Monday, December 24, 2012

24 - "Only ignorant people are truly happy"

When someone asks me how I am I usually lie, no one wants to know the truth anyway. I remember moments of happiness (every time Chloe sits next to me on the bed smelling like honeydew in her newest dress), but they're only moments. They're like little bubbles waiting to burst and all I can think of when I'm in them is that nothing lasts forever.

Henry asked me once in the light from hundreds of candles in an apartment in Brooklyn. The power was still out after the storm, we sat under the same blanket in the cold and I said no. I remember the way he held my hand so that no one else could see and he said it was a good thing because only ignorant people are truly happy. Someone next to us started laughing nervously but it wasn't a joke and that's where I am now, that's what I am now.

I've looked myself in the mirror so many times and said "no, I'm not happy", but that only means there is still something to be found in all this darkness. I'm not happy but I know I can be and sometimes that is all it takes and all that really matters.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

23 - "I know what this means to you"

The wasteland between us, it's still there after nine months but he's always closer to me than I think I can handle. I remember waking up in my father's car late at night to that song, I thought I smelled gasoline and fresh charcoal but it might just have been a dream.

When I needed to get away I would call Carl and he would pick me up outside our house. I would sit in the backseat and watch him in the rear view mirror, his eyes would glow like fireflies in the dark. Sometimes I would ask him to bring that CD, he never asked any questions.

When I moved to New York he sent me a letter, it took me two weeks to open it and when I did I found a quote from a song about living forever and his own words in the blackest of ink: "I know what this means to you."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

22 - "I knew your father. We all did"

Even as I stood with my back to her I could feel her watching me, the woman dressed in black on the other side of the room. Mother had taken me to one of her parties in a grandiose apartment on Park Avenue, one of the sort I keep dreaming about (literarily).

I tried not to look but my curiosity got the better of me. She sat there alone, close to the bar, all the other women swarmed around rich looking men dressed in tailored suits holding filled up whiskey glasses. I went up to her and asked her if she knew me. "No" she said, "but I knew your father". My heart stopped for what felt like more than a minute, I had always thought I was the only one.

She looked around the room and for a second I thought I saw a glimpse of contempt in her jade green eyes before she came back to me and smiled crookedly: "we all did."

Friday, December 21, 2012

21 - "I'm at Newark"

"Are you coming for me?" she asked when she called and woke me up that morning. I didn't know, I got up in a daze, put on the first clothes I found (my only Diane von Furstenberg dress and a leather jacket) and grabbed a taxi down on Fifth. Lincoln Tunnel never seemed so endless, my heart in a violent uproar all the way to the airport.

I stumbled through the terminal building as if in high heels on the ice in Central Park and melted the moment I saw her through the crowds. Her slender body on my bed an hour later, me touching her hair periodically just to see if she's really there, and she was. She escaped just like me but we both know we'll never really get out of this dark.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

20 - "He loves you, you know"

We never talk about Carl, me and Chloe. I sometimes remember why I left Los Angeles and went to New York and why there's a wasteland between us now. He held her little doll hand in his on the other side of the window and when we talked I yelled at him.

She came after me, maybe for the same reason I escaped. She called me once before, we didn't say much. The letter Carl had sent me was still unopened, I was afraid to read what he had to say. I heard her breathing from miles away, her heartbeats like butterfly wings through the wires. "He loves you" she said and the spell was broken. We never talk about it now and I have so much left to ask her.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

19 - "Happy birthday my flower"

My birthday coincides with fall but that only had a meaning in fairytales when I was little. All I knew was the constant 75 degree season that Los Angeles is forever trapped in, it's very different in New York with the cold winds that sometimes feel like cleansing tonic.

My father always called me princess or angel, Carl called me flower. Every year he remembered my birthday, he would call and when I picked up he would say "happy birthday my flower". Then came that summer and the calls stopped, I only heard about him from friends for more than five years. Five years without him and five birthdays without his voice in my ear.

This spring he fell in love with Chloe and she fell in love with him. Something happened to them - I never asked what - and she moved here to be with me. When the fall came I thought about him and counted the days, he called me and I picked up and he said "happy birthday my flower", just like I wished he would.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

18 - "Are those Victoria's Secret?"

I can't stress this enough: I hate Abercrombie & Fitch. They are to fashion what Coldplay are to British rock music - a violation and an insult.

I spent last New Year's with mother and her friends in their house in the outskirts of Los Angeles, they have a dorky son (the bad sort of dorky) who's always had a crush on me. Just as I thought we were going home mother told me we were spending the night, me in the son's room of course. I wore a fantastic YSL dress and decided not to ruin it by sleeping in it. "You can borrow something from me" the son said, when I came back out in a much too short A&F T-shirt the first thing he asked me was "are those Victoria's Secret?"

As if the notion of spending the night in his room wearing the enemy's clothes wasn't enough, he thought it would be a good idea to start a discussion about my panties. I've never felt more embarrassed in my life (and no, they were Marlies Dekkers).

Monday, December 17, 2012

17 - "All happy families are alike"

When mother said she had hired someone to "help out around the house" I knew she was sugarcoating. It turned out to be a 200 pound Mexican pack of muscles called Hernan, he never did much to help but she paid for his new car and they slow danced to Claire de Lune - it looked like a plane crash.

"You don't make her happy" I said to him once when we were alone. "All happy families are alike" he replied, "but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". He quoted one of my favorite books and left me lost for words. Shortly after that he stopped coming around, mother was heartbroken for a week and never mentioned him again.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

16 - "You taste like revolution"

It was an unusually dark and cold February that year, I sat on mother's bed the night before a party, looking at that picture of my grandfather. The snow drowns out most of the background, it looks the way poverty and oppression must feel like.

I guess it was the first time I saw that little hint of fear in his eyes, somehow it inspired me, I told my guests to dress up in fur hats and military clothing, Miri came in a beautiful black velvet jacket with silver buttons and fringed epaulets. We were alone in my room in the dark and she unbuttoned it, underneath she wore a black crystal embroidered balconette bra (Stella McCartney - I asked) and she kissed me.

When she left around 4.30 in the morning she pulled me close and whispered "you taste like revolution" in my ear. It was probably mother's Pinot Noir, but right there and then I was ready to give up men for good.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

15 - "Enchanté, mademoiselle"

John Galliano took my hand in his at a party once and kissed it with those luscious North African lips. When they fired him from Dior I cried for a week (true story). He said some stupid things, but to me that first haute couture show they did without him was a crime ten times bigger.

Friday, December 14, 2012

14 - "I always thought we'd die together"

When I first met Carl again after that awful night it was as if nothing had changed. He looked just the way I remembered him and we talked about the same things we had always talked about. Still there was so much I wanted to ask him but never did and maybe it was for the best.

He's never mentioned that summer and that house, what I did to him and how it tore us apart. I don't know how he forgave me and I'm afraid to ask, so we talk about everything else instead. "I was so stupid back then" he said once over coffee. "Do you remember how I told you I thought we'd die together. I really did".

And that was it. I looked at him and he looked out the window, we were silent for minutes together before he started talking about something else and I didn't hear a word he said. It was dark outside, we hugged and I watched him walk away and when he turned the corner I collapsed on the sidewalk. Someone carried me home, I woke up in my bed after a dream about fires.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

13 - "I look like a wedding cake!"

Stephanie is like a child around Christmas, running up and down Fifth, photographing the lights and trying on everything red at Barneys (pictured: Isabel Marant).

Later we talk about Los Angeles and the constant overdoses of cheap superficiality. I bought her a silver white Prada dress once because it made her look like a wedding cake, it was adorable. "Do I look pretty" she asked me in the fitting room, I was sure she'd see it too but she didn't.

She brought it home and wore it for days before calling me, I could hear she was crying. "That dress you gave me" she sobbed, "I look like a wedding cake!" I don't know if someone told her or if she saw it herself, but in that particular moment I loved her more than ever before.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 - "You disappoint me"

My mother is one of those people that have more money than they can ever spend but never worked a day to deserve it. No one knows where it came from, I asked my father once but he brushed the question aside and started talking about airplanes.

The little I know about her background (I never asked, she never told me) is that she escaped from Russia in her early teens and left her whole family behind. There's a black and white photo of her father, my grandfather, on her night stand. He's wearing a giant fur hat and a black overcoat, it's snowing and there's something in his eyes. If I didn't know better I'd say it looks like fear.

We attended a dinner party once, I was eleven or twelve and mother bragged about me wanting to become a lawyer. Afterwards, in the cab, I told her I wouldn't want to be a lawyer even if my life depended on it. "Oh, it does", she said melodramatically, placing her hand firmly on my shoulder. "So what is it you do" I asked, knowing it was a delicate subject. She took her eyes off me, put on her white leather gloves and uttered (for the first time) the theme of our future relationship:

"You disappoint me."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

11 - "We have to become friends now"

She sounds like a summer storm when she sleeps. I remember her from when we first met, I had secretly watched her (like Carl) because she intrigued me, she wasn't like the rest of the sheep flock in her tailored coats and designer scarves.

I didn't intrigue her, I was just one of the others but when I talked to her she really listened. She was alone but never lonely, or so it seemed, and she told me about a dead bird she had found under a magnolia tree earlier that summer. She had buried it but felt guilty as the winter came so she dug it up and kept the skeleton in a cigar box in her night stand drawer.

I remember holding my breath as she told me, she looked deep into my eyes, took my hand in hers and said that now we had to be friends because we shared a secret. It was one of the most truthful things I had ever heard.

Monday, December 10, 2012

10 - "The Lord works in mysterious ways"

Stephanie is here, sleeping beside me as I'm writing in the dark. We've been out all day, I took her to the Union Square holiday market, showed her what's left of Little Italy and followed her to St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth. She knows I'm not a believer, it's one of those things we never talk about because we don't need to.

People said the strangest things to me at the funeral and the weeks after, maybe they were trying to protect me. They were uncomfortable, I could tell even at that young age, all except those who knew exactly what to say to comfort me: the Lord works in mysterious ways.

I hated it more than anything, it felt like a violation, like trying to excuse the inexcusable and sometimes I wanted to scream. I've had enough of fairytales, I know that nothing lasts forever and it doesn't scare me anymore. I remember how he would sing to me whenever I couldn't sleep: Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

09 - "No happy endings, Avy"

He never said Avy to me, he'd always call me flower, princess or angel, my father. He drove off and never came back, those were the last words he ever said to me. Mother came to school a few hours later, apparently panicking but impeccably dressed as always (that white mink coat always reminds me of Cruella De Vil, it's a look that really suits her).

Sometimes I forget what he looked like, there are no pictures of him, he was always the one behind the camera. He failed me for the first and only time and they told me he was broken, that something was missing in his life but it's not true. He just had too much of everything and most of all he had what made him the man he was and that so many others are lacking: a truthful, beating heart.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

08 - "The rest is just silence"

Belle was there when I got back that night, she knew what I had done just by looking at me. She never judged me but I know she thought I didn't deserve to be forgiven. When I asked her about it years later, how it could be that he looked so calm as they left, she said "being born is a death sentence, the rest is just silence".

It's the first and only time I've heard a 15-year-old quote Hamlet, but that's just who she is.

Friday, December 7, 2012

07 - "I'd go anywhere for you"

I had known Carl for three years when he fell in love with me one July (or whatever it is you do when you're 13). We had spent a lot of time together in and around our summer house, taking long walks, watching the sunset from tall trees and chasing butterflies through flowery fields. He would sit beside me and hold my hand in his and we would talk about nothing and everything, just the two of us.

We went further away from the house than ever before one night, it was late and my skin looked like silver grey velvet in the dark. I only heard his footsteps behind me and the wind in the treetops, we found another house in the middle of the woods and no one seemed to live there. We climbed in through an open window, the old fireplace in the corner was filled with ashes and they were cold and felt like just like sand does long after the sun has set by the ocean.

When I walked away from that house alone I thought I heard butterfly wings strike everywhere around me and it sounded like thunder. I don't remember what I said to Carl the next time I saw him but I remember the smell of the Gauloise haze and his face that looked just like I remembered it even after all those years.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

06 - "We'll go there some day"

We had our summer house for as long as I could remember, and we still do but no one goes there anymore. I sometimes wonder what it looks like now, and I drift away thinking of the long days we spent there. We would drive out at the beginning of summer when it was already burning hot in Los Angeles and we stayed there for weeks or even months. We shut it down in the autumn when the first leaves started falling off the trees and sometimes it would even snow.

There were always people there - Belle and her father, Stephanie, Chloe, Carl and his family. We spent late nights in the garden under the dozens of lights hanging from the trees around us, just talking or listening to the deafening silence and our heartbeats. My father told me about his childhood, how he would climb up on the roof of his family's house and watch the stars for hours, as a way of escaping the constant restlessness.

I never felt alone with him. He said the skies were filled with the same stars he had seen then, but watching them together made us both feel as if anything was possible, as if we could fly away and never come back, just like we secretly wanted.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

05 - "Are you afraid of the dark?"

I'll never forget the look on mother's face when I came home and told her I was in love with an older man. I was 9, he was 10 and looked like a mini version of Jude Law, always with a silk scarf carefully wrapped around his boyish neck. I left secret lipstick kisses (Guerlain Rouge Automatique) on the door of his locker and watched his reaction from behind a corner.

He walked me home from school once, it was late and he asked me if I was afraid of the dark. I don't remember what I said but we came to spend a lot of our time together like that, in the dark, listening to Rolling Stones albums on his bed, driving around in his car, taking long walks through the woods surrounding our summer house.

He fell in love with me and I pushed him away, years later when we met again I started calling him Carl. He never asked me why but I think he understands. Our history is a minefield and there are so many things I still want to ask him.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

04 - "What I'm certain of is that I never want to put a child into this world"

I only know my mother's past from the diary she kept on a train crossing the Russian wilderness over 30 years ago. They were young then, she and my father, and if she still feels the same way she hides it well. I sometimes think that much of what she is now began on that train, but I still don't know everything that happened to them.

I found the diary hidden under some shoe boxes in her closet when I was a child, I spent hours copying the text so I wouldn't lose it if she were to find out. I knew I wasn't supposed to read it, when she caught me she exploded but we never talked about it. A few of the pages were missing, before them she wrote:

Today we stopped for an hour at a small station somewhere close to the end of the world. We weren't allowed to go out so we watched the people through our smudged windows. I saw a family, a mother and a father with their little daughter, and I started to cry. T asked me what was wrong but I couldn't bear to tell him. I know how he left his family behind too, and I have no right to be more tormented by it than him. What I'm certain of however, what I saw so clearly through that window, is that I never want to put a child into this world. I could never live with the notion that some day they would be left all alone.

I sometimes wish she had told me herself, I sometimes wish we would talk about it because I know it still hurts her and what I would tell her is that, more than anything, I understand.

Monday, December 3, 2012

03 - "You and I are gonna live forever"

As I remember it, we would often drive through the Californian darkness late at night, my father and I. We would both be awake, he would ask me if I wanted to go somewhere and I would say yes. We would take his car and just drive, I would sit next to him and look at him in the rear view mirror and thousands of fireflies would dance around us in the dark.

I'm not sure that we really did or if I only dreamed about it, like I sometimes still do (sometimes they're nightmares, sometimes they're not). I don't know if we really passed by all those burning forests or if the sparks I saw were really just cars going the other way, towards the city we had fled from. Maybe they were, and maybe it only happened once or twice, but it sometimes feels as if it was all we ever did.

What I remember more clearly than dreams is how I once fell asleep beside him just before sunset. When I woke up in his car it was to that song playing on the radio - we see things they'll never see, you and I are gonne live forever - and it really felt as if we would.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

02 - "Self-interest never lies"

My father always talked to me as if I was an adult. He knew I would understand some day, that the things he told me would make sense as I got older and saw the world with my own eyes. "What motivates someone in the end", he said, "is almost always their own naked self-interest".

It may sound cynical but to me it's a form of consolation when the world seems mad. Unselfishness is a lie, no one wants to protect anyone else's interests but their own. No one will ever love you more than they love themselves so why pretend like they should?

I never do, and I know that it sometimes make me seem cold and distant but I'm not. I'm just looking out for myself, like he said I should, and it makes sense to me because he failed to do it for himself and that's what finally destroyed him.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

01 - "I know how much you love Tommy Hilfiger"

It wasn't my first Christmas, but one of the first I can remember. We had just bought the house in LA, it was 80 degrees out and I wondered when the snow would come. Mother had placed all our presents under a small yucca tree in the living room, we came down early in the morning to open them and there it was: a black waist long Tommy Hilfiger polyester jacket with a fluffy fur collar.

I remember the confusion. When did I tell her that? Does she love Tommy Hilfiger, is that why she got it for me? It's still a mystery, I have no idea what she meant but I know it helped shape my fashion sense. I browsed through the dresses and jackets in her closet: Dior, Prada, Chanel, Givenchy, YSL. No Tommy Hilfiger, no Ralph Lauren, no polyester.

I wore the jacket once, it felt like a charade. For my next Christmas, mother gave me three hundred-dollar bills and the Rolling Stones album Let it Bleed.