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My yummy-yummy drink knocked out of my extra-small hands by some bastard’s really rude elbow I winced and hissed and held on tight to my hotter than hot ears, seriously wishing all this obnoxious applause would like just hurry up and die and leave me the fuck alone for once in my twentysomething life!—hissing and hissing through my tiny teeth, hissing and scanning the wine-black floor with my beady buzzard eyes as I wobble-wobbled underneath the metal albatross . . . wobbling in and out of the swaying semicircle, wobbling away from the smoldering effigies, wobbling on my stiletto heels . . . But I just couldn’t see a thing through this moving mesh of silicon slippers, sequoia clogs, motion picture moccasins . . . Way too dizzy, way too dizzy, way too dizzy to keep looking for my trusty ol’ smartphone I let go of my ringing ears and raised my darling head. Blurry blobs sizzled then dissolved, sizzled then dissolved . . . I hiccupped and tried my very best to focus my really shaky spyglass on the human glob coagulating at the back of the gallery. That oh-so-wondrous scuba diver curled up tight inside a uterus of fame and flash . . . I hiccupped and swallowed a mouthful of tangytart prevomit. A wet something-something hit my oily button nose. I looked up—another drop splashed across my lightening-scratched windshield. FUCK SHIT FUCK! That bastard ceiling just wouldn’t leave me alone! I rubbed, I rubbed another drop of sadistic sludge off my nose and splashed over to the floor-to-ceiling windows, taking five or six woozy minipukes along the way . . . I heard my head smack against the glass. I hiccupped, hiccupped twice then licked the bloody flakes off my lips and stared out into the soundless fury. Hoping against hope that some total hottie would come and catch me . . . Drooling on the window. Watching the purging darkness sweep up the last umbrella, the last emergency parachute, the last action figure boy and dreaming little girl. Watching it all get swept up in a cryogenic whirlwind and then get chuck-a-chucked out of the Lower East Side, out of Manhattan, out of here . . . I squinted, I burped, I squeezed my forehead deeper into the neuron-numbing, future-freezing crystal. Because I like definitely thought I could see them getting into a taxi van together. Because I like definitely thought there might still be time time time . . . Maybe I could even convince her to stop seeing him. For her sake. Because he was like obviously going to get bored of her. Obviously. Just like he got bored of us . . . And maybe I could still get Sophie star in my rom-com! Because that back there was just a minor disagreement, that’s all. Just a slight difference of creative vision between a soon-to-be famous director and her leading lady. Nothing serious. Nothing that we couldn’t like totally work through and totally forget about. Because maybe we could still be best friends! And maybe we could still totally be roommates or next-door neighbors in the Hollywood Hills! And maybe everything was like obviously still going to be perfectly perfect! Maybe maybe! Nodding and brushing back my bangs. Reeling away from the window and trying my very best to gracefully glide forward but that definitely wasn’t about to happen because the floor was like actually keeling over. I teetered, I tottered—I goblin-groped my way over to the swinging doors . . . Tumbling through the metal detector, tasting salt and wind and frigid night . . . Revving my superlong legs up into sprinting-speed. Launching myself across the icy sidewalk when suddenly out of nowhere a sawed-off shotgun sucker punched me in the groin, sucker punched me twice then brutally prodded me away from the curb with a fascist hoot and a “Heil Hitler!” holler . . . I groaned, I moaned, I clutched at my zounds and fell forward onto the colder than cold concrete, gasping, gasping, gasping, the black fuzzy fuzz swarming all over me and my six suburban senses . . .The polar chaos pressing down on my cheeks. My adorable little lungs collapsing in on themselves. The earth spinning under my gin-bloated core . . . Crying, shivering, crying I lifted my heavy head then whimpered with fright because bitchy blonde Lola was standing right underneath the Cyclops’s bulletproof vest, veiny hands on anorexic hips.
“Zoe, Zoe, Zoe. That was quite the show you put on back there,” wide-set granite eyes giggling down at me. “You better kiss your lucky stars that Madame Banksy managed to calm the Strudels. They wanted to call the cops on you because of what you did to Sophie. Thank God she brought along a friend. If he hadn’t stepped in, you might have given us a two for one special tonight,” giggling, giggling.
I tried to breathe. I tried to breathe as I crawled on all fours toward the snow-sparkling curb with two or three shaky fingers held out for a cab or a bus or something, anything that could like just get me out of—
Lola stepped over me and blocked off my only escape route. “And where exactly do you think you’re going?”
“I’m—I’m leaving,” tiny teeth chattering. “There’s something I definitely need to do,” storm debris grating my face. “I can’t miss the deadline. I totally need to get uptown. I’m going—”
“Uh, no you’re not. You have to go take care of the purchasing orders. Come on, Zoe, it’s not like you don’t already know that there’s a ton of people who wanna get in on the action and buy one of Federico’s works before it’s too late. You know he’s going to be a big deal. You know he’s going to be ridiculously famous,” Lola giggling down at me, her bitchy blonde hair snaking in the banshee-black wind.
I squeezed my fists. I pounded on the ice, on the concrete, on the solidified pizza grease. “Who the fuck cares about him—fuck him!”
Lola smiled a bulimic smile and nodded at the neo-Nazi Cyclops, who then picked me up off the sidewalk and brutally dragged me back inside the Comfort Station without even asking or letting me say goodbye to my parents or politely removing his aviator monocle or nothing! . . . Kicking, screaming, whipping my glasses off my innocent face. Because this was all her fault! Because I like totally couldn’t breathe and I like totally hated hated hated hated hated that spoiled, that talentless, that fucking LA whore! The floor rolling, the floor rolling, the hired Cyclops copping a feel and shoving me up against the purpleblack painting . . . Lola giving the neo-Nazi a high five. Lola stuffing a red ballpoint pen and a stack of sticky notes down my itsy-bitsy throat. Lola poke-a-poking me in the chest. “Now make sure that everyone who wants something, gets something,” Lola giggling and whirling away. Lola running. Lola running and running after the glob of curdling fame . . . With a defeated sob I spit out my gag and slumped back against the massive canvas. I pulled as hard as I possibly could at that same knot of frizzy hair, I started scribbling all over the stupid sticky notes. I scribbled, I scribbled, I scribbled red spirals, red corkscrew dots. I scribbled and scribbled because I like definitely didn’t wanna be here. Because I was like definitely wasting my life here! Another drop bounced off my oily button nose. I groaned and bit down hard on my teeny-weeny tongue. I gargled then dribbled the lukewarm syrup all over my chinny chin chin. Because what the hell had I been doing these last two or three years! Because why the hell hadn’t I applied for like any other job! Because why the hell hadn’t I majored in something way better and like actually done something seriously amazing with my life by now! Because why why why! I squeezed the pen, I stabbed the neon-pink pad. Two or three years totally gone, two or three years totally wasted in this stupid place with all this stupid fucking ART! I wheeled my wobbly heels round and round, I stared at the purpleblack city up on the off-white wall, I stared up at the smeared skyscrapers, I stared up at all the bastard buildings which just wouldn’t stop siphoning off my precious twenties. Another drop bounced off my nose. I brought my superthin arm all the way back and screamed. I brought my superthin arm all the way back and slashed and slashed at the doublecrossing city. I slashed at the mocking sky, at the taunting bridges—at all the backstabbing streets that once upon a shiny silver time I had like totally loved and now totally hated! I slashed, I slashed, I slashed and jabbed the red ballpoint pen right through the Island Kingdom and slid my bubble butt down to the hemorrhaging floor . . . A noise on my spine. A horribly horrible tickle that just wouldn’t ever, ever quit . . . Someone turning the lights on and off, on and off. I thought I could like definitely hear sirens but I like definitely wasn’t sure and it like definitely didn’t matter because I still couldn’t breathe, I still couldn’t breathe. I crawled away from the blood, the ink, and screamed my way through the strobe-lit smoke, through this orgy, this inferno of someone else’s success. I knocked over two or three Palestinian orphans. I bumped into a tahini-slick dance cage and waded through oblong puddles of ashy fluids until I took two or three wrong turns and jammed my jelly thighs into the disco-boogieing DJ booth. I faceplanted. I tried my very best to take a power nap under a football player’s very smelly jockstrap . . . Why? Why did they always have to gang up on little ol’ me? . . . A Jolly Roger bolo tie winking at Zoe from around a white jacket collar. I smiled, I smiled as some really nice kid helped me up off the toppled bed of speakers and with a goodluck kiss on my bloody lips pushed Zoe back on top of the cheering mosh pit. I crowd surfed. I crowd surfed and rode the radder than rad wave from wall to wall, a hundred hands propping me up and carrying me, supporting me, a thousand prouder than proud fingers ripping off my tights and stroking me, loving me . . . I crowd surfed and breathed in all the perfect applause, all the perfect adoration—all the perfectly perfect glory. I breathed it all in till the fickle wave abruptly tossed Zoe and her superlong legs off at the base of the overhanging beast without a parting gift or a hug or a complimentary orgasm or nothing! I dropped to my knees, I gagged—Oh that stupid bird! Oh that bastard albatross with its wings spread really wide! I screeched and clawed at the screwed-in smartphones, at the broken laptops superglued up and down the angry frame, my Atomic Fireball fingernails totally chipping, totally breaking off as I pulled at the metal feathers, as I pulled and pulled and pulled . . . Do you think it’s ever going to be my turn? Your turn? . . . Our turn? . . . Somewhere far away I could hear giggles. Somewhere far away I felt another thicker than thick drop slide down my oily button nose. Somewhere far away someone tapped Zoe’s delicate shoulder, tapped twice then whispered a little something-something into my ringing ear. I tore off another chunk of skin and smartphone. Zoe swiveled round and round and hissed and spit at the lumpy astronaut ballooning way above us—a visorlike mirror reflecting Zoe’s gallery geisha outfit, reflecting my snarling face and my blurry failure . . . I hiccupped, I gagged, I squeezed Zoe’s vulture eyes into scopes . . . My doppelgänger floating from side to side . . . My doppelgänger floating from side to side . . . Zoe opening wide her charming throat, Zoe letting fly two or three puke-bombs . . . Zoe smiling a sinister smile as a bluegold boxing glove slammed into my superfuckable face and like totally blacked us out . . .