Chapter Six

By Hashtag | Waternova | 19 Jul 2021


Link to previous installment

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Ugh, like what are these things that spin me round and round? That carry ladders, carry me-me-me melodies. That trample through my really tidy field of view without even asking or looking out for the pretty peripheral flowers or saying I’m so sorry, Zoe, it’ll never happen again. Without even paying for a brand new yard of perception or a foot of color or an inch of Zen. That always talk, talk, talk . . . Ugh, seriously now, what are these other people who just won’t ever leave my adorable little senses alone! . . .

Like an inflatable life raft tossed this way and that on a corpse-black sea, I was floating aimlessly from one end of the gallery to the other, drifting from side to side, wall to wall in my black dress and black tights, in my black stiletto heels. Drifting through the gallery and trying my very best to keep my really long legs away from the hundreds and hundreds of annoying jellyfish who just wouldn’t stop stinging me with their work-toxic tentacles—moving, hanging, installing multi-million dollar artwork, moving, hanging, installing multi-million dollar artwork. Who just wouldn’t stop asking me what goes where and how come and why don’t I give them a hand with this backbreaking canvas? Um, no thanks. Maybe next time. But probably definitely never! I closed my raven eyes and leaned back against the treelike tarp which had sprouted up in the center of the gallery overnight, some kind of bulky frame hidden underneath. I closed my raven eyes and rubbed last night’s failure into my crinkled but still really soft temples. I closed my raven eyes and tried my very best not to listen to bitchy blonde Lola ordering the hired Hispanic hands this way and that. Tried my very best not listen to her slutty innuendos, her deportation threats. I rubbed and rubbed my temples. Because thankfully Lola’s abusive and totally racist power trip was like only scheduled to last until Madame Banksy, the curator, the real boss, came back from combing the city for a wedding singer or a Queen tribute band or a computerized glee club that could copy and paste and harmonize something or other at the opening next week. I rubbed and rubbed my temples, trying my very best but totally failing to ignore my growling core. But like how could I! I mean eleven o’ clock on a Friday night and I still hadn’t had anything to eat! Like not even a granola bar. Like not even half a yellowbrown banana. Even though it definitely wasn’t my fault. I just hadn’t had the time for anything but a case of energy drinks and some really stale Swedish Fish. I just hadn’t had the time, the time, the time. I rubbed and rubbed my temples. Because I like seriously just needed to get out of here. This whole work thing was like definitely not working for me right now. I needed some me-time. I needed to recover and reassess—everything . . . 

“What’s wrong, Zoe?” someone poke-a-poking me in the shoulder. “You don’t look too good. Actually, you look bad. That must have been one serious case of food poisoning,” someone laughing at me.

I sighed and slowly opened my marmot eyes, totally knowing what to expect—and yep, there she was, bitchy blonde Lola in her tight leather pants, in her jaguar print top, bitchy blonde hair rolled up into a bitchy blonde bun. 

Lola poked me again. I definitely didn’t have the strength to swat her anorexic fingers away. 

“Nothing’s wrong, Lola. I’m just tired, okay?

Lola faked a frown, veiny hands on bulimic hips. “Well,” she said, wagging her bitchy blonde bun at me, “you’ve been moping about all day. Why don’t you go home if you’re not going to help? I’ll take care of the rest. You’re giving everybody the creeps by just standing there and mumbling to yourself. It’s not normal. It’s not professional.” Lola poked me again. I definitely thought I might tip over. “And don’t call me Lola. It’s Delores. And I’m in charge here, so you better get it right.” Lola poked me again.

Trying my very best not to fall flat on my face I clutched at the bulky contraption overhead. I hissed, “No, you’re definitely not in charge, Lola. But thanks, you like really know how to make someone feel better.”

Lola laughed. “No problem. Always ready to help out a friend.” And just like that she tumbled back into the stressful cyclone, leaving me hanging from the tarp and wondering how bossy that bitchy blonde would be if a red pocketknife were sticking out of her lower back . . . I let go, rolled across the squeaky clean floor. Because even though I definitely didn’t wanna admit it, she was right. I nodded and grabbed my tote bag, swapped my stiletto heels for my blue and yellow vintage sneakers, pulled on my favorite sweater (blue stripes, white stripes, a few supercute coffee stains here and there), and then slowly, slowly waded out of this jellyfish-infested, Lower East Side lagoon . . . 

Oh boy, the temperature had definitely dropped a few ice ages since I’d come hurrying in from Williamsburg this morning. Two or three hours too late. Two or three hours too tired . . . Shivering, yawning, shivering I leaned against a buzzing streetlight and plugged my bone-white headphones in. Scrolled through my music library till I settled on a little bit of round about midnight jazz. Because good ol’ Miles should like definitely do the trick—mumbling and hugging my really thin arms tight to my sweater as I started to ice climb up Allen Street, staring down at the slippery sidewalk cracks as I rappelled over East Houston Street and climbed up 1st Avenue, bouldering my way up through the expensive grit of the East Village . . . Icicles crumbling off traffic lights, dive bar igloos on each side, mixologist trade schools, poetry slam cafés with postbohemian faces pressed up against the frost-embellished windowpanes. I could feel them all in there, in their cuddly warmth. Drinking their hoppy beer. Reciting their two- or three-minute resentment against society. Like seriously not caring if I froze and died out here. Like seriously not caring if I like actually disappeared forever underneath this upside-down glacier . . . Hugging my sweater tight. Holding my breath . . .

My smartphone was vibrating but I definitely didn’t wanna answer it. Because I like totally knew who it was and I like totally knew what they wanted. Because my really Polish, really successful parents had been trying to yell at me all day about the charges to Daddy’s extra-platinum credit card. Which after factoring in the “extraordinary” damages to the van and the rented equipment, plus the ridiculously embarrassing restaurant fiasco, had apparently come out to a nickel or a dime or two or three shattered dreams over $30,000 . . . A taxi-snail pulled its shell up to the curb, honked at me, honked twice. I waved the slimy cab away and felt my smartphone vibrate again with another unheard voicemail . . . Daddy and Mommy were down in Florida. Daddy and Mommy were designing a new opera house or a new Taj Mahal or a new Fallingwater or a new Machu Picchu or a new Bird’s Nest or a new Persepolis or some other architectural marvel. Daddy and Mommy were probably drinking strawberry daiquiris and sunbathing at a five-star hotel . . . Ugh, I definitely didn’t know what to tell them. Because the worst part wasn’t the money—nope, not even close! The worst part was that after racking up a $30,000 tab, I like still didn’t have any useable footage for my film school application. Like none whatsoever. Because of course Sophie had been a total no-show. Hadn’t even bothered to call or text or nothing. And that oh-so-polite maître d’ had turned out to be a pompous prick—calling the cops on Giacomo just because he’d had a little bit of food (it was just a handful of shrimp!), and just because he’d had a little bit too much to drink and had started breaking tables, breaking noses (even though Carl had like definitely been asking for it!). And so basically all I had to show for yesterday’s high-octane adventures (more like misadventures!) was half a memory card’s worth of stupid establishing shots and a bunch of background babel. Just random people eating. Just random people talking. Just random people eating and talking and whatever! . . . What a disaster. What an epic flop . . . Sighing, crying, sighing I took a left on 12th Street and walked into my favorite movie theater in the city . . .

After buying a ticket to whatever wasn’t sold out yet I tippy-toed back out into the cold bitter night. An hour or so to kill, I flirted with the idea of going in and having a drink at the frat-style alehouse across the street—the Alpha Satyr. But then I shook my black bangs and hocked a supercute yellowred loogie over the curb. Because I knew it like definitely wouldn’t be my scene. Not now. Not in my gallery geisha mood. So I fluttered, I shuddered back over to 1st Avenue instead . . . 

With a totally grateful moan I plopped myself down at the bar, crossed my really long legs and swept my lightening-scratched glasses over the cocktail list, the frostbite instantly melting off my delicate shoulder blades. Ah, it was nice and cozy in here. With just the right amount of toasty light spilling over the copper-green counter and heating the wall of fuzzy couches behind me. I picked at my Starburst nails. I ordered my favorite drink. “One gin gimlet, pretty please.” I picked at my Starburst nails and waited for the inevitable parade of semi-hard penises to come throbbing up to me. To hit on me, to grope me, to try to stick their STDs in me. But at least I’d picked out a really posh, really sub rosa speakeasy, the Grapes of Destiny, so I was definitely hoping—no, I was definitely expecting the clientele in here to be a little bit more classy, and a little less infected and creepy . . . The bartender made me my favorite drinky (nothing but gin and lime juice), I took a thirsty chug, and my first suitor of the evening stepped up to bat. 

Tall and totally married, the Costa Rican neurosurgeon who walked up to me and slid his arm around my precious neck started off by offering to build me a condo on Papagayo Peninsula for just a kiss. But as soon as he found out I was Jewish (apparently the fact that I knew how to scream “Don’t fucking touch me!” in ten different dead languages like totally gave me away), the neurosurgeon immediately switched from macho to thoughtful, and started boring me to death with a ten-minute history lesson on how his Sephardic ancestors had been forced to change their names and convert to Christianity during the 15th century Spanish inquisition. Which obviously meant that technically—technically he was Jewish too! So why don’t us Jews go back to his NOHO apartment, and while his Gentile wife breastfeeds his baby goy in the living room, talk more about how we were like obviously chosen to go to bed together! Um, no. Maybe next time. Probably definitely never! . . . Next up was a Texan tailor. Eighteen years old and fresh off the farm, this aspiring fashionista had apparently been swindled and conned on his first day in the city, and was now a gigolo, a crack addict, an underpaid hunger artist looking for a part-time gig. Half crying, half cackling and screaming with laugher, I wiped my liquor-flushed cheeks and gave the budding couturier some change for an ice cream sandwich and a bus ticket back to Texas. But only after telling the bartender that this despicable, this work-shy, this less-than-human junkie right here was like obviously underage and obviously shouldn’t be allowed inside the bar. Let alone allowed anywhere near me or my suburban calves! . . . Then came the North Korean businessmen who just wouldn’t stop talking about the health benefits of tai chi while he tried to rip my tights and pet my extra-small kneecaps. That forty-year-old perv was quickly replaced by a Las Vegas snuff film producer, a Hungarian hostel owner, and then a widowed veterinarian who like actually thought I was going to give him head in the bathroom just because he was about to be shipped off to a minimum-security prison in Northern Minnesota after, as he kept slurring into my supercute ears, “getting his greedy snout caught in Uncle Sam’s cookie jar.” I just smiled and sipped on my second or third gin gimlet. I just smiled and munched on a sesame wafer, a creamy slice of Brie cheese on top. I just smiled and thought how I wouldn’t even give this white-collar crook a lubeless handjob for a lifetime of free checkups for all my future pets . . . Smiling and stuffing a juicy cluster of fifty-dollar grapes through my really chapped lips. Meowing like a docile kitten at every lame joke, at every cliché compliment. Totally wishing Giacomo were here to scare and shoo all these lame bastards out of my life! . . . 

When I was done blowing half my paycheck (I definitely wasn’t about to let any of those losers pay), I strolled back to the movie theater, feeling jolly, feeling star bright as I skipped over a groaning gutter mutant, skipped over a shadow-eaten cadaver, and skipped right through the theater doors and right up to the red and white concession stand. Because even though I like never usually got anything at the movies, tonight I definitely needed something. So with a quick swipe of Daddy’s extra-platinum credit card (because what’s a few dollars more?), I bought an extra-large bag of buttery kernels, an extra-large soda, an extra-blue slushie, and then wobble-wobbled into the main auditorium, hoping against hope that no one in the city had copied my idea for a really fun Friday night. I wobbled through the darkness. I wobbled through the darkness. I wobbled through the darkness and smacked my glasses into a meaner than mean wall. Ouch! Double Ouch! I shook my heavy head. I wobbled through the darkness. I wobbled through the darkness and clumsily tripped on a patch of nacho cheese. Flailing out of the entrance tunnel and flailing into the artificial half-light . . . 

Crawling in concentric circles on my hands and knees, my tights like totally ripping, my ass cheeks squeezing out through the itchy slits, I picked up all the hair-coated buttery kernels and stuffed them back into the extra-large bag. Then I picked up what was left of my drinkies and blinked myself upright. I pivoted on my blue and yellow vintage sneakers. I swung my broken glasses from the really big screen upfront, to the three aquamarine walls, to the domed ceiling overhead with its crystal chandelier which twinkle-twinkled over two or three levels of—totally empty seats! Yay! Yay yay! Oh thank you thank you! Because except for some hooded teenagers kissing and fingering each other underneath the screen, the movie theater was like totally mine! Yay! Yay yay! Singing, whistling, singing I sidestepped down the soda-sticky aisles and picked out a plush purple seat in the back left corner of the old school theater. Way up on the second level . . . 

Ah, much better. I sighed and rested my really long legs up on the seat in front, crammed a handful of delicious popcorn over my pasty teeth as the previews started to flicker across the screen. The previews were like definitely my favorite part about going to the movies. Even though the first two or three tonight weren’t anything special. Just your basic action movies with your basic cheerleader ditzes, and your basic six-pack meatheads. Nothing special there . . . I sipped on my soda. I sipped on my bluer than blue slushie and shivered with brain freeze delight when the next trailer flashed across the really big screen.

Omaha. A dizzying montage of crumbling skyscrapers, torn earth, flaming comets and dead babies. Covered in bits of stone and rubble, two or three star-crossed survivors climb out of the fiery destruction as a tear-jerking orchestral theme sweeps over the Americana wasteland. Lost in shock the survivors pinch themselves and pull at their burnt hair. They look to the blazing heavens and ask themselves if all this is—real? They drop to their knees. They hug. They wring their blistered hands to the still burning sky and cry Why me! Why us! 

One cinematic flash later and the two or three survivors are passengers onboard a city-sized spaceship. Just two or three more broken faces in the midst of the millions hurtling through deep space, destination unknown, the earth nothing more than a springtime memory. A refugee romance taking root and sprouting out of this transgalatic exodus. Times are hard. Food is scarce. But the two or three of them don’t care. They’re in love. Fuck humanity.

Another cinematic flash and this feel-good story of hope and perseverance abruptly transitions into a fast-paced thriller, a sci-fi mystery. There’s been a murder on the ship. The two or three lovers are somehow involved. TIME is running out. Not exactly a whodunit. Not even a whydoit. More like a whatactuallyhappenedhere with just the right amount of truelove and telepathic aliens thrown in for a blockbuster time warp. Fade to black . . . Coming soon to a theater near you.

I shivered and crammed another handful of kernels through my bleeding lips, goosebumps tickling my spine, buttery saliva dripping down my chinny chin chin. Because why-oh-why couldn’t I direct something like that? Like why wasn’t it my name up on the screen? Why-oh-why couldn’t I get all the credit, all the fame, all the money, all the everything! Why why why why! . . . The crystal chandelier swaying from side to side, the really big screen swaying . . . I blinked back all my tiny tears and pushed my glasses up my button nose. Like seriously trying my very best to wipe away all the slush gushing out of my open mouth. Because my stupid tongue just wouldn’t get out of the way and let me swallow. It was totally swollen, totally thick with all those yummy-yummy gin gimlets . . . Falling deeper into my plush purple seat, the teenage couple’s moist murmurs muffled, distant . . . The feature was starting. Like all I knew about this movie was that it was in French (with English subtitles, obviously), so I was basically just expecting it to be exactly the same as every other French film I’d ever seen. Just one superhairy, quasi-subversive, quasi-introspective sex scene. I squirmed in my seat, blushing hard, real hard. Up on the screen, as expected, a totally cramped apartment was slowly surfacing up out of the sepia smoke, out of the muggy darkness, the huge speakers behind my tipsy head vibrating with violent hip smacks . . . I squeezed the bag of popcorn down into my lap and swiveled my glasses round and round the blurry, the velvety movie theater. Licking the bloody butter off my lips, staring hard at the wet bed, I slid my right hand under my dress and up my sweaty thigh. I pulled my tights and underwear to the side, gently slipped my middle finger in. Because I was thinking about my ex, about how we used to—but then I quickly remembered how that bastard had like totally cheated on me so without missing a stroke, without really knowing why, I slipped another finger in and started thinking about what it would be like to fuck a homeless preacher. To fuck someone as grimy, as deliciously dirty as Giacomo Jones. I bit my lower lip, rolled back my shrew eyes. I could like definitely hear gasping now but I definitely wasn’t sure if it was coming from me or the 7.1 surround system and I definitely didn’t care. I just squirmed deeper into my plush purple seat, curled my ten toes, and slipped another finger in while the couple on the screen fucked and fucked and fucked and fucked and like just wouldn’t ever stop fucking . . .

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Hashtag
Hashtag

In time. In space — bc1qwahpljshc4pz3qnphrjjt62fscyp5m796q5m5p — Everything and nothing. A vibe hashtag009.substack.com


Waternova
Waternova

A debut novel / a psychological thriller / a millennial rom-com ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Full access available @ hashtag009.substack.com

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