Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Satan if you're there, please touch my shoulder
But my cousin Claire was a truly wicked one. And then she jumped off a hotel roof in New Orleans. To pay for the life she took. Or at least that's what the note in her pocket read.
Her mom (my aunt) started dating this beautiful black guy from New Orleans. He had chocolate skin and sexy teddy bear eyes. His legs seemed to go on for miles and miles. He was an artist. So was Claire's mom Kate, although she'd only ever shown her work in local coffee shops. But she was definitely a social genius who knew everybody in Sacramento. When she had parties and Claire happened to be there with her braces and bad posture, guests would sometimes ask her: So, how do you know Kate?
Claire resented her mother, because she had more friends and more lovers than her. And she was beautiful in all the ways Claire wasn't. And Claire wasn't very fun to be around, even I, who was six years younger thought her games were childish and that she always smelled like milk gone bad. Maybe that was the wickedness leaking from her pores?
Around the time that Kate started dating Derek, the guy from New Orleans, Claire changed. Almost overnight. Suddenly the braces where gone, and her skin was pimple-free. And suddenly she had breasts that she accentuated with lacy push-up bras. She plucked her eyebrows into delicate arches that framed her green eyes in a way that now you suddenly noticed them. And there was a pretty power in them that hadn't been there before. The same boys that up until then had treated her like stale air started to twist their necks too far when she strutted by.
And she definitely didn't want to play with dolls anymore. Now she wanted to put on make-up, smoke pick-pocketed cigarettes in the upstairs bathroom and talk about the birds and the bees. She said she was no longer a virgin, because she had penetrated her hymen with an eyeliner. There was one gooey drop of blood.
Kate told Claire that it was serious this time. She said that she and Derek were really in love, and that she wanted to marry him. And that she wanted to have his child. And that child would have the most luscious cappuccino skin tone.
One night Derek came over for dinner. Claire wore her shortest skirt and her most effective push-up bra. She kept hitting the champagne pretty hard, especially since Kate was pretty relaxed about underage drinking. The tiny potent bubbles went to Claire's head. She kept on pretending to accidentally brush up on Derek, and she tried playing footsie with him under the table that was set with the nicest cutlery and lit with candles. But he tried to dodge her sock-feet attacks by moving those long legs out of the way.
After about the fifth glass of champagne the dining room was spinning out of control for Claire, the wallpaper became a kaleidoscope and she was trapped inside of it.
I am going to get sick, she said and grabbed Derek's wrist and asked him to help her. Or at least to hold her hand. In the bathroom, after she'd thrown up, she sat on the tiled floor with her legs spread and her panties on display. She took Derek's hand and placed it on her milky thigh and asked him if he liked her.
He patted her thigh in what he thought would seem a fatherly way, and said: Of course I like you, Claire. You are a sweet girl. Let me help you off this floor.
But Claire wasn't sweet. She wasn't a good girl. Because a couple of months earlier she had been in that windowless upstairs bathroom. The one with the linoleum floor that mold grew under, where we used to get dizzy on from stolen menthol cigarettes.
She had switched the lights off and she had said out loud: Satan if you're there, please touch my shoulder. She waited. And waited. Then she said it again. And she felt a chill between her shoulder blades, like a block of ice was held an inch away from her skin. She wanted to bolt out of there, into the safety of the rest of the house drenched in the remains of the day. But she clenched her teeth and whispered through them: I'll sell my soul to you, do whatever you will with it. But in exchange I want some beauty and some action.
She begun pursuing Derek. He wasn't interested at first. I mean she was a child. And he was in love with Kate. But there was a pull in Claire's gaze and a heat to her touch. He found himself swayed. God help me, he thought. Because his parents were good southern baptists.
One day Claire took the city bus to the industrial area where Derek had his studio. She chugged a wine cooler on the bus. She wore a dress than clung to her body – that was becoming more voluptuous by the minute – like saran wrap. He didn't expect her, didn't want her. Well, only a little. Only in the unlit, filthiest corners of his brain where dust bunnies celebrated two-digit birthdays.
She found the building. She found his door. She pounded on it with a fist made of lead. When Derek opened Claire threw himself at him. She hung her arms like a chain around his neck. Squeezed her thighs around his hips like a fox trap. Derek stumbled backwards and pulled her down with him on the Jackson Pollock-splattered floor, And that's where they did it. And they did it again. Kate called several times during. They both heard her lovesick voice on the answering machine: Honey, sweetie, where are you? I miss you, I need you.
And then the affair spiraled out of control. Derek was hexed. Or so he said. And then one night Claire told Derek that Kate was in San Francisco and that she wouldn't be back until the following day. But in reality she was just having dinner with a girlfriend who she'd neglected due to her infatuation, as one tends to do. But now she wasn't doing so good. She was constantly having bad hair days. She felt that Derek's kisses had started to have less tongue in them. She feared he was falling out of love with her, and that she wasn't going to have a beautiful café au lait baby after all.
After dinner she came home and walked in on Derek fucking her sixteen-year old daughter doggy-style in her bed, on her satin sheets.
There was a terrible racket in the hallway and then Kate ran out of the house and back into the car. A strange ice rain had started to fall from the pitch-black sky.
How it happened we don't know. But Kate drove off the road and the car turned into a pile of scrap metal. Inside it her body was twisted into a shape not even a senior Cirque de Soleil dancer can pull off.
Claire stalked Derek to New Orleans. He stopped making art. He started going to church again and grew a beard and a belly.
Claire eventually went on a booze and coke-bender with a male stripper she had met on Bourbon Street. When that came to an end, like all things come to an end, she jumped from the roof of the Omni Hotel in the French Quarter. The security cameras caught her hesitate for just one frozen split second of eternity.
She had this story written on a napkin folded into her jean pocket and soaked in blood.