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Rich throws his cigarette butt to the curb, smiles his open-mouthed golden-retriever smile and says, “Well?”
Dylan grinds her smoke out under her shoe and spits on it — with the perfect aim of a bar trick that took months of practice — and straightens up. She usually slouches to keep her stomach looking flatter than it really is. She walks to the passenger side of the car, where she likes to sit so she can use the cup holder for her ever-present coffees. Though naturally thin, she is terrified to gain weight. She believes her face is too ugly to get away with not being skinny. She uses coffee and smoking and blow to retain her childlike frame.
Her friends have no such dysmorphic rituals — Veronica was born beautiful, and Rich, being a male, has never felt the shame of a subhuman ugly kid. While Dylan remembers adolescent nights spent smoothing layer after layer of creams and potions onto her face, hours spent in front of mirrors trying to see if anyone sees anything when they see her, Richard’s short springy step takes him to the driver’s side of the car. Veronica, now in the back seat, is playing dress-up with a box of gold, silver, and candy-coloured plastic. Dripping with form over function, her body is compact, curved, like an A-list actress playing a porn star in a piece of sanitized Oscar bait. Dylan stares into the side mirror for a moment, just to make sure that something, something, about her appearance is better. Rich’s hand on the car door now. He’s so human. So normal. So stable and happy. He’s been a bartender for eighteen years.
Veronica is engrossed in her phone, using her hands in the manner of a woman with long fake nails. Something about the long acrylics engenders an awareness of the fingers, causes a theatrical articulation that would make a piano teacher proud. A kabuki of the digits.
Richard is in the driver’s seat, hair pushed behind his ears, sleeves rolled up and Ray-Bans on. He’s only a man. Dylan stares at him, scrutinizing his clothes. Veronica is lounging sideways in the back, no seatbelt. Books and makeup and a few shirts scattered around. She manages to clutter any space she’s in, turns it into a teenage beauty’s room.
Gazing out the passenger seat window, seatbelt on, Dylan imagines herself as Montgomery Clift to Veronica’s Liz Taylor, tragic queer, handsome, addict. Dylan imagines herself and Rich as Withnail and Marwood in the Withnail and I movie, stumbling over bottles and toilets towards far-too-late realization. Dylan imagines herself as James Bond, witty, well-dressed, strong and drunk, and most important of all, lone — without the “a.” Dylan imagines herself on the road forever, living on tour buses and planes as some future little girl hears Dylan’s singing voice through headphones on a city bus, staring at the city rushing past the window just as Dylan used to do, planning her escape and the day she will become Someone. Dylan imagines herself in a perfectly tailored dark suit with her arm around Veronica’s shoulders as they are photographed on a red carpet Somewhere after Dylan has directed Something important. Dylan imagines herself as famous, famous for anything, planning her empire all along, filing away all her connections, musicians, movie stars. Like Gilgamesh her works will outlive her, once she’s made some, of course, and she will — because she has to, she must, she must not fail. She burns white hot in every corner of her selfish mind, hunting for the proof of her importance, for she must be Someone, she has to be.
The smell of the hot car around her seems a physical thing, the air cottony, thick, soft. They’re not moving yet.