Authors: Raziel Reid
I was about five years old when he got blackout drunk one night and refused to let her leave the house to go to work. I watched the whole fight from the hallway. He tied her up to a chair with a rope! It was so Sean Penn and Madonna, I had my first erection. Once she was tied up, I could tell my mom wasn’t really afraid, but she still screamed at him. He just sat on the couch drinking his beer, taunting her and laughing to himself. A case later, he went from laughing to crying, professing his undying love, and promising to get his shit together.
Eventually, he passed out, leaving her tied up. When I heard my mom call my name, I crept into the living room to untie her. She didn’t say anything, just looked at me through her smudged eyeliner and told me to go back to bed. I didn’t tell her that I had pissed in it.
The weird thing was, things seemed to be okay between them for a few weeks after that. He sobered up, at least somewhat, and got the odd construction job. But when that didn’t last, my mom decided to invest in our future by getting her first pair of implants. Nothing was ever the same.
My obsession with mirrors started the night she left him. I blame everything on my daddy issues, including my vanity.
Mom told me we were going to move into the convent, a.k.a. Grandma’s house, until we got our own place. I thought that was the best idea in the world. Grandma had a pool. I could pretend I was Natalie Wood! I’d let a young Robert Wagner drown me any day. My dad got home from the bar just as we were leaving and went completely ballistic. Mom hit him first—she usually did. I stood and watched; it was like they didn’t even register that I was there. Fists and furniture were flying. My dad pulled a full-length mirror from the wall and threw it across the room at my mom. She ducked, and it hit the wall next to where I stood. A piece of shattered glass cut my arm. When my dad saw that I was hurt, the rage in his eyes burned out, and he didn’t try to stop my mom from taking me and leaving. He just fell back on the couch and stared at the blank TV screen.
His truck was parked in the driveway for a week. My mom wanted to go back and get the rest of our stuff, but he wouldn’t let us in, even when she banged on the doors and windows and threatened to phone the police. We’d go sometimes at night, but the lights were always off. He was inside, sitting in the dark. He wouldn’t answer my mom’s phone calls, either. Then, one day, he was gone. His truck wasn’t in the driveway anymore. When we went into the house to pack our stuff, we found a pile of broken heels next to the empty beer cans on the living room floor. It was like he had sat on the couch and broken each of her shoes, one by one. I can forgive my father most things, but not that.
When my dad left, and I realized that he wasn’t coming back, I’d console myself by imagining how badly he’d feel if he never saw me again because I had died—tragically and sensationally, of course. I’d pretend that, instead of abandoning me, he’d sold me to Disney, who won in a bidding war with the Discovery Channel to give me my own show. I became the most famous kid on the planet, the love child of Macaulay Culkin and Shirley Temple. An older Macaulay—when he’s scorched from too much exposure to the spotlight and is skin and bones from heroin and idolization—and a young Shirley, in her six-year-old prime.
The letters from my stalker started coming when I got cast in a movie as a Boy Scout. I was pederastic cotton candy. My manager tried to hide the letters, but I found them. They were the first thing I ever masturbated to. I was a child star—quite jaded. The letters became more and more graphic: I want to nail you to a cross and cut off your phallus, I want to bite off chunks of your face, chew on them until they’re mush, and then use it as lube. Security was beefed up, and I resented it. I had never been so adored. By that time, I was getting $10 million a movie, and I thought everyone should want to chew on my face. My stalker was my Shakespeare; his love sonnets were going to immortalize me. I started doing subtle things on screen, just for him. I’d lick my lips or even nibble them, if I wanted to make him go really crazy. For wide shots, I’d stick out my butt and arch my back. A few times, I even looked into the camera lens like it was his eyes.
My number-one fan got me in the end, in my sleep. The funeral had to be closed casket. There was a blown-up photo of me on the altar, the one I used to sign for fans who would line up for days to meet me—you know the one, above your bed? My dad couldn’t bring himself to look at it. I was so retouched, I looked like a doll.
Everyone wanted to break me.
The Small Screen
went over to Angela’s house so she could read my tarot. I brought a couple of roaches, which I stole from the ashtray on the nightstand next to my mom and Ray’s bed. We didn’t have a pipe or papers, and Abel was too busy playing guitar to open his door and lend us his bong, so we looked on YouTube to see what we could make.
“We’re out of apples,” Angela said, closing the tab. “But we have a can of Coke.”
We went into the kitchen and took turns chugging it.
“This is so ratchet it better be on my Wikipedia one day,” I laughed.
Angela took the first hoot back in her room. She made me take a picture of the smoke streaming out of her mouth so she could post it on Instagram. We could still hear Abel playing through the walls.
“It sounds like he’s right next to us. Can you hear him masturbating?” I asked, not even trying to pretend I wasn’t hopeful.
“I wear ear plugs. Mostly because my mom and dad’s room is above mine and the ceiling is as thin as the walls.”
“Friday at ten, after the news.”
“Do you ever hear your mom and Ray?”
“I’m surprised you haven’t.”
“I live on the other side of town.”
She finished reading my cards, and I was excited because they said I was going to be famous.
“But you don’t have any talent,” Angela said.
“I do so! I write a killer suicide letter.” I got up from the bed and went over to her mirror to put on some lip gloss.
“Are you sure you’re gay?” Angela asked as she watched me. The sad thing is that she wasn’t even being sarcastic. Angela wanted me. But I think that’s mostly because I didn’t want her and, gay or not, Angela thought every guy should want her.
“Of course not, Ange,” I said. “I like beer and bitches and …
“You couldn’t even get it up for me?”
“As desirable as you are, who would be the girl in the relationship?”
“I’d let you be the girl,” she said, grabbing her pack of cigarettes and opening the window. “I wouldn’t mind.”
“You’d have to buy a strap-on.”
“I’ll steal my mom’s.”
“Your dad is freaky!”
“You don’t think my mom actually uses it on him, do you?” she asked, shuddering as she lit a cigarette.
“Well, he’s a cop.”
“He spends a lot of time in prisons … ”
“It just isn’t fair,” she sighed. “We’d be perfect together.”
“I don’t know, you might get bored with me. I’m not enough of an asshole.”
“Yeah, you wouldn’t screw me over enough.”
“And I wouldn’t give you an STD. Isn’t that, like, a prerequisite?”
“You’re wrong,” she said, blowing smoke rings. “You
enough of an asshole.” There was a knock on the door and she asked, “Who is it?”
“Me,” Abel said, poking his head in.
“I almost tossed a cigarette for you, jerk.”
“Mom’s pissed. You got a letter from school.”
“Ditching class, failing class, indecent exposure in class … It really could be anything with you, couldn’t it?”
“Or me,” I said from the vanity.
He didn’t answer and didn’t even look at me, but his face turned red.
“Are you constipated or something?” Angela asked.
“I heard you playing your guitar, Abel,” I said, walking in front of him so he’d have to look. “You’re really good.”
“Thanks,” he nodded, eyes to the floor.
“Is Mom home?” Angela asked.
“You think she has any pills in her room?”
“I hear you’re selling them now,” I said to Abel. “How does it feel to be worshipped?”
“Anything good?” Angela asked.
He shrugged. “Pills. Mostly Seconals.”
“Seconals?” I laughed. “Neely O’Hara lives!”
“Yeah, my mom’s shrink is old school,” Angela said. “He hands out the shit the FDA banned in the seventies.”
“Your mother is so glamorous. She’s like Sharon Tate, pre-stab wounds.”
“She only has a couple pills left,” Abel said.
“Or Marilyn pre-Kennedys.”
“Don’t take more than two,” he insisted.
“Those fuckers ruined her,” I told Angela, who just shook her head.
“She is not that glamorous.”
“I took three and I couldn’t move my legs,” Abel said. “I couldn’t feel anything.”
“She dyes her hair from a box,” Angela said.
“Did you know John Kennedy was bad in bed?” I asked her.
“I got so cold,” Abel shivered.
“But I’m sure JFK Jr wasn’t. I mean, you don’t think?”
“And it looks yellow most of the time,” Angela rolled her eyes.
“I would be so devastated.”
“I was a fucking Vulcan,” Abel said.
I made the Vulcan salute as Angela tossed her cigarette out the window.
“I’m going to check out the pharmacy,” she said, brushing past her brother.
“I’m serious,” he yelled after her, “don’t take too many. She’s going to notice.”
As soon as she turned the hall corner, I closed the door and backed Abel against it. “If your mother doesn’t notice the lipstick smudged on your dad’s uniform,” I said, almost touching his mouth with my lips, “then I highly doubt she’ll miss a few dolls.”
He didn’t say anything, he barely even breathed. I wanted to kiss him, but I had to laugh. He was a sophomore, and all he really cared about was his guitar. He took a bong hoot every half-hour. I think he might’ve been in love with me, but I didn’t love him back. I didn’t even love Luke. I just wanted him to love me. I guess I wanted everyone to love me, but I don’t think I loved anyone, really, except Keef. But that was different.
“Carly’s coming over later,” he said quietly because our faces were almost touching.
“Do you play your guitar and sing songs for her?” I asked.
I kissed him.
“I’m serious,” he said, pushing me away.
“But I like it rough,” I said, and it sounded so sad coming out of my mouth that I wished I were deaf. I walked over to Angela’s dresser and plucked a tissue from the box. “I smudged gloss on your lips,” I said, slowly wiping it off. His lips parted as I touched them. I didn’t know if it was because he was so nervous or because he wanted me to kiss him again. But when I tried to kiss him he held me back by my arms.
“Carly will taste you,” he said.
I wondered what I tasted like.
He pushed me away when we heard Angela call from the living room. Abel opened the door and we walked down the hallway together, our arms touching until we reached the end and he stepped away from me. Angela was standing by the liquor cabinet, pouring vodka into two glasses.
“Find anything?” I asked as she passed me a drink.
“Some white things,” she shrugged, dropping a couple in my hand.
“You have to swallow them with booze because they don’t work otherwise.”
“Yes they do, you fiend,” Abel said. He walked over and snatched one of the pills from her hand, popping it in his mouth like a Tic Tac.
“Well,” Angela sighed, taking a gulp, “not as well.”
Abel fell back on the couch while Angela took the bottle of Grey Goose to the kitchen and held it under the tap.
“How many times have we refilled that bottle?” I asked when she came back. “We’re probably just drinking water.”
I sat next to Abel on the couch as he turned on the TV, so close the hair on our arms got staticky and intertwined. I could tell he was holding his breath. Angela turned off the lights and did a few spins around the living room, her drink falling through the air like raindrops. We started to feel like our hearts were beating through the small screen. I watched a bead of sweat drip down the back of Abel’s neck in the flickering light. He leaned forward, flipping through channels. The screen blurred, the pictures were kaleidoscopic, and it was like the channels were changing on their own. They flicked rapidly, like eyelids during an OD. The images changed so fast that all I could see were colours, bombs, blood, babies on fire, and stardom. Angela and I couldn’t stop laughing. We dropped to the floor and wrapped ourselves in each other’s arms. I buried my face in her hair. It smelled like lullabies. Like a lie. Abel was a statue. His eyes were as wide as disco balls; they spun as he watched the screen. As we entered it.