Chapter 4 kiss me back
Ohhh Harley. Really? Really? Really? Zlata was stroking her neck as she, Harley, whimpered. The ritual was that Harley would say she had a “stomachache” and this was her way of getting endless nurturing from her mother, Zlata. And this time, it wasn’t exactly untrue, Harley did have an…ache, a sort of nickel throbbing at the very top of her pussy. If the puss-puss was a tree, the metal gleamy throb was a kind of branch-gnashing, a storm of…fetal blood magnetizing her nutrients away from her and swelling. There was a parasite inside Harley McAnus’s uterus, a big time party crasher.
One of her paparazzos, the one who was called Labradoodle for his especially enthusiastic hair, was the dad, so he was the one who brought the herbal, maybe magical, abortifactant to school for Harley in a baby-blue kleen kanteen, new and dent-free.
Cheers!, Harley said, toasting the dicknose of his camera with the vessel. Abortimagnificent! she proclaimed as she folded herself into the silver toilet stall to drink it. He was not amused, Labradoodle–his face, usually healthy and chubby and shining, was drawn tight and ashen. He waited outside the bathroom for her, pretending to check his photos but actually taking 7-11 breaths to avoid a panic attack. Where you inhale for a count of 7 and exhale for 11. Harley bounded out, handing him back the emptied container.
Thanks Dad, she said cheerily. But to him this was not a joke. He loved Harley and he didn’t believe that abortion was totally fine, he loved the little squid inside her that he felt was sacred and part of him, and maybe the best and coolest thing he would ever do. Could have ever done. He’d had a dream about Harley’s flat tits pumping up, as if pumped with a bike pump, right before his very eyes. He imagined her fat and silly, full of dumb glee as she stood on the red carpet with her eight month pregnant belly and his, Mauricio’s, hand on her back, proud of her, with her, surrounding her with his love like a fortress, or if not his love at least his concern, I mean something decent, they were doing something decent together, something as old and decent as the forest…
Orrrr, Harley was bolting out of geometry, covering her mouth with her hand as watery puke burst forth between the rungs of her tacky fingers. A giant drill was excavating her insides, dredging up all her particles, the squid was emulsified and ejected in tiny fibers. Out, out, out, she begged, as she vomited into the trash can.
Another rough night, Harley? taunted Gossip-Salad’s headline on the next day’s first post, and the image was our Harley folded over into the trash can at a perfect 90 degree angle, on her toes in her neo-combat boots that zipped up the back and her lazy cutoffs. In fact she hadn’t puked in as long as she could remember before this time and she was hardly even a partier relative to the kids who really partied, but she did look the partier part with her zitty chin, egg-white skin and thick, I don’t-give-a-fuck eyelids.
The first night we hung out she said to me, I’m not fucked up, it’s just my face. And I don’t want to fuck you, it’s just my lazy bedroom eye.
Actually she fucked me once and it fucked me up for like years
Actually, acutely, actually.
Harley was blond when I met her and still had chipmunk cheeks. She was wearing acid-washed black jeans and a T&C surf company t-shirt, oversized, and she smelled of nail polish. She was doing her nails at the bagel shop which had a visible “B” health grade in its window. She was blond like I said, bleached taxidermied blond and pulled up in clumps. She had small purple lumps on her chin and a thin gold chain around her neck with a skateboard pendant on it, and black converse hi-tops. I was a little bit older than her but she was born with that ring of sophistication already around her, perhaps it is her European mother? Doesn’t that do something automatically? Of course she smoked and in fact she needed cigarettes. We were walking on the boardwalk–we were fast friends really–and then into a smoke shop and she effortlessly and without fear stole a packet of yellow cigarettes, lighting up and then trotting away, leaving the papparazzo, a group of them, in their own electrified buzz. They were lazy for a few beats but then like a cartoon they all charged us, and we slipped into the LipLip Hotel, through a revolving door into a cool lobby with all hard, gleaming surfaces. A man gently took Harley’s burning cigarette from her hand as no cigarettes were allowed, she did not protest. Tiny clusters of stars appeared and receded in the glossy interior surfaces. With minimal words, the lady at the front desk–tiny black waist–handed Harley a key. What moments ago was a flat black wall, onyx-black and shiny, now opened into a cube, this was the elevator, Harley pulled me in, this whole place had a smell, a perfume, a tough Soviet grass…masculine and precise…the elevator moved like a bearing through viscous grease so smooth that it was indiscernible. Here now was our floor, she pulled me out of the cube, she lit up another smoke then waved her key and a door opened itself, with her, I was suddenly already in the future. The bed was immense and cloud-soft, I sank into it with my arms out Jesus-style as she popped open some Cokies and fizzed some rum, I imagine, into them. Indeed,
Here you go, baby, she said and handed me one and blew a rainbow-arc of smoke in my face. She turned on the TV and there was a Japanese girl tied to a chair and protesting the thick strings of spit-it dangled down onto her by an army of identical soldiers. Oh my god!
Harley was behind me and collected my arms back there the way you’d collect two ends of a ribbon to tie together on a present. She held me there and there was a cool wisdom and confidence in her small hands, something old-world like I said, and in her light grip, in her tennis bracelet, I stayed, still and breathing soft and shallow, and the perfume of the world entered me, and I got silkscreened between my legs. She laid me down like a nurse and did things to me and I pretended to be asleep except when giant cats were leaping out of my body, I started moving around then and pulled a pillow out of my head, my head in darkness freed my body and this might sound weird but my limbs came off my trunk and strung out until they stretched the whole length of the room, I was like a Macy’s balloon person from TV, then I popped and my dazzled, shrunken casing pulsed dryly on the floor, and Harley got up to put on a bathing suit so we could go in the pool. Not the jungle one but the rooftop one, where only us VIPs are allowed. Her swimsuit was lime hot green and her body was nice and correct in it. Dazed, I waded like a two-year-old, making the best of mine, in my black tank top and my mom’s old taupe underwear with my industrial-strength pubes sticking out.
Chapter Five The Twin
Do you remember that I said that Harley was tied for the most famous girl in our whole school? That’s because she’s tied with Lela. Lela, commonly known as Harley’s twin, was in fact made of the very same dough as Harley. What I’m saying is that Lela and Harley were once one body, way back in 94, when they were but a whisper in the womb of Zlata. When Zlata was still a nanny for Jonny Joy Junior. Zlata had a difficult first trimester of pregnancy. If you asked Zlata about her difficult first trimester of pregnancy, the image that would come to her mind would be the time that she was bathing Johnny Joy Junior, then 5 months old, in the mini tub inside the big tub, and she nearly fainted from the smell–the cloud-soft smell–of the milky french baby soap that she used to bathe JJJ’s tiny fat body. There could not be a less offensive smell in all the world than this smell but still it nearly knocked her consciousness right over, so fragile were her senses. It was probably only her deep-veined baby-overseer vigilance that kept her awake, she could not lose consciousness with this tiny creature in her care in a tub of water! But she DID in fact pass out over a boiling pot of dumplings in her own kitchen the next day, the burning steam on her cheeks waking her up just before she faceplanted into the liquid.
In her belly was a tiny thrashing guppy-shaped creature which did not have a gender, a name, or a thought. But if I could stretch myself to imagine that it had a feeling at all, it would be a gnashing, biting-hard impulse. It was a tiny creature that reviled itself, that wanted to get away from itself, that felt tied to itself in a way that it resisted with all of its being, a violent yin-yang trying to escape itself, clothes in a dryer trying to get away from each other, and so, and so,
Twins! said the doctor, delighted and tired, as she delivered both creatures into a special sort of napkin designed to soak it up. Outside the door was Jonny Joy, with hard lines cut into his forehead in both directions. The chauffeur was asleep in the car meanwhile. This was at UCLA, where there was still an old-fashioned air about things, the doors were heavy, the doorknobs were vintage, the floor was fifties. Zlata was handed her two new babies, both pink and desperate, we are born desperate, she thought as she introduced her fat brown nipple into one of them’s mouth. One of them was more dazed and wonderous, white skin and purple lips, and the other was more pissed and pink. The dazed one was Harley. The pissed one was Lela. Lela came out second.
I forget the medical term but they were a special kind of twin that had started out as one being and then thrashed itself into two.
Chapter 6 the car is waiting
JJ held his two babies in the private room as his levelled mistress soundly slept. His heart was a rain of chaos and terror, his love was as thin as water and as soft as suede and was an umbrella over himself and the sleeping woman who had just birthed two children. His love was also a river which flowed all the way into the hills, the Beverly Hills, and made a canopy over his sleeping one-year-old boy and his wife, his sleeping wife with the synthetic rain-sound playing from the machine, which she needed to sleep. A nurse took a photo of JJ with a disposable camera, unfazed by or unaware of his fame. He knew against all reason that these tiny girls were made of love, and that god existed, and that language was not sufficient to talk about it. He knew that he had helped to create these girls but that the blood beating through them was not his blood. These were Zlata’s children.
Do you know what Zlata looked like? Zlata was, to be brief about it, unnattractive. I don’t mean just right now because two humans had just busted their way out of her pelvis, I mean anyway, I mean when she was a girl and when she was a teenager and now as an adult, she was not pretty. She had too-big shoulders and she had pickles for legs. She had burst blood vessels on her ears, and dangling moles on her neck like the clappers of bells and generally chapped lips. She was not pretty and she was not vain. I mean she didn’t mind that she was not pretty. But her daughter Lela was almost supernatural in her beauty, she almost radiated light. Some combination of old-world hardwood bitter herb bone wisdom brought from the blue-green forest from in Zlata crossed with the handsome part of of JJ, the translucent shell beach-boy guitar chord sandy haired careless cliffs part, and the girl was an electric beauty eel. Even in the womb she was getting catcalled by the other organs! She was almost sexy, a head turner, almost fashionable, as a naked toddler. She had fashion in her FACE.
I think that Harley could handle her plainness just fine, but Lela couldn’t really handle her beauty, I think it made her always alone.
Chapter 7 MOTHER
Mother? Are you awake? I was supposed to call you at this time, did you remember?
Mother? Are you okay?
For a year her guy had been looping his belt through the loops, smirking at her, a shard of glass gleaming in his eye.
Mom! I just need your new credit card number. If you don’t give it to me I’m not going to make the UC application deadline and…
The phone made a weird organic sound. She was gone. Off to buy another 20 pounds of Turkish delight to enjoy between orgasms and cigarettes. She said that for breakfast over there they have cucumbers and cheese and it doesn’t upset her stomach like it did in the states. She said that things change in your body when you introduce yourself to new circumstances. She said that in the US, they don’t know the difference between food and poison. She said that all her problems stemmed from the reality that she was always tense, in her “old life.” This is all fine but what I’d prefer over this sort of insight is a fucking credit card number that fucking works.
The man, slipping the belt into his loops.
The thin black belt, becomes a thin white snake. Glass glinting from his eyes, diamond spinning in the air towards me like what do you call them, nunchuks.
Chapter 8 Lincoln
Well, girl scout cookies. I think it’s time for a little black boy called Lincoln, don’t you? He got glasses early in life and they looked so cute on him. What constitutes a black boy? Is it the concern which rises and just as quickly passes when he is observed, a six-year-old walking alone as the day creeps toward dusk? Oh he’ll be fine, thinks the pilled-up lady who’s seen him, as she floats by in her post-divorce ship, a beige buick Le Sabre. She may forget, but Lincoln lives on–Lincoln walk and walks, wearing his glasses and dreaming his dreams–like the one about the basketball which teeters on the hoop’s lip and thinks and then just falls right in, all natural. His dad, who is in the bleachers, shoots up and explodes into a full body cheer, making the letter Y…Lincoln has a mother, who thinks that kids who never had fathers are better off–at least they don’t break your baby’s heart first goddamn thing.
Chapter 9 Bleak Like a Laundromat
I am really wanting to show you how things felt. At night there were many nights which came together to make a kind of chord of night made of a thousand pieces of night, or strips, dark monochrome rainbows of night, teeth grinder nights. There were nights which hung around the moist dark plants who grew untended over the cement walls in the bad neighborhoods, sweet fungus smells discharging into the air, honk honk puff puff. There were the nights that surrounded hubcaps, there were the nights that were electrified with fluorescent flashing, flashes that fired so close together that the eye registered it as consistent light, still the mothers feel like zombies as they make their tragic grocery decisions in this night, chef boyardee or top ramen? Big or little thing of ice cream? More beer for him or let him deal with getting his own and paying for it too? There was the night that wrapped families of dime-sized frogs in blankets of cool mist. There was the night that the thick tar bubbled INTO. Fat hot cosmic farts blossoming upward. There was the night that surrounded the heaving starlette as she lay on the cool tiled bathroom floor at the Chateau, her assistant beside her, and her friend, having just pulled her out of the tub, what was the friend’s name? What even was the starlette’s name? She’s heaving kind of, she doesn’t look good, is she good? Is she having a seizure? Should we call her mom? Should we call the front desk? Who the fuck was supposed to be watching her? She’s good, she’s good, she’s breathing, she’s just passed out from the champagne, she’s fine, she’s just having a rough night, she just partied a little too much, get the blanket, she’s cold, she’s fine, she’s cold, she just has no fat on her….
Back in the grocery store, the mothers are drying up as the clock ticks as they stand in line, as they age, as the popsicles melt, as the children writhe
And at the stadium, the lights are left on so that you can see it from the freeway, so it always seems alive, and the grasshopper-colored turf grits its own teeth as the lights assault it forever with their burn, their burn…
And the orange plastic seats are sinister in their stillness, the family butts gone
And the children with the night gathering around their ankles sleep in their particle-board beds and breathe glue and dream and kick each other and dream of race car driving and pop stars and baseball stars under chandeliers
And the boys of LA crouch and tug to win their first drops of cum
And the girls of LA wrench their first nipple-hairs out with tweezers
And the dogs hide from earthquakes
And the grass huddles and sleeps and hides from fire
Nature is scared, nature is so scared it needs medication from a psychiatrist
Now the starlette is tucked into bed with people watching her sleep, the doctor came, the doctor is grave and pale, the doctor is concerned
this is what the night is getting into, it’s gritting its teeth altogether, a tight ponytail
The night is a ponytail with a million hairs in it and each hair is a particular
And and and
I haven’t even told you about how the night is like Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ but that is probably dumb anyway and I think you had to be there. But it is cool how the stars that we are seeing are not even there anymore, they are long dead.
And in the seed of one of the nights I am trying to tell you about, a moist cool one, is a black parking lot, vast and mostly abandoned, and a large laundromat, Sin’s, which glows like a moon at the center of it. This was a 24 hour laundromat which had mystical properties, and I went to it sometimes when I needed to just be somewhere. This particular time, I had been outrunning a speed experiment which I had thought was a cocaine experiment, what I mean was that I had done a bit too much speed and so had not slept for a night, and here now was another night already again and I was also not sleeping. I stole, semi-stole, LaBlond’s VW bug, LaBlond my mom’s friend who was almost like my aunt, and drove it here, even though it was a stick and I hated driving stick even when I had all my mental faculties let alone at a time like this when I was cognitively compromised and covered in layers of dried sweat. The bug, did I mention, was a convertible but was broken and you could not put the top down, and also it was mustard yellow, and the boy sitting outside the laundromat smoking was wearing yellow pants of almost the exact shade. His pants were tidily cuffed and he was smoking a cigarette, and his shirt was crisp white and he had a clean hairstyle that faded to zero at his neck and up at the top made a kind of crown. He looked like a creature from another era, and he had a bone-white watch on too. I wonder if you can get lost from Paris and end up here. Or lost from the fifties. He did look like a black teenaged Buddy Holly, kind of
Please don’t tell me I look like a black Buddy Holly, he said, poooofing the smoke.
I wasn’t, I said.
We made out behind the laundromat, next to the trash from the frozen yogurt store. We made out in the bug. Everything in the universe seemed to lean slightly to the right. His kisses were soft and tasted like smoked meat and crushed leaves. It was Hollywood upon Hollywood, in Hollywood. When we needed a break from kissing I put my head against his thick leather lapel and breathed in his smoky particles and living skin.
That is the night I met Lincoln.
Lincoln, being the real fucking deal, lived with two brothers, I mean, not his brothers, but two guys who were brothers to each other, and then a couple other guys in a shabby white house on Ralph Street, where some people were heroin addicts and everyone was into music. It sounds so disrespectful when I put it like that. This was a house, the first house I ever knew, of artists, by which I mean, of people who would not compromise. Everyone had fucking style and a cool name and everyone was real. And unfortunately there was this price to pay, or a kind of initiation ritual which some people could survive and others would not. Some would get their hearts broken really hard.
Chapter 10 Let’s get to the Cannibalism please already
Ayayay, this is getting a bit big, let’s pause and recap.
Priscilla, the contented PREGNANT woman. is contentedly stuffing her face at the fish taco place on Sunset, after all she’s PREGNANT, RIGHT? She is getting richer and richer and more and more alone and she likes her fish tacos baja-style. Her plan is that once the book comes out (the book she wrote about mental as physical health for expectant mothers) she will do a small tour then move to Morocco or Nice, as in France. This has created a kind of bidding war for her last “pregnancy.” She is thinking about whether or not to do another one as she chomps her taco full of delicious cream droppings over a bed of fluffy cabbage over a bed of crispy fried anonymous fish.
Why fish? Well, fish is essential to a healthy body, as she explains to her clients. Her gestation diet is a lot of fish and vegetables.
Why cannibalism, Priscilla? Why cannibalism? Why? Can you explain that?
What began as a youthful, underthought movement to take down the patriarchy has become a deep, incorrigible bloodlust. Literally. In order to keep the fetuses healthy, the ones growing under her bathroom sink, she must pour the blood of rich, dignified men into the surgical steel funnel, putting it into the function which processes it into the perfect food for her little rooting babe. In order to get the blood most efficiently she naturally has to pose as a high-class whore and then kill the men. Is she POSING as a whore, or is she really the best and most perfect and thorough whore? Floppy with love and understanding, in three of the four cases, the men have just let her kill them, no resistance. The fourth one started to panic, but that only lasted for a few seconds, until he went dark.
Priscilla hums “surfer girl” as she drools the blood from a vessel into the funnel beside the sink. Making a baby happy. Making a baby. Then she does her yoga and her meditation.
I should have known better chapter eleven
than to introduce the charming, rich, worldly, fried straw-blond love of my life Harley to the gorgeous, classic, troubled, innately fashionable love of my life, Lincoln. Why did I do that?
So that I could follow them on the beach, two paces behind them, and watch them fall in love moment by moment like a contact sheet? So that I could see the photos later in Gossip-Salad, with the headlines of “Hellraiser Harley’s got a new Crush,” re-living the Malibu sunset which gleamed like hot foil as they smooched and ‘canoodled’? In the photos, I am behind them, only my foot made it into one picture. I am on the cutting room floor. Who is this new guy, Harley? The gossips need to know.
So that I could nurse her through her next abortion? Do you lose any weight when you get an abortion? Ha ha you are hilarious Harley. If I had Lincoln’s sperm I’d treat it like gold. She lights up. She lights up. She lights up.
My mother is still in Turkey I think, maybe Greece, in any case I’ve missed the UC deadline but I don’t care. I don’t want to go to school anyway. Me and my two loves spend Christmas together watching Boys ‘N The Hood at Harley’s. Zlata and Jonny Joy are in Slovakia, and Jonny Joy Junior is with Arsela, and it feels like all of Los Anghelles has clapped shut and we are keeping a little light burning for humanity here, Lela in her bedroom upstairs smoking something or some combination of things while listening to the Doors, trying to have an experience and avoid all the guys who are chasing her. I lay down on both of them, on Harley and Lincoln, across their laps like a cat, the movie ends. We take a walk down the twisty road, towards a cafe that might be open. A paparrazzo is asleep in his minivan, Harley taps on the window to wake him up and she takes me and kisses me on the lips, letting him snap a shot. Christmas present, she says to him. I feel like the discarded wrapping. The cafe is not in fact open. We keep walking through the hills. Damp leaves are on the ground. LA seems to have weather today. Harley takes off her shirt, she feels free. I am a little concerned about Lela, with her mysterious smoke blend and the scarves that she threw over the lamps. Left alone with her intentions toward psychic experiments and her lack of regard for fire hazards. I am mystified that two girls who came out of the same womb could really convincingly not care much about each other, not really be connected. I’m so much shallower than her, Harley says, as if this explains it all. I’m glad I don’t care about the world as much as her, because look at how serious and unhappy she is. And it’s true, Lela does look serious and tight, she has a stark brown bob and her always are always squinty and ready to jump at you for doing this or that, her beauty had become a knife. She read books about genocide. Lela wore a one piece, Harley wore a bikini, in otherwords.
I guess I chapter twelve
Almost exactly ten years after this perfect disaffected teen Christmas that I’ve just described, Lela lost her mind and was sent to Buddy’s Rehab Depot, Harley went to college at, hilariously, Harvard, hilarious because homegirl never cracked a book, I mean maybe no one cracks a book at Harvard I have no idea, I moved in with LaBlond when my mother stopped paying rent on our bungalow and I found a paper tacked to our door saying that I had to leave. Lincoln falls in love with a man and moves to New York. My mother returns eventually to LA and opened a small jewelry shop, selling the wares of with artisans she’d met on her travels. For a couple months I remember she was profiled in some LA magazines, she was a thing, and then eventually she became an eccentric shop lady who had the same haircut for decades. Time got weird.
I think what I was waiting around for was to see what would happen to Priscilla. Would she get found out? Well, she got found out. There was a raid on her place and the latest fetus, which was nearly to term, was carried out of her house in a small kiddy pool draped with a black cloth, by two uniformed FBI women who seemed shaken.
Priscilla was put into a ladies prison complex, where she gave interviews forever, and donated all her money to animal rights causes.
Lincoln failed at breaking out of himself. He failed, his heart kept getting broken and New York was a tough place.
I met Harley some years later again at our Malibu spot, parking space 16, my favorite number and the best and worst teenage year. Nearing thirty and having plenty of money, she still enjoyed the skirt-lifting level of thrill of shoplifting cigarettes, and the attention she got from strangers who recognized her at the Whole Foods. I wanted to tell her something but I couldn’t collect the words, oh well, the world is about to end anyway, she said, blowing her cowboy mouthful of smoke out over the Pacific, her teeth were getting yellow.
Dia Felix is a writer and filmmaker whose areas of intrigue and expertise include romantic pratfalls, spiritual totality, and celebrity obsession. Her first novel, Nochita, is forthcoming from City Lights/Sister Spit.