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Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies 19


  “After the show, we need to talk,” she says. And that is how you know it’s over. Need is not want. Your girlfriend wants to talk to you but the girl who doesn’t love you just needs to talk to you and I guess I should have known. She picked me up so quick, so smooth. Now she’ll drop me, so quick, so smooth.

  I tell her to go and she says whatever and runs to her brother and Milo and the three of them start talking Boots and Puppies. Monica is here now, too late.

  “What’s up?” she asks. I can’t deal with her generic shit right now.

  “Nothing,” I say. My heart hurts.

  “Cool,” she says. “I have been so crazy getting ready to jam, you know? My temp agency is not very cool about people going away and stuff. They need to chill.”

  “Where are you going?”

  She is puzzled. But she is always puzzled. “Location,” she says, like I should know. “Aren’t you coming too?”

  I look at her. I don’t know about location. And this is how I know what Love needs to talk to me about. She needs to tell me that it’s over, that she’s not bringing me to location.

  Monica bites her lip. “Oops,” she says. “I assumed Love told you. Forty asked me to go yesterday. Dude, don’t get all worked up. Let’s have fun!”

  But I can’t have fun. I am too good for this shit. I want to end this first, beat Love to the punch. I want to smash all her fucking tennis racquets into the grass court until they splinter. We spent the whole summer together and she doesn’t even have the decency to not invite me. She doesn’t look back as we round the corner and her new jeans are so tight, I hope she gets a yeast infection.

  She links arms with Milo and they greet Seth Rogen and his wife, air kisses, hugs. She isn’t motioning for me to come over. And now I have to have a reunion with Calvin. He has the night off and he’s here, hugging me. There’s a new small potbelly underneath his Henderson shirt and I’d like to think that Love is watching me reunite with him, wishing that I would make an introduction, but I know better. Her friends are famous. She doesn’t need me. Calvin cracks a tasteless joke about how I hit the jackpot and I don’t laugh.

  Monica checks the time on her Google wristwatch. Calvin grabs her arm. She giggles. “It’s a present,” she says. “I could never, like, get this.”

  “From your boyfriend?” he asks.

  She nods. But she flirts. “He saw it on my Pinterest. He can be really sweet when he wants to be.”

  Calvin looks at me. “Where’s your watch, JoeBro?”

  I tell him it’s in the shop and he starts to hit on Monica and they’re talking surfboards and eBay and it’s increasingly obvious they’re going to fuck. There is so much change, too much change, and everything I built is falling apart and Calvin is programming Monica’s number into his phone. I should have left when Love said we need to talk. She is laughing too hard at James Franco’s jokes as Milo accepts congratulatory hugs from Justin Long. This is supposed to be a tribute to a dead man and instead it’s a bunch of boy-men in moth-eaten T-shirts laughing at their own jokes, cocky fucks who get paid to make jokes, get pussy because they get paid to be funny. I can’t breathe.

  It’s time to go inside. I don’t sit with actress Love. She’s in the Important People Section directly across from me with the James Franco people, between Milo and Forty. Milo is wearing the Four Seas Ice Cream T-shirt he was wearing the first night at Chateau. I bet they went there after he popped Love’s cherry. Everyone around me is going on Insta and Twitter and Vine to share snapshots of the people across from us, the celebs.

  Monica elbows me. “Grab and pass,” she says.

  I grab and pass and it’s a single sheet of paper with the lyrics to “Coming Up Easy” by Paolo Nutini, a hipster Scotsman who fucks models and makes cool music. I look at Monica. “It was Henderson’s favorite song,” she says. “We’re all gonna sing along. He made a joke about it once, like he wanted a singing thing. Amazing, right?”

  It’s bullshit and Henderson’s favorite song was either “Oh What a Night” or “Sherry” and I want to tell them they’re all wrong. I knew him best because I killed him. His tastes were more in line with middle-aged Americans who drive Buicks and buy Disney vacation packages on Expedia and I am so sick of this city, everyone pretending to be cool, even in death.

  The lights go down and the “tribute” begins with Milo jogging onto the fucking stage. Monica finds Calvin on Facebook and Love claps for Milo onstage. He waves for more applause instead of telling everyone to stop and Love hoots and everything is ending. I don’t know her anymore and we don’t need to talk. I’m not dead or blind. I see her cheering for him, choosing him. This black box cage is real and I barely recognize her anyway with her hair. It’s ending, our relationship, the applause.

  “Welcome, friends and fans,” Milo begins. I hate the word fan. It’s almost as bad as follower. He raises the sheet of paper with the lyrics. “We’re gonna start this night out the right way,” he says. “The way Henderson would want it, in song.”

  The screaming. I think my ears are broken. Love laughs at Milo’s bad jokes and Monica whispers that Twitter is blowing up and Love is going to dump me after the show. She’s lost interest in me. She became an actress. Or maybe she was always an actress, like Amy was. Maybe I got stupid the second I got aspirations. I cringe to think of the movies I wrote, the way I jumped into business with Forty. Fuck it. Fuck all of it.

  The house lights flicker, the show’s about to start, and Love licks her little lips, the ones that never met my cock. I clench my program. In that book A General Theory of Love, the good relationships are defined by two chairs, side by side. Love and I are facing each other and yet she is not looking at me. Instead she’s leaning into Milo. Her shoulders are relaxed and she was probably dying for this moment. She’s got her movie. She’s got her director. She doesn’t need me now. Milo elbows her to look at something in his phone and she laughs at it, whatever it is. I don’t know. I’m too far away.

  We need to talk. No, we don’t, Love. You want to ice me out and make me sit on the other fucking side of the room while you look in Milo’s phone and let him put his hand on your thigh? Fine. Have it your way. Love takes Milo’s hand as she sings along to “Coming Up Easy” and I bury my face in my hands. Monica asks what’s wrong.

  “Nosebleed,” I say.

  “Yikes,” she says. “I told Forty his coke is not as good as he thinks it is. Calvin says you guys have a pretty good hookup here.”

  I’m too depressed to discuss Dez’s talent as a drug supplier and I tell Monica I have to go and she says cool and the Villagers are irritated as I squeeze by. It’s tight as an airplane and my dick is in all their faces and when I get outside onto the street, I send Love a text message: I got a nosebleed. I’m gonna go to the Pantry and get a coffee. I miss you. I don’t know what happened.

  iMessage relays that the message has been read but Love doesn’t write back. Silence received. That’s it. The end. I don’t know what I did wrong, but I know what she did wrong; it all goes to hell when they want to be actresses.

  29

  I yank the door to La Poubelle. It’s cool and dark and fairly empty—everyone is worshipping Henderson or waiting for the after party at Birds, in honor of his old stomping ground—but at the bar, there is one girl in a Band-Aid dress nursing a glass of vodka and trying to flirt with the disinterested bartender. I’ve never wanted a blowjob so bad in my life.

  “Delilah,” I call out. She turns. She smiles.

  “Well, look what the cat dragged in.” She pats the empty seat beside her. I order a vodka double. No mixers. No time for that.

  Delilah introduces me to the new bartender as her old friend, Joe. And this means that Delilah still wants me. I refresh the Google search on Dr. Nicky when she goes to the bathroom. A feminist blogger has picked up the story. She’s calling for Change.org to remove his petition and GO FEMINISTS GO! They are all horrified at the idea that this murderer who was in a position to help people is t
rying to use a patient as a scapegoat. They think it is misogynistic to speak ill of Guinevere Beck, who was a thriving and intelligent woman, a writer, an MFA candidate, a happy, well-adjusted New York woman. They want Dr. Nicky to shut up. They want his wife to seek counseling. They want the police department to accept that desperate men like Dr. Nicky do things like invent patients named Danny Fox. Thank you, feminists, and fuck you, Love, and hello, Delilah, sidling up to the bar, patting my leg, telling me I look good, tan, smacking her blowjob lips together, unabashedly hungry. I am hard. I smile. “You look good too.”

  If all my suffering has a purpose, and I don’t yet know that it does, then the purpose can be boiled down to this: Delilah’s vacuum cleaner mouth inhaling my cock on the loading dock in back of the Pantry. She said I was weird for wanting it here. It’s dirty, it smells like trash, it’s a grocery store parking lot ewww. But I know what she likes and I told her to get on her knees and suck it and the miracle of life, the sperm reaches the egg, the tennis ball teeters and falls to one side, not the other, Delilah did it. She sucked me the way I like, the way I want. I missed that. I needed that. Love is not all you need.

  Fuck Love. Fuck love.

  Don’t Fuck Delilah and I are walking back to my place and she’s grateful to be with me and I like this better, the way she clings. As we fall in step together, it becomes possible that this could be my life, that it could be one of those classic love—fuck that word—stories where the right girl was upstairs all along. In this quarter-mile trek, Delilah holds on tight to my hand and describes an argument she had at Oaks Gourmet with a guy who was rude to her about asking for ketchup. She is funny, all worked up, and this could be us together. We reach my building, her building, our building.

  There is a brand-new door at Hollywood Lawns. “Yeah,” Delilah says. “Someone got fucked up and fell into the door.”

  Home trash home and I unlock the door and Delilah takes charge and throws me against the wall of mailboxes. She feels my dick underneath my pants. She licks my neck. “Now,” she says. “I want you inside of me now.”

  I unlock the door to my apartment and she tears off my shirt and I shred her Band-Aid dress and this is fucking. Rage mixed with sex and I wonder what set her off and at the same time I don’t care. It works. She wants me and I want her and I need to fuck the love out of my system. I pull on Delilah’s hair and I bite her nipples and smack her ass hard and she scratches my back and this is Hollywood fucking. You can’t get mad in Malibu, not really.

  Delilah salivates over my balls and she is not a cheater like Love, Love who gets to act in a fucking movie without trying to act, Love who gets to star in a fucking movie without suffering through auditions, without waitressing or striving or watching the Oscars on a futon, burning with desire to be there, spending night after night at the UCB trying to learn, to hone a craft. Fuck Love. I like Delilah and I try to be a gentleman. I stay in bed with her when it’s over. I feign interest.

  “So how was your summer?” I ask.

  “My summer was my summer.” She shrugs. “Not really any such thing as summer in LA, you know? Only difference is some of the parties are at beach houses, but what a pain, going out to the beach. Ugh. East Coast water is so much better, right?”

  “Fuck, yes,” I say. Delilah may think she didn’t have a summer but she is wrong. She did. There is something more settled about her. Something changed inside of her and she doesn’t seem as tormented. She’s like the kitten that got neutered. She’s calm. She isn’t as sick with aspirations now that she’s moonlighting for this pseudo–Entertainment Tonight show. We lie in my bed, gazing at the ceiling that used to get on my nerves, the bubbling, lowly barricade that once seemed so literal, a roadblock to a higher life. It all doesn’t seem as bad as I thought. I forgot how nice it is to be contained. I know the boundaries here. I know what’s mine. I don’t have to feel like I’m eating someone else’s Frosted Flakes and I don’t have to say thank you all the time.

  “I’m hungry,” I say.

  “Wanna order a pizza?” Delilah asks.

  No. I want to dive under the covers and kiss her thighs and lick her and feel her hands in my hair. I do this and she reacts the way I want her to react. She calls out my name. Her legs shake. She sounds like she’s crying and laughing at once. She sounds like an animal, like she found the afikomen. I am good enough for Delilah. She treats me like her Milo, telling me how great I am, how big I am, how much she missed me. She does not mention her mother and she does not try to parlay this romp into future meetings like some desperate ne’er-do-well at a blackjack table trying to make it all back. She has learned a thing or two and I could do anything to her in this bed. She gives me her ass, her fingernails, her vigor.

  Afterward, we order in chicken and French fries and we watch Hannah and Her Sisters. I pay for the chicken and I hold the remote and we don’t need a screening room. We don’t need an ocean out the window. We just need my forty-two-inch TV, my dick, my futon.

  Delilah scratches my chest. “What’s it like?”

  “What’s what like?”

  “The Quinn mansion,” she says. “I’ve only seen pictures on Curbed LA. Is there really a bowling alley?”

  It was the wrong question. I close the box of chicken. She’s supposed to be basking. She’s supposed to be fantasizing about our future. She is not supposed to be reporting and I don’t like the way she sits, on her side, elevated, like she’s doing yoga, like she’s Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club, so blasé.

  She wants to know about Love and I deflect. I tell her that it’s complicated but over—and she wants to know where we met and when. I tell her I don’t want to talk about it and she says she needs it in order to move on, have a fresh start. She says she has been seeing someone this summer too and she will tell me anything I want to know about that and now I remember everything wrong with Delilah, with Franklin Village, and I check my phone. Still nothing from Love but Monica wrote to say Love got wasted. They all passed out at Milo’s house. She says Love is mad at me. I remind Monica that I told Love I was sick. I am waiting for a response from Monica when Delilah starts in again on Love, like a fat kid trying to get another cookie.

  “Please,” she says. “I’m a big girl and this is not about feelings. I just like to know these things. Tell me where you met her. Where does someone like Love Quinn hang out?”

  “She came into the shop,” I lie.

  Monica texts: Passing out everything will be fine Love is out cold Forty is high as shit and Milo is

  Her phone must have died because that’s it. Delilah prods me. I put my phone down. “What?” I ask.

  “The bookstore?” she says. “You’re trying to tell me that Love Quinn came into that bookstore?”

  “Yeah,” I say, defensive. “She reads.”

  She pulls her hair back and looks away.

  “What’s wrong?” I ask.

  “Nothing,” she says. “It’s just that I think you actually met her at Soho House.”

  I have nothing to hide. “I did,” I say. “I don’t know why I’m being weird. I feel weird talking about her to you.”

  She says I don’t have to feel weird and she tells me about the guy she’s been seeing and she can’t tell me his name but he’s an actor and he’s someone I would have heard of and he has something you can’t buy with all of Love’s money. Her words, not mine.

  “He’s famous,” she says. “Like, legit famous. And it’s good but sometimes he freaks out and pulls shit like he did tonight and stands me up.”

  “You were waiting for him at La Pou?”

  She nods and this is why she changed. She didn’t evolve. She didn’t grow. She didn’t forsake her aspirations for a healthier outlook on life. She got some famous dick inside of her and some famous dick called her back. Between us we have no money, no fame, no power, no butler, no boxes of Frosted Flakes that just appear without having to go to the grocery store, no elevated lawns under starry skies. Between us we just have negat
ivity. We both got dumped, fucked over.

  I tell her I’m exhausted and she asks if she can stay. We both check our phones and we’re both still losers. I don’t need to be on this futon alone, so I tell her it’s fine. We don’t spoon. We’re both too wounded and I fall asleep wondering if there will be more angry sex in the morning.

  WHEN I wake up at five A.M. I’m still a loser, and there is no message from Love. I sigh but as long as I am here, I could go for another blowjob. I roll over. I’m ready to go and I reach for Delilah. But she’s not here. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and head toward the bathroom and there she is, in a bra and panties, like some drug-addled victim of human trafficking, hunkered down in my bathroom.

  And in her hand is a reusable Pantry bag, my reusable Pantry bag, the one I brought to Henderson’s.

  30

  “DELILAH,” I say. My heart gets loud in my throat. What the fuck is she doing?

  She whips her head around. “Joe,” she says, her eyes wide. “I was looking for toilet paper.”

  “There’s a roll on the counter.” I step toward her.

  She cowers. She hunches forward, as if she’s praying. “Is there?” she asks, nervous, insincere.

  “There is,” I say. “I don’t see how you could have missed it.”

  “Oh, you know,” she says. “Guys, a lot of the time, you don’t have toilet paper.”

  I don’t like the high pitch of her voice and she turns around and scoots backward, as if she can cover the Pantry bag, as if she can backflip into my tub and escape through the drain. She went through my things. She is a self-destructive fiasco of a person. She couldn’t just stay in the bed with me. She couldn’t be content to suck my dick and cheat on her not-a-boyfriend boyfriend. Nope. Like an addict who loads the syringe even after she knows the batch is bad, that it killed a bunch of people, Delilah got out of my bed and went into my closet, where she doesn’t belong. She is an addict. And you can’t go to rehab for what has stricken her, a star-fucking disorder where she risks her own life and security and happiness to find out what Love Quinn’s home looks like.