Savage Delight

Page 12


The moment comes flooding back. I’d just turned seventeen. We were sitting in Blanche’s car, a silver Rolls Royce or something else stupidly showy. I’d just gotten off shift at Du L’ange when Blanche stopped me in the alley as I was throwing away the day’s trash and asked to give me a ride home. I don’t know why I went with her – but she reeked of money, and money was all that was on my mind since I’d found out how much Sophia’s surgery would cost just a few days before. I went hoping some of her wealth would rub off on me, maybe. I was desperate. And she could smell that like a fox downwind of a rabbit’s den.
We talked. She proposed I join her Rose Club. She told me what it meant, and what I’d have to do. There was no trickery or secrets. She was very honest and up front, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to get the money for Sophia. And when we were done, when I’d agreed to it and signed the contract, she’d snapped her Louis Vuitton handbag closed and smiled at me.
“This club isn’t just a way to provide people with luxury experiences, Jack. You benefit from it with more than just money. You meet politicians. Their daughters. Their wives. You meet stock brokers and dot com billionaires who have daughters. You meet the movers and the shakers of the world. You become connected. It’s a web that spreads far and wide, and you’ve just become a single string of it.”
Coming back to the present, I recite the words to Blanche. She claps her hands softly.
“Very good. A single string. That’s what you are. Even if you leave the web, the web will never truly leave you.”
I narrow my eyes. “What does that mean?”
“You’re smart enough to know what it means.”
She makes a motion for Frasier, and he gets up and pulls her chair out. She stands, and he smoothly puts her coat over her shoulders. Blanche pulls her gloves on one at a time.
“In two weeks, our contract is over,” she says. “The payments will proceed as usual until that time.”
“I suppose this is goodbye, then?” I ask. Blanche flashes one last smile at me.
“No, Jack. I’m certain you and I will meet again.”
I watch her go. My phone buzzing tears my attention away from her figure. It’s a call from a blocked number. I answer.
“Jack? It’s Naomi – ”
She doesn’t have to say anything more.
“I’ll be there in ten,” I say, and hang up.
3 Years
25 Weeks
6 Days
One time I had this really sweet dream where I had wings made of crystal feathers and I was slender and beautiful like an elf queen made of light and purity and also maybe I farted rainbows to propel myself forward but that isn’t the point – the point is it was a wonderful coolio dream, like probably the best of my life. Most importantly I am not having it right now, because right now I’m having a dream about a giant spider.
It’s chasing me through a forest of some kind, and I’m sort of pooping my pants whilst hoping I’m not actually pooping the bed in real life. It’s a weird mix of lucid dreaming and lucid terror, so I can’t get scared enough to wake myself up but I’m awake enough to be scared.
And then all of a sudden, the dream changes.
The spider disappears, the forest disappears, and I’m suddenly in the shower of my old house at Aunt Beth’s in Florida. The tiny one, with green tiles and mold in the cracks, and the windchime hung over the bathroom window. I’m three years younger and naked and my fat is obvious to the world – hanging in great chunks off my belly, my thighs, my chin. I’m crouched in the shower, curled up in a not-so-little ball, my flesh pressing against the enamel and the water trickling down from the shower head. It’s cold water. I don’t know how I remember that, but I do. Aunt Beth had a solar heater. I stayed in the shower that day until the water got cold.
And I’m crying.
That isn’t anything new, really. But seeing myself like this, in a third-person bizarro out-of-body-experience, is a first. I know this moment. I’d know it anywhere.
The girl in the shower clutches herself – her stomach, her face. But her hand keeps wandering back to one place; her right wrist. I know what she’s feeling. That wrist burns. No amount of cold water can douse the pain coming from it. She’ll put a bandage on it later. But it takes her four hours to sit up. Five hours to stop crying with no sound. Six hours to dry off and get dressed. Six hours to stop staring at herself in the mirror as she makes a decision.
It takes six hours for the girl to decide to change herself.
It takes three years for his voice to stop ringing in her ears every time she walks out the door. And even then, it doesn’t fade. It still hasn’t.
Two weeks from the day in the shower, she stops eating. The girl loses five pounds. Then three more. A month later she’s ten pounds lighter. She puts on layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts and runs in the eighty degree Florida summer for hours. Aunt Beth thinks she’s at Gina’s house sleeping over when in reality she’s on the side of the road behind a hibiscus bush, passed out from heat exhaustion. When the sun sets and it cools down, she wakes up and starts running again. She runs because she can’t stand the thought of who she was a step behind. One step. A new Isis. Another step. A newer Isis. She recreates and leaves herself behind over and over because she can’t stand any of them – because she can’t stand the girl who thought the boy who destroyed her could be her everything. He was the only one in the world who looked at her like she was human, treated her like she was more than a sack of too-much skin. She rarely eats, and if she does it’s only in front of Aunt Beth, to convince her she’s alright. But Aunt Beth is smarter than she lets on. One day, she and Isis talk, and it’s the sort of talk aunts are supposed to give – boy talk. I remember her every word as clear as day, and that reflects straight into the dream.
“You haven’t been eating much, Isis.” Aunt Beth, with her gentle smile and bright red hair held back by a head scarf, treats me every bit like her daughter. I was the kid she could never have.
“I’m not hungry,” I say lamely. And then my stomach gurgles and my charade is thrown headfirst over a cliff. Aunt Beth sighs.
“It’s about that Will kid, isn’t it?”
My stomach goes from gurgly to vomity. I flinch. But that flinch is important. It’s the first flinch I made when I heard his name. The first of hundreds.
“Did you two break up?” She asks softly. I shrug like it doesn’t matter but it does, it does, it’s the only thing that matters -
“I didn’t break up with him. He broke up with me. I sort of just broke down. You know how it goes.”
“Oh.” She puts her arm around my shoulder. “I do know how it goes.”
There’s a massive silence. The ocean laps just a half-mile away from our tiny, kitschy beach shack. The suns slants through the window, throwing turquoise and emerald shadows around the kitchen as it passes through a collection of seaglass on the sill.
“Whenever someone would break up with me,” she starts. “I’d sit myself down and make a list.”
“Of what? Ways to kill yourself?”
“No. I’d make a list of traits my dream man would have. And by the end of it, I’d always feel better.”