April 21, 2010
* The following short story is experimental fiction
She knew she was in Los Angeles because she felt no chill. They were shopping. Alexis and her mother had decided to drive down for the weekend. But this couldn’t be because they lived in Canada. It couldn’t be – but it was. Where else would there be palm trees, bars on the windows, and this much shopping. Alexis drummed her nails against the rubber ledge of the window and hummed to herself: what you waiting, what you waiting, what you waiting for…’
She heard her dog whining. No. It wasn’t the dog. They wouldn’t have brought Scoot. It was sirens, quivering in the distance.
‘Where are they coming from?’ her mother asked.
‘I don’t know.’
It didn’t occur to Alexis to be afraid. She hadn’t done anything wrong. Except what was this? – a Jean Paul Gauthier dress draped across her knees – purple and red patterns crisscrossing against a sheer yellow bodice. She didn’t remember buying a dress. Maybe she hadn’t bought it. Maybe she had stolen it. She listened again for the sirens. Alexis’s mother gripped her long red nails around the steering wheel, ready to drive. But her mother never had her nails done. Maybe she’d had them done for the trip – after all, they were in L.A.. A special occasion. The dress still lay draped across Alexis’s lap. Should she put it on? Then the cops would think it was hers. If Alexis changed in the back of the van, they might pull up just as she was taking off her clothes. Then they would see her naked. What else could she do? Throw it out the window? Alexis looked over at her mother only to notice that it wasn’t her mother at all, but her father. She looked out the window – they were no longer in L.A., but in Northern California, driving through farmland. A distant blue ocean lapped at golden fields ahead.
‘What did Mom buy on the trip?’ her father asked.
‘Um… I don’t know,’ said Alexis, ‘she got her nails done, though. Red.’
The van glided dolphin-like through the falling twilight. They were almost there.
‘Where are we going?’ Alexis asked.
‘I’m taking you to school, remember?’
Ah, yes. School. Alexis had forgotten – it was the first day. Shouldn’t it be morning? she wondered. Driving over a series of curved bridges that looked like mini-golf walkways, they pulled into the school. It reminded Alexis of her elementary school and her high school mixed together. The same layout as her elementary school, but in her high school’s colours: green and blue. She watched three blonde girls in blazers and berets kick around a soccer ball on one of the vast green fields. And there were more of these uniforms. Everywhere. Riding shuttle buses, eating at tables, hooking arms. An excitement bubbled inside her as she watched the students go about their day, which is was now – daytime. It was all so perfect. But just then she remembered – she wouldn’t be able to go to this school because she’d already graduated.
‘At Sunken Meadow,’ said a passing teacher, ‘we are technically a high school, but we allow students to do their university degrees here as well.’
Alexis was overjoyed. She would get a second chance. She would be able to be a part of this. But then she remembered: she’d already graduated from university as well.
‘Damn,’ she whispered, and wondered if she couldn’t just pretend she hadn’t. Maybe she could attend the school simply out of interest. Get another degree maybe. She stepped inside the girl’s locker room. Endless rows of lockers mazed off in every direction. She ran down one, dropping the padlocks against the peach-pink metal in a series of clangs. In the centre of the locker room was a fountain where girls bathed in yellow one-pieces and flowered bathing caps.
‘What a great way to get clean,’ thought Alexis, ‘this is so much better than showers.’
There was a boy standing to the side of the lockers. He wasn’t spying; he looked like he was waiting for someone. It was Cody. Cody was here. Oh God. Maybe Alexis would get another chance with him, too. She walked over to where he stood.
‘Do you want to kiss me?’ he asked.
‘Well,’ she looked down, ‘your eyes do match the stripes of plaid on my shirt.’ She looked down, hoping she was wearing plaid. She was. She gently tapped her eyes shut as though trying to sink a put, and as their lips met she felt a row of spiky hair above his lip.
‘Oh my God,’ she drew back.
Cody didn’t have a moustache. It wasn’t him after all.
Suddenly it was hot. They were outside. She could feel the heat crushing her against the sky.
‘God it’s hot,’ she said to the stranger with the moustache. ‘I don’t know how you can stand having that thing on your face in this weather.’
‘Oh,’ said the stranger, ‘it’s a peel off.’ The stranger peeled off his moustache and shrunk four feet into a little girl.
‘C’mon,’ said the little girl. She took Alexis’s hand and began to run through an oceanside ruin of smooth white walls. They were at a resort built in Mexican architecture. Inside the white walls were series upon series of dining halls – all empty, having just been used for some sort of celebration. Yellow and black helium balloons still buoyed from the chairs, a rain of ribbons scattered on the white tablecloths of the banquet tables.
‘Where did everyone go?’ asked Alexis.
‘Who?’ asked the little girl who wore a tight dress in shades of watermelon pink and green. The dimples on her cheeks were like black seeds. ‘C’mon, we’ve got to get to class.’
‘We have class?’
Was this part of the school?
‘But I haven’t been to class all semester,’ said Alexis.
The girl was running now, away from Alexis down the red carpet of the white walled halls.
‘Hey,’ shouted Alexis. ‘Do you think I’ll still be able to pass?’
Alexis considered running after the watermelon girl but she was already out of breath and slumped against an arcade game. Green and purple flashing lights came on. She’d set the thing off. ‘Good Day,’ it introduced itself.
Hearing it speak, Alexis realized it wasn’t an arcade game – it was one of those fortune telling machines. Not the kind you put your hand on that tells you whether you’re a heartbreaker or a dud, the kind that really grants wishes – like in the movie where the boy wishes to be big at the carnival and gets turned into a man. The plastic face of the fortune teller, Alexis noticed, was her fourth grade math teacher, Mme. Lavalle.
‘Mme. Lavalle,’ Alexis began, trying to muster up her French, ‘je ne savais pas qu’on avais une classe a cette heure. It was an accident. Je m’excuse.’
‘Why should I believe you?’ Mme. Lavalle asked in French. ‘How is it possible that this has all been juste une accident?
Alexis knew she was innocent – that her gaping absence from school had been a mistake at least in part, just another product of her scattered brain. She attempted to explain why she’d missed each class: the first time she’d fallen asleep waiting for class to start, the second she’d had to go somewhere important with her mother… Shopping in LA. It was all coming back to her. As Alexis spouted off the excuses, she became sure they were true. She looked into Mme. Lavalle’s marbled eyes. ‘C’est pas ma faute.’
The tide was coming in now. Tiny starfish began to float around Alexis’s ankles.
How was the ocean coming through the white walls? They were so thick. Everything would be ruined.
‘Je dois partir,’ Alexis told her teacher, looking up out a circular window to a cliff above. She had to get to higher ground. Fast.
Opening the circular window and squeezing herself through it, she fell several stories into the ocean. Snakes began to surround her in the sea-foam green curls of the tide. Wide snakes, with bodies like eels. Their eyes were yellow. Their tongues were slit. A bullet of panic sped through her chest. She pressed down on the surface of the water until she lifted herself into the air. But the snakes began to rise up out of the water as well, like the balloons on the backs of the chairs. They stood upright as if they were being charmed, their mouths open and twisted brimming with teeth. She pressed down on the air below her and rose upwards. The more she pressed down, the higher she floated up. She knew that the moment she forgot she was floating she would fall.
But she no longer had to remember to float, thank God, because she was at the edge of the cliff she had spotted from the circular window in the white wall. She had floated up all this way. Stepping gingerly from flight onto the cliff, Alexis saw flickering images on the roof of a white dome ahead. There was a movie playing inside. It was a theatre. Finding a seat for herself in the dark, Alexis picked up the familiar scent of sawdust and nicotine. Her grandfather was sitting beside her.
‘What movie is this?’ she asked him.
‘It only looks like a movie,’ he said, ‘really there is no story. It’s just a series of random events.’
On the movie screen, a young boy and a young girl held hands in a picturesque meadow. A flat expanse of verdant grass hidden in the woods, tucked away so secretly that perhaps no one else had ever been there before. The girl had a crown of white Gerbera daisies on her head. She planted a kiss on the boy’s cheek.
‘There is a story,’ Alexis told her grandfather. ‘There must be. Because it’s making me cry.’
The lights flicked on. The usher came onto the stage in a velvet red coat. ‘A natural phenomenon is occurring!’ he announced. ‘I would advise that everyone forget the movie and go to the side of the mountain. You will never believe me,’ he said, ‘but natural waterslides have somehow formed in the mountainside.’
Ignoring the suggestion, the moviegoers lingered and chatted. They were teenagers, Alexis reasoned. Left unattended in this pristine white movie dome. Inevitably, a party began to start up. There was music. A techno disco beat. Yelling and laughing. Girls with their shirts rolled up past their belly buttons climbing over the seats. Someone swinging from the chandelier. Alexis wanted to stay, but the waterslides…
Arriving at the mountainside, Alexis was disappointed. She had expected there would be an entangled series of clay chutes with water running down them into an immaculate lagoon basin. Instead, there were only fibreglass tubes, like the ones you could see at any waterslide park. It was an unnatural natural phenomenon. Although she was wearing her uniform (she must have changed into it in the locker room) she sat down in a tube, the water pressing against her back and then moving her through the tube. The waterslide took her down the mountain slowly, frustratingly slowly. And at the end of the long ride, she had reached ocean level again. Except she was not ejected into the ocean, but a river. A very shallow river, though it carried her with much more ease and buoyancy than the waterslide. Under the river’s clear surface were smooth shining pebbles the colour of walnuts. It was more like a brook. A very wide brook, with pockets of sunshine speckling its surface through willow trees. Eventually, she was joined with a crowd of others floating on objects. The teenagers from the party in the movie dome. She hadn’t missed out after all. The kids drank beer in various flotation devices: inner tubes, loungers, rafts. Never had she been to a party like this before. It wasn’t a party, she decided. It was a forever. The trees on either side of the river were weeping jubilant pink and golden petals into the water. Their lower branches drooped into the water, their shimmering leaves dipping into the brook’s glistening surface. It was so quiet. The noise of the party acquiesced to the silence of the surrounding trees. What was the destination of this forever party? Where would it end?
The brook was nowhere in sight. Alexis was alone and swimming in the ocean again, out in open water, the sun a speck in the sky. She could see land at a very far off distance. She was petrified, but at least she could see land. She would have to swim back. The horizon engulfed her, seemed to suck her towards it. And now there were rows upon rows of houses with docks and boats attached. These waters were safe. These waters were the waters of dolphins. Finally reaching one of the docks, she pulled herself out of the water and rested her upper torso on its wet wood. She was home, she realized under the steady sun. This was where she lived. This was her dock. And yet she also knew that she was on the other side of the world.
She turned around to see Cody standing where the land met the water on the dock. The sun shone behind him, darkening his contour. He was just a black shape but she knew it was him.
‘Didn’t you see me at the party?’ said Cody.
Alexis couldn’t remember seeing him. Had he really been there?
‘I was waving at you,’ he said. ‘I was calling you, but you didn’t hear.’
Alexis wanted to cry. She wished she’d had the chance to share that moment with him. Now, it was over and she would never be able to get it back. If only she’d heard him calling.
‘Cody,’ she called for him now. But he was gone. And Alexis was propelling forward at high velocity, skimming the surface of a wide deep river in the Amazon. It was half ocean, half river, and she was hydroplaning over it with motor force in standing position as though she were waterskiing, though she held on to nothing. She was barely balancing. She could fall over at any second. Long reeds cut through the river’s surface and whipped at her ankles. The soles of her feet on the water’s surface burned with friction. How did she get herself into this mess? Careening at such speed across this dangerous body of water with no flotation device? It seemed she was always finding herself in the midst of disaster. If she could just slow down, she could think.
Though she didn’t want to sink into the wild waters, not knowing what lurked below, she had to come to a stop. How could she stop? In a moment of epiphany, she understood: the speed wasn’t coming at her from the outside – the speed was coming from within.
‘I want to slow down,’ she thought, fimrly, ‘I want to slow down.’
And then she did. Slowed into a stroll as the surface of the Amazon river turned into red and green patterned carpet. A hotel carpet. Alexis was walking down a long, long hallway, boutiques on either side. She was in the underground mall of a hotel. One of the boutiques was overstocked with items of alluring fabrics and materials. Alexis entered the store. It comforted her, how heavily packed it was with goods. She brushed a black feathered boa up against her face. Along the walls were a full rainbow of colours of every single product. Sequined visors in greens and blues and purples, fun fur in yellows and oranges and pinks. Alexis was thrilled. She was tearing things off the shelves and racks and piling them into her arms. So many colours and textures and shades.
‘You see,’ said a saleslady, ‘we have so much to offer you.’
‘But how much?’ asked Alexis.
In response to her question, the sales lady pointed to the clock, tapping its glass surface with pearly white nails. ‘Closing time,’ she shrugged.
There was a bustle outside of the store. Everyone was rushing. Rushing to get out. Alexis dropped her pile of clothes and hurried into the crowd. But everyone was going in the opposite direction of her no matter which way she turned. Unless she wanted to be caught inside the mall, Alexis figured she had better just choose a direction if she wanted to escape. So she marched against the flow of the crowd. Maybe she was the only one going the right way after all. The hard, tightly stretched Christmas-coloured carpet sprawled under her feet. The hall seemed to never end. She arrived in a grand, airy hotel lobby. But this was not her hotel. She couldn’t remember which hotel she was staying at, but she knew this wasn’t it. Trailing her hand over a brass railing, she continued past several other lobbies, all adjoined, and with her next step, stepped onto the pavement of an empty mall parking lot lit with a grid of white lights in the midnight sky. She was in Texas. The lights hummed above her as the last car in the parking lot drove away. She sat on a cement meridian and looked at the grassy field beside the lot. If only she could remember where she had come from. She was always ending up this way. The light above her shut off. It was dark now, except for a blurry spot of light in the field. Alexis navigated herself towards it. Following the light to its source, Alexis came to see that it was a single exposed light bulb dangling from the ceiling of a very large house. Its cord swayed above her head as she stood under it. The house was almost empty. It had white walls and old, abused carpet the colour of sand. There was a rocking horse to her left and an antique green velvet couch. All she could think of was to pull the string, to turn off the light. But something inside told her not to. She sat down on the green velvet couch. She didn’t know what to do.
She remembered the young girl and the young boy in the field with the flowers. And then, she was the girl. And Cody was the boy. Younger versions of themselves. They were standing in a meadow sunken into a valley between two mountains. The sun was shining down in diamonds and a gentle breeze played. Trees surrounded the meadow like curtains around a stage. Chirping birds accented the silence. Sparkles of butterflies rose up from the wildflowers. It was entirely possible that no one but them had been there before. As the girl in the movie had, Alexis moved over to Cody to place a kiss on his cheek.
She wondered, how long could she stay here?
How long would this moment last?
April 6, 2010
“The Luxury of Negative Thought”
On the mountain the sky is red, turned inside out. But though it’s red out there, it’s grey all around you, as though you’re standing at the opening of the sky.
“What button?” Potia asks over the wind, leaned back and gravitating in her camping chair. You’ve always admired her ability to appear relaxed almost anywhere.
You adjust the setting of the camera for her, and position yourself at the furthest point of the edge before freefall, loose jagged rocks like those of an undiscovered planet at your feet, the wind fighting itself so hard in each direction that it feels as though you’ve stepped into a portal. “Do a pan,” you yell.
Portia scans the blood sky, then lands on you. “Tells us about the future, Clarke!”
“We’re in it,” you shout. “We are the revolution.” And you laugh, because at some point everything is funny.
“Isn’t the revolution dead? Haven’t they tried that already?”Portia prompts you.
“The revolution is calling louder than ever. Just because the media doesn’t cover it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
“How’s it going to go down?”Portia asks. “What’s gonna happen?”
“We’re going to take it all back.” You grab a fistful of wind. “Put the power back into the hands of the people.”
“And… cut.” Portia gives you back the camera. “How was?”
“Well, you kept turning the camera around so it will look like I’m in a vortex. But it works.”
You sit side by side on the peak of the rocky slope, the sweat from the hike chilling your spines as the sun turns its back on you. Portia gets it. She knows what it’s like to fall from a high place. To wake up one day to realize that the belief that you were special was what was holding you back the most – entire libraries of your lives burned to the ground while you weren’t watching. You’ve known each other since high school when your shared binocular view of life was through teen movies and mall-bought trends, and you didn’t yet grasp that in the real world work would take up the time with which you had assumed you would live out your dreams.
“Have you ever had flow?” Portia asks over the wind. “I must have had it at some point, because I know I don’t have it now.”
“I’ve felt it,” you say. “But I wouldn’t know how to harvest it.”
You take a moment to breathe in the speedboat wind, then scream into the red void of the apocalyptic sky – wisp-white trenches of clouds feathering the mountain’s base, a midnight blue oozing through its slits – a rippled, horror movie scream. You hold it for as long as you can, a carnival bell sledge-hammered inside you to the maximum height of your pain-turned-pleasure.
As it gets darker, you start down the slope.
You’re painting a 7X7 foot canvas of a crumbling city skyline made entirely of boulders when Portia calls to tell you she accidentally had sex with a stranger at Wal*Mart.
“I just wanted to do something adventurous.” She justifies, describing the average guy she met on the C-Train after work.
You continue painting, offering unobtrusive support: uh-huh, hmm, yeah, because none of this surprises you. Whereas you usually keep your crazy within the lines, Portia tends to waver over them like a drunk driver.
“Okay, okay,” you tell her. “You’ll get through it. No worries.”
Miracle they didn’t get busted by some Wal*Mart god above, evidence that perhaps there is no one at the top after all.
“ I can’t trust myself,” Portia says. “Who am I?”
“Let’s hang out,” you offer. You know the feeling of being physically disgusted with yourself.
“I’m going to sleep for a week.”
“I don’t think so, Snow White.”
It always comes to this – you pretending to be the rock. The time Portia found the injured squirrel and tried to keep it as a pet. Lucid, she named it. The time she smashed in the windshield of her ex-boyfriend’s truck with his snowboard. The time she drove drunk and totalled her car in the Bow River, conveniently yet authentically losing her part of her memory due to head injury. The only reason you keep your cool is that you know on a fundamental level that if you ever fell apart she couldn’t help you. Otherwise, you might be tempted.
“Better get dressed,” you tell Portia, rinsing off your paintbrush and inspecting your unfinished collapsing city.
You step into the winter sunset, the Calgary air stung with ice though it’s only mid-October. You remember when you realized you were from a cold place. That no one - especially not you – can escape the toll that four seasons does to a person’s emotions. They say your personality is who you are most of the time. Most of the time, this city is winter. You avoid eye contact with all young men on the C-Train to avoid a similar fate, then shoplift Portia some Mango Soft Eating Licorice from a convenience store. In high school, you and Portia used to steal 5 cent candies by hiding them in your slurpees, the candies no longer gummy but frozen hard when you would scoop them out with your spoon-straws, but tasting better because they were free. Since you’ve known each other, your cells have entirely regenerated twice.
Portia answers the door in hot-pink legwarmers, zigzagged shorts, an off-the-shoulder grey hooded sweatshirt, and an electric-blue sweatband, a tub of blood-orange gelato in her white mittened hands.
“Is this dressed?” You toss her the licorice.
The walls of Portia’s place are a green the shade poisonous slugs offset by chunks of seventies flare: a beaded curtain, an orange plastic chair, macramé wall hangings . She calls it: retro-metro psychedelic funk; you call it “splash of clash”. There is no kitchen table. You suspect this may be the missing anchor in Portia’s life, though you don’t have one either.
“It’s eating licorice,” you tell her. “As opposed to the other type.”
“He reminded me of that guy from that movie,” Portia explains. “Except not as smart. Or special. He was listening to his Ipod and it was annoying me. How he could just sit there and ignore me and be so politely fucking Canadian. So I took out one of his earphones. With my tongue.” She dives onto an unburstable exercise ball, shooting across the room to hide her face, yet landing in front of a full-length mirror. “I’m ugly,” she says, a tube of licorice out the side of her mouth like a dental suction tube.
“You’re a star,” you tell her, sketching a waterfall on the whiteboard above her phone. “Now, let’s go be famous.”
Portia paces her living room, through the dead people’s things scavenged during thrift store breakdowns – ceramic pantomime clowns, German coo-coo clocks, and a framed black velvet 3D owl picture you date back to the great spree of April ’07.
“What do you have in mind?” Portia emerges from the bedroom in a gold satin jacket, still no pants.
“Nothing,” you say. “We’re going to do very ordinary things in a very exciting way. Like usual.”
Portia finally decides to put on pants in the middle of the parking lot, or rather, leggings designed to look like painted on skinny jeans. Better than nothing, but not by much. The Fox & Feather sign sizzles down like cancer, at least one in every town – a Disney-stolen fox with a green Robin Hood hat smiling down his toothy smile (“Robin, you’re so imeptuous!” you remember Maid Marian saying.) Corporate anonymity is alluring tonight. A dense fog full of secrets laps at the white parking stall lines, rolled in from another land, or pollution. You leave cookie cutter prints in the light layer of snow. “It takes so long to find something you want…” you say, mostly to yourself. “Then when you find it, as soon as you want it too much it turns the situation sour.”
“You’re harshing my buzz,” Portia says.
“I want a man with some class,” you elaborate. “I want it old school. Give me a gentleman!”
“That’s not very anarchist of you,” Portia says, heaving open the wooden pub door.
“Just because I reject being confined within a machine-like system, does that mean I have to sacrifice chivalry?”
You trek through the aromatherapy of spilt beer and chipotle mayo to find a booth in the back, expired heavy metal placating what would otherwise be near silence, guys in jeans their wives bought for them talking about sports they don’t have the energy to play. At some point in your life, people began to disappear. The subjects of conversations so base, so preliminary that you’d already dissected them on every angle years ago. Maybe it wasn’t them who disappeared, but you.
“Two Foxy Pints,” Portia tells the waitress – UV tan, spray-on French manicure, small cracks of sadness already lining her young eyes.
You align the camera on its tripod, trying to find the right angle.
“Clarke, I’m not really feeling the drama today.” Portia slides down the ripped green vinyl booth back. At first, she didn’t want to be a part of it at all, but eventually she began to realize how it makes everything matter just a little more.
“Drama,” you greet the camera. “Have you ever noticed how it’s those who reject it who are the ones who create it? No drama, everyone claims to want. So Top 40.”
A moment of dead air while Portia grinds her jaw at you.
“Don’t be a Debbie Downer, Clarke,” Portia finally comes through. “Be an Uma Upper.” “Debbie Downer,” she does a clown frown, then smiles, “Uma Upper!”
“How about Bitter Betty? She’s always fun.” You focus in on yourself, then her. “What’s wrong with drama? Is any intense emotion I feel drama?”
“Okay, cut!” Portia says. “This is boring me.”
You have a moment of crumbling boulder city.
“If you’re bored, you’re boring,” you reply.
A few guys at the bar have noticed that you’re filming now. They watch you as an option c) to the hockey or basketball on the corner TVs.
“Don’t you want to be a star?” you ask Portia, camera still rolling. “Because you’re always a star as long as – above anything else – you just want people to know you.”
“I thought the most intriguing people were good listeners who didn’t ask questions.”The waitress delivers the beers, glancing at the camera and wondering if she should tell you to turn it off. She doesn’t want any drama.
“Where the fuck did you hear that?” you ask. “No. The most terrifying thing of all is being a legend in your own mind,” you cheers Portia’s unwilling glass.
“That’s assuming there’s another type of legend to be.” She says.
“Friends,” you face the camera. “Have you ever felt deliriously lost? Because there’s nothing like it.” You hand the waitress a spoon as a microphone. “Why not enjoy every second of life? It’s all one big pile of shit…” You read her name tag and look forward to the rhyme, “…Brit.”
Brit uses her tray as a shield against the camera.
Portia winks and nods at the camera in a seductive Wal*Marty way.
You can never trace what wins her over.
“If every thought brings us closer to Heaven or Hell,” you gather momentum, “then can we ever afford the luxury of a negative thought?”
The barstool men have turned to face you now, curious about the camera. A few women, too, in Costco sweaters and bunny-tested hairspray.
“Maybe it’s healthy to lose your mind,” you offer. “Maybe sometimes you need to have sex at Wal*Mart. Price-dropping falling star sex.”
Portia eyes you with contempt. “Sometimes the pain starts to eat you alive,” she both replies and changes the subject. “Or do we eat the pain..? Run on it like a non-efficient fuel.”
“What show is this?” you overhear a man say behind you. “What channel is this for?”
“Maybe we can afford more than we think,” Portia suggests. “Maybe luxury is being able to relax.”
“I like it,” you agree. “You’re hurting my brain. Let’s get a second opinion.” You unscrew the camera from its tripod. The illusion of flow in video – the flow only ever present once it’s watched.
“Young sir,” you approach a guy playing pool – ironic mullet, slacker flannel shirt, little to no mystery. You shine the soft camera light on his face. “What is your darkest secret?” you ask him over the tap dance of the billiard balls.
“Excuse me?” he holds his pool cue at his side like a spear, like a stranded schoolboy gone rabid after a shipwreck, making him suddenly almost irresistibly hot.
A small crowd has formed around you now, about 10 or 12 people.
“Hey…” the pool guy says, as Portia joins you. “Aren’t you those girls?”
It’s a strange sensation, being recognized by someone you’ve never met. You have no idea what you they know.
“Portia and Clarke,” he says. “You have two hundred thousand views on You Tube.”
“Internet killed television,” you smile, shifting his pool cue towards him as a mic. “Now, can you define luxury apart from the accumulation of material objects…?” You fish for his name.
“Bradley. Two hundred thousand people watching you every day. Huh.”
“Now they’re watching you, too, babe.” Portia grabs his pool cue and sets up a shot.
You film her. She doesn’t sink it.
“I watch it. I mean, I’ve watched it, sometimes,” Bradley says.
You’ve become a guilty pleasure. Someone’s waste of time.
“I don’t mean to sound critical,” he continues to hijack the interview. “But, what makes you think you’re worth paying attention to? I mean, above other people.”
“Nothing,” you reply. “We’re narcissistic, like everyone else.”
Portia rolls the balls into the pockets with her hands, one by one.
“It’s more difficult than you think,” you tell the world, “finding a single real moment.”
“Is she famous?” you hear a woman ask.
“Never seen her before in my life,” a man answers.
When you got wrecked (the best term you’ve found to describe it), when the person who made life worth living to you decided that you weren’t this person to him, you stopped caring – about anything anymore. He took the world with him. But on camera, it didn’t matter if anyone loved you, as long as you were seen. And it also didn’t matter if you loved who was watching, a dimension of melded fiction and non a safe, whimsical, eternal bubble.
“I liked that mountain shot the other day. ‘Ahhhh!’” Bradley mimics you screaming. “But I don’t… really think there’s going to be a revolution,” he admits, his movements a little different now, snagged by the camera’s man-eating draw. “Things just aren’t that bad,” he says. To the camera, not you.
In the limelight, his hotness changes colour. Turns a limegreen shade of hollow.
“Aren’t they?” You turn the camera to yourself. “Because I can’t help but notice that you’re here.” You do a pan of the small surrounding crowd and hope they don’t take it personally, then film Portia as she climbs onto the pool table and flops back onto its green felt like a field of wildflowers, her hoodie pulled down around her eyes. “It’s okay, I can afford it,” she gives you a thumbs up.
Since no one is harassing her for being a disturbance, you climb up, too, and stand above her to get the downward shot. And then, like a changed channel, the manager is approaching in his rolled up sleeves. To seek and destroy the drama.
“The revolution will not be televised”, you tell the camera. “Or was it: the television will not be revolutionized?”
“Ma’am…” The manager penetrates the bubble as you jump down. Portia stays put.
“Excuse me, Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to-”
Portia screams at full volume. A red sky scream. And it pierces and pierces and stabs.
A tsunami of panic douses the Fox and Feather. You feel your own abs clench, your air go. You try to steady the camera.
She then looks up at you and laughs because she knows you think it’s gold. Why she keeps laughing is up for debate.
“He told me I had an ass like a stripper,” she says. “And you know what? That was better than the sex. That, was everything to me.”
The manager whips out his Blackberry – disgusted, professional, furious.
And Portia starts to cry, tears striping her peachy cheeks.
Bradley looks down at her in male horror, then at you. At the camera.
He should be thanking you. Through you, he will see his soul if he chooses to look, then keep it for as long as he likes. Reality is never real until you capture it – every other moment as good as disposable, gone as soon as it happens.
Tears drip off Portia’s face and onto the green felt.
You put the camera down.