The Thirteenth Floor
It takes logic to survive. I’m convinced of that. The world is far too complicated a place to make it solely on my tongue’s instincts, my good looks or my innate luck. The vital middle ground is reason, logic, valid conclusions reached by deduction or inductive arguments. That is now my proving ground because far to the right of me and off to the left I’m noticing truths unraveling when examined.
Take my life, for example. A perfect subject apparently for the mentally impaired freak of a fuck of a neighbor of mine, Jenny Schecter. I suppose if I were to drop LSD right this minute and read Jenny’s book chapters again perhaps I could freakishly associate with some part her fallacious depictions of me. Maybe while tripping my brains out I laugh at the misery and disquietude of the couple, Bev and Nina, and think it’s hilarious everyone knows it’s me and Tina that Jenny’s spoofing.
I look down at Jenny’s book in my lap. I sip red wine and think. I don’t need to remember every detail of Aristotle’s thirteen sophistical refutations to have my own very long list of logical proofs and critiques of Jenny’s tortured logic. What I read tonight is a lunatic’s mangled ravings. Jenny’s not mine. Or fucking Bev’s or Tina, who comes across completely unfuckable. Another proof that everything in this book is utter bullshit! Because believe me, Jenny. That is not the case and you’re an idiot if you think so.
I push Tina out of my mind but quickly she comes back. I should call her before I go next door and kill Jenny. But then it might appear Tina was my co-conspirator. I put the phone down and glare at Les Girls. I feel fucked and I never saw it coming.
Aristotle’s Thirteen. A number that makes me wary. Something about it has always felt fucking spooky to me. I can’t explain it anymore than I can explain what makes lightning bugs glow green, or why burnt marshmallows with chocolate washed down by beer or tequila is actually delicious. But thirteen, the number has always looked mean to me in elevators and with relief I’ve always sailed past that floor. I’ve caught myself imagining how the rooms in there would feel cloying, the air too dangerous to even breath.
I shake my head. My whole life I’ve avoided the thirteenth floor of every building. Until now! I am so fucking mad the more I think about it! I see it in stark detail: Inside the interior of my Thirteenth Floor sits the insane, Jenny Schecter, a pen and paper in her hand.
I throw off the covers and pace down the hallway in my pajamas. I glare at the house next door because like a fucking idiot I leave my curtains open. I snatch at the cords and down they go. Privacy. It’s a privilege and without it I’ll pay a price. One by one I lower all the curtains in my rooms and walk out to the garden by the pool. I hear a faint strain of music coming from Jenny’s house. It’s mostly dark over there. Likely no one’s home. But who am I kidding? Jenny the Bat could well be hanging from the rafters in her attic already back and roosting for the night. I should go over there. What fucking time is it anyway? Nine o’clock. Kit stays sober on the nights I let her keep Angelica. I call her quickly to make sure.
Back inside I put on my jogging pants and sweatshirt. I open my gym bag and take out my boxing gloves. I think about how to sneak up on Jenny as she comes home. I close the door behind me and begin to lace up and velcro at my wrists. I punch the air a few times to get a rhythm. Pow! Pow! Pow pow!
I run down the street to think. After this block I’ll circle back and do a recon of her side of the house. That’s easy I know just the spot in that neighbor’s driveway to get a peek. I run past a party that has spilled out onto a porch. The evening’s cool and beginning to take on a chill. I run up the next hill faster and faster. The chapter on our relationship tearing apart eats at my breath. My side catches in pain. I break into a sweat. Bev’s version of why she slept with the plumber! So insulting, so unfathomable. I punch again and again at the air. My side spasms horribly. Good! I like it. Stab me again and again. Goddamnit! That hurts like hell. Pow! Pow! Pow pow!
“God!” I cry out in agony. I must slow my pace. I begin to pant and hold my side. “For the fucking record, Jenny after I knock you unconscious and while I consider how to fuck you up further I’ll tell you why I slept with Candace.”
I duck into the bushes that line our neighbor’s driveway. I slow my breath to control my movements and thoughts. I look through the fence gaps into Jenny’s windows. She’s stretched out on her bed painting her toe nails. There’s a plaintive jazz tune coming through her windows. I watch her apply a blue nail polish. So odd to me that people now paint themselves these unearthly and death like colors. Trust me. On the day they find me dead is the day my nails look blue.
I put my gloves against the top of the fence and get my footing on the boards to push against it. In a hoarse whisper as I climb, “First, you superficial dilettante as you wallow in faddish bad taste, try to imagine this: A night of darkness that won’t end.”
My feet hit the ground in her backyard. I creep below her windows. Any tiny rustles I make are covered by the baleful tunes that float by around me. I watch her from the shadows. Her dark hair stark against the white sheets, her creamy skin, pink and soft. No match. I unlace my boxing gloves with my teeth, biting at the laces, one by one.
“Imagine your lover inconsolable, Jenny. Not weeping and then drying her tears, but never stopping for hours. You don’t have the depth to feel what that was like. Our loss.” I feel my hatred spit out the words in an icy whisper. I throw one boxing glove to the ground by the bushes. I pull at the laces of my other glove with my teeth.
“I felt all of it from her. It beat against me all night long, Jenny,” I pull the final laces free. I spit out threads of cotton.
“I needed to feel her fists against me like that. Her cries in my ears! Can you understand that? No!” I throw my last glove onto the ground. It lies in the dust. Its laces completely undone.
“Then Tina stopped, Jenny. That’s what you should’ve written. Tina stopped and against my neck I felt her final ragged sigh for us. Not just her! But for us. And I prayed to a God I don’t believe really listens. But I begged and bartered with him anyway.”
I lift into the tree branches outside her bedroom window. I pull my hood over my head and settle into my camouflage in the dark. I need to think through how to hurt you, Jenny.
I hear Shane and her brother, Shay before I see them. In a moment they step onto the back porch about twenty feet from my tree perch. Shane unlocks the door and then comes back outside with a beer and a smoke. She seems to have worries these days. So unlike her.
Was it the right choice? Was it the right choice to never let you see my need to unravel -even for a moment? But for the love of God! How could I? I watched you submerge and float away from me, T. It felt so done by then.
I look through the leaves over to my pool. It glows blue in the darkness. We love and we drown over there, I suppose. Looking back on it now, I would. I would do it all differently. I would change everything if I could. I have no fucking sense sometimes and it worries the fuck out of me. I should’ve taken my mask off and let you see my pain.
I drop down into the yard and Shane startles but laughs when she sees me. I pick up my boxing gloves and pat them to knock off the dirt.
“Out for a run. Decided to do some chin ups in your tree.”
“Sure, Man. Have at it.” Shane motions to me, “You want to come in? How about a beer?”
“No, I need some water, actually, and then a bath.” I tie the gloves’ laces so they fall over my shoulder. “But thanks. Yeah. I’ll see you soon, though.” I walk down the drive toward my gate. “Shane, do you keep a spare key outside for Shay? A good hiding place so he can come and go?”
“Yeah, his idea.” Shane shows me where inside a carved wooden horse head is the place she hides the spare key.
Bette’s House – 9:30 pm
As I walk into my bedroom I take long swallows from a cool glass of water. My phone alerts me to a text. Christ! How many since I went to run? Jesus! I scroll through them to catch their headlines. Some are stupid but mostly funny comments from East Coast friends encouraging me to hurry up and find a new girlfriend before the book takes off. Theory being: You can always explain how it’s all bullshit later.
I think of how that could even be possible? To be amusing, to answer all their questions, and then undress them and hope the conversations about Tina are over. I delete as I read. Nothing comes close to bringing me any real levity. Then the last three catch my eye. Phone numbers I don’t recognize. I click on the full messages. One after another I see interview requests for my comment on the upcoming movie feature of Les Girls. A book by Jenny Schecter and the movie produced by Shaolin Studios and Tina Kennard. Maybe Tina and I could do our interviews together, a reporter wonders?
Goddammit! I pick up my phone to call her. The book back in my lap. My anger returns in force. I snap the pages through the chapters of my destruction. My side catches again with a fiery spasm. If you’d listen I’d tell you what I should’ve said years ago. If he ever saw a tear on my face after my mother left, Tina…
My chin falls to my chest. It took a monster like Faye Buckley to drag one out of me. And fuck yes! The rest was madness and it should have been your arms and your passion I turned to. But like my tears, I was never able to find it.
Goddammit! I press in her number. She answers.
“Tina, I’m reading Les Girls. Just tell me. What the fuck?” I demand.
“What the fuck, what exactly, Bette?”
“I guess your studio publicist is fielding all your interview requests so you haven’t seen them?”
“No, I’ve been away from my phone.”
“I see.” My eyes fly up to the ceiling. I control my tone. This is not her fault.
“Well, our identities are in the wind. I’m getting media requests for interviews.” I say with a calmness I don’t feel.
“Just say, No Comment, Bette and look I’m thinking about how to change the names and other things in the script. But we haven’t even signed her yet. This really is a false leak about me doing Jenny’s movie.” Tina says.
“But you might?” I press her.
“Yes, I fucking might, but I certainly don’t want to!” I hear Tina getting exasperated.
“God! How does she know some of this shit about us? Are there microphones in here?” I get up from the bed and begin to pace around the room.
“Gossip? I don’t know. Alice’s big mouth? Tanya’s maybe when she was around with Dana?”
“Did you even know she was writing a book? This is all out of the blue for me. I hate being blindsided.”
“I know you do. You hate it worse than anyone.” Tina says softly to me. I miss her so much sometimes.
“I want to kill her worse than Henry and in a different way. I’m thinking with my bare hands.”
Tina laughs at me, “Bette don’t go over there. Watch a movie or something. Put the book away for Christ sake!”
“Tina, before you hang up.”
“Yes. But I wasn’t hanging up.”
“Okay. Look, Tina, sometime okay let’s talk about all this – about what Jenny wrote.” I hear paper rustling over the phone on Tina’s end.
“I was looking at the watercolors you did of me and Angie about an hour ago. They’re so beautiful.”
I take my eyes down from the ceiling and try to catch the meaning and tone of her voice for replay later.
“Those were sweet times.” I say.
“You should paint again, Bette, you’re very good at it.”
“Maybe one day when you’re here with Angelica, swimming or something. I’ll see.”
“Okay. We’ll talk about Jenny’s book then.” Tina says.
I feel myself smile. “Thanks. Good. Okay, T, then goodnight.”
“Get some rest. Please tell Kit I love her for me.”
“I can’t even go there but I’ll tell her. Bye.”
I settle back in my bed with a cup of camomile tea.
“Those were sweet times.” She says over the phone.
I look at her paintings and put them away as we wind up our call and wish each other goodnight. All she wanted to do was stay home with me and the baby. It was a once in a lifetime experience. And Jesus! She put up with me when I was tired and so prone to flipping out. Those weren’t the sweet times she was thinking about though.
I laugh dourly at the thought. Bette’s like a lighthouse that can take a helluva beating. Maybe that’s why I wail against her so much sometimes. I admit I see her that way.
I do know how she looks at things. I know most of the quirky steps in the spiral stairs that lead up to her thoughts. But she still surprises me. The Bowie knife, her latest, that surprised me. I laugh and hope it wasn’t even close.
But she was brooding and moody I could tell on the phone tonight. She may have the imagination of a psychopath but it’s just a game with her, I think. No, it is. She has that very dark Scorpio moon an astrologer who came to one of our parties years ago told her about one night.
“Passionate in bed.” The reader had said and I had taken Bette’s hand and kissed her wrist knowingly, “Watchful and vigilant at night.” I remember my ears had perked up because I had felt this, too. “Secretive and dangerous.” And she had looked up at Bette as she had said it.
“They shouldn’t hear you coming!” Bette had looked at us for understanding.
I remember we had walked away arm in arm out to the bar by the pool to join more of our guests. “I’ve always thought it would be fun to have my fortune told, you?” I had asked her.
“No, I think I’m okay, but you go ahead. An artist I know lives next to an old Romanian lady somewhere in Hancock Park. You should go.” She had kissed my forehead. “And have I told you enough how fabulous you look tonight?”
I had laughed at her, “Bette, I’m wearing a cotton blouse you bought me in India, it’s nice but…”
“It’s something else entirely I’m talking about.” And she had taken me in her arms and kissed me.
I turn off the light and hold one of my pillows close to my chest. You know, I never went that fortune teller. I wonder, what would that be like?
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23. The Pussy Club http://wp.me/p4AUvc-4x
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