“No, for sure! We HAVE to hang out again sometime!” I feign friendly, force a smile. “Here! Get my number!”
The loser I’m lying to in the unisex bathroom is yet another aspiring stylist whose dreams have been cut short by the simple fact that she enjoys wearing cutoff denim shorts. Her vibe is very Coachella casual and almost too tragic to tamper with, but homegirl has blow, so I’m seeing this one through. When she finally hands over the gram bag, I inhale its contents in three greedy snorts and pass the wilted plastic back to her.
“My bad!” I retreat to the mirror. “I’m a heavy breather.”
I’m stomping around the bathroom in a pair of patent leather Dior sneakers that a fashion designer’s production manager once presented to me as a sneaky sex incentive. I declined his offer, but took the shoes anyway.
Just beyond the bathroom door, another pointless party in celebration of nothing. The DJ’s spinning a Steve Aoki track and Uffie is yelling about something. Coke stylist is lingering behind me in a swoon, holding her hollow gram bag and musing over me like these FIDM students always do.
“See you around!” I stagger past her. “My treat next time!”
That phrase— the whole “next time” bit— is as elusive as I am, but I assure you it works like a charm. The trick is to step in and out of social circles as frequently as possible. You’ve gotta migrate like moths do and find new lights to burn yourself out on. If for some reason you ever do find a “haunt,” you better make sure you’re taking good notes from ghosts.
Back in the throes of the madding crowd, I’m drowning in some suicidal thoughts. I’m downing vodka Red Bull to take the edge off. Coke stylist emerges from the bathroom and stations herself next to me. I suck in my cheeks, wet my canine teeth (dogteeth, my dad used to call them) with my tongue, and tell her I have somewhere else to be. Alpha-dog. She offers to join, RSVP’ing to an invitation she sent herself, and I turn my back to her.
I spot a freelance casting director I vaguely know lounging in a quiet corner of the venue, so I dart in his direction. He’s ensnared in his typical swarm of wearisome wannabes, but he notices my audacious approach almost immediately. I allow him to hug me for exactly three seconds, then close off the half-assed embrace with a swift declaration of disapproval.
“So, I totally get why American Apparel didn’t book me. They’re into the whole ‘street cast’ look. It’s their brand… their ‘thing,’ and that’s OKAY! I’m just saying—”
A party photographer interrupts my malignant monologue and asks me to pose for a photo. FLASH! I stumble, smirk, stick out my tongue. FLASH! He calls me a freak and I give him a wink. FLASH! And then it’s back to one.
“I’m just saying it’s been done.” I croak, crashing back to reality.
The casting director’s annoyed, and so is everyone else. They all give me full attention, though. I have this working theory that the main cause of traffic after a car accident is rarely the accident itself. I think people just slow down to get a closer look at the wreckage.
“Like, we’ve SEEN it already! How many times are they gonna shoot the same sweaty skank on the same white bedsheets with her pussy out?” I pause. “And anyway, all that gold lamé is really starting to FUCK with my will to live.”
“Heeeeeereee’s KrisKidd!” Casting director chuckles his way through a Jack Nicholson impression. “Nothing if not opinionated!” He’s trying to pawn my reductive rambling off as some sort of act we’ve been rehearsing together.
Nobody’s buying it.
I remind him that I’m always available for future bookings and bounce, leaving everyone feeling deeply disparaged and crushingly captivated. Maybe it is an act, my mind races monstrously. It’s definitely performative. There’s something sort of horrific about me. I’m good at scaring people away.
“This is Kris! That model I was telling you about!”
At the bar, I’m grabbed from behind by a jewelry designer who prioritizes hugging over hiring. She’s mumbling something about missing me. Her grip is boozy, but boa constrictor tight. I do my best to fake interest when she introduces me to her future ex-boyfriend.
“Oh! The FUN one!” Future ex’s eyes come to life.
“Heesemuhboyyy!” She bumbles, barely intelligible.
There’s an unsettling emphasis on the word “fun.” It kicks me like a comedown. Both parties in the southbound relationship have been overdosing on Hors d’Oeuvres all night. They’re hovering, waiting for my next move. Gotta get out of here, I wince at the stench of garlic on their shared breath. A few exemplary excuses swim through the shallows of my brain. I toss a net around the most believable one.
“I’d love to catch up, but I just heard (insert any photographer’s name here) is showing up later, and I really can’t deal with him right now…”
I grab my drink and someone else’s from the bar, tip my head and not the bartender, then chug them both as I make a beeline for the exit.
x x x
“I UNDERSTAND that it was a compliment…”
Same venue, two therapists and a few versions of myself ago, I’m wrapped up in a one-sided argument with another male model over his usage of the French phrase “je ne sais quois” while he perseveres in his futile attempts to hit on me. He’s running his fingers through his hair. I’m biting my nails.
“…but spending ONE season in Paris doesn’t give you the right to say stupid shit like that.” I scold him. “You could’ve just called me hot.”
He calls me hot and I ceasefire. The DJ reminds us that someone used to hold Calvin Harris. My heart goes out to him. I send the multilingual male model away to fetch a drink I made up in the hopes of losing him for good. Fingers crossed and all chewed-up, I pirouette pathetically, scanning the room for someone else to shut down.
Misery loves company, and I’m mostly miserable— certainly surrounded. It’s nights like these that Los Angeles feels almost impossible to escape. Boys hang like apes from freeway overpasses, running on the adrenaline that can only come from a potential fall. Girls hold court in bathroom stalls. Molly is a mating call. I’m always texting and tweeting, never really eating, giving my absolute all to make my sultry sadness a “thing.”
When it inevitably sets in, I tug at a tangle of rubber bands around my wrist and snap them against my skin (to feel anything else, of course) and remind myself that alcohol is a depressant. And yet you keep going, my brain bitches. I toss back the last of a vodka Red Bull and set the empty cup down on the ground.
Now I’ve gotta get it out of me.
Scrambling toward the bathroom, I accidentally brush shoulders with a run-of-the-mill hipster couple. The girlfriend raises her eyebrows and bothers her blunt bangs like I’ve just shit on a Smiths record. Her art-school-dropout boyfriend swoops in to save the day— like Superman, but without a degree.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going!”
He sounds a bit upset, but mostly gay. I contemplate turning back to warn hipster girlfriend, then remember that it’s not my problem. Relationships like theirs only last five hundred days, anyway. She’ll find his Grindr account hidden away in his phone sooner or later. Bathroom! bulimia blurts.
“Sorry!” I sputter over my shoulder, but I’m not.
“Yeah. That’s him.” She quips quirkily. “He’s—”
I don’t care. There are too many rumors (I heard his dad shot himself… I heard he told him to do it!) about me to keep up with nowadays, much less stress out about. This stuff comes with the territory. Every ghost has a story. Monsters are nothing without mythology. Make moves! my disorder dictates.
Safe inside the bathroom, I lock the door. I clench my left fist and choke my right to the hilt. SPLASH! I toy around with my tonsils and tug. SPLASH! I wonder if I’ll be this way forever. SPLASH! And then it’s back to one.
x x x
(310)-###-####: So good meeting u 2nite babe ur a STAR!!!
It’s coke stylist. Ugh, I shove my head between my knees, lamenting the monster inside of me for giving her my number. I’m camped out on a curb— so skied up I could probably open my own resort somewhere boring with actual seasons— and a homeless man is barking at me from across the street. I lost track of time (again) getting plastered at an afterhours next to a freeway overpass, and now the trains are all shut down ’til sunrise.
It’s a school night.
Nice one, monster mutters.
Being alone is always so confusing. I find it difficult to exist on any level without an audience to play to, without anyone watching. Nothing ever feels real enough. Closing my eyes, I begin sifting through the silt and soft mud at the bottom of my brain. I slip around in the sloppy sediment leftover from my childhood— the kind of shit that really gets therapists’ rocks off.
And then I wonder what that little boy (me back then) would think if he saw me now… like if we met face-to-face in some strange Sofia Coppola does Back to the Future meets Frankenstein kind of a way. Would he feel sad? Would he be scared? Or would he find himself somehow freakishly fascinated by me— like so many others are, and have been over the years?
I light another cigarette. The homeless man across the street begins barking again. His aura’s very Rick Owens, his clothes all drapey and drop-crotched, so I don’t necessarily feel unsafe. I grab my phone to check the time. My reflection dances across its glossy black surface and the little boy inside of me shrieks at the sight what we’ve become. Mhmm, monster murmurs, grinning and beginning to doze off as morning approaches.
(310)-###-####: Let’s do something fun this weekend <3
School starts in a few hours. Little boy’s crying now, urging me to devise a plan that will get us there on time. Monster’s counting mental breakdowns like sheep in its half-sleep. I’m gawking at my fashionable homeless friend and thinking about all the friends I’ve fucked over (and over) but only because I’m strung out and stranded.
Good luck with that, monster mocks me.
Little boy screams, stomps his feet, and says he wants to go home. No such thing, monster menaces. My phone’s about to die. Home, I meander through memories, searching for a house that didn’t hurt. Pretty soon, the sky will turn light blue. Please, little boy begs. I press my tongue against my dogteeth. They’re vicious like my dad said, and I guess I am too.
Okay, but what if we hit a buffet? bulimia blushes.
I scroll through my phone to save face. Its contact list is cluttered with cokeheads. It reps a reticent roster of men who claim to care about me, none of whom would give me a ride this early in the morning without a favor or two in return. Little boy’s teary-eyed. Monster’s mouthing, he’ll be fine. Bulimia’s waiting for the next proverbial binge shoe to drop.
I’m imagining a body falling from an overpass somewhere nearby— cars swerving to avoid the mess of it before slowing down. A symphony of blaring horns and screeching tires to set the tone. Some blood and guts to make it all feel real enough. Necks crane to get a better look. Medics rush to the scene, speeding in slow motion. That’s perfect! my mind roars, rehearsing a lie.