Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies 20

  “What are you looking for?” I ask again. I taunt the cat. I poke the tiger.

  “Nothing,” she says. “It’s okay.”

  “You said you were looking for toilet paper,” I remind her. Dumb girl. Can’t keep her own story straight. “Did you find any toilet paper in there?”

  She stands up. “I think I should go.”

  “I think you should stay.”

  She stands in front of the Pantry bag, as if her legs are cover. “Find anything good in there?” I ask.

  “Joe,” she says. “I am not like that. I was just looking for toilet paper.”

  “Delilah,” I say. “I don’t think you’re telling the truth.”

  It’s always the same with these fucking people, bad people when they’re caught. They try to sell you. In Delilah’s case, she actually tells me that she knows people who could make a documentary about all this. “Like Serial,” she pitches, as if this is what I want. “I mean, I’m not going to jump to conclusions about this bag and the way you were at Henderson’s and all the ways things are adding up but, Joe, this could be very interesting.”

  “I don’t think so,” I say.

  “Let’s just talk about it,” she says.

  “Get in the tub.”

  She whimpers. “Please no. I’m sorry. I’ll go.”

  I point. “Get in the fucking tub.”

  She cries and I had a feeling this would get loud and she yammers again. “I know people,” she says.

  “No,” I remind her. “You fuck people.”

  I knock her back into the tub and she falls. I use some of the tape from the bag to seal her mouth shut and tie her arms together. I close the bathroom door and block the doorknob with a chair. I turn on some music—Journey’s greatest hits—to drown out her muffled cries and I tear the Kandinsky off the wall. She doesn’t know art. She doesn’t know anything but celebrities and she is an empty person, a mean person. She will never be happy. She won’t stop shooting for the stars, sucking them off, trying to pull them down to her futon, to her chicken bones.

  I am not going to kill her just because she knows I killed Henderson, because she’s crying about it in my bathroom, as if this is the path to freedom. No. I’m also going to kill her because there is no happy ending for a star-fucking girl like Delilah, a girl who actively refuses to embrace her talents, celebrate her insides, lead with her brain. After this “famous” guy, whoever he is, finishes with her, she’ll go tramping for someone else until one day she realizes she’s too old to be taken seriously by these motherfucking pricks. And then she’ll either spend her savings on surgery or pop pills or move away and try to sell her secrets to a publisher.

  Oh, the sadness of the Angeleno with a bank account dwindling, a forehead creasing, a self-esteem level deflating. I wish Delilah were a little more like me. I wish she were more confident. I wish she never stopped believing in herself, like her tattoo, but she did. She thought she needed someone famous in order to feel worthy. She could have settled down with Dez or Calvin or me or any of the guys she met. But she wanted fame more than love. She will never be happy, and really, I’m doing her a favor. She will never find what she’s looking for. I pull an orange Rachael Ray knife out of the butcher’s block. LA kills women. It’s a shame that Delilah moved here. She should have gone back to New York. You don’t belong here unless you’re tough, beautiful, or talented. What I am doing is a kindness, a mercy killing. I am putting her out of her misery.

  I open the bathroom door and she’s cowering in the tub, on her knees. Sad cat. Poor kitten. Her face is a wad of chewed-up gum. All the joy is gone. Somewhere along the way she broke her own heart and without a heart, you can’t get better.

  “I know,” I say. “I know how sad you are. I know how sick you are. But it’s over.”

  Steve Perry’s unmistakable voice crescendos and Delilah hyperventilates. She cries and cries, and how badly she needed this. How much more of this there would be for her were she to stay on this long and lonely road ahead. The girl who paid someone to inscribe words on her thigh, words that she could not live by, words she did not understand. The key is not just to continue believing, after all, but the key to life is to believe in something that matters, something big and beautiful, something more profound than fame, money.

  I grab her extensions and smash her head into the tub and that’s it. No more tears. Blood trickles down her forehead. I was right. She isn’t beautiful. She was pretty. And I don’t feel sorry for her. It’s like they say about everything in this world. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. A lot of girls, they would have loved to be so pretty.


  IT’S a good thing I brought that giant duffel bag to LA. I don’t know how else I’d get her the fuck out of here. But first I have to get dressed and find my keys and run all the way up to Tuxedo Terrace and get my car. I throw on sweatpants and a shitty old T-shirt I wore when I worked at the bookstore. It’s cold. My lungs hurt. And when I get to my car, it’s all fogged in and I don’t have time for this. This is LA, there shouldn’t ever be any bullshit with the weather. My teeth chatter as I defrost the windshield and Henderson is a bad luck charm, even dead.

  When I reach Hollywood Lawns, I put on my hazards and put the car in park. I jog up the steps, back inside, and get my giant empty duffel bag out of the closet and unzip it and the zipper is loud, stuck, no. I yank. No. I know for a fact that I don’t have any trash bags big enough to hold her and I pull again and I cut my finger but the zipper behaves. I lift Delilah out of the tub and set her inside the bag. She looks like she’s being swallowed by a giant black flower and I pull the zipper over her feet, covering her legs, past her Journey tattoo. I zip more, obscuring her cheap panties and her cheaper bra and her too-short neck and her too-big mouth and her closed eyes and her rounded forehead and her hair. She never needed extensions.

  I try to lift the bag but I’m going to have to drag it—and fast. This is a crowded neighborhood and everyone wants to be skinny; soon there will be exercisers. I carry the bag out to my Prius and Wolfe is fucking right. You can’t go home again. Not if you live in an apartment building.

  I haven’t been in the Donzi alone. A few weeks ago, we were at this bar in the Marina and I ran down to the dock to get Love’s sweater and I remember standing on the boat thinking about how different it is being alone than it is being with other people.

  I wanted to take the boat out and push it. I wanted to drive it to Japan. I had this moment. The cover band inside was doing Toto—that “Africa” song—and I was so fucking happy. It was enough to choose Love inside on the dance floor over the great sea, the unknown. And then there’s also the fact that I don’t have a fucking license. Love’s family can get out of anything; I know this. But Love has warned me not to take the boat out on my own.

  “It’s infinitely easier to deal with boat cops if Forty or I are there,” she said. “And if we’re not, you know, it’s harder.”

  I am on my way back to shore after burying Delilah at sea, watching the weighted-down bag make its way to the center of the Pacific, far from the world she couldn’t quite fit into. I will always think of her kindly, her unfulfilled potential, how she extended her arm for that blender that was just out of reach. She embodied the danger of aspirations and I will always wish she hadn’t turned into a menacing fame monster.

  I feel bad for her parents. I feel terrible for all the guys who genuinely offered their hearts. Mostly, I feel terrible for her. I picture Harvey showing someone Delilah’s apartment full of her things and I sit. This one hurt. It did. LA consumes people. Able-bodied, intelligent people like Henderson and Delilah move here and turn into oversexed monsters and it didn’t have to be this way. They both could have been a little kinder. I don’t feel so bad anymore. My body count in LA: one star and one star fucker.

  I slide into the Marina at the thirty-degree angle. I don’t turn too early or too late. I learned so much this summer. I am a boater, a writer. The Donzi is in the slip. And then
I hear someone calling my name.


  She is wrapped up in her hooded bathrobe. I am in last night’s clothes and it’s a good thing I’m already parked because now my adrenaline is going and my body is shaking. She is not smiling and I have no idea how long she’s been here, if she saw me go out to sea with my bag, and return with nothing.

  “What the fuck are you doing?” she demands. “You bail on me and go out on my fucking boat?”

  The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. “I just went for a ride,” I say.

  “Alone?” she asks. And fuck. My eyes scan the floor for blood but I’m good; no mug of piss here, nothing to see, folks.

  “Obviously,” I answer. “Do you see anyone else here?”

  I can tell by her demeanor that the answer is no, she does not see anyone now; she did not see anyone when there was someone to see. She doesn’t know what I did, that I cheated, that I let Delilah into my bed, onto my body, that I put her out to sea. More secrets, more bad things, but I am safe.

  “I’m kind of surprised to see you,” I say, and turn the tables.

  “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” she says.

  “I don’t know,” I say. “I wrote to you. I didn’t hear back.”

  “Yeah,” she says. “I didn’t write back to you because I don’t write back to people who treat me like shit. I’m not a doormat, Joe.”

  “Me neither,” I snap. “Did you have fun with your little friend Milo?”

  “You mean my director?” she asks. “Because that’s what he is, Joe. My director. He’s not my boyfriend and he’s not the enemy and we’re in business together. Business that matters to me, goddamn it. Business you walked out on. Business that is mine.”

  She trembles and I know. She didn’t fuck him and she didn’t dump me and fuck I overreacted. I fucked up. The Donzi shimmies and what I wouldn’t give to be on land. Instead I’m on this boat, this vessel that belongs to her family. She gets to be the steady one, on the dock, entitled, land ho, and fuck me.

  Love folds her arms. “Just throw me the fucking line,” she says, my teacher, my boss. I toss it to her and she ties a knot fast, so smooth, such a rich girl. I climb off the boat, clumsy as all fuck. She stomps along the dock and onto the beach and I follow her onto the sand. Me, the follower.

  “Love,” I say. “Let me just say I’m sorry. I know I have no excuse.”

  “Joe, when something good happens to me and you shit on it . . .”

  “I’m sorry,” I proclaim. I reach for her. She backs away. I say it again. “I’m sorry, Love.”

  “It’s not enough,” she says. “You were such a dick, Joe. The second we got the green light, you turned into one of those dickhead guys who doesn’t like it when his girlfriend gets attention.”

  She continues to blast me. She says I let her down. I should have been a man and I should have congratulated her and I should have meant it. I should have expressed interest in the script and I should have been up front about my obvious jealousy issues. I should have called her instead of texting her because that was a bitch move and I should have hung around the neighborhood and waited for her after the show. All the things I should have done and we can’t go back in time.

  “I know,” she says. “But do you get it? Do you get that it’s not going to be like this?”

  “Yes,” I say, and I’ve never loved her as much as I do right now and I want the chance to be the good guy, the best guy, the talking guy. I want to clean my dick and scrub my skin and start over. I love her too much to let this be the end.

  “Love,” I say. “I am so sorry. You have to understand. You are right. I acted like a fucking douche.”

  She looks at me. I beg her with my eyes and my hands and I am as strong as she is. I apologize again and again and something transforms inside of her and my hands and my eyes did the work that I was unable to do with my dirty mouth. Love nods.

  “Okay,” she says. “We’re okay.”

  And somehow we are hugging and we kiss, just one kiss, a make-up kiss, a no-sex-yet kiss, and then we flop into lounge chairs. The fight is over and she tells me about Seth Rogen’s weed and her costume fitting and that she has news.

  “More news?” I ask.

  “Forty and Monica broke up,” she says. “This was almost a record for him though. I mean, girls are like shoes for him, you know?”

  “I’m sorry,” I say.

  She shrugs. “I know this will sound dumb but I really thought it was gonna stick. Because of the stupid Friends thing.”

  “It’s not stupid,” I say. “It’s sweet. You want the best for him.”

  She nods and checks her watch. “We should go get packed. The jet leaves at noon.”

  I look at her. “We have to pack?”

  She rolls her eyes. “Joe, come on. What do you mean? You think you’re not going?”

  “You didn’t invite me.”

  “Didn’t invite you?” She balks. “We’ve been seeing each other the whole summer and we practically live together. I don’t have to invite you. You should know you’re invited.”

  “Well, Monica said that Forty invited her.”

  She rolls her eyes. “So? We have our own way of talking and our own thing. Why don’t you get that, Joe?”

  I don’t know and Love says it’s going to be intense in Palm Springs. We won’t last unless I communicate.

  So I try. “Okay. I guess I also wasn’t sure because of Milo.”

  She sighs and now she explains her dynamic with Milo. They are best friends, to an extent. She uses the phrase third twin and she says it’s hard to talk about because it’s friendship steeped in guilt. “I’m closer with him than I am with Forty,” she whispers. “I mean, do you know how wrong that is?”

  “You can’t help who you love.”

  “Milo and I both want the best for Forty. So when you see us together or whatever, I mean, no guy I ever dated liked it. I get it. It sucks. But we’re just friends.”

  Love is essentially asking me to tolerate her bond with another man, a good-looking fucker she’s known for longer than she’s known me. It’s impossible, like snow in Malibu. Absurd. But what can I do?

  She takes my hand. “I wish we could stay here all day,” she says.

  I want to fuck her in the sand but she says we have to pack. She stretches and pulls her robe tighter and I know her well enough to know that she is closing a door on this fight, that the war between us was transitional.

  Love blows a kiss to the sea. “Good-bye, ocean,” she says.

  I stay for a moment longer, staring at Delilah’s giant blue grave. It would be impossible to find my bag in there and the permanence of decisions made at sea is bigger than all of us. The wind whips, waves crash, and I head inside.

  Summer is over.


  BOOTS and Puppies is already on IMBD: Best friends and former lovers Harmony and Oren are both engaged to other people. They spend forty-eight hours together trying to learn from the past, live for the present, and decide on their future. But Boots and Puppies isn’t a movie—it’s a FUCK YOU to me and Love, a ninety-five-page torture chamber of increasingly graphic love scenes between Oren (Milo) and Harmony (Love). Spoiler alert: Harmony and Oren—the only characters in the whole fucking movie—finally decide to get married when Harmony realizes that she needs to let go of the white puppy she rescued who keeps chewing on all her boots. FUCK YOU, MILO. Harmony runs to Oren, who knew she would come to her senses. FUCK YOU, MILO.

  On the jet to Palm Springs, Love asks what I think of the “script.” I deflect. I ask her when Milo finished writing it.

  “This summer,” she answers. “He hit it out of the park, right?” I contain my rage. I will not let him win. Not when I’ve just gone to war for my relationship. “Love,” I say, pointing to the script. “You’re not even a little offended by this?”

  “Joe,” she says, definitive, as if she’d been preparing for this. “If you’re going to tell me that you t
hink you’re a puppy, then I’m going to tell you that you need a shrink. I am not Harmony any more than you are a puppy. Milo is not Oren. This is a story. A made-up story.”

  “I know I’m not a puppy.”

  “You are not a puppy.” She sighs. “And anyway, Milo started this script ages ago. He’s been rewriting it for a while. You know, Jake Gyllenhaal was going to play Oren, up until the very last second. That’s how good the script is.”

  I do not remind Love that he finished it after meeting me and I do not call bullshit on Jake Gyllenhaal. We land and I try to focus on the positive. Our fight is behind us, and I’ve been wanting to go to Palm Springs. The desolate road from the airport snakes through a desert where the houses are giant UFOs from the sixties, spread apart, like dice rolled onto a craps table.

  “We’re shooting here and living here?” I ask.

  “Yep,” she says. “How gorgeous is this house?”

  “Striking,” I say, and I mean it in a bad way. The house is midcentury, ice cold, plastic and pink and orange and white, like a ceramic bowl of sherbet left in the middle of the desert during an atomic meltdown, empty as Forty’s mind. We park and she knows I am disappointed and she pushes me.

  “Sorry,” I say. “I just thought we were going to Palm Springs.”

  “We are,” she says, her voice fresh with indignant attitude that only comes from being cast as a lead and studying a screenplay in a jet. “Milo is amazing, getting us this house, right?”

  I am sick of hearing that Milo is amazing. He isn’t. And this house sucks. We’re several miles from the hotels and the stores and the stuff I read about in Less Than Zero, the stuff I wanted to see. My head started pounding the second we walked into this cold house and we’re only three hours into the day. I get the chills. It’s so hot outside and it’s so cold inside. There is no ocean, no relief, no shabby chic sectional, no sand on the floor of the kitchen, no crunch, no texture, no depth.