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Authors: Lauren Sanders

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Kamikaze Lust

BOOK: Kamikaze Lust
4.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by Akashic Books
©2000 Lauren Sanders

Cover photo by Howard Levenson
Author photo by Claire Holt
Design and layout by R. Devine

ISBN: 1-888 451-08-4
eISBN: 978-1-61775-255-1
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-95534
All rights reserved

Akashic Books
PO box 1456
New York, NY 10009
email: [email protected]

in memory of
Helen Wolfe
Ruth Samanowitz
and for my parents


Thanks to my visionary publisher Johnny Temple and brilliant editor Gabrielle Danchick.

To Elena Georgiou, Marie-Alyce Devieux, Mary McGrail, and Angela Himsel for their passion, creativity, and indispensable support on matters of life and literature. To Debora Lidov for her comments on the manuscript. Also thanks to the following people: Judy Jordan, Claire Holt, Howard Levenson, Lorne Manly, Rebecca Packer, Isabel Pipolo, Jaymie Ridless, J.T. Rogers, Alison Sloan Gaylin, Caryn Stabinsky, and all of the creative souls at my job- the temps shall inherit the earth!

Finally, special thanks to R. D. for two decades of inspiration, collaboration, and treasured friendship.

I hate commonplace heroes and lukewarm emotions, the kind you find in real life.

–Emma Bovary

People’s fantasies give them problems. If you didn’t have fantasies you wouldn’t have problems because you’d just take whatever was there.

–Andy Warhol


















Their deaths came on the morning of my thirty-first birthday. It was still dark when I got the call that the double suicide was only minutes away, and that Dr. Milford P. Kaminsky, the self-anointed Master of Self-Deliverance, had secured a simultaneous feed to the local news channel. I’d interviewed Kaminsky a few times since moving back to New York from Miami about a year before to cover the courts for
The City News
, and knew today was what he’d been waiting for: his first televised suicide. A coup if assisted suicide were your genre, your
raison d’etre
so to speak.

I lay in bed watching television with the sound off, as I listened to the waking psalms of New York City: the lackadaisical roar of taxi cabs, the loading and unloading of delivery trucks, garbage trucks, hand trucks; birds chirping like smoke alarms with dying batteries. The primal hour beat a hematite sheen against my window, while inside, the colorless hues of night vision ruled. Everything was smothered in gray. A morose gray, a brooding insinuation. Gray like a worn black-and-white film, but for the rainbow of talking heads on the silent television screen, the flickering red circles on my answering machine and power strip, the green dots from the clock on the VCR. Aggressive mixed messages from the technology department. And so early in the day.

I thought of a fall morning thirty-one years ago when I stepped feet first from Mom’s womb: a breecher. She always said it was a bad omen that after properly birthing two boys her daughter had come out ready to leave. She might say I hadn’t stopped walking since. If so, I’d strut a huge circle. For I was back home, waiting for my life to take root in this bizarre execution.

The satellite hook-up clicked in and a couple appeared on screen—two humanoid insects with fogged-up plastic bags over their faces. I jolted up to get a better look. Was I dreaming? Hallucinating? I blinked, but there they were, dying on my television screen.

I shut off the mute button and was assaulted by a muffled static. There were no voices, no familiar small-screen sounds. The bodies, one a man and the other a woman, were utterly still. They were holding hands, and behind those smoggy bags their eyes were closed, no longer watching, so I and everyone else watching could stare with impunity at the man’s purple veins, the fine white hairs on his knuckles. We could inspect the brownish spots that dotted the woman’s hefty arms and read their T-shirts:

I was touched by these two people trying to ensure they would get wherever they were going together and get there in style. What courage to chuckle in death’s face, to have one last laugh on life and all of us who’d tuned in to see them off.

My cordless chimed. Before I could say hello, I heard Shade’s voice: “Looks like your boy was up early this morning.”

“I know, can you believe this? You think it’s real?”

“It’s on practically every channel.”

“But is it live or taped? I mean, how can they stand there filming and not take the bags off? It’s obscene.”

“Ciao Manhattan! Home of the first septuagenarian snuff film.”

“Shush, I want to see the rest,” I said, but couldn’t stop thinking,
septuagenarian snuff film.
I was jealous I hadn’t thought of it myself. A home-girl Dorothy Parker, Shade was queen of the urban mot. Her slick tongue, which had made her quite the astute arts reporter, had always impressed me as well. I had to love her even when I wanted to hate her.

Shade’s breath caught when the woman’s head plopped over sideways. Then the man’s followed, no joke, both heads imitating the arrows on their T-shirts. As sick as I felt I couldn’t take my eyes from the TV set.

I’d seen people die on television before: busloads of tourists blown to bits in war-torn countries, cops busting down doors and blasting drug dealers with semiautomatic handguns, public officials pumping lead through their brains. Outright carnage and decimation of entire nations I could stomach over breakfast, but something about these people got to me. They seemed so righteous. And peaceful, too. Even the camera crews held silent vigil until a uniformed police officer arrived and removed the plastic bags from their heads. They were pronounced dead still holding hands.

Then the media converged.

“I’m going to court,” I said.

“Yeah? The machinists and drivers went out over the weekend, I bet we’re gone by the end of the day.”

“I don’t care,” I said and realized I was pouting. I’d worked long and hard over the last few months to cultivate Kaminsky. The threat of a strike looming at the
wasn’t enough to stop me. “This is my story,” I said.

“Yours and everyone else’s now. Pick me up on your way, I can’t let you cross the picket line alone.”

“I’m not crossing. It’s my story, I’ll write it for someone else if I have to.”

“Not if you want to work in this town. Why do I always feel like I have to protect you?”

“Because you’re the one who brought me back here.”

“You wouldn’t wear sunscreen, a little white girl like you. I had no choice.”

Somewhere along the way we’d accepted the truism that Shade had brought me to New York from Miami—where we’d first met working at
The Daily Times
—simply because she’d been the conduit between me and Giordano, the city desk editor here. Convenient of her to forget I’d spent the first twenty-three years of my life in Bay Ridge, and that my family still lived in the very brownstone I’d grown up in. Handy as well for her to overlook that shortly after I’d rented my studio and had all of my furniture shipped north,
The City News
was sold to a group of belt-tightening, productivity-crazed, vegemitemad Australians.

But I couldn’t blame Shade for the new management team nor its union busting. She knew I’d been looking for a way out of the land of silicon and sunshine.

“I’ll be there in an hour.”

“Fantastic,” she said. “And by the way, Slivowitz, happy birthday.”

“Thanks, thanks a lot.”

“Just don’t forget you’re still young enough to be my daughter.”

I hung up laughing. Shade was exactly eighteen months older than I was. Even in dog years she probably couldn’t have been my mother, but I let her believe she was the older and wiser of us, just as I let her call me Slivowitz. She was one of the few people to whom I’d confessed my name change, after she’d told me why she called herself Shade.

Shade’s real name was Teesha Marie Simpson, which she still used professionally. Her parents were doctors who’d pioneered an all-white, upper-middle-class suburb of Atlanta. Shade said she tried to fit in, straightening her hair, smoking pot, and listening to Joni Mitchell albums, but ultimately she felt like a watered-down version of herself. It was the seventies, and in a twisted stance of racial pride, she adopted the name Shade from a blaxploitation film,
Wicked Mamma Jamma,
and stopped answering to the name Teesha.

Her teenage self-possession impressed me, especially since I’d changed my own name from Slivowitz to Silver out of ethnic embarrassment. Back in the old country my father’s family had been called Sonnanovicz, but as they emigrated from Poland to Argentina to America and learned to speak English, those who’d made it through Ellis Island thought the name sounded like son-of-a-bitch. So they became Slivowitz, a name still Jewish enough for me to fear it. In my neighborhood some Jewish kid was always getting beaten up or having her skirt lifted by Lotharios-in-training on the way home from Sunday school.

I was saved from going to Sunday school myself. After my brothers bungled their Bar Mitzvahs, Rowdy departing from his prepared speech and talking instead of utopian experiments on Pluto, and Neil a few years later stumbling through one or two lines of transliterated Hebrew before passing out face first on the pulpit, Dad made us quit the temple. “I’m sick of the whole horseshit-ghetto religion anyway,” he’d said. With my dark hair and brown eyes, I found I could pass as Italian. My adolescent and teenage years were characterized by the gold, Italian horn necklace I wore, and, whenever I could get away with it, telling people my last name was DeSilva. I’d heard my brother Neil use the name once.

Yet when I marched down to City Hall on my eighteenth birthday, only months after Dad died, it seemed heretical to give up Dad’s name for Neil’s. Thus followed my rebirth as Rachel Silver. As the years tramped on and I became a journalist, it seemed to make sense. The name looked good in print. I knew it the moment I felt the rush of reading my first byline in the Brooklyn College newspaper; I believed it now as I lay awake in my studio apartment wondering how far I was from being a name out of print.

A surge of fear overtook my body. I rubbed my fingertips against my neck, alarmed by its softness, the loose feel of the skin. Sliding my hands underneath my T-shirt, I felt my breasts, convinced they must have dropped another millimeter since yesterday when I was merely thirty. I’d actually liked turning thirty, was glad to put the scrambling angst of my twenties behind me. Besides, I’d just started working for one of the daily newspapers I’d grown up reading, in the media capital of the world no less.

BOOK: Kamikaze Lust
4.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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