Saturday, February 24, 2007
"The Liquid Life" (installment fifteen)
"The Liquid Life" remains the object of mild commentary about "Lolita-lit" and its utterly inapropriate content matter. Others say it's just a dirtier, less organized and less skillful kind of "The Sidewalk Smokers Club." Around here those are all compliments, but what scares the scribe is what people aren't saying. And sometimes, scrolling down, it seems like "The Liquid Life" is swallowing up highwayscribery. And the scribe thought about pulling it this week in exchange for a book report of Roger Vadim's account about life with Brigitte, Jane, and Catherine. But after all this dreary Camp Gitmo news and the terrible loss of these fellows below, maybe "The Liquid Life" - a little time in the frivolous, far-out and insular world of Elendele and Saturn and Dominique - is just the right way to find a little joy and devilishness.
So here's the...
THE BIG PARTY EPISODE
It all started to change the night I couldn’t get to Elendele and Saturn’s party on time.
Elendele suffered me, and clutched me, leaving a little present behind. It was another bobby pin she claimed to have found in my clothes, which I hadn’t asked her to wash.
There was a band so hot crammed into the oversized salon as to rise it full of flora and fauna, a radon mist keeping everything moist, wet raging. There were firedancers, thunderbirds everywhere.
Saturn was dressed in the undressed fashion and Elendele flowered in the green with tangerine dots of a flamenco outfit she’d sold her body for, one night in Andalusia, on a summer off from prep school.
It was such a city crowd and there were tons of Elendeles and Saturns with looks brewed in distant places by contrary races and I could see the future in their faces. The type of people you never run into during the day, that you never know where they come from or end up.
The flash of it all caught the eye. So what if it was made-up and part-time? It worked. It prodded workaday lives into the glazed heaven of colors and dreams were born there, too.
These were times of pretty people and their passion for neon and pretty. Times of lending one an ear and a smoky eye to another across the room. Times of dancehall daggers that could slice a heart into sandwich meat.
These were altogether perfumeries full of uselessness and self-satisfaction and tainted riches. Riches one is never conscious of having during a time together beneath poverty’s porous umbrella. Striving to be a God and creature of pure and unpolluted spirit. Failing continuously, but with heads steeped in separately conjured heavens.
My first contact was with Maynard and Sleeping Terri. They were lovers and social butchers. They had taught me much about stinging party razors. So had Saturn’s copy of The Confessions of Salvador Dalí; influences which had rid me of an automatic tendency to niceness.
“So what brings you here?” probes Sleeping Terri, triggering my fail-safe. “It’s really nice to see you. You look wonderful,” she puffs me genuine.
“It’s good to see you,” says Maynard with earnest hand. “Hope you’re having a good time.”
This is too much.
“Actually, I’m here as a social obligation. I don’t usually run with this kind of crowd,” I carelessly slash them, yet they were not staggered or bushed. They were just sweet and relaxed and wished me well. I credited them freely, then.
I tiger-ed my way down the hallway to the cool of Elendele’s room and jumped the bed when I arrived. Gina Night was there and she read me some of her Gothic poems. They were beautiful, enhanced by the baby’s breath pinned to her breast. She could save the world; I was sure of it, and I told her, to make her blush a rosé into merlot inflection.
A sturdy kid in short sleeves came and talked familiarly with Gina about how sick he felt after treatment. So sick he couldn’t sleep. It’s not that he was getting worse.
He was just not getting better. No, actually, he was getting better. Just not as better as he would like to. He just didn’t know what was worse, he clued in, cancer or the chemo.
“Sometimes I feel so sick I can’t even sleep,” he shut us up with his downer.
“How old are you?” he asks me after Gina had left for the powder room and we had stringed a small talk together.
He tried again, “Do you live in town?”
“Do you like it.”
“Yes, but not as much as I used to. I’m more scared now. There’s more violence and traffic.”
“There’s more theater, too,” he countered, “and you must like that, having fallen into the company of bad actresses.”
“The deeper the city, the higher the love and confusion quotient.”
“It can get expensive when they’re not working,” he noted and I agreed, a little.
“Depends on where in the cycle you catch them. If you catch them when they’re working they take you out a lot and spend lavishly on things they promised themselves they would always spend lavishly on… Then when their commercials stop running or their series get canceled, if you haven’t read the ratings and planned your move, they make it for you, and then you’re two… I also like the way they’re taught to move their faces and project feeling. It makes them easier to read and figure out. Except, of course, when they’re acting on you.
“But the best thing about them, is that they are beautiful in the sense that women are commonly appreciated as such. Little sartorial madnesses or physical variations from the seven or so standard goddesses. Yet they’re only prototypes, play-acting at it… Guileful, but vulnerable, dangerous and fearful. Walking, as they do like thin statues in gardens of clover, heavily inhaling their glasses of rye in between heartless auditions. And, still, they’re not what they once were…when they hung around and drank liqueur at cafes all day. Now they all work out and the business is competitive, the romance a thin gruel… and the survival factor more intense… like it is for everyone.”
“I know what you mean,” he gloomed, “I feel cheated. Like I was born at the end of time, in the worst of eras. It’s not a nice world,” shook loose from his burning throat.
When he left I shut the light and breathed deeply of the clear darkness. Somebody with a scratchy voice touched me on the back of the neck and said, “Hey,” scaring me into the wall against which the bed leaned.
“Sorry man,” he said. “I just heard you talking and decided to wait ‘til that cancer lunatic quit his ravings so we could have a talk.”
“About actresses,” he clarified.
“I don’t know anything about actresses.”
“You just gave a whole speech on them,” he testified.
He was right and I warmed in the sudden realization that I was just as full of shit
as anyone else. Everything was becoming relative in the careless encampment of glittering, transient souls.
“Well yeah, I know,” I shoveled further. “Elendele and Saturn are sort of actresses. Their lives are movies and their apartment’s a studio. They are a resident dance troupe; purveyors of a lace and negligee ballet.”
He looked at me like I was a museum piece. I realized my world was now so insulated, and the girls’ influence so strong, that I had begun to talk like them, in rhymes and declarations, which was not the way normal people talked.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Look, why don’t you just let me meet them ‘cause I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
He told me his name was Cassius and he was from the devil school of handsomeness.
“I just want to meet ‘em,” he bullied me twice. “Introduce them to me will you?”
“What for?” I pony-traded him.
“It’s slice like that I need to meet…Naturals…Unpolluted by techniques and device – natural showgirls with a look. With style, speed, and substancelessness.
“Two out of three ain’t bad.”
He ignored me again for the indulgence in a discussion of himself and of how he’d parlayed a private school education into a money-rush in international finance. Of how he always carried three types of currency with him: dollars, francs, and pesos.
About how the only thing he ever learned in five years of traveling and trade was about women. How to find them, talk to them, and understand them. Of how he’d dropped finance, and on the urging of his old prep school friend Cortez, had moved in with a scheme in a sack.
He definitely head-started on the rest of us. He was a very pretty guy and girls were so surprised and so full of mischievousness when they heard he wasn’t gay. In that bonus, and in his business background, were the credentials he needed to make his plan for marketing the feminine commodity work for him
“Women sell,” he’d say, pointing out that his target market, was a size half the world’s population. “They sell themselves. Almost no work involved.”
What a mind. I had to get away. Just the sight of him, the sound of his plans for my two gospel kittens, made me think of the bathroom.
There, I found Gina Night who was kind enough to share with me the Nyquil she had found in the medicine cabinet. Booze were bad for her voice and she didn’t like Maria. Nyquil was the only thing she drank, and she did so on ice. She said it unlocked things in her, and I believed in her, and her fluffy kingdom come.
In the kitchen J.T. sits with a golden scorpion hung from his neck down. He is big with a heavy lower lip and is of the dark Godiva chocolate variety. We talk about marriage and he tells all, “There are three rings to marriage. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering,” before he gets up to leave for the bathroom and out of my life forever.
A thin vanilla girl coats the chair he left in torn jeans, French sailor shirt and patent leather pumps. I want to talk to her, be hers if the situation will unfold its arms, but balk when she looks at me, on her guard. She leaves and what a world of ghost-girls and missed opportunities.
In the powder room everyone is sniveling satisfactorily and I am just seconds late according to the dust on the mirror. Special clocks tell different kinds of time. I recognize certain of the Li’l Criminals gang, from behind, by their long coats as they leave now that the job is done. At the door three turn together. Sunglasses, weird Burberry wolves skulking the door out on their way to reign in another century. Thank goodness for the Nyquil. Thank goodness for Gina Night.
I’m still brooding my lost vanilla girl that was never mine really, when I see Elendele, which brightens me. But she dulls my point with her lively lady dimmer.
She’s still mad at me about the mysterious bobby pins and I suggest that since an apology doesn’t seem to suffice, maybe she’d like to shoot me.
“I don’t care much for firearms, nor for men who view my parties as social obligations,” she spurts from grape lips, turning her back on my singed party personage.
“Now come meet my friend Jill,” she orders me crossly from the door. And so we negotiate the human pungency, with Elendele working her own special alchemy, until we meet the girl in the French sailor shirt and blue torn jeans for introductions. Jill.
Overheated, I bumble Elendele, “You never told me about her before!”
“Oh yes I have,” she says, launching her evening stiletto. “The one with whom my relationship is not yet clear. The lesbian girl who sells shoes. You know, the dyke.”