There are those who love me already, and I’m so thankful for them. With them, I have the not inconsequential task of maintaining the relationship, and continuing to prove myself worthy of their time.
But you — you’ve seen me around, caught a glimpse of a red feather boa and the sway of a hip, and while I certainly caught your eye, well, the world is full of things that catch our eyes.
So take a moment, if you will — please — to let me woo you.
I have a new book AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER right now, and while I know I can count on those who already know and love me to devour what their favourite dilettante has to offer — you might just take some convincing.
So here… here is an excerpt from Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two, from a chapter called Postcards from California. If you like what you read, please consider PRE-ORDERING THE BOOK either in e-book or paperback. There are many available options for every budget and preference.
I got a phone call from an old boyfriend for my birthday.
I miss you, you were right, I’m sorry; the west coast just isn’t the same without you.
Things didn’t work out the way we planned, I think I missed my chance, but did you hear our new song yet?
The record company thinks this might be the one — if we go on tour, will you come and see me?
Happy Birthday, Helena. I wish…
Anyway, Happy Birthday. Wish you were here.
And by the way, did you get those postcards I sent you?
I hung up the phone, not exactly irritated, but not exactly thrilled, either. Ancient history was never one of my best subjects in school.
“Postcards?” I asked no one in particular, and no one in particular answered.
“Penny!” I called out to my lovely niece, the self-styled Countess of Arcadia. “Oh Penny! Did you, perchance, pick from the post a postcard pour moi?”
“Postcard? Pour toi?” Penny pantomimed, “Il n’ya pas possible, parce que pommes de terre parle Portugais, n’est-ce pas?”
I take full responsibility, darlings. Sometimes Penny gets carried away when I start something as silly as a bit of harmless alliteration. In this case, I do fear that she has completely lost the plot in favour of a bit of excessive artifice.
Remembering my grade school French, I cocked my head and said “It’s not possible because potatoes speak Portuguese? Really? That’s the best you’ve got?”
“Perhaps there’s a package?” Penny offered, rooting through our mail and handing me a manila envelope with a Los Angeles postmark on it. I tore the top open and dumped the contents out on to our table. Several postcards spilled out, addressed to me at the only address this person had for me — some from California, but others from all over the world. England, Brazil, Egypt, Dubai, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines.
“Wow,” Penny exclaimed, turning postcards over in her hands. “You got a secret admirer or something? Some of these go back a few years, but here, look, Helena!”
Penny showed me a card dated just a month earlier, sent from Manila (home of the envelopes) saying that the sender was going to be in Los Angeles from the 15th to the 30th of April, and that she’d love to see me if I was available.
“Who’s Maya?” Penny asked curiously.
I was still a bit stunned. I never thought I’d ever hear that name again.
I remember the first day I met Maya. How could I ever forget?
As usual, I found myself alone in a room full of people.
It’s not that I wasn’t able to socialize, it’s just that all these people were there clamouring for each other’s attention, and they belonged to a circle that I was only remotely connected to. I had moved out to L.A. with my would-be rock star boyfriend, and he had promptly forgotten me in favour of, well, everybody else.
I got dragged out to parties, where the free-flowing booze and coke quickly turned everyone into belligerent bi-polar assholes, and I just as quickly grew tired and bored of the whole scene. I hadn’t made a friend in L.A. — I’d been offered modelling jobs, jobs in porn, and solicited by women who ran escort services — but I hadn’t met a single person who was just interested in hanging out and having a good time that didn’t involve illicit substances or group sex.
I stepped outside to get away from the sleaze of sycophants and so-called friends and lit a cigarette. I remember I was in my Audrey Hepburn phase and so I was using my long black cigarette holder, which completed the little black dress and wide brim hat ensemble so perfectly that I was damn near cosplaying a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I heard the clicking of heels behind me and ignored it. Some stranger coming out to make idle chit chat, maybe try to ask where they know me from, who my stylist is, who I’m fucking — well, they never asked so bluntly, darlings, but eventually, it’s where the conversations tended to end up. It’s an interview to determine if I’m somebody worth clinging to, or just another wannabe nobody.
“Well, look at you,” a voice I’d one day try my very best to emulate purred. “All dressed up with nowhere to go.”
I turned to give the stranger a polite smile, which was nicer than telling them to fuck off but was understood to mean the same thing, and stopped dead in my tracks and stared at easily the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on.
“But,” the woman said, pulling off her large framed sunglasses, “I think you’re missing something.”
She put them on me (and I let her, momentarily stunned by this bold intrusion) and took a step back to admire her handiwork.
“Now,” she said. “Repeat after me: “I’ll tell you one thing, Fred, darling… I’d marry you for your money in a minute.”
I laughed at her random Audrey Hepburn impression and went to hand her back her sunglasses, when she stopped me.
“Don’t be silly, darling,” she said, putting a perfectly manicured hand on mine. “They look much better on you, anyhow.”
I didn’t see how it was even remotely possible that anything could look better on anyone but her.
White people like to use words like ‘exotic’ when describing Asian girls, as if that completely sums the matter up. This woman didn’t look exotic, she looked like she came from a whole other planet. And god help us if the women of her planet ever decided on a full-scale invasion, because if they did, us lowly earth girls would be doomed.
She looked like the design template for every pin up girl ever drawn, with legs that went on forever, lifted by heels that knew exactly what they were doing, zero gravity boobs, and pursed lips painted the perfect shade of sex. Her skin was pale and pristine – an oddity in L.A., where everyone was bronzed, either naturally or artificially. Her hair seemed to fall perfectly, in a way that everyone knows is just a trick of the movies, and later, when she told me how much her hairstylist charged, I nearly choked on my drink, but had to admit it was worth every penny.
It wasn’t just her physical beauty that made me take notice, but her presence. Her aloofness. She should have been the centre of attention, but instead, she, like me, stood on the outside, looking in.
Was she as bored as I was?
It turned out she was, and she told me so.
“I’m Maya,” she said, still holding her hand on top of mine and pushing the sunglasses back on my face. “And I’m bored as fuck with this crowd. You wanna get out of here?”
I pulled my hand away slowly and my head turned back to the door of… whoever’s house we were at.
“You here with somebody?” She asked.
“Yeah,” I said, and then awkwardly added. “And, I’m not, you know…”
She laughed out loud and her whole face lit up, and in that moment, even though I wasn’t, you know… I could see how easily I could have been.
“I don’t want to fuck you, darling, I just want to play! Let’s get out of here and live a little! All they seem to want to do in there is sit in the dark putting chemicals into their bodies and jerking each other off. It’s so much more fun out here in the sun! Oh look, darling – I’m a poet and I don’t know it. Tell me you’re not just as bored with those idiots as I am.”
I smiled and nodded and sighed.
“Thank god,” she said, grabbing my hand and pulling me to the parking lot.
Trailing after her, laughing at the prospect of adventure, I realized something.
“You don’t even know my name!” I called after her.
She waved me off.
“Names, names, names! What’s in a name? Your name could be Gertrude, Gloria or Guinevere for all I care!”
I giggled at her frivolity.
“And if it’s not a G name?” I wondered.
“Well, I suppose I’ll just have to live with that, won’t I?”
“It’s Helena,” I offered, and for some reason, I hoped that she approved.
“Outstanding,” she replied. “And speaking of standing – Helena, those are terrible shoes. Come, let us remedy the situation. We’re young, rich…”
“Uh, I’m not rich,” I cut in, suddenly feeling awkward.
“Pity,” she said, as if it were a tragedy. “Well, I suppose I shall just have to be rich enough for both of us. After all, I can’t let you walk around in those terrible shoes, and we are in Los Angeles, darling. What else is there for two fabulous women such as ourselves to do in Los Angeles other than go shopping?”
I looked at my new sunglasses, and noticed for the first time that they were actual Oliver Goldsmiths. They must have cost at least four bills.
I wish that I could tell you that I told Maya that I certainly couldn’t accept her generous gifts. I wish that I could report that I gave Maya back her sunglasses, and that I politely thanked her but didn’t want to be in her debt. I’d probably look like less of a sponge-like jellyfish if I told you that I didn’t, under any circumstances, go shopping on Hollywood Boulevard with this complete stranger and rack up a five-digit bill. And I’d really love not to disclose that upon seeing her car (a Porsche 911 Carrera convertible the very colour of happiness — that would be yellow, darlings) that I didn’t drool — not even a bit. It would be my utmost desire to tell you all those things and more, darlings – like how I definitely didn’t beg her to let me drive it, and how I positively did not scream like a little girl when she let me drive through Topanga Canyon and up on to Mulholland Drive.
But the fact of the matter is, darlings, that each and every one of those things is a lie. I have many character flaws, it’s true, but while I may have given in to the moment and allowed myself to be swept away into Maya’s whirlwind, I’m not a liar. I’m not sure what it makes me, but whatever it is, it’s not a liar.
What I was – how I felt at the time – was special. It was a crazy day, and when it was over, I had no idea what was supposed to happen next. Were we supposed to exchange phone numbers? Were we going to be friends? Lovers? (I thought I’d been clear on that, but…) Would we ever see each other again? My head was dizzy – Maya lived a charmed life, and a girl could definitely get used to that – but it wasn’t my life. The last thing I wanted to do was become one of those parasitic cling-ons, attaching myself to some bright light and feeding off them.
So when Maya gave me her phone number and told me to give her a call sometime, I gave her mine with the same invitation. At the time, it felt like the beginning of a strange but interesting friendship.
It turned out I was a fool.