Saturday, May 19, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment twenty-six)


One Tuesday afternoon, after reading so many of her poems, I fell barely asleep and swam in beautiful half-dreams of Elendele.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and when I answered it was her. She was crying and I was groggy and confused briefly about where the dreaming ceased and reality became what it claimed. As I had learned through the church burning, in her world, the two frequently commingled.

Intoxicating little bitch. She’d streaked a mess on her face. Tears mixed in with street dirt unable to resist clutching her along the way home.

“This city is choking on its own garbage, Dominique,” she moaned her preliminary motion.

After time the sobs slowed. It was then I learned that her big break in film had been a bust, a tease.

It had all gone smoothly until the sex scene, which they had saved shooting for last. The leading man was a macho named Johnny Joya and the things he called her for days had added up in her registry of the mind. By the end of the shoot she’d had enough and refused to do the scene with “that pig.”

The director, a Syrian named Joe, who shot films on flimsy $3 million budgets and empty promises of pink cocaine, said then that he had chosen her for her ass and not her acting. If she wouldn’t display, he wouldn’t pay the $3,000 promised for the privileged view.

“I can’t help it!” she pleaded me. “Every man I meet falls in love with my ass.” She was devastated over this fact.

“So I joined the ranks of all the artists of history,” went her rendition, of how she walked the plank to a back room of the apartment secured for the shoot, biting her bullet and vowing never to work a non-union film again. In the room were the cameraman, assistant camera, boom, director, sound, gaffer, and still other crew members gathered anxiously before Elendele, whose lean silhouette had inflamed them all one evening when, drunk on Tio Pepe, she’d danced flamenco atop the caterer’s table.

She had to take her bra off while Joya kept his boxers on beneath the sheets. “It just wasn’t just,” she was righteous to me, three times over.

Johnny Joya relished pulling her panties tight between her and the director ordered Elendele to offer her bottom more fully to the camera, proclaiming again and again that, “You’re not an actress until you’ve graduated to your panties and bra.”

I considered her bucketful of bitters before me. She will never graduate if those are the rules, I thought, and so she is going nowhere in this game. I felt sorry for Elendele and her Catholic limitations for the first time ever. What would she do? I grew desperate at the world for breaking her; desperate at the suddenness of its soul-crunching machinations.

I stroked at her hair and rubbed salt from the tears into her skin. “Look at this sad pretty baby…So sad,” I said truly, “so sad.”

But she did not hear me and her water eyes did not see mine. They looked inward for answers from the vast half-dream world there – an alluring place she frequented, and for which maps have yet to be drawn.