Novel first few scenes

Back under the covers Lola browsed channels, stopping on an old episode of a show called Cocaine Lovebirds. It was about some wealthy London girls in their twenties, fictional characters played by hot clone stars of every girl she’d ever wanted to be that wasn’t herself, poorly-written, poorly-acted, it was written in the US just shot abroad, great costumes at least, 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 heavy rock.

Oh, duhr, she hit herself in the head with her palm —- bloody hell, yowwee —- as she placed the memory. She used to watch that show all the time with her stupid b**** friend from high school, named Selena, life-ruiner, sycophant, talented writer despite all that, she at least deserved to be “friends” with everyone on earth but Lola. That’s what Lola thought in her sleep at least. It didn’t even make sense, really. Everyone on earth? But me ee ee?

A sweet dream, she still cared enough to think that little of her which was generous, and that was the end of it. She hit the sack, incapacitated effectively for the next ten minutes before she’d wake up due to hunger and hike to the 7-11.

[Chapter 2: Why did I watch those horses running wild]

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 don’t, know 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, “hm?”

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

“Swag, I can live with 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 though, is that a problem.”

“I kind of like it,” Selena said, not even sure herself if she was being honest.

Lola was all-keyed-up by the modest approximation of a compliment. “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, actually. Yeah! He’s my boyfriend.”

“Wait, are you serious.”

“I am.”

Lola paused with an eyebrow raised quizzically like actually not sure what to say, was she the one off base here. Was she being tested, she never trusted people. “When did that happen? Oakayyyee, 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 piggie.” Lola 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 ni no — “fine,” Lola shut up — 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 she noticed a spot on Selena’s face where the concealer wasn’t rubbed in. She would never, ever, have 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. With just a finger. Selena 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 regimen. The concealer basically was awkward to have witnessed.

Lola, doing her part respectively, was fine-not-ecstatic with how she herself dressed, not sure she could pull off anything better so, whatevs. 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, her 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 a few minutes later Lola wouldn’t believe, still, her 23-year-old friend was 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 anxious, distracted in her head. 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 further out of touch with actual fucking reality, holy shit. Literally Selena’s new “boyfriend” probably just thought she was cute, which she was, and called her a lamb because lambs are cute too, 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 black guys with. Either they were bragging or asking for advice on like, how to get it in. Maybe they wanted her judgment, they wanted her to say things no one else was willing to say. “Should I wear this, I feel like you’d actually say..” How should Lola know? (“No, don’t wear that it’s too much he’ll lose interest next week.”) It was just so many levels of questionable, that she felt herself wondering if she’d rather align with this black guy she hadn’t met, not Selena her friend. Maybe Lola’d, like, manipulate Selena into knighting him to her own [Selena’s own] detriment! Lola could already just tell, this wouldn’t end softly. She just didn’t want to get involved, but Selena was pulling her in. Like a vortex. She’s the one who should want to get a “pass,” Lola thought to herself. 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 man. If she was kind to him, baaabyyy you’re invited in, it was somehow self-serving; Lola knew this woman Selena, she wasn’t even in touch with her respective self, just ambition, almost male by its very nature.) Would Lola have slept with this male kid calling another woman his lamb — when it’s true, Selena wasn’t like that; it struck Lola as kind of a weird compliment even if it was well-meaning. Don’t call a girl your lamb. Call her your girl, especially if you’re her boyfriend. Would Lola have been upset about it? At 18 she was too young to ever predict. Screw everyone who was screwing each other. Lola was a late-blooming virgin who would have been better off never meeting Selena and staying pathetic!! A baby herself, ignorance was bliss.

She felt like telling Selena, “please, I don’t want to know all this.”

“What, the thing he does with hands? Fine I won’t tell you that, shit.”

“Not, just, it’s just soo…” Lola was shaking her head.

“I think it’s CREATIVE.”

Then Lola laughed, “uhh yeahhaha,” she didn’t know why she laughed out loud, like literally it was so disgusting for her. “I wouldn’t have thought of it that way. I don’t know how I’d, think of it. I think you just want to like everything about him.”

“Hmm.. ?”

Lola couldn’t help but shudder like she was frigid, she actually did want to stop, talking, now. Selena probably saw, and Lola psychosomatically felt her hair begin to thin. Her hair not her waist line which was fat. That bitch she kept talking, to Lola, she never listened! “Well he has such control, such, you know — that’s the thing. And he likes to ski, like what do you call them, moguls, I think it affects the sex–“

“–Selena, just. What? Stop..” Now Lola thought Selena was being sarcastic or trying to slow things down for her younger friend, Selena though thinner never exercised so she didn’t know downhill skiing was probably, a lot, different, from sex, was the sex that fluffy or was she was trying to make peace with an innocent joke, after talking about fingers doing thaaat? (She’d done a motion like a centipede.) If so it backfired, worse now, Lola thought of this time her late mom raised her up with her legs, and let her pretend she was a flying snowman. Sick, she felt colder, and more out of it. This conversation was getting weird for The Lols subjectively, I mean right, her eyes rolled, she shut them. She was happy for an escape and bounded like a deer being chased out-of-the-woods, fast and lithe and fatassed, the second the doors opened, bing boom, Selena stepped out in time. Up the stairs the Bedford stop they found themselves beneath a green balmy sky, suffocating in its humidity, tossing storm clouds around like lint. Selena suggested they hail a cab because it looked like was about to storm. Lola said she didn’t care what they did — it was up to her, friend, who she was feeling weird around.

Selena was indecisive, this was an issue. An even worse issue was that she knew she was a bitch nothing more, as noted she could be cruel, and was good at it. As an up-and-coming writer Selena’s cruelty, she may or may not have 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, so bored with life, which was meaningless to them, they needed SEVERE pettiness; otherwise they just wouldn’t be interested in living. Selena often felt like an outsider rolling with elitists, and sometimes she liked to call people out on their elitism, occasionally, rarely ever though. More often she liked to call people out on their outsider status, never without a few witnesses: make them feel small and shitty. She sure was good at it. In a fair number of her friendships, the majority of them, her elitism and accompanying unkindness gave her the upper hand (she thought). At parties, it gave her a greater chance of being invited again, there’s nothing like a high incidence of rejection to pull a crowd into an event. But in relationships with people who [might have once] mattered to her, Selena’s bitchiness crossed subjective boundaries, which she didn’t observe until it was too late — by then they’d called her a sociopath and [like Lola by the end of scene] had told everyone, they were staying away. It’s why Selena felt lonely tonight, even though she was with this not-even-Jewish chick who was super funnyyy but was younger, and in Selena’s view looked seriously fat though she would never say this (Selena did say she kind of liked Lola’s shoes) and they were on their way to a party with some of Selena’s friends who she wasn’t sure were even “fraandsss” but, they still always showed up, if she texted them they’d be into it like a slam dunk. It worked this time for Lola, the fatty she was friends with. She’d just needed someone to show up with, compared to her a non-threatingly cute female who’d never make the brat pack if she tried her whole fucking life, if she died and came back, she’d never make it in to the black card carrying crowd.

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 35, a feature in Blootmuni could turn out an immediate following in New York. The magazine was known pretty much by all the intelligentsia, who ironically didn’t brand themselves as, the smart ones, they just knew they were intelligent but didn’t tell people, so they played up how flattered they were if they were hashtagged as intelligentsia, like in a little bio before think pieces, pieces that were stylish [to share on social media] but were often about nothing at all, these pieces were stylish indeed with great photos and syntax but thoughtless like a stream-of-consciousness diary entry that somehow got picked up and liked and liked and liked on the internet; by friends or people who thought it was cool because stars liked it. This is what you could expect get from Blootmuni. Some validation if you were a writer, and some vicarious validation if you were a stranger following the writers and looking at all the compliments they received in posts from writer-friends. They weren’t intelligentsia! They were just writers, doing their thing, having fun literally nothing more, with friends nothing more, friends who had sex sometimes, and did recorded interviews or wrote essays about their friends. None were fat, all the better for the publication and its shareability if the writers were visibly hot, more clicks. There were a few writers who were known as especially intelligent (and DID brand themselves as such) who sort of got around this rule, only one of the regulars was a cis white guy. Actually though, most writers in Blootmuni never wrote stream-of-consciousness sent immediately after completion and edited for somewhat finer syntax, no typos there, 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 in advance 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 immediately. After such an event, each person in attendance 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 a couple 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 tragic season.

“How do you feel about Bergman?” Selena asked Lola in the cab; Lola was like nodding off already. And she was getting paranoid that she wasn’t asking because she was interested, but because she wanted to steal Lola’s actually-kind-of-unique opinion and then parrot it like her own at the next cocktail party she attended, which [next time] Lola the troll Jew would not be texted about at the last minute; maybe some other Jew who was thinner and rich, would get that text.

“He’s not the best toward women, like sadistic I’d guess,” said Lola feeling suddenly unconfident and actually scared to arrive at this weirdass event. “Yeah!! I don’t know if I’m gonna stick around that long Selena, but, he’s a talented writer I guess. I mean. If he has a whole literary mag with all these accolades, he must be, ayyh.”

She found herself sneering a bit and wasn’t sure why.

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

“Like different races and genders,” Lola said with another sneer, then an eye roll. She shut her eyes then opened them fast.

Selena said nothing. Lola was like, what the fuck, is happening, she almost backtracked but knew Selena who was less of an observer than a seducer wouldn’t hold a thing at all against her and use it to discredit her like most humans in America definitely would do, to Lola not to themselves. That is: she knew Selena wouldn’t hold her accountable, for clarifying what she actually meant with that very pronounced glance, the eye contact. That was up to Lola, but she didn’t clarify. Her friend looked away then, just didn’t seem to be paying attention. Oh well, the truth behind any eye roll spanning the fucking solar system, will crash back in.

And then she became distracted, a black 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 Selena didn’t read it. She just got published in it. To Lola she said, “mh hmm” in that voice that sounded so, saccharine; to Lola who might be paranoid, it always sounded deceptive. Selena was literally never just, honest.

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 in the depressing shit, thought Lola when Selena said this, expecting a place dressed up to look like something it authentically was not-the-fuck at all. Selena didn’t know a thing about jazz, but she probably knew when steak just tasted awful. Lola wouldn’t know, how to tell; she’d engorge herself with anything placed in front of her. It’s one reason she was so careful with relationships (like keep it away [all food]!! She couldn’t explain that to most anyone). She probably would just order a salad, at this place, wherever she was, she didn’t know how to cook or budget. But anyway. She did know a thing or two about jazz, yeyy. She was looking forward to seeing what this place was about, probably like a hater TBH, but she didn’t tell Selena she was just going to lurk essentially. Lurk, what a word, she thought. It might even be creepy. One reason she never went out was because, she thought in such situations she came across as a psychopath legitimately; just her intensity, how she looked compared to richer kids, that was mostly it. If she were anorexic for her size and figure she could have been a psychopath, gotten away with it, gone to parties with artists, but she didn’t look anorexic, so she just got seen not as an artist but — well. — as a psychopath, which was distinct from being seen as, psychotic. Selena, the way she talked loudly on the subway, might be legitimately worthy of the latter diagnosis: like actually though, Lola thought, she might be kind of psychotic..

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

“Tth, yeah,” said Lola. (She liked vegan.)

The restaurant looked like it could have been an old blacksmith’s lab 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; Lola wouldn’t have judged but, she would not have gone to this self-indulgent setting, for a steak or whatever, without Selena. Also probably no one here was actually eating much except the straight tourist guests pulled in by how faggy it looked to Lola the homo and transphobic outsider. The walls were ruddy brick and lit with red electric torches, floors a slabbery black cement. Near the podium where the host stood was a large steel statue of a bucking bull with breasts, plated with sheets of silver glass that worked as mirrors. Looking around, she was surprised to see the thin servers dressed in all-black fabrics, and not just like, merkins or wooly bladders and beanie caps.

Where were these weird thoughts coming from!! AAAH.

“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 hard mahogany bench. Selena watched her settle onto it. From that secluded corner, she now sat with a grimace that was not entirely unbecoming, but coupled with everything else about her was maybe just sad. Not enjoying it. If she were nicer to people they might really like her, a lot. But she wasn’t ever, never nice. Lola’s hair was dark brown and pyramidal. She had a face with features that were somehow soft and chiseled, not pretty, almost seriously hideous but also just confusing, her ugliness was beautiful, but that 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 a lot of 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 and not well-meaning insults about how Lola was the fat one. Like can you just stop.

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

She actually wasn’t incorrect, but, seriously? So maybe Lola should be up on her Nike hooves, kissing rump. Honestly though she kind of wished for this party, she’d gone with the, flats. Even if they made her look worse in Selena’s view! They also made her look more like a girl, and a human, that would have been best. 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 needling her.) Yeah, something about her choice to wear the shoes was causing regret, 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, where she didn’t wonder, psychotically, if everyone present was feeling contempt toward her. People in Queens might compliment her, maybe not everyone, to help them get through another day, she didn’t know — it just never had felt like they’d go home and tell their sister “those shoes were so sad,” they’d fucking forget the exchange within like 40 seconds.

Whatever, she’s a sweetheart, psychotic Selena sat down next to her younger friend. If Selena wasn’t filling the silence, nervously like she’d done on the train, they didn’t even talk. They might watch people, or just Lola. 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 nicely around the shoulder backs, tailored (so, not just bought) like any male with a legitimate background in business, even lunky men knew to invest in good suits. He was not just another influencer, he’d been an economics major, then switched into English. 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 knew men liked her in their beds but the reasons weren’t so clear to her. She didn’t have a male mind, perhaps male ambition, that’s what got Selena sleeping around. She didn’t think of herself as, hot; well, some nights yes. Lola even with her face might be seen, by some others, as hot, actually though, because she was soft and had fairly big tits, not the best proportions overall, she was nice sometimes to people who were lonely. She was good for like one night, not even because they left her but because, she’d ghost. It started feeling socially dumb to even engage, with men who were like “I want you to be happy! Why are you unhappy!” because it would just lead to another screw-over. It’s like, why she withdrew. She could have just been mean, not fake, Selena, was different. Not as nice to those types Lola drew around her in droves, like if she DID go out and had boobs out, she had that fat ass too, Selena probably didn’t deal with those types. Lola didn’t know, around the other they kept it visually PC. Was she pretty? In her get-up and sad eyes, her blue blouse opened-up and black pants that might not have been tailored [these might be secrets, women kept] they always just, fit well; Lola wanted to give her friend a hug, was that sexual, who knows. Selena wouldn’t have just asked Lola, girls don’t ask other girls if they’re pretty. Boys might ask a girl do you think I’m attractive, ha, girls just literally never went there as far as Lola knew. She had a sometimes male mind and knew Selena was just men’s type, they’d stick it in anything if that’s what they set out to do one night but Selena was a target for the male gaze in that mood, thirsty not like dogs but like vampires, in many ways she was gorgeous with anemic skin, that’s not what made her gorgeous but ideal to predators who also happened to be cis straight men, and, she always had sort of a wan look, she seemed like she’d just climbed out of bed no matter where she was, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to roll back in with some stranger from a bar. Lola despite her issues with being too nice would not have done that. Years later she would have said, the anorexia creeps me out, not that it’s a problem, to be thin, I’d die for that figuratively, too, I might still but it would be a joke because I’d still be fatish-AND-anorexic; no, the way it affects your brain over time. You’ve gotten creepy Selena!! But other than that you’re pretty, just like, batty sometimes.

I’m not insanely pretty, myself, that’s what Lola would have said. If she made an effort her exotic beauty could have made her the most desired woman at a party. Selena that was. 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, the look on your face!!!! 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 back then.

Because of her anorexia, which almost girls at this party had some experience with, Selena was occasionally sadomasochistic and extremely hurtful to Lola; also to herself. Back then, they spent a lot of time together, and Lola—-an observer right, so, not a talker in those years—-noticed all the things Selena 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 sadistic narcissistic, 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. That was the author’s opinion though.

Lola wasn’t even fatish back then, according to some men, a guy 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 gross way, just kind of aggressive toward Lola. She so clearly wanted to be alone, he so clearly wanted someone to subdue — to win against. She was too young to know, for certain, he was going to reach up her dress. He kept asking why she looked so mad.

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

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 want it, this wasn’t some blurred lines shit. She wanted a salad; she didn’t have the metabolism to just fuck around like that, and if she just let go completely then it would get worse, so. If she wanted a salad she’d order it! And 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. How lovely, can I leave. 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, woo, pi. It never had to do with her, really, ever. Never, ever had to do with her but with them. She knew how men were, men and try this: all humans. Like, she was not much different. There was no reason to flatter people who didn’t deserve the compliments, unless she wanted something from them. If the compliments weren’t, lies, then they might just be true 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 I’m more of a man than you fa****s, literally. Awkward!

From near the statue, Selena raised an eyebrow like “wtf” as she caught sight of Lola — who leaned forward a bit like, “SUPPP, help me out here?” Selena kept walking, with Bergman away from her, pretending she didn’t see Lola at all.

Lola felt like crying out, in a Lindsay Lohan voice in all caps, “SLUT.”

Lola might have come across as pathetic, with that round 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 in reality more likely to kill someone. She knew she had a dark side, whatever. Very dark, self-destructive, it was oddly sexual in like icky ways, it would seem.

At 18 she was poor and not particularly popular, sometimes it felt like all she had. That odd seductivity, the power she derived from it. And her mind. She wasn’t not that smart. Few people could see just how smart she was, because she played dumb, they fell for it within seconds of meeting. Upon looking her up and down once; the outfits she deliberately put-on. She dumb, broke. It fit everything about her externally, it was something they couldn’t see. Her brain’s potential to either implode or sort of set her free. Not everyone but most, they just fell for it hook line. Her bluffs. Be it that she was stupid or something else, um uhhr huhuh, just to keep people away, usually. Was it mean? Selena could tell probably. By looking in her eyes she knew that Lola had something different, the heart of a finna-be sinnaaaa which she still kept safely padded in fair manners around guys and Pegasus charms and forced smiles to veil her very, wa-eird, thoughts!! But she might one day just light a match and blitz her self away, her self, if not someone else, who actually gave consent to that, ho ho ho hooooly fuck and merry Christmas bitch **edit this later**.

Selena — who kept her at arm’s length that night (and in the allegory that made-it-up, for life), choosing Bergman — preferred this crazy “look” in younger Lola’s eyes to what happened when she grew hopeless, and they felt distant and retarded like suicide e-mails. She almost felt like she should feel bad. Selena interpreted Lola as dangerous because she’d experienced the same feelings, but she would never kill herself; she just wouldn’t, and she hated when this girl, a foreigner practically, even suggested they were similar at all. She’d never felt it to the same dark degrees. Lola probably didn’t have anything to lose by literally dying, she suffered with severe depression and was atypically well-educated for someone with her background, she didn’t believe in the same old faith-and-gratitude stuff that used to keep her going — Selena had some fun, sometimes; Lola didn’t, she made her own realities up, wherein she mattered somewhat — who knows why she imagined so much, so vividly, awh awh, these kinds of things weren’t worth thinking out too much.

Selena also had a hard time with life, with people, with them not-knowing her name. But it wasn’t the same. She just didn’t think about Lola and wouldn’t care that much if she died, she’d even had that thought, literally; like, it just wasn’t that kind of friendship where she’d cover her. It wouldn’t have ever been, this girl, was too much of a nobody.

It was alienating to have had a bad childhood. Most kids their age, they hadn’t seen much. Most kids were stupid, they had perfect grades but unwaxed pubes so what the f***. That’s why they got along at first, they were feminists. But their dark sides, got the best of them, the underdogs who studied togeths, the same dark parts that brought them together, caused them each to believe the other was about to fight. To see the other as an other, Lola was the poor one though and more of an other than anyone could ever know! She was basically just, a weirdo. Either that or nobody. Did she have another choice. She used to think she’d get a bunch of plastic surgery and then hang out with pretty people; she’d realized with more education, more wisdom, that this was dumb — just like losing some of her faith — that would have made matters worse, she really was just, stuck. 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 literally fuck), and yet, they still “knew” one another, in ways, that couldn’t be breached. They knew each other well enough to attack the other’s deepest, most nuanced, least consented-to vulnerabilities. It might have kept them on their game, or just been dysfunctional from day one. They were never day ones.

At the table by Lorenzo, Lola finished the third cocktail he’d ordered and got up to pee. She felt like, ass.. 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 video, wow how cool, is that for all your fans. 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!! Never. 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; or more accurately, to use a word Justin Bieber (a literal celebrity) had sort of coined, nonexisting. 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 like a fatass, 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. (Later she could face it, it was a poor person thing, moon face caused by acute stress.) And that necklace; more like a chain, bling for chicks, a necklace for a truly, pretty girl wouldn’t have fit Lola quite right. At this moment she understood why Selena had shunned her. Basically [like] she looked, uncouth. There were ways around this right? Better self-care and self-presentation. Why would anyone just wear clothes that, weren’t quite the right size. Why would anyone, already not a size S let alone Xxs, keep putting food in their mouth. Idk, I can’t keep up with you guys.

She took off her flying horse necklace and cast 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 hard liquor was loopy-doopy enough that she was able to pretend that Pegasus was flying as he spun around the ceramic tank where she’d just pissed, sitting down. Lola held back tears, knowing that she would regret this!! Boo hoo. But she’d have to let it go, move on.

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. For Good, pssh, like that one track, from a musical Lols’d loved-so-much in grade school? Maybe it was an age thing, their separation, maybe it was demons. Or image, it was image: probably [definitely..] that, she hoped, when she was a little older, she’d find a good therapist to change some channels in her head. For now she might just want to block it out, like actually though. She pressed the block button on her phone. BLOCKED, GO THROW DIRT ON MY NAME BITCH. The block was done to forget this night and “friendship” had ever happened. It wasn’t a friendship, Janis and Regina, it would take years for her to forgive she-just-couldn’t, she trusted some people NOT bitches who didn’t even trust themselves to ever take meaningful risks, they just shat on people who did — they were flies to ungulate butt, they were smarter than Lola, they were racists, more than Lola ever was — Selena STILL had her blessings, that’s how fucked up she was, Lola hoped-for-herself though she’d have the resolve to stay off internet profiles and anything else that would bring that shit back, yuck yuck yuck yuck yuck YUCK!!

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. “You, are fucking awesome, I didn’t know if I couldn’t trust you man but we made it,” he said literally to the car. “S’been good.” He was talking to himself, he didn’t worry about the schizophrenia too much, he was tired and needed a shower and bed, that was all.

An airport shuttle bus took Benny into the city and dropped him off in Times Square. It was midnight when he got in. 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 temper, scary madman.

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. Tonight he was feeling young. 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’d 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 Lin Manuel, he was nuts, Benny, he wanted to be great in many decades not just the next few — as an artist not an iconoclast, ten crack commandments FTW. Great great great STF the one behind the gun lives. 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 were like absolute shit, no real home always pushed out of his rightful place. 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.

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 ate and took something. Before going up to their rooms to watch weird porn, eat and sleep, 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.

“What are you staring at, n**.”

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 Southerners. “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 fell unconscious quickly. Benny waited like ten more minutes, not playing the game anymore but pretending, he was a player, the words “pretty women” carving figures, crackin-op the planes of his brainulars, 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. Poor Benny, feeling tired and dumb, fee fi fo fum. After he packed up his laptop, he approached the man. In the pocket of his stupid Brooks Brother blazer off the rack, 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. He still felt dumb; like he was stuck in close-up, he’d been feeling stuck in close-op all damn week.

In his room, he took a shower and played another round of WoW wearing just his size extra large briefs. 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 like rump a rump bump, forbidden fruit, he took a dip in the pool and felt dumber still, he would have preferred it had some nuance, his solo 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!!

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 wonkitty doo da ratch it ta ta. 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 a burger, 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 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-c***. 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. 

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. Till she won. He hated it. 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. Fuck, that — slut!!

[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 turnt up, an invisible beam on her, facing the sky, like heaven was shining a spotlight 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. She was the star. All she had to 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, urmh..

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 might joke.

Another thing had happened, a dream which hadn’t made sense, in Selena’s consciousness. She’d been on a deserted block of houses up on stilts in the neighborhood where she sometimes spent summers off in Dewey Beach, right by the Rusty Rudder, this restaurant with food she’d liked as a kid. That same block. She’d been 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 with a start, a bit frightened but intrigued by her fear, and later-the-next-day 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, there, bothering her.

For her twenty-sixth birthday, Selena had been invited to accompany Rose while she did interviews with migrant workers who were doomed to staggeringly unprocessible extremes, by Trump’s win in the 2016 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 line 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 Spanish?”

“You know I don’t speak hispánica,” Rose sighed again like heh to Selena, who didn’t even know if Rose was being yeah juuust a tiiiny bit racist or sarcastic or what the f even, maybe she just had a creepy voice that made her sound like she was always gloating about her ignorance or disconnectedness from all humans but herself and the people she kept around her who helped prop up her rep. At this point in the process of writing that piece, she must be bugging, Selena forgave it silently. And Selena wasn’t ultra politically correct but she, sometimes didn’t know how to respond when she noticed her friends say things so, she didn’t speak, and then, didn’t wince about it.

“I took it in high school though,” Rose said as though reading Selena’s thoughts. Then she did a motion with her hand, by her dusty brown hair, brushing it back, like phew, there’s nothing left, her mind had fallen out. “I mean it’s like, my fault, I could pick it up again…”

She probably could not.

Selena by that time was just kind of like, somewhere else. An island perhaps. She looked at the sky and imagined airplanes doing flips. She thought about how hungry she, wasn’t.

Sometimes they felt they lived a lobotomized existence. Not because they weren’t smart, they knew they were fine, like IQ-wise, innately. 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 on the strategy of being submissive, call-them-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. So, they just talked about sex like it was nothing.

“That was the week I fucked like four men.”

“I mean. I’ve had worse nights.”

“Have you literally Selena..”

“Once back in senior year yes, do I regret it..”

That was the end of the sentence. A summer breeze. The smell of swimming pools and soft focus brought on by Camel blues. And a bird screeching somewhere, a gull. It sounded like it had chlorine in its eyes or some shit.

“How’s Mari been,” asked Selena in a slightly higher pitch than before. “Is she still in school!?”

“My sister? She’s gooood.” It was weird, when she hit the last consonant d she thought it sounded more like t, so she ended up saying goot. She decided not to correct her self. 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, sister of Rose, wasn’t as weird as she thought she was. She just had a weird name. She felt it was a weird name, and she felt it when someone was wayhayhay out of her league—but sometimes she got it wrong, they weren’t out of her league, she just hadn’t found her stride yet, though, she always said (unjokingly, quite sincerely in fact, insisting upon it) she would have a relatively young death. She just couldn’t see literally any reason to keep on keeping on. Keep calm and carry on. That was a nice little philosophy to live by, and it kept people going, but it wasn’t something she could believe in without seeing reasons it was just dumb. She hurt people who she thought, she was too weird for. Maybe she shouldn’t carry on, maybe she was worse for the world. On one hand they judged her for things she couldn’t control—her weirdness!—but then to her face (in private not in front of other people) they were like, “what the fuck I really liked you, Marigold, why’d you do that, to me.” Marigold was all like: if you would have said that you liked me in front of your fucking friends, then maybe I would have believed you! And she left them, bing bang boom.

The only thing she thought she was good at, was fucking her life up. Of course the verb “fuck it up” had different spins depending on the ball court, sometimes she did really like, fuck it up. And ended up with some sort of power stance she hadn’t expected so—that’s one reason she kind of, kept at it. Generally though it just, wasn’t holding up. She tried walking on stilts, she fell. Hard. She never intended to live long so maybe that’s another reason, she stayed remote from everyone. They’d feel betrayed, na? Like the friends who got all pissed, if she killed herself and killed them. It was like: one reason, she was glad she wasn’t a celebrity, like a depressive celeb, the Weeknd or someone worse off, she didn’t feel that bad for them literally ever. It was like, hos I can read your minds, out in public, they found her repulsive, she thought could sometimes read minds, around others, maybe she wasn’t crazy maybe it was intuition, she heard them, she heard words in her head. She knew when she was judging others (herself, so), she could tell when it came at her from others, and sometimes it came back around, a cosmic boomerang bing boom bang, a shot in brain—blood on her lap, where he got shot by her: the shootings, the whats? The times, she’d judged her ex love who was black and didn’t know any better when he thought she wasn’t not hot. Objectivity na?? It would come back around! She just knew it. She’d planned it, she knew. He hadn’t ever shot her in the brain literally, it was a few repeated shots in the mouth. She wanted it, now. It came back around so it was up to her to control her thoughts, it just, was harder when she was under acute stress, which was literally always, around other humans. She had PTSD by now, there was a hole in her brain’s capacity for stress: in the stress vulnerability model, her bucket was filled up with red fluids, spilling out bad words in her head.

Pig this and, that. Words.