By: Myandra Wolfthorn
Fat Land and Irrigated Bills
The quantum immortality theory states that there is a chance you, as in you of the general public, may never die which in a collaborative paper by Professor U. S. Simpson states would create a multitude of parallel universes, that he believes would then domino effect a catastrophic flux throughout our universe and damage all multiverses.
And another paper by Professor Miranda Moss states that when we die our consciousness goes on to a parallel universe and we ‘wake up’ with memories from where we’d just been and the life we are now living.
In either case, I want to send out a collective surge to all my other Suzy Lee’s in every corner of space and time and have them all commit suicide at exactly the same moment because then none of us, especially me, would have to attend the art show tonight as we would be negating our natural existence.
I love painting and I like praise for my work like any other person, but I hate pretentious little art fags. They stick up their noses towards me, ignore my work, but then feel personally affronted when I don’t go to introduce my new collection.
It’s because I’m talented. I know that sounds conceited, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. They’re jealous of me because I live an actual life. I don’t try and maintain some air that I’m a down and out painter living off daddy’s money or some shit like that. No, when they look at me they see reality and that bothers them right down to their polished, name brand shoes. Of which, all of them say they don’t do name brands, but they do. They all do. All they do is lie, shop, and criticize actual people by saying they are not organic or authentic.
Artists are beautiful. Models are vain. Critics are morons. And art fags must die.
Unacceptable. What crap it all is. Endless, turgid crap. That’s what art is about today. No one is voicing any type of social concern or beauty. They’re just picking the bones or our fore fathers; Dali, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Spare. There is no meat there anymore, children! No meat! No sustenance!
I have a very busy day today and I feel it in my marrow as I get up and see that it’s well before noon.
But I am insecure and shallow just like them and even though I will hate it and hate how much they all love it; I will go and peddle my paintings like hot pussy on a cold corner.
I have become a whore for my art.
I rise and smoke a cigarette first. I want to smoke a couple of joints before I leave, but I’ll do it after my shower. I mean, I’d rather smell like weed then take a shower high. I’ve done it before and it makes me feel stupid. I forget what I’m doing, bask in the warm water over my back, and smile at myself for no reason other than I’m stoned. No, that won’t do me much good today to start off pretending I’m standing under some Bali waterfall.
I’m walking to the bathroom while my decor seems to follow my every step. The empty sockets of sugar skulls, the drawn out sighs of the unclean discontent of old paintings, and taped up posters from my former years as a black sheep, bah, bah, bah.
I toss the cigarette butt in the toilet and start the water. It seems like it takes forever for the hot water to kick in, but what can you except from government housing? Competence? I think not.
I wait until I hear the blurred rings of my telephone. With pursed lips, I open the trunk and unravel it from the blanket, “Hello?”
“Hey, this is Phyllis…” Her voice is like undulating gravel, if that’s imaginable.
How does this fucking bitch always know when I’m about to get money?
“Oh, hi, Phyllis. How have you been?”
“Good, good. I was just looking at my calendar and saw you haven’t paid this month’s rent yet…mind, mind telling me about that?” Her voice makes me want suck a fucking gun.
“It’s only the third…”
“I know, I know. I just don’t want late payments. You understand, don’t you?” VULTURE. VAMPIRE. HARPY OF HELL.
“Yeah, well, I’m getting paid later. I’ll drop off the rent at the office.” Since it is government housing, I only pay twenty bucks, but twenty is a lot of money these days.
“Good, good. Alrighty, I’m glad to hear it. I’ll see you then.” She hangs up without even saying goodbye.
I fucking hate phones! I hate how people are so rude all the time!
Just calm down, take a shower, and smoke a little herb. Everything is going to be fine. Today is just another day. No different, no same.
I’m cleaned, dressed, and stoned with eyes as red as my peasant skirt. I’m standing in front of the canvas covered with rough ended gray fabric dried with hard casings of paint smears in multicolored carelessness. Karin told me yesterday what my space was and I already know exactly what I want to say in arrangement.
There comes a beating of a rhythm on my door and it sounds complicated and comical, “Come off it, Suzy Slope…come on downtown…” Pax starts singing and the beat becomes more bluesy, “Come off it, Suzy Slope…come on downtown…once yuer get that feelin’…” I walk over and lean unto the door, “Blues gone south…Come off it Suzy Slope…you best be comin’ down the road…come on, open yuer door…”
There is a pause when I say, “I don’t want to. Keep singing.”
Patrick raps it lightly, “Come on, Suzy Lee, you’ve got stuff to do. We’ll get back to that later.”
I open the door and they come in looking indie suave. Patrick in a cream button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His soft brown hair lays in waves like Jim Morrison, woeful. Pax swaggers in broad-shouldered and dominating. His leather pants are blacker than black and his dark grey shirt tight over his muscles. Heavy boots move over the wood flooring. How do I attract these beautiful freaks? Some girls get lucky in money, some in love, but I get to experience creation.
“You can stack em, it won’t hurt.” I say while they pick up five each.
I follow them closely, locking my door, and walking out to the car, “You guys walk too fast.”
“You’re out of shape.” Patrick says.
“So says the fucking sailor. Way to go, dick.” I groan in a simper I know just grates his nerves.
“Shut up, Suzy. You know you’re fucking pretty and you just flaunt it around. You know what you are? Another narcotic. It’s just what this town needs.”
I stop short of the car while they pack the canvases in the trunk of The Beast, “I’m sorry, Patrick.”
He turns around with a grimace, “Hey, I’m sorry.” He comes to me and wraps his arms around me. I inhale his wild scent and tug a curl from the back of his head. He jerks away with a smile, “Bitch, God! You know I can’t stand that!” He taps my shoulder and then opens the backseat door for me.
“Thank you, Jeeves.” I say as I climb in.
Death’s Head Art Gallery is on the corner of Death’s Head Street and Vieux Market Villa in all three stories of a rounded, mostly windowed building made of old red stone slabs. A wrought iron cage domes the top like it’s Frankenstein’s castle or something. Such fancy things for such small things. This place could hold dying people, sick children, an orphanage, but no. It’s for art and that makes my belly queasy.
I pull the glass door open for Pax and Patrick as they bring in my work, “It’s the two back walls, the ones that are slanted…yeah…” I call after them, but they already know where they’re going.
I follow them feeling the cinders scattering in my stomach. I think I’m going to be sick. Why am I so paranoid?
Two guys stop me on my way, both short with dark Welsh features, “You S. L. Long?”
“I’m Walt,” The one wearing a red hat says before pointing a thumb towards the man beside him, “This is Jesus. Just tell us where you want em placed and we’ll do it.”
Frame monkeys, “Oh, okay.” I bluff, “Follow me?”
“Sure thang.” Walt sounds like he’s from South Hill, Kentucky and that’s a totally different kind of corn fed.
Patrick passes me without a goodbye, but Pax leans in and kisses me on the head, “We’ll pick you up for the hop.”
“Tell Patrick to act a little less excited, will ya?”
He smirks, but follows Patrick who waits impatiently by the door. He waves quickly at me and they’re gone like mist at two in the afternoon.
One of these days, I’m gonna cut that motherfucker. He is such an asshole.
I head towards my space and begin, “So, uh, Jesus, Walt, I don’t want these uncovered. There’s a string already in back, no frames. I don’t actually need help. I can do this by myself.”
Walt nods, “There’s a sculpture thing going on the roof and they could use some extra hands, but if you need us…”
“I’ll know where to look.” I say, but I won’t be needing them.
I watch them walk on and take a step back to look at my space. I do have the best one tonight and while that makes my pride swell, but this means I’m the highlight of the evening. This happened only once before and I flubbed it up because I was drinking to cover my nerves, but then…well, I ended up tearing my series with a machete. I still don’t know how or when I got the machete, but that’s what I hear happened. I think Dutchie exaggerated it because if I’d done something like that, I don’t think I’d be allowed back. Ever.
I’m cold. I’m always cold. My fingertips forever frozen. I hear footsteps coming towards me with grandiose intent and then there’s a, “Suzy Lee!”
I don’t want to acknowledge them because I want to get this set up and drink, “Hey…”
“Whoa, I’m taken back by your enthusiasm.” Jonah kidds.
I’m going to be accosted by Olivia St. Jean swank, New York City clothes in that bohemian-goth perfection. Every time I think I’ve got my shit together, here she comes to just blow me out of the water and I suddenly become her very own knock-off brand. It’s what everyone thinks.
I turn carefully and smile as best as I can, but I can’t look at her. She is stunning and I am her inferior mocking. Her bright red hair falls in soft tumbles and her hazel eyes are sleepy, but she’s as alert as a shark, “Hey, Olivia!”
She nods, toking on a long black clove, “Hiii…” Her voice is an extended version of her scorn.
“So, you got the back wall? Impressive.” Jonah moves closer to me in his cologne and charcoal fingertips.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”
“I’m jealous, really jealous.”
“You shouldn’t be.” I quietly laugh out.
Berl Gowdy barrels towards us with Taylor Jewell in tow and we suddenly become a circle of artists and one muse. Olivia doesn’t have to say anything, just existing near me she steals my life from me one exhale at a time. Chipping away my self-esteem with her dispassion.
Berl pats me on the back like I’m his little brother, “What’s the new series called?”
“Um, The Walking American.” I reply.
“Doesn’t sound very provocative.” Taylor quips.
My sight narrows on him. God, he even looks trivial with his styled beard and hipster glasses. He is one boiling charade in that trendy sport coat and ‘Til Tuesday shirt tucked inside high watered khakis, “It isn’t meant to be.”
“Mine’s called Seven Years of Blood.” Berl tries to get my mind off the douche bag he calls friend, “I got really into Ivana Rinkhoff for a while and did a whole series about her bloodied ballet shoes.”
I’ve no idea what the hell he’s talking about, but I’m over the whole thing, “Yeah, I need to get these up. I’ve got to meet someone.”
Jonah is curled around Olivia, but he’s staring at me with unquenchable thirst, “Got a new lover, Suzy?”
I start hanging the paintings on the wall, “No, nothing that surreal.”
“You’re such a little pilgrim. So not subtle.” Taylor jests to Olivia over me.
“You’re a fucking cocksucker. How’s that for subtle, dick?” I swing around as I hang the last picture, “You fucking hipster weird ass poser, coming over here dissing me. You can’t even draw a stick figure, so fuck off!”
“Is there a problem?” Karin drifts to us in her flowing skirts and ethereal splendor. Her honey brown hair makes Sebastian Bach’s look like rat fur. Her enlarged lips so cosmetically altered smile entrances me, “Is everything alright?”
Everyone disperses, leaving me alone with the curator, “Yeah, it’s all cool.”
She nods, looking at me in suspicion, “I just don’t want tonight to end up like last time, you know?”
I agree sheepishly to everything she says until she’s done and leaves me alone as she moves onto some new local artist I don’t know.
I’m walking down Petite Rouge Street brown bagging the bottle of Old Elijah I bought at the King Co. It’s a hubbub, a hullabaloo of people antiquing and shuffling in and out of the little shops carrying bags and laughing about things I don’t know.
I have to keep my wavering down to a minimum or else I’ll bump into them and scare the buyer’s off because I know some of them are going to the art show. My work is fuck all, but I refuse to take money from the other artists. That would be an asshole move on my part and I’d carry the guilt with me for the next ten years.
I make my through the crowd with unease and severe tipsy anxiety to sit down in the gazebo of the elderly people’s private park. Everything is so two-dimensional lately. Black or white. What happened to all the gray?
I’m getting those pre-showing jitters. I have to maintain. I have to remain calm because right now I’d rather get into a fight at all male prison over the rules of playing pool.
I guess that would be an invite to rape. Still, I think I’d prefer that to tonight. The judgement, the scrutiny I’ll face for the images I create on a canvas. I feel sick again and so I rise and circle the park when I hear a sobbing from around a corner of the retirement home.
I stop short and glance past the bricks to see a woman sitting on the sidewalk. She’s cradling her face as a man rests beside her. All I see is arms and a tramp stamp of a colorless butterfly, “I can’t leave him, Jamie…I jus’ can’t. He doesn’t mean to hit me, he jus’ can’t help it…he’ll get help.”
“Yeah, stay with a guy that caves your face in. Do you know how ignorant that sounds? Leave him or else ya gonna end up blowin’ his brains out with that sawed off shot gun you stole from your step daddy who touched you when you were seven.” The man holding her sounds all too happy at the words flying out his mouth.
Jesus God, that’s cold blooded and all she does is cry harder. The inevitable truth I feel is that this girl will never leave him and it will spiral until he cheats on her and then they all become reality television stars. This world is getting all sorts of fucked up.
I stroll into OddBall Orchid and my drunken senses are struck by the obtrusive floral perfume and all natural makeup. I recognize the clerks, but I have never cared enough to ask their names. One is a middle aged woman with a sharply trimmed blonde bob and the other is a younger girl closer to my age with long, black hair and glasses. Her freckles are so dark that they nearly maul her tanned skin like peanut butter and dark chocolate candy cups.
I shove the bottle in my backpack as the older woman springs a brightly, “Hello!”
I wield a silent response and walk deeper in the store. I can’t afford any of their new age jewelry, the tarot cards, and all the other newfangled things my heart covets when I enter this particular establishment. I yearn for one of everything, but I try as hard as I can to ignore it all.
Instead, I travel to the back where the clearance section is. Mostly, it’s the stuff that doesn’t sell so they mark it down, but it’s like an intelligent shoplifter’s dream. And they have to know I’ve been stealing books off them for years, but not once has anything ever been said.
I turn the corner and instantly my eyes seek out a small, slender gray book titled The Cleansing Hand of The Master; A Simple Guide to Dominant and Submissive Behavior. I pick it up in a feverish and fiendish way and peruse it’s pages with hungry glances.
“Do you like Amelia Jefferson’s work as well?” An orphic voice, like from an angel’s choir.
I am docile in my inspection and there stands a tall, lean man wearing leather pants and a tight, black shirt. He is youth incarnate with a frame of golden mane and thick black eyeliner circling the palest set of blue eyes I’ve ever peered into. A narrow nose and gentle, angular features casts a villainous spell, “What?”
“Amelia Jefferson? She wrote the book.” He holds up a copy of the book I’ve been studying.
I swallow hard and feel the outpouring of want easing over me, “She, um, she writes those vampire books too, doesn’t she?”
He sneers, “Yeah, but that’s just teen fluff. Her real masterpiece is The Lady Grey Diaries.”
“What did you just say?!”
“The Lady Grey Diaries. Even though she’s local, I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of her before.” He puts the book back down on the table and tinkers around with some low priced chain necklaces.
Lady Grey….I’m shocked. I turn the book over, but there isn’t a picture of the author. Disappointed and feeling this strange unsettling fall over me, I peek over some of the other books.
“If BDSM was your first preference, you won’t like any of the other books. They’re acutely tame.” He says in a bored tone, but he glances at me with mischief, “Would you like to step in the bathroom with me and snort a dennie?”
My lips part and before my filter can kick in, I say, “Hell yes, I would.”
We walk together to the unisex public bathroom and I close the door behind us. The room is large but the owners’ homely touches make it seem almost personal. Down to the incense burner on the back of the toilet.
He reaches in his pocket and holds a sleek, silver object and crushes a pill within it. His fingers are nimble as he taps the powder out on the counter by the sink. He starts clearing his nose and with a card he separates the powder into two fat lines, “Do you have a straw or a dollar bill?”
I shake my head, restlessly. I’m riddled with aches and pains I can’t explain and I feel like I’m going to fucking puke right there in the toilet.
He pats his back pocket and gets a hundred dollar bill out. Rolling it up tightly, he snorts a line. He stands as straight as a board and rubs his nose frantically with a cheap weirdo crack. Handing me the bill, I snort the other and we stare at one another for a few minutes in a hanging empty feeling, as if everything is vast and expanding all at once before he shakes his head and goes for the door.
I’m standing there in bewilderment, “Thank you, Sir.”
His fear of God eyes review me with pure dishonor, “No problem. It was no problem at all.”
The walk home was a revolting maze of electricity and melting lollipops with it’s sticky goo dissolving over God’s face while I tripped hardcore down back alleys. Mutant babies being eaten by homeless men…maybe it was fried chicken, maybe it was nothing.
I feel like less than nothing. I am nihility, obliteration of the highest order. Weakly and with capacious pupils I pull myself together enough to get ready. I can’t even monkey around with the weed on the table, my brain is over simulated as it is.
Denexatrine is like prescribed cocaine. It numbs all the important things while still giving you enough knowledge of mobility and the ability to form vague sentences. Some people call them seventies, some call them dennies, but the hardcore users call them…constantly.
And you’ll know the look of a Denexatrine addict because the whites of their eyes turn a shade of pale yellow and there lies a stiff stupidity in their movements. But to people like me, who rarely fuck with them, there are no signs. Simply, a feathery light presence around others.
I think night is coming on and I’ve got to get ready, but I’ve fallen down in the shower twice.
God, girl, get your shit together. Come on, it’s just some booze and a pill, you’re being ridiculous right now.
Silly, too silly.
I blunder around after scrubbing myself until I can’t feel my skin anymore. My clothes have to be so-so tonight. I can’t look too good or I’ll stand out, but I don’t want to appear to be one of Taylor’s ilk. I’m no kin of that flabbergasted wind bag.
A simple black button up with sleeves to the elbow and a pair of bell-bottoms. My boots will do just fine and I’ll wear that burgundy scarf. It’s all coming together. I glance at myself in the mirror to see if the water from the shower didn’t mess me up too bad. It just seems like I got a little buzz on which means I’ll really fit in.
I sit on the sofa and wait for my boys to pick me up. I chop up some weed with a pair of miniature scissors and pack the sheet metal pipe. I’m going to have to go in there and take off the covers and everyone is going to be staring and judging. They’re going to know all my secrets and I am ashamed.
The Walking American, how he laughed smugly at my babies. Ew, that just crawls on my nerves. Why do artists have to be so filled with condescension and egos? I don’t think I’m that way, but shit…I may be and not realize it.
And not one person is gonna buy my paintings. They’re going to look at them as if they’re scrape.
They won’t understand them. The irony I’m trying to get across. They won’t understand me and they’ll know my fucking secrets! My anger is flaring up and trying to get the better of me. I have to choke it down or it will take over my night and my art may never be shown again.
Would that be such a bad thing?
There’s a knock on the door and I hear a holler, “We’re all gonna die sometime, Suzy Lee, are you gonna die tonight or tomorrow?!”
I put the pipe down and run across the floor to open the door. Pax scoops me up so fast, he leaves me breathless, “Ah! Ya excited, lil darlin’?”
I know there’s a plastered grin on my face, but I’m crumbling inside, “It’s gonna be fun, I can feel it.”
I follow Pax to The Beast and get in the backseat while Clay is in the passenger’s, “Where’s Patrick?”
“He borrowed Victoria’s car to take Elaina.”
“Elaina’s gonna be there?”
“Yeah, why?” Clay doesn’t understand it, or sense it, but I’m seething like a simpering, capricious child.
I shrug carrying on my lightweight facade, “I haven’t met her yet.”
“Oh, she’s real nice…”
“You say that about everyone, Clay.”
And it’s true, he really does. It’s a mark of his genuine belief that all people are good, I suppose.
I think everyone is full of shit until I see the bag rip open. Hellfire.
I tread into a chaotic interment camp. Everyone is scrambling to finish touches and straighten edges. The girlfriends all stand huddled smoking cloves and cigarettes they roll for fun and look at their surroundings with disdain, but secluded jealousy. Pax and Clay mingle with Jonah and I think I see Patrick, but I can’t tell through the crowd.
I march my happy ass to the back wall and begin unveiling the portraits one at a time;
The Life of Long Tall Sally, I saw a proud, leafy marijuana stalk rising high against the clouds one sunny day in front of the abandoned Cotter drug house. It was last summer walking over in West Port, closer to that hideous one-story school, I can’t remember it’s name now. I remember the feeling from that day, it was warm and I was kind of sweating, but it was healthy. I just felt good. And it was so tall and luscious and it just seemed to tell me her name was Sally. However, she bore no bud, but lordy she was fine.
American Monarch, no joke, a band of hillbilly gypsies moved in across from Bear at the trailer park and they raised some hellaciously amazing parties. All weekend nothing but grilling, screaming, flat foot dancing, cheating, dates, swapping, stabbings. They were all encompassing and they sucked the park of it’s life and then they were gone after six months. They took all the piping, stripped anything that they could make money from. And this picture, the dancing men in their ripped jeans stained with oil cavorting about a wood and insulation fire drinking and loving on their women…I was there and it was a grand affair indeed.
God with Butterfly Wings, I was stoned and started to sketch a Cthulhu baby, but then it ended up being Satan with angel wings wearing a war helmut drinking whiskey with one hand as he holds a machine gun in the other. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell. Go figure.
Waiting to Wait, I saw two old hobos sitting at a bus stop and there was this look on their faces. I couldn’t even tell if they knew each other or if they felt anything at all. They were vacant spaces of former men. I stood there sketching them on an envelope of an old bill long enough to know that neither were waiting for anything but to die.
Toothache and A Cigarette, I saw a seven year old girl smoking a cigarette outside a laundry mat. She barked at me…and I was scared.
Over Gravel and Under Sky, I was walking drunk around town and it was around dawn when I came across a drug deal going on between two Monte Carlos. I ducked down behind a building, but the fear of being shot burnt itself on me. There was nothing but gravel along the train tracks and the trees were coming up like flames and the air rushing through me never felt so real.
Little Succubus Blues, I had a dream of a woman weeping in her hands every night for week and if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I would have gone insane. Just black and white, she sits on a rock crying into herself all alone.
I turn around and the world induces.
I’m standing on one side of Patrick while Elaina and Olivia talk amongst themselves with Elaina asking, “What do I get?”
“You get someone’s pilfered baby.”
What the fuck? Everyone’s chatter is one loud undercurrent to the music coming over the speakers. There are clouds of perfume and dustings of cigarette ash falling down suit coats and the backs of their women’s dresses made vintage, ordered offline.
“What do you think of her?” Patrick whispers.
“Are you talking about your linebacker, I mean…lady?” I ask, sipping my scotch.
“Aw, now that’s not fair.” Patrick pokes my waist and I inadvertently giggle as he says, “I played football and one time I told this guy Dion, who was a real dick, that I hated him and my dad made me stand on the corner for two hours. Never told a black guy I hated him again.”
“People shouldn’t write me hate mail if they can’t spell. That’s just bleeding ignorance otherwise.” Olivia practically announces with a wave of scarlet hair.
“For grammar is the hand that holds the blade known as my silver tongue.” I speak lowly and she she rolls her eyes.
Patrick parades Elaina around the gallery to look at the paintings and drawings and I gloat at her bouncing around in that poorly designed purple silk and black lace corset and black denim miniskirt. I want to jump on her and throttle her until her implants stop heaving. Where the fuck does Patrick meet these bimbo barbies?
“Oh, Suzy Lee, have you met Lathan Barnett?” Olivia questions me with a sudden rekindled flame in as she pulls the lanky fellow to her side.
“No, I haven’t had the privilege.”
Her eyes are so bright and her stare could go on forever. It looks like Miss Perfect Muse has found another artist she wishes to cap. Jonah will be another emotional trauma like the string of former good men before him.
Lathan’s regard is noble and tense as he seems to be looking within me, “Let’s try to conjure Satan.”
“No, it’s Friday. It needs to be like a Wednesday or something.”
He shuffles his Mod boots awkwardly, “Yeah, you’re right. Friday is probably his downtime. It’s the day he’s half goat or some shit and we don’t want to conjure the devil for an intricate threesome while he’s still half goat.”
“Which means we can’t die on Friday either.”
Olivia is affronted by our odd wit and her queenliness falters just a sliver to witness herself, “I’ve got to see where Jonah went.”
Pax is standing about four feet from The Walking American with an inquisitive appearance. I stand there with him for a few minutes before I have to ask, “Well, what do you think?”
“It looks like my daddy abused me all through little boy time.”
He’s being vexatious with me and I loathe it, “I’m sorry. I really like them. Truly. They’re wonderful. Your best work so far.”
I don’t want to ask or know, but I have to, “Which one’s your favorite?”
“Hmm, I don’t know, but I really like that crying girl. She kinda looks like ya.”
“Yeah, it kinda looks like ya…”
My eyes go directly to the painting and I feel so embarrassed. Oh my God, there I am bleeding in front of everyone. It is me…I painted myself!
“Ya didn’t see it, did ya?” He lays an arm over my shoulders.
“I can’t even look at it.” I bow my head to the floor as there is ruckus at the entrance.
Melito Arliss swivels in followed by his groupies. He is style manifested. A top hat settled atop long, glossy hair. I’m sure he would be the very vision of gothic culture in his skintight suit, but he’s too civilized. There’s too much clean cut Italian-American boy with those gaunt features.
And there the mystery man from OddBall Orchid strides up through the gathering to stand by Mr. Arliss. They chatter idly over Jonah’s series with taut control beneath black mesh and leather. He looks positively nefarious…
I duck behind the fountain as they begin touring the show and yes, I’m aware of the fact that I’m a total basket case.
“Well, I’m gonna check out Berl’s stuff. Looks pretty good. Meet me in a minute?” Pax needles an agreement from me as he walks away.
I feel helpless and pristine, alone in the crowd as usual. I light up a cigarette butt and immediately question where everyone is flicking their ashes. Probably in some Art Deco monstrosity that’s staring me right in the face, but is somehow disguised as a dog or a swan. I just ash in the fountain sitting in the middle of the room.
There is a brush against my arm. I look left and see nothing, I look right and there he is…and his smile is incorrigible, “Hey, there.”
I blush and already feel like I’m fumbling downward, “Hi…”
He holds out his hand with a laugh, “I’m Diamund Helmsley.”
Everything clicks together in my mind and the nerves are on fire, “Ohhh….you’re the one all the chicks call Master Diamund down at Madame Du Bree’s, aren’t you?”
I’ve made him bashful as he demurely rubs the back of his head, “Yes, yes they do.”
“Why are you being so shy? There’s no shame in being a…dominatrix?”
“A dom. I’m a dom.”
“That’s fascinating.” I lick my lips, curious on how well he could abuse me.
“What are you doing after this?”
“Oh, I’ve got nothing planned.”
Diamund leans into my ear and kisses it softly, “American.” The word is almost inaudible, so breathless and rootless. He’s nearly across the room when I finally open my eyes and see that he’s gone. Phantom touches, as if he wasn’t there in the first place, but I can still sense the lingering.
Makayla Keeton busts in like a drunk fairy, white trash slag. It’s amazing how animated small people are. She’s practically climbing the walls and bumping into people, but everyone enjoys her. They call her a delight and her presence is heralded among the groups as a good sign.
I see her as the cooze she is. She may be a model, and she may be seen as the ultimate social butterfly, but she’s just another overly opinionated snob who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She’ll agree, but mostly disagree with anything that’s voiced to her. No matter if it does or does not exist.
Melito Arliss has the largest entourage, but Makayla leads the other. And Dino and Wren follow in her retinue with thunderous abuse ready to spew from their offhanded tongues.
I stand back in anonymity smoking a cigarette by the fountain with a tightened poise.
“Like she could paint her way out of a paper bag.” Makayla judges and moves on.
“Talentless.” Dino booms out in a voice so loud most people around him look over to see what’s going on. His shifting eyes make sure he was heard too, the weasel.
“She gets around.” Wren the ever-gossip.
What the hell does that have to do with anything?
I feel that perversion swarming in my stomach. How abysmal! These people, this place, right now! This time! Why couldn’t I have had a calling to something less apt for self-wreckage? It’s the damned determination I’ve got over this shit. If I don’t do it, I know I will die and it will be out of fear and love.
“Hey, bitch! How’s it going?” Dutchie stands beside me looking like one hot mess, but I can’t sheriff him or want him anymore.
He’s my Achilles heel, my drug, my unsurpassable weakness. And while my body reacts to him with an overwhelming magnitude, my mind is appalled, and my heart is locked away.
I hug on him sadly, “I just want to go home, Dutch.”
“Do you want to go to bed?”
“Yeah, mostly because I don’t wanna wrestle with my bra.”
“Aw, it’s been that kind of night?”
“I don’t know how, Suzy, your shit’s like fucking gold.” Pax declares.
I shake my head wanting to cry, “No. No.”
“I’m serious.” Pax comes to stand directly in front of me, “It’s all everyone’s talking about.”
Dutchie bumps my arm with his fist, “Let’s go smoke.”
We meander through the congregation with Dutchie and Pax saying quick hellos to people I’ve never seen before. Elaina is clinging onto Patrick’s arm and sharply dragging behind him in chunk heels with a tee-hee along the way.
“Did ya see the exhibit on the roof?” Pax is astonished.
Clay lights a cigarette, “We shoulda gone up there to get high…”
“We need to go to the arboretum and get baked, aimless around, you know?” Dutchie bangs himself against the dumpster and lights up a fat fucking joint. He hits it and it flames a blue for just a second before it calms down, “I dipped it.”
“In what?” Elaina asks with cherub cheeks.
She may be with Patrick tonight, but Dutchie sizes her up with those stormy black eyes, “PCP.”
“FUCK YES!” Patrick screams.
“Shush! Shut the fuck up, dude!” I whisper harshly.
I lean up to see if anyone from the roof is looking down in curiosity, but I don’t see anyone in the darkened sky.
Dutchie is a cool customer when he smokes, Patrick is an excitable ball, Elaina holds it between two press on nails to pink lathered lips, “Is this gunna make us see shit?”
“No, well, maybe. It depends on the person.” He’s so fucking sly it makes me sick.
Pax hits it with admiration and panic, Clay inhales so deeply he coughs up slime on the side walk, but I got the joint before all that. I toke it and taste nothing particular. I think I’ve slaughtered my tastebuds by all the unfiltered cigarettes, “Well, you know that’ll happen if you have an unbalanced load…”
“Oh cheer the fuck up, Suzy Lee. You’re starting to look like that old gay friend. Better don your makeup, honey.” Dutchie’s banter is so thrilling.
“Cheer up?” I ask with a stoned smile, “Fact, the state of Ohio is leading with the most presidents, astronauts, and serial killers. How cheerful is that?”
“If you don’t eat oats…FUCK YOU!” Patrick screams in Elaina’s face.
She tears up and covers her face as she runs off into the alleyway, “Fucking pillbillies!”
“She thinks we do pills?” I question.
“We do do pills, Suzy Lee.” Dutchie, ever quick on the draw….the bastard.
I’m dangling on Pax’s arm as we come floundering through the doors. There’s no one inside except the artists getting their leftover paintings down from the walls. Some will keep them up for any buyers that walk through one day.
Vacant noise hangs over the air in a heavy cloud. Debris consisting of cigarette butts, crinkled pamphlets, and a few paper cups line the floor. Such disregard, such wastefulness.
I rub my arms from a twitch inching through my veins, “I bet mine are all still there.” My frown is firmly until I see the back wall is empty, “Karin! Hey, Karin?!”
She drifts over on a cloud of paisley skirt and the clicking of organically made, hypo-allergenic sandals, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I…”
“Where are my babies?” I know my eyes are as big as saucers and I hold this urge to vomit and crawl beneath bulky blankets to sleep for eternity, “Where are my paintings?”
“Wel’…they were sold.” My shock must be clearly there on my face because she taps my shoulder, “Every single one. Sold.”
“Congrats!” Clay pipes up with a clap on the back.
“Who the fuck bought them?” Images of my babies sitting in attics collecting dust scorch my ever living thoughts. I grab my stomach in a nervous frenzy of internal angst.
Patrick leans in with a, “Nice job, Suzy.” And a nod of approval from Elaina who is suspiciously closer to Dutchie. There’s poison in my well.
Karin holds out a check to me for one thousand and two hundred and fifty dollars and my jaw drops to the floor.
I’ll have enough money for rent! For dope! For shit! I’m smiling as I walk to the Ole American Pub, the hot spot for three a.m. munchies attacking a desperately weakened and wasted individual such as myself.
This tiny two story cinderblock building attracts the greasiest of the greasy. All spawn rejected from the night gather here in an attempt to collect their thoughts, enjoy decent food, and calm their rattling nerves from whatever they were into previously. Queer spooks in dusted leather coats and dirty jeans, people with worn out eyes jaded and tired, and the scent of something vaguely burnt lingers on the breeze.
I open the door and his eyes seek me out. I am instantly ensnared by temptation. His back straight and a hand brushing back the blonde hair from his heart shaped face. His grin is forceless and hindered only by the private optimism I can see there in those eyes when he looks at me.
I sit opposite him and I’m trapped there on the spot by his gaze. They’re so acute and bitterly blue that timidity singes my heart. He takes a hit from his cigarette and his hair falls back in his face, “Holy fuck, Mary Poppins. Meeting you tonight put me in such a good mood that it’d make June Cleaver puke.”
“Day time drinking, because it’s always an option.” I feel meek and under scrutiny as I light my own cigarette.
“Like a valley of the dead, corpses everywhere thrilling and chilling you like a creeped out, real life maniacal forest.”
I laugh out smoke, “You’re high.”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Nothing, you’re just being funny. That’s all.”
“Your face is funny.”
I chuckle from shock, “It’s not really polite to criticize your date’s face.”
His palm is spread over the table by his coffee cup, “Are we on a date?”
“I don’t fucking know. Are we?” I counter.
“When I die, fire shall consume the earth…”
“Nero said that.” I answer.
He’s practically screaming satisfaction sitting there like a spoiled child, “Yes, this is a date.”