Monday, December 20, 2010

February 6th, 2004: This city sucks.

did you read the Prologue: Death at Dawn

7 years earlier.

February 6th, 2004
This city sucks. It really does. I fucking hate this city.  I never have felt more alone.  I bought this journal on Spring Street today, from some leather lady who sold it to me for $20. It seemed like a lot to pay for a journal, but maybe it will be some sort of comfort to write in it. I don’t know if I can make it another month. It’s not just hacking rent and brushing away the cockroaches on my toothbrush, or the mice crawling around at night, it’s that I feel like I failed. I can’t survive here; it’s the fact that I might not be right for this city and this city might not be right for me.
Thankfully have an angelic landlord who thinks I’m cute and hasn’t kicked me out yet.   I feel guilty even buying food when I haven’t paid my rent yet.  I guess I’ll stay here until I get kicked out.
I don’t know, maybe I was crazy to leave Iowa. Maybe I should be on the cattle farm and helping my family and forget this dream of living in New York City.  I am so sick of starving and eating peanut butter and jelly each day. If there were cows in Central Park, I’d go there and slaughter one just to devour some steak, if I could.  Actually, I’d feel stupid slaughtering a cow in Central Park. I don’t miss the farm life. The “heartland” really has taken a beating during the recession and some days I wonder if we’ll lose the farm all together. After being here, I can’t imagine ever working on the farm again. Rounding cattle sounds like a joke, telling the workers lunch is ready, and watching the sweat stain the shirts of my brothers’ backs and little Mary Anne feeding the chickens and playing in the coop.
At NYU when I told people I was from Iowa they pictured tumble weeds and The Wizard of Oz, I corrected them and explained that The Wizard of Oz didn’t take place in Iowa, it took place in Kansas, and how Kansas and Iowa were different places. I tried to keep my Iowa pride, but no one here seems to care about where their food comes from, they just want it fast and warm. Who I am kidding, these girls grew up carrying Coach handbags. Even the ones who eventually became my friends laughed at first at the idea of being from a farm state asking, “What do you do there?”    

Once a farm girl, always one, I guess. I never quite spoke their fashionable language.
We have the Internet in Iowa so I knew what they looked like. I obviously had never owned a Coach handbag. But fashion is now everywhere, even on farms. I did have some of the hottest leather riding boots in a 300 mile radius in Iowa, but try telling that to girls who grew up in a world where strain is unloading the dishwasher. In high school on the weekends I would wear my boots while I broke in a few younger horses, but in this city they have no idea what breaking a horse is all about.  They’d think I was someone who hurt animals. On the farm those logos and patterns are not as important as the weather, the land, and how much the value of cattle or hogs, corn or soybeans has risen or fallen this week, month or season.
When you grow up knowing something about horses, cows, hogs, and soybeans you either stay on the farm and continue feeling satisfied with what you know, or you get out and start over.
I was a little sad thinking about Dad driving back to Iowa by himself and the long drive. It was nice to reminisce about my childhood and our memories of Mom on the drive in. He had never been to New York City and I could tell in his voice that he was proud of me, but also a little nervous to leave me here alone. I kept convincing him I’d be fine as we unloaded my things from the truck and carried them into the dorm.  I didn’t hug him goodbye too tightly, I could already feel the eyes of my dorm mates on me.
Lying, and telling Dad I couldn’t make it for Christmas was best.  Spending the holidays in the city alone wasn’t so bad, I went to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and went ice-skating, and worked on New Year’s at Sugarplum’s. I made out pretty well in tips.
I’m not ready to tell Dad that I got kicked out of NYU and lost my scholarship.  He really wanted me to get my Business degree.  I’m scared to see the disappointment on his face, knowing he was expecting me to be the first one in our family to go to college. He would be so pissed to find out about the things I’ve been doing for money lately. At least I found this piece of shit studio apartment in the Lower East Side for just $1,300 a month.
$1,300. It would sound like a lot of money to Iowa folks, but in this city it’s a very good deal. But still, just surviving here is tough.
I really don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. When I think about the person I want to be it becomes blurry.  Why do you have to know anyways? Why can’t you just not know your purpose in life?  Everything moves fast here and there is a lot of pressure in this town to do something great here, and the hustle and bustle of the streets, the sounds of sirens, the honking horns of cabs, make each day go faster. My heart beat goes faster. My brain worries. I feel scared. I need to figure out my shit.
I wish I could tell someone about how lost I feel in this city. It’s crazy how in a city of so many people, I still feel lonely.  No one even says hello to you here. People even look at you like your crazy if you ask how that person’s day is. They think you are weird if you say thank you or simply hold a door open for someone. Or they want to sleep with you, just because you said hello!  Just because you buy me a drink or give me a bigger tip doesn’t mean I’m going to spend the night with you.
Finding a decent boyfriend in this city is the hardest thing. Everyone wants to just get laid, and fuck around, and even when you meet someone cool they’re always seeing someone else at the same time. How do you stay strong, how do you keep your head high? I need strength to get through this.
Money is always on my mind.
My money from Mom’s estate is almost gone. I can’t tell Dad about it though. I can’t believe I waited 12 years to get the money and then I blew it in less than 6 months.  Of course with not being in the dorms anymore, I needed it for rent, but those clothes at Bloomingdales, those shoes at Saks, those weekly manicures and pedicures, taking cabs instead of the subway every day, the invites that I accepted every time to brunches in SoHo from the girls on my floor in the dorm, and spending $45 on breakfast every week! Trying to act like I didn’t come from a place where dirt on your hands means you had a good day.  But I had to do it to make friends, be a real city-girl, become a material slut, or I thought did.  That was so stupid. Now that I am not at NYU, I hardly hear from any of them anymore.
I’m a SugarPlum girl now. It sounds so ridiculous. I’m not 100% proud to dance there, but it’s good money.  Dancing pays a lot more than being a hostess at restaurant usually.  And I’ll feel like a total failure if I go back to Iowa without at least some cash in my pocket.
After I left NYU, one of the rich girls there suggested I work at her Uncle’s ritzy restaurant. But $15 bucks an hour standing around as a hostess was bullshit and my shins were so sore after each shift.  $15 an hour sounds like good money in Iowa, but not in NYC.  Money goes fast here.  A drink costs $15. The other hostesses were caddy sluts and aspiring actresses, one was secretly having an affair with the owner of the restaurant.  The whole time I just acted like I gave a shit about their gossip, listened and nodded, listened and nodded, and sat a bunch of beautiful rich people.  Sometimes I made an extra $60 for getting a few rich people their coats from the coat check during my shift. That was a nice bonus, but it was rare. And if I got in before my shift I could eat for free. Not the fancy food, but the regular food in a cafeteria style that was prepared for the workers.  
I’ve worked my way up from having to hustle guys for a dance to now having a lot of regulars. The regulars typically treat me a little better, and it can be more consistent business. But I still have to act like I care about how crappy the stock market is.  Sometimes I leave feeling pretty, but other nights I just keep my head-low with my coat collar flipped up and jump in a cab like it’s a foggy gray dream that I only half remember.  Going topless for cash sounds terrible, but it isn’t that bad, it’s just something I can’t tell them about.  Dad would kill me. And Big James, Nick and little Mary Anne would never believe their sister is one of “those girls.”  But for right now, I am.  Big James probably couldn’t handle living here alone either.
At least I get Vogue each month. It’s the biggest luxury. But at the same time it haunts me. It makes me feel full of imperfections looking at these perfect and flawless models on each page in the latest fashions. I know they’re airbrushed and touched up images but it still makes me feel old, like time is going so fast.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Prologue: Death at Dawn

I couldn’t sleep, because I knew the next hours would be my last.
Only a couple weeks ago the chill of fall swept through New York City and goose bumps appeared on the skinny arms of the models who had just walked in the shows during Fashion Week.
I couldn’t help but notice the fresh crop of beauties that were making their rounds, scurrying down the streets of New York to this casting or that booking. Their faces and thin bodies were the talk of the town. Half of them had already been featured in Elle, Vogue, W or Nyght magazine.
The newbies, with their coy and clueless innocence, and their eager voices saying, “Sure, you can cut my hair shorter.” It was all so predictable, as they made their transformations into a Beautiful Undead. Their cute noses, perky breasts, similar symmetrical faces, especially those youthful Russians with their baby blue eyes, and constantly in front of me is another round Brazilian apple ass. Suddenly this season just felt different.
Or maybe it’s me. I feel worn. It’s not that I look it; my face hasn’t changed in seven years, but all these seasons, -makeup brushes across the face, teased hair, the cameras always zooming wanting more and more out of me. The fittings and not eating before them, to be sure I fit the sample size clothing.  No one caring about what is going on in my mind, has taken a toll on my mind.
What does it mean? This life, this fantasy of fabric, festive makeup, rushing to be on time to arrive to a shoot to be powdered and fluffed and physically admired.  Then everyone gawking at the image that remains…the proof that I was on this earth today.  Although it won’t appear for weeks in the glossy magazine, and when it does a week later it is old news, an old image, someone’s dog has just shit on it.
I don’t know what I will leave behind, but it might be just these images.
I should have fully died years ago and this borrowed time feels more and more like wasted time. It’s just too hard to be here when I know the truth of it is all a lie.
I don’t even think I’ll be missed.
I’m sure Von won’t miss me. His dark eyes and slick black hair, his sensual lips, his strong arms and shoulders that were seen all over Times Square in that Adidas campaign last month.
It’s hard to forget him and the details of our relationship when his face is always in my face in another magazine spread or billboard campaign. Lately each memory always appears clearer and clearer. How can you force yourself to forget someone that meant so much to you? How do you forget the first person you ever really loved?  You can’t.  
I feel guilty for even hating him, especially because he had saved my life. And then basically gave me my modeling career.  
Von even got the assholes of the fashion world to pay a higher rate for me when they could have paid a lot less at times. The only reason I’ve led most of the Fashion Week shows during the past five years is because of Von. I didn’t have to sleep my way to the top or work my way up. I just had to obey and keep my mouth shut and he’d basically create and craft my dreams. Don’t get me wrong, I was lucky, and it was exciting, it was, but now I wish he wasn’t part of the credit I owed, and I don’t want to be thankful for him anymore.
I want to own my own fate.
I hate myself for thinking like this. So many girls would love to have this life of luxury but to think of my success is to see his face. The strongest moments are coated with love, being adored by him, cared for, and the pedestal he once placed me gently on. But then the years went by and I noticed how each success, photo-shoot, campaign, cover and paycheck had involved the casuality of being a part of someone else’s pain, someone else’s downfall, to keep my dream alive. 
Only I ignored it all. I can’t believe I let the word murder mean nothing when I put it up against my success and immortality. Hell, I’ve been a witness. I’ve lived through their deaths, the so-called overdoses and the scandals, I’ve been there digging the holes. I’ve been there to Windex the blood off the windshield, mopping up the mess, keeping the secrets, ignoring the truth.
I remember when I met Von I thought his need for blood was so gross, but then I even became a blood seeking addict myself. I mean, our blood enriched lipstick can only do so much. It keeps the youthful process steady but it doesn’t always satisfy the craving.
Well, I’m not going to be run by this perfection mafia anymore. And bringing the truth forward would be like ratting myself out. The early crimes were not as bad as the ones in the most recent years, and I’ve been entwined with too many of the wrong people to not get blamed or accused.
It’s not like Von has my back anymore. Even the one who saves you, and helps you get what you want, loves you, and builds your confidence, can tear it down and betray you.
If he would rather now love a newbie Brazilian ass than me, then fine.  I thought my beauty was enough.  I thought I was enough, but obviously I wasn’t.  I learned that being beautiful and wrinkle free doesn’t mean he won’t leave or stray.  I suppose my success had something to do with it. I sort of failed on the upkeep of our relationship. That is if being in a relationship means promising to be an accomplice. I mean how many murders does a model have to witness in one week? How many secrets can a person keep? Yeah I really want to make out after we threw another body in the Hudson River, like really, hunny, I’m so horny now. Soon I saw how the blood we craved became the evil.  I still see the faces of those who are now not with us because of our crusade for youth, beauty, and the latest fashion, and the race of who said it first, shot it first, or wore it first.
Even if I wasn’t going to kill myself, would the next ten years really be worth it anyways? What would I do with myself? It’s not like I have another family. I mean how long can you lie about your age before people start to question it?
When you are alone with what you know, it can be better to just slip away quietly. Let them wonder the reason why.
I think vampires are going to be out of style in a few years anyway.
This morning would be a perfect time to just slip away.
Out of my bedroom window the sky was still dark.  I slid out from under the sheets and put on my maroon robe, and walked to my living room to prepare for my death.  I flung open the long dark red velvet drapes and little dust decorated the air.  The city lights still faintly peered in the room. It was pretty but there wasn’t time to be sentimental, or really care. I positioned my favorite French colonial armchair with the dragon-shaped armrests in front of the window.   I took off my robe and let it fall to the floor.  In a couple of hours the sun would come up, shine in through the window, and directly hit my skin. It would all be over.
As I sat there and waited for dawn, I tried to focus on nothingness. It felt weird not even having Illuminous cream on my face or wearing SPF 5000 sunscreen lotion. In an hour or so SPF and sunscreen lotion wouldn’t matter anymore anyways, and I’d feel the warmth of the sun on my cheek and all of this would be unable to be undead ever again.

Then, just as I felt settled and focused on the quiet and peace in my mind, the phone had to ring at the worst possible time. Can’t someone just fully die without bullshit distractions?  I was planning on ignoring it, but my stupid answering machine didn’t.
“Viv, are you there? I know you’re there. Wake up! Please! I’m so sorry to call you so damn early, but I need a favor!  I have this new girl, fresh from Paris, please teach her the ropes for us! Clarice isn’t around to help her and she needs to learn to walk. This morning the editor at Nyght wants to see her!  I have castings to send her on this morning as well! Please! Her name is Helena. She needs to stop over before her castings today! I am sending her over. She will be there by 8:00 a.m.! Wake up!”

Well, Shit! It’s not like I wanted some random newbie model standing outside my door ringing the buzzer 100 times while I’m decaying. Or worse, to have her find my body and my face probably melted away.  That wouldn’t be nice. It would probably scare the hell out of her. I reached for my robe.
Fine! I thought to myself. One last fucking tribute to this industry!
Helena is on time. She is beautiful.  But of course she is. Helena takes the coffee I prepared. I discreetly gawked at her perfect skin as she sipped her coffee. Even with her barely wearing makeup she had a blooming glow on her pale face. Her pores are so small and the skin under her eyes is so tight; as if she was just born. She basically was.  I don’t ask, but I suppose she has only had a few injections of Vernal Serum. Our youth-juice is powerful stuff, but takes some time to totally absorb into the skin. Her teeth are not as white as they will be and her fangs have not come in yet, but she tells me about the pain in her gums. When they come in, ironically, they will have to be cut down eventually.  After all, we still live in the human world. The modeling industry isn’t into fangs I tell her. They want straight even teeth. A gap is ok, but fangs don’t work with a toothpaste or beauty ad!  To compete and start trends you have to respect the root of the industry. The ones who set the rules. Vampires might be the status of beauty right now but not all of our assets have been welcome in the industry. We’ve had to adjust to thrive.
It is time to practice her runway walk. My hand directs her to follow me, and we passed my large scale oil paintings, my bookshelves, and my mini bar and entered the living room.  Usually the room was always kept dark, but with the velvet drapes pulled back now the morning sun reflected on the objects of my lavish lifestyle.  She is giddy, and nervous as she eyes my magazine covers, all displayed on the walls and statured in frames on the marble credenza. She says, “Oh my gosh, you’ve been in them all! You are so beautiful.” She was pointing to each cover and then gushing in complete admiration. I couldn’t help but smile.  Maybe if I wasn’t going to kill myself today I would have become her role model or something, but it’s too late for that.  Helena notices every object I have and I’m sure she hopes to have it all one day also.   Her eyes, so attentive and eager for my help.  
Only my time is up.
After observing my wall of fame, Helena rushed to the couch, sits on it like she’s modeling the soft cushions and says, “I so want a couch like this one day!” I tell her to be careful because it’s vintage and I bought it at a Christie’s auction (like she knows what that means). Then she asks, “What’s that?” and pointed to my journal on the nearby coffee table.  Helena reached for it, but I grabbed it before her. Then in a quick and casual but cautious way that I hope doesn’t alarm her, I tell her the journal is nothing she wants to know about.
It’s not. No one needs to be scared like that during their early days of recruitment for the Beautiful Undead.
And I placed the journal carefully back on the coffee table.
Again, I wave my hand towards the hallway, implying that she follow me. We reach the hallway, my hallway of mirrors, which had been my practice runway for years. And I do a few struts.
Then her heels clicked across the wood floor and she struts like I just did. I’m reminded of my younger self.  The beginning. How eager I was to learn, perfect the little details, and how much I wanted to succeed, but that was until I knew the truth of this industry of the Beautiful Undead. So I decided to keep my mouth shut and just write about it in my journal.  But the truth has a way of slipping back into your mind. The truth never dies.  It’s still there just lingering inside. I think it stays with the soul in the afterlife.
After Helena perfects her walk, I give her the rundown of how to handle the load castings, share a few basic beauty tips, and how to use her night journal. And after giving her a stash of Scarlet Plasma lipstick and lip glosses. They both come in two different shades of red and tastes: Bittersweet (a brighter red shade that has a raspberry taste) and Crimson (a darker shade that tastes like a bold red wine). They are must-haves. An application of either will help her blood cravings. Anyways, I won’t need any of them anymore. Then I lead Helena towards the door and give her a quick hug. And just like that she’s gone.
When I heard the elevator bell ding, I felt safe again.
A thrill ran up my spine. The sun was waiting for me.
I turned towards the living room and the French colonial armchair and started walking towards my destiny. And I noticed how different the coffee table looked. Something was missing.
Shit! I quickly realized Helena snagged my journal. It was probably when I went to the bedroom to feed Ursula, my owl.  Well, there’s no turning back now because once the little newbie reads what’s inside my journal it will be hard for her to keep her mouth shut. Newbies love to talk.  I’m sure the agency would confront me about everything and then all hell would break loose.  
Modeling, this ever-lasting youth, and the fame had been a dream that turned into a nightmare. But now I would really and fully, completely and finally, be dead. Maybe not at dawn like I had hoped, but soon enough.
Thankfully, I wouldn’t be around when what’s inside my journal is exposed and causes the industry to come crumbling down.
I spread the velvet drapes open a bit wider, let my robe fall to the floor, sat in the armchair and faced the East River. My mind focused on nothingness again and I had just enough time to die and let all of this melt away before the sun would glide over to the West Side.