking of someone other than yourself for once!!? Look at it from my perspective, please… at least try!!”

“About MY self?”

“YES, YOUR self and your cock, oh excuse me did I say something off.” Some people at the party turned, she was sounding psychotic na. “Ya– ya, yaw,” she took a breath to collect her thoughts, her hands trembling, “youuu called me up when you wanted to fuck me, either at your old apartment or your dorm, where I basically had to leave as soon as you were done fucking me cause your Jewish boyfriend would come in and see me as an intrusion on your sacred bond. Then I wouldn’t hear from you until the next time you wanted to fuck!! Usually by text… never, a phone call to talk. Never that. No, if I called you or just texted you first, you ignored it. Always! Literally probably every single, time. And the same thing happened again and again, so many times, honestly I can’t remember it all that well but… the whole time of my life sucked so much, I was mean to myself and others — not you, I was always so good to you, Benny, yoouuuu  — god and I felt like you were using me which yeah, you were! So as soon as you got what you needed, I was worthless and weak, controlled, I felt it so deep, I know you’re proud of that, how deep you hurt me huh, I hope that’s what you wanted so go write songs about that, making me feel sick and screwy inside, literally, not about how much you LOVE me what the fuck yeah I wish, I would have said this years ago but, please go ahead and hire an actual whore, Benny, cause I’ve fffffinally fucking, had, it!!!! Holy SHIT, get out of meee, fffffuck offffff.”

Benny reacted with a blank, boyish stare, which hardened to a glowering gaze. Like, whoah, is this, twat.. serious..? Again whoah. That’s what she heard. In a very deep voice perhaps put-on he said, “yeah, you just wait to see what’s coming,” as he applied ketchup to some fries at the after-party. He offered her one with his fingers, she just left.

Like she left the whole event and went home. Did she eat that night, not fries but yes she probably tried to make a salad, she thought about doing her old thing and just not-eating of course. But she was tired. In the article Selena later wrote, which was supposed to be just about Catherine’s performance but maybe accidentally helped break the news that Benny and the famous Catherine Delaluna were an item, she said this: “accompaniment on keyboard by Juilliard senior Benny Bluman wasn’t lagging for Catherine, stunning in red lipstick and gown, as she sang a cappella about feeling beautiful in the old days, either presciently or reflectively.” She figured editors wouldn’t make alterations and readers wouldn’t know what it meant. And then, though it’s not relevant, Selena went on a much-needed diet that actually didn’t require her to not-eat altogether; but obviously to manage her not-eating habits and, to take better care, of herself.

His morning felt like a slapstick doodle, scribbled in Satan’s very own red-tipped pen. Clyde got on a downtown train to deliver a brown paper bag containing thirty-three used syringes to a needle exchange in the West Village. On this ride in particular, he had a hard time with other people’s energy on the subway. It made him feel sick. He couldn’t help but imagine either blowing his brains out or blowing up the whole subway car—just to escape the energy he thought he felt in the air around him. Clyde almost hopped off the train early, at the 42nd Street Station, to go to another needle exchange he knew about in Times Square. But Clyde had been advised by a dealer to be especially careful in that part of New York. He said that all of Midtown was crawling with swarms of undercover cops, disguised to resemble pedestrians and even drug addicts. Clyde didn’t want to be seen at a needle exchange by an undercover cop, then followed back to his dealer. Don’t shit where you shoot, he figured.

So he stayed on the train to W 14th Street, where he planned to transfer to the F-train and take it to Allen Street. Clyde was a little out-of-it given that he hadn’t slept, so he accidentally got on the M-train instead of the F. Soon he found himself on a bridge above water, traveling toward Brooklyn. Not another bridge, he’d intended to stay in Manhattan. The train’s current occupants included a screeching infant, a man having a fight on his cell phone in Spanish, and a pair of girls chatting loudly about “how many steps they needed to get in” by the end of the day. Clyde didn’t want to hear it. Not a word, not a sound. He wasn’t sure whether it had to do with stress about where he’d sleep, or withdrawal, or unrelenting dysthymia, or xenophobia, or agoraphobia, or wild fear about his own screwy future or what, but Clyde felt claustrophobic on this train. So the second it stopped at Marcy Avenue—rather than switch platforms and take it back Uptown to his desired destination—Clyde left the station and felt the overwhelming wrath of his fast breathing laced with briny tears, biting his esophagus, while searching desperately for a bar with a solo bathroom where he could do his jam. It took several blocks. But he found a place with a nice-lady bartender who said yes (with an affirmative thumbs-up) when Clyde asked, using hand gestures, if it was okay if he just used the can. 

It was a tiny dark bathroom, the size of a broom closet. From his backpack, Clyde took out his black metal pencil case that said “I ❤ NY” on it, not-even-a-gag gift from an ex (from when he’d just moved from White Plains to New York, to be an artist). He set it on a counter above the sink. The counter above the sink happened to be located just beneath a hand-dryer. So his stuff flew out of the pencil case and all over the small bathroom. To add to Clyde’s internal pandemonium, someone outside the bathroom started fiddling with the door handle. He grunted like, “ya, just a minute.” Still, the fiddling persisted. In a rush now, Clyde slammed the toilet lid and sat down. He did his own fiddling with the pencil case on his lap. Soon the fiddling on the door of the bathroom turned to loud, aggressive knocks. Clyde shouted “I’m taking a shit!!” and kicked the door as hard as he could. The knocking stopped. Clyde remained flustered and eager to finish up. He ignored the sharp pain he felt when he finally shot up. Turns out he hadn’t hit the vein. Ohhff. Not only did this hurt terribly and leave a bruise—he’d also just wasted his second to last dose of dope spiked with coke. This shit was precious. 

He looked at the dark blister that had just formed under the skin of his forearm, and felt gypped. Clyde thought about getting back on the F-train back to Manhattan, sober except whatever’d gotten in through the bruise which was obviously like nothing, and he felt terrified of being in public. The brew of emotions he felt blowing up inside, brought poor Clyde close to panic. He imagined letting out a primal scream, right there, sitting on the closed toilet. Instead he packed up his stuff and left. Whoever’d been fiddling the door handle was gone, probably that bartender bitch. She could clean up the bag of needles he’d left in the trash bin.

On his way back Uptown, Clyde decided it wasn’t worth the hassle to stop at the needle exchange. He had some dull needles in his room, he’d use them for his last white powder shot. They weren’t his preferred size (0.5 cc, 0.5 inch) and they weren’t sterile, but they’d work. On the F-train, Clyde put on his headphones and tried to shield his eyes with the front of his hand, so he didn’t have to look around the subway car. Whether or not it was true, Clyde felt paranoid that he was being judged by other passengers. Constantly, against his will. But why would they have been.

There was this feeling that Lola used to get in the middle of the night, as a little girl, that she could never identify until she was much older. It was a feeling like standing on the edge of a black hole and having your soul pulled out slowly by force. The feeling was like touching yourself, then remembering someone who harmed you, who you might not have loved to begin with. The feeling, for Lola, was like being drowned.

As a little girl, Lola watched a lot of movies. At Christmas, she often watched a movie that was performed by the cast of Disney’s Mickey Mouse. It was a cartoon version of A Christmas Carol. The ghost of Jacob Marley was played by Goofy, who looks like a dog with human features, but is meant to be a cow.

At age three, Lola started being haunted by Goofy. In the middle of the night, she had nightmares that Goofy would come into her room without being asked. She imagined her plastic bottle of milk (to put her to sleep) transformed into the face of Goofy. She got rid of the bottle. But then her family got another one, and Goofy came back.

So Lola started going to her mom’s room. She liked it better in there. At night, she slept next to her mom so often that her dad finally switched bedrooms with Lola. This arrangement lasted until Lola was thirteen.

Her grandpa had a problem with snoring too. She never got any sleep at the grandparents house, even though Grandpa’s bedroom was at the end of the hall. He snored so loudly she could still hear it from her bedroom. Lola would often wake up in the middle of the night, and say things under her breath like, “stopppppppppppp.”

[10: Bruh]

A whirring. Fluorescence. Rose tried not to think of being a kid, cause when she did, a bright white light snapped on in her brain and burned sorely. The kind of white light that would be used to zap mosquitoes and make them fall to the floor. Her mom would chastise young Rose over such minute errors, unpredictably, that she learned to be stoic. Even when she picked her battles, she could not possibly win by appealing to reason or logic. Her mom didn’t listen to it. She only listened to God who, Rose realized, conveniently favored all of her mom’s own rules and opinions. 

It’s no wonder Rose felt powerless throughout her whole childhood. And as an adult. “Don’t be like that” 

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You never smile though.” 

“But…” 

“Yes?” 

Rose wanted to admit, I’m not happy. Even this comment would force her into a scary corner with no exit in the conversation. Her mom would call her ungrateful and unkind, and as soon as she got out of the car by her middle school, Rose would start crying. 

“Aren’t you going to say ‘thank you?’” “Why aren’t you ready.” “Who are you meeting.” “What are you wearing.” “What are you reading.” “What’s wrong with you.” “Rose, you’re embarrassing—me.” 

She wanted to express something to the effect of, SAME, in different parlance. Of course Rose held her tongue. Apparently it didn’t make a difference. 

“I knew something was wrong, by the way you’ve been looking at me lately. So I searched your entire bedroom and read all your instant messages.” 

“No!!”

For months, Rose and her closest friend had been rating the butts of boys in their class on a numbered scale of 1-10. What really screwed her up was that Rose had recently expanded the system to include male teachers and other adult men, such as the fathers of friends. Her mom, of course, discovered it all in diaries and on AIM. She phoned the closest friend’s parents and cried for a while and asked for advice on how to handle it. Rose was grounded indefinitely and banned from the internet. Shortly after this incident, Rose’s parents started to wonder if their daugther had autism. She didn’t, thank God for real this time, but the reason they thought Rose might be socially off (beyond the butt numbering) was that she grew obsessed with caring for their pet cat, named Paws. She didn’t talk to her parents at all, nor to other kids. Supposedly close friendship with pets as opposed to humans was a sign of autism, and the way Rose treated Paws was far more affectionate than she ever was toward her parents. Keep in mind she was old enough to have a real boyfriend. She brought Paws on the bus in her backpack and often skipped school to hang out with him. If they ruin my reputation and never respect me again, thought Rose, at least I’ll have my cat as a friend. Her reputation wasn’t even ruined, except for slightly within her stupid household. If anything people were intimidated by Rose for being bold. She didn’t realize that, even as a seventh grader, she was the source of envy among slightly less popular girls, and a magnet for rabid paternalism from older men. When the father of Rose’s closest friend suggested she spend more time at their house, and got persistent about it, Rose’s mom went for the jugular and called the man a creep in front of his whole family. Rose didn’t see much of her closest friend after that. The only time her mom was completely protective of Rose was if someone else threatened to steal her daughter’s allegiance. At those rare moments, it was always the other person in the wrong. Rose’s mom threw herself in front of her daughter, and scared off parents and school therapists and mentors until Rose was alone. After all, there was no contending with Rose’s mom. Nor with the glory and grace of God. 

When Rose’s mom started getting possessive of Paws, as well as Rose, that was it. 

“I think it’s a good idea for Paws to stay upstairs with Mommy after 7pm. Otherwise you’ll never get your homework done. Your GPA matters now, sweetheart.” 

Rose couldn’t stop herself.

“You, fucking cunt.” 

Her mom turned icy.

“I’ve raised a monster,” she said darkly, then went upstairs. Shut the door of her room with just the right thump.

Strangely, Rose got her period for the first time that night. She was sixteen already by that time. 

The next morning, Paws was given away to the neighbors because (in Rose’s mom’s words), “Rose is an adult now and outgrew her needless obsessions.” From then on Rose only saw Paws on the sidewalk, occasionally. She wanted to steal him back but instead she just cut off her emotions.

She and her mom never discussed their brief altercation. 

It didn’t play out like intentional bitchiness at the time, and that’s partly why Rose was so reluctant to speak poorly of her mom. It was hard to criticize someone she still loved. Rose’s mom never admitted, or even realized, she could be rather off. And she didn’t always act a fool. Rose feared the same problem affected many Americans. People in power—who knows: rappers, actors, reality stars, politicians—weren’t trying to be constantly condescending, or to indoctrinate people with dare-she-say shallow beliefs. They weren’t equipped with the rational backlog in their brains (and humility in their hearts) to relate what they were doing to historical instances of narcissism, willful denial, and tyranny. They didn’t do research by their own volition. They listened to their own needs and desires, no one else’s. Rose’s mom thought she was a very, very kind mom. And she was pretty amazing, sometimes. She was generous out of guilt and incredibly affectionate when Rose was down and out. But Rose thought the constant questions and restrictions and the implications behind them must count as a form of bullying, for all the harm they caused. At least Rose’s mom pushed her girl to be the greatest, though success was measured differently between them. 

That’s what Rose inherited from her mom, she guessed. High standards. Misery. By overeating she meant eating like a healthy person. By dressing up for an event she meant planning ahead for weeks. As soon as Rose’s mom relinquished her daughter for college, at age eighteen, Rose started fucking guys like crazy and feasting on the same food they did (they’d usually be all like “Shit, I’m so hungry, shall we?”) and wearing their oversized Pink Floyd T-shirts instead of her own favorite outfits.

“Have you prayed tonight Mari mona,” Rose joked after dinner at their grandparents. 

“Don’t call me mona, I’m your fucking sister.”

“What?”

“And I only prayed that you wouldn’t judge.” 

“Why would I ever judge you?” 

“Are you being sarcastic.” 

“No… I’m not.” 

“Our family is so fucked-up.” 

“Ours and everyone’s.” 

“That’s not what I wanted you to say,” Mari glowered.

She complained so often of her chaos but that was the beauty. She was a mess of such delightful depth, it wasn’t all worth fixing. Life, desires and doubts gave each day a different theme; they weren’t all happy, they were all, all intense. She thought of a better future, boring, just fine. Not like this. But it was tough to reroute the formation of dreams, big, of apple trees seen through kitchen window rear sliding doors in a mansion and shit.

She feared she would wake up one day and be unthought about. That might be her greatest fear, yet she was an expert at disappearing. Perhaps if she safeguarded the trust of a guardian angel, who would fight for her honor even when she grew weak, she could stand being silenced for another few months. Years. Centuries, nuh.

Rose lit a cigarette outside of a 7-11 on the drive home. “Don’t tell mom and dad.”

“They’re gonna smell it on you from the front seat!! STOP!!!!!” She was screaming, not actually but pretending to, “stop, stop, stop you’re ruining my lungs!!!!!” She made another screaming sound, still pretending though.

“I was being sarcastic.”

“Was I. What’s the word.” Marigold lifted a hand to heart.

Ssh, I’ve got to admit, sometimes you’re even too much for me.” 

“How so,” Marigold said in a voice shaded husky. She was dreading what would happen when Rose left town again, this was just a temporary trip back home to see family.

“I mean, look around.” 

Marigold did. She saw guys looking their way. Older guys with some guts and tight cargo shorts. Younger guys, grinning and shuffling their feet, less likely to stare at the girls but still acutely aware of their presence.

“They’re looking at you, not me.”

“I feel like when I’m with you,” Rose continued, ignoring this, “I’m just more sensitive.”

“The word you’re looking for is aware — of anyone else besides you, not sensitive. So don’t use that word. You’re not sensitive…”

“I know how to use words. I meant sensitive.”

“Well fuck, let’s have a party. For sensitive people only. Don’t invite any deplorables thoughI didn’t know you had it in you,” Marigold held gazes with a guy wearing a dusty jeansuit and red tennies. Rose passed her a cigarette. Mari held it in her fingers, then handed it back. After a moment, she mumbled, “I’m using the bathroom.”  

Rose almost felt like saying no, but she just said, “I’ll be here.” 

“Good. See you in a sec.” 

She would have done the same thing, Marigold thought while unwrapping a new toothbrush from a vending machine to address a sudden need for clean teeth. In the bathroom of the 7-11, she rubbed the toothbrush beneath her lips and rinsed. An orange spotted ladybug almost drowned in the sink. She picked it out of the drain and set it on the mirror. She ran out of the bathroom and felt blood rush to her brain. Marigold placed her sore foot in a crack on the street, in front of traffic, which came to a halting screech. She fell and tore up the skin on her knuckles and knees.

“Did you fucking fall,” asked Rose from the backseat, noticing the blood.

Tears were streaming down Marigold’s cheeks. As if the blood on her hands didn’t bother her, even slightly, she kept using her fingers to wipe snot from her face.

Before Rose spent a bit more time around her sister, she strongly believed that stunning art was the only palliative to the pointlessness of existence. It was for this reason that she took her appearance somewhat seriously. And the types of films she thought were fine. Yeah, in New York she hung with the in-crowd and went to parties that shut out the unrefined.  Whatever, aesthetic beauty was part of the salvation, so, she couldn’t be surrounded by ranky shit.

But when Rose realized how much all this hurt her sister, maybe permanently, she had to reassess her beliefs. 

“If you’re not irrational like if you’re literally just pragmatic,” Marigold kept crying back home in her room, with Rose, expressionless, “I’m worthless in the eyes of most men, and that’s where the power is. So I’m powerless! I might as well be dead, watch I’m killing myself, after you leave.” 

“You’re not killing yourself.”

“How do you know.”

Rose couldn’t take the thought of a life without Marigold somewhere in it, even if she was in physical and psychological turmoil for the rest of it; not that she thought of all this. 

By not letting her die, Marigold said, Rose was being selfish. 

“What about the trans thing.”

“What about it,” said Mari.

“Are you?”

“You know. Why don’t you just leave. Fuck you, Rose, with the prickers of a million stinging bees.”

“Whutt,” Rose said not meaning to sound like a bro.

“Please, comma, leave! Out.”

Rose did leave, she took a train back to the city the next morning as planned. But, she was very confused. So was Marigold — who mostly stopped wearing guy’s clothes, after that evening, though.

#1 had 100 stingers from supersonic bees stuck all over her flesh and was asking #2 to kill her because it hurt and there were so many of them, how could she ever pull them all out. It was so soo bad. Some of the supersonic beestings were bleeding pus and were possibly infected. #1 was like, if you don’t kill me, I’m gonna kill myself. #2 was all blasé, like, don’t kill yourself, that’s not necessary. But #1 was serious. She said, I will kill myself in front of you. And it’ll be your fault. #2 didn’t understand how it was her fault that #1 got all stung up by supersonic bees but whatever. She kept quiet and waited for #1 to shut up. But #1 wouldn’t stop crying and saying scary stuff. #1 said she felt betrayed by #2, because #2 wouldn’t just kill her or let her kill herself. You are a selfish mutant who deserves to go to hell, she said to #2. And #1 said this was proof that #2 didn’t actually love her. You never loved me. You just wanted to fuck me, up!!! Well, fuck me then. Rape me to death. #2 didn’t know what to say so she said nothing. #2 also wouldn’t tell #1, they’re beautiful [referring to the stings], because honestly these supersonic bee wounds were really fucked-up and gross. It was an awful situation. Horrifying, to have witnessed, for lack of a better term. #1 was in such agony, #2 had to wrestle a bathroom razor from her hands so she didn’t make the wounds worse, or slit her wrists or something. #2 tied her down to a bed like a psych ward patient but #1 was just crying out. Moaning louder than F. Still #2 refused to kill her because #2 was selfish and wanted #1 around. But she finally promised #1, out loud, I’ll take the stingers out and try to heal you, okay?? Just don’t fucking kill yourself. #1 was all like, it’s too late and it’s your fault, I hate you @#!@# cunt, you ruined my life, etc. There were too many stings for her to ever possibly heal, #1 thought. And she was hurting too much—and so fucking ugly from all the supersonic bee stings—there was absolutely no point living like this. #2 locked #1 in her room tied to #2’s own bed and refused to let her out in public, for the next several weeks or months or however long it took to fix herself. Not with all these bee stings because it seemed like each sting attracted more supersonic bees. #1 was attractive to the worst kind of bee. Evil, evil bees. The WORST kind of bee, honest to G. #2 thought about the best way to pull out all these supersonic beestingers. She decided to do it like this. She put #1 under—unconscious, that is—by using a syringe to inject her with a really, really strong anesthetic. #2 knew how to find the vein in #1’s arm and everything! And it went according to plan. #1 passed out and felt no pain in her sleep. She had dreams she would never ever share, with anyone, not even with #2. Meanwhile #2 pulled out all the stingers, one at a time, kissing each wound for good measure. If a sting was infected, she sucked all the gross pussy contents of the wound out with her lips. #2 dropped the bloodsoaked bee stingers in a bowl like a bunch of cherry pits. She pulled out the stingers so meticulously in #1’s sleep that not a single stinger was left. Still there were sores where the stingers had been. Deep sores. Really bad ones. Unfathomably sick to stare at. And #2 wasn’t sure when #1 would wake up but she knew it would be long before the sores healed by themselves. So what #2 did was use each one of the 100 stingers in the bowl to sting herself. It hurt much worse than she expected and she actually felt bad that she hadn’t been nicer from the get-go. She felt so bad that she went outside and exposed her freshly stung flesh, to the public, until she got stung by another supersonic bee. So in total, she had 101 stings. Therefore #2 one-upped #1. When #1 woke up and saw #2 with stings all over her, and photos on the internet of her getting publicly stung by bee #101, the one-and-only #1 was like, what the fuck is your problem. #2 was like, “now we’re equal see? almost,” smiling with blood and pus on her lips from the process of removing the stingers from #1. Then #1 started to weep. So did #2 but after a while she stopped crying and fell into deep peace. The good news (and pretty much the only good news) about being all stung up was that they had a really, really good excuse to stay indoors and not go in public, let alone worry about counting calories [.. a term which in itself is triggering for some.. ], and just hang the fuck out until the sores healed up with time and patience and love, wow what a horrible situation tho. It was #1’s idea to bring honey in the bedroom. And they found out, without even trying, that applying honey.. rite, to the stings was the best way of healing them. It was crazy how that worked, rite aid? It wasn’t a miracle—it still took months, no years, to heal and there were scars from the stings. But putting honey on eachother’s stings was fun and in the process they got even more stuck on the other person, in case they weren’t stuck from the moment one got stung; that is, they built some good trust. It was a sticky situation for #2 and #1 from the start but it turned out to be a good thing after all, somehow, god-knows-how tho. 

Cate’s first memoir, sure enough, was pretty much a hit. It was titled Great Followings, and only took Cate a few months to complete if you sort of tabulated all the hours spent. Not years even though that’s how it seemed from the moment she got the deal. She compiled the book using old first-person journals and tweets. It was billed as nonfiction but it didn’t seem like it to Lola. It seemed like, embellished, slightly. After spending too long with Cate’s book, Lola found herself in the mental headspace of a sociopath, which brought back godawful memories. On both ends of her splitbrain but mostly of the times she’d been picked apart by psychopaths which is a synonym for sociopaths. She realized she’d always been a desirable victim of women bullies, because she didn’t fight back with low blows, but with self-abuse. She knew from her childhood—abusive, yes, straight, up—that attacks were setups for worse bludgeoning than if Lola did something bad to herself. What else is there to say. Cate could have benefitted from writing scenes that were slightly more streamlined with metaphors and meticulous edits, but that would have required far more effort than Cate could handle for a half-million-dollar advance. And what about all the average joes and janes that Cate undoubtedly exploited for kicks? Lola picked up on so many lies by omission, hiding Cate’s aggression, she had to shut the book and remind herself that it was a 300-page ploy for yet another free pass from facing hardcore reality—the type of free pass that was offered only to white girls who could drift through life like characters in a television dromcom or romcom movie. If Cate ever read this and felt briefly ashamed from the contents of this paragraph, or like about all the stuff in her own book, she’d scribble down the experience of reading some shit-talk in her next crappy memoir and be lauded for her bravery. If Cate were suddenly stripped of her neverending cushion of financial support from her parents and fake friendship, by now, she would have spent years in prison; if not actual prison, then a crippling hierarchical position of worthlessness. 

This is one reason Lola had a hard time enjoying popular culture now that she was smart enough to see: it was all created in the land of the financially free. It reached the annoying point where, if Lola previewed a new album on Tidal and the first few lyrics boasted of incredible wealth, she would turn off the music and go back to her silence. Lola was tired of the feeling that she was doing a favor for artists who were “just having fun!” each time she listened to music or picked up a book or watched TV. And movies, for the most part, weren’t intense enough for Lola. They were either 1) nostalgic for semirelevant eras of history; 2) portrayed the reality of being poor and ambitious in a half-baked, not quite life-or-death way like, “what if this actually happened? we’re just having fun though![ex: Frances Ha, La La Land]; or 3) dealt with dark female trauma in a way that was pretentious and frankly insensitive [ex: films by A.G. Iñárritu, Darren Aronofsky]. Meanwhile 90% of Americans were walking around in fear that they would get molested or evicted or bullied for being “lazy” when they probably worked way too much and too hard to ever catch a break (and it wasn’t up to them to just, give themselves a break, easy for someone better, to say to them); many of them were traumatized from already having been molested or abused by a more powerful person and suffered ill health as a result; images of human perfection had grown so extreme and unattainable to those without money, that it was no wonder the youth was suffering from a serious plague of insecurity; the future at the time this was written was looking, um uh a bit grim, but no one was talking about it; wise old celebrity prophets were an endangered species; and President Trump was giving a bad rap to all people with substantial stashes of green, some of whom didn’t want to be remembered as unkind or unclassy which is a synonym for not-chic.

Parents were worried about their kids! But addressing severe depression and anxiety wasn’t a matter of overmedication or excessive exercise or escapist entertainment. Sometimes it was as simple as acknowledging actual reality so the people felt less alone with it. At least that would be a good start. 

Lola posted most of her own unfinished work on an online blog. The illusion that someone was paying attention gave Lola a sense of immediacy; she’d make edits on the quick and on the reg, or have a sense of them when she was trying to do other stuff because technically someone might notice a typo or some shit even though it was unlikely. It motivated her to keep writing, the secret blog, and kept her vigilant enough to be hard on herself about editing — maybe later in life about dieting if she had a cameo in a film or whatevs. Little did she know that her occasional readers included [XY and Z]. Her screenplays contained roles for them, though if they ever met Lola in person, these hopeful actors would wait a long, long time, until some of the awkwardness blew over, to admit what they’d witnessed. 

Did Cate have any idea how much time and emotional wherewithal it took to write a character specifically for someone else? To make them empathetic to a widespread audience, more than the characters Lola took on to write herself? Surely not. Lola was a better writer! And Cate literally was narcissistic enough probably to think she could ever even touch that, the FACT that Lola was an objectively, better, writer! Lols came to the bitchy conclusion that Cate was, in fact, clueless about the depth of her (Lola’s, not Cate’s) commitment to the inner lives she designed for each of her characters, because Cate had never even attempted to come up with a written role for someone other than her own ass self. Great writing wasn’t a matter of fancy vocabulary or syntax or referentiality, in Lola’s view! It took courage to reveal aspects of the truth that other writers were unable to access, and compassion to deliver the truth in a form that wasn’t too offensive to engage with closely. No matter what, great work came at a considerable cost to the artist. What more did Lola have to sacrifice for a half gram or two of true bi doo ass respect? Boop scoop do whap sham boo. Woop ditty scoop poop.

You have nothing going for you and, I have to cut you loose, said Cate to her ex in the memoir. She tried to cut it off so she could cauterize the wound and move on. She wanted them out of her life, she decided. If they died, never mind. She paid back their encouragement with contempt. Name-calling out, insults. This aggravated the wound so it bled even harder. Now she had a hemophiliac on her hands. It didn’t matter how many times she apologized (one or two times). The memories still bled. Her own throat was always red. At random moments in public places she felt it ripen. If she thought about the soreness in her throat she might start to cry. It wasn’t uncommon for baristas or bartenders or taxi drivers to ask Catherine, “are you alright?” If she dared to discuss it, she made it sound like a relationship that wasn’t meant to be. Common wisdom from baristas and bartenders and cab drivers was something like, “someday soon you’ll go to sleep and realize, I haven’t thought of him all day.” But there hadn’t been a single day, since they met, that she hadn’t thought about that weirdo Ex. Not a single fucking day. If she got seriously fucked-up it burned so bad she dreaded the blackout. Drifting thoughts of them together rose to a fever pitch. She didn’t care enough to control what bodies came and went through her headspace. Her best feelings bubbled like blood over heat.

When Great Followings was released, Cate’s phone started blowing up like Hiroshima. She got texts from people she hadn’t heard from since her late teens. Hundreds of texts per weekend night. It took exactly ten hours after her first walk with the devil and a few dozen fairweather friends to recall why she’d put months of serious effort into sobriety. To all the obsessive fans of her first book, she felt like sending out a disclaimer that said: “don’t look up to me!!!!” Writing a book was way harder than Cate expected. In interviews, after-the-fact, she admitted that she never wanted to do it again and advised no one to ever attempt it. Believe it or not there was such a thing as writers who enjoyed writing for hours and hours because they had no friends or anything else to do with their time, they’d lost everything hence were in a crippling hierarchical position, it was literally their whole life to work on the writing instead of much, much worse things.

Guy I sense brings out a classy side of me that is very latent. I am wary because of the trauma and literal PTSD that’s there but I not scared to do better if he owns up to his side of it; how some things have been hard for both of us. How I am not innocent (just something about my aura is not a child no more), but I am less powerful which makes a difference yes, in one’s ability to keep a positive attitude—let alone a relentlessly positive one; this, has been one of Guy’s drawbacks. I think because of the power differential that exists between us, sometimes I feel a little genuinely-uncomfortable with the pressure to be a more sexual being—but I also acknowledge that I am either a late bloomer or a slow bloomer, and I might need guidance, on that, literally to achieve my dreams. However I think it should feel comfortable and safe, around involved ppl, and I genuinely have a lot of sexual trauma which is the easiest explanation for my fatness and geekiness. It’s hard to explain but I think that’s been true. I can and will do better but shaming me for what I haven’t been able to control is like upsetting for me like a dad yelling at a girl for not smiling enough. An additional drawback of Guy just being real = Guy’s education which, idk how much he’s gotten, hm, he’s far from dumb and is figuratively street smart about career, industry, major media, beauty / image, and literal-survival strategy. Still I think the fact that he probz hasn’t read a ton probably made [slash makes] him more predisposed to get involved in idealistic over-the-top faith-stuff to a flaming-manic degree [which gets on my nerves and, in the past, I think has been irresponsible and sort of willfully narcissistic on Guy’s part—compared to how the same ‘religious guidance' would have operated for someone much less-powerful which I think = the intended audience of said religious guidance. idk] (and—just sayin, maybe if Guy had been forced-in-school or forced by me to be exposed to philosophical teachings and theology, and raw plain sexy holy literature, his willful narcissism wouldn’t feel like a continuing danger.. I’ll come back to this.,.). Duh mythology and some elements of religious faith are about explaining what humans can’t account for—but as our understanding of science/etc expands, so does our ability to explain it all without like resorting to old school stuff like the Bible alone which doesn’t mean the Bible is bad at all; it just means we have new knowledge and major events that we can’t just-ignore as if all history/culture since Biblical times hasn’t helped us revise what we know = Truth, versus what hasn’t worked so well. Not saying anyone’s claiming that the Bible = the only Truth there is; I’m just speaking in extremes to make a point. I do think there’s currently a little too high a dose of Science is the New God Robot Syndrome, among very-educated people, when, Science is not God (God is Love), but obviously science is real and one important gage for truth versus delusion. It is the responsibility of powerful leaders—such as Guy hahato help guide the Massive Crowd Mentality away from unnecessary delusion [e.g. about love relationships and what’s even realistic to expect, from the music people worship, & or, what’s humanly possible even with God’s magic powers on our side… there are limits that we’ve gotta help ppl keep an eye on]. It hurts them [the People, proper] in the long run to hope for more than is ever gonna happen because it’s not v.literally possible and I feel as though America in particular is susceptible to believing in fake promises that are going to hit a wall when they don’t come true. A good example is how people have responded to Justin/Hailey as if that’s a betrayal when they were ‘promised’ something else lol, but I’m also talking about, like, false advertising and head fakes. Also: I feel as though, at select moments, Guy has gotten frustrated with my own circumstances as though it is my fault for not being as blessed as himself, i.e. for not abiding to religion just like he does even though I explore faith-stuff and incorporate it into my work—and Guy’s assessment of me as ‘less blessed’ and therefore less deserving has really f’ed-me-up if it’s ever been the case. I think I said once before: I’ve felt at moments before as though I was dropped by mo others, when I was bleeding, at the foot of a stone Jesus statue and the dropper expected that to heal wounds in need of real treatment and [humane] care. For Guy I think his sexuality has = painful-for-him subjectively, I can’t even imagine. But I am beginning to think that without that in place, to give him just a little xxtra privacy, he probably would have long-ago gone actually insane. So it might be a real blessing of the ‘necessity is destiny’ strain. Otherwise he’d never be able to handle the life that he has—the image, and, the pressures, and, just everything a/o it. He may have cracked if it weren’t, well, a little fake but ‘performed’ is a tamer term. So to summarize pros+cons. Guy has going for him ‘that power thing’ which is sexy and classy and seductive to literally anyone; but what he has going against him [actually, related to ‘that power thing’] is a lack of understanding of my respective situation, specifically, what it feels like to be more-or-less objectively powerless compared to far richer and healthier and more famous seductive people—which is just reality and has nothing to do with me not praying enough to be saved because I definitely do pray, I don’t think that’s my issue. My situation [and poorness] compared to his doesn’t necessarily have to do with luck either, because I feel as though I’m very lucky given the v.literal chain of events from my birth to now, and the high odds of things having gone worse. I am not doing that bad; I am grateful that I am not dead when I should be, and that I am passionate and have gotten glimpses of a kind of Love far-beyond what I knew was even possible (from what I observed around the house as a child) [even from what I saw on TV and heard in songs]. I am glad I made it to and through the Ivy League, which was astoundingly hard to pull off but does make a difference [in one’s creative work etc] and might have cost me ‘hotness’ which I didn’t expect to be as painful as it was [suicidally bad], but my fight to attend school and uphold education and preach its importance, also might be, what gives that extra edge in the long run—and I wouldn’t have had the drive to not drop out and get good grades (at all costs) [in HS and early college] if I hadn’t grown up poor AND female AND not gorgeous. All this to say I am grateful for a lot of things that Guy, I don’t doubt, would like to have too specifically the education which I dang earned; not the powerlessness ha idk. Being poor is really really hard—and though Guy of course experiences his own really-really-hard challenges [duh] (hard as fuh), I don’t think he understands the poor uncared-for thing and how much that affects literally everything. It’s like, he really just doesn’t get it sometimes. That has been my sense or he wouldn’t say and do certain things that disdain me. I don’t know what that’s about but his unintended insensitivity to my comparative lack of resources = annoying; basically, the equivalent of him getting annoyed at my poor self-presentation as a female, but, also directly-related if you think about it: How my poorness and mental health and cramped space and energy-stuff absolutely makes it harder for me to pull off a lot of things that he’s been able to do boom no problem. Well maybe not boom no problem but. Let me finish. I believe I’m demonstrated in my writing how my lack of more-objective sex appeal has gotten me rejected by higher-ups—and it probably hasn’t been my fault but will be my fault if I still play-the-victim when I can do better. And will do better. But for the phases when I couldn’t do better and started whining, or being negative, I was not necessarily playing-the-victim; it could have just been me saying ‘f off’ but w/e I’m going to leave that behind and stop whining. Maybe part of the confusion, is this: I think there’s a side of Guy that genuinely wishes he’d had a normal life, even if that meant ‘being poor,’ and I think his life ever since making it and losing all his privacy has been very much out-of-his-hands and sometimes he feels as though it was taken from him—either by the industry, or by his mom a little, who he loves and came through for when she pushed him to do well (his mom also noticed his talent and helped give it back to the world) [but Guy as a hardworking star and performer, like myself as a hardworking student and writer, has suffered from severe mental and physical health issues and has literally almost died and I don’t doubt it’s related to just, like, his whole story from kidhood to now and how he’s felt insurmountable pressure from family & elsewhere]. I think his mom has saved his life many times though so I’ll be careful with conveying it as like some horrible thing when it’s not like that, never has been. It’s Really Real Love [between mom and kid]. It’s hard to say what about Guy made him that famous and constantly scrutinized, which started from a young age and snowballed and just got better [or worse], but yeah; I think he wants his own life and agency more than v.literally anything, and this ditail causes Guy’s various drawbacks to seem a little more sympathetic but, still not forgivable—from me—cause I’m less powerful and careful a/o over-forgiving way-more-powerful people for their things.  

Creep. Elemental shame in her cellies. Revulsion. Shame for being human, not subhuman. Shame for being safe. Shame that could not be explained. Shame for existing. For being born.

Her faith in some higher power, call it what you wish, developed only after she’d seen enough unexplainable evil to feel strongly that Satan did exist. This darkness was not curable by literally any therapist. She was not sure if constant fear was better than nihilism. Certainly more dramatic. Anger felt best for this guy, but it was often misdirected at the weak, and was unsafe to express when, one was particularly powerless. She could use a friend to fall back on who wasn’t, raised Christian.

Donna Simone might or might not suppose, they thought they wanted to be the one in nightclubs, and on sidewalks [saved my liiiiife] (neh neh), around whom men perked up automatically. And you could see and feel them, on their way into a store or out of the office or getting out of their car or just-walking-past, actually turn and crane their necks and not-stop-staring the whole stretch of several seconds that it took for you to pass. She supposed you [“real” girls who didn’t get this, always], thought, that’s what I want so bayd (!!911) but she wasn’t sure they wanted it as much as they damn thought they did. Probably it was nice. But. Sometimes. It kind of exhausted, her, being viewed like it was her role-in-the-world to give these boys a lift. To save their lives, with her smile. Or with her courtesy. What gives. Sometimes, she wanted to go donkey on them and like act all sicko unholy 2-bone shixa—but that wasn’t allowed for her; that would, like, ruin everything she had. So in public she kept it together. She came through, for the fans. For the nation. For the team. For the men, she was present. A standout swan in the skein. And it wasn’t unrewarding. Donna was grateful. They were always pleased. And, in public sometimes, Donna felt asleep. 

[11: G song]

“Your sister’s met a young man,” said Brenda on her way through the front door. Rose remained silent.

Brenda held the door for her daughter as she came back inside the house, to check on Marigold. The place looked brighter than she remembered the previous week. Too bright. “I took down the venetian blinds,” her mom explained. “We needed some light in here.”

Rose’s dad came in from the kitchen, where he’d just cooked scrambled egg whites. Rose recalled an e-mail from home, in which her mother had mentioned that he was diagnosed with high cholesterol. “Hey You,” he said now. He gave Rose a hug and pat on the back.

“Happy Father’s Day!!.”

“Ralph, I don’t think those pants are the right size,” she said now. “Or the polo.” She did a gesture with her arms around her own waist, as if she was adjusting an inner tube. Then laughed.

“That’s so mean,” Rose said.

“It’s not mean Rose. I think you need a new definition of mean. I’m trying to help your dad because I love him! Isn’t that right Ralph??”

In her first few years in New York, Rose had gone on a solo hunt for a good therapist in the city. She had spoken to about five different therapists, just to hear their insights on her family. Every therapist’s reaction to certain of her mom’s behaviors was about the same: oh… my god. Sometimes they’d raise a hand to their face. They always sounded shocked, even scared, which is saying a lot since (Rose assumed) most therapists in New York had been exposed to some batshit crazy stuff by that time. At her college, mandatory health questionnaires would often ask Rose questions along these lines: have you ever been verbally abused, threatened, and/or felt unsafe in a relationship? Rose would automatically think back on her mom.

She’d circle: “yes.”

Once Rose was on a Skype call with Selena, while visiting White Plains for the holidays. Rose stepped offscreen to use the bathroom and ended up having an argument with her mom in the hallway that Selena definitely overheard. She was mad at her daughter for excommunicating herself from the Mormon religion. Rose was like, “chill.” Her mom did the opposite. She started screaming and throwing shit. Rose was mortified; she knew Selena was listening. She needn’t have worried, though, because Selena was the type of friend who, if anything, was impressed with a woman whose levels of insanity were at par with her own. And Rose’s mom seemed possibly crazier than she was. Selena’s response was as follows.

“Damn.”

There was another incident involving a boy Rose met, in her second year in the big apple. She really liked this boy! He was a folk musician. But they only went out on a couple dates. Rose used to talk to her mom on the phone fairly often. She told her mom about the folk musician. (“I really like him Mom,” Rose said.) Her mom kept a close watch on her daughters, and liked to know who they were going out with. She kept such a close watch that she would do Google background checks. She would scour their Facebooks and Instagrams and any other social media for any incriminating material. One time, while doing one of her signature background checks, Rose’s mom looked up the folk musician on Facebook while still logged into her own account. And she accidentally friended the folk musician. The folk musician got freaked out. He and Rose stopped talking. She never saw the folk musician again.

Needless to say this was upsetting for Rose. She got mad at her mom. (“It’s actually my worse nightmare,” Rose said in the aftermath.) But, eventually she told her mom: “I forgive you.” Brenda was big-into forgiveness. She also was big-into protecting her daughters from harmful men, she explained in her own defense. (“I’m overprotective,” she said, “because I love you.”) Maybe that’s why it happened a second time, with a new boy. The new boy was a creative non-fictionist. An autofictionist, that is. Rose and him used to have bomb-ass intellectual chats about novels and obscure eras of journalism and how fiction and nonfiction “weren’t that different” in their shared opinion, even though that wasn’t Rose’s opinion, she just put it on. By this time Rose was hip to her mother’s stalking habits— so she made sure not to share the boy’s name so he couldn’t be stalked on Google. However she did once mention to her mom, “I met a boy I like.” That’s all she said. This was a mistake. Her mom still found a way to track down the boy’s name—by looking at Rose’s phone bill, typing the number into Google, then finding his website (featuring articles by him) and clicking on links. Rose found out about this when her mom started spouting opinions in front of the extended family that sounded a bit too… well-read… at an Easter celebration. She recognized the opinions from the creative-nonfiction boy’s articles. And she called her mom out on it.

“Mom… have you been reading articles by the guy I’ve been going out with? Just be honest.”

“Excuse me? How dare you accuse me of that!! I’ve never even heard of James.”

Rose broke up with James for reasons unrelated to her mom’s stalking problem. Their bond was more intellectual than sexual, and the relationship fizzled out on its own accord. But Rose still felt scared of her mom’s incredible potential to fuck with her life.

All this said, Rose was really close to her mom growing up. In middle school and high school, she used to have conversations with her mom that lasted over an hour. Sometimes they would last two or three hours, if they really got rolling. Her mom did most of the talking, and often gave decent advice, given her experience with girls of all ages at the Church. Rose missed those days. These days, they didn’t talk much. But Rose’s mom supported her daughter in her writing endeavors, and helped Rose pay rent, if she ever needed help. Did this make her mom trustworthy? Probably, yes. As a financial benefactor, sure of course. But then there was the other side. She had boundary issues. She did not give Rose the freedom to love whomever she chose. She had to “approve of” the boys.

The weird thing about the online stalking was the her mom never looked at her own daughter’s social media. Like, never. Even though Rose had all those websites, and she sometimes posted stuff that her mom might not “approve of.” The stalking was only with boys. Sometimes Rose wondered if the reason her mom was so intensely involved with Rose’s love-relationships was because she was controlling and covetous, and wanted to sabotage her relationships. She was not protective at all, let alone overprotective or nurturing. Rose often felt paranoid that Brenda liked to see her suffer. In subtle ways, she hurt her.

“Rose, I noticed your skin’s cleared up. It looks so much better! Did you use the face lotion I sent you?”

“No… I think it always gets better in the summer.” Rose felt her heart get tense. She was worried her mom would go further, and she wouldn’t be able to take it.

“And your haircut! Wow, I like it that way.” Rose sighed and looked down. “Thank you.”

She told her mom she had to pee, then went up and visited Marigold in their bedroom. Mari was lying down, thinking, it seemed. She had a face today like a suffering animal not human, and one hand on her stomach. She sat up when Rose came in and said, “Hey.”

Rose noticed that her sister was wearing a black tank top that had belonged to her in high school, with a red bandana tied — around her neck. It didn’t look as good on Marigold, as it did on her. The tank top that is.

“How are things,” she asked grimacing, glancing around the room. The room looked vaguely messy but not tragic, just inhabited. How Mari liked it, Rose preferred things neater.

“Yeah I have a headache,” Marigold admitted.

“What kind of headache, like… you know. There are different kinds of head pain. How serious.”

“A bad one. I really, REALLY. Feel like it’s not the same, it’s not even a migraine it’s worse.”

Rose exhaled through her nose, softly, in a way that struck Marigold as sensitive, enough. She moved to the edge of Mari’s bed. They sat.

“Hickeys?”

Marigold frowned. “Did mom tell you that.”

“Hm,” said Rose.

“Hm. Hm hm. Oh shit.”

Their mom had appeared upstairs. She was peering in the door of their room, which had been left slightly open. “Rose, I was wondering if you wanted to try on some clothes I bought for you.”

“Sure. Just leave them there and I’ll try them on when I decide to,” said Rose. She probably wouldn’t put on the clothes.

Clyde was looking down at a candle on the middle of their table, following the flame with constricted pupils like it was doing a hot striptease for him, and him alone. He reached a hand toward the flame. He wasn’t listening to Benny anymore; at the moment, he was on his own maiden voyage down deep to his visual realm, a sick place, inaccessible to the mundane haters of the highbrow, safe from sober cops that crept along catwalks and waited to pounce down his veins and steal his doper soul right from his ratty man hands, if only he could douse this flame, he’d be saved.

“Looking good, Clyde.”

“Huh?” said Clyde. He immediately sat straight and pulled back his hand. It was humiliating to get caught nodding off on his second bag of speedies. He and Benny had been close friends for a while, and he didn’t want to lose him. Drugs had burned enough bridges already. “Sorry,” he said in somber tones.

In high school, long before he was junkie, Clyde had an issue with stalking girls who didn’t like him much in return. They’d report him to the principal’s office. It got talked about at school. By, like, everyone. Everyone talked about how creepy he was. Girls started looking at him funny. They looked at him like he was evil. He got looked at like he was evil and they called him “creeper.” The word stuck. He got remembered as that: a creeper. It hurt like a weird fuck. Clyde stopped going to school. He stayed home.

At home, Clyde practiced saxophone.

Near the bar in the back of a cloak-and-dagger speakeasy with a statue of a bucking bull at the front, Benny and Clyde’s band, called Def Ahab, got ready to play their set for a bustling crowd of ratchet young folk chewing meat like cud and chatting, chatting about themselves, chatting about ex-lovers and the past and how much worse things were getting. Things were getting worse. If the ratchet young folk knew where things were headed then they would be on board with Clyde and Benny as they felt real stark and pulled the works out and got ready to dig deep into the pockets of their private lonely realms, to ride behind a billowing black sail to dark (really) dark places, where time would get sickly dense; the sockets of their horns carved out and blown bloody; where sickened souls would be baptized in crimson birdbaths and shared melodies would really, really be what saved their cool-and-sorry asses from getting burnt by the flame Clyde tried to douse with his hands.

“The fuck, man. Swear to god. Do you need me to call an ambulance.”

Clyde sat up again, with his shoulders.

He felt the hooks of Death in his heavy shoulders.

Death was a red parrot who sat on his shoulder and mocked the way he played. The parrot made fun of Clyde erryday. He just wanted to escape it. So he submerged himself in crimson rivers and sometimes swam with people from his past. He would wake up and take deep breaths. While awake he would ask aloud, “Are you oh kitty kay?” and then wait in silence. (He got silence back.) Then the parrot would fly down on him waxin troubled tracks. The future was a black leather rope bridge across a crimson river. If the bridge broke he would drown. He was too scared to look across, to the future, so Clyde put a black blindfold on his eyes and walked that tight leather rope, himself. He kept his eyes covered and walked across the future with the parrot cawing over him, telling him truths he didn’t want to hear but, he did.

“Can you tell me what year it is?” asked a woman’s voice that sounded stern and rehearsed, but quite human, he was relieved to hear the humanity in it. 

“2016?” Clyde responded, genuinely unsure. His own voice was slurred and hoarse. “Yeah. He’s back,” said the parrot in the voice of that girl.

The act of moving his tongue made a deep nausea move from the back of his brain to his mouth. He coughed a few times then wanted to vomit. He keeled over and attempted this, but there wasn’t anything left in him, nothing—so he ended up dry heaving while staring down at the ground. It felt like he was levitating. The floor was made of TV screens turned off. 

“Where’s Benny?” he asked.

“Is that the name of your friend?” said a pair of rose-colored lips on a body decked in dark blue, with a black nylon vest clipped over it. 

“I think that was him,” another man said. A bit more loudly, to Clyde, the voice said, “Benny’s not here man, he’s back at the gig.”

“Ohhh – shit! The gig!!!”

“Your gig, yeah man,” said the male voice, repeating after Clyde, he might well have said, yeahhhh morrron. That’s what he heard, he got it. He did.

The turned-off screen had gotten larger and rounded out, so now she had a bird’s eye view of what was taking place. Clyde wondered why everything looked so three-dimensional. Don’t be a binkie brain, birdie, he told himself! His tongue felt so fat. The truth he’d been shutting out ever since his eyes opened on the stretcher was that this wasn’t a performance. This was reality, again. It was, he got it back. Yeahhhh. And even though he was dizzy and safely solipsized, if he decided to stop watching for a second, he might not be able to switch it back on, like, ever again. Glub dub dub, we’re all in a tub. This was it.

The voice he heard started breaking so it wasn’t syncing with the video. It sounded like a robot speaking in monotone, don’t you know, like when you hit the wrong chain of keyboard keys accidentally, and your computer starts talking to you. “Sim peeple choose expurrienzes sich is thuss, and lirne frim utt. Do yi, understindd?”

“Ok,” said Clyde, o tay o ti o kiddy kay, kat man, do — he got it, he did.

His throat felt like it was bleeding; those jagged tears had hooked him in his neck, the back of it. He was thrust from a portable stretcher to stable gurney with such force that the episode of reality he was watching suddenly hit black static.

“whoi wanbes physcly unatainable…cun’t be ★.. if uchosen1 bothred read my 3>lov u.”

Ramona was worried about Lola after reading the above tweet accidentally, because it sounded as though she was doing drugs and had somewhat limited chances of surviving this year, let alone making a film in this life. She didn’t care much about Lola because they didn’t know eachother except for through a few distant interactions on the internet. But she cared somewhat that she didn’t die because Ramona still wanted to be an actress in Lola’s film featuring a certain character named Ramona Desmond.

When Ramona first started her career in modeling, she was so thrilled that she would actually do anything to be the greatest model, female there ever was, duh. But after like two or three years of this, she still loved playing duh but was worn out on some of the preludial excitement of being invited to events and closely watched. It wasn’t quite as enchanting, as it was at the start, being fawned over at the start. It was still cool but just saying. She was getting used to it. Ramona decided it wasn’t worth slitting her wrists if she was a few pounds away from where she wished she was. And she decided, one sad lonelyass morning in another beautiful hotel room, that she was more passionate about acting than modeling, after all. She knew how it felt to be the it-girl, been there, and it was nice and made life easier but felt very transitory and insubstantial. Like in ten years it wouldn’t be the same—she feared grief and isolation. Ramona still wanted be fawned over duh but more than that, she wanted to feel strongly that her work was having an impact on at least some souls in remote places who weren’t nearly as lucky as she was. It was rare, these days, that she met someone who truly reminded herself of when she was young. 

Lola was waken from her sleep after putting out the tweet, and relapsing, from her ex-dealer-pimp-guy Michael’s wife. She knew he was married to someone in Bellevue, she just, hadn’t been expecting this. She said she went on his phone and found all his old texts with Lola—oh and that Michael was in the hospital for pancreatitis. The wife said that Mike kept bringing up Lola’s name, and said he was going to leave the wife to get back with her, and that he and Lola “had fucked” [they hadn’t] and “she was still a virgin she didn’t know how to fuck yet” [no she wasn’t a virgin but] some other awful stuff that could only come from the mouth of a doper going through withdrawal. Michael’s wife and Lola ended up talking for an hour at least, about the other side of the story. How Michael was a good guy, really, Lola agreed; she wouldn’t, just say that to be nice — but the drugs made him mean. Just a little unkind, damn. The wife suffered from such bad anxiety, due to worry, that she was on Klonopin—which Mike stole from her, to sell for his own drug money. By the end of the phone call, which was much less unpleasant than the beginning, the wife said that Lola would probably be hearing from Mike on that same number (“you’re a pretty girl,” she said, “they’re users, not bad people but don’t trust them”). So after their chat, Lola blocked the number. It would take her another week or so to get tentatively sober, and two more months to commit to a drug-free future. Yeah. Even, if, she, got, fat. And as typically kind of happens, not for everyone but for her: she would gain some weight in the months after that. But that was it with the drug-shit okay fine damn! Damn.. 

Catherine Delaluna brought Carol Quick to a conference by a famous male Bible educator and pastor. Immediately when Carol saw the man—who was white, in his early thirties, attractive-ish she supposed, but with a smile that seemed exaggerated due to Botox perhaps—she felt nervous and started missing Logan Sloman. He would never put me through this. 

But Catherine was like, “Just. Try it.” Carol did just try it. The Bible educator spoke of how “one must not let herself succumb to depression,” and if one feels it coming on, one must turn to God and target the source of her discontent. 

On depression, Carol thought, “not my problem!!!!! Everrr ever,” just kidding, she thought, “sometimes the very occasional melancholy is something I just let pass. Or write tracks about.” (Swag though, really, she handled her v.rare feelings of sadness, well..) 

A half-hour into the conference, Carol excused herself, left the conference hall, thinking something along the lines of, I absolutely can’t trust anyone, but myself… 

Catherine came outside, screaming, “WAIT,” and found Carol Quick.

“I’m here.” 

“Sup,” Catherine asked, shifting on her feet, a little too casual about this whole thing with the male pastor for Carol’s preferences. So Carol kept her eyes on the ground and shook her head, no no. 

Catherine shrugged. “Sorry, it’s worked for me, in the past. I’m sorry if it’s not your jam.” 

“Ya I’m sorry too but, I just — cannot lend my trust to that attractive.. male pastor. I’m too covertly crazy, and intelligent, for his teachings to click, ay. Just something about them. It’s like running chaos through a sieve and expecting it to flow through, not gonna happen, oh kitty kay.” 

“It’s ay-oh kitty kay if you just aren’t into it.”

Carol exhaled and never would say, “the problem I have with these pretty boy pastors, is that it’s easy to look around and say— if life’s good for me, then all these other people must be getting it wrong. They must be sinners! They must not have found God. But like what if that is actually an insensitive and judgmental mindset, I mean, to think that following the Bible is the reason the pretty boys have an edge is… intolerant of people not doing so well, don’t you think… I’m sorry if I’m not making sense, but—they’re not all just blessed, maybe they’re privileged. The pretty boy pastors I mean.”

Catherine noticed she wasn’t getting the same snaggletoothed gaze, from Carol, that she usually got. And Carol wasn’t used to hanging out with friends, who brought her to Christian events that sucked so much. 

Sometimes she’d go to church with family back home, that was different, obvi. 

But then Catherine expressed her opinion, that “around powerful people” she felt more of a need for God, because it all happened on a scale where evil versus good was more obvious. She said that History was rewriting the Bible in the present—and only a few people, per generation, make it to the Promised Land. She, was one of them (obvi). 

And Catherine Delaluna was worthy of capital-H History, History that made the books!

Carol was like first of all damn your ego, who even thinks these things, second of all, “the Bible, nice, but what about the gay thing.” 

“What thing! What.” 

“I said—but I’m not worthy of History.” 

“Are you effin on crack. You’re Carol Quick, definitely going to be in the books.”

“I don’t know, will I be taught in like, music textbooks? Or will I just be in there as like, that one chick who was onstage when—“

“Epep. Let me stop you there. We’re not doing this.”

Carol literally felt PTSD, dizziness, and resented this whole experience today with Catherine. She wasn’t about to let this happen again, someone co-opting her in their art, this wasn’t allowed na. And she wasn’t going to believe in fate ever again unless some of her delusions of grandeur were granted to her, before death. Her brain was too dense for that BS, and her version of heaven, too blood-filled. 

“Hold up,” said Catherine, doing a double-take at that last sentence. “Did you just say—your delusions of grandeur hadn’t been granted, and…” 

“I didn’t say that,” Carol Quick clarified. The author had written that line.

“Ok so, maybe, the less simple you are—I mean you’re smart, right Carol—the less simple your conception of faith is gonna be,” Catherine just threw out there. 

“Sure, fine. That’s why it’s necessary for us to keep tracks.” 

“Keep tracks?” said Catherine. “You lost me.”

“Yes, it’s necessary to keep track. Of your experience of karma in this life, you know, keep track of it. And put it back out there. I mean, it’s gotta make sense in a way to people with your style of brain. Your work. What you come up with. Maybe that’s why we’ve felt the need to create our own music and stuff.” 

“My style of brain.” Catherine felt upset, not knowing why. “But if no one else gives or has my style of brain, and definitely no one does—how am I going to keep living like this.” 

“Wow! Wow! Deep conversation,” said Carol, consummating Catherine’s loneliness and alienation from all other human girls. “I need a rest from this chat, this whole scene honestly is pushing it.”

“Okay,” said Catherine, looking cute in a pinstriped blazer, sunglasses placed on the neck of a loose T beneath.

Behind a car across the street, a paparazzi stood snapping pics.

“Ugh!”

“Not everyone wants to change the world,” Catherine continued in a voice like a melancholic donkey blue poo pi doo. “Or they do in ways quieter from how you fonna change it…” 

“I said timeout! Too much depth, this isn’t helping lift our spirits, our moods!”

“I mean…” Catherine continued in that voice. “My fans have the same style of brain as the Bible educator who you just wrote off. So that’s why I feel responsible, for endorsing him. Plus he and I are buds—” 

“–uh oh, boop! This conversation is through.

Catherine put her hands in her pockets and shut her feelings off, “Sorry Carol. Just about all of this.”

When Catherine Delaluna lost faith in humanity, which was often, she turned to money and devoted her whole battered black heart to that and no one else. She loved money so much she would use it to wipe herself down, there at the hot pilates studio after a class (with a trainer who probably did a better job for her as a client than they’d ever done in their life for anyone) or to wipe down there after cold pity sex (with someone rich who was so desperate to lay with her that he’d agree to dole-up some cash). At moments, yeah, she’d rather sleep with it in bed than people, anyone, yeah. Money money man! Maybe her love of money was an issue that she should deal with, or maybe the real issue was that—

Please, Catherine, I said — I don’t want to hear this shit.”

“This shit. Carol whoah, I wasn’t even talking, and,” reminder the author was just making this shit up duh. “Sorry anyway, though.”

“No no no!” said Carol. “S’alroight!”

If there isn’t, I’ll pretend there is. A God. A superior life to be lived. Even if there’s no point to all this, I’ll pretend there is. Even if he never loved me, I’ll pretend he did.

Living with her father uptown was just fine for Lola, because she had no one else to live with. At least that’s what she told herself. To get through it. She didn’t want a female roommate who slept in late, and liked to bake, and gave her a subconscious incentive to undermine her own self-discipline. (Soon she’d find there are female roommates who are NOT like that.) She didn’t want a boyfriend who she felt obligated to listen to, when he talked about politics or religion or how his boring day went. She didn’t want anyone to ask her why she wasn’t spending time out with friends. Because, she had none!

If Lola had the means at this time she’d be in rehab in Florida, not this stuff covered by Medicaid living with her dad, but that wasn’t about to change. This phase of rehabilitation was guided mainly by her superego and a desire for better things. At the psychiatrist’s office she lied while answering all the questions that would have sent her down a rabbit hole of strong prescription meds — she’d been on them, yeahhhh — but she still had faith that someday, she’d be in a position that afforded her enough to respect to remedy the feelings of self-worthlessness.

Lola had a problem with making things up! Lola had a problem with writing too much. Lola had shame about where she came from. Lola was unable to trust anyone. Lola made death plans, then gave other people all the credit, when she improved her own life enough to avert them.

Even if there isn’t, I’ll pretend there is. That’s the only way I’ll push through this.

Ava [unfinished]

by Catherine Delaluna

She can’t stand anymore / finds escapes , finds escapes
no one ever hears her pray
through black noise she hears
a white travesty
       but no one ever,

knows your names
and she sings in black holes has no way, to escape so
she finds other ways
remembers your name, so

no one, ever, hears her sing. and she finds other ways, she finds other ways 

She couldn’t identify like that so she wouldn’t. She didn’t want to remembered like that. She was a writer. It got in the way of everything. This need to identify that stuff, essentially to give it away to them not her self. It was another obstacle. It stood in the way, of her self.

If it all got scraped away, there was nothing. Just a massive fabric that held all the people she ever loved. It had nothing to do with identity. Just a massive fabric. There was a hole in the fabric where you go [crying out your name during sex]. Boom! A black hole, it sucked out Morgan Wilcock’s time and energy in the present. Airr day. It sucked out her ability to love her self. Own self. Not someone else, she used to only think love was for self-advancement, she was in survival mode. But that might not all be true. She couldn’t take this anymore. She stuffed the hole with words! Pages and pages of words. Images made up of tiny particles. Scenes she wanted to hold onto and forget. At first, it didn’t make a difference. None of the words had to do with reality. It was all memory. It was BS. Nothing was real, duh it was, in her head. But eventually, the black hole turned into something else. The black hole turned into a nebula made of literally just memories literally with her self. But they were real, gradually she came back to reality, again. Alone but, there! There, there! Then a baby star was made. Then a supernova made of words and sounds and images. Bang! It kept growing in mass and size. It got a bit prettier with time. It got brighter in the night. Whatever it was, it was getting a little better or just different. It wasn’t going anywhere though. She could see it everywhere, now. And it was there, there, now. It was in the sky, even if she wasn’t with them [crying out their name]. Bang, baaaang! 

[12: Boom boom boom boom]

Carol Quick to Lola personally was like, “please don’t co-opt me for your art and write sexual puns in scenes. I wish you would respect my boundaries.”

“You mean that thing about heaven being blood-filled? I understand that’s intense,” Lola was like, “it might not have blood in it, anyway, you sound like my sister telling me not to ever write about our family — I’m like then who’s going to write about it. It must be up to me!! I feel like her allegiances are with my parents when my own allegiances are with her, and my self (not myself, my SELF which was lost for a while), but not currently just with my parents who I feel hurt me and never took accountability in the ways I think an adult probably should. And sometimes it feels like a betrayal when my sister defends them even.”

“That’s tough. Not sure what to say, this is not my place.”

“Well! In any case: I’m sorry about the boundary-issues, I’ve actually gotten better about setting boundaries with the autofiction it’s true. I don’t consider this book autofiction, it’s just fiction. But to explain pushing boundaries to my sister actually, for when she reads this if it gets shared in this life — Alexis has never struggled with being pushed into a corner of like absolute desperation to get out of one’s own head, well, not to such demonstrable extremes. I’ve felt so inadequate and she is just fine. What I think is relevant here: my sister has never been so-depressed and I’m drawn to people who aren’t depressives in order to get out of my head, and so, I think that’s why I got so into your music even though.. well, in the circles I roll in (like Ivy League stuff currently I guess, I don’t know) it might actually work against me to like, admit that I’ve listened to your music a lot.”

Why would it work against you,” Carol said, almost bitchy na. 

“Because Carol — people think you’re weird!” 

“You’re the weirdo, shit.”

“I don’t know if you’d come back like that but. I’ll go with it.”

“Na?”

“Don’t you trust me as a writer. I didn’t say weirdo I said weird. Slightly milder. And I KNOW that I am, and you need to be humbled. Also my friend Alex [not Alexis, similar names also a sister] says ‘you’re not that weird,’ to me. I mean coming from her… actually I do trust her judgment on that.”

“How do you define weird.”

“Um wrong question. You should have asked ‘how do you define sister.’ Lol. But I’ll define weird for you. In this specific case, I define it as: acting much younger than you legitimately are!! That really bothers me, in older women. I’ll just like say that, because–“

“–that’s not nice.”

“Not nice? It’s not supposed to be nice!! Anyway Carol, I’ve thought about dating older women because it seems like I have a thing for them–“

“–boop! This conversation is over.”

“Boop? Stfu Marilyn! And I wasn’t talking about you I was talking generally about all these bitches who think I’m weird just because they can’t take the heat when I lay it on and that’s not sexual pun, it’s just an idiom that means raising the bar. If you can’t take the heat–“

“–I know the idiom, Lola. Get out of here though.”

“Outties!”

Lola leapt out of that scene into this one. She was talking Marilyn Monroe now.

Marilyn asked, “how do you define sister.”

“Oh — I just meant close female friend, literally though.”

“I didn’t have many of those.”

“Aw,” Lola said. “I’m sorry that makes two of us but I have like, some good ones. Alex is one of them.”

“I’m not trying to be a dick, Benny, it’s not about you. Please don’t take it personal. I just don’t think I can do it. It’s too much.”

“What is.”

“The everyday, man. It’s too much. I’m too sensitive for this world. I don’t belong here. It hurts.”

“It’ll get better, Clyde. Give it time.”

“Everyone says that but I really don’t think so. Sure I have goals but they just fuck me up. They hurt too much. They never fucking go anywhere. It’s just idealism. It’s an addiction like drugs. I don’t think I can pretend anymore, Benny. I can’t do it anymore. I’m gonna go back.”

“Go back? On the drugs? If you do that I’m not sticking around,” said Benny. “If you think that you are fucked now Clyde — try that, just see how bad it can get. I guarantee you it can get much worse.”

“Should I kill myself?”

“God you’re fucking pitiful,” Benny just left the room in the dorms. Clyde wasn’t kidding though. His cheeks were chubby for his age, like he still had remains of baby fat from childhood. It’s not funny, man. He saw some homeless guy laughing at him. When he asked the homeless guy where his dealer was, the guy said, “he ain’t been here lately. He found a way out.”

Clyde don’t, he remembered what his mom used to tell him when he’d pick his scabs. There was this other memory that kinda came back to him on his way to find his dealer. (Who he wouldn’t end up finding in Times Square, New York.) The memory was like… it felt like there was a big hand gripping his face. Then he reached up and pulled off a mask. An oxygen mask that was tight as fuck, but it felt kind of good to be cared for so, professionally. So he put it back. And he realized he was in the back of an ambulance. Like, damn. He remembered it more vividly than he let himself just after so he’ll try to explain it but it’s complex. He’ll do the best he can! It felt like he was falling out of reality like a bunch of times. Or maybe falling in and not out or whatever. Either up or down, it probably felt more like down. So he couldn’t stop falling and then he got so fucking dizzy like Gillespie.  But he kind of saw all these things. Like he was in some nightclub in Shanghai and the same thing happened to Clyde another way. And somehow he was in some other cities too, probably make-believe cities. Not Times Square. Like a different world though. A whole different feeling but, not a good one. Maybe a city that doesn’t exist here in reality. He kept almost dying or actually dying or waking up again. He really couldn’t tell. Maybe he was at the same cloak-and-dagger speakeasy where he OD’ed and thought he was in Shanghai cause he was so fucked up. Yeah, probably that, LOL. Almost definitely. But he’ll never fucking know for sure! The point is: poor Clyde, he couldn’t stop falling out of real-life. It felt like flying but not the right kind of flying, offh. It was the worst fally feeling ever. Seriously the tips of needles were like tiny black holes that made him keep falling. He doesn’t know how to describe it though. He couldn’t stop switching settings but they weren’t real-life. Somehow he made it back here okay, though. It was kind of shitty sometimes here on the ground not high anymore — honestly sometimes just no fun, serious, he couldn’t avoid how serious it was, real-life for him after all that happened though — but it felt way better feeling lame, than say, dope.

She doesn’t think he ever flinched at her intentionally. She can’t prove anything. And yet it’s hard to control flinching and it was only one time. He probably wasn’t ever trying to hurt Lola on purpose. Lately in public Lola has been frequently flinching. She thinks it’s an innate form of self-defense, either to make people feel bad for her (and therefore be less likely to hurt her), or because her body does it naturally for Lola to rinse out her private visual realm. Or maybe it’s just her brain, doing something much less profound. Responding to external stimuli, not necessarily well. And yet she has a divine right to keep her private visual realm somewhat ratty but not tragic. Not sinfully messed-up with creepy-ass shit. But also not, like, antiseptically clean.

Silence is something that Lola shared with [X]. Not comfortable silence. Mostly awkward. They used to have sex in awkward-as-fuck silence. Someday she hopes to change that. Just remember the safe word. If you think we already have a safe word and ü know what it is, good.

So let’s say Lola’s right and she’s ever been “raped.” 

Ha. Lola couldn’t help but feel that her entire self belonged to a much larger body. But not “belonging” as an equal. Like a much smaller thing. Like a cell belonging to the body’s skin. Like she was just an unwanted skin cell on the body. And so the larger body brushed her away. She was meaningless waste to the larger body. But only because the larger body was so ugly. He hated her. On her own body she had unwanted cells too. She abused her own cells. She began seeing all her cells as ugly and treating them like lesser things. But only because she was being looked at cruelly by a larger body, also made up of little cells. As a result, she just wasn’t doing well. If the larger body looked at her fondly, she would probably would be doing fine.

But if she tried hard enough she could escape the larger body. There was hope. She abused herself with her own free will because she had to, in order to be deemed worthy enough in real-life. To stand out as different. To be a tremendous outcast. As pathetic as it sounds, to be herself. She had to be herself to her utmost potential. Otherwise she wasn’t cool enough. (Ice-cold!!) Otherwise she’d be better off giving up, because she didn’t matter. Because nothing mattered. Because she was a tiny cell just like the rest of them. Because she was only a particle. She didn’t have anything special. She was enslaved to a larger body called Time.

She only abused her body because she had to for the sake of Art (not Time…). She wanted to be Time’s favorite slave. That was her individual purpose. She couldn’t explain it no matter how hard she tried. She thought so by instinct. And she trusted her basest instincts for a hot minute there. They were all she had left in really, really dark times. She was meant to do it this way, not the more rational way. If she stood out enough, she might be deemed worthy. And pulled out of oblivion by a totally good man upstairs named capital-g Guy.

For Carol Quick, the trouble with being famous had a lot to do with, being cut off. And that’s how she always ended up, engulfed in her own sola work, alone. She sensed a gap, between her and the rest, and she couldn’t really bear another betrayal (from another) to save their ego. To put her down. So she, saved hers. She guessed. Not really though. She was just saving her ass, not her pride. Sometimes she couldn’t help but feel like, the endless cycle of publicity and performance, was kind of, well, pointless, I mean. Not going anywhere different, just into a state of being even further cut off—from humans other than, herself, all the time.

Logan Sloman might be different from the others. But, he was, a man. So. Just sayin.

Lola’s feelings about a Guy she wanted to marry—and she’ll NEVER say who it is, it’s just too creepy, it’s not herself as a man by the way (which might be worth clarifying, if not yet then, by the end of this section)—also anyway though her feelings about Carol Quick and Catherine Delaluna and Logan Sloman, were that, none of these stars were as cool as variations she sensed within them; sorry if all this is harsh and, who cares. Lola’d had her own stuff, and actually would rather be around lame people than cool ones. But what’s acting for. Point is? She got frustrated occasionally when she witnessed what Hollywood, and who-knows-maybe money, had ever in the past perhaps done to stars. She almost felt as embarrassed about their shameless vanity [on their behalf], as she did about her frank displays of ugliness which apparently no one else considered as ugly as she saw herself in those contexts. Even if it was subjective she was lucky, to have felt like the ugly one, because it’s kind of what brought her to him. To Guy, that is.

What each boygirl, or whatever, had on stars who had started young and [idk] pretty and suddenly rich at a young age, was an early life in which they probably did not have the option, to avoid hideousness in their home environments, or all environments, everywhere they went, no matter where it was. Mainly though in how they were treated by other people. They’d been poor, or whatever; they’d seen and been through a lot of sick shit. In their early lives, they actually developed a sort of fondness of ugliness, they didn’t even think of it as ugliness. It just was. (Life?) And they were drawn to what was bizarre and even, almost, like.. pathetic? Lola found, she preferred the weeds in the garden to the billion-dolla flowers, because, she could relate to needing a hard wack now and then. But ‘high’ art she eventually defined, as, a sacred space to streamline out all the ‘sick shit’—without, pretending as though it didn’t exist! Just not, quite, reaping it: the sickos.

As though weeds were worth the exact dang same as the tulips.

Mh, nice try. Not in my garden, na.

If what Lola & or Guy—technically just a crush she imagined—had seen and felt, ever affected their mental and physical health and made them more predisposed to attract/pursue mischief and addiction and toxic relationships, then it probably was exactly what a licensed psychologist would predict given their childhoods. Their parents had been users and experience with toxicity everywhere, it should be said, happened to align them with most of the human race. They learned, quickly from a young age, not to discriminate against the wretched. Chances are: that person, ratchet or whatever, had been through actual hell. And might actually have come out better. Deeper.

They themselves had a difficult time, defining what they wanted for themselves. Who’s they? Lola & or that Guy, who she’d been imagining sex with for years. It was creepy.

Something worthier, than, further hell-treatment. Than rape. Than bein gotten ridda. Did they even have a choice? If they didn’t used to deserve better, well. They deserved better by damn now. Don’t ya thank? It’s just that, spinning beauty from madness was actually… a unique ability that took a lot of practice to develop!! Trial and error. Failure. Being trell raped, not quite dying from it but, like, almost. Et cetera. And it was something they earned from being survivors, nothing more nothing less (than survivors)[each a them]—and now, they owed no one anything, but the other one’s trust. To trust yuh. It was a lifeskill, they learned out-of-necessity, and were still practicing but. Didn’t have to feel guilty about, having. The kind of sex you could never put a price on. The ability to handle sick shit, and make it, amount to… something else.

“I’ve been to meetings with plastic surgeons, my parents of course were disturbed by the thought of it so I’d go without telling anyone. I’d like plan my whole day to hide the meeting and be super nervous. The first time I went to place in Plymouth, Minnesota the dude seemed like kind of a scheister and only put in like 3 injections but the second time another doctor like really got in there and I think there were better results. Honestly hard to know because I think I did have a sort of dysmorphic sense of my face, or do still. Who knows literally there’s no way to know. It was in the Upper East side, the second meeting. I also asked that doctor about the surgery—the one I wanted, so much, like it was definitely a dysfunctional obsession—and he says he takes out a piece of the bone and the actual muscle. He also said to me, don’t get it. The first doctor hadn’t said that. But yeah, that was the second guy’s honest advice. I don’t know why he sized me up like the surgery wouldn’t work for me. But I remembered his feedback, he seemed sincere. And he said ‘some patients just go straight for that, surgery’ (which is what I would have done) [once upon a time]; maybe I’ll keep that in mind or just keep getting injections for the rest of my life, but, I think I just need to be careful about these things. Like damn..”

“Who’s, speaking??” asked Marilyn Monroe in a voice that sounded much younger than she legitimately ever was.

“It’s Morgan!! Please don’t tell anyone what I just explained to you. If I had been rich or just relatively well-off I’d already have gotten like lots of surgery TBH. Maybe that’s why I’m not well-off, because I’m THAT girl who’s like vain trash. That’s me. I got sooo obsessed with it, just surfing the internet though. It was probably so wack!! These days I don’t think I have the same life goals, though. The same as you, I mean.”

“Or you’d be Lola still.”

“Yupp,” she said in a bro voice. “I’ve changed back my name — to Morgan Wilcock. And I don’t even get injections right now but that’s probs just a money-thing, I’m not telling you how much I have in the bank.”

“Enough to pay for school.”

“Exacta-takilly. If I ever get surgery, and I might actually not, I’m not tellin’ yuh and it won’t be a boob job.”

“No?”

“I don’t think I’m going to be an actor, actress I should say. Otherwise: different game. I like my boobs though.”

“Have you ever seen all the time it takes for recovery, the gore of it?”

“Gore? Whoah. But yes I have, I’ve seen people I know go through it. It’s no joke, you need a place to rest and stuff.”

“Thanks for sharing all this, damn,” said Marilyn.

“Mh. I feel like saying ‘sorry,’ my bad. Damn..”

In high school, when Selena and Lola were still friends, they used to take nannying gigs together and split the earnings. They’d either babysit together or switch off days, when one girl had an after-school activity or homework to finish. The two girls joked once in actually-such horrible taste that if they were in charge of one kid individually, they’d kill it by mistake. They both had a hard time with young children (like most adults at choice moments), though of course there were exceptions. One such exception was a 4-year-old who lived in a penthouse a few blocks away from their private girls school in New York, they got paid well-enough to watch her and make a dime even between them. The girl they watched over was named was Grace.

One day after school, Selena and Lola, together as friends, decided to take Grace to the zoo. At the snack bar, while Grace ate a popsicle shaped like the mask of Spider-Man, Selena and Lola sat at a table and talked about the future, and whether they wanted kids of their own.

Selena said she wanted kids, but only if she found the right dad.

Lola said, “I’d love to have kids… but I’ve always suspected that I won’t live long enough.”

Selena almost was like, “what a horrible thing to say.” She didn’t say that.

Then Lola excused herself to go to the bathroom. She just felt awkward, like she regretted saying it too, so, she took a break.

For a moment after Lola got up from the table, Selena felt like she might start to weep. Not from what Lola said; Selena was used to these comments from Lola at the time, like, dramatizing her own life story, including her death, was Lola’s only priority in-this-life. No, Selena sat with this kid who was seriously so perfect, it seemed to her honestly. From that, she wanted to cry.

Grace finished her popsicle. Her face needed to be cleaned off. Clumsily, Selena poured some spring water from a bottle onto a napkin for Grace — also all over her own lap — and cleaned off Grace’s chin and mouth.

By the time Lola came out of the restroom, Grace looked like she was about to fall asleep with her face on Selena’s forearm.

Selena didn’t want to wake her.

So Lola sat back down, and they waited a moment longer.

“You’re done with college apps?” Lola asked.

Selena didn’t say anything. She just took a sip from her bottle of distilled spring water. Like, “don’t talk to me, now.” (God.)

When Selena lifted her arm doing this, though, Grace woke up.

The older girls asked Grace what she wanted to do next. She wanted to go home and watch some YouTube show called Lil Simples — Lola had no idea why Grace liked watching this channel about tiny toys like literally for hours, but, kids are cray and it was fine because it kept her distracted in front of a screen. Lola could do her homework. On their way out they went through the lobby, Grace stopped at a sign by an exhibit near the front. She tried to pull herself onto the plastic sign that contained information about the exhibit, so she could get a better view of what was behind the glass. She slipped and fell on her knees, then promptly got up and tried to climb the sign again. Grace fell a second time. Lola said, “no no no,” then got on her own knees, and felt (almost shocked by it, no definitely) the mother in her. Like literally what are these feelings so far from my self. She told Grace to climb on her back so she could see.

When Grace’s arms were securely fastened around Lola’s neck from behind, she said this choking: “See what it says there, amphibians, BREATH, water — while mammals, BREATH, air!!”

Meanwhile Selena read the sign aloud: “Eastern Indigo Snakes, commonly known as the Blue Bull Snake, are large, harmless, non-venomous, glossy-black snakes with smooth and shiny scales. They are native to the Southeastern Coast of America and are especially abundant in flatwood regions of Florida. Because they are non-violent snakes and pose no apparent danger to humans, they are subject to abuse from civilians, hunters, and illegal pet traders. Recently, Indigo Snakes have been classified as an Endangered Species, so that collecting, possessing, harassing, or killing them is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. The snake you are viewing has been a member of the Bronx zoo family for nine years, and is named Shaun.”

“I think I know what the problem is.”

“Huh?”

Noelle was talking to her daughter Catherine Delaluna, on the phone.

“The problem is that you and Ex both kind of assumed that being in a relationship together would be what saved you from everything else you were struggling with, privately,” Noelle said. “It’s like planning to move or travel somewhere else, to escape. And then feeling disappointed because—you’re the same person, no matter where you go to run and hide from yourself. It’s the same entering a relationship. You take yourself too.”

“Basically no one’s ever gonna save me,” Catherine summarized, but in a sort of whiny voice.

“I can think of some cases when you should give credit where credit is due.”

“Me too,” said Catherine, thinking of the time a friend literally gave her CPR on a yacht, after she fell off and wasn’t even unconscious but maybe, could have drowned. She wasn’t thinking of her mom — when that happened.

Noelle right na was thinking of some other examples which she wouldn’t disclose. “You’re lucky you have such a good team behind you. Not everyone does you know.”

“I knoww. I’m so grateful!”

“Ya.”

Catherine added, “I mean I don’t want all my relationships to be eeeasy, just maybe not as hard as they’ve been on me. Sometimes we wanna be challenged by people we trust! I wanna be great, Mom..”

“[no shit] Don’t we all but really, you’re ambitious I get that Catherine, it’s always been true for you.  And, I understand that friendship may have felt different for you, given your unique circumstances as an actress and the way people are about that,” Noelle acknowledged. “But I think you know the difference between a good thing, and someone you don’t even look forward to being with.”

“There aren’t that many people I look forward to spending time with,” Catherine said. “But, there are a few!!” She thought of Carol Quick and Benny Bluman too.

When Catherine’s boyfriend Benny Bluman, a newly famous musician, went online to check out his media, he saw a lot of comments like “fuck me!” and “my BABY” — and other ones that called him a fool or an idiot or fag or something like that. Some might qualify as low-key sexual abuse but whatevs. Rarely, rarely did Benny get anxious about finding comments that insulted his appearance, even though it was good but not perfect. It just wasn’t in his realm of worst fears. Slights on how he looked. Now, when Catherine went online and accidentally stumbled upon a few comments here and there, it was a whole different treacherous terrain of content, comparing her face and figure to other women’s, or to her former selves, and using words she didn’t even dream of using to insult someone human, discounting all she had worked hard to build for herself and taking any imperfection as proof of worthlessness. She knew that if these people weren’t safely guarded by the internet, they would have a harder time expressing themselves. But the internet gave people a platform to really take freedom of speech to a whole new level daaamn. Of course there were also, some glowing, good, encouraging comments—as many of them, maybe more—but those, um, weren’t the ones that Catherine remembered alone on bad nights or bad mornings in bed, for weeks. Those weren’t the comments that caused her to stay indoors for days when she didn’t want to deal with being seen publicly. The way Catherine approached the media was usually to be slightly aware of what was being said, at any given moment just so she was in touch with reality, and then kind of to ignore it — or if need really be, to casually address it by putting something out there maybe. She tried not to dwell, but sometimes the media came back and haunted her memory, and she couldn’t help but glance around for reports: the best of them? But no no. Don’t even try that ever. To look for “good news” online about oneself, was invariably a grave error. Let it just come to you lols. Still: Catherine took it as an odd blessing that while stalking a bit, just to do some background y’know — no one else but herself (that is, not him, too) read a totally revealing oddly-long article about her CATS singthrough written by Benny’s ex with some interesting lines in it! Catherine thought this girl he’d been with, Selena, was a talented writer, maybe also, just honestly though, picking up on the vibes in this piece, kind of a bitch perhaps. More noticeably to Catherine: pretentious. (Selena wasn’t pretentious, that’s the wrong word. But pretentious according to Catherine and Benny.) Like Benny had always said, Selena, was a brat!! But smart… she was very intelligent… Catherine had to hand that to her.

Grace said, “stop.”

“What’s the matter now,” Lola said.

They were in Grace’s penthouse. Lola was playing a Spider-Man videogame on Xbox 360, she was good at it. The game and device belonged to Grace’s older brother, Noah. There were some more age appropriate choices for Grace, in case she wanted to play videogames herself. But Grace seemed to insist that she just liked watching Lola play. It was fun for her. And usually she didn’t interrupt.

Lola paused the game. She was confused when Grace said, “I’m dizzy,” because Lucy was only watching the game from afar. She made the comment after Spider-Man fell from the top of a skyscraper and seemed to disappear between all the buildings, somewhere into darkness. When Lola asked the question again actually more concerned (“What’s the matter?”), Grace put her hands over her eyes. She said, “it feels like fall.”

“Like whatttt? It’s summer. You’re gonna have to explain, better–”

“Won’t stop.”

Now Lols was worried. She set aside her controller and picked up Grace. She seemed sick, it was true. “What feeling?”

“The fally feeling. I can’t make it stop.”

Lola actually thought she might know the feeling, and it was disturbing so. This wasn’t no joke. She remembered it from this one weird dream she kept having in grade school. She kept having this weird dream when she caught swine flu, and had to stay out of school for a while. When her fever was especially terrible, the weird dream would come back. It involved sitting in a boat with one other person. She never could see the person’s face, but she heard a voice. The voice would whisper in Lola’s ear, “do it, do it, do it…”

The weird dream would change setting sometimes but one thing stayed consistent. There were two entwined wires attached to a device in the bottom of the boat. And Lola held a remote control in her hand. She didn’t know exactly what the device was capable of…

“Do it, do it, do it…”

The monotonous tempo of the voice made her ill. Like if she listened to it devotedly, she would get this fally feeling in her head. It would feel like she was spiraling outward and inward simultaneously. Like she was drowning in fast- motion. At the end of the creepy dream, she’d see a crimson rainstorm.

Lola held Grace by the shoulders and said, “look! At me.”

Grace stared back but her eyes were all groggy.

Then Lols loony said, “keep looking in my eyes and the fally feeling, will stop. Trust me on this one, okitty kay. Ayyee.”

So, Grace kept looking into Lola’s eyes. In Grace’s head, she felt like she hooked onto something. But not in a painful way. More like Spidey’s web catching her. For a moment Grace felt like she was swinging slowly, not falling. Soft and smoothly. Everything grew cool, and quieter.

Lola asked, “did the fally feeling stop. Told you it would, BOOM. Saved ya, ay.”

Grace raised her eyebrows and tilted her chin up. She held her palms open in front of her. On one blade of the ceiling fan (turned off), she saw a spider hanging its web up.

Then she like, looked around, and got up like she was fine again.

“Sure,” was how Grace responded to Lola.

“Sure? Okay, I’ll take,” Lola put her hands up like don’t shoot. “Let’s take a break from the videogame though, how bout dah.”

This time was different. Clyde felt a bad kind of crazy. Not smart-crazy. Something else. Like his brain was malfunctioning. He looked around; everyone seemed fine, out in public. In fact they seemed happy. He looked up at the sky. There were hardly any clouds. But he heard helicopters. Helicopters at distance. Metal helicopters like velociraptors risen from dark parts underground.

Urrrggghhh that whirring sound…

He took a seat at a bus stop and put his hands over his ears. That sound, make it stop…

Clyde tried to slow down his racing mind with a few deep breaths and was successful. But now the whirring sound got too slow. Torpid and tiresome. He felt like his mind was a sieve containing quicksand. The quicksand was simultaneously squashing him and stretching him out. His eyes were being yanked away from their sockets. His jaw, falling downward like a phantom mask with a gaping hole for a mouth. He put his hands on his face; his body wasn’t literally affected. So these feelings must be happening to his soul, or spirit — not him though.

He wasn’t particularly religious but sometimes when he fell into his music, his mind tapped into some sort of spiritual drift. Now he felt, internally, that he’d coasted to a higher level. Like the brain he possessed was wayyy beyond human. Everything was so intense. He was accosted by sensations he’d never felt! It was too much to handle, it was making him unwell.

Clyde thought it might help to be horizontal, not vertical. He wanted to lie down on the bench of the bus stop and either take a nap or die. Instead Clyde hurried back to the hallway outside Benny’s dorm. At last, the sex sounds had stopped. He knocked on the door to the rhythm of a whistle he often mimicked in riffs on his saxophone. The whistling rhythm was taken from one of his favorite Tarantino films!

Knock. Knock. Knock-knock-knock.

Benny knew it was him. He opened the door and let Clyde inside.

On the bed by the window, Catherine — dressed in a way that wouldn’t call attention to her, a beanie cap actually, which she’d put back on after sex — sat with her head against the glass. She was looking down at the people on West 66th. The movement on the street beneath her looked programmed. People moved in straight lines and occasionally collided with one another in crowded places, like ghosts in a game of Pac-Man.

Behind her, Benny and Clyde were having a peculiar chat.

“Do you feel it man? Am I crazy… tell me I’m crazy,” asked Clyde. “I’m not crazy. I feel something’s different.”

“I feel pretty good,” said Benny. 

Catherine turned to the boys and said, “I should get going.” After the sex, she began to have the sensation of a migraine in both her head and chest. She thought it might have to do with Clyde’s presence. He seemed to dislike her automatically. She suspected he was jealous. She couldn’t tell if he was high or sober, she didn’t care to ask.

On her way out of the Juilliard building, where she felt like she wouldn’t get hassled even if she was recognized, Catherine Delalula saw a kid — much younger than the students, someone’s son or relative perhaps — sitting in the hallway with his legs tucked up and his face between his knees. She didn’t know why he was sitting like this but for some reason the sight of him caused the migraine in her head and chest to worsen hard and fast. Catherine thought that sitting in that position, and hiding one’s face deliberately, was a signal of fear more profound than any other. After she saw the kid, she felt some of that fear spark up her heart rate. She didn’t know where this fear was actually coming from. Hopefully, herself.

Lola fell ill with superhuman powers. She woke up and all her senses had been fused into one. It was like her brain had been infiltrated by hackers. Sights created sounds, which then created images that belonged to locations and time periods other than her own. When Lola looked at words, she heard ugly music: shrill tones, throbbing rhythms. Beneath the music—a hammering sound. It seemed as though language was a broken apparatus. Words were rusty cogs in a big contraption that had malfunctioned. Standard definitions were outmoded, she felt suspicious of writing on the internet. Most sites used words like weapons. They were plotting against her thoughts, now.

Above Lola’s bed there hung a strange painting. She’d first seen the painting a few feet to the right of a plastic trash bin in her preferred computer lab on campus at Columbia. On the night she decided to bring the painting home with her, Lola had just finished writing the closing scene of her latest screenplay. The screenplay took place in America following a nuclear attack. It was an abstract projection of how pop culture would be passed down in the future. Lola studied early Mickey Mouse cartoons. She developed a written vision of how characters would describe cartoons to one another while gathered around a campfire at night, sometime after all the electricity in America had gone out. Night after night, in the computer lab where Lola wrote most of the screenplay, she found the painting propped near the trash like an aborted vision left to rot. She couldn’t help but grow superstitious about the painting. (Why was it still there? Even after the other trash was taken out….) When Lola completed her screenplay, feeling proud of the result, she finally picked up the painting and carried it to her dad’s place in Queens. Perhaps it brought her creative inspiration. Perhaps it possessed some sort of charm. 

Yet now that Lola was equipped with hyper-sensory perception, she saw the painting in a much harsher light. When she viewed it she felt a strange tightness in her gullet. She wanted to puke. It was done in red, orange, and blue acrylic paint. The colors interloped in spirals that resembled tentacles. At first, Lola thought it looked as bad as any abstract painting left by the trash. She found it funny. No matter how bad it was, she was convinced that it contained magic in its canvas flesh. Lola still felt that way when she looked at it with her heightened perception. But if it contained magic, it might be a curse. To Lola, the painting looked like a bunch of parasitic worms. An infection in her vision. She needed to purge it from her sight. 

Lola decided the best way to rid herself of this painting—quickly and thoroughly—was to toss it in the Hudson River. How cinematic, she thought cynically as she carted it with her, on the train, she put it back from around where it came from. Shit’s, grossShe descended the stairs separating the raised cobblestone pathway from the grassy plane of the park. At the bottom of the stairs was a pilates class listening to Afrofusion Dubstep. Lola steered clear of the pilates class. She didn’t want to be seen. She passed the soccer courts and felt a tame melancholy when she saw the young players being yelled at by their parents. Such a harsh world, tho. On the ground by the public soccer pitch, Lola noticed something clean and neon. A tennis ball. She picked it up and stroked its nylon fabric with her fingers, before placing it back on the ground. 

It was around 12pm when Lola reached the Westmost point of the park. She climbed over a metal fence that separated Riverside from an untamed patch of weeds, drawing a few stares from park-goers. Lola could see the Hudson. A highway separated her passage to the blue-green river. Cars echoed past in both directions like cannons from two pirate ships at odds. Still, Lola was prepared to sprint through oncoming traffic to reach the river. (She had to get rid of this painting!) She looked both ways and noticed a parked taxi about a hundred yards to her right, with an off-duty light labeled “A122” and a bumper sticker that said: “Your Choices Matter Behind the Wheel.” 

As Lola approached the taxi, she tried to temper her impulsiveness with some rationale. The odds of making it across the highway alive were miniscule. It would be an idiotic move. Her only other option [not literally but it felt that way] was to take the painting downtown to the nearest pier by the Hudson, where Lola knew there would be no highway separating civilians from the river. But the pier was one of Lola’s favorite places in New York. She didn’t want to spurn this hideous piece of artwork onto such a beautiful setting. So Lola decided to eliminate this painting here and now. 

The stationary yellow cab seemed out-of-place in its surroundings, almost like it was hovering, though it wasn’t of course. Surrounding the cab was a rank pool of water, a puddle. An empty plastic gallon-bottle drifted along the surface like an abandoned lifeboat. Lola glanced inside the taxi and saw no driver. This meant she wasn’t being watched. Lola dropped the painting into the rank puddle of water. Without looking behind her, she made her way back toward the upper regions of Riverside Park. 

Lola had the sense that whatever she did by dropping the painting in the puddle, it was somehow important. She also had the sense that she had done the right thing by not throwing it in the river! Privately she experienced a change in gravity, like her feet were two showerheads and each hole shot poles of force into the ground beneath her. Her brain felt heavier. She wasn’t on drugs. Underrested sure. When she reached Broadway, she saw most people and felt the same way about them as she did about the painting. Like she wanted them out of her zone of sight. She felt threatened by everyone. She needed to get back to her apartment, or she might be mauled by these zombies and fall under the morbid stupor that had been cast on them.

Am I the only one who feels like this? Lola wondered. The answer was, yeahhhh. She began searching the facial expressions of other people on the sidewalk. 

She caught the gaze of a boy near her age wearing a pale denim baseball cap with no logo. He gave back a gentle nod, as if to confirm that she wasn’t alone. But other than this boy, most humans suddenly looked pathetic to her. They looked retarded, to Lola. She couldn’t think of a better word to describe most people in her perception of reality, right then. Retarded. Lola kept her eyes low, because when she got eye contact with the retards she felt like they were searching for empathy. (Not sympathy, they wouldn’t accept that, it wasn’t enough.) But she didn’t have unlimited empathy to provide, damn.. She wanted to save her supply of empathy for people she cared about, not these retards she didn’t know, no. If she got eye contact with them, she felt like she started growing dumber at a steady rate. If Lola rejected their eye contact, though, she felt as though the retarded wanted to ritard her.

At a corner, Lola was approached by a homeless-seeming East Asian woman with a thick matted braid, rolling a small metal cart on wheels. Lola made an effort not to look her in the eyes. The woman asked Lola for money. Lola said no twice. The woman persisted. Then Lola’s impulse control failed her. 

Get away from me. Go. 

Not all Things Pass

by Clyde Cohen Ryder [written hastily on Naltrexone]

There was the world as they saw it, through anyone’s eyes / A world promising safety and blue sunny skies

Then there was a world known only to them / Where she says ‘no one gets it’ and seizes your hand

Around them is darkness, lewd girls lying guys

The good ones don’t understand envy and pride

All it took was too much time spent apart / to tell the difference between true love and make-believe art

The difference came down to a soft set of eyes / how she’d rather just talk then be touched the first time

How walking away, you keel down and realize

If you lost her, all loves would be compromising / And maybe that’s how all people feel anyway

just don’t let her forget you, keep your thoughts for her safe

So they each kept performing / cleverly — they played dumb
no matter how many were watching

each performance was strong

You feel joy when you see her / in touch with it all

as she touches you back, feel yourself become well

there’s no one on earth who knows you like this

does no good, to overcomplicate it

Give thanks to the people who opened this door

In this era, stigma makes you love her even more / So put down your pistols and everyone sing

love and hate are Not the same thing

Next to you a pink flower, she’s a darker rose
When in danger, and you will be—you close and lock doors

It’s almost for safety, do bad things alone / So you can be good when their dad comes back home

You watch the other one’s sins and self-love
Though self-image is just a mirror of who you let up

You tell her when she falters, because you know that ain’t it

It’s not for control, you feel proud like of kids

neither one owns the other, well maybe a bit / Cause these days she knows her real self, better than before you kissed

“What’s wrong, Morg?”

It’s around 3pm on a blustery May afternoon in Minnesota. Through the day Ellen Rose Bilanow drives home from her office in a suburb of Minneapolis where she works as a private therapist. She receives a phone call from her daughter. It’s been a while since she’s heard from her. Morgan is currently a freshman in college, which means she’s usually quite busy, doing homework and still writing articles for the newspaper (in 2013). The second Ellen answers the phone, she can tell that her daughter’s been crying.

“I don’t know…” says Morgan on the other line. “I think that I just… Never mind.”

“What??”

“Everything just seems different, Mom. It’s like I can’t go back. I don’t know how to explain it though.”

Ellen detects an abnormal distance in Morgan’s voice, which she’s not used to at all. Usually Morgan jumps right into it, when she calls her mom first. This is what’s going on, Mom. But she hardly says a thing. Ellen grows all the more concerned. But she doesn’t want her daughter to know she’s concerned; that’ll just scare Morgan off. She knows Morgan doesn’t like it when she asks too many questions. So, Ellen tries to keep calm.

“How were exams today?” she asks.

“They were fine. I think I did well… Yeah, I mean. They were good.” (That first year she finishes with a 4.0 GPA.) 

There’s another long, prolonged silence between them. At this moment, Ellen starts to talk at length about a concert she attended, earlier that week.

“The Prince show was incredible!!! Dad loved it too. Prince was wearing this tight leopard suit, I sent you a few e-mails with articles—you can see what it looked like, it was amazing—and he played only new stuff. That’s what makes him such an original, he only plays new stuff!!! He’s constantly writing music. Constantly. He can’t just play old hits, he would go insane. I suppose that’s the sign of a true artist. The almost obsessive work ethic, huh?? You have that, Morgan!! … God, Prince is such a good fucking performer. Dad agreed, it was a great concert. And you know he’s an impossible critic, right?? … That’s one thing I do enjoy about your father. He’s always been fun to go out with. It’s just, that we never go out anymore… Are you still there??”

At the time, Morgan perceives her mom’s rant about the Prince concert as selfish. She somehow considers it narcissistic for her mom to take up her daughter’s time by talking about only herself, when Morgan is clearly having a rough day. So she keeps silent for another several seconds. A few hours later though: Morgan will realize that this is just what her Mom does when she’s nervous, she talks a lot, too much. Ellen does not have a bad case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, in spite of what several of Morgan’s therapists led her to believe. Well. Morgan is beginning to agree with her mom’s opinion — from that year — that most therapists in the world “fuck up” their clients much, much worse than when they start therapy. Ellen is a more talented therapist, naturally, than any of the ones Morgan has met in New York! And Ellen’s not a narcissist. Maybe confident, right, but that’s because she has a kick-ass survival story to be proud of! She doesn’t even overcharge her therapy clients, like most therapists in the world! Ellen’s a therapist because she genuinely likes to help people. Not for her own ends. Not for money. That is: there is good in the world. Ellen “just has a big heart” by nature. It’s actually true, tho.

This might explain why Ellen feels so hurt when Morgan finally breaks the silence.

“I don’t care.”

Lately, Ellen feels more distant from her daughter than she’s ever felt. And it’s not getting better. Her daughter’s bitter attitude. Her comments. Little does Ellen know, it will get progressively worse, and worse, and worse, probably culminating in a moment years later when Morgan will call her pathetic for crying in front of her then hit her (saying this, “stop crying”); almost more like a guy hitting his wife than a daughter fighting with her mom. That was like the worst year ever, 2020 by the way. Shortly after that fight, in 2021 she, Morgan, will move out from any parents or family member’s place at age 27 finally, pathetically. It will take distance before she and her daughter begin to recover closeness, like what they shared throughout Morgan’s childhood and adolescence. Or hopefully, something different, than what they had all the way back then.

“What do you mean,” asks Ellen (in 2013). “‘I don’t caaare.’ You don’t have to say it like that, you little brat. I’m just telling you about Prince because I thought you wanted to hear. You know how much fun I had. You know how much I love him. So you don’t have to go around shitting on everything Morgan. Constantly. Shitting on all my fun. You’re just like your father. Mean, mean, mean. I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately.”

As usual, Morgan chooses silence over a response. You’re meaner than I am, she thinks to herself. What Morgan had intended to discuss with her mom over the phone, was the fact that she just experienced some sort of intellectual-spiritual conversion after taking a literature exam on no sleep. In the exam, she felt she communed in spacetime with some of the greatest writers ever: Virginia Woolf. Dostoevsky. Saint Augustine. Montaigne. Homer. Like their spirits were suddenly in the exam room with her! It was, surreal. She wrote a funny letter a Woody Allen just after this happened which a Columbia professor e-mailed to him. On the phone that day, she hasn’t yet the got a response from him by e-mail, a hastily written response to Morgan’s note that in family folklore is now infamous (not corrected for typos): “Heart felt but muddled, which probably means I got it.” Anyway, on the phone Morgan decides not to bring up the thing about the exam room, it’s all too strange. And, she thinks it hurts Ellen’s feelings when she talked about literature too much; it makes Morgan feel pretentious.

“I’m gonna go,” says Morgan.

Before Ellen can respond, her daughter hangs up the phone.

As Ellen pulls into the driveway of the blue two-story house where she raised her two daughters, she receives a text from the older one, saying I’m out of money. Ellen is sick of this entitled shit. She feels unappreciated. Nobody cuts her any slack, after all she does for her daughters and husband. Her older daughter of two, Alexis, has a tendency lately to be aggressive, demanding, and territorial. (Maybe she’s an alpha female? Ellen thinks.) But Alexis is extremely sensitive. She’s only harsh toward people to protect her fragile-ness. Alexis goes to Barnard, and is two years older than Morgan—but when Morgan decided to attend Columbia, Alexis was unwelcoming toward Morgan. Perhaps she was a little jealous that Morgan got into the “better school,” even though Barnard was a much-better fit for Alexis than Columbia would have been anyway. She knows it hurt her younger daughter, how Alexis was so distant all year long—and she feels upset with Alexis for being like that. But it’s just how Alexis is; she can’t help it, perhaps. Both her daughters are Capricorns. (Alexis is a Libra rising. Morgan is a Pisces rising.) Both have always been fiercely independent. Alexis doesn’t want Morgan all up in her grill in New York City, that might be all it is.

Plus her older daughter had a rough year herself. Poor Alexis had recently been seeing man in his thirties who treated her wonderfully whenever he was with her—but then dogged her for several week- or month-long stretches. He ignored all of Alexis’s calls and texts, and treated Alexis like nothing. 

Ellen feels worried that her younger daughter, Morgan, has been spending too much time alone. Ever since her third year of high school, Morgan has been noticeably reclusive. Morgan grew more depressed for a while at age sixteen, when she got fat: by fat we’re talking, like 135 pounds. She lost like 25 pounds, had a good few years, then gained it back. In 2013, a good year, she looks just a bit anorexic. (You can never be too rich or thin in New York!! Ellen understands.) She knows that Morgan went to Columbia hoping to make smart friends, but found that most kids at Columbia were beyond hyper-intelligent to the point that may might also have Asperberger’s in the social realm. Later Morgan would become like this, and even more isolated. Not to mention Columbia is incredibly grueling on its students, like academic boot camp! (A good fit for her younger daughter, who’s quite intense.) For this whole year so far, her younger daughter hardly had a second to think straight, let alone socialize! Morgan did meet like one older girl she thought was cool and liked to talk about occasionally—but from Ellen’s point of view, it appeared as though the older girl was using her younger daughter to do busy-work she didn’t want to do for the college newspaper. It seemed dysfunctional.

In the long run, Ellen’s not worried about Morgan—she belies she’ll be successful. It’s just what kind of person she is. Plus in Morgan’s star chart: the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Uranus, and Neptune are all in the 11th house, which means she’s likely to have a strong network of friends and supporters.

What Ellen is worried about is whether she herself will survive long enough, honestly, she knows there are some concerns about her health. She’s older than most mothers. She’s currently sixty-three. Ellen didn’t have kids until her early forties, because she lost a decade of her life to drug addiction (in the 1970s). But Ellen has faith that God will keep her around long enough to at least see some of each her daughters’ most resounding future successes! Ellen’s not exactly religious— she doesn’t attend Church or Synagogue—but after she survived absolute hell as a call-girl in New York, she might have started believing in stuff. At the end of her nine years in New York, Ellen probably had some sort of spiritual conversion. She just felt like everything was different. And from then on, she believed in good karma. Good karma, and good instincts. Luck might or might not be the same thing. 

Logan Sloman asks the author of this text, “How do you spend all your time.”

“I’m supposed to be doing homework for pre-med school but I feel like this time is a good time, to finish this project. Which I’ve been working on for seven years since 2014 (I just tried writing a novel, it wasn’t really working). Or technically 2016 when I got the first few lines which I’ve edited a bit honestly hard-to-explain to be less unkind, so five years of this life.”

“But what else is there, do you just write.”

“I got weird Logan.”

“What? That’s not what I asked.”

“I said I got WEIRD and I felt like I had to repent — that’s why I’m writing this, it’s been why probably for all that time. The heck!! How else do I intend to be a good healer..”

“Did you get weird, or you just think you did.”

“It’s all documented. There’s FILMED VIDEOS I made them, so I guess it’s not up to me to judge but yes.”

“How would you define weird.”

“I already defined it for your girlfriend somewhere earlier in this book. I think though what I mean is, when everything — literally everything — makes me tick, like, I want to laugh and smile boo pi doo, I think I’m in kid-mode!! Sick, and that’s been ever so strange, I’m sick of it I want to be serious. Take me seriously na!!”

“Is that why you’re becoming a doctor. To be taken more seriously than, if you’d been a comedienne.”

“To lose the weight? Definitely, not — nor is it to help other people with that (it’s a popular field, lucrative, so is plastic surgery). And I know you that didn’t ask me Logan, but.”

“True, I didn’t ask.”

“No no, no sir — I’m becoming a doctor because I wanted to go back to school rather than work at a Target or keep living sheepishly with my father Scott who I do love dearly, and it’s a much heftier story. And I only brought up my weight because I thought people might interpret me saying ‘I got WEIRD’ as — ‘I got fat.’ Definitely not true, that this would be the correct conclusion to come to. Or that anyone would come to that. Why would they! But it’s all in my head, anyway, and this has been very exposing as-it-were so. Yeah.. I’m out of it.”

Lola went back to Marilyn Monroe, and said, “can I tell more about my days please.”

Marilyn didn’t even like her that much. So she said nothing.

Lola continued, “I’m probably, honest to God, just going to fast I mean wax it off. I’ve been practicing for years, I literally know exactly what to expect. It’s not fun, it’s like very painful, it might not last long-term.”

“You’re rat phobic then.”

“I have had some very bad experiences with unratty people — also myself while unrattier than now, like losing my mind, even WORSE than now while ratchet, in ways I feel were probably deserved; like bad, bad.. — so I don’t think that’s it, no no. It’s more about gender or I should say sexual expression IMO.”

Here she is ladies and men, Marilyn Monroe, late feminine icon (of the 1950s and early 60s), a good counterexample to questions Lola has and won’t try to answer anymore regarding the 2020s and 30s when she intends to make at least one gentle film.

“Are you queer?”

“No one has to know.. But obviously, if there’s ever going to be a record of me saying how I proceeded after finishing this project (prone to edits, this scene must go — it makes no sense) there it is, me on the record.”

“It’s interesting how you write everything assuming people will ever, ever to care to read it. Or like everything’s about to change in April 2021, when that’s not the case,” said Marilyn (to Lola), who was dead and not like, someone she’s channeling either or she’d adopt her voice.

“Yeahhhh I’ll confess that too while I’m at it. That’s probably been the least appealing thing about me, to men. How full of myself I’ve been! I literally couldn’t help it, it was just me being myself as ‘Lola Morgan.’ It’s been like retarded, the decisions I’ve made because of that. Otherwise I’d be married, to the Guy describe at the end of this chapter.”

Damn.. son, awkward.”

When Morgan was nine years old, she went on a spring break trip with her parents and older sis to Playa del Carmen, Mexico (which they couldn’t afford but Mom put on the credit card). While there, Morgan’s family took a day trip to a Mayan ruin called Chichen Itza. Morgan climbed up the stairs of the main temple at Chichen Itza, called El Castillo, faster than anyone in her family. She was an athletic girl. Before the others made it to the top, she stood there and stared down at the ground: people gathered, taking pictures, looking up.

Morgan felt at peace.

In Mexico, Morgan and her mom began a long-running inside joke, involving a black-and-white stuffed cow that Morgan received as a birthday gift that year from a close friend Kelly. She named the stuffed cow Uma, definitely after the American actress from three great Tarantino films. The gist of the elaborate Uma narrative was as follows.

Uma E. Lavaca was born to an abusive mother, Marge, on a farm in upstate Minnesota. Marge got impregnated with her while having an affair with a breeding bull on the farm (named Elmer) who was promptly shipped off elsewhere after the breeding. “Your fatha Elmer abandoned me as soon as I got fat, Uma!! It’s your fault,” Marge used to remind her daughter often.

Uma had two younger sisters who were twins: Irma and Nadine. They were much thinner than Uma. As a result Marge loved them more than Uma, it seemed. “Your sisters fell out of me like a drop slide!! After I had you, it felt like nothing for those girls.” Marge used to buy Irma and Nadine nice clothes, and neglect to do so for Uma. At night in the barn alone, Uma wept herself to sleep.

Then along came Aunt Bovina. She recognized Uma’s talent, and bought her braces for her teeth. Bovina was a showgirl from Las Vegas. (This is all made-up, keep in mind. Not literal-anything.) She saw that Uma had natural swag by the way she held herself, and thought she’d make a good dancer. Along with the braces, she bought Uma ballet lessons.

Uma loved to dance. As she got older she moved beyond ballet to modern dance and tap—then finally, hip-hop. She was so talented, as a dancer, that she was hired by a casting director for Prince to be a back-up dancer on his upcoming tour. That’s how she got off the barn.

On tour, Uma was noticeably superior to her back-up dancer peers. Prince liked her too and gave her a 10-minute solo dance break in the middle of his show while he changed outfits. The dance break was recorded on people’s iPhones and shared via Youtube, where it got hundreds of millions of views. Now that Uma had been legit “discovered” by the People proper, she was hired as a back-up dancer in music videos by Gaga, Béyonce, and Bieber—among others. Having Uma Lavaca in a music video guaranteed some exposure to a specific crowd; in fact you could you expect your follower count to go up noticeably. There were fan blogs devoted to her, worshipped by girls who might not be conventionally gorgeous but happened to be incredible dancers like Uma. With the green she earned as a famous back-up dancer, she loved to travel.

Where??

To Playa del Carmen, where it all began. In Playa, Uma spent most of her time at a dance club called Carlos & Charlie’s. (This noisy joint was located next door to the condominium where Ellen and Morgan were staying, when they developed this narrative.) At Carlos & Charlie’s, Uma met the love of her life and soul-mate, Hector del Toro. He was an extremely wealthy business mogul in Mexico, who owned hotel chains, restaurants, banks, etc. He also happened to be quite shy and sensitive. He didn’t talk much; Uma was the diva in the relationship, without a shadow of a doubt. He pampered her and funded her high way of living. He also didn’t really mind that she sometimes got frisky with other boys; they trusted each other enough to know that they were Number One in each other’s heart, even if they (for the most part just Uma) had promiscuous tendencies.

Despite having had a lousy childhood, Uma visited her home in Minnesota quite frequently. At home, she helped Marge take care of Doris Lavaca—Marge’s mother, Uma’s grandmama. Doris was ancient and in a wheel chair. It was never clear exactly how old she was, though she had an expired Driver’s License that indicated that she was far and long past one hundred. Doris rarely said a thing, and when she did it was usually something racist, actually though, horrid. Marge would often wake up in the morning and see her mom, unmoving on the couch, and think she was dead. Then Doris would say something like: (phlegmy cough.) And Marge would be like “shit I thought I’d gotten rid of her.” Uma, on the other hand, was always thrilled to take care of her grandmama. She would wheel her through shopping malls, where Doris would turn heads with her stench. Uma would also take Doris with her to the Walmart where Uma’s best friend Chardonnay worked as a cashier. Uma and Chardonnay would flirt with male shoppers at Walmart, then go out with them and get the guys to pay for dinner at roadside food chains: Wendy’s, iHop, Hooters. Occasionally Uma would go on spending sprees at Walmart and charge things to Hector’s credit card. One time—just before the holidays—Uma came home with a hot tub and a huge electric Manger Set, all purchased at Walmart. She and Marge set-up the hot tub and Manger Set in the yard just outside the barn. Marge would sit in the hot tub for hours, reading cheap novels and chain-smoking, while the manger set flashed its lights and played holiday music all-year-round. Sometimes she left Doris in the hot tub alone, hoping she would die overnight. But Doris refused to die. She would have accidents in the hot tub which Marge would never be the one to clean up, asking Uma to please use Hector’s credit card to pay someone else to clean it up. Uma always said sure.

Anyway.

Throughout Morgan’s years in middle school and high school, she accumulated a collection of stuffed animals and porcelain figures (all cows) which represented different characters that bore some relation to Uma. She’d rather not share beyond just the main players, that’s the tip of the Uma narrative.

She doesn’t like cows quite as much anymore. In 2021 Morgan lives in New York by herself.

Morgan wrote a college-essay about Uma that helped earn her admission to three Ivy League colleges, including Columbia. So if it weren’t for Uma Lavaca—and her mom’s inspiration as a storyteller—the author might still be living back at the ranch in hoe-bunk Minnesota, yucky. And she might still go by “Lola Morgan,” which sounds like a stage-name and was, though the reason for this last sentence and its connection to the preceding paragraphs is not easy to pinpoint.

Of all the imaginary friends Morgan’s had, the weirdest situation in her imagination was with a character named Lyra — named after, but not the same as, the lead character in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, which she might have gotten into more (at least for a phase, growing up) than Harry Potter. She imagined Lyra as a fan of “Lola Morgan” who she didn’t know about but who genuinely was a fan. She basically didn’t have any others. Then she had a dream, literally a vivid dream of her own character Lyra, in which Lyra had done drugs, like some really bad, bad drugs, partly inspired — or indoctrinated, rather — by the bad, bad choices Lola Morgan had ever made.

It was well-timed, enough — the dream — because shortly after she’d just figure out subjectively, privately, from comprehensive medical treatment that: well, she was alone (with all this, no God, no friends, not even doctors she trusted) and at some point indeed without question had suffered a TBI, which is an acronym for a traumatic brain injury.

But the choices she made alone, defined her, far more than her abilities.

Harry was used to love from fans so he expected support when he [at first] sorta moibe wonted to say ‘i’m trans’ but Hermione said ‘epepepepeppep’ because, she was in-many-ways smurdah than Harry [and Ron who brought the dick game home, with his fire rellacock] and, Hermione had done her homework and understood that—the same fans who loved his shit at present would consider, the trans fang, crossing the line. Or, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. And they might be nice at first but then would be mean. Savage, even, because people wouldn’t know what to do with it. And having grown up a mudblood, Hermione knew people’s worst sides, better than their best sides perhaps. Same as how they’d react to news of a TBI, which rhymes with TMI. It would bring out the bad not the best. Hermione just knew, that was probs fonn be true of trans thing, at that specific time and place where/when Harry was considering this. They wouldn’t be as supportive of this specific trans Guy, maybe of others but not him right at that moment, as they were of everything else so hunky dory that was fashionable to like-like-like. It was just that type of thing, that, would finally reveal people’s true natures to Harry Potter whose face had a scar. Being closet trans as the Harry Potter was still harder than, being a closet lesbian [like Hermione was] [with Harry, who was trans]. And these were real facts.

His favorite movie was Taxi Driver. He told Lola, “you should watch it,” and sent her an e-mail with a link. The link was not to Taxi Driver, but to his own feature film which he’d shot as a sophomore at Yale. It was an impressive feat, that he’d made a whole movie at such a young age. It took Lola a few weeks to finish watching the whole movie. It was a bit long, and there were some issues with the sound. But the thing that stood out to Lola, most, was that there was only one female character in the whole three-hour film. She was a ballerina, and it didn’t actually bother Lola that she was ballerina who danced quite well c/o a comprehensive casting process, but that she was basically the only substantial female character in a three-hour film.

The way Lola met Reid was the way most people met him: he started talking to her out of nowhere. She was bare foot, wearing a pair of red athletic shorts and a T-shirt with cows on it, waiting in line at the hospitality desk on campus because she’d locked herself out of her room. It was an accident. Reid walked past the desk on his way out of the building. He was holding a camcorder he’d checked out from an equipment room in Dodge Hall. At the time, Reid was visiting a college friend at the film school; Lola was a sophomore. He was her only friend off-campus that year. He was a bad alcoholic, he’d be willing to admit. He used to send her e-mails and texts when he drank, then wake up and realize what he did. One time he called her a cunt in an e-mail, other times sexy things that weren’t actually that mean. He brought flowers to the library desk where she worked, with a note attached that said, sorry. He wanted to be her boyfriend; Lola never did because she was a closet queer. Reid agreed that in Lady Meets the Reaper she “didn’t look the best,” but that wasn’t the only video or pic and she’s been over this, her ego or whatever you want to call it that got in the way of her things with men. Then he sent her more e-mails while drunk. Censored. Next morning, he knocked on the door of her dorm room and said, “I’m so sorry, please let me make it up to you.” He bought her tickets to the U.S. open with Serena Williams which was a good time. He bought her tickets to a boxing match, where they saw Louie C.K. in the audience. And the Scorsese exhibit. She’ll never forget—all the dates. He wrote her a song on guitar. The lyrics said something along the lines of: “Sorry, I don’t know why you put up with me.” Lola didn’t know what to say, honestly she never did. Because she didn’t know if she loved him, everything she said regarding that was truthful. She’d rather not write about Reid, from now on. It didn’t work out. She doesn’t know why she even brought it up, besides to give some backstory. Literally oh well. 

[13: Fancy pants private school]

By his senior year, [X] was probably the most talented boy in the unusually competitive theater department at his high school. He was cast as the role of Melchior, the lead, in the department production of Spring Awakening. It was a long time coming. For years, at his high school, he’d been teased and called “faggot” by boys in gym class. He never did that well with girls, either. But he knew he wanted to fuck them! And that’s all.

After Spring Awakening opened, he found he was suddenly hot shit at his high school. Like, plenty of girls were giving him looks that made him want to take their clothes off right there and then. He had to control himself, though, obviously—he didn’t want to get suspended or expelled—so instead he sent them texts. Weird texts. Texts that said clitoris and vagina as non-sequiturs. He just couldn’t control his fingers on the keyboard of his phone. And when the girls told him to stop, he kept sending them texts! Not always weird texts. He got better at the texts. More like, hey do you want to hang out sometime. They would hang out with him, and decide he was “weird” and “awkward” and a “loser.” And they’d stop responding to his texts. He was stalking them.

Then [X] got upset.

He would ask them literally, in the texts, why don’t you love me. And they wouldn’t respond.

[X] just got depressed. Really, really depressed. For a year (after high school) he studied at Manhattan School of Music, to learn how to write movie scores, but it didn’t work out. Girls didn’t like him there, either. Besides, writing movie scores would be a waste of an amazingly talented musical composer. (Like the next Jason Robert Brown, but darker.) At Manhattan School of Music, [X] slept for fifteen hours per day. So his therapist told him to come back home to Minnesota. [X] came back home to Minnesota, and lived at home, and saw doctors. The doctors gave him SSRIs and told him he was smart but needed to get his shit together. [X] played video games on his laptop. Not violent video games. Old strategy games, like Myst and Riven, mostly to listen to the video games’ scores on his headphones. The music in the video games conveyed isolation and alienation from the rest of the world in a way that was pure and plain beautiful. [X] played the games again and again. The games got boring. [X] got really, really bored. Bored and really depressed. Hopeless.

In the past, crime looked like gunshots and shattered shop windows. Rapes. In the future, that wasn’t crime. That was everywhere. In the future, crime looked like cartoon characters popping up on your laptop. Cartoon animals like orange snakes and big rabbits and spotted giraffes. Cute cartoon animals. Smiling. But there was something off about them. Something off about their eyes. Something off about their smiles. Certainly something just off about their movement. It didn’t feel right. It got under your skin and made you tired. You watched it and felt an eerie frenzy that fell back through your eyes to your brain. Crime was an attack on the gazes. Not the bodies. Crime was an attack on the minds. Spooky cartoon animals that sabotaged your ability to stay online. To watch videos; to stay in touch with your body. To write e-mails; to stay in touch with real friends. To think about them. On the internet, cartoons attacked your gazes and got in your head. You closed your eyes at night and tried to touch yourself, and found the cute animals were still there, spooking you all night! Your body was sabotaged too, it wasn’t alright. At night, you couldn’t stay in touch with others. So lonely people left their rooms. They went back to the movies to purge their minds of cute cartoons. The movies became more important. Films, rather. Films guided by trustworthy gazes: about intimacy, including bodies being [a] touchy [subject], and about humans. Not cartoons.

Flashback to the gig that night, where Clyde collapsed. He heard cartoonish sounds, grooving around between the ledger lines and notes of each artist’s riffs like little jungle creatures, banging their bongos and shaking their bottoms like they’re all high on shit.

Cause this, friends, is what it feels like to be blitzed on “H.” According to Clyde. Like all the nerves in your body and brain are suddenly creatures way out of your own control. Grinning cartoon creatures colored red and yellow and orange for funky tunes, and blue and green for ballads. Grooving at wavelengths only a doped up mind can detect. Mad creatures. Naughty saboteurs that make you pant for sex and more junk to keep your system from destroying your sick dusty troller soul. You may feel inhabited by the freaky juju. Like you can’t boog-a-looga without them. Like they’re the reason you’ve got your pants on, you’re dancy pants. And yet—they’re also the reason your freak-soul feels disgustingly sick. Like your soul has just been RAPED by demons. And it’s no longer yours, your self’s.

And yet, it feels so sensational, to be that out of control.

Clyde supposes he did all this, to Himself, because being out of control of oneself cuts some of the pressure for a second. Like, if you literally can’t control your feelings, actions, desires (courtesy of “H.”) then you’re not responsible for them. It’s the durggs that’s doing the damage. No typos. And another reason H might be an overachiever thing, is because it’s like, the worst possible fang you can get hooked on. Making history!

If you can’t be the best of the best, you can be the worst of the worst…

Lola dances her mad-ass off. She remembers dancing like this in London. But not quite as passionately. She lost it all, later it’s true. In a room lined with mirrors, dancing, she remembers watching videos of Amy Winehouse’s last several performances in London, and how it seemed so tragic back then. Lola thinks as she dances—it seems less tragic!! Do you even know what she must have been feeling…

Bloop bloop, something’s fishy na.

She could hear the gluppy cartoon creatures between the ledger lines. And they tamed the creatures enough to keep them grooving around in their music at wavelengths just low enough that the undoped masses would never know they were there. Those colorful cartoon creatures. Banging drummies and shaking their bongaloo bums.

In her small single room alone, she danced. She danced like no end. There was no tomorrow for Lola, nothing was going to get her out of this trap. So Lola danced till she murdered herself. She danced in reigny chains. She danced with vengeance in her footsteps, and screaming eyes like a sadistic nurse, in the loony bin where they left. Lola danced her fucking name off. She danced to self-disdain.

“I can’t trust you people. How can I? After you saw what was happening and still didn’t vote. Or voted for him… Now you act like it’s not that big of a deal. For you, it’s no big deal. You’ll be fine. For me?”

“Your mistake is assuming that people voted for Trump for you in the first place. Because they hate you.”

“Didn’t say that, I know of a lot of brothers who–“

“–people voted for Trump for themselves, themselves man. Because they feel neglected, and miserable, and scareddd man. They want helppp man. And Trump recognized them. He pulled them into the election! Said stuff that made sense, to them. People who haven’t voted in decades. Not only white people.”

“Yeah whut the fuck. Don’t tell me ‘what my mistake is.’ Don’t tell me that white men are the victims, here. Less-educated whiteys who happen to be rabidly racist. When Trump says, ‘make America great again,’ he’s saying, ‘make America white again.’ How can you deny that, it’s blatant.”

“I didn’t deny that Trump himself is a bigot — sometimes, sometimes, I’m saying, people aren’t doing their research. They aren’t listening to the media either. Trump turned them against the media, I didn’t deny. You know what he did too? His campaign crews went into impoverished parts of America, gave people meals, and asked them to vote. That’s all people noticed. Plain hospitality.”

“You know what else Trump did? Studied Hitler’s speeches! Passed out swastikas at rallies! You know fuckin sh–”

“Ugh I can’t speak with libtards who compare Trump with Hitler! There’s no reasoning with you people! Hitler? Really!!?”

“Libtards. Good one. Yep. Really, really, YEP, It’s not that big of a stretch. Who’s not doing their research. Myyy, Goddd. If this weren’t my job, I’d–”

“Listen, man. I don’t think this is for me!! I’m going to ask if I can change trainers. And it’s not because I’m racist, it’s not — so don’t tell me that’s what it is. Okay, I’m leaving.”

“Yeah, let’s agree on that.”

Clyde overheard this argument between a black trainer and his white client at the gym where he was signed in as Benny’s guest, in the Upper East Side. When the two guys saw Clyde eavesdropping, they cast him a glare like they both wanted him assassinated. All week he’d been getting bitter glares at the gym. This is getting out of hand, Clyde thought, when his dumbbells got snatched up by a much burlier man. The music was blasting so loud that Clyde felt like he was in a nightclub. He must have missed the memo about attire. He wore a cotton T-shirt and shorts; everyone else had on workout clothes that looked Olympic-grade. Clyde tried to keep to himself but the gym was too crowded. Finally he left the gym, without telling Benny, and put in his earbuds as soon as he reached Central Park. On the long walk home, he listened in earbuds to his early Bird, who helped him a long way. Maybe not all the way, being who he was, graceless. A crude face.

He was a white male in his early twenties, never the pretty boy. Why did he seem to have a harder time with life than other guys. Why was his view of human nature so shitty, why why. Was he trying to be blacker than he was, not a jazz bro, a real jazz artist but no no? Clearly, more masculine? Less of a cuck? He wasn’t supposed to be this unhappy. He was supposed to be satisfied. Instead he felt eager to die. Even the monsters deserve to be loved, a music history professor said once while giving a lecture on a hero to Clyde, Charlie Parker. Did Clyde agree. The lecture revealed how Charlie Parker could be a real rockhard rellaprick. How he stole people’s money and used it for drugs, in the back of taxis he had girls on his lap lapping him off. How he treated lesser artists like scum. Charlie Parker wasn’t remembered for being a monster. He was remembered for his music. Yeah, thought Clyde. That’s what got him straight, the songs, why oh why oh shit, oo na na.

The primary responsibility of a professional lifeguard is to ensure patron safety and protect lives.

Consent
•State your name
•Tell the victim you are trained to help & what level

•Ask the victim if you can help
•Explain what you plan to do
• Battery — touching a person without consent

 

When I’m with [unfamous] I feel no shame about unshackling a tempestuous inner spirit, which I’ve kept tamed and thoroughly hidden ever since I started college 2 years ago. (In high school, at least, I felt I could “let loose” around my closest friends.) For some time I tried to be polite to everyone. Being blunt, I was told, can only lead to burned bridges and lost loves. But being nice to everyone is no way to live — not if you want to brawl with the strongest, most exotic beasts of the metropolitan jungle… So far in New York, I’ve paid my dues as the victim of subtle yet ferocious abuse from other women! I’ve been left in the gutter with a maimed sense of self. Now I’m careful to veil my vulnerabilities, or I’ll be mauled to death.

[Unfamous] and I met in a screenwriting class, a habitat wherein I’d feel confident enough to ignore shitty feedback from classmates. The first time we workshopped ten pages of my latest screenplay, I cut it off straightaway.

“This is really, No. You aren’t reading it right. Can we please stop?” I told the class.

My teacher must have sensed that I was prepared to make a scene. He said, “fine,” but later asked that I don’t ask for special treatment.

The next week he gave a spiel about roundtable etiquette and manners. [Unfamous] cast me a sidelong glance. I suppressed the impulse to laugh, derisively.

After class we went to a bus stop. Our bond was creative and felt really strong. After one chat I trusted [unfamous] enough to divulge some dark details about dangerous loves lost. Like her beauty, [unfamous]’s intelligence was seriously untamed at the time, based more on instinct or just base survival than much meticulous effort at all. By our second mutual rant in the basement of a residence hall called John Jay, we had a thorough sense of the vast emotional terrain we had in common. By our third, we ended up relocating to a bar, where we ordered a pair of cocktails spiked with absinthe and blood.

Kidding about the blood! Ayh, it was around 6pm on a Sunday, so the bar we attended (The Hamilton on 109th and Amsterdam) was not particularly crowded—save for several old men wearing flannels and caps. So when a certain Blonde Actress from my past traipsed in with an entourage of only guys not lovely ones, I felt strongly that it was not a coincidence! My creative pheromones must have been on. Would it be appropriate to say “hi”?

I met the Blonde Actress a couple summers prior in an improv comedy class open to the public. She was the only person in the class I really remembered—not just because she was a talented actress (and I’m always keeping my eye out for actors I can hire; in this case for the role of Vivian in Kill or Kiss). She had a masterful way of making sure she left an impression by tossing out delicious scraps of gossip, about herself. In 2012, she won America’s Next Top Model [cycle 18]. The night before one of our classes, she attended a party alongside Emma Stone and Woody Allen. After that, she found herself in a thrall with her long-time personal enemy, Lindsay Lohan (“the only girl I consider a ****,” she accidentally let slip, “and I don’t say this ever”). The Blonde Actress’s unparalleled good looks among our classmates in improv caused them to drool over her with an honestly-dorky need to impress, which she lapped up like a juice cleanse spiked with shots of narcissism! Around me however, she was always kind of cold. I think it probably helped my performance at our end-of-term show (which went well).

Yeah, we both had our eye on the other. I knew she was talented; she knew I was a writer-director and a decent actress in that class. Leaving the bar I offered a sharp glance, which I’m hoping she received peripherally. I did not say hi though.

I bled the heavy liquor I’d swallowed in a dank and potent sweat. That night in bed, I began to feel paranoid about the effects my frequent consumption of alcohol might have on my health, trollthfully. One Google search after another led me to a page of before-and-after pictures of Lindsay Lohan when she was an alcoholic drug-addict, versus sober. The alcoholic Lindsay looked much more like me than the sober one. I felt deeply insecure about not looking like sober Lindsay, or probably like the other one, so — I decided to make a post on my secret Instagram comparing myself to her!

While unconscious, I dreamed that Lindsay Lohan posted an Instagram comeback to me personally, featuring a picture of me that looked even worse than I do in real-life!! Let’s say, the caption read something vaguely along these lines.

So you think you been through hell already? Believe me cunt. It gets better.

She was right! I can’t remember much else, besides that I deleted the post as soon as I woke up. Then my entire account. Swaggy.

What sinister forces were swept into my consciousness with the entrance of the Blonde Actress in the bar? I hope to have them purged as soon as possible, grr. For female friendship, I’m sticking with [unfamous]. Still, I intend to work with the Blonde Actress someday, perhaps if it’s not too awkward. She’s the only one, who’s bitchy enough. And by bitchy enough I mean good enough for the role; unless I meet someone better I don’t know.

“GOOOOOD MOOOORNING LOOOOOLLAAAAA,” said John Bayardelle, a painter/artist who once appeared quite accidentally just like, doing a back flip in an amateur dance video that went viral on Beyoncé’s Instagram.

After saying good morning he started dancing to JT’s “Filthy,” like a near-psychotic person.

Lola was in the living room, too depressed about being 140 pounds, just off some bad meds, she could hardly even look up from my laptop but in my mind I was like FUNNY.

“What you gonna do,” sang Justin.

The day before John (who sometimes goes by FlowerGod) and Lola, also his close friend Noruwa, shared a blunt — despite Covid-19 restrictions having begun, and Lols having sworn off weed forever, along with literally all drugs — and that’s not a joke, and she told him because he asked her to share something deep that she’d always felt more like a guy than a girl. She’s not sure whether her narrative was, sort of a disguise, put-on. Because that’s literally not true. She walked around with shoulders hunched, like a gamer with back problems and chick problems, wearing a baggy blouse that once belonged to a Mormon grandparent, over athletic shorts and shoes.

A few minutes after Lola entered the room the day prior in July 2020 (like having never met him yet) John ran across the floor like a spider and almost caused Lola’s unfamous friend Jillian to trip and fall over herself. “How did you even move over here that fast, shitt,” she said, laughing incredulously but also like, that’s just how we were all talking. Like we aren’t sure if we’re laughing or not. (Wuhuhuh the f, general vibe at least for Lola subjectively that moment.) It was the first time she’d seen her since 2017, when she and Jillian failed, not for the first time, to make a movie together.

Lola emailed her later, “we never do anything.”

She said maybe you’re right.

Hard to explain the rest of the exchange, but the email was a fight.

“You don’t trust me, fine.”

2013. In a classroom at Columbia, I’m taking an exam, reading a passage ID from To the Lighthouse and thinking about lesbian anxiety, when I rip out a page of my blue book and scrawl the first few lines of a letter to Woody Allen. I know I’ve done of the test to get an A, so I leave early and walk to the nearest computer lab, where I use a keyboard to compose a muddled monologue like an electric pianist on analeptics. It’s been a hormonal school year, and for months my self-esteem has been morbid, yet as I drift back to the freshman dorms (with my letter on a flash drive) I feel the winds of uplift make my hairs stand with better posture and add some lively rhythm to my blues.

A few hours later I’m on my bed with my Macbook, recopying notes from film class, and I flashback to my professor talking about the time she interviewed Woody at the 96th Street Y. I think they’re sort of friends so I send her an email asking if she could forward him my letter, please, because it would be a big deal to me. Within minutes, she writes back. I checked with Woody Allen’s assistant, who said you should e-mail me your letter to forward to them. OK? As soon as I press the send button I hear the unheavenly chimes of my iPhone. It’s my mother. “I think I just sent an email to Woody Allen,” I tell her on the phone, and forward her the note. She reads it on her laptop back in Minnesota. “Yeah. It sounds like you’re rambling in a psychoanalyst’s office,” she says, “Like someone about to have a nervous breakdown.”

“Thanks.”

After my astronomy final (certain I’ve hardly passed or failed, I get an A) I’m walking back to the freshman dorms on campus back in a deep funk, for it’s been thirty hours since I sent the email, nothing has happened, and according to Web MD I actually did have a nervous breakdown — my first. At the time it’s actually very extreme to use the word “nervous breakdown” to describe any events in a girl’s life, not a term I’d take casually ever, but would later begin to (when it just kept happening, these trips in my head, see: this entire book called ‘Satin Doll’). In the elevator headed up to my room I run into a boy I’ve been avoiding, Dan Garisto, who I met on a blind date. He’s a Physics major and runner, boyishly handsome, though I never quite lusted for him sorry, he must have known I think. Even though we began hanging out two months ago, we’ve only made out with our clothes on.  “How are finals?” he asks. “Not bad,” I respond. “I haven’t been productive today,” he confesses. “I have three take-home papers, a Calc test, and have to spend all night at the newspaper office. I am so fucked. Mehhh.” The elevator stops at my floor. I leave Dan behind with a smile!

My dorm room that year has a great view of campus, so I sit on the edge of my bed and look out the window at kids my age, eating at peace on the lawn, celebrating the warm weather in mid-May. The goal is to relax but today’s anxious thoughts collide with one another. Do grades matter? Is Dan gonna be okay? And what is the meaning of life? I prepare to shade my musings with a melancholic tunes on my laptop. As I open my computer, my email pops up. I am leaving the country to film in a couple of weeks so you either have to make it fast or take your time, clarify your questions and write again sometime in the fall. Below the note I see a thread of exchanges between my professor and Woody’s assistant. Evidently my professor thinks I’m a boy, since she’s never met me personally and only knows me by my androgynous first name.

Sawheet! As I approach the end of the email I’m fueled with nervous energy. My plan is to start brainstorming the perfect set of questions and write back in the fall. Yet for now I yearn to tell someone else vaguely insane, other than my momma. So I email Selena Gomez, a Barnard girl and writer-muse from the campus newspaper, who I’m guessing likes Woody Allen by her sense of humor and sometimes unfeminine outfits. Mostly I want to impress her, since she is older than I am, and stuff. 

Selena responds with a kind little rant. Did I tell you I once applied to be his assistant? she writes. No no, you didn’t. (She didn’t get it.) We plan to get dinner the following week in Park Slope, where she has plans to babysit several cats. In the meantime I call my mother, who advises me to write back that night. “Go for it!” my mom says. “Ask if you can visit the set!” That night I construct a longwinded response and allow my mother to proofread it. She tells me to add an attachment: a photo (her idea), and sample of my work. With reluctance I obey my mother, and send another note.

JUMP CUT

On a muggy night in Park Slope, I’m wearing mostly black, pacing the streets and thinking about the first time I met Selena Gomez. For my first video assignment for the newspaper website, I had followed her to Williamsburg to film a sex blogger who had once invited Selena to have a three-way with her boyfriend (a manorexic drug addict who makes films, either about the drugs or to showcase his attractiveness with anorexia; which is like most drug addicts making videos). On the train she bragged just a little about being a coveted intern for a literary magazine I hadn’t heard of, until that moment, intelligentsia porn for the manic-minded. Middle aged passengers listened to her, as if being in her presence granted them access to a substratum of elitist New York culture which they longed for but never found; at least I thought they were listening eagerly, and was probably more conscious of that then what she was saying. I always am self-conscious about being listened to, or not.

On a long walk through Williamsburg, Selena had asked me about my first impressions of Columbia. “It’s fine,” I told her. “A few nights after I got here, a girl living one floor above me jumped out her window and killed herself.” (This was true, it was deeply unsettling.) Selena listened to me without interrupting as I blathered about deeper matters, an odd experience for a shy girl who had never seen a therapist. Throughout the semester we’d have similar talks outside the library, where Selena liked to smoke cigarettes between writing essays. 

Now I arrive at Selena’s temporary home in Park Slope. She buzzes me in and gives me a tour: I get to meet the cats and her cute Jewish boyfriend from Harvard. She pours me a glass of wine and I tell them about how I got another response from Woody, “they say I can visit the set if he ever films in New York!” (They seem impressed.) We chat about our favorite movie directors as kids: Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson. Now the discussion drifts to Bill Murray. “If I met him I would get down, SHWAG,” Selena Gomez says casually in front of her boyfriend. I don’t like hearing this, like it makes me oddly upset. Something about how she said it in her voice, her voice which is always surprising for how sweet it sounds but also just is definitely kind of bitchy. Yes, I’m confused now. Behind his round tortoise glasses, the boyfriend’s eyes show a reveal of intrigue and intimidation in light of our views on, men. 

We abandon the boyfriend for a nearby Italian restaurant with free sliced bread. I take a piece but probably drop it on the floor which is definitely weirder than just eating the whole thing but, I’m happy to have my weight down and you have no idea how much work it is for me, never quite been a natural-thing. Selena’s weight is fine at that time, she makes a joke about ordering something with bacon, on the menu it’s called pancetta. Also she gets a pineapple-infused vodka. I order the same, I legit don’t remember what food I got (a salad which I honestly felt awkward about), all this is boring anyway. After a few sips, launches into a rambling soliloquy about her sex life, another one, does she talk about anything else? “When I was your age, I hadn’t masturbated. I hadn’t done anything, yet! And it wasn’t even that I liked girls. Do you by the way?” I said, truthfully per that time, maybe a bit defensively, “Nope…” For her first year or so at Barnard she had a perfect GPA, planned to major in Biology, and keeps saying she was fat, I saw some pics, she was as fat as me at my fattest so it wasn’t that big of a deal (to me at all; or let’s say, she just wasn’t someone I’d compare myself to unless it was to do better myself). Selena also says of her own freshman year, “I was soo pretentious,” she says it twice or more. These days she’s an English major and has slept with close to twenty men which strikes me as a high number. “You keep track like that?”I say sort of shocked; she says, “Of course I do.” Maybe this should be a red flag about this girl’s personality-type, what’s the word, psycho, or more likely about her psycho-logical issues hopefully curable, you know, like, actual trauma that makes her want to vanquish men who knows. Either way I’m her friend, I think she’s cool, I’m on her side. She always has a boyfriend—usually some sort of beta male who loves her, much, much more than vice versa. It strikes me as dysfunctional, but also a flex, all the boyfriends. I think it makes me unconscious about never having one.

She’s done telling me things, we’re not talking anymore. I’m transfixed and say quietly a few times, “Why didn’t anyone tell me.” Not sure what I’m referring to, maybe the thing about virginity. There is, silence, not uncomfortable. The waiter takes our plates (we have hardly eaten) and brings more vodkas. I look at Selena and she must sense at the time I’m kind of obsessed with her, I’ll later tell a friend of hers that she’s “the funniest girl I’ve ever met,” being sincere to how I felt back then. She might be kind of be drunk on my admiration on that muggy night, not just on the liquor. Then she says this, about the Woody Allen emails: “I just wish he knew how beautiful you are.” I’ve like never had someone say, to me directly, that I’m beautiful. It’s just a new word. I consider returning the compliment, even though she looks kind of worn out with red-rimmed eyes and skin like a vampire almost, she’s a gorgeous human not person with how she is toward men, she must know this — but anyway, I definitely don’t want Selena Gomez to think that I’m a lesbian.

JUMP CUT

2014 na, on Memorial Day, I’m in a bad mood, so I go on a long walk through Central Park, as I often do when I’m feeling insecure about any weight fluctuations at all, major or minor, future present or past or on another planet. Soon I’m in the Upper East Side, where I feel even worse. Somehow I reason that the people might be less judgmental at the [Old] Whitney Museum (not The Frick which I don’t love) so, I make my way down Madison Avenue at a pretty brisk speed. Speedwalking honestly. Soon I’m in front of The Carlyle Hotel, where I see a poster advertising Woody Allen’s weekly jazz gig with Eddy Davis. I go inside and asked an employee in the coat room if I could buy a ticket for that night. 

“Sold out,” he says. “But you wait here, they let you in and sit at the bar.” He brings a nice wooden chair into the lobby and I sit, intending to wait for hours. I’ve made up my mind. I’m getting in. Behind me, a girl who’s obese gives a rendition of Diane Keaton’s first monologue from Annie Hall. On my iPhone I download an app that lets me check the balance in my bank account. I have just enough money to afford to the cover charge. I tear a blank page from my journal and scrawl out another note to Woody, this time more hysterical. PLEASE take me to France with you! In New York I feel like a guppy in a pond of barracudas. I haven’t sold my soul yet, but I’m close! Literally it said something like that.

In the Carlyle I sit beside a woman in her forties with straightened brown hair, whose name I can’t recall as I write this. She says she also studied film in college. Now she’s working on her first novel. “You’re very intense,” she tells me when I admit I’d rather do homework than go to parties on my campus, which is absolutely true. I nod and ordered a side of creamed spinach from a waiter in his seventies. I asked him if Woody ever signs autographs after the show. “After the show” is all the waiter heard, and somehow interpreted it as me requesting to sleep at his apartment. For the rest of the night he stood by me and asked me, “What’s wrong?” Apparently I look depressed.

As Woody Allen enters from the back of the club and begins assembling his clarinet, a hush falls through the club a bit like an airplane before takeoff. I watch him from my seat at the bar and feel nervous to even be there, so I focus on eating my creamed spinach (good but overpriced, is what I would have said at the time). The band revs into New Orleans standards which gives some brassy depth to a so far uncomfortable, kind of weird-feeling night. After forty minutes, I slide off my barstool sand take a few steps toward the stage. A businessman with sleek gray hair signals to me, you can sit. He has an open spot at his table, I take it. Sitting for the last song or two, I look around the place. Everyone, like literally (almost literally) everyone, is taking videos on their iPhones.

The crowd breaks into its final round of applause. Show’s done, time to go, it feels casual. As Woody puts away his clarinet, I stand up from my seat and knock over a fork. I manage to hand him the mad girl’s rant I’d just written, though. The applause sinks into a decrescendo. “Oh, thank you,” he says with calm surprise. Some women dressed in actually-fitted silk outfits give me envious smiles as Woody goes out through an exit in the back. The club clears out, pretty quickly. I realize that my wallet (just a few cards, really) is no longer in the butt pocket of my slacks. But I’ll be fine, it’s just annoying and odd. When I ask for my debit card still luckily being held by the bartender, he licks his lips and grins at me. I walk home through Central Park alone, which is something, after that year, I’ll end up doing quite a lot.

JUMP CUT

In my summer dorm room, not as nice as the last one with the nice view, I pull the shades and take off my clothes, sweating because it’s hot and I’m convalescing from a bad cold. I might put on a gray knee-length robe. A new email arrives in my inbox. Of course we can’t take you to France but if you happen to be in France where we are shooting you can certainly come for a day or two and observe us, not that you will learn anything except how not to make a film. My mom was saving money for two plane tickets to Paris, to congratulate me for getting a full ride to Columbia. I call her and ask if the trip was still on. “Of course!” she says. “Don’t tell people this. They’ll just get jealous.” 

So, of course I update Selena. She’s leaving town the next morning to spend the summer at a mountain resort without internet. Later I’d realize with feelings hurt, this was a lie (I didn’t know then, why she’d lie, mainly because the lies were noticeable); like, she’s there in the city for a little longer, it’d be on her social media, and, I think the resort probably has some internet it’s 2013 after all. Come get a drink, she writes in her email. So I put on some size 2 slacks I think I got consignment and a black raincoat, and meet her at a bar in Harlem, where she orders cocktails that are out of my budget from a bartender with dreadlocks. He hits on her, like pretty intensely. She dismisses him with polite disdain. Then she turns to me and speaks in a low octave. “Be careful. People are going to use you for it.” For what? My looks which at the time were pretty, thin, a bit dorky low-key (you could say innocent)? My connection to Woody Allen? Fueled again by nervous energy, I begin to recount my night at the Carlyle. She cuts me off. “Last night I was at a bar with Elizabeth Moss.” “Really?” I am genuinely impressed, I like Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men. “The whole night I was checking my phone, waiting for a text so I could meet a guy at his apartment. Do you think I’m going to tell [my cute Jewish boyfriend]? No.” She pauses, either dramatically or because I’m hard to read. “There’s an article in Vanity Fair from the seventies. I’m sending it to you.” 

“Why do you stay with these morons,” I say of her ex boyfriend, not the Jewish one some other guy she was with that year. 

“I need someone holding my hand and telling me that they love me, it’s just what kind of person I am.”

I should have said, “well, that’s, weird.”

I’d given her a note that told her, she’s the only reason, literally the only reason, I didn’t just become an ugly [weirdo] dork in college. Something like I need you, in different words. It was a  vulnerable note.

I think I imagine her saying, “yeah that note was pretty pathetic,” but, I just don’t know I’m imagining it! We’re definitely drunk. 

Two or three more cocktails and I go home bombed, which is kind of out of character for me — I only got super drunk once my whole freshman year, at an event called Bacchanal, from which I woke up in my friend’s dorm with some of my clothes changed. In my bed in the summer dorm, I look up the article in Vanity Fair on my laptop, and my gut begins to simmer. To calm the weird nerves, I re-watch Manhattan on my laptop (a habit throughout the school year, honestly) though tonight one line at the end of the film obsesses me: Not everyone gets corrupted. In great need of a breather, I leave the dorms for a long walk down Broadway in the middle of the night. Every tall building in New York appears phallic. 

BLACKOUT TO

I’m in the office of Film Studies at Columbia, massaging my hands, anxiously, staring at posters of independent films that I’ve never seen or heard of — every poster in that building except like two or three. I am new to the whole film school thing. I’m waiting for my film professor (the one who thought I was a boy) to open her office door. Finally she does, and darts to the water dispenser, hardly looking at me. I think she seems nervous, and something about it thrills me. Like the power of being in this, whole situation. It might be a little scary. I walk into her office and sit before her desk. She returns with a cup of hot tea and starts scrolling through her emails, and, I already can tell this isn’t about to go well. “Now I’m not sure what to make of the notes you sent me,” she says. “I plan to erase the one when you called Woody Allen an ‘old creep,’ since I would never want that on record.”

For a while we wallow in a cloud of vapid silence. I could explain that the emails I had sent a few nights before, to her, were bred in dark caverns of insecurity, yeah, far back in the female psyche; that the thoughts there had been contained or suppressed for a good deal of adolescence, though last night they’d sprung out unexpectedly in a destructive — maybe self-destructive — salvo of emails to Selena, my professor, and most disturbingly to Woody Allen’s assistant; yuh, that my sudden obsession with the words “creep” and “corruption” had been borne of a series of (not exaggerating when I use this adjective) Kafkaesque nightmares that had spanned the past few nights; but — ultimately I feel that these are topics that are better left for a talk therapist or even a psychiatric caretaker. Technically I’m not here to discuss Woody Allen, but fall internship opportunities, so, for now I change the topic. 

“I kinda wanna work at a magazine,” I say in a warbling voice, awkward and filled with dread, a bit like a bird on its way to the slaughterhouse in the film Chicken Run, a scene I saw as a kid and was disturbed by. She says “it’s very hard to work at a magazine.” Then the professor calmly puts her hands on a desk. “I read the website you sent me.” So: I remember, right-then after maybe blocking it out, the act of sending her a link to my secret blog (in the same fit of drunken hysteria that caused me to send the other emails) though it’s more like an online diary in the form of a WordPress account. “I found it extremely self-indulgent,” she tells me reprimandingly, and I do feel, embarrassed… well, not that. It’s worse. I’m actually scared of myself and how I might just be, for lack of a more euphemistic or polite way to put it, soo fucked up. Just mad. Creeped out or (somehow I come to this conclusion), myself a creeper. By now I feel like I’d rather die than be here, though, so I excuse myself to go meet my sister for lunch. I’m outties.

At a café on 123rd street called Maxx, I sit alone and wait for my sister, and I look around at the waitresses wearing maroon. This café holds some traumatic memories within its fashionable brick walls. The last I was here, I was getting lunch with a lesbian novelist, actually trans and actually very talented (we were there to discuss internships) and, she told me I was queer. “Are you sure?” I’d asked her with wide eyes. “The minute I met you I knew,” she said. Then I excused myself to use the bathroom, where I just kind of looked in the mirror for a few minutes and wondered whether she was onto something. My mom would freak out, later when I told her about all this (not immediately): she’d say, this woman had no right to do that and was just being aggressive, maybe even coming on to me, I had that waif-thing.

It’s been ten minutes, I check my iPhone, my sister Alexis, is running late. So I check my email, and reality sets me straight. A new email from Woody Allen’s assistant, unsurprisingly, calls the whole thing off, if there even was “a thing,” hardly: As it turned out because of our insurance company it is not possible for outsiders to come and watch a shoot in France. If we do film in the united states the rules are different. I am sorry about that, we just found out. Also, I am sorry we can’t answer all your emails, there is just no time. 

My sister arrives. She’s in a bad mood, I’m like great, yeah let’s hear it. I tend to avoid her for just this reason—she’s been annoyed with me for many months, just about me picking Columbia when she went to Barnard. And I could have gone, and almost did go, to Brown. But today is a special occasion: our first week of summer break, and it sort of calls for a celebration? She orders champagne. “Can I have one too,” I ask the waitress, even though I’m underage. “Do you have your ID?” “I forgot it, no.” She brings back a drink for me too. My sister looks at me and rolls her eyes. “Why,” I say with my natural intensity, referring to the eye roll. “I’m an adult now, no?”

JUMP CUT

On a humid day in August, I’m sprawled on a towel in my front lawn, and the nauseating hum of cicadas is making me sick. I take another gulp of orange juice and vodka (I’ve started drinking alone, for the first time, not the last) from a plastic cup next to me, then roll to the non-sunburned side of my skin. I want to fall asleep but my thoughts are racing through me, honestly like squirrels up a tree, festering up there and causing me perturbances. The Minnesota mailman comes up the walkway, and pretends he doesn’t see me on the front lawn. When he leaves, I check the mail immediately. I’m hoping for a response from Selena Gomez. A few weeks ago I’d sent a frantic handwritten letter updating her on my lousy summer, but more focally, my wrecked self-esteem. Either blaming her or asking her to kind of save me. And blaming myself. No letters for me. She still hasn’t written back, I’m not surprised because the letter was fucked up if I recall accurately, but, I feel my mood descend hell and beyond deep.

In the air-conditioned interior of my house, I collapse on the couch in my swimsuit. My mom gives me a look that makes me feel fat; it’s true tha,t whenever I move home, keeping my weight down satisfactorily for me is probably impossible. Obviously I hate putting on weight, my face always shows it. The only time my face doesn’t fill out is if I’m like under 115 pounds, which, is achievable only when I’m quite well. If I ever lose what’s beyond that weight, fast by starving myself, the face won’t thin out as much. But this is all boring-stuff. “I’m going to work,” my mom says to me. She’s angry at me, I know this, because ever since I visited the family therapist (it’s the first time I’ve tried therapy) she says he’s treated her differently in their own sessions. I’m like no shit, I just told him the truth about you, the psycho yelling fits. The door slams. Yeah damn, like I’m laying on an electro-shock table, it shocks me.

The whole process of removing ‘that one nagging insecurity’ [which had been, a lifelong issue] now took on the tone of someone taking a ride on a train track through a haunted house with all the lights turned out. And nothing ever jumped out, there was no sound, but the scary thing about the ride was, exactly, that… well… how, nothing actually happened and you were expecting it to but it was just dead-inside the doors of the house. And there was someone alive, seemingly, running the ride who was just like, really indifferent to you in the car going slowly through the haunted house alone on a slow set of tracks. And at the very end of the ride, you finally sort-of died, and woke up back in your bed at home and didn’t really even know how much time had passed between you getting on the ride and, getting back home. But you sort-of remembered it all, and the whole memory inside the black soundless house, had this, really not-quite-lonely but emptyish dumpty dead tone—but there had been the person running the ride, who seemed to be alive but didn’t explain why the sound was off. Why it was so dark. Was something wrong or was that just, the scary part. How unalive it was and strangely calm—too relaxing—and how you sort-of had your hopes up, that some sound or sight would break the dark silence but. Next thing you knew it was done and you woke up at home, alone, with just the memory of something ‘off’ about the ride but it wasn’t unpleasant just, ydk. And it seems to be done well until a whip fx cracks scary lout and someone freaks out and all hell breaks in and can’t stop. And then you get it, finally, ha? , ha the haunted house, run by the person who seemed to be alive, had just begun. The dark silent ‘comfortable’ ride had just been, the start// And now Lola bo was screaming crying livid in grief about how she can nevar again trust you at all and whose fault was it really but moibe meh like satin’s holy shid honest to [G]. And the only way to turn the horror ride off, now that it had followed you out and bled all your reality, all the fxxk over it so much like why won’t it stop so much bloox, was to fight that really indifferent oddly-comfortable vibe with Scary Hart Uff. Like: Love Beyond Terrorism Really Extremely Profound Love Scattered Among Just the One([x]s) You Rella Uff (not Lola tho she hates u now she can’t even) it was very-literally the only option but lola didn’t really know what to do, now that she’d figured some things out a0 it, besides to be herself; still mad but also not in the dark that Guy had gotten troila fucked 2 but just like confused-a.f. and trying to keep a cool front but still wt?/uff had they done to him and why would anyone do that to some1 at all and why did she have to be like put in the worst possible position to even know how to h3lp n0t and she would do better with s0m1 3lse cuz who the fuck does that special to, some, one. .. ,. 

[14: Birdie batts rose box]

Noelle, Catherine’s mom, never used to hesitate to call Catherine her baby but, lately she’d begun to fear that all her well-meaning maternal kindness had (at points in the past) been taken for weakness. And in her new wayyy-better daughter, older na, she had a better investment of, that genuinely precious love—while in her new son she had some sort of juvenile delinquent, on her hands, who she actually didn’t know what to do with like ‘wtf kind of test is this, God.’ What if her new child just took kindness-as-weakness from literally everyone in America. How should she even respond? Noelle didn’t feel that he was her baby anymore; if she treated them like her baby, baby’d turn into the Chucky doll.

So when Lola came along and asked, nicely, that she please be provided reprieve from all this really-unkind male energy, everywhere she went in the world—she was ridding it from her life so she could heal  in peace, finally please ‘leave me alone’ ‘I’m sorry I got thick, chubbier Whatever, I think it was probably valuable, it mired me’—someone’s mom realized, that explained her kid’s issues. Her daughter [wait-up, son’s ?](their.) juvenile delinquency had been the result of ‘unkind male energy,’ disguised as brattiness and bitchiness, and troll boi’s rebellion via bullying was a recourse from letting people be close to him when he was hiding a lot of pain. And though someone’s mom, again, would be lying if she didn’t confess, she was hesitant to celebrate their potential identity as a they (in private) [when she wanted a daughter; that was her big H-Baby, after all](her History-making baby), she realized that it cured his juvenile delinquency… more-effectively than anything else..

Just letting da Baby boi be, husself.

Huhr! *grunt sound*

(Then, this thought: Creep.)

The fact that their face looked, for a while, like she was holding in a mouthful of vomit—was an appropriate natural reaction to what they was forced to witness around its childhood home for years. And now that everyone in public in America was in-certain-ways sickening to deal with, literally or figuratively or both, they — both not singular — had already developed more of an immunity to getting sick from just-looking. As a writer [never actor/ress] they‘d paid dues and practiced turning toxicity, of the mental and physical strain, into beauty from the madness. Its own face, clowny na, might be fine but it was really like, not fun for a while he could fully admit. She was just confused about why no one had bothered to tell her directly until along came Guy with a face rape boom she got humbled; so did he they whut itty doo da di di. Wait-up, you’re saying all these things? Don’t ax.

Hopefully Baby G would be gentler toward Lola with its various methods of humbling, than Baby boi had been. 

Love of my life

Lyrics by Lola

You don’t deserve me

Babe, like this

My shame was borne

of sacrilege

He paid his dues

I saw it happen

I paid my dues

He got me pregnant

I’m nice one day

You think, ‘she’s back’

You terrorists

She needs a hand

And even if 

You so, shaped up

I’m not the type  

To leave someone

So go on, tell them

What you wont

I’m smurderous

But also soft

In literally all her work was a sort of desperate search for a new mom that happened on so many levels it wasn’t worth parsing, it might also be a moot cause.

Catherine Delaluna’s mother Noelle was, actually though, the reason Catherine ended up so successful—and sustained a relatively level head through age 26. Noelle always kept an eye on her daughter and her relationships, even though at some point, she had little control over what Catherine did. She felt the same way about her daughter as a functionally possessive relationship: that if someone less-than-savory swooped in and tried to steal Catherine, she would kill a bitch.

For a mother who actually gave a fuck, nothing hurt more than comparisons to half-assed moms.

This was true for Noelle, who found her reputation in ruins after the publication of some libelous content.

“What the fuck is this?” asked Noelle once when she discovered a song by her daughter’s ex, which implied that Catherine was brought up by abusive parents. It’s what made Catherine a tragic mess, too. “Neither of you have a clue what abuse is, to say nothing of hardship, chronic struggle, try being poor for a day you would fucking snap in five minutes. God, what the hell is wrong with you.”

“With me?”

“Yes! Have some respect for these, people. These are people.” Noelle understood where her own lunacy came from, I mean, god.

It came from not getting enough credit for all the time and effort and passionate love she heaped upon: her daughter. For this?? Catherine felt the same way toward: her work as an artist, but neither of them could talk to the other person and expect it to go well (at this moment).

She doesn’t understand ambition like I do, thought Catherine of her mom. You do what you fucking must.

She doesn’t understand mother-love like I do, thought her mom. She will if she ever has a daughter or son.

Mother-love was unlike any other love because the whole point (the whole point of being a mom, obviously) was taking flack that no one else could handle!! Unlike marriage, it was probably customary that the child would go through phases of being a horrible selfish brat—and there was no option for divorce. No offense if you’re a mom who did this, or if your mom did this and you’re still hurting: you’d have to be pretty awful to disown the kid, or effectively send her or him away with literally no option to come back. Unlike friendship, there was no threshold for how much a mom had to put up with—and there wasn’t much give-and-take. It was give-give-give or be-taken-from. A passionate mom couldn’t let go if the whole world tried to pull her away from her child, literally though.

And, a mother who cared didn’t have to tell her child how much, because inordinate pain and untold sacrifices spoke louder than posts on Facebook for other parents to gawk upon.

“It’s fiction,” Catherine assured her mother Noelle, of the libelous content in the song by some fool. “None of it’s true.”

“Also what kind of ex would still be talking about the mom of his ex.

“I don’t know — Ma!! He must have just been into you.”

“I hope that’s a joke.” (You lost me, thought Noelle, the ex was dirt off her shoulders not worth the dust it would take to blow him to hell.)

Carol Quick never suffered from depression but, occasionally in this life, she felt trapped. Once a voice named Lola got into her head, it got worse.

She heard words she’d never heard. Like this, boop!

Actually though like judgmentally words that the Lols heard frequently! She infected someone else whitta creepy whore doe sorry-sorry boop, boop. *heart monitor*

              Like words from Rose Ellen singing to her, as a child,  

                                        Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh

–just like be the damn careful with who u give it all to. Up to. Every time u do that it reflects what you stand for, and u become that for the world to see, and I have no idea what u even stand for.. but so far it’s literally never the same as what I stand for. So all the more reason for me to be free and fly onward

Like—I take seriously what I ‘do’ including the writing, as process.. u have no idea how hard it is to pull off what I’ve set as very clear goals for myself and fought for in small ways, each day. Why don’t u try this. It’s not the same world as yours but it might even be harder in some ways, sometimes, believe it or not u have no idea how rare a catch I am and that’s how u finally lost me in your corner.. I know the odds of you being great are low too but it’s not like you are in need of extra ppl respecting u so stfu. God leave me the f alone. I’ll  just find people with better, rarer taste  (who can see beyond) [not just follow the crowd]— I’ll find ppl who I trust will know how to guide me, to do even better not just crash and burn… ppl who can give actual credit where it’s due, and I’ll stick with them which is their lucky day too because I am, VERY picky girl. I don’t think you would even know how to respect me [even if I earned your respect hypothetically] (which doesn’t seem that hard to get, for other people) [apparently I’m just like, the only one who gets all ur pent-up impossible standards] ; you would like wig out and take me down because of your ruthless ego.. ick tho. Go away like please never come through my head again. Just disappear from my life please just go

If you had, Stronger ego then u would challenge yourself with the very clear goals u set for yourself

But I feel like u don’t even have goals; just like decide what u wanna do, in the short-term… like ‘I’m not that worried’ ‘cause I don’t have to be’ ‘people love me anyway’ neh neh. And for me that’s dealbreaker. Ppl get away—I can’t stand people, who actually get mad at me for being serious on this please. For once be serious jesus. Set some effin goals and don’t judge me for the crazy-long-hard process of actually achieving my goals.

As if u could even handle–

a voice cut in finally, “I’m sorry to interrupt.. Lola who you are talking to?”


Lola gasped!

“No! Oh shit — these are more notes from my journals to Guy, shit shit shit you weren’t supposed to see this.” She hurried around, searching desperately among strewn pages for the one that, like a hit list with just one name, said her only goal in life was to position herself somewhere in life where it might be literally conceivable to get fucked by him (also to be his woman and enter a serious relationship, this person [famous] wasn’t in one).

“Famous? What if you meet someone else. That is literally so–“

“–DON’T.., go”

“No but just. Didn’t you literally say that this ‘guy’ was just a crush you capital-i Imagined.. um”

“And did I say that?  Way to pay attention! ‘Um’ back at u! If so, that was a mistake to share, as well!!! And maybe like, what crush isn’t that.. May I ask who’s speaking though?” Eyes wide, no no, LEAVE ME ALONE HERE IN HELL.

“Actually,” the voice disappeared like a wraith–

In weird-artist Marigold’s view, super and subhuman weren’t all that different no no. Both could be equally compelling as long as her work touched on human beauty, raw and/or pure beauty, beauty that didn’t change based on strength or status— beauty that transcended all that. Superhuman and subhuman were just a mirror on either side of the same problem with Planet Earth: imbalance! Greed and destitution had gotten more extreme on either end. She viewed destitution as gorgeous; greed as naughty; agony as the fertile source of soulfulness. She loved being mischievously sexual in still- lifes of fruit and flowers, like Frida! 

Marigold thought that obsession with fitness and health had become this, like, big moral thing that caused her to get judged harshly for her paintings of sick-looking girls!

One thing she did not care to paint, was children. 

At Glen Echo in Maryland, a young child was crying. Marigold sat across from Rose with frenzy on her face. She kept glancing over her left shoulder at this crying kid, and then back at Rose with vengeful eyes. The kid was like, a year and a half old. It looked like Marigold wanted to kill the poor and very young kid.

“How can anyone stand that sound—it’s so horrible!! Ugggh.” She put her hands over her ears and then put her whole head on the picnic table where she sat across, now from Rose, her frenzied face hidden.

Rose passed a sidelong glance to Xavier, Marigold’s new boyfriend—who had decided to join the girls for their midday excursion after an invitation from Marigold by text. Rose currently wasn’t thrilled that Xavier had come in the way of their one-on-one time, she felt she needed to talk to Marigold, still, she intended to be good to Xavier on principle. Honestly though: she wasn’t crazy about him. 

“So you’re an artist too?” she asked Xavier, who was eight years older than Rose’s sister Mari.

“Well,” Xavier tilted his head to one side. “That depends on what you mean.” 

By now, Marigold had raised her head from the table. She turned her head left and right—then imagined herself as a little red ox!! Rollicking around the room and destroying people who bothered her, including that effing childgrr! And now Marigold knew she must be having a “rage-trip,” (lol.) which is what their mother used to call her roisterous manic episodes in which she would get so mad she lost control of herself and do ohhso violent things to her older sister… Such as… scratch her so hard she bled!! Or: drop a hardcover copy of The Goblet of Fire on her sister’s head from the top of a banister of stairs!!! (This trella happened.) Yep!!!! Anger was Marigold’s favorite, most delectable fucking drug and when she got mad to the point that she practically breathed fire (just y’all wait) it was the most gorgeous of all drugs she’d ever tasted. Long story short, Marigold was secretly, psychotic but working on it. Like how? Must be why she got freaky with assholes like Xavier, who liked to press a girl’s buttons on purpose, then play oh-so-so-kitty-ko innocent, wowww. But she really didn’t want her older sister Rose to know this because she’d be concerned, so, uh. Marigold chose now to temper his pretentiousness, at least, before the manure really struck the industrial-sized metal fan-blades in the rodeo barn she liked to call: their truly weird ass sex. (What she would have with Xavier later, in other words, yap.) 

“Xavier wants to design his very own videogames!! It’s so cool,” said Marigold. “God complex!”

“Is that right?” asked Rose, suspicious definitely, sensing shit. Oh my god..

“Hmh,” said this dude Xavier, who biked everywhere and didn’t shave much.

Marigold had this old habit of only holding onto quarters and dimes. She got rid of all other coins (that is: pennies and nickels, yulch)! Now she had a black satin clutch on the table, and started sifting through coins in front of her sister and boyfriend. It was symptomatic of OCD, she’d hillbilly-had heard’o that yuh. And when she did this in public, the counting of things, it supposedly meant that she “wasn’t.. doing well?” Har Har! But tasks like this were the best way to come down from her rage-trips! Peww, she grew so focused on the task that she stopped monitoring Xavier’s conversation with Rose. 

“… you’re a writer, then?” 

“Yeah,” said Rose. 

“Aaah,” he sat back.

You see, Xavier didn’t talk much—but when he did talk, he did it in this man-of-few-words too-kitty-krool-for-school kind of way that got on a lot of people’s nerves. Not just Rose’s today. But it was so subtle, that like, they usually couldn’t even figure out why it was getting on their nerves. It was def sick insane. 

This was where Rose stood now. Just kind of trap-stuck. 

“Did Marigold, sorry.. be the one to tell you, the writer-thing,” she asked, like whutt?? So not even making sense when she spoke. 

Xavier paused. “Yes I read your article.” 

It was unclear whether the emphasis in this sentence was on “read” or “article” or both words at once. Like five seconds later he tacked on the phrase: “It was good,” like an afterthought, with no accented syllables. 

“…oh. Which one..”

He hesitated. “About all the shootings!! Yaw yaw yaw..Is he laughing..

Just then Marigold swept her silver coins into a black-satin purse and snapped it shut! The other coins remained on the counter of their booth, stacked in rows, unwonted naw. 

Rose shifted her attention, from Xavier to the coins. Her sister was too much. She could handle her self, just enough to say this. “And what do you intend to do with those…” referring to the nickels and pennies.

“Leave them as a tip.” 

“That’s cheap,” said Rose kitty kit.

Marigold shrugged. “It’s money, *in a lower voice* BITCH” 

Lola for a bad mooty period saw ladders with “Danger” signs in front of them and walked toward them. Sometimes under them. She thought it was the same with smoking, like literally why not, either way ugh.

A little smoke was healthier than whatever she’d be doing otherwise, I dinna just throw it out there, eating too much. Just enough danger to keep things interesting not stuck in a corner. Enough to make people care a little, even at all. Like her father in Queens na ha. Another thing that had changed after she’d started getting dangerous, was her appetite she thought. Guh, she was still hungry even after she started smoking. Yuh, she still ate (she was writing a movie that was gonna be shot at the end of the month). Only thing that’d changed, about her appetite, was the kind of food she craved sort of.

“I’m about to light the charcoal, if you want to sit outside with me.” Her dad was holding some steaks, like really rare ones.

“No, I’d rather go up to the coffee shop, to do homework.”

“Oh. Is [X] gonna be up there?”

“No … He started neglecting me a while back, awkward.”

Sometimes Lola wondered if she worked too hard. Maybe it was a class thing. (She was working class, after all.) But honestly at least then, it wouldn’t be true every day, god she loved her work. And she loved working hard on it — and, at infrequent but briefly rewarding moments like, she loved it more than she loved anyone-around-her in any room ever. Most girls were lazier than Lola and she didn’t think this was mean it was obvious. Actually though. Maybe not, nah huh, wupsies.

“Are you all right?”

[X] once asked Lola this question in the basement of his house, right after a dinner with his parents. His mom had grilled Lola with questions about her life, hobbies, goals. At the time it was the most nervous she remembers being since she gave a speech in front of like 5,000 people at her high school graduation, a speech she thought went well. By contrast, the dinner only included four people: [X], his parents, and Lola. (N.B.D.—right?) So why on earth did Lola get so nervous.

“Honestly I just want to leave a good impression,” Lola had then explained to [X], on a couch in the basement of his house. “Like I want to make you proud.” She thought the dinner had gone just fine.

“You’re not letting this one go too,” his mom (who was intense) had said, as an aside during their dinner; [X] was absolutely mortified.

Around the time she and [X] stopped spending time together, he texted her something like this: I just don’t get satisfaction anymore. Lola ultimately assumed he was talking about her sexual performance. Satisfaction was a term with sexual connotations, after all, at least that’s how she’d kind of interpreted The Rolling Stones song; practically the whole second half of the song is about getting “girly action.” How could someone think life was about the word satisfaction. The word began to obsess her, almost like the word corrupt.

On the screen of her laptop, Catherine and Carol Quick together started read some old quotes by the Ex and remarked along the lines of, how shallow no no!? Quotes about being young and having fun and making bank and how girls should behave, as if he was the Expert. His take on life was honestly so far from how Catherine was just after the break-up (like some sort of Hollywood trashgirl tossed aside), that like, well, she wondered if she should “get more into Jesus”; hence the trip to see a pretty boy pastor with Carol. 

It hadn’t gone so hot.

Carol Quick really understood love, true bi do love. So she thought! But recently she was going over her old lyrics, and just like, realizing how much younger she was. Sometimes she felt the need to re- write or even record her old songs, written younger in love. She wouldn’t be surprised if her music got more complex, but — she could totally be wrong! Sometimes (this is hard to explain though), Carol looked around at other people all confused and agitated—and thought to herself, they just haven’t figured out true love yet. She used to judge them for it; now, she really didn’t.

“What happened?” Benny asked Clyde about how he’d left the Upper East Side gym without warning his friend, he’d ghost like that.

“I don’t know,” said Clyde. “I got tired.”

Benny was about to press further, but Clyde’s body language told him he might be feeling too vulnerable. He was sitting on the floor outside Clyde’s room with his head down on his knees. Benny had been to the gym before this, and he was wearing a pair of gray athletic shorts. Clyde kept his head down in front of Benny. It was a position of defeat.

For a second Benny fought some unkind thoughts. Pathetic mother-fucking gay piece of shit. He didn’t know where they were coming from. For several seconds longer he let his mind run free. That’s right Clyde, bow down, fucking faggot.

It was inconvenient that Clyde chose this moment to look upward. In his eyes was a look of rage subdued by will. Benny shifted on his feet. He gave Clyde that told him, fuck off, but Clyde kept staring and exhaling very slowly. And then, Benny felt guilty. Almost.

Go to hell. He felt an impulse to grab Clyde by the front of the shirt and beat him so bad that he’d hemorrhage. Instead though, he turned away and walked down the hallway. He didn’t bother to let Clyde back into his room. He left him sitting on the floor. Fucking loser. Pig whore. Benny didn’t even know why he was doing this. He couldn’t stop it though, he kept it up. In the shower of the men’s room, he tore the ceramic soap tray off the tile wall and threw it so it shattered beneath him. He accidentally stepped on a broken shard of glass. Blood started running down the drain of the shower. It hadn’t happened like this before.

Back down the hallway, Clyde wasn’t crying like Benny. He wasn’t stupid either. He loved it when Benny treated him like this, just a little though, not too much. Maybe someday they’d be sitting in the studio and Benny would be the only one who liked it all shitty when he said “one more take” even when his lips were all-blooty from blowing for a friend. He wouldn’t roll his eyes like the other horn players. That was Benny. That’s who he was, his friend. I mean, damn. They were men. They couldn’t find this in other people who — excuse him for saying, not dramatically — weren’t going to be able to handle what it took to make a great album. That’s it. Now let’s try to talk for years on podcasts and interviews (with people who would never in their right mind do any of this) about how complicated it is, to make a masterpiece, when it isn’t. And to get any satisfaction, it’s not complicated. What are all we here for. To make friends.

Yeah as friends if Benny or Clyde was on the verge of hacking off his whole life they might be willing to relinquish control for a second. To help the other recover. To say or do something so the other guy didn’t ruin it, for the other. And also to just live.

Yeah but otherwise the terms of this relationship didn’t require confessions or any indication of what went on in the shower. Benny came back down the hall wearing a towel and black socks to hide his fucked-up foot. He unlocked his dorm room. (Finally.) Clyde didn’t bother to say thanks and went in. He thought about telling Benny, sure how big of a deal it was to him, that Benny actually let him stay in his dorm room for so long. But Clyde didn’t tell him this. He sat on the ground and immediately fell asleep with his head against a wall. Benny watched him sleeping and said faggot in his mind a few more times before setting a pillow next to him because he knew the wall was hard. Benny found some headphones and left the dorm room. He went on a long walk alone, listening not to music but to the news — thinking about anyone, anyone literally, and the music obviously.

In a scene for a film set in 2020 (filmed sometime later than that year), about poor middle America: Ramona Desmond finally tracks down Lucia at the end of a remote a side street, surrounded by sick older men, a few with skin that’s all waxy like it’s been coated in turpentine. They smile snappishly at Lucia when she says anything to them. They’re packed in an abandoned lot with a rusty chain-link fence on all sides. In the center are several picnic tables with people on top, lying face up, probably on K2 or crystal — incapacitated pretty-much beyond rehabilitation, extremely dumb beyond doubt, hopefully at peace in it, at least they’re alive. Ramona spots a tall man in a Cougars jersey who seems to be in charge. He smiles quite broadly, very very happy-seeming with his arms folded as he paces around the lot. The man stops next to Lucia and puts a hand on her shoulder. She’s the only female of all twelve or so people in sight. Lucia has a different aura or vibe beyond-manic, certainly a jeau di vivre about her unlike how Ramona remembers last seeing her. She just seems oddly elated, but, she isn’t high on crack or anything. It’s something else. What, is she high on. Something else, definitely high on it though. A car honks its horn behind Ramona — quickly she just slips behind a row of industrial dumpsters for torn-down building fodder. The car that sounded its horn however, slows and comes to a stop as though searching for her, or taunting her. She’s not sure why it slowed down; she figures it saw her but why would it care. She just doesn’t know, do they think she’s a whore. After about ten seconds, it revs its engine and drives off. God. All day, Ramona has been getting stares from people in cars, as though it is unusual to see a white person (?) in this area. She is careful though, not to get cornered alone. If that were to happen, her best shot at survival (she figured.) would be to prove she could really, really hustle like her life depended on it, figuratively-hustle not literally though. Yeah she always knew in her life she’d keep having to hustle, it’s probably all been for the best, though. 

 

Oaklee was a jazz lyricist, who wore converse shoes on informal days and zipped-up blazers if there is such a thing. Her jazz lyrics were so good, she was a millionaire, according to the press. Oaklee’s favorite filmmaker [or one of em] specialized in love scenes that took place pretty-much only by oneself. Her ex boyfriend sold tallises and was an exhibitionist, like Lola at a bad time of her life TBH.

Oaklee’s worldview (it would seem based on her writing sometimes) was much less stark than Lola’s — which given what Lola thought was her own fairly-decent gage on human nature, actually struck her as suspicious, like could she trust this girl. Was she in touch with it. With it, not that thing, the it-thing. Damn. 

Lols of course knew that nice-seeming-wonderful people sometimes pulled fast ones and so, she just didn’t know if she wanted to risk it; she, Lola, was actually in a good place lately, not great as you’ll see by the end of this section. The tempo at which Oaklee experienced jazz, not to be confused with how fast or elaborate her thought processes were, was inordinately slower than Lola’s, you could say more nuanced (Lola came to that conclusion having observed, basically, the amount/level of detail Oaklee fixated on in her lyrics), and Oaklee had like some beliefs that if you let a thought sort of run free of its own accord then it was somehow fated to-be-there in one’s thought processes and would like come back into one’s jazz compositions. Lola didn’t really believe this, it made her a look at Oaklee like a girl writer [not a real one like Lola], the type who would assume the world is like that, because Lola by contrast (?) had just like seen, and done so many drafts and gotten rid of, so much, and [this is the more important point:] felt sympathy for many many people who probably could have been actors or artists or great writers, people who had brilliant thought processes that could have been shared with the world — but those people were just like, were not going to make it and ever be heard.

Those people who never made it, and who never sat by the computer and thought and typed it up, their thoughts, their identities, their passions, their voices — heard and celebrated — they might instead exist inside of what a friend Jillian (whose brother Jackson makes beats and met Kanye West he’s never going to fail) once referred to as, ‘bubble realities’ that protected them from the truth; yeah, Lola just had some cynical beliefs about how easy it was to fall into entropy, including with thought processes that either kept one stuck as a cog in the capitalism machine, working a shit job and never being heard as it were. Or say they did make it out alive! They might just be rationalizing ways they deserved to be on top on a soap box saving the world, when they really just were lucky or dare-Lola-say privileged a little. They might even be corrupted by bad (that is: not honest, truthful, not disingenous) influences. And all this might be hard to explain or unrelated to what that Oaklee writer said in a podcast, which the author of this text will only listen to once to keep from feeling like a creep.

Lola — who sometimes felt eeevil thinking-these-things and might not be successful, ever, but who had survived which some people liked to say was an achievement, even though sometimes she thought of her own death by 27 as an achievement she’d failed to pull off (talk about corrupt thoughts)— tried not to be disrespectful but def could be accidentally, and well. 

Lola used to think everyone-she-liked as a human would or even could be an actor in some capacity, which was dumb to even think let alone believe. Duhr. To further explain her cynicism: she often had extremely harrowing thoughts of what would have happened to her, or still could, if she hadn’t made some really “pragmatic” but also awful sacrifices. And rationalized them, with thoughts that probably should NEVER be shared, like really really dark thoughts. Like thoughts that if shared might have people saying, are you on crack!!? Lola’d never done crack though, by the way. So to clarify, she’s not arguing that successful people who started on the bottom (and made disturbing sacrifices that should never bragged of) are ever on crack, definitely not that—she’s arguing that you can’t assume every single thought you have is a thought worth dwelling on or pursuing or chasing down. And sharing. They’re thoughts. What are thoughts, they’re not always real. They’re often very deceptive. But ultimately. All this? 

It’s at least one reason she respected rap artists who other people might think were acting a fool; it’s just power-stuff, you have to keep yourself from sinking again. Sinking where? Into corrupt thought processes that might work for a while, but later might keep someone, just, pursuing something that’s not good for the world or them. Say like, toward a crush. Say like, Kanye running for president. Say like, Morgan taking off her clothes in Times Square when she didn’t look the part. Was that idea of Lola’s meant to happen. It’s a mighty grandiose assumption to conclude that just because you have a THOUGHT means you should definitely DO IT. What if it’s just shit.

Bitches be vain about the value of sharing their thoughts. Or acting on thoughts, how do you think a shooting goes down, corrupt thoughts that one assumes are actually like, meant. Anyone who’d been dozzy sunk deep in horrible surroundings (which is always relative, always, but sometimes it’s just obvious when there’s pain ALL OVER like blood in the woods post-massacre) might find they could like never could slow the tempo a little, that’s how it felt being accustomed to adrenaline as creative fuel or survival fuel or fossil fuel: or all-fuels-connected to make money, or to survive, or both at the same time. #Riffing. Lola wanted to help people slow the tempo, also maybe someday, she wanted to hire at least one or two great rappers for a film; if this was a dream, an impossible one, then hopefully this passage speaks to the purpose of just having an insane dream, or thought, to begin with. But not necessarily assuming that thought is something that’s meant to be made a thing: to actually happen.

But pull back na. Insane dreams, wild happenings: they obviously, could be embarrassing or even extremely destructive when the levels-of-insanity were like some clinical headcase shit. Still Lola tried to never be judgy about insane bitches or men, and maybe per her own needs would try to help them slow down the tempo just a bit[ch]. 

“Do scientists just sit around and hash about how stupid creative people are?” Marigold asked Xavier, in a booth at this one Mongolian barbeque place he liked. She didn’t like it that much but he never asked her what she’d have preferred.

“I always thought it was the other way around,” he responded.

“How do you like, reconcile the laws of computer science with the need to create a video game that’s artistically spesssial?” A song by Chance the Rapper came on the stereo at this barbeque; Marigold rolled her eyes.

Xavier took a bite of his stir fry with pork, even though he knew it wasn’t Kosher. On his situation with Marigold, he said, “The computer science that controls a video game isn’t much different from natural science, in that pretty much everything can be explained by a very predictable set of laws. And I suppose it’s the same with constructing a narrative arc, or melody, or color scheme on canvas that gets a strong audience response. Or something that gets a strong bodily response.”

“Yeah but if you think that way and try to make a good excuse me great work of art, you’re basically fucked,” Marigold said.

“That’s your opinion.”

“Is it? It’s not an opinion. I should say you’re basically MISPROGRAMMED and need to get your bot thought processes checked-up. Earth to all humans! You can’t make something great if you’re just following the rule book, I’m not saying act a fool but–“

“That’s your opinion,” he said again, coldly. She didn’t fight back, when he said something a second time — wasn’t worth it, he’d be offended if she dared. Xavier then added, “You’ve sometimes wished you were some sort of scientist… So that after college you’d be presented with a more straightforward set of options, instead of living back home. Is that what you’re on about?”

“I did mention that once,” Marigold said. “Thanks for showing me you sometimes listen, that’s nice of you.”

The humility required to clean up a mess, Marigold thought, was where most potentially-fine underprivileged people slipped up and fell into chronic discontent, suffering, shitty habits never changed. She liked to make excuses but there was only so much she could hide behind verbal pyrotechnics that actually excused big or small mistakes.

Related to all this was a certain bogus notion that Marigold had to watch out for, technically, as a loner in the boonies (not actually the boonies, unless you consider Gaithersburg the boonies): the notion that, merely because she was supposedly talented as an artist — sometimes she felt talented — she might qualify for a pass on the rules of reality that controlled the whole human race! That was actually, 99.99999% insane. If she thought that way, she would die here. It was absolutely clear. In Bethesda or nearabouts, yeah, she would die. Either now or in sixty years maybe married, maybe even with a greater setup compared to (say) what her parents had which wasn’t bad it just was average. Anyway. With social media, image control, celebrity worship—an easy lie to fall into in these times was that certain women and men were more godlike than others, that is: above average. Better than her. Blessed by God, therefo re demigods themselves. Constantly, constantly: she felt like a loser.

There were different gages of success in life, different gradations of suffering, but it was always remarkable how humbling it was to sit face-to-face with someone, and talk to them. Yes?

That’s why she liked Xavier with his bot brain: he helped her just, think straight again. Did he love her though? She knew, he didn’t that much. She didn’t care to fathom his reasons for not loving her, but she went ahead and just thought this: who would? That’s what she figured.

“Call me Robo cock, are you ready to go back home kid.”

Marigold sighed, then looked around. “The fuck man.” Then she got up and went home with him, to his condo, not to her house where Rose was still in town visiting; Marigold knew, she’d be leaving soon.

Rose is taking a bath back home. Late night and she’s on dope. Kidding, that was a joke. All her flowers are wilted inside. The huddled ducks by the water have their faces hidden. This is who I am, she’s admitted to concerned men. It’s been like this since my adult life began. I’m an evil bitch, I am. It’s funny how irreversible life was, wasn’t it na. Jadedness is a permanent affliction. This is who I am, it’s just what kind of person I became. It gets me off, I need you to put this on. There is no changing any of it. Oh woe, life’s shit. Then she gets afflicted with bitch-fuck-shit-up inside her head. Some brat, running by the water, sends all the ducks flapping in very real panic. Tearing up roots along the riverbed. Chill chill chill. Stupid bitch won’t listen. Clown brat, chunker butt, Barbie stealer, the cunt. Starts kicking up the sand. Now she’s having memories of her mother, Brenda, from back when Marigold was a couple years old. What happens in the memory is, Marigold takes a shit in the bathtub. (She knows, grossright.) And the first thing that happens after that, is a screech, from her self Rose. “Ewey!” Because, you know: Rose is a year or so older and her baby sister just went to the bathroom in the tub. (Patheticright?)[No-no.] And then her mom Brenda looks up, and smiles. She never could let go of that that smile. Rose can remember it too. And then her mom says, to whomever she’s talking to on the phone: “I’m sorry, I have to go. Marigold just shat in the bathtub.” And probably because they hardly ever swore in that household, and then her mom just dropped the phrase shat in the bathtub and hung up the phone—Rose (two years older) started laughing. She laughed and laughed. For a long, long time. Ten hours. Cue the soundtrack by Philip Glass, put it on loop because it’s a lot of laughs that need to be diffused. And Rose was laughing because, she knew her mom would appreciate the audience, the claps. Laffitty laughs. It was clearly obviously, though, a sadistic laffy duck. And the reason Rose is reliving this scene of her mom on the toilet in a memory is because, it might be significant. The smile. The sadistic laugh from her self, Rose, not her mom. Her mom didn’t laugh. Rose channeled it. Now Rose like, feels baddish. Because she thinks the biggest-reason Marigold has such a baddd time (clearly badd enough, lately) might have to do with this moment. This, here na ni no, was the moment Rose’s sister started assuming that every woman near the age of her mother or sister enjoyed her suffering!!! OH NO. Marigold would just assume it, yeah, she knew it, she knew. WOOPITTY SCOOP. Since then she’s gone to a lot of therapy and learned how that stuff works, it’s developmental! That’s her worldview, it stuck like Rosie roots in manure, it grew. And if this is one of Marigold’s earliest memories or maybe even before she could remember shit, let alone shitting—being laughed at in a way that’s sadistic—then it must have really informed her worldview on how people look at her! That must explain it somewhat. And Rose thinks that women act more natural on the toilet; sure, there are ways it can be elegant, maybe they’re painting their nails or trying to get in touch with someone. But it’s a place for authenticity—naww? That’s why that cruel little smile hooked its talons so deep in Mari’s memory vault. Because it was so… natural. She wasn’t pretending, their mom. Marigold in the tub practically asleep with a bath toy on her lap, chubby-chinned, she couldn’t help it naaasty girl. Brenda was laughing at Marigold, and Rose was jumping on the opportunity to laugh at her because it might earn her props with their mom. That was her unadulterated psychological state, Brenda’s. Not Rose’s, not hers. But Rose thinks—her mom has been (maybe, sort of, a tiny bit, even if she would never admit it) laughing at Marigold since she was just a spry young pip. Not that she never got laughed at too but Marigold got it in different ways. And her older sister Rose (two years older) probably picked it up from their mom: the sadistic-thing toward Marigold. She could feel it. And she can still feel it. Yum. Actually ick. Tell her that it’s her birthday, it wouldn’t make a difference. She felt laughed at. The sadistic-thing never went away. Yeah it bothered her too but it was just there, to stay? Through adolescence. And young dork lady-hood. Until now! So long! Long, long, long, story short—the reason this memory is a significant one for Rose is that she’s trying to free herself of this mindset perhaps. The mindset that probably started with that cruel little smile, yuck fat. It’s terrifying for her to have these awful thoughts! But. Probably worse for Marigold. Who knows, ha. She knows. So ultimately if she wants to change, she probably has to do it not for her self, and her literally shitty ass sadistic personality, phobic of nothing, but of her ratty sister dying or getting hurt; her sissy, who she’s worried for right now, with that hippie technologist fuck Xavier. Robo cockin her. What a creepy fuckturd.

“Image matters”

“But don’t live a lie, Selena.”

“Do you want me to be ugly or hot — just tell me!”

“Is this real? This is me dealing with myself via projection” said Lola to Selena, knowing it was not [*** this dialog must go or be rewritten, I’m breaking up with my plans for this section which are to have this be an actual scene]. “But anyway the answer is probably just like, first of all definitely not ugly, and you aren’t, if you ever think you are then there are ways out of it for you because you just have the makings of someone gorgeous  but I think if I say hot you’ll interpret it as pressure to become weirdly anorexic  and psychotic… who like pays it forward and corrupts people, a SINNER who deserves to be humbled, it’s good for you Selbs… and as outlined in an earlier scene between Lola and Selena, that’s a brain-thing when like all the things happening in public are, like, related to your will to look like something not be something. maybe that’s only happened to me once? That’s not OK nor is it necessary, I don’t know how to be a good role model when I’ve struggled a lot, essentially with looking BAD when it’s not-necessarily necessary (I mean. maybe it was)..  it has been  probably out of my control.. ultimately I do think I can come through in that department, I am not gorgeous but I am interesting and stuff. and so to answer your question I’m saying, that ugly and hot are not the two options, that’s a false binary and, I wouldn’t be with someone male or female ‘hot’ if I could help it ever because a big part of my work maybe I feel is deconstructing that value system and how it huurts so many Americans to think those are the 2 options ; but I think beauty is important in film in ways I genuinely might not have taken seriously until I like desecrated either my self or like, values about that, about female people in film?? “

“Ok you lost me, maybe you’re overcomplicating?? but.. um, I need you to answer this question too, do you intend to be an actress or not, Lola.”

“The byline or whatever on my books will be Morgan Wilcock, I thought Lola Wilcock for a hot second but every time I’m in zoom classes I feel like being a ‘Lola’ would be super tacky and literally like not the name for me. I’m not trans even though my imdb page now says ‘he’ and I did think for a night I was trans when I did that it’s not a joke and pretty hard to change back, my id, is not a joke —  alter egos, superegos. No joke no joke but I’d like to be just like chill. uh yeah. it just feels more honorable honestly to be Morgan Wilcock, the name Morgan is to preserve my integrity when Lola was a stage-name for strange times when I did dishonorable shit — and, I think this scene is going to be canned entirely but it feels like, some of these questions [which I literally have like journals and journals about] about the film-dreams feel necessary for me to sort of nip in the bud at this moment. The answer is that I probably believe people who have been trying their whole lives to be actresses make better actresses, same with other things obviously like DP producer production designer, and I’m not one of the ppl busting ass to be the greatest actress ever, I might have been fighting my whole life to be a writer and all my writing is tangentially related to understanding the gaze and image and stuff so that I can work around film in my 30s and 40s [in the 2020s and 2030s] if all goes just fine, we’ll see. I genuinely do believe in drama school and 10,000 hours rule and all that, either actresses who just have been doing since they were kids or people who are unknowns but kept doing it anyway, they’re always just like better. But then I must say because I am such a film person, and even I have the sense, I’m kind of bluffing a little (e.g. to be totally rational instead of going the riskier route): there are different ways to rack up 10,000 ‘performing’ and of course there are certain movies, films I should say, where casting non-actors makes all the difference in a very positive way. So–“

“–so?”

“The question just literally comes down to fate, not that I’ll wait around for things to work out ever cause that won’t me any, never has, I also won’t do impulsive stuff, I’ve in fact worked very hard to be here in a calmish place just isolated and therefore still oversharing a bit [not really]”

“ok~~*~~~ ay” 

“.. it’s true I’ll probably be directing a project with my sister Alexis Wilcock as Morgan Wilcock; I’ll write it definitely, I love screenwriting even more than THIS ^^ the actual novel not this scene ^^ which has just been a compromise — but screenwriting in the past has been like really hard on me, I think writing scenes that I intend to see acted is much different than doing a self-contained dialog in a book where technically it doesn’t have to sound like real people talking, which I had to work to figure out how to do. when I do a screenplay scene I like do fucked up stuff to my brain and imagination essentially to get it really detailed; here I can hold back a bit, I can just do it in my room. I think it [dialog in the book] comes out much better when it does sound like real ppl talking, my favorite scenes in this book are the ones that I didn’t imagine; the ones I recounted from true events. not this scene. But back to your question Selena thank you for posing it. So what about those films in the vault ahhh? it’s doubtful I’ll be in the films I direct with Alexis my sister, I just think she and I think in similar ways on these things and something about me acting in a project that we both want to turn out like an actual film just doesn’t quite register as a good idea. (For me?) That said I’ll probably be appearing at some point in a little project by Alexandra, lol about how their names are so similar and they’re like my two best friends currently.”

“um.”

“in Alex’s film I could just be myself. but my alter ego, I can’t actually act her”

“?? interesting” (maybe you’re right??)

“does that answer your question? I do think you’d be great Selena!!! you’re just really a temperamental person in ways that I have had a lot of trouble with, I doubt it’s any more painful for other people than for you. you’re just super sensitive, like super sensitive idk if it’s good..” 

“Would you ever direct something alone,” Selena asked (like not knowing, what to say, probably about to attack in self-defense for no reason but also just posing questions as a cipher) — ‘and are you not Lola anymore?’

‘it sounds like a porn star, which is cute no, no it’s part of my past’

“got it”

“ok thanks for being a sounding board. and to the thing about directing — the answer to that is NO categorically, the only ‘film’ I’ll ever directed alone was that p.o.s. dark lady blues and everything about that film is a result of it JUST being meeeeee me me me me, and of course the people I hired but honestly I did everything and it was too much and I do not, like, directing, alone, absolute, period, I just am so attached to the screenplays I’ve written that I wouldn’t want to like hand them over to a stranger so. that’s why my sister is coming into the picture in this unexpected way, she and are close ever since I went to a psych ward and she visited me every day!’

‘ok I’m out of here this is too much. what did you go for?’

‘this is in my book of essays, but just because it DOES seem vaguely relevant m’dear — I think that, well, there are some things that get warped in your mind when your worldview hinges on vanity. there are some stakes, in any case you look good when ur doing well idk. my mom thinks your crazy stay away’

‘you don’t trust me’

‘I absolutely do NOT trust you, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to be proud of that, like to invest my distrust in a sort of satanic pride about being a sociopath; that kind of rationalization is like what drove Lola-the-character to do heroin [see early chapters] — or if you might want to go through the hard like major deep awful-feeling overhaul of admitting that you’ve fucked people over. I’ve read that sociopaths just aren’t fixable, I think it’s the amygdala, but for some reason I don’t think you are one; I think you pretend to be and then forget you’re pretending. I’ve done that with pretending to be, idk, some American Dream incipient. so I might just really think you’re not-that-bad but I think you’ve been bad to me and I wasn’t actually imagining.. would be interesting to hear the other side of it, not saying I am hoping to (no hopes up), I just think you had a big impact on me initially and probably helped my writing. so thanks’

‘you trust your mom though’

‘the mom stuff is complicated, my mom actually thought you had ‘it’ but, are cruel. I don’t really talk to my mom anymore and that’s hard for me. you’re not that complicated “Selena” .. someone who built a great brand who I sort of copped for my character(s) — oops, fuck you, maybe you can sue me or something idk I really don’t trust you though’

‘are you vain’

‘I don’t know, I think I have been delusional. that’s what I’ll say. I think I know when I’m ugly but then I do weird-stuff about it [like I get vain about my ugliness, it’s so fucked up] so. smh. Men in bodegas don’t hit on me currently, but for some reason I think that opens the door for me to actually be someone consider appealing, not them, and I only go to bodegas to get coffee! not sandwiches like Margot Robbie in that film, if you saw the film; I saw it with my dad and it really annoyed me, the film and how everyone liked it, the one about the birds, I don’t even remember the title.’

‘what the f to all the above and infamy and beyond to outer space’

‘I’m just processing — ‘

‘are you staying in med school’

‘ probably, it just worked out really nicely that I sort of accidentally stumbled into it’

‘how are you paying for that’

‘oversharezone: my uncle helps me budget, we talk every week. and loans. I’m in another uncle’s apartment, I have a roommate who’s cool but I don’t like really like living with people my age, maybe that’s proof of some psychological problems (it’s always on questionnaires; do you have friends who are older or your age and I always have to pause). I used to be financially irresponsible. just coming clean. I’m not passionate about class but it keeps me around good influences which is some real sh**, important’

[pick back up here]

The truth was, Selena felt like more of an outcast in New York than she let on. Fans of her writing read reviews of art openings and parties and commented on how funny they were. You’re so funny! You’re so clever! they’d always respond. But the experience of attending events with a bunch of phony artists and arrogant celebrities was actually quite tragic. The famous people she encountered were so morally depraved, it wasn’t funny at all. And these people were worshipped like Gods. Heartless adults with no education who’d never been hungry a day in their lives (except for the women, duh). Their favorite books were the same ones Selena liked when she was eight years old. All these people seemed to care about was money, oral sex, and drugs. The only good news for Selena was, they were easy to talk to; if she wanted something, clout or some validation. Yeah.

“Why do you think I’m living a lie?” Selena asked Lola after their night in Park Slope, having read Lola’s crazy emails. “I saw that in your email! I’ve considered myself a sycophant, but never a fraud.”

“Oh! This is what I meant to say: sorry — you don’t actually look like any of your pictures on the internet.. do you”

“You c***. Is that a crime — true or not”

“It’s not a crime, it’s something people in my class [like social caste I should say] would just casually be all like ‘oh everyone puts up pics that are better-looking and thinner’ like it’s just nothing. but I’ve found it gets really like intense in New York media I guess. Like don’t JOKE about that. Well. it’s true of all my pics [on my social media.] so I’ll speak for myself. Videos are harder — I’ve been honest in those. … boo pi doo… ALL my stuff, my pics my videos, books [2 big ones, this is #1] , I love talking about my self like people care, it’s so worthwhile” 

Lola then sighed and thought for a moment. There were few actual adults in the world, but it was obvious when she met one. Adults were calm and assertive and listened more than they spoke. They had maternal or paternal sides depending on their gender. Lola’s conception of adulthood was unique to her unorthodox goals of sexual stardom, though it didn’t involve posting compulsively on Twitter and Instagram, or taking any selfies at all.

“Don’t be embarrassed or anything. But you probably went through adolescence later than most kids,” Lola threw into the conversation. In a Starbucks on West 110th Street, she and Selena were coming to terms with their history, some trauma. “I mean, me too. I think when I was a kid I was more of an adult than I was in my twenties, or my twenties I have a few years left..”

“Congratulations,” said Selena. “So now you can grow up.”

Lola was oddly offended considering she wrote that line. “yeah, thanks. I can”

“you really like Selena Gomez or is that just an arbitrary celeb you chose to match my name”

“definitely not arbitrary. I’m gonna end this scene here or I’ll just use it as an excuse to keep talking not writing [actually just editing existing] scenes but I think the answer is that the truth about how much I invested in each of my fav celebs will become clear probably in bad ways, the worst ways, because the experience of being a stalker of people who are A list stars has actually been dysfunctionally very painful, oddly so. like whenever you really like someone and then you meet and it’s just super fucking awkward or you realize it’s just a character, that’s not what I expect to happen but it’s a good analogy to explain this: yeah, it’s basically been happening every time I like watch a video of them [Taylor Swift or Selgo] and it’s all like weird big hollywood shit, they’re not who I want them to be!! for me or for America which is all fucked up let me say. but yeah. a friend crush or whatever, it’s just like your imaginary-version of someone; isn’t that what all relationships are”

Selena said, resolutely, “YES Lola, caaaaan confirm, that’s what they are — to you. that’s just like an inherently weird phrase ‘or you realize it’s just a character’ that is not what happens for everyone”

“is it not? idk.. how does your brain process the experience of being with someone. they’re just a projection of your brain even if they ARE standing there. right? (am I being serious, duh always) I think though yeah most people have a much less weird conception of friendship I’m really isolated I doubt it’ll last which is the main reason, when I’m done with this project, to work in either medicine OR film or both. I’ve positioned myself to essentially stop devoting 10 years of my life to, writing a book. one great book, this is WAY too comfortable for me to only be friends with characters (and Alex and Alexis and Jillian; who in-person actually make me feel MORE like myself not like really fucking awful, but, it helps when they say compliments aloud so it’s not left to my imagination literally, and not lies obvi), this might not be the one great book but I think it’s got some good stuff in it.. idk again this scene is just kind of me clearing things up so I can transition into a different sort of mode. I’m actually like a talker, rhymes with stalker but I legit meant talker, and not that shy in real life (this is new I used to be so shy) so I essentially just need to leave the house lol but not be around strangers if that makes sense. I am aware of who’s a stranger to me and who is not, weird that I have to clarify these things.. like eebie jeebies, sometimes when I wake up in the morning and do my morning routine, I really realize how many things about me that I’ve chosen to lean into are essentially just kind of like little ‘off-key’ like it’s just so genuine it only works when I accept that”

“what’s your morning routine”

“that’s something I’d only tell a fucking friend. have you seen American psycho? it’s not that or I’d have better skin. it’s funny as I figure all this ‘Lola’ stuff  out — I had a stalker who was very religious who used to be like Lola Morgan is a lying evil whore and Morgan Wilcock is the good one, he was an actual stalker like he printed out pictures of me and had an instagram where they were framed like within the pics, like in his room, but he was also a fan *brings hand to heart* and ultimately I think, he was right! Selena there’s one more question I want you to ask for me”

“how do you ever find time to do your homework, aren’t you in finals?”

yes, and the answer is I do all-nighters before it’s due, and,  I have no idea but the ONLY time I write well — is when I’m not supposed to be!! which will turn out to be how I did this whooooole thing bla bi bla keep going preachin to that white wall with cushions on it”

“Don’t make your whole life a rebellion against people who have treated you like shit. I know you’re angry and I know you like to self-destruct. It’s like drinking poison to hurt other people it’s literally retarded..”

“I mean though,” Clyde and Benny were walking with coffees up West 61st. “I have survival skills — I guess like, now that I’ve gone on the streets. Most people want to believe they’re rebels but really they’re all scared about their image. That’s why they go to college… There’s no test for emotional intelligence, I spose. I think I got more in touch with the truth. Who knows, but if you’re emotionally intelligent at your faggy school—no, in this country—you’re fucked. It’s not a good time for feelings.”

“Don’t call my school faggy, it’s fucking Juilliard. And that’s exactly how Trump won,” Benny said back. “He manipulated people by tapping into their feelings, so they all stopped thinking. Everyone stopped looking at the facts. Don’t act stupid on purpose. Stop talking like that. Stop.”

“No maaaan, that’s not it. I’m talking about street smarts. It comes down to the tiniest shifts in energy, you gotta listen to your gut. You know, you know!! Not your brain. Let me explain what I mean, it’s about survival. When did all this lying stuff start up, about ‘people acting bad because they’re misunderstood, tragically flawed — like Trump?’ Oh! Poor things! Like fuck na man — Some people are savages! They choose evil over good, constantly! That’s like, MOST people! MOST people, are like him! Cause they think it’s cool! Fuck! That.. I mean, I think there are more people like that—way more—than people who are good deep-down. I’m talking when shit gets really nasty, on the streets, nasty, I’m kind of saying that like a joke no. It’s way easier to choose evil over good, way way way way easier. No one on the streets wants to be seen as a ‘good person.’ That’ll get your throat fucked up. But yeah it’s a tricky game, cause if you’re too much of a rat, people don’t want you around neither. It’s important to listen to your gut. People who are evil give off a bad feeling. Dirty vibes, shit. That’s what it is. It’s a tightness, down here, right here. It’s not a good sign if you feel like you’re blowing warmth, from your lungs into your stomach, the whole time you’re around someone. Good people don’t give off that constant cold emptiness. It feels good to be around good people. I mean, it’s okay to be mostly hotty thotty, with a cold searin edge ya.”

“Blowing warmth, maaaan, why don’t you just stick to that…” Benny was in a shit-mood, and he hated when Clyde acted like he was some sort of slum lord. The streets, god damn, reallyHe didn’t like when he heard fragments of half-baked ebonics in the way his friend spoke. Sometimes he felt like grabbing Clyde’s shoulders and shouting, you’re not black!!! Stop acting like it!!! As if you’ve had it so rough.. But what stopped Benny was knowing the depth of Clyde’s vulnerability, how it might tip him back into addiction. Other times he was literally like, that’s just what Clyde deserved: what he got.

“I’m sorry, it must be so hard to be you. I know the rest of the world is stupid compared to you, your Highness. If only everyone on the planet were less of a dimwit, it would be so much easier for you. Maybe that’s why you spend so much time by yourself.”

That’s a text Benny received from a girl named Courtney whose appearance eludes him today. He saved the text on his phone, because he found it funny. They were never actually dating, but that’s how she cut it off. Benny thought Courtney was hoping he’d apologize for being an arrogant asshole and dogging her, after they hooked up once. The trouble was, he didn’t feel guilty. Everything her text said was true. That’s exactly how he felt.

“And you can get lost, I won.”

That was a text Benny sent to Lola a few years back, a girl he’d hooked up with a several times including once in a Starbucks, she sucked his cock then paid for his dry cleaning, which she found so odd; the dry cleaning part, she’d offered to suck his cock, she was young and wanted experience with that kind of cock. Just to see what’s out there. She was never into the butt stuff basically all of it, and just, wouldn’t say yes to that from him, she never would. Literally gross! Shortly after Starbucks where he used her card to buy a croissant, which, she ate — he kept getting Lola to pay for stuff, it was odd, he’d say his debit card wasn’t working — she called him “basically a male lesbian,” over text, not ever explaining what it meant, which for some reason bothered Benny so much. When he sent his text back, she didn’t respond. Ever. Benny figured it was because he’d socked it to her. That’s how it ended, his text. What happened was she cried a little (from the “I won”), then, just blocked him and thought not fondly of the sex sometimes but forced herself to forget him.

There was a certain strain of asshole that annoyed Benny more than others: the wealthy white male artist whose inner struggle consisted primarily in wondering whether or not he should feel guilty about being an intentional prick to everyone—especially girls he fucked over. This type of man was tough to be around because his greatest skill was being judgmental. He was often a successful and deliberately non-inspirational writer, clinging to laurels from younger years, keeping his name in the press by using Twitter to bludgeon up-and-coming artists with low blows. Benny knew, from high school, that this guy was Selena’s “type,” because back then she used to read them a lot; later he’d find out she hung out around them at parties. Because Benny still cared so much about Selena, even though they were separated and never, ever  really a couple in the first place, he didn’t want her to settle down with one of these pricks! 

So at his latest jazz gig, which occurred around Valentine’s Day, Benny wrote another song with lyrics for Selena. It went like this: “I’ll call you lambo you call me your Jesus / what goes around comes around so we’ll both end up even / Sex in fear, sex in fear, with you I’d enjoy it / not fear of each other—fear of them, I hope that you know this / you said you might be into girls, bring them with /  I loved that one time you [really private information] / P.S. if I die and I want to all the time / you’re dying too lamb so don’t even try.”

Selena heard the track, she didn’t love it, she blocked him. Occasionally she still thought of how he’d affectionate he’d been though, which, was just-odd to reconcile with some of his lyrics. She never got that niceness from her new men though; his good side, indeed, was hard to forget. 

Another deluxe album song track #7

by Carol Quick

Will you get mad or quietly know The lengths I would roam to

make sure
You’ll come home

For you, I’d return as an angel  Knowing you set me free

Is it romantic
Or tragic,

no one can see

Who really saved me, but he was my lord

I would thank you profusely

But i’d rather you just know it

That it wasn’t a favor / I know you’ll forget 

I could drop every hint 

But that’s the kind of just it  

It’s kind of a challenge that’s issued Beyond

 

The make-believe stories to create a bond

Though I doubt I’ll create them /  or you’ll just have moved on

Still

It’s not a moot cause – to keep keeping on

to imagine she’s been there

then pretend she’s not gone

[15: Oblivion fog]

Through the flower fields she wandered back to the parking lot, holding her head down, frowning because she was thinking about the past. She was thinking about recess in grade school, before she was famous. They used to send the kids out playing, behind the playground, where a field of dandelions opened up like a night sky sullied green. And she used to be the one, off with just one other girl—usually the one who got picked on. Or maybe she was the one who got picked on herself—and that other girl was being nice to, Catherine. They didn’t spend any time together, away from recess. That was the only time they were friends. At Recess. Maybe she could find another place like that flower patch, you know. They never did though. She didn’t feel like she belonged, even back then, but (for some odd reason) she thought she’d prefer to be the one more alone, who got picked on, rather than the one who got picked. And holding her wilted carnation in her hands, wondering if she could heal it, Catherine hid these tears from her new man because this (you know this) wasn’t about winning or seizing something for herself. It was about who she loved, like really really loved without deciding it or expecting it or even having any reasons at all, and how they couldn’t see how much she needed it, they never interpreted this. But she honestly felt like she wouldn’t be able to live without them somewhere alive for her, like seriously, if they stopped caring back, or died or disentangled from that unfulfilled part of her self, inside she would feel cold and dark and diminished—she’d already gotten a glimpse of that and it made this so hard, being this, but how could she explain that to him, she couldn’t. Catherine climbed in the passenger’s seat of Benny’s black Ferrari, and just, felt like a kid on the playground again.

“Smile them to death and destruction”

“What’s that about”

“It’s the girth of my section”

“I need to ask this as well, do you think this time is different — that you’re getting good stuff, not just writing a document that’ll go on your laptop”

“I thought so,” said Morgan but sometimes, “I wake up and I’m just like no!! essentially fathoming that I’m not special. and I think that scene with Selena about the name-change etc is me losing touch of the momentum, good sign I need to break and recollect my schedule and stuff, it was like me pulling the emergency break and being like ‘what do you actually want’ [from this, writing a book no one’s reading]”

“do you have a conclusion to share resoundingly”

“don’t mock me please. I’m trying to heal but I think that’s kind of an illusion, to think I can heal my self and that writing is catharsis or isn’t just a bit like treading water. my same issues come up: the eating disorders, trauma, often related to sex, and — it makes everything about that, it becomes like picking a scab I spoose.”

“question. do you write for celebrities hoping it’ll get you picked,” asked Carol Quick

“picked, like a scab? the answer is no I’ve just been doing that for so long, writing dialogs where ii’m just talking to my self [not stars or characters based on them] and feeling all self-conscious abotu that reality, the reality of it being a LIE, sometimes I’d imagine that I would wake up and have texts from these people (stars) since late 2017. That’s when it started and I think it’s because something really awful happened and I just, broke from reality essentially, I literally thought I was somewhere else and stuff, so if it ever would have been a means to an end then I wouldn’t have suffered so much with it, genuinely yeah, like the concept of it and celebrities (lol idk it’s all kind of just so wack). the feeling though is of talking to a hologram that sort of makes me want to WORK OUT and BE STRONG and shit, supersonic super star wee love me, when I actually feel much better like not doing that, if I go around people I get swept back into it because they just perceive me as that, the version-of-me that I’m stuck in that isn’t actually my self; and first of all sort of basking in this new situation since earlier this year 2021 of having the option not to always be fightiing ill health, I don’t think that I’m as sick as I’ve been, either mentally or otherwise..”

“you’re making typos, though. mentally ill?”

“..sometimes ii like to leave them, and meanwhile I don’t mind  being really kind of like a kid just doing stuff for fun, maybe sometimes athleticy stuff, going on hikes not like insanity workout class; and also still doing stuff that I don’t want to do like ap

pointments and boring work, but — not being ambitious, that’s like an adult-thing. Corrupt, or maybe just corrupt when it gets into a woman, I’m venting idk. if one imagines they’re a rock star as a kid, it’s kind of different because you’re just having fun. not trying to like conquer the ass-world, also for that matter not trying to, well, make art that helps people be in the truth. not in their bubble realities [as Jillian would say]. you’re just doing it for fun, the rock star dance as a kid. to go back to your question. I think that I’m not positioned to get seen anyway, I try to cheer myself up about that, I’m not sure there’s a silver lining but I try to pretend there is, like privacy to recover perhaps, more importantly I’m very against the principle of writing for a more powerful but very small audience because I think that’s like the whole point, people are fake (to more powerful people, hierarchically) because people-being-fake are desperate to get out of their shit and they want something. I have this idea that people have been like that to me and I think that idea is a little bit exaggerated; if they were like that it’s because I used to want to be a big artist and people kind of had a sense of how serious that was, I was determined, it was like they could sense it, I guess you could say I was driven to be great. now I’m suspicious of that drive to become great, literally. I think it’s like evil, or, something that messed my life up a while. so if I sense my self doing that — trying to get something, or suspecting people are like that — I realize, I’m losing it, losing it. I also think that: when writing about race sometimes there’s the impulse to do stuff just because it’s what people want to hear, and that’s something I REALLY have to watch out for”

“any things you need to change. with that in mind”

“definitely probably any moments where I wasn’t just writing from experience, like, about what I think is the problem? — not like me exposing the TRUTH — that’s not a good impulse to have or sentiment or whatever, because it becomes a generalization? that makes sense to mee

“by exposing the truth do you mean, that people are evil? terrible?”

“no, that’s not the truth.. and I think there are some scenes where I kind of went there, like the lyrics to ‘Ava’ in an earlier part”

Carol: “and total non-sequitur do you actually think certain people will be ‘actors’ who you wrote the roles sort of vaguely based on”

” no (there are no roles based on you besides Carol), when I kind of start entertaining the idea of that, well, I think that’s something I have to remember to remind-myself qualifies as insane, I guess it’s true I’m always thinking about films but I forget that NO ONE CARES, I have this idea that the films I make will be a big deal and people will want a piece or some shit. my sister understands basically how hard it is to make a good piece of work, a legitimate one not one funded because we’ve both struggled so much with feeling like if we were someone-else [not the daughters and Ellen and Scott Wilcock who messed us up] we’d be able to do what we love. I’ve carved a space to do what I love but, it’s not what I love as much as film: my puuuurpose. but all that is bogus anyway I am so powerless or far from the reality of being an active and legitimate and not amateur filmmaker and imagining it at some point is not, helping, or bringing me closer. I think that — I forget the reality at times though, I forget stuff definitely. I just become, very lost in my work”

“what else do you forget”

“to TALK to anyone?? like literally ignoring emails and texts and living alone, like retreating from society and not-existing. also my homework. it’s a rationalization to be like ‘this is a big deal’ to do my work nowww. I think though, I know or just definitely sense that with time I’ll become progressively saner and sometimes I do think the insanity that comes through some of these scenes is something I just like: want to ride out so then I can go back into society say post-Covid quarantine. I didn’t bring it on in the initial drafts, I was genuinely unwell and for the most part unaware of my insanity honestly. As far as doing my work nowwww and just doing my woooorrrrk it’s like how some big stars, music artists, released like 80 tracks from her quarantine, I don’t it necessarily helps to— .”

“what’s that thing about smiling them to death and destruction” 

“that’s been your problem, not mine, your quarantine songs are like a break from that interestingly and  also — it shouldn’t be your problem?? I just am writing this dialog to touch on how I see a connection between being literally the biggest female artist you can be, by big I mean famous and I think the connection is kind of dangerous(?) rickety bridge and the other side of the connection is, to being a minority in America and — I don’t think your work, Carol, has enough depth that I feel comfor–“

“excuse mee?”

“some of your songs have depth I’m just talking a bit about the book Invisible Man which, I related to a lot when ii read it initially but don’t want to make about mee — I’m not the one who should be ‘smiling’ and I’m not the victim, idk carol”

“not following.”

“[sigh] this isn’t good! boo poo bi doo! yo. just like a lot of what’s gone behind this project is making me want to be someone I’m not!! like a big star, like Beyonce or Rihanna proobably more for me, I don’t want to adjust that way and also it’s literally delusional a.f. to suppose adjusting to be a ‘big star’ is something I specifically should be doing when no, one, knows, who, the f, and why would I want them to when that’s not going to result in decent art. I have the sense that if I do get published then that book blackbird is probably something I shouldn’t published because people just wouldn’t know what to do with it. im just talking”

“you’re going to make this scene into a better scene”

“Correct, same with the previous one — with Selena. here are stars *** so when I do command F I remember to fix these scenes and other things I need to fix when I’m finishing up here, pretty soon”

Carol said, “so anything else you want to throw in, tuh. did you listen to the ’80’ tracks”

“I’ve been having a hard time with ‘you’ as in your public image and sometimes I get depressed and avoid everything to do with your mainstream media obviously as being a fan can be like painful and demeaning or humiliating, at least for someone like me who had such dreams. but I did [like just last week before I rewrote most of this book] encounter the ladies lunching chapter and wondered if that’s a sondhiem reference? I’d guess no but idk. still that one seems interesting-to-me so I’ll spend some additional time with it***. i’m pretty busy though..”

“no one’s assigning”

“anyway, I’m hoping to go back and clear up some of the sections where I was playing the victim It’s true that depression and some of the addiction-stuff, and being poor, at one point was extremely painful for me — I wasn’t always playing the victim is the thing. Or I should say: “I” wasn’t playing the victim is the thing? but sometimes. I probably forgot and lost myself, in the role. wow. I’m just realizing, how that Lola-thing was like, holy shit. like. alll the reckless behavior that I now have the perspective to know was  a way of dealing with trauma and maybe like pathology. I feel unwilling to dive into the word pathology and how it might related to my, status?? that said my dramatic ness about the PAIN I’ve experienced, which is real, but it’s also not something I should cling to, the PAIN is only what served the writing of this book; not my real-life, or relationships, holy shit… which by the way aren’t that bad, I think I play up how bad it is because it’s like my ‘brand,’ to be a ___ when I’m not. anyway Carol.. do you think I’m a stalker”

“I have had worse but let’s say yes. a talker too, damn..

“ok. I’m taking a break to do homework today , that’s like, good for me”

“what’s your morning routine”

“this morning at like 6 I got in the mirror and dark-danced [I should say dork-danced] to a post malone song, not that one though”

“you like him”

“oddly yes maybe that’ll provide some insight into my pathology. my friend Alex, on Post Malone, was just like no

2018: Maybe someday you’re finding a fierce fucking trainer and getting up at 5am like Kim Kardash to do fucked-up workouts with someone hella fucking expensive and you’re doing alla that shit 5-7 days a week and keeping it mostly private and not even being egalitarian about it; only with members of your cast because it’s a requirement. Not for the first couple parts of your jazz trifecta film Black Satin, which are gonna be grungy and heroin chic to a reasonable degree, visually—but for the later films yes you’d like your girls to work out to inspire wannabe hotties like your younger selves, maybe not like Kim Kardash but like, themselves. That said, right now, you gotta be real and given your body type you might have to stay uh-mildly chunky side if you intend to continue writing and doing work on the internet and writing decent cover letters and stuff. And no you can’t hire an effin trainer cause you already have your pilates therapist for the sore back and that’s a big expense (+ better food). Nor can you keep paying for this stuff on credit it’s gotten out of hand. Your only other option is to go on another fast and suffer like seriously that shit sucks—but that’d be a temporary fix, e.g. before a low-budget film, so make sure, if you put yourself through that hell, it’s tightly planned so you don’t fail like you have again and again at least four or five times despite making plans. Once you did it for two weeks and it worked, you gained it all back but it worked some months, men treated you objectively-differently it worked fine (lol god), even your muscle mass went down, oh, well. Now: you’re moving in the direction of a series starring you in 2018, no one else wants to do it, so it’s a fine idea to wrench yourself from crappy past circumstances and continue to do all you can to “sweat out your po-girl habits,” even though you’re still a po girl not to mention a total sadass.

“How did you fast for two weeks,” asked Cat [Catherine]

 “I’ve heard people do like months — or lifetimes? I mean, how does Donna Simone do it, I feel like that’s classified-CIA level secreto so I would never be so rude to make the claim that Donna don’t be eat, just like the rest of us, aayh — so anyway two weeks was just like.. the best I could do, but, you know. We all have our hunger fangs. Say what, I’m in a recitation on zoom writing this, I can’t stop, stfu, I think I’m realizing I might not stay in meds.. actually just pre-medschool.. differentials and limits, I can just pretend I get it.. but we’ll see, my family wouldn’t be happy if I fucked everything up again. anyway tho I just watched films during my successful fast — not necessarily Criterion films but like The English Patient which might be one of my favorites ever; that’ll probably change (.. it’s so beautiful, it’s like, pacifying for me)  and if I got a headache which was always but sometimes it would like hit in these waves, that’s when I had my dream of Lyra not of Golden Compass fame, I would sleep for up to five hours, my hours were all off obviously you can’t sleep well.”

“no but like how did you reach that point”

“weird question, catty. Rude, how does anyone reach that point, idk what you’re asking. have you even been reading. [still just talking a/o herself] and sometimes I’d watch really junkie TV which is like better these days then a lot of ‘grrrrreat’ films from these times. Yes I like the Kardashians, I feel like they saved my life a bit, just to sort of ground me back in a vague approximation of how real people might sometimes sort of act, it was funny but not quite mean-funny, after I cracked, I would have to write an essay to explain.  There aren’t that many films I like honestly, for new stuff: I like stuff with Kristen Stewart in it generally, I can’t think of like one film with her in it that for me just was all-garbage even if it wasn’t a classic, and she’s been in masterpieces, I didn’t even not-like Twilight which I think there are some veiled jokes about in Clouds of Saint Mariles, I kind of liked the Twilights just for how authentically preening it all is — she’s like a good one to follow, I’m not just saying that, I remember my editor Gavin at Film Comment thought she was maybe the best in our [my] generation, and I adore Jennifer Lawrence usually not quite all her films, and my favorite male actor, lol, is probably Jon Hamm but he’s not in anything all that incredible except him in Bridesmaids! (Oh and I like Mad Men which is well-written but not a film it’s TV.) I’m just recounting it because I am legit about to do it again, this fasting business, it could actually go better if I just know what to expect, also I think I’m giving an idea of what I’d want to do with casting leads for my life’s work whore-jazz film thing”

“huh”

“How would you do it, would you do drugs”

“would you?”

“would you watch porn to get through it?”

“no.”

“And no no no. I’m trying not to do that like ever [I hardly have seen any] because it’s male gaze stuff I want to just keep out of my system and basically build from scratch in movies, my sister is pure, she’s helping me direct.  No I don’t do drugs anymore, ever — I’m already crazy lol”

Catherine Delaluna then said, “ur fine” 

“Even when I’m at my skinniest I have a ‘girthy’ frame, I prefer the word taurine, I say this defensively because I’m defensive about it deeply, sometimes I feel deformed but that’s a mean word to use on oneself, not that anyone cares. I think it’s just what I’ve been through it won’t change; it literally wouldn’t be like that if I had the same exact build I did as a kid (and just was healthy through adulthood) but I like, went through it as they say. I have wide shoulders and hips and I think it’s like unfixable. Ok so planning it in the second person: your last final is on [this date] and your stats project is due [this date] and then you can tell Alex what day you’re back and good to go, and then, and then what? well,  is there anything else you have to watch out for”

“appointments”

“ugh shit. actually that should be fine because everything’s on ZOOM still, I won’t have to leave the room I’m in — I have therapy once a week and a psychiatrist who I adore, there’s a chance I’ll have a upper lip hair touch-up scheduled but I’d probably just cancel that if it coincided with the two or three weeks I designate”

“what meds are you on”

“that’s something I’d only tell a fucking friend..”

“would you write during it” [an official fast]

“no. because I don’t trust my brain to sort of monitor my blathering — yawk yawk, ya this is weird sorry. (but it would be weirder if I were already into el fast)”

While working at a coffee shop that attracted middle-to-late-aged clientele, Clyde developed an unusual skill. It had to do with noticing the difference between someone who was playing dumb for their own safety and survival, and someone who genuinely was. (Well not dumb necessarily, but deeply embedded in the metaphorical Matrix that surrounds us, with zero chance of escape.) Clyde once assumed that most hyper-friendly or totally aloof humans were acting like that for the same reasons he used to: which was, to spare himself additional abuse from people in public, knowing well that human nature made one more likely to sympathize with someone innocent or even stupid, than his “real self” if he were acting sharp and 100% observant. So when people acted either bright-eyed and smily, Clyde sometimes tried to communicate with them via subtext (e.g. “how are you on this beautiful day,” even when weather, and current events, clearly sucked). But it quickly became clear that most people didn’t have tolerant ears for his note of irony. They either spoke down to smartass Clyde, like he was the moron for asking such a question, or said something like “very well! thank ewe..” and so, clearly in early to mid January 2021 when he was doing this, they hadn’t read the news.

He realized this at some point. It just like became clear over time. Plenty of customers, older customers, were undoubtedly out-of-their-wits—and not even faking it—which sort of threw Clyde for a limb, because he’d always given people the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were smarter than they seemed and just-acting for survival reasons. I mean that’s what he did often: played dumb. He could tell when people weren’t just-acting, because some regulars were aloof or immune to humor, or straight-up wack, no matter what Clyde said or did to get through to them, in the duration of their 10-second exchange at the cash register (or more than 10 secs, if the person was talkative-AF-maybe-senile). They never, ever snapped out of it. Only about 1/7 customers offered Clyde a humbling round of eye contact and said “good” when asked how they were, even though the news, say: in America, clearly wasn’t good and they probably could have figured out just from looking at him that Clyde wasn’t doing his best. Yeah, the nice people might even ask Clyde how he was, to discover a similar situation on his end of the brief convo (“good—no great”). It wasn’t ever funny—more sinister, perhaps—so at some point Clyde stopped asking questions and just handed over their macchiatos and lattes, no questions asked.

Catherine Delaluna used similar tactics when circumventing paparazzi in public. If she always appeared in a good—no great mood in public, it was to make herself invulnerable to improper assumptions by trashy journalists. Wearing a merry mood on her face (as opposed to a bad one) was definitely less likely to arouse rumors that tore her up. When out and about, usually with someone slightly less accustomed to this life of hers, Catherine tried not to engage with any single one of those doggish broskies who came in packs and stormed Catherine with flashes of unwanted limelight. The best way to avoid engaging with those guys, was to seem so absorbed in something else that she hardly noticed them: e.g. distracted by a great convo, or by how much she mo’effing loved who she was with. (She wasn’t always acting.) If Catherine found herself alone, the safest and most straightforward way to act distracted, was to seem caught up in happy thoughts—for instance, by smiling all-is-well on her short pathway from outdoor vicinities to indoor ones. As a celeb keeping tabs on her own public image to a sensible extent, Catherine was always surprised (judging by the articles that sprung up online) by how easily people fell for her displays of jolly innocence. She only wished her real lifestory was less impossible to confirm or deny, to those rare cared-for souls pressing ears against the walls of her private world, listening all the time (even when they sincerely didn’t want to pick up on certain.. disturbances.. accidentally, or because they asked for it). How genuinely few people could tell whether she was just-acting, or not? She was a good actress so it was hard to tell to be honest.

Around the time Lola stopped taking Adderall and started getting more rest, she had a vivid dream of herself, looking older and almost unrecognizable in a lowcut garment and slacks. In the dream she was with that friend she hadn’t known since the end of high school. For a time, they’d been so close that Lola would wake up in the morning and sense what Selena was feeling, then meet up at school and sort of discuss it, not explicitly though. Back in the present: Lola wondered whether such dreams were the product of wish fulfillment. That’s what Dr. Freud would have said to her.

She wanted so badly to have a better future that she wouldn’t put it past her consciousness to come up with impossible visions. In her sleep, she ditched real-life automatically. That was the reason for dreaming. Maybe they could talk more, about everything, if they found a safer environment, or just.. someone different.

 

“How bout fate.”

“I believe in fate, cause I have to. Determinism keeps me forward-thinking. It forces me to make decisions more carefully.”

“But that’s not fate,” said [X] to Lola back when they were still a thing.

“Fine. If you want something as bad as I do, then everything in life seems like an arrow pointing to how it might happen.”

“Maybe that’s a lie though. Just to get out of bed.”

“You know, shut down. Maybe you’re right.”

In a Times Square gastropub decorated with framed outfits of dead rockstars, where they went one day as a “joke,” like all their dates practically, Lola now leaned back in her chair across from [X] and sulked a bit.

[X] asked, not quite tenderly, “Are you mad?”

“I’m not mad, I’m a human.” Lola sat up again, as though shocked in the butt and escaped into a rant; very muddled, a bit clumsy. She said, “I’ve always known you’re amazing, so, I understand your family doesn’t mind taking care of you because of that. But like my family, my dad, can’t handle me — it’s not like that, am I making sense, if not exactly, that explains why I can’t stay with him in Queens. It’s too much. My odds aren’t terrific okay. I just get it. I get it, by now, like guts ... Sorry like, I’m hardly surviving enough to take care of me, let alone… a boyfriend. So like. Before it can ever work out between us, we just have to be released.. Give me time.”

He still wanted to ask her for help in releasing himself, whatever that meant. Pride prevented him. “I don’t know Lola, I don’t.”

Lola understood, approximately then, that they weren’t going to be together. She’d tried, her best, as if she could influence this, herself. “The main thing I worry about is you without me,” she said sitting back again, smiling not quite sincerely.

[X] stared not at her but at the floor, not quite derisively.

In stock stories when guys met their honeys there was always a moment when he expressed, somehow, “she was the most beautiful girl in the room.” It wouldn’t have been hard to be the most beautiful girl in the room at that gastropub. But at a Lincoln Center after-party, not quite the Met Gala, it might be sort of tough.

The first night Benny could look at Selena, and Catherine, together in the same place, it was a somewhat close contest between them. They were different! For Benny, just part of the subjective distinction was that Catherine had no backstory attached. Benny knew far more about Selena’s history: probably too much, but his mind moved fast enough not to hold this against her when comparing her beauty to another woman’s. He didn’t want to say “he loved her energy” because that was a hoky comment that wouldn’t have accounted for his deeper memories and emotions. It also was dismissive of how she looked, not always like, she was well or visually perfect; whereas Catherine (an A list Hollywood star with no plastic surgery — not that he knew of), essentially, did look yes-perfect.

Yes, she was perfect, he knew she was the one.

Up close he could see the effort that went into it, all the better, the make-up! Selena, did she have any, she had blemishes and looked under the weather. Dogged, even, ya ya. That night Selena, still despite the lack of effort (she’d spent no time at all getting ready, he could see, it worked in her favor almost, the attitude he loved), had been informally pretty, in a gown that she probably bought at a mall and not provided a fitting, messy red hair as always. The gown had nothing under it, as far as he could see, nothing, just about, though he made a point not to stare down there when he saw because Catherine — Catherine, whose skin was the color of s’mores, and whose hair was nearly black, a yes-perfect sheen — was there and he was trying to get Cat out of the friendzone god willing. If he’d been around other men and out with Selena officially, he would indeed be frustrated with Selena’s lack of effort to dress up like (say) Catherine, whose red gown was yes-yes perfect and whose hair was carefully done so the ends curved upright like a simpering consort to the supporting female player in this scene.

Not the star: the star was Catherine, who supportive Selena wasn’t even half of, when he now considered what kind of women they were respectively. Selena hadn’t expected to talk to him, at least not as much they did finally, it was clear — and knowing Selena honestly, she’d act amused and unthreatened if he showed his attraction toward the other girl. She might not even look at him interacting with anyone. She might leave, who knows what she’d think. He hadn’t actually bothered to check, after she’d sort of made a scene. Benny’d seen a glimmer in Selena’s sea-green eyes and then assumed she must realize, he thought she was still beautiful. (She didn’t feel this from him, at all, and knew he was mean.) But Benny had priorities and loyalties and game, and wasn’t about to mess up this new thing, with Catherine. 

Marigold, though no longer trans or willing to be the ‘boy’ in a girl-girl bond, incidentally, was almost two years younger than Rose and still growing up. On her computer Mari kept a file on iCloud (labeled “shrine.docx”) which contained images of her muses before they found their wings. It was uncanny how famous girls who started from the bottom, and then got lucky, were able to transform themselves to be sexually appealing in ways that modern feminists might identify as sexist: you could say, totally altering their figures and mannerisms.

Nevertheless Marigold — nearly trans Marigold-go-round — had the sense that certain aspects of womanhood would never come as naturally to her as they did to other women.

“I wish you would tell me what to do,” Marigold confessed to Rose. “Teach me.”

“No bitch!”

“Why?” said Mari, listening to Schindler’s List theme in a pair of headphones and crying in bed later that night.

“Honestly,” Rose responded, “I have no idea what you see in me, that you’d actually want for yourself.”

“You’re full of shit! You’re super full yourself I know that it’s so obvious. You keep saying stuff like that in front of me, and everyone, to pretend you’re not,” said Marigold “But I have the sense that it’s horse shit. It’s obvious from the way you take selfies all the time that you know you’re smoking hot. You’re vain and always have been, so stop pretending you’re as insecure as I genuinely am.”

“You’d be surprised… You don’t lay sole claim to feelings of insecurity.”

“No, but it’s one of my things, it’s my brand not yours whores. And please don’t attack me for admitting vulnerability. I know I still look like hell but I’m working on it, seriously.”

Rose must have noticed that Marigold was behaving less like her baby sis and more like an all-around different person. To be real, Rose wasn’t 100% pleased. She was aware and ashamed of a need to be needed by someone young and wide-eyed who saw Rose as cooler than she saw herself. Or maybe, possibly, for some odd reason, Rose liked Marigold the way she was currently (a sadass) and didn’t want her to change too much. So she panicked a bit when Marigold showed up downstairs one morning, for coffee at breakfast, wearing a just halfway-decent bra. Now who would Rose compare herself to when she needed a pick me up?

At a younger age, Marigold would have wasted late nights writing e-mails to friends and other relatives that said, in veiled terms: “help me. Please.”

It was unusual to get a response. If they did respond, it was with some armchair psychologist-type advice: “I think the problems you have with self-image are mostly in your head.”

She stopped writing e-mails.

Before Rose’s arrival back home and increasingly frequent check-ins, which were appreciated, Marigold used to defer to her grandfather for makeover advice. She went to him because he kept offering to pay for haircuts and outfits. Each time she saw him, she dreaded having her whole body assessed by such a close relative. She would describe his taste in human beauty as old school; perhaps, Old World, even. Marigold told him she wanted to lose ten pounds and was trying. He said if she lost ten pounds she would blow away with the wind. Obviously though, he hadn’t felt the wind on either coast lately. It was a very light wind. Her grandpa painted nudes of women and considered himself a connoisseur of the female sex. It wouldn’t be the first time she felt visually unprotected. Her home didn’t feel like a safe environment. Or maybe her relatives and friends were right, and her mind was the only treacherous place. Mari wasn’t sure whether it counted as a health risk to be surrounded by hostile scenery. It was hard to explain how terrified she was of walking in the front door of her house and being exposed to something she didn’t want to see happen.

Marigold of course, because it was like the trans fang, never confessed to her friends the extent to which her ambition came from disdain for her family. She didn’t mean to look down on them but she couldn’t respect how they behaved. She had a hard time tracing how much of her pity was actually misguided adoration. She tried to force it, either way, and always just was hurting about it. She wished that real love weren’t so hopelessly complex. Mainly though: it was difficult for Marigold to discuss how insults about weight and shabby appearances, as indicators of classlessness, hurt her deeply.

It was even harder to tell her family why she felt depressed without causing an argument.
While her mom was cooking eggs on the stove, her unbuttoned pants fell to the floor. She didn’t pull them up.

“Sorry,” she said casually.

Ralph made a disgusted face.

This is the kind of shit Marigold had to put up with on a regular basis.

Five nights a week when she had the day off from work as a waitress, she took Ubers to spend her night in Gaithersburg with Xavier, which of course, was gnawing away at her budget to bust out of state. The night in the motel was precious to her in the same way drugs were precious to her when she was still using. It was clear from leaving once in a while that her mental and physical state would be shaky as long as she was living at home in Bannockburn, so she thought of this year as a non-negotiable phase of imprisonment due to financial difficulties. 

If she could have anything it would be a place to stay where someone was hard on her, but also had a trustworthy track record of personal success. Preferably someone close to her age. She liked the idea of mutual caretaking; not another bond with a needy person who sucked her lifeless like an entitled geriatric lady. Marigold felt sure, she wouldn’t have fallen so low while studying art in Los Angeles if she hadn’t been brutally punished by people whose opinion mattered to her, for looking like white trash. Then Mari ended up more stressed out and even tackier. It reminded her of her relationship with her parents

It took Marigold a while to separate her self-standards from how she saw her parents and/or how they viewed their kid.

While Mari scrubbed out the oven, she noticed her mother looking, one evening, at her ass. “Stop looking at my ass,” said Marigold “I know it’s a lot to handle.”

“No! You have a great ass,” said Mari’s mom, still looking. Marigold didn’t feel proud, or relieved. She felt sick. She found herself sleeping too often, lately. She curled up in a ball, kept all the lights off, and didn’t leave her bedroom for days. Unless Xavier texted.

With [I] riding [II] like a horsie, it was hard to keep track of their location in reality. Uggh ffuck, [II] kept saying, cause she couldn’t believe this was actually happening. [I] was proud that [II] was saying ffcuk ffuck over and over, because it meant she was performing adequately. At some point [II] stopped speaking at all and started wheezing, like he coudn’t even think. If [I] had a choice, she would inhale [II] every single day like a whip-it. On her horse, without thinking, she started whipping [I]. [II] couldn’t even feel it, he was so far gone on [I]’s whip-its already. [I] could hardly breath herself, but she wasn’t dying. She felt she had finally started thinking.

“Usually when a door is shut, it doesn’t mean like—open it, like what if I’d been naked or something”

“I know hahaha,” said Lola’s dad, “i just heard the music and wanted to see what was up”

“Well. hey.”

“hey.”

[16: You send me]

Corinne song lyrics

We’ll carve me some moats

Take them years to swim

Build you a castle

Tell me all your sins

Don’t worry honna

I love you for them

When hate comes a crashing

I’ll still be a friend

Why you do that

Why you do dah

Da di doo da

Do bi la da

You know better

 than any man

that This One’s been braver

than the world understands

Sometimes being a woman

Is less about the sex

Than being a scarecrow

For dysfunctional dicks

Clean up the goo

On the sides of her ___

That smile I’m wearing

Is proof I’m your type

Female ego’s the reason

I lost my who I am

Women raping their best girls

Feel less ugly within

Why you do that

Why you do dah

Da di doo da

Do bi la da

Slow down Corinne

You stopped my clock

I thrust your advice

I want rubbered cock

I used to think all

That shit was grotesque

Now I’ll get down with anyone

Brave enough to repent

Brave enough to love me

No matter how bad 

If real sex is ugly

You deserve it most

For the greater good

One maims and one slays

Need someone hold me

At the end of the day

Paul already hates you

She hates he’s not there

Put him in a boat

a double dog dare

May the best man win

And the best mom

You each know ur own sins

Better than I know them

I don’t need to go strapless

I can handle my shit

You want to be a great artist

Don’t forget, you’re a ___

Can’t tell how bad scar fangs

Or if my brain got boo booped

Why you do that

Why you do dah

Da di doo da

Do bi la da

A glock prop that’s painted

Red white and bloot

A dance in Times square

Will start a new movement

I won’t play the victim

I’ve called out many times

And some of them heard me

They know when it’s right

But it’s up to the man

To rite his worst wrongs

You’re lion not snake

But you’re longer than Jomes

Why you do that

Why you do dah

Da di doo da

Do bi la da

You and Guy haven’t actually tracked the other down. As far as you know, you and Guy aren’t even meant! (Well you’ve sure stalked Him, you think, but how can you be sure your brain ain’t playing silly rabbit shit.) You and Guy have caught their one pressed against the walls of the other world, listening. But you haven’t pressed frames. If Guy were a girl, you would hate him honestly. Lucky for him, you’ve somehow come out even in this life. You’re the man who is just like me. And maybe you’re his Girl, gonnabe his Woman, you don’t know yet but a girl can dream. You’re a girl who’s not been reared to trust and love anybody. Not even yourself. He’s a boy who’s not been reared to feel or provide safety. Not even with himself alone. You’ve both been reared improperly. Let’s just be real. You each need some re-rearing—from the other, ideally. You sort of associate his feelings today with a black Labrador puppy, named Paul, and this might be weird and bestial but just you wait: you like it when he presses his head against your chest and you hear it thumping. Your heart or maybe the thumping is just his tail on something solid. His black furry head is so heavy on your chest that you think he might be playing dead or just so tired he might never come back from this upcoming dream. You like to think of petting his really soft ear with your thumb till he falls asleep. You know it’s been hard for Guy, bi do bi boo, to have peace. 

Marigold had a dream she ended up, somehow, some way, at the same-ass party as both her sister Rose, and Lola, the wig-n-kyke girl from Lady Meets the Reaper, and she and Lola ended up in the bathroom together. It was a sex dream. The weirder part of the dream wasn’t that it was a sex dream — it cut off suddenly, anyway; there was also a clown it, which was weird — but how Rose had called Marigold “a fucking slut,” as though she hadn’t been encouraging her all those years (with subtle bullying) to be in a relationship with a cad. Basically!

Suddenly Rose cared, she kept visiting. It didn’t matter. Marigold felt like Rose was too late. This was happening.

The truth that Mari didn’t want to admit to Rose, was that she didn’t even like Xavier that much, even though his dick. I mean. Just, not his personality . For another girl it might work, perhaps!

While Marigold had her dream, Xavier played video games on his laptop.

Some bitch who resembles a frog be all sayin:

I guarantee you, that I hate myself more so.., You can try to out-hate me, good, luck. [future readers.] At the end of the day, he’s our president,. It’s, reality. Here, we are. I’ve grieved what coulda been, different. And I’m an American citizen, who wants, America to be ok, i.e. to survive, & it’s going to be worse if we don’t get behind, whoever it is, in power (for ex: in war times)(icb very w)(a/o the future). I don’t think he is—actually, I know that he isn’t—as much of a fool as he puts on to appeal to the geuinely-unintelligent American people. And if we end up mired in a war, I think he’d hypothetically do, okay, as an old-school businessman, who like, knows all the [evil][and maybe some, good-to-kno] secrets. And he can wield some of that, over enemies to the USA—unless, he’s lying, which, fery well might be, #truth.  Do I think he’s evil? Do I think my Gpa is evil? I think, he’s trying, to be, the best Man he can still seem, now that, he’s older and actually in office… It’s the money-is-power era, in U.S.A.,.., the world… that’s why he’s the president-elect for these times, it’s a reflection, of real-life not-even-fake. What ppl worship, in music too. $$ over values. Rape over consent. Taking over, asking. Lying, and never intending to give it back. thx, guys. I kno. I’m shit. Urs truly, the victim. I’m still alive, trying. What the fuck are you even doing here, I have no idea what u want from me. I don’t forgive u at this time, even remotely, like are you fucking kidding me?? Really. Anyway (*recomposes self*). If Trump gets humiliated publicly, by his Twitter, and his fuckin, stupid actually-evil immigation cruel bullshit, and pussy-grabbing (how?), then that’s part of what goes down in his (no not my ) fuckin, legacy (so don’t fuck it up). Tho, I’d confessedly rather have him in world-stage power, if scary war shit actually ‘goes down,’ than Bernie or Hillary or, Kanye. BIDEN? IS THE ONE EXCEPTION #kumbaya? Just not for me. That’s not the world I’ve witnessed, from the shit-bottom. It’s not been, best 2 me. No fuckin #utopia & I’m going to end this conversation now. Because.. a lot of confessions for one mourning.  Gotta stay safe, myself [or not, even] [fine]. Let history judge me, not, present popular sentiment. and anyway. you’re out of my league!

Xavier played videogames on his laptop. Marigold napped.

Around Xavier, in that weird apartment in Gaithersburg, reality began to feel like outer space. She used to envision her dreams like lighthouses beckoning through empty blackness. Not right now. They felt more like miracles that could only occur with a stamina boost like some rocket blaster shit. Flashing lights in black, blank eerie spaces. She was so tired, what was all of this.

In high school, back when Marigold got picked on (including by Rose) for wearing her sandy hair in a weird half-ponytail with the back cropped short like a bob, she used to feel the same way about reality as she felt now. She felt that reality was a cold, cold place, where people weren’t good after all. If there was an impulse for good among all humans, it fell apart fast in places where outsiders represented a threat to the crowd.

Marigold couldn’t conceive of how anyone might feel envious of herself until she glimpsed a life that was approximately the North Pole to her sullen South. And she realized how genuinely jealous someone was, of what she had. Among her favorite movie stars contained in the file labeled shrine.docx, was Catherine Delaluna, whose fan base was literally 1,000,000x the size her own. And though it was hard to conceive, Catherine D would be jealous of bitches like Marigold who spent four years depressed in art school, and now lived at home with her parents.

How could anyone be jealous! Valerie thought of her squalid unglamorous shit-life in the present. But she didn’t know Catherine’s real tale, X-rated. And the grass wasn’t greener there. This girl’s past was the same dry stretch of bare dirt, with some diamonds mixed in here and there. The main difference was, Catherine didn’t have the privilege to whine like oo-oo-oo about the shit everywhere. As a weird-artist with a very very weird-manfriend Marigold had the privilege to whine with wild abandon, without even censoring her brain’s neuroplasms, like a bratty tatty bitch in heat. She screeched. It just kind of worked, for her, TBT. And Catherine from afar thought — or couldn’t even afford to let herself think — she would rather be a wild wolf howling than a kitty kay cat, forced into horrors unseen.

“Anyone who’s actually been through something traumatic or painful does not want to discuss it—let alone complain. Among some women, these… events can be sort of a tacit thing that aren’t brought up. Especially not with members of the press who will surely be insensitive, I mean maybe this is all my opinion, though I do think a lot’s becoming obvious with recent coverage of residual sex trauma and gender imbalance in Hollywood… So, to answer your question of how I just guessed, I think the way your team for Catherine always turns the focus onto that, and everyone else, and says positive things is actually a way of not-talking about stuff that’s negative in your own life because, that way, no one’s the wiser. I would do the same exact thing if I were asked about it, and I have in my own life—it’s hard enough sharing painful content in private as a writer.”

“Well fine, you got it right. Great! Do you mind if I ask you to take this off the website. Not because it’s bad, but because you’re not wrong about all of it,” Catherine said on a phone call with Blootmuni, pretending in a panic to be her own publicist. Not her own, self.

She explained a bit more.

“No no no! My editors won’t allow that — cause of journalistic integrity! — buuuuuut I can maybe try and sneak onto the website and take it down sure yeah,” said Selena, on a sort of weird almost robot-feeling high upon hearing that her latest article about Catherine’s entangled backstory, apparently (based on this phone call with her publicist) got it mostly right; she’d felt nosy doing it, anyway, but she’d already been paid. “I like Catherine, I’ve decided, so I’m flattered honestly that you think she would even read it and feel strongly one way or the other. Thanks for saying I’m a great writer, by the way that’s like so sweet, I don’t mind taking it down” (na ni no) *some clicking sounds as she used the keys* “Did I tell you I actually dated — well, never mind, don’t you know… there we goooo, I can’t guarantee that some people didn’t save it, I’m sorry, if so. I clicked the button though, can you see!!? It should be gone!! Ya, okayee. I just can’t guarantee. It’s 100% over but. The article, it might come back from the dead. I’ve done my best for you, ha..”

“Thaaaaankk yooouuu,” was all that Selena Gray heard on the other end of the line. And then a click.

This was literally the only celebrity journalist, who Catherine Delaluna (obviously on a secret account) had ever added to her follow list.

When an article came up, by Selena, that spoke speculatively of unseen horrors on the set of her last movie shoot — Catherine’s heart skipped a beat or three, bloot pi doot, she picked up the phone and tried not to scream. The rest is already written, in the preceding scene.

… 

What the jazz lyricist named Oaklee had that was different from most things, writing-wise, was a way of privileging the little stuff over any semblance of a damn plot which Lola figured was actually important in ways not even she could see. Lola was more of a narrative writer (as a novelist) but with her narratives she tried to sometimes get wonky. 

If one spent enough time in any profession one might start picking up on a secret code inherent to it. Like when you hear two men in scrubs using doctor-speak on a public bus and can’t keep up with the conversation. Or when you peruse the Twitters of experienced journalists and think, what the fuck are they talking about. Well it was the same among performers. Lola knew that. And though she decided she knew enough about literature and screenwriting to go ahead and break the rules a bit, she also began to figure out around now how illogical it would be (as a wannabe co-directress) to cast non-actors when they wouldn’t be hip to any of the lingo and private code that pro performers already possessed. It was immediately obvious to Lola, that seasoned actors were easier to work with. But seasoned actors probably thought the same thing about her, as a film artist with v.little experience than someone already established and super-practiced. [this is what  *** will serve to replace the Selena dialog] (so delete that when u get a chance but not all of it just needs redux)

Lola found herself watching talkshows featuring indie-but-mainstream solo music artist Lorinne, from Lourdes. She spoke with an accent. Lorinne was crazy! She liked to sing about, liabilities. And na na, she was aware that the tables had turned. Lorinne’s music was diffo for how it was structured sometimes: the instrumental breaks (if there were any and there weren’t many songs with them) were more like instrumental psychotic-breaks. Lorinne’s Cassandra-like practically incoherent musings on generational pain were enveloped in the sounds her music made between vocal sections. Her one mistake was to suggest she was being melodramatic, when it wasn’t her acting crazy (just like, having an appropriate response, to/per this moment in history, various dynamics among the human racial being); it was everyone, else, literally.

An American near death tries to search for reasons her life was important. And she keeps remembering this one time she met Catherine. This one time, she met Catherine. Catherine would never remember who she is. But the one time she met Catherine, she was given advice. It was advice Catherine often gives without thinking about it. The American near death remembers what Catherine said: “be nice.” The American smiles at her killer. Not full of spite, but of respect—toward that man, unexpected, also (you could say) precedented perhaps. He doesn’t smile back when he shoots her twice in the chest.

Just before that the all-new American shooter made his entrance in the church and clicked his tongue before he clicked his gun. Sticks on a snare. Thunder and rain. Rose pedals blown off stems, ruined. A mist, metallic, thick. Such a good sooound. And such a pretty siiiight. He felt an itch near his groin. Thaaaat’s it…..

But later, that smile gets to him. The American shooter, instead of killing himself as planned, turns himself in; wondering if, well, the public will find him sympathetic. At least one person did.

 …

Of Catherine Delaluna, there were at least two versions. There was the adult sort-of-badass, mature and stoic, who had grown as used to being looked at, as walking and breathing. She didn’t mind how people behaved around her, all the time, which would feel weird and unnatural to anyone unused to it. In most interviews and exchanges with other people she was a strong and pretty well-defined version of herself. Once in a blood moon, the adult Catherine had cruel nasty thoughts about other people. But, unfortunately, most nights the cruel nasty thoughts were self-directed, not directed by anyone but herself.

The other side of Catherine Delaluna was the kid version, who was drawn to animals and children and all things undangerous, and felt so alone and scared sometimes the nerves in her chest stood on end and sent out waves like antennae. Without trying her body prayed for her. Her body prayed someone out there could feel out her cells and sink into them like rain in dirt. She needed to know her skin and throat would get watered. That her voice would be captured and sent back louder with reverb.

She didn’t want to sound condescending or ungrateful for him. But around Ex, Catherine had often felt like a parent. When she once used to wake to him holding her, she felt like she was letting him. She supposed he needed her as badly, at this time, as a pet to a human. Even when he was taking care of her, she was letting him think he was doing a good job at it, to make sure he felt well. She loved to let him hold her, but she wanted to be held. She wanted to fall into someone and feel so safe and sound that she could actually melt. She’d gotten pretty close to melting into Benny, but she maybe-possibly held back an ounce of her submissive impulse.

Sometimes she walked through life and nice things and people flocking to her like puppies playing fetch, and she thought, what am I doing. Playing a role. If it all fell away she’d be happier. She wanted to have playdates like a child. But she didn’t want to be a child again. Talking, and having sex. That’s what she craved. It felt fun, but also like a responsibility, to listen and make love some days.

One didn’t believe in any christ till she felt your crown of thorns. One didn’t believe in any god till she found, thorns could be so soft. Thorns were not supposed to feel this good! But the more thorns one found, the more you keep stabbing yourself with them. Otherwise the thorns and nails in your flesh wouldn’t feel this worth it someone as unworthy as you. Jesus christ, Amy, what did you do.

Every single heroin user I met in the months that followed said something along the lines of: “you shouldn’t be doing this. You’re too beautiful.” I didn’t believe them. They’d say, “I was so successful before this happened—seriously, I was [rich, married, athletic, etc]. You’ll wake up every morning for the rest of your life, feeling like a fuck-up. Stop now. It gets everyone.” They were right. With no money left in my bank account and no desire to move back home (even though I’d have to, eventually, which was worse-than-this indeed), I went to New York and ended up living on the streets, overdosing, fucking a few men for money, losing my expensive camera, sleeping in empty classrooms on campus. It all makes me wince like I’m gonna laugh, it’s so absurd… The only way to deal with these memories is to make them sound fantastical which is probably partly why I wrote a stupid book. But that’s not how it was in real-life, not at all. OK. I guess I had a goal in mind and that goal was to not be a LOSER which people online literally, I think, called me after I made that stupid “autoficton” movie. But back to the not being a loser-thing. Cat Marnell did it. Amy Winehouse did it. They’d probably agree that drug abuse is godawful but they were so cool and good at it. I wanted to be like them and channel the same aesthetic into my own work. The difference, for me, was probably the amount of isolation involved. They seemed to be partying, strung out and skinny and infamous for their drug use. I was never in public, like ever. And I can’t speak for them but I was never doing drugs for fun—I was seeking relief. Most of the time I was using dope, I was alone in the dorms at Columbia, not working. I’d shoot up and lie in bed and listen to music on my headphones. I got thinner, definitely, which I guess was a reason I didn’t just quit, but my overall vibe was so unappealing that people avoided me around campus and in classes. Rank is the word for it. In my dorm, I never used to shoot up full bags because I overdosed both times I did that (over the summer); so I would just take rice-sized portions over and over again with separate needles and inject them into the same open wound. A couple of times I got so high, I thought I was going to fall asleep in my single dorm room and never wake up. I saw like veins in my eyes like flashing and shit. I remember I was taking this swimming class to satisfy the fitness requirement at Columbia, and I once showed up with blood trickling from a track mark on my left forearm. I saw a girl looking and I said, “I gave plasma today, I needed the money!! Yeahhh” She was like, “oh!! It looks painful, is it?” The only reason I stopped doing heroin—and went through severe withdrawal, which meant vomiting and vomiting and eating too much just to fall asleep, then waking up and vomitingwas that my dealer had disappeared from his designated spot without a trace. He used to ask me to come visit him to have long chats, because “all the people here are so stupid, you have no idea.” I’d always give him a few free cigarettes as a gift. He didn’t want to be a dealer at all; he said he was down on his luck and money. One time he was in a wheelchair because “he fucked up his leg.” He had me roll his chair around the block while we wheeled and dealed. The next week, the chair was gone and he wasn’t even limping, so that was confusing. The week after that, he was gone though. I really hope he didn’t get arrested, because I know the prison sentences for dealing heroin are vicious, and he was always a sweetheart to me, not everyone though.

“You’re over involved,” said Logan Sloman to Lola, “and I need to ask you to stop writing dialogs, with my girlfriend. Also to get a life.”

“I’ve hated you Logan. Haaated you… and though I know you don’t care to know why–“

“–Why?”

“Don’t,” *puts hand up* “That’s for you to figure out genius, I’ll give a hint though I think it’s because I’m a closet queer person who basically came out in this book so maybe I was jealous. And, let me fix your question op so it’s got a different spin though. That question — you should not be asking me to get a life but to get a self. You should say, get a self Lola, a better one. Because I was essentially just a life floating around for years, without a self. And that’s why I latched onto CQ among all the dozens of higher-ups I latched onto.”

“You like the album all about me?”

“Which one, isn’t the song me about her,” Lola said, “if you tell me which one I can answer your quoxtion. I didn’t love the song ME for the actual music, the beat and lyrics like I don’t need the word TEAM to be spelled out for me in a way that is questionable, but I do think it’s misunderstood and your girlfriend’s a good person not just a narcissist.”

“No?”

“A little bit though.. unfortunately I think that is painful for her, to be confused about what pride is warranted. And about if she’d rather sacrifice so much to like, be a girl. Idk. TBH that one album was kinda not my fav though, 1989 is more my thing and the lesbian songs from 2020. They’re not actually lesbian songs I’m bluffing I wouldn’t oversimplify or undersimplify it.”

He didn’t be say nothin.

“Awkward. Glad to have my self back, her name is MORGAN though and she doesn’t talk in this way that sounds so moronic it makes me cold in the chest, like it’s actually been weird the voices. [still just talking a/o herself] I’ve always been drawn to, the Brits, as music artists. Amy Winehouse, always. But also probably would have to say, The Beatles and Stones.. I mean wow, to the nines.”

“Where would you rate Carol on the gr1-10 scale.”

“I mean you wouldn’t ask, but that’s a very disrespectful question especially when numbers don’t matter. If you did ask me for that opinion question I would say, f you and that I’m concerned with seeing her being a gr10 artist and, she needs you to be that too.”

“You weren’t kidding about the ‘hated’ you thing, it ‘twould seem.” <– British accent, “To be a gruh-ten or whatever, for my self. Anything I can do (currently).”

“I genuinely don’t think I was kidding though I’m a bit alarmed by that myself, and well, I actually might need your help to move beyond like, gruh-six range (as a grunge artist). But. I don’t know if I have the best gage on my own art and whether it’s okay… I’ll stop talking [to her] though. I’m almost done with this novel thank god, it’s killed me.”

Morgan was weirdly indifferent to Carol Quick, when she met her, considering all the years she’d spent ‘stalking’ her [and Catherine] for this book.

“Noo — I’m just self-aware not that I am creepy or am all the awful things people think I am,” Morgan explained when not actually asked the creepy question why so serious, “I just am self-aware that other people (in my head) will accuse me of it. Like essentially I played a role for ten years.”

Carol which is the name of a popular Todd Haynes film, asked, “why that name.”

And Morgan said, “Lola? Why not like Dolores Haze? Because of all the literary connotations from a book that I think is not overrated but IS creepy, and contains the truth, does that answer your quoxtion??” (Carol Quox hadn’t been asking this question.) “I know where I’ve been and I know where I would have been headed, HELL … i.e. not into a good marriage. And this is exactly what I’m talking about — effin go to hell, your self, swear to God, don’t tell me what I’m up to as a writer. I don’t mean that sorry I just, can’t stand this kind of stuff… assumptions!! I’ll say god bless, lower case god to remind you that you’re human. I believe in karma but it’s never the turn of events I picture in my head, partly why I try to make my narratives not like that.

“Narratives not like what.

“Not the melodramatic version, it could be dramatic but it has to be authentically dramatic not put-on — I am very serious about sort of undermining melodrama because it’s f’ed me up personally, the Trump years my dear, I couldn’t keep track of shit. Like me ever expecting this: you meet the man of your dreams and now you’re happy because that’s what your whole life led up to and that’s what you deserved after such horrible times leading up so now all in life is essentially what-you-always-wanted. (And other things I believed in.) I don’t believe that Carol, not anymore!! Bubble reality, with blood in it. I bloo [blew] it op. But I respect your beliefs on the albums you made ~around my age 27. And this is actually our last scene together, because when I talk to you it’s weird I start using this baby voice. It doesn’t work for me as well as it does for you on some tracks of the album you made when you were literally THIRTY. I’m not gonna do name-calling but if I could I would say, people think you’re weird Carol, I worked at a Target (humiliating that I’ve mentioned this, literally) in 2019-20 where they were selling like sixteen versions of that same one album in the the tech section, and we found it scammy.”

“DITTO” IN ALL CAPS [YOU’RE WEIRD]

“And ALL THE TIME I had to watch that video on the screens, was that guy gay?”

“No,” said CQ. “Don’t put this in your final draft ***”

“It was more hard to watch because you didn’t look your best-ever-yet in the video [Lover], ‘cept with that grunge do on the drums!”

“I don’t think so, time to go — scram, you pestilence, ***.”

Flattered by this insult Morgan slowdanced in her living room alone, this was the extent of her workouts for now, she’s experimenting and doesn’t need to overdo the exercise. (Dancing not actually that well considering she does this a lot.) “Tell me SOMETHING I don’t know c***,” she name-called the other woman not holding back one bit. And Morgan who cares more about the impact she can still have on the world as herself than about this imaginary human not real person, finally left it all alone. Since she knew this was the last time they’d talk, Morgan threw in the words, “f***** hoe.”

Brenda got up in the morning and ran on a treadmill. She ate a light breakfast. She tried to stay healthy so she could live to be at least one hundred. So far, she’d gone through life carefully. She’d never had any near-death experiences. She kept away from Death. When Brenda was done with her frittata, she said goodbye to her husband before she used to drop the kids off at school. Then she went to her room and wrote for a while, religious teachings for the school. Most of the day she stayed indoors, except when her husband came home a lunch break (he worked nearby). Every day, they went on a noontime walk. She always, always invited Marigold, but Marigold never went for it.

The subject of Marigold’s paintings had changed. She stopped painting sick-looking girls. She stopped painting women on the toilet. She stopped painting still lifes of fruit, lately about Xavier (she’d put images of his monster cock in them). The only thing she’d been painting, in recent weeks, was herself. She wanted to counter her paintings, of sick women covered in blood, with something slightly less unwell.

Mari’s artist statement in college used to include a paragraph about how she believed that “reversing the gaze” involved being a total non-conformist! If the subjects of Marigold’s paintings didn’t fit the mould of what men wanted to see and in fact shocked them with (what should she call it) unpleasant imagery, for instance of crazy women in private, then perhaps men would at least pause to think about how their behavior was literally killing women. How their behavior had an impact on a woman’s presentation and how she chose to respond to men in general, it didn’t all happen in a vacuum, monster sex. In addition, Marigold liked to expose scenes of psychological violence between “fellow” women. It was a subject that no other students painted about. She thought the occasional backstab was an inevitable facet of having brilliant female friends. (Like between her and her sister Rose.) Marigold believed that bitchiness could even be redemptive for women trapped.

So, she painted about that.

But none of Mari’s paintings sold, in art school. Except for the still lifes of fruit. Those ones were popular with parents.

Her senior student project was described as controversial by professors because she painted nudes of college women who fell on the poor side of the health spectrum. (The paintings themselves were incredible, seriously, she was talented. Talented enough to be great and go to New York, try to make something of it—Rose reminded her often.) The college women she tended toward appeared ill, underweight, malnourished. Either that or, quite, fat. But not healthy—never that. They had to be sick-looking. She painted the sick-looking women in mostly green, brown, and red hues with helluva lot of chiaroscuro because she was trying to convey violence! The violence that the human race had inflicted on Planet Earth. She also pasted dollar bills on her work to look like leaves. (She liked green, she wiped her paintings with it.)

Beyond the reciprocal communion Marigold saw between human behavior and the ill health of planet earth—she was also was fascinated with outer space. She often used imagery of stars and rocket-ships in her work: in these paintings, she tended toward silver and gold hues and made her human subjects appear supersonic or godlike, or something like that. (Mari saw the world visually, not verbally, so her work could be challenging to replicate in words.) She knew other students—girls, namely—weren’t huge fans of her work. Or at least, they started getting all bitchy or distant or just peculiar to her whenever an opening happened, sometimes they didn’t like her “attitude toward women.” They thought she was anti- women, somehow. But Mari knew that wasn’t it. In fact, she was far more fascinated with women as subjects of her nude portraits than with men. (Female subjects had more angles to work with. Men always seemed concerned with how their cock looked; that’s it.) One of the points embedded in Marigold’s work was that, as Planet Earth grew sicker, the human race had to… adjust. People had to be either superhuman, or sub-human—but there wasn’t enough middle ground, in Mari’s view. Her most overtly controversial works featured women smeared in menstrual blood and feces with silvers knives attached to them as bodily appendages. Sometimes it was tough to tell if the subjects of her work fell under the “super” or “sub” human branch. It was meant to be ambiguous.

Marigold’s mom was on the couch on her iPhone, looking at the Twitter of a good friend from Church when she pointed out, “she has six followers, and she’s posting these Bible quotes every morning. What’s wrong with her.”

Of course this triggered a vulnerable vein for Marigold, whose internet presence was pitiful, partly because she deleted each account [featuring her paintings] as soon as she started attracting followers. She wasn’t sure why she did it, mostly to cover her pride as though she was up-to-something when she literally was wigging all-by and inside her self. Marigold didn’t entirely regret her crazy online behavior because it aided her own private self-discovery, as a bi person, but she was embarrassed about it, still.

Not many people on the internet knew who she was thank goodness. Nevertheless she felt upset by Brenda’s comment.

So she went down to her bedroom, in the basement of her parent’s house and started shooting people. Around her red puddles sprayed like phreatomagmatic blasts. She shot up an airport of innocent civilians. She shot up of a village of foreignersShe used Call of Duty to calm herself down.

Re: Xavier. Believe her, Mari had thought about this. Xavier was an asshole. But there were a few reasons she kept him around. So here goes an attempt to explain it.

Xavier was hot as fuck in Mari’s eyes, which were gold. (His were silver.) He probably had the potential to get hotter if only he would only stop wearing those fucking t-shirts from musicals that he’d been in during high school. And move out of that creepy condo that looked like a nuclear test bomb site, the putrid totally-expected boring condominium decor, the off-key pastel colors, the hell? Then he might not be like a child in her gold eyes, a manchild. (Mari was not into children.) He was so fucking talented though. Like really! And not just at videogame “design”!! lol—but at like, everything. Conversations (so smart). Electric piano (great hands). Also taking care of his two pet terriers, Nan and Fran! He was probably nicer to the terriers than he was to Mari!.. (the fuck tho?!?!)… And she knew Xavier hada sadistic side that wasn’t all-in-her-head because it would come out during sex. Sometimes Xavier hurt her on purpose and then laughed. Sometimes he practically killed her, and then cried. Well, evidently Mari was a lunatic too—and maybe a masochist and/or sadist, depending on the day; she didn’t want to be either—but at least, at least, at least, meeting Xavier made her paintings like 10x better. Once in a while, she felt like neither a sadist or a masochist and just felt better around Xavier. Like better overall. Like, superhuman-level better. She felt like a goddess when he’s around, better than everyone! And she only ever pointed out his flaws, which he would become deeply upset about, toward her, because she saw potential in him to be her savior. Her god! Before she met Xavier, Mari’s paintings resembled the work of a human child. But thanks to Xavier she found her wings, as an artist. Xavier made her the next Pablo, but female, sort of. Xavier set her free. In the end, he was worth the emotional trauma and pain.

Mari told her sister all these things outside in their backyard, where they’d gone to share a cigarette.

“Well. I had a weird dream that someone was hurting you, a while back,” Rose’d spoke up to start this conversation.

“Really,” said Mari after that. She sounded nervous. “… What the fuck was it.”

“It’s not important,” said Rose. “I’m wondering if Xavier is the best fit for you though.”

Eventually Marigold made sound like heh, then said back, “how do you even come up with these things, you’re a real fuckin quack you know — creepy weirdo yourself. Shit. Every day I wake up and think that about you, when we have these talks about MY sex life and MY relationship with mom, and MY boyfriend. Like it’s just YOUR fucking head getting in my stuff, it’s fucked. Fuckin weirdo.”

“It happened in my sleep, I didn’t ask for it.”

“Yeah but what’s that proof of — not shit, it’s just your weirdass consciousness playing tricks on you. You nose around MY life, creeper.”

Rose took a moment, then said, “Don’t act like you’re still younger than you are, now, those were your choices not mine, you can’t act younger without me seeing right through it. That’s creepier than just being your self and dealing with it. Whenever I smoke a cigarette lately, I dedicate it to someone,” Rose continued, still quite calm, sort of changing the subject. “Then it’s like I’m sacrificing my lungs for a cause I should guess.” (A cricket coo-coo’ed in their yard.) “Or maybe just… sending good vibes. So let’s dedicate this one to Xavier.”

“To my ex, then.. okay, fuck you though, Rose. I know it’s been all fucked up, I know. I can’t stop!!” Marigold literally threw her cigarette so it landed somewhere unseen then started walking away from her sister, to the edge of their yard near an alleyway — running hands through her dirty, blonde hair. As though she just wanted to be left alone.

“Just give it a bit of time, yourself time that is,” Rose said, dropping her own cigarette and stepping on it and preparing to go back indoors. “Stop rationalizing it though. That guy’s a pig.”


Then their mom opened the window from the upstairs of the house. “Are you girls smoking out here?”

“Yeah MOM — Sorry!!” cried out Marigold from afar, derisively.


(“I ain’t sorry,” whispered Rose to herself, on her way back in through the back door so her mom wouldn’t bother her, back to the basement. And though it’s true she wanted to stop smoking, she felt fine.)

“Can I just ask you, how you think this will get read?”

“Who’s speaking,” asked the author of this text, who was posting it on a blog for reasons that honestly she couldn’t explain that well because — it would be more rational to just keep it offline until it was really done.

“Literally no one.”

“Okay,” Morgan’s voice was always lower out loud than she thought it would be in her head, sometimes like Eeyore, her favorite character from Winnie the Pooh growing up. “I’ll probably put it in a doc on my computer, then if I ever feel like I know someone who I’d trust with it, I’ll give to them but honestly I can’t think of people offhand, so,” she took a moment. “It also is kind of literally written in a way that would function well if it were released posthumously.”

“How?”

“The unfinished-seemingness of it. I like that, I don’t want to tamper with it too much. It’s kind of a bluff!”

“Well, good luck getting anyone to care BEFORE you die. Literally still on about that suicide fantasy, recognition mostly after you’re dead. You haven’t submitted drafts to magazines and stuff?”

“Psh, I’ve tried and it’s so hard on me the rejection, I think I have a threshold but usually I just know. My stuff is too intense, or to be frank they might think it’s racist. I think that’s a misunderstanding of it but, I’ll let other people judge.  It’s also been so self-absorbed. Even Sylvia Plath (who is legitimately a huge influence on my work) was published by my age and like had a rep, and so ultimately to answer that^^, I don’t think it’s ever worked for me, maybe the times are different but my work isn’t clicking with people, um; I think it’s because it’s scary. I don’t know. I just don’t imagine that success, however you define success, would do much for me but cause further alienation and trouble with everything about trying to be an even greater writer with time and a woman. I think being queer gives me a nice outlet, that wouldn’t have been possible for her I don’t think; if she say, had been gay or something, there’s not that much in work that indicates it, but like I said she seems self-absorbed which I relate to TBH. I don’t think it served her happiness so maybe I can come out of it, hence the ‘greater with time’ goal. I also don’t think I’m that weird but I think I’m sensitive, and when people are weird to me instead of leaving me alone, then I just want to disappear. So essentially I do come quite close to disappearing.. then I like snap out of it and act dysfunctionally full of myself. Gosh”

“Can you define weird.”

“I’ve defined it ALREADY IN THIS BOOK!!!! Do a command F, can you even read. And it’s not a synonym for queer, to the contrary I think that’ll make me feel less weird for being my self.”

“You don’t judge people for being weird though.”

“I don’t judge people. But I do think they’re weird, I’ve been, I just want to help them get out of feeling-it crippingly though.”

“Weird is a judgmental word so, you contradict yourself.”

“Do I contradict myself. I got that from Lana del Rey’s Twitter bio. The fuck? Weird is a judgmental word? What else do I say — not weird? Everything’s really not weird? Everything ever is not weird? Not even like — certain porn and shit? Being a woman who sometimes pretends she has a dick? The word man-balls? Not weird. Wow. You sound like my fucking therapist in a group session in Minnesota for a bunch of people who were never gonna get better, ‘that’s a judgmental word,’ she said that about the word should. You should stop drinking! You should stop the fuck dating that guy who’s sleeping with your roommate! ‘That’s a judgmental word.’ So what did I tell them instead? Everything’s perfect and bubbly flower rainbows bla di bla…” 

The author becomes more remote, she stops going to talk therapy with a painter whose work is better than she earns credit for (this is literally true, Morgan’s therapist is a good painter who she hopes can still get some recognition). She really cuts herself off.

“How is that relevant.”

“Hm? It’s a reminder to hit up my therapist, maybe for a book cover. She doesn’t think I’m weird, she thinks I THINK I’m weird. That’s awfully boundariless, the book cover but that’s why it would have to be out of nowhere.”

“You’re still judging, judgment is embedded what you said. Moralism!!!!!!! STOPPP with that..”

“I’m not even judging just stating in accurate words. It’s not the norm, and should it just be the norm; soon as something becomes the norm it fucks it all up. So my stance in writing is that it’s WEIRD. The things I listed. Man-balls! Then it can be more fun for me, if it’s still weird! Jk I’m actually trying to throw a wrench in some actually-weird-shit in the world. And I always have my fallen idol Woody in the back of my mind, obviously he pushed the limits of some of what’s allowable. I have no statement to make on ‘whether he did it’ besides that the second he emailed me is when my life got fucked-up. I might even still be dorky but functional friends with evil Selena, if that hadn’t happened. (That might be a joke, she only cares for people who have something to OFFER.) But anyway. Everyone secretly gay knows, that, it’s almost cooler to be a closet case in these times than the one person who dares to transgress which is like no one anymore if it’s the norm, so that ends up being me (the miserable closet case who doesn’t what-the-f to do)[how I can be the one-different-thing, always plotting, but there’s nothing left except for being the dyke everyone hates], otherwise I wouldn’t be so iffy about identifying with all that weird gay pride stuff in our times that’s just not my thing!! It’s like been co-opted by all these brands so it’s not even cool anymore!! And everyone is suddenly gay, and soo happy now, which I don’t even like, believe, for how much I’ve suffered with it. I feel like it’s related to body positivity in a way that no one acknowledges, which, wouldn’t be a good reason for me to give up on going down a size (in fact it should motivate me if I’m being true to myself). Even Taylor messed up her chances with me, that video with Katy Perry, though I thought it was probably her best music video just-like-artistically literally for being almost mean spirited and coming CLOSE to throwing a wrench in what I’ve referred to ambiguously as the gay pride stuff, at least the opening sequence up to like the tattoo or a little further is like, oh this is actually kind of ARHT. Maybe that’s because Todrick Hall, whose videos I recommend, actually deserves more credit (would be my guess so here’s the credit from me)! She looked better at the start of that video [YNTCD] than at the drums, even.”

“I can never tell if you’re joking.”

“Unfortunately I don’t know if she’s intelligent enough, that it was conscious, clearly [she’s] not; also maybe I’m the one who’s off. My mom said that to me, ‘you’re judgmental about certain sexual stuff,’ I’m like me? *donkey voice* Naww..”

“I don’t think it was mean spirited, that’s just you projecting how you’re uncomfortable with it.”

“TRUTH.”

“Why.”

“If I were a gay or bi fox and she asked me to be in it, I would have said no, I wouldn’t even have known why, I’d just not have had a good feeling about it. Basically because of what I said, though, I wouldn’t want to be like fetishized as part of some gay pride brand. And then I’d have gone home and done my homework, to try to be a doctor and attach some sense of normalcy to my fucked-up life as a poor girl who almost ended up trans just to have people be nicer to me? I’m doing the victim thing, or I-should-say, I would have been if I’d done that (been trans when I think I’m just probably… bi, I might be trans, my mom seems to think so), I gotta get out of this scene. Help me end it ah”

“It’s queer to be as alone as you are, Morgan,” said no one, “it’s a white flag.”

“You’re right, Ms. Invisible. You fuckin weirdo. I’m going to volunteer for some queer medicine stuff. Okay? I have hours to fulfill.”

[*** more edits: I genuinely wanted that scene with the target thing to be the last mention of Taylor’s art, I could have done this for Justin’s and Kanye’s music but I pretty much left them out of this draft. Selena I put in but not much about her music, I’ll put it just near the end]

“Why didn’t you put in Kanye..”

“Because all my scenes with him were incomprehensibly crazy, yes I really get into my imagination to try to get it accurate; obviously I’m limited by, my self and my perspective.”

“Not with Selena though? You’re bullying her.”

*white witch of Narnia voice* “STOP asking me questions!! And we’re talking about Taylor and I like her — a bit like Kanye seems to have liked her? I’ve felt the NEED to humble her somehow in MY WORK? I shouldn’t worry because no one’s reading, I don’t know why I write this down like I need to even self-defend and by self-defend I mean self-absorb, it’s insane. Honestly I hope my honest beef or w/e doesn’t come across as quite as aggressive as Kanye’s, I don’t vant to be like thott, like I have to worry ppl-will-care but, his clinical narcissism is less of a worthy cause for me to screw with. Ever..”

“WHY are you team Taylor, you must know that ppl-who-care will assume–“

“–what will they assume? There are no ppl-who-care, but if there were, and if I were still melodramatic I’d say Kanye’s music probably saved my liiiiife i.e. helped me through some very hard times, I listened to it obsessively and feel-resoundingly-duh that he is a legendary artist, however I truly do feel defensive of TS. And I don’t think I can have it both ways, I ‘trust’ her more, she’s not insane as a person..”

“.. um ya about that” 

*ignoring this* “She’s not insane as a person, that’s men speak, men who take from her (as though that’s not like an obvious thing that they did that was f’ed up), just like sneak-take her songs or whatevs happened in 2019 I think, I like that she did the LGBTQ stuff and political statements that weren’t for Trump who is, a, racist, how can you like some–“

“– hey! how did you manage to write the passages that pushed-shit with the white people thing, it’s questionable how you could even–“

“– the white people thing? WHAT THING THERE’S NO THING? The truth about Amurrica trynna be gr9er? Why people fall for It? I don’t know, ya ya, this is the type of thing I’d ONLY be able to answer in an interview, so people know how I come across in-person, then they can decide whether I AM MY SCARY characters who I’d concede are kind of messed up sometimes. And if I never do that ~one interview which is literally this scene~ then I’ll already just be out-of-here, anyway *deuces ay* so, I can finally relax in HEAVEN. Suck it everyone, I don’t want glory, I just, find I can’t do anything else besides write. It’s a terrible way to live and die! Literally anyone who’s a writer knows this, all writers ever know this (*I’m sounding like my scary characters na*), but like, how can I do anything if I’m always in my head and nothing’s real! It’s the only thing I like doing but I’m trying to force myself to do films… because my astrology chart SAYS I shouldn’t a loner!! Film would fix that???”

“Does it say you’re nuts?”

“Does anyone’s, no, then people wouldn’t pay for astrology, I feel like that wouldn’t make it as nice and low-stakes as it is. However. If I intend to put any stock at all in astrology, and unfortunately just-seeing-how chemistry’s honestly been between me and people of various zodiac signs, I kind of do believe in it — then the expectation would be that the second part of my life might be better than the first half, I’m a Capricorn with like some really intense shit in my chart, my mom started weeping when she saw it. In fact that did happen, like Elphaba being born I guess. Maybe Taylor who’s a Sadge, not the best fit, can be like my Glinda and help me out posthumously– you know the song ‘For Good’ [I’m actually being manipulative and mackin’ right now, tricking her to believe this is all fated, she’d fall for it].”

“Omfg. Your mom your mom your mom, all you mention is her!! Are you gonna dedicate the book to her.”

“I mean… she’s usually right, though.”

“sure?”

“mm.. If I go back and look at all the things she’d advised. Usually she’s right.. except maybe when she didn’t intervene throughout my drug abusing, racking up the credit cards, she’s like it’s like ‘On the Road’ COOOOOL! (There are actually lots of scenes in other states, like Middle America or LA, that just ended up in screenplays, not this book.) My understanding of ‘On the Road’ was that he wasn’t alone….”

“She’s not homophobic, or racist?”

“She’s definitely neither of those things, I say that based on my judgment. My grandpa is though. The moms thinks I’d be happier with a woman, and probably be like the boy, more.. idk.. I used to REALLY resent that because I thought, she was maiming me of all my feminine powers because she was abusing me or just couldn’t see it. I’m sure she’s maimed me deeply over the years otherwise… um. None of this shit would exist. So at night alone I’d imagine I had a different mom who bought me Kate Spade and helped me lose weight and, that character didn’t make it into this draft [it’s really fucked up some of my mommy issues, they’re like very sexual], but — later on I realized ‘Lola’ seemed like a drag name, and, maybe, my real mom was correct.”

“um. yikes”

Enough, enough, enough! The Southern friend was tired of some of all their shit. Summa cum laude, she never even graduated. She had invited Lola, who she’d met at Columbia, to live with her in Texas and now she didn’t have her own turnt passage in this grunge novel! Well, now she did—but she didn’t even have a her own real name. The furck! After all she had done for Lola. Just a mention on the second page of her first book, a dedication to her. Again, that’s it?! Maybe the Texas friend had accidentally trained Lola too well to do whatever it takes to be great, great and sort of well, but mostly great. (The Texas friend was psychic — actually though, psychotic — too. She always knew that Lols would get it, someday.) But compared to the Texas friend Lola was a loser hoe Jew. She was a sour puss! With all those motherfucking e-mails in 2020. She felt like Lola was prostrating herself in front of the Texas friend like a kyke, a white one. And what for? She must want something, queirdo. Hora. Or maybe it was some fucked up guilt complex for acting like a pussy and leaving Texas, alone. Effectively hurting her friend. She didn’t like it there? Aw, poor thing. But Lola wasn’t a complete pussy, you know. She was a dick sometimes and intense, it was straight-scary. And between the two of these up-and-coming women, it had gotten too intense to even be in the same house, at least Lola thought it had, obviously though, she wasn’t doing well. And yet — when Lola was on her own with her head in the sand, doing dope underground, the Texas friend had felt just a little bit confused. What if that bitch had fucking died, unknown as shit, she [Ms. Texas] would have had to question her whole reality: including, what she’d always thought was fine. Like literally, what would the Texas friend have done, if Lola’d just died. (The Texas friend would have been fine, especially her. She’d have just, been fin e. No one is irreplaceable.) But still, maybe she’d influenced Lola too deeply to do whatever it fucking takes to be great, even fuck people over and die. And consider sex a form of killing people or dying. If that’s what it takes? Go for it, Pearl. Maybe that’s what had happened. She’d been too much! Reading Nietzsche and sharing quotes about women not getting along? Awkward, what was Lola supposed to say, no way? As a dope friend, she used to know her so well. Tell her everything, did she still. Was this Jew just a backstabbing cunt. Well. The Texas friend used to know that Lola “hit back” the people closest to her, from multiple angles and sides and senses. It kind of hurt, a little. She knew that Lola, like the Texas friend, had high standards for the people she kept closest to her and never dropped. And she didn’t put up with their bullshit, not even her own stank, ick, so she’d go to great lengths not to just put up with it. Perhaps that required being a total piece of shit instead of sitting in shit, otherwise becoming a spinster. Remember? Lola warned you about this. All in all the Texas friend needn’t have been worried, not that she ever was worried, because Morgan had the Texas friend’s back in the long run!! This is awkward to even say!! Not that it needs to be said!! I’m still queer though!! She’d probably push her to be a great artist [or screenwriter? leader? woman? are those the right words?], and, the process wouldn’t always be a pleasant road alone. But, whoever this book is dedicated-to would be a greater film artist for the world, than Morgan had probably been [or vice versa] as just a friend to her. Morgan knew, or at least she believed this.

12.27.2018 

Dear Hillary Clinton,

I’m sorry I didn’t vote for you. I didn’t vote at all that year, I might have been mentally ill. I think it might have been related, to issues I’ve had with my mother. But I feel like, that was wrong. And actually, more than a little, fucked-up. And, I still don’t really know why I even did that.

And I feel like I’m trying too hard to rationalize why I made that choice when it was clearly, just, wrong.

And, I’m sorry.

apologetically and with love (which one might not accept),

Morgan Wilcock



[17: And now the final frame]

In a half-apology piece for Blootmuni disguised as something else, Selena Gray explained to Catherine Delaluna — who according to her own publicist, sometimes read the publication — that, the reason college-educated Americans, statistically, were more likely to report having “no religion” was because one of the major objectives of writing college essays, again and again and again, was not mental masturbation (if you were writing the essays correctly), but to extract the cold hard truth from sprawling seas of irrelevance. Also: to close-read, and to identify moments when word choice mattered—versus when it might be coincidence, or when a newer translation might have more jurisdiction than the original writer’s (or prophet’s) intent. While Selena didn’t have major issues with taking leaps of faith—otherwise, she wouldn’t have made it this far as a solo New York writer—it became clear after about three classes, as a college freshman, that religion was one of those things that just wouldn’t ever quite click for her. There were too many of them, for one to be correct, and too much scientific progress pointing to the man-made creation of myth, historically, to explain what we didn’t used to understand. There was too much evidence of artists (like Michelangelo, or Dante, or Mel Gibson) informing our visions of Jesus and heaven and hell as opposed to pure visions in our heads. There was too much anthropological theory about colonialism, and the Church being used as an imperialist institution that drove white men to subjugate “less civilized” people, for her to put all her faith in one belief system over another. There were too many stories about priests molesting children (she’d seen the movie Spotlight), and politicians pulling strings for their own self-serving ends, and celebrities with pure public images behaving worse in private, for Selena to trust any one of them. In most religions, from Catholicism to Scientology, there tended to be an evil force and a good one. A God figure and a corrupter.

Sometimes: there was a scapegoat, to shoulder the burden of human sin.

Even in psychology, this much could be said—the moral animal was inborn and not entirely informed by experience, so in other words: while Selena believed that having the right motives (privately), was the key factor in keeping one’s karma in check, she also believed that you could find just as much truth in studying culture, history, and religion at large, as you could in reading the Bible again and again. And her choice would be to do that, in order to feed her inborn moral animal. Not with the Bible. She might even feed that animal now and then with good—no great, consensual sex. Not to say it wouldn’t be, intense, the sex. It was complex.

Anyway, supportive Selena knew (or by now, deeply suspected) that poor, actually rich, but still poor Catherine had gone through some shit with immoral sex on set of a shoot for a film that seemed to be about religion. A huge Hollywood blockbuster film, yeah; Selena could see why the publicist got all touchy about the last article she’d written. She’d figured no one would read it, but. You know. Even just the tiny article: it might not help the film make a profit. It had to come down.

There was a reason Old World European missionaries were able to triumph, and it wasn’t necessarily that the Bible was “correct,” but that Western Civilization had the guns germs and steel to Christianize most of the world, by impressing people with their power, and sometimes using force to implement it. She also believed that wherever survival was concerned—e.g. in war, or extreme poverty—the rules of the game might change to see the best karmic results. A person’s choices varied depending on their station in life, and what lessons they had already endured. But their choices were indeed what defined them, in God’s eyes. Or just in her self.

It already started happening, so fast. Was this because she’d been Facetiming with her ex? Catherine looked in the mirror and saw only what was wrong with her appearance. She felt younger, but not in a good way. She’d been feeling so fucking hot for so long. How could this suddenly happen. Whatever, it’s fine—Ex was a different person. And it would keep getting better. She felt, sure, of that.

At LAX, before her beach vacation, the paparazzi had swarmed so dense that some guy snapping pics was knocked into a sign and banged his head so hard, it actually bled. “Oooh,” said a bunch of people. Catherine—who once upon a time would have asked if he was okay—suppressed the urge to laugh at the man as she coolly walked past.

 

What she didn’t understand about their tactics, was that by not-giving-herself, she was made out as a bitch. That’s why Catherine liked to think of fame, as a rape dream. Because if she thought of it was anything else, she would be too hard on herself.

It was tough for Catherine Delaluna to explain to anyone who hadn’t been there—and literally, no one else had been there—how isolating it was to have such a hardcore relationship with one’s own image. If Catherine spent too much time on social media, which (in her opinion) she did, it was because she had a better time coming up with an online visual scrapbook than being seen in public, where she had less control. Of course, she had a more intimate relationship with her own media than with the people consuming it who thought they knew her so well. That is, with her fans. Or the performed version of herself that the fans glommed onto. Hard to say how it worked but by age 24, the amount of time she’d spent posing for pics was probably greater than most people spent sleeping! Not to mention, all the hours she probably spent posing for herself.

If Catherine ever seemed vain, it came from years of yearning for control that was so hard to get. To be spot-on, visually, for one day or one night was such a blessing that she soaked it up and bled out vanity for the world to prey upon. She knew they loved her for shallow reasons. But that was fine, so long as she knew how to keep them around. To fortify her fragile self.

The unmentioned sacrifice was, as long as she was marketing herself to most girls or most men or most humans (as opposed to just a few), her private self was left unmet and not remotely understood. It would take someone really effin astute to see beyond her performance, which was complicated and never stopped for a moment. Not even on intimate date nights. Almost always, there was some public record of it. She’d even figured out how to snap candid selfies, by now. She loved the boys she was with, but still. That’s because—so far in her life—Catherine’s relationship with the media pretty much came before anyone else. And TBH it had served her well. She loved the boys she’d been with, but still.

Maybe she left a few cracks, on purpose. Or subconsciously because she wasn’t as self-aware as the last few paragraphs might make her sound. Did she feel love? She certainly saw love in the numbers, but she wasn’t sure she felt it deep, deep down. Catherine once said in an interview that she had friends “she could tell everything to” but maybe she was just saying that. The same way you lie at the doctor’s to seem like your well. If she wasn’t crying out for help, every time she started crying on TV, then maybe she was acting really well. Honestly Catherine wasn’t sure who she was trying to be anymore. But she knew she felt locked in her head.

“I think you have a few choices now,” said Noelle to her daughter Catherine Delaluna. In a white stucco building on the beach in Saint Lucia, which doubled as a rehab facility, the two girls sat down for a chat.

“What choices do I have,” said Catherine. “Actually.”

“Well, sweetheart,” said Noelle. “You can sort of internally plan to settle down with Ex, who you claim is the boy you always wanted… even though you know how I feel about him…”

“Or?”

“Orrr, you can plan on doing something else. And you don’t have to decide what ‘something else’ is until you’re a little older.”

“My lifespan in this industry is shorter than a man’s! I should settle down NOW, because my life is practically finished.”

“Okay, wow. Do you really believe that? Who’s been getting in your head,” wondered Catherine’s mom. “Maybe there’s a way you can plan to not let that happen. Is that who you wanna have kids with?” 

“What!? Stop it Mom grosss! I’m 26!”

“Just sayin. For someone with choices, love is just as much a practical decision as anything else. It’s certainly something I thought about before I got married. How my kids would end up with any given person, I think I did fine in the end. Even though your father was a !#@@#$”

Catherine looked up at the sun, and winced.

“But Ex and I could feel eachother at night, even from a distance. I always assumed he was my other half,” she explained to her mom.

“I am not sure what to say about that. The mind is capable of some astounding things.”

“I’m SURE he feels it too.”

“I don’t think, you can be certain of that…”

“How can I not be? There’s proof in his ART!”

Noelle shook her head, no way hoe. “Because if you could be sure of that kind of thing, the author of this scene would already have been in and out of love with you. Not in and out of a psych ward for imagining that she was ‘channeling’ celebs.”

“In and out of it?”

“She’s outties, yeah.”

She sealed all her doors of windows to keep out unsensitive sounds. She predicted an apocalypse as a metaphor for how she felt. Her doctors and family and old friends could see, Lola was going crazy! They turned away from this hard-to-watch scene. In person, it was awkward (for Lola at least). She knew they must love her, but they still felt unsafe. The thing the drugs helped with, Lola explained, was that I’d want to go in public. I wasn’t afraid. In sobriety, the fear might actually serve a functional purpose: to signal a safe versus unsafe environment. Lola went to bed after writing six pages of this trash, hoping that by doing so, she could use her brain to make a safe-and-sensitive space for characters who weren’t there in reality and couldn’t be proximally blessed. She woke up feeling sure (for reasons she couldn’t explain) that all of this writing was making her insane, but was not quite in vain, because her heartache was cured even if she woke up feeling humbled and like shit, and—suddenly it seemed that [II] might be the actual person she was missing. Not her good old go-to [X] in the end. Also though, not someone famous. And the not-that-unrealistic possibility of really meeting [II] and trusting that person and doing all that normal getting-to-know-someone stuff—like introducing them to family, and putting in the work to make things better, together as friends (etc)—pretty much cured her “insanity.” This just feels better! Keep believing in this! Friends you can introduce to your parents and expect things to go well! I guess that’s the dream! Don’t even worry about it!

It took a while after the event for [II] to build the nerve to say it like this.

She left me.

Life wasn’t easy for any one person. And to abandon her like Lola did, wasn’t exactly friendly.

She’d always been stronger, probably. Well now it was just obvious, right?

Lola remembered realizing, even before she killed herself, that some bonds weighed too much not to cross through the boundary. So if she did it, [II] would always feel it heavy. They didn’t even get to meet in this life, her and [XYZ], and [II] whoever that could be; not someone whose name starts with a C though. 

Fate was nice to believe in, but it was more like—what you could pull off within reality. And love required power. It wasn’t always easy to quantify. In pages written, eyewitness memories.

In the time she occupied this world, she’d pulled off a hell of a lot. Hadn’t they, though, lols, suck it. 

She went back to her earliest footage, before she worked for anyone else. She didn’t remember much about the night before except that people were howling. They didn’t howl out of pity; they howled out of spite. She was too smart to take her own advice, though she hoped that in her lifetime, she’d already managed to save a few lives.

She couldn’t ask age-old questions, because she knew age-old answers. Why don’t you love me. What kind of question was that. In hours of darkness, she took herself at face-value. There were nights when her faith was stronger than others. If there was a god, tonight, his eyes were somewhere else.

Who was the love of her life. Was it Him, was it Her, or was it the character. She knew the character was her self.

The character. How lovely.

Maybe that’s why [XYZ] hit below the belt. They weren’t hers, and she was a character.

She never climbed the beams like a totem pole. She drew light from within herself, until she got grossed by all the white lights. Flashing in her eyes. Before she’d set sail, she made a few phone calls. To her mom, to her dad. A dishonest ramble about how she planned to spend her night. She made one last call to a friend, which ended up a voicemail. She was weeping, pitifully, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” 

If she could have it her way she would live on an island. A soft sandy beach, for kids, with a notepad and no one else. Her mom had been through too much, underground. She never’d known where to put it though. The secrets. Now she knew just the hole. With her mattress she made a fortress for herself. Around it, a moat. She kept pouring and pulling. She poured and pulled until she heard a foghorn, saw a lighthouse. In stillness she lost her mind. And she never, ever despite trying, quite got back to her, self.

So she knew it was time to go. Did she do it for relief or thrills or vengeance or to be great. Or did she do it for love. In the dark, she too swam in cold water. Above the ice she heard a sound. Ringing. Not electric. Not too loud. She broke the surface, inhaled. And like her mom she fell down.

“Yo bitch!” said Rose from the afterlife. “I thought you said you didn’t believe in melodrama!”

“Whut?” said Lola, confused.

“Isn’t a bit — melodramatic, to…”

“Kill yourself?”

“I mean damn..”

“Well,” said Lola, honestly dumbfounded that she was actually here. “I see your point.

“Can you tell me, what my point is,” said Rose, sounding actually quite maternal.

“My life is not a performance. It’s a life.

“You HAVE a self with a life now. It’s all yours, no theirs, you fought for that, though, don’t let someone take it from you. Why don’t you get some rest.”

“Back at you Rose. But what if I don’t want it to be all mine. I want someone to be all mine, and it’s not you Rose. So,” Lola threw both hands down, not knowing what to do.

“Who bi do, could it be, I’d love to know.”

“Honestly I can’t damn decide that until it just ‘works out’ magically but I REALLY wish I knew, right, now. So I could tell you. I love you though.”

Later on, Meghan had to remind her husband often. People were more jealous of him than they (or she, before all this unseemly shit) even knew. She’d underestimated what humanity was capable of—as far as, like, bigotry or judgment or ego about what was ‘true.’ He was the only one who could (afford to) come forward and say in front of them, sorry, ‘[you literally didn’t earn this, what we have going for us, in other words you’re entitled].’ He didn’t say this though. He should have but he didn’t. What he said instead ‘made history’ but it wasn’t really the motive, honestly not even at all though people liked to claim there was some sort of overdramatic performance, intended; great, thanks for the love! Please leave us alone. 

As typical as it was to find stars in California who believed strongly in love and God, it was common to find devout unbelievers among fine artists in New York. Selena Gray took it upon herself to bridge the gap between grandiose faith in oneself—and a certain entitlement to “blessings” which might actually qualify as curses to someone else—and the humility required to actually bow down to a higher power and cooperate with all (not some) of the human realm.

Her friends knew what it was like, waking up to get their hopes up and have them all stripped by the end of the day. They knew what it was like to feel homeless within their own bodies and minds and living spaces. They knew it was like to put so much faith in sex that actually went well, because it didn’t feel quite right with an unworthy ex.

So much for that, was a common sentiment. They’d heard too many stories with unhappy ends. There was no fanfare when they got out of bed. Or when they went through a difficult event. You could be an amazing person, and still get no credit.

Selena wondered if this is how it would feel at the end. In a hospital bed, not at heaven’s gate. Wherever it happened. People were scared they had no free will; Selena was scared she had too much of it. And of how little control she had, in spite of that. What could she have done that would have been better than this.

What if Lola hadn’t made it, the last time she slipped. Selena would have thought, either nothing (of herself), or, so much for this. Selena didn’t know who was to blame, so she blamed the devil for how people sinned. She blamed the devil for giving her such a hard time about all her shit.

Love wasn’t like what the people were told. The fine New York artists had figured that out long ago! It wasn’t a fable with horse-drawn carriages and handsome men. No no… But there were facets of love that still contained some good shit, hope! Yes, yes, yes.

Commitment, trust, and not letting go. Even if they tried (and they had, no, yes) they probably wouldn’t be able to. Staring at a TV behind the bar at a speakeasy, alone, Selena laughed while watching Catherine Delaluna perform a song about Black Labradors with their eyes on white cats. She wasn’t paying attention to Catherine but to the back-up dancers: specifically, that thing that back-up dancers got in their eyes and bods where they were so into the dancing that their focus became like violent— whereas Catherine had to appear focused but not quite to a violent degree; she just had to, like, play it cool and be tentatively obsessed with herself, because that’s what it took to give a good performance—but no matter what she did, she had ‘it’ so she still pulled focus from all of the back-ups, even if they danced their souls all the way out their sphincters. It was more fun to watch the back-up dancers for this reason. They were good! Selena often often often felt like an evil bitch, for noticing all what she did, including about herself. She was deeply touched by how almost every time Catherine said something in her speaking voice—not singing— she sounded like she was about to start crying. Selena wondered if she was hearing things, and this wasn’t really happening, that Catherine was doing quite well.

Selena never used to take Catherine seriously, because Selena grew up doing homework and reading books—not paying attention to celebs. But then she started listening to Catherine’s music, and realized, it wasn’t bad! In fact it was like, really fucking good!!! Every time Selena thought she found “the best song, this one’s it,” she accidentally dug up something else, which (like the previous song) was so catchy she couldn’t stop listening. These weren’t always chart-topping hits, though Catherine deserved cred from a real critic, for such great potential; which like, how high can you set the bar, honestly. Higher, soberer, wherevs. Selena suspected that Catherine was sort of running the show on each of her tracks (i.e. she and her performance was the reason they were solid, because sometimes the beats were decent-not-great no offense especially when they were made by dudes onstage in Kitty Kat outfits) and thus, Catherine could stand to be surrounded by adult artists—not profiteers on her young and vulnerable sexiness, or her huge following, her image; profiteers who probably at one time could care less about the depth of the music being produced, who knows, oh diggy dope dog, #winning look at her now, sick beats about mental health, they got the job done, kept her going and well. Catherine had started especially young in a mostly misogynist industry and had little agency as to how her most marketable traits were possessed. Selena’s question was whether this little girl singing songs was actually having the kind of sex she was describing in her lyrics. She couldn’t even believe some of this old music was once marketed to twelve- year-old girls—or maybe it was Catherine’s def-abnormal sex appeal making it all sound raunchy, to Selena at this time.

Selena sipped her drink and turned away from the screen. To cut through all the fake crap and communicate with loved ones in code at times of confusion, it would be wiser to play “evil,” than to masquerade goodness. Selena could see how such a philosophy could be used to back up not-okay actions. So it’s worth rejecting as probably the easy out of her obligations.

What Selena considered her obligation as a celebrity journalist and spy was, in part, to hold a mirror to hypocrisy and purposeless vice in the faces of readers who otherwise may not question themselves. She understood as a critic that, say, for great religious films: part of holding a mirror to someone else’s misdeeds, involved playing it out in a way that was dramatically (or performatively) effective. If Catherine and her closest collaborators could reach a point where they were acting out “evil,” while protected by love for one another, then they could be onto a very powerful weapon as artists. They just always had to know where the line was drawn and, of course, the safe word.

The safe word, “cut.” Before anyone quite bled too much.

To people who loved one another, it was probably more or less obvious where the line between playfulness and cruelty was located. And the task of keeping dark forces in check could have a lot to do with deep trust. And could involve sex, obvy, or something almost close to it. She’d heard of this among ballerinas, who usually understood teamwork, if you want to call it this; the choreographers, holy shit, they weren’t just narcissists.

… 

Morning! Wake up and rub your head. Your mother’s on her way out, late to work again. You decide to go back and feign sleep until she’s out the door. Lately you think your mom’s “abuse” for years [which was probably abuse, but it] can all be traced back to permanent trauma she can’t control. You’re as nice as you always were, maybe nicer now—but you’ve carved yourself a new role. For the gaaajillionth time you ask yourself how on earth you ended up back home. The answer is that you didn’t land a job in New York, cause you were too fixated on a made-up career in your head. Not to mention you were too insecure about life events and residual pain, which you realize in retrospect, you couldn’t really heal by yourself. (Tbt: Addiction — which you’ve kept secret from your real-life friends — kind of chose you, you didn’t choose it.) Sure you wanted to try to make a movie with flimsy resources and heavy faith, but it didn’t go so well. Welppp. How can you do better for yourself. First of all: don’t love yourself too much. And don’t listen to your mom when she literally yells at you for not being happy (with life, with yourself, with the fam). That’s one of the problems you identified with America and the effect of advertisements. Loving yourself too much, it’s a problem. If you can be genuinely conceited or let’s say confident — as opposed to clinically narcissistic, indoctrinated essentially, by this bullshit rhetoric — and pull it off someday, all power to you kiddo. But that day is not here…. yet, instead of looking upon yourself as a “mess” (which you are) look at yourself as someone who’s unwell in specific ways that haven’t been taken care of! Either because you don’t have the resources or support or current wisdom to address them. If some of your bullies from the past still view you as a loser, that’s okay. Keeps you humble. You’ve, bullied, them, back, behind their backs either in writing or with your true friends, but that counts I should think. So what next, get it together Morgaaaaan, don’t resign to where you’re at because you at some point decided that you’re defeated. How many people would tell you to shut the fuck up about that. And fight back at least, stupid ugly bitch. You still haven’t lost the game, your mind, and your self is still intact. And you, yes you there (!@#$!@#$), still might have a chance.

 

Lolamom felt her pet Paul crying. It felt less like a doggie than a whinnying tornado siren or a flock of crows cawing—though it was all being channeled through her one little dog’s body. She’d never felt a creature in so much pain, and hearing him in so much pain, kept her incapacitated and unable to focus on anything else. Lola didn’t know what had happened, until she checked the dogtag on the collar she’d leashed and breathed a sigh of ohh jeeze. Lolamom had mistaken Paul for another doggie, at the park, and started offering literally the wrong black Labrador her time and puppy treats. As soon as she realized her error, she turned away from the stranger and found her good Paul tucked away in a corner—whimpering alone, avoiding other dogs, terrified frankly. Lola swept him up in her arms even though he was getting too big to be held, technically, and it looked kind of awkward to carry him. With Paul in her arms, she tromped back to her black Audi sedan parked in the lot. She placed Paul in the backseat wrapped in a sheet next to a tupperware container of water and some uneatenm treats. On the stereo Lola played classical tunes that, she hoped, Paul (still shuddering noticeably) might find comforting. When they finally got home, and Paul was feeling well enough to calmly and happily eat, Lola gave her doggie his recompense in double treats.

When Lola told her puppy Paul that she and him were going on a retreat together, for exercise she needed it too—as in road trip in the Audi plus camping—he got so excited and tailwaggy that she had to tire him out with fetch to calm him down. The main reason Lola finally decided it was necessary to take Paul on a long trip was that, his aggression toward other grown dogs was getting out-of-hand and noticeable. He got mad at Lola’s girlfriend—oddly vicious, at moments—but Lola probably put her dog first because spending time with Paul was purely self-care, and not others-care. Lola used to joke that in a past-life, Paul was a black beast, not a black Labrador retriever; he had that level of alpha aggression within him. He was that protective of her. It was intense. It was honestly, peculiar how possessive he was of Lola. But she wouldn’t try to explain. They were soul-mates okay?? (They weren’t.) She didn’t want Paul to attack someone publicly. For that, she might feel responsible even though it wasn’t entirely her fault; it was the dog’s. Well, her dog’s. The road trip was fun because Lola only chose pet-friendly cabins so Paul was able to be his adult doggy self in hotel rooms, and not worry about hiding himself indoors or outdoors, when they went out and had privacy in the wilderness.

Here was Paul the pup, whose face had a scar, after an accident on their camping trip, dragging Lola across a frozen lake. She wasn’t awake, or was barely awake, and he was a puppy no more but still not strong enough to drag her for more than about five seconds without tiring. And he would stop and try to make her wake, and lick her neck, and then drag her another five seconds. Until he couldn’t no more. Then lick her hands. And then drag her by the neck of her big winter coat which was all dirty. He figured out, if he pulled her by the hand, which would probably hurt if she wasn’t frostbitten yet, he could drag her more like six to twelve seconds without tiring. She wasn’t hardly awake anyway, so he started doing that. He was just trying to drag her all the way to some safer place, where there were humans who would love him and pet him. Good humans who would know how to bring her back to him. Surely they would love her, as much as he loved her. (They wouldn’t.) They would love him and feed him snacks. And they would bring her back to him. He kept dragging her on her back, by her hand, which was bleeding from his teeth enmeshed in them. Still he dragged her to the end.

Oaklee too—that is, not just Selena as a celebrity journalist—had done intimate interviews about her jazz lyrics and come out of the interview wondering, if she was a lesbian. And it wouldn’t have been a big deal if she was one! But she already knew somehow that Clyde was basically the one. She didn’t believe in soul-mates, hardly even marriage besides the commitment piece. (Not abandoning someone if they pass out in the woods on a camping trip.) The timing was good, in that Clyde was going places, so was she, a good investment for her, but Clyde was situated at a vulnerable enough spot in his life that he needed her and would do literally anything to make it work. And that’s kind of what Oaklee felt she needed, not someone with illusions or someone who wanted the role-version of her: i.e. someone who wanted them for their ends, not literally for her. It was her call in the end, she was the girl being courted. Many months after she and Clyde had first met, they still hadn’t even had sex—mostly because Clyde had gone on tour with his best friend and left her in Manhattan. He also, interestingly, refused to ask her back home unless she would seriously be with him. She knew because he said this. Out loud to Oaklee, it was shocking. The directness, she initially wondered if he had autism, the way she spoke without any sentimental embellishments or just considerate remove. I would like to ask you to my place so I could see you naked and have sex with you tonight but—she wasn’t sure she was ready, Clyde still had some problems with needing too much from her and saying weird shit, usually about himself and how weird he was, sometimes about sex. And yet, Oaklee (who had a great name, the almighty oakes, she was a forest fire, Clyde like to joke, unfunnily; like a creep, which he was for her) [yeah, she] would be God-almighty-damned if she’d ever masturbated like this. Yeah yeah, no, I don’t think so, she said when he asked for pics of her in a certain outfit, his idea. She’d never worn anything like it, the lingerie, it just didn’t even make sense to her when he said (no rush or no pressure but) in it, and with him, she’d look pretty good.

 

Ava

lyrics by Catherine Delaluna; sung by Carol Quick

She lies to be seen

sells her life as a dream but her heart cannot see

the light of day
in the sky , on screens

she forgets how to scream, gives into such need

now she’s empty / empty

have they heard all her pleas her soft melodies

Or is it always, just seeing the skin

under half-moons she bleeds

in chains, on her knees
praying please / just someone / listen

[chorus]

Oh she can’t stand it here / finds escapes, finds escapes no one. ever. hears her sing

through white noise she hears, her name underneath, but no one’s. ever. remembering it

so she sings in black holes has no way to escape

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she finds other ways

she finds other ways
no one. ever. hears her pray

and when she can’t stand, she falls for Him

 

in his eyes she can see her man also bleeds

but they stole all his dreams left him empty / empty

what the pastor don’t preach is the love that she needs

in the Church they don’t teach darker means / of repenting

[chorus]

she can’t Stand anymore / finds escapes, finds escapes

no one ever hears her pray

through black noise she hears, a white travesty

but no one ever, notices him

so she sings in black holes, has no way to escape

she forgets to stay sane

or remember her name

So she studies His pain, and forgets her own name. She gives him Her name, then forgets how to riot

 

 

“Are you suuuure that’s something you’d show Carol or Catherine?”

“Those are not real names, so. No,” said Morgan. “That song is not finished, it just hit the good part when I said ‘riot’ (can’t you just hear the guitar like *screeching* right-there or is that just me [it’s just me]) and, I’m not sure I’d show anyone my nastiest grunge shit, I don’t think I’m a bad person I’m just a bad artist!!!! So I’ll be a healer instead — *lowers voice* call me Nurse cock. Whoah that’s it, ladies and men. Let’s literally, literally, end this.”

“Are you talking about racism?”

“In that song-thing? Chyyyes.”

 


notes:

-do your school but the things u might want to edit are as follows

-sometimes the passages u pulled from rose/marigold (earlier draft) are almost pretentious, like when you start riffing, ‘She, She, She was This Dramatic Set of Adjectives About The Whole Universe’ so just like streamline those.

-Occasionally that happens also with Selena by herself, but, actually I think that scene is really good

-Oaklee needs more of an intro than just ‘that writer who the author liked to call’ ; she needs a little intro but don’t add too much

-if u just fix a little bit they end up really powerful so, try to keep them almost ‘poppy’ not like so earthy your old style. sometimes it’s hard to know how to interrupt it, what sounds grandiose without ruining it, but I’d err on the side of tampering with anything grandiloquent [just like throw in a good quiet joke if it’s toooo serious, keep it human that is]

-there was the draft where u were all-religious and I think, I think u can just leave some of that because you know

-and then also all the ‘no no’ and ‘na’ I think , there are just a few you can cut — like: if it’s literally annoying — but usually they’re to break up some expected rhythm or phrase and keep it a bit off balance, so, make sure that’s still happening

 

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