Gwendolyn Riley’s cell phone is ringing in a suite at the Chateau Marmont.
Through the jagged thresholds of her drug-fried consciousness, the ring sounds like a cluster of church bells, and she can feel the sound changing the shape of her space like you feel an elevator dropping.
She’s been in this room for days or weeks or whenever, saying “fuck you” to all the frenemies and all the Chandras who don’t return your calls or they do and they want to turn every night out into an intervention.
For Gwendolyn, the party has imploded. She’s a disco unto herself.
“Fuck ‘em all. Squares on both sides”, a Gwendolyn she was in her first film says, “I am the only complete girl in the industry.”
She crawls like a feral cat across miles of carpet (a broken glass shag the color of static), groping through all the pretty things they give her, looking for the little talking church, the salvation box.
She knows how it opens. She’s talking on it.
Miss Teen USA is speaking with an underwater voice. Gwendolyn feels like this conversation has happened a thousand times before. Or just once, a few minutes or months ago.
She does what she can to adjust her frequency. She reminds herself that Diana lives someplace she needs to get back to. “Gwen, Hi, I’m free to talk now,” she says.
“Free?” Gwen asks. Diana sweetly can’t see the state of Gwendolyn’s face right now, naked with party bruises and hair like burning straw and her mascara all morning after tragic.
She can see through mirrors into rooms where the women she’s been are pacing to and fro, memorizing their lines, past words and future words.
There’s a TV on somewhere, playing the Wizard of Oz over and over and over again. Diana says, “Yes, meeting adjourned. …I’m sorry, were you asking when I was free?”
“Is Jack here?”, Gwendolyn asks no one in particular.
She’s sure she can hear him in the other room, fucking someone. He can fuck other women. That’s totally fine. As long as they’re all Gwendolyn Riley. Jack’s never alone, though. Are Jack’s friends here? How many this time? How many different rooms is this? How many tonights? A clock on the wall is lengthening the pause until Diana says “Gwendolyn? Is everything okay?”
Those happen to be the magic words that realign Gwendolyn’s “wavelength.”
She laughs like a person who isn’t crazy and says, “GIRRRRRRRL. I am SO fine right now. I can seeeeeee you I mean need to should totally see you. Right? Do you know where the Chateau is?”
Now Diana’s voice comes through the phone like little fish hooks that tug at Gwendolyn’s cheek. “You mean the Chateau Marmont?”
Gwen remembers that it’s yesterday in the bedroom, and some Frankies of Jack, she means friends of Frankie are visiting and making movies and it’s only for Jack she’d do this, he can make her a love star like London was. “NO. You can’t come here. Let me meet you somewheres.”
“Right now? because I think I could totally get away with it.”
“NO. Not now.” Gwendolyn is just coming through the door like a Newlywed and Jack wants them to be heroes or rock stars or statues or something just for one day and that’s what the drugs are for and he has something just for them, something NEW they can take and it’s a secret sacrament of the Church they are, the Church of Gwendolyn and Jack.
And two days are better than one and three are better still and eternity can last almost forever if you pay the hotel bill and keep the curtains drawn and stay polluted and never mind Jack says if on this I sometimes don’t seem to be me.
The Gwens she’s been are all over the space, in various ghostly poses. She liked acting for moments like this, when she felt possessed. She wondered where they went when they were done with her, and all along it was here, in her future, waiting for her and growing shadows and they were just getting started all along. “Tomorrow.”
Diana’s voice is the same as it was in a tiara, and it’s not just coming from the phone but from everywhere, or so it seems to Gwendolyn. It’s running backwards underneath the master track. Speakers the size of molecules that you spray like a perfume.
The ambient Diananess says, “Great. Is tomorrow at nine too early? Or I can meet you for lunch. You know where the Coffee Clatch is in Westwood? Wilshire and Manning? Or we could go somewhere else.”
Gwendolyn isn’t naked anymore.
A dress has unripped itself and stitched itself into her skin.
It’s what happens when her skin remembers things. Things in this state. Things it shouldn’t.
One of Jack’s friends from yesterday hands her a piece of paper from a doctor’s prescription pad.
He says someone left it here and never came back.
She reads the words written on the paper. then she reads them aloud, to Diana. “Coffee Clatch. Westwood. Tomorrow. Nine. I am so looking forward to seeing you. I could really use some sunshine. I’ll see you then. Now hang up.” And she does.
The hooks disconnect from her cheek. They turned out to be tinsel, or spiderwebs, or smoke.
It would be so nice to talk to someone who’s real like she isn’t, like she’s never been.
Someone from the not quite so bad old days who might save her or just smile without faking it and tell her she’s glad that they’re friends.
But she’s alone with Jack, now, or the Jack she knew before he was nowhere. And the friends that came.
And Chandra keeps calling and fuck her because she’s got scales under her fur, too.
Like they all do. Not Diana yet.
maybe they can have a latte before London drinks their blood.
Someone wants to keep on making a movie.
All these cameras she’s turned herself inside out for.
And it’s not softcore anymore and through a veil it seems London came to see her like this.
London, seeing her beauty broken down.
A shadow of London, more in mirrors than anywhere, all these memories of last year or last night, but London as real in her moment as the rest.
Wherever the cameras are. London IS. She leaves that candy necklace on the dresser when she knows your core is done for.
Awful Frankie laughing behind the curtain.
A laugh like a sudden plague of skittering rats.
Never mind that, what time it is or what they made you do.
Diana. Beautiful. Friendly. Clean. Coffee Clatch. Westwood. Tomorrow. Nine.
She needs to pull herself together then. That’s when everything changes.
She needs to be pretty when everything changes.
After they were done and she was sick of not coming down ever again and what have they done what have they done and she’s doubly stunned because she let them, stunned and shameful and sobbing in the shower.
Gwendolyn’s afraid the movies will come back when the water hits her skin but there’s some sunlight to live in if she’s to go outside and she wants to be clean like Diana’s clean.
She clutches the candy necklace that had to come from someplace, she gets in the shower, the necklace for luck because she wants to not give a damn like London.
She shakes but gets brave because she wants to be like Diana.
She wants to be like anyone but Gwendolyn Riley.
The hot water makes it all suddenly linear in Gwendolyn’s head, and that’s too much of everything.
She wants to play one of the other Girls next time she isn’t dead.
Jason Squamata (a.k.a. THE ORAKULOID) is a sleazy pulp surrealist who lives between the scenes. He writes microfictions, hypnopop song lyrics, disquieting confessional comedy essays, graphic novel scripts, dream diaries, and spectral celebutante novels. His work has appeared in CITY OF WEIRD, PropellerMag, Hypno Komix, and Stealing Time Magazine. He is currently developing television projects with some associates in the city of screens. You can optically fondle his archives at http://www.ORAKULOID.blogspot.com and swim in his spoken word incantations at SoundCloud/jason-squamata
He can be summoned via firstname.lastname@example.org