“So what would you create using Merguez?”
He glanced at her and then looked away. “Merguez?” he repeated.
“Yes, how would the Futurists cook a Merguez?”
“The Futurists?” he said with a grin. “I think they would prop one upright in a cup of cafe au lait with anchovy stuffed dates scattered around the edges and spray the plate with cologne.”
“Cologne,” she repeated.
“We could use your Samsara,” he suggested with another crooked grin. “We would work in the scent of the crushed rose petals.” 1
But this flirt alert also comes with a Code Orange blurt alert. From Sunday, December 3 until the 22nd, messenger Mercury flips retrograde, also in Sagittarius and your communication sector. This double-whammy could mess with your gift of gab and throw you off your social media game.xiv
xivThis might be urging us not to mention our budding obsession Kathryn the vet-tech to any of our few remaining platonic pals. We will attempt to hold out on doing this not simply to obey but because we have a proven track record of mentioning possible future desired realities only to have them dissipate or, rather, never come to any kind of fruition only to then be tasked with explaining ourselves. Thankfully, however, we are without a social media game that could be thrown off by any of our actions. Having a social media game would be an example of being too close. 2
The bedroom ceiling is ridiculous. Frank’s grandma had the moldings put in when she bought it in the fifties. There is a crown of roses around the lightbulb, and a crown of roses around that. Garlands float out to the corners and drift down the walls. My bridesmaids drift out to the corners of a golden swimming pool. I float between the four of them and we dip and turn as one. Dip, dip, turn. I dip better than Hayden. The water ripples around me. I am bright like a flower and it is sunny and we are all being filmed from above. There is a crown of roses around my veil and a crown of roses around that. 3
I write about my day and post it on a forum. The thread gets more replies than anything I’ve ever written. Most people don’t believe me. They don’t understand how I could not have childhood photos. They say the police would have disclosed more information, that a DNA test takes two to three weeks. They demand to know more about my mother. They destroy her with words. They call me a liar, unloved, and tell me I should kill myself. 4
She photographed Harlem at its lowest, its burned-out shell: the vials on the playground, buildings on fire, pregnant junkies nodding off on park benches—she took a picture of my friend Kenneth Rudolph after he’d been electrocuted. He’d been trying to tap into a power line because his lights had been cut. Estelle took a lot of heat for that. No pun.
After that she went back to self-portraits: Estelle’s Track Marks, 1984. Estelle with John, 1985. Estelle begs for Change, 1986. She didn’t have a story to tell so she started using, and retold a familiar one. 5
“I want to go to college so I can get a good job in a hotel. If I can get a good job in Phnom Penh, then I can have my own apartment. And with the rest of the money, I can help my parents.” She dispenses all the information with a cheery demeanor.
I have more questions, and she fills me in on the details of her life. “And Saran, may I ask, do you ever go to the Khmer Rouge memorial next door? Do you know what happened in that time?”
“No, that’s the past. I’m very young” she chirps brightly.
“Do they teach you about it in school?”
“Not really. Only a little.”
“What do they say?”
“It’s Vietnam’s fault. They did everything. And China.” 6
The Renaissance Face is not easy. Brenda has to picture the beautiful girls from Art History, both in the paintings and the ones who chewed on their sorority pens. Brenda is not, by default, cherubic. To get the Ren Face, she looks at the track lighting, imagining an angel looking down, draped among the twenty-watt bulbs in linen banners, pushing aside a feathery cloud to see Brenda’s—no, Belloza’s—Brenda is not a Renaissance name—glowing face. Thirty seconds. Brenda pushes a bit of fear, a bit of worry, and a lot of holiness into her face. The Ren Face is not much of anything but manically peaceful: beatific. The Ren Face goes with everything because it manages to look a little sexy, a little depressed, and a lot vulnerable. The Ren Face alone should guarantee martyrdom, if sustained for a minute. Sixty seconds. 7