“HOTEL TRIESTE, VIENNA” “SHOWROOM OF PERFECTION”

27 05 2011

HOTEL TRIESTE

I slip out of the hotel and hop across the street through the still heavily falling snow. I remember from the morning, before the snow started to fall and covered the city in quiet darkness, that there is a bakery. It is still open, thank you god.

Hotel Trieste is really expensive and even though I’m mad at Payne, I don’t want to waste his money on over priced hotel food. It’s not that I’m afraid about being found out – he never checks hotel-or restaurant bills. Or any bills.

He always just pays without ever wondering how a rat-exterminator could be as expensive as 1800$ to remove one dead rat. I recognize the greedy look in the carpenter’s face when he checks the house that Payne just bought and estimates how much the dark wood floorboards will cost. “Rich white stuck up asshole” say his eyes as he charges three times more than he usually does.

Payne tips 50$ bills to bellboys and maids and gets embarrassed at their surprised gratitude. I kind of love him for this generosity but at the same time, I feel contempt when I watch him buying this fake kind of love and admiration. It is so obvious, so totally transparent and especially here, in Europe, he draws more looks of hidden pity than respect. People laugh behind his back about the rich and clueless American. I hurt for him whenever I catch this.

I don’t want to waste his money on my binge. I already feel guilty about that airplane ticket and the expensive hotel and his always-bad mood, which is even worse here than in LA.

I buy a few bags of Viennese pastries, as many as I can stuff into my bag and run back across the street.

Inside the hotel, the afternoon hipster crowd has started to gather. A tiny yearning stirs my chest – I want to sit amongst friends and strangers at the overcool bar and have conversations and connections. I’ve been quite lonely because Payne does not like people in general and especially not with me around. A few people look at me as I walk by in my elegant coat and high heels but at this point in my life, I’m shy and insecure – all my self-esteem, if one could call my fucked up view of myself, my self-loathing and fear of Payne’s rejection as any kind of esteem, is so low, that I can’t look at anybody. So I turn my eyes away and find a booth that is secluded and removed enough from the rest of the diners to have the privacy I need right now.

I order a can of tea, open a magazine and start to reach into my bag of goodies. The first sweet bite makes everything around me silent and I’m suddenly alone. With sugary flower and buttery delight in my mouth, I feel whole and complete. The world around me disappears. This is my private and secret heaven and I take my time to sneak pastry bites from my purse. I wash it all down with tea and hope that my stomach can hold up long enough to stay on my nasty island of perfection.

The fashion magazine is fascinating and I’m drugged out enough to get lost inside it. It doesn’t bother me to read about successful, skinny and happy people who are so much more interesting than me. For half an hour, I look at those pages and fantasize that one day I will be one of those people.

But of course, way too soon, I’m too full to continue. I sneak into the bathroom, bend over and allow those pastries to splash into the toilet. It’s no big deal, it’s so easy and painless – it’s like taking a piss.

I return to my table and continue to eat and read while the music and the conversations around me get louder. A cute looking guy in an expensive suit stops by my table.

“You look so lonely. Why is a pretty lady like you alone on a Saturday night?” he asks in German “My friends and me have watched you walk across the room and we made a bet who this mysterious creature might be. Come join us”

I’m on my fourth or fifth pastry and swallow quickly. I can feel my face blush.

“Excuse me? I do not speak German.” I lie

“Oh, no problem, I’d love to practice my English” he beams in almost perfect English.

“I’m waiting for my husband. He should be here any moment”

“Your husband is welcome with us. Come on over, he’ll find you!” he laughs and touches my arm ever so slightly.

“Ahm. He wants to spend this evening with me alone, it’s our wedding anniversary” I smile. “He just has to finish some work upstairs. But I’ll ask him when he comes down. I’ll see you in a few minutes”

“Great!” he says, “We are over there, that big table by the bar” he winks to his friends. “I can’t wait for you both to join us”

“Sure, I’ll see you soon.” I force myself to be friendly and polite but as soon as he turns around, my hand is back inside my purse and breaks off another piece of cake.

I order another can of tea and keep pushing pieces of Viennese pastry inside my poor little body.

Much too soon, I have to leave my island again, bent over and sick to visit the bathroom. I know I look like a pregnant skinny girl, pushing my bloated stomach ahead of me, but when I return from the toilet, I’m slim and upright again.

To my horror, I recognize an older, very poised and elegant women with short-cropped white hair – a friend of my mother  – when I am about to sit down to finish my binge.

She cries out when she recognizes me. “Monah, oh my god, is this really you?” She is surrounded by the group of people I’m supposed to join once my “husband” is done with his work. I have no choice but to abandon my food-bag and hug her. She holds me away from her and looks me up and down.

“Monah, I had no idea you are in Vienna. Why didn’t you call me?” She hugs and kisses me. “You look so incredibly beautiful, how do you do it? How do you manage to stay so slim and perfect? My god, you are more beautiful than ever. Age really suits you!” She turns to her crowd and introduces me as her best friend’s daughter. “Isn’t she just gorgeous? I mean, you are just amazing. The last time I saw you, how long ago was it, 10, 15 years ago, you were cute, but now you’re an absolute beauty queen. What’s your secret?”

“Thank you, Katja!” I laugh “I don’t see what you are seeing, but maybe its because I’m married to this totally god of a man. You know what that does to a girl, don’t you?”

“So, where is he? I want to meet him!”

“Oh, he’s working on a deadline for Playboy. And he’s not very social. Unfortunately. But he’s wonderful.”

“It shows. It really shows. Love is the best beauty secret, isn’t it?”

“It is. I’m so happy. I’m so in love with him.”

She hugs me again. There is no way I can go back to my secret stash of sugary happiness now. But there is no way to get Payne to come down here either.

“Let me go get him. If he’s done with his story, I’ll bring him down here. It’s so good to see you”

That last line is the only line that’s not a lie. I am happy to see Katja. I really am. For a moment, I make myself believe that I can talk Payne to come down stairs and act like the happy and charming man he is able to be when he wants to be.

“I’ll be right back, Katja” I say and sign the check for our room: Two cans of tea. I’ve been a good girl, not wasting his money.

I grab my bag and on the way upstairs to our room, I dispose the rest of my binge-loot in a trashcan next to the elevator.

I turn the key and hug Payne from behind. He is bent over his computer and he closes it as soon as I approach. But I see a slice of porn before its snaps shut.

“What are you watching?” I ask, “Let me see”

“No. Its nothing you’d care about. Just a little distraction from my boring work. You wouldn’t like it anyway. I’m tired. Come lay down with me” he gets up and sinks into the luxury down comforters. “Come here, baby, I’ve missed you” he purrs in his sexy and seductive Leonard Cohen voice.

“I’ve met an old friend I used to be really close to and she can’t wait to meet you,” I say.

“I’m not in the mood to go downstairs. All I want is you, baby. I’ve missed you so much. I’ve been waiting for you, baby. I need you. I need you so much”

He pulls back the comforter and shows me his errection.

“See how much I want you?” he purrs. “Come here and serve your master”

I lay down next to him and he pulls my jeans off. He kisses me all over and I snuggle up to his warm and slightly bitter smelling body. I’m addicted to this smell. More than to the pastries. Way more.

“I was looking for a dominatrix to give you what you need, baby. I think I found one. Katrina. We’ll see her tomorrow. I want to give you everything you need and I know – shush baby, I know you better than you do – I know what you need and I will give her to you as a present.”

I don’t have the courage to tell him that I have absolutely no interest in Katrina or anybody else. I’ve lied for so many years to please him, pretending that this is my deepest secret wish, to be dominated and abused by a women he chooses for me, so he can watch me get hurt and reduced to the submissive, pain-addicted freak I pretend to be. I’m a liar, a people pleasing wreck of a woman who will do anything to keep him in my life.

And to be totally honest, I wonder if this is what I secretly wish and need. I mean, Payne knows me inside and out and he might be right. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I want. Except Payne – I want him more than I want to live my own life. I don’t have a life anyway. All I have is this desperate love and need for him and to keep him with me. To make him love me. As long as he does, I can live. I know I’ll die if I lose him.

I don’t go downstairs again. I stay in this beautiful bed with him and forget – again – that there is a life that is waiting for me. Downstairs, so close, but so far away. So far, far, far away.





Udo almost gets away “Showroom of Perfections”

26 05 2011

UDO ALMOST GETS AWAY

Renate, my new and fabulous journalist girl friend invites me to a very special lunch at “The Demel” – the oldest and most prestigious bakery in Vienna. It’s a place where politicians mingle with Burg-Theater actors and directors, powerful industry-types and politicians from the “other” party.

All I know about this place is that it is a hothouse of political intrigue, but since I’ve started to move around with Renate, there isn’t much that surprises me anymore.

The Demel is very exclusive, so much so, that the waitresses address the guests in the third person – a throwback to the times when Emperors ruled the Austrian/ Hungarian political empire.

I can’t help but roll my eyes and smirk when a pretty waitress in a starched black and white French maid uniform approaches us, curtsies and asks if she may bring us refreshments. It’s just too weird.

The owner of the Demel, Udo P. has been a familiar name to me since childhood. He was involved in all kinds of scandals and designed a line of sunglasses under the name Serge Something (I don’t remember) – the kind of prestige product we used to make fun of in art school. According to my art-and music buddies, he is a pretentious and misogynist asshole.

Now he is involved into another scandal, a really big one.

During the 70ies, he bought a boat, the “Lucona”, loaded it up with worthless scrap-metal and insured it as a Uranium Delivery Device. I don’t know all the details, since I spent the last few years going back and forth between Vienna and Los Angeles, but I know that the boat blew up in the middle of the Indian Ocean, killing six or seven of the crew onboard.

What at first looked like an innocent and very unlucky accident turns out to be an immense Insurity fraud– the boat was insured for 20 Millions. It doesn’t look good for Udo.

Even though he is stinking rich and has avoided prosecution and jail-time so far, now that another real ambitious journalist wrote a book about the Lucona, not even his political connections and friends in high places can get him out of this one. He’s supposed to appear in court in a few days.

Renate and Udo P. have been friends forever. She doesn’t believe that he committed what he is accused of.

And why am I here, you might ask?

Because he wants to finance a lingerie-line designed by me. Not because he knows anything about my work, except maybe the dresses I designed for some of his friends, but because Renate suggested it to him.

It all sounds fishy, considering the circumstances, and of course the fact, that an aging dude, offering to finance a “lingerie-line” raises every red flag – I mean, come on, a lingerie line of all things….

But his wealth and reputation as a famous connoisseur and supporter of all kinds of art, makes me hope that my red flags are just little flags, not signs I should pay attention to. I want to believe that this rich and nasty guy will give me a lot of money to design a line under my name, just because he’s so taken by my talent.

I mean, Renate would know, wouldn’t she? She assures me that Udo P. is innocent and really wants to invest into a company that for sure will make me famous and turn me into a success full designer and businesswomen.  So here I am, like a ditzy and excited clown, pretending I don’t know what a ruthless and dirty snob criminal he is.

Udo makes his entrance, surrounded by waitresses in way too short uniforms. He’s short, fat, and balding and – surprise! –  Immediately acts like a totally clueless player by grabbing my ass. Before I can slap his hand away, he laughs with an oily voice and snorts to Renate:

“ Just the right body for the sexy panties she’s going to design. Ask her to let me see what she’s wearing under that hot dress right now”

Renate puts her hand on his arm and places a little kiss on his stubbly cheek “Don’t scare her away, Udo. Have some manners. Here sit down.”

He grins and winks the waitress over.

“You lost a lot of weight, Udo.” Renate says, “I’m worried about you”

“You better be worried. Those assholes are having their day with me. Fucking judge…” he trails off. .

We eat real caviar and sample the famous “Demel” desserts, all served by curtsying waitresses that fall over themselves to serve Udo. He paws all of them and they giggle and come back for more.

Udo shoos us into a private room. Only us. Udo drinks and jokes and is trying to be charming and sweet, but he can’t fool us with his jumpiness and hollow eyes. This guy is scared.

Finally, he grabs my folder with sketches that I have worked on for a few weeks. He holds them up, one by one and grins.

“You have real talent. Those bras and garters are getting me all horned up”; he roars and fills himself another glass with the most expensive whiskey from a crystal glass decanter. Renate downs them down too.

“Come on, just one” she smiles, but I’m sticking to tea and coffee – I have to be back at the mental ward and the last thing I need is to return soused. I need my papers signed so I can leave that awful place.

The air in the luxurious room gets thicker by the minute. Udo smokes cigars and both of them get drunker and more stupid by the minute. I try to signal to Renate that we should leave, but she gestures me to wait.

“Be patient” she whispers. “He needs to get to know you before he sinks his money into this”

Of course, he hears that. He picks my sketches up again and lets them float to the floor one by one.

His glassy eyes rest on me for a long time, way too long. I bend down to pick up my sketches. He grabs my arm and leers:

“Not so fast, young lady.” He stretches out on the antique couch and points at my dress.

“Make yourself comfortable, you’re amongst friends and that tight dress looks anything but comfortable.”

“No, I’m totally fine” I stammer, “its stretch fabric, not uncomfortable at all”

He groans and turns to Renate:

“You like her, don’ t you?” He bursts out with an obscene sounding laugh “ Come on, I’ve known you for 20 years and I know when you’re hot for somebody”

I have to get out of here. Renate has been my best friend for the last six months and she has opened doors for me that I didn’t know existed. I’ve never seen her drunk.

“Of course, Udo. I wanna do her. Even more than you do, you pig”. She slurs.

“There we go, didn’t I say that I know you.”, he roars with spit flying out of his bluish lips “Why don’t you go for it? She sure is a better fuck than that Kaddafi dude you did.” He cracks up at his joke.

He fills another glass, fills it up to the rim and keeps pouring. 200$ whiskey spills on the impeccable Persian carpet. Renate catches the bottle and sets it down at a safe distance from him.

He stares me down while he slurps his drink.

“You have the hots for her too, I can tell. I’ve been around, girls like you always want to get down with a hot lady, am I right or am I right?” he slaps his thigh and spills most of his drink on the couch.

I like Renate a lot and during the nights we’ve spent together, ending in sleepovers in her bed with her hands on my hip, I’ve thought about it. But not like that, not in the presence of a drunk asshole who is about to go to prison for murder.

But then again, I’ve done worse for less.
“What do you have in mind?” I ask, as he carelessly tosses my sketches on a lavishly upholstered and most likely real Victorian chair. .

“Now, we’re talking” he laughs, “ First of all, take off that hot dress. I’ve seen enough of your design talent.”

He sneers off my blushed cheeks.

“Oh, I know you feel fat, oh yeah, I can always tell when a girl feels shitty about her size, but don’t worry, I’m into a little bit of flesh, not those boring bones on the bitches I have to deal with every day”.

This guy was married to Austrians most famous theater actress, a slim and gorgeous beauty. When I made a few dresses for her in my magical wine-cellar studio, I was blown away by her beauty and graceful, totally sweet and polite behavior towards me. How did she put up with this pig? I wonder. They have been divorced for years, I remind myself.

Renate moves closer to me. She starts to unzip my dress and her hands feel so comfortable and her touch is so soft and sweet.

Why not? I love her, don’t I? What’s there to lose? I think, when she starts to peel my stockings off.

“No!” Udo shrieks “Leave the stockings on. I like that”

Renate and me start to kiss, shy and tentatively at first, but then it gets to me. I haven’t had sex (not counting the prison guy fucks in the mental ward and honestly, they didn’t count as sex – that was boredom and a pity-fuck at best. I’m hungry for sex and love and Renate is the hottest women I have ever met.

I pull her skirt off and unbutton her blouse. We kiss and boy, can I tell you how incredible it is to kiss a woman like her?

It’s heaven. We are all over each other. I might even be in love with her – no, damn, I am in love with her. I’m crazy about her. We take it slow and explore every inch of each other’s skin.

So this is how good sex should feel like, I wonder.

I hear a familiar sound coming from Udo’s direction. I came up for air and notice that Udo has his fly open, working feverishly on his thing. The sound I recognize is the sound of a Polaroid camera. He shoots pictures while he masturbates.

“Hey, what the fuck do you think you’re doing? You could have at least asked,” I say.

“No big deal, you guys are so hot, I want to have something to dream about when I go to jail”

“Don’t worry” Renate purrs “He always takes pictures when he’s happy” and then she goes down on me. I forget the camera immediately.

So what, this poor fuck has pictures of us, who cares?

An eternity later, or maybe just half an hour – I can’t tell – Renate and me look at each other and smile. Than we start to laugh. We can’t stop.

“I wanted to do this the first time I saw you in this red leather jacket” she bursts out between fits of laughter.

“Me too” I say as I look around the room for my dress and my panties.

We dress each other and kiss again. Udo has slipped off the couch and lies on the floor, spread out like a stranded whale. Renate kicks him and he raises his head a little.

“That was fantastic, you two.” He mumbles.

Renate kicks him again.

“Wake up! We got to talk business now”

“Not now.” He slurs. But he lifts up my folder with the sketches and presses it to his chest. “This is going to happen. Watch me make it happen. Demel Lingerie. Isn’t that a great name? I mean, you know, Demel puff cakes and crème slices, hahahaha. Genius, just genius.”

He passes out again and Renate and me gingerly step over him on our way out. A concerned and eager waitress appears as soon as we open the door.

“Everything alright with Herr P? Will you need a taxi?”

“Yes, call one, please”, Renate orders her politely but stern. “Herr P. needs a rest, but check on him later”

The waitress curtsies again as she lets us out into a bright Sunday morning Vienna spring Sunday.

Renate and me sit in the cab holding hands. When we get to her house, she pays the driver and kisses me for a long time.

I get back to the hospital, sober, but I don’t feel my weight. I’m light and otherworldly happy.

“You got laid” my roommate comments when I slide into our institutional cell.

“I did, thank you very much” I sigh and turn my back to him as I lay down on my scratchy hospital cot.

On Monday morning, I’m back in my studio, still swaying from my love Sunday. I’m working on a dress for the restaurant owner next door when my father comes down the spiral stair case that connects my studio with the hair salon.

“Hi” I say, a little surprised “what brings you here on a Monday? Aren’t you in court?”

My father puts an envelope on my sewing table, without saying a word. This can’t be good. He always talks. I’ve never seen him do something without explaining what and why he did what he did.

I open the envelope. Out fall Polaroid pictures of Renate and me, half naked in various compromising positions and I choke. My father and me both look for a few minutes on this pornographic tableau of embarrassing evidence of my escapade. He scoops the pictures up and stuffs them back into the envelope. I am at a loss for words and so is he. It takes him a few moments to find his voice.

“I got this this morning. It looks like you had an exceptionally lovely time.” He sighs “Oh no, I don’t begrudge you your sexlife” he interrupts my attempt to deny everything. “The only problem, and no, it is not a problem after all” he laughs, “is that this Udo seems to believe that I am the judge who handles his case. He did his research alright, but there is another Judge Schmid”

“What are you talking about?” I say with my eyes on the ground.

“Those pictures came by messenger today with a note. ‘Your daughter has good taste. I hope you understand my concern that you would not be pleased to have pornographic pictures of your daughter with a slutty journalist all over the papers. I think you understand what I’m saying.’”

Now my father laughs so hard, he can barely get the last words out.

“I’m not the judge who handles his case. What a moron. What a stupid idiotic dupe he is. The other judge Schmid would have had his ass in a cell just for trying this dirty trick”

“So, you’re saying I was set up?” I gasp.

“Looks like it, kiddo. But from the look of this, I’d say she likes you. Maybe she didn’t know about this.”

He looks a t me pain stricken face. I’m still on shaky ground. The last thing my dad wants is to see me so upset that I go back to drugs. I’ve been doing so well. He pats my back and pulls me up.

“This Renate, she’s a real fire cracker. And she seems to have taken a real liking to you. Look at where you’re at” he points to my studio, the wine cellar walls, the fabric rolls and the board with orders stuck to it.

“You’ve got it made. You’re not going to be back where you where, even if you have to sit out a few more months at the hospital. She helped you get all this, but you are the one doing it. And besides” he grins “I would have done her too. No doubt about it.”

He picks my purse up and places the envelope inside.

“Those are great pictures. Keep them. Lets go have lunch at the Demel. Just kidding. Lets go to The Greek for Mousaka and coffee. For old time’s sake”

Udo P. flees the country that same day. He is found in Manila a few months later, emaciated and sick. He gets a six times life sentence and dies in prison after a heart transplant in 2001.

Several ex-ministers were eventually convicted over their involvement. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs was sentenced for forging documents authenticating the cargo. Two other ministers were dismissed for obstructing the investigations. The minister of Defense, shareholder in the Proksch firm, had given permission to deliver explosives to sabotage the ship and committed suicide when that became clear.

Renate disappears too. She calls me from India in 2002 and urges me to leave the US.

“They are after me. I know too much” she whispers. She says she has confidential information that George Bush planted 9/11 and that the CIA held her hostage in Virginia for a few months.

It could be true. She would be exactly the person to uncover something like this. I have not heard from her since.





The life of a muse – “Showroom of perfections”

16 05 2011

THE LIFE OF A MUSE

Just like every morning for the last 10 years, I wake up to an email from Payne.

“I wrote this last night – no big deal, just threw a few sentences on the page to see if they stick”

Yes, Payne, just like the way you cook spaghetti, slinging them on the wall and if they stick, they are done, I think.

“It would be so helpful if you could just give it a quick look-over, no big deal, shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes, tops. I need to know if it makes sense. Thanks, P.”

No big deal. Yeah right.

It’s a fucking big deal to read a maniac’s writing. I can just imagine his night: after a few hours of Indie-Porn, compulsively watching real people do real weird shit to themselves and others, he panics and writes a few pages. On whatever drug he’s on, pot and speed, sleepers and painkillers, those pages are, well to say it kindly, just chaotic and incomprehensible.

Instead of going to work or taking care of my own business, I settle down to the “no big deal ten minutes” reading of his drugged and early morning outpours.

But since he’s so out of it when he writes on the nights I’m not with him, those “no big deal ten minutes” stretches out to an hour before I even comprehend what he is trying to say. After another hour of intense concentration and focus, I usually get an idea of what I’m reading. I edit and correct sentences that have no end and no beginning and like a snake, eating itself, they always wind up at the beginning of the sentence and go nowhere.

What am I supposed to do? He’s the famous and successful writer and I’m just his wife with a lot of experience of reading books. But books that are edited and make sense most of the time.

“Baby, your ear is worth gold, I don’t know what I’d do without your sense”, he tells me all the time. “I always wanted a women who gets me and you do. It’s like Simone de Bouvoir and Satre, this is what I always wanted”

I love to hear this. I need to hear this. Since my work and my life are so small compared to his, I glow in the honor and the trust he gives me. Of course, I will not disappoint him. My life, my work, my lowly design work pales compared to his genius and his brilliance.

I ignore calls from stores and from my job – I will deal with this later, Payne comes first. I need him to need me more than I want to have my own success.

Three or four hours later, I’m finally done with editing and reconstructing his mess of words. I send it back, edited, with comments that I hope sound smart and effortless, write encouraging and praising comments about how brilliant and better then ever his latest work is and rush to my own job.

I want him to think that I’m smart and quick to understand, I want him to Know that I “get him”, so I never let on that it took me hours to do this “no big deal”.

But the reality is, my own work has become a side –project, something I do when Payne doesn’t require my attention. My work suffers. I get fired from jobs, I lose orders and I’m a fuck-up as a designer.

And since I’m a fuck-up, I’m always broke. Payne sends me checks for ten grand every time I mention that I’m broke and most of the time he’s graceful and generous about it. He loves me. Money is love. Money is his way to show that I matter and I take it, even though I was brought up to earn for myself and to not rely on a man to save me every time I miss a dead line.

I take my lap-top to work with the crazy Maroocans and pretend to fine-tun designs when I’m really editing Payne’s words.

But somehow, with a lot of missed sleep and nervous tension, I do manage to design my own collections somewhere between my binges and purges, picking my daughter up from school, drive her to ballet classes, piano lessons and soccer games.

I show up at his/our house with a garment bag full of new samples and pride and joy and insecurity about my creations. I hang everything up on his windowsills and wait with a beating heart for his input. Finally, he walks in from god knows where. He looks so darn sexy and handsome n his Dior suit and I know better than to ask where he was.

“Payne, baby, please look at my new collection, what do you think?” I ask breathlessly and proud.

He takes in my offering and puts his hands over his eyes.

“Baby, I’m sorry, but I can’t bear to look at this. All I can see is how you’re going to fuck up on your deliveries and how everybody is gonna rip you off, steal your designs and how I’m the one bailing you out one more time.”

“Just look at it! You have such great taste and it means the world to me what you think,” I beg.

“No. I just can’t. It kills me” he sighs and disappears inside his pantry that is filled with supplements, magic potions and vitamins of all kinds. He gulps down handfuls of pills and powders and starts to mix himself a green and vile looking shake in his food processor. He drinks it all and leaves the remnants of it in his sink and on the counter, a mess of ill smelling slop, no doubt to be cleaned up by me when I wake up.

I gather my samples and stick them back into my garment bag.

His lips are green when he finishes his “drink” and I try not to be disgusted. I’m disappointed and angry, but I have learned to hide my feelings – nothing ever comes from showing my disappointment, but another break-up.

I lock myself into my bathroom, wash my face and while the water runs, I vomit the contents of my stomach into the toilet. I follow up with a can of enzymes for the septic tank, responsible not to overwhelm his system with my bulimic escapades. Than I swallow 60 mg of Temazepam and clean my body. He doesn’t like that I clean myself, he likes it pungent and dirty, but I draw the line at this. I lie down next to him and savor the moment the sleep meds kick in and make me forget how sad I am.

I’m a mindless fuck-doll for his pleasure, numbed out and half asleep when he grabs me from behind and does his thing. I don’t care. I go along with what he asks me to do, I fake a mind-blowing orgasm and when he is done with me, I pass out. The last thing I notice before I fall into my drugged sleep is that he gets up. I hear the banging of his fingers on the computer upstairs – after sex he always writes.

Hours later, I have no idea how much time has passed, he crashes into his side of the bed and grabs me from behind in a tight embrace. I know that he has made my five bags tea for me that is waiting in my bathroom when I wake up. It’s those lovely, thoughtful gestures that make me forget that he refuses to look at my own creations.

He holds me so tight, how could I not feel loved? No one has ever held me like this. He loves me. He loves me. I “get him”. I’m his women, his everything and so what the fuck that he cannot look at my work? I am a fuck-up; I’ve proved it to him and to me.

At least he respects my intellect and trusts me to read his work that is so much better than what I could ever do. At least, he makes tea for me. At least he holds on to me like his life depends on me. I am right there when he shoots up from his nightmares, screaming and crying or laughing hysterically. My life is his. He owns me and isn’t this what I always wanted? Somebody who needs me. He could have everybody he wants, movie stars and rock-stars, or at least a powerful Hollywood mover to pave the way for him. Or a heiress. Or a black, sexy girl, 20 years younger with a firm and big ass.

But he choose me. For whatever reasons, he wants me to be there in his bed and read and edit his work.

But where, where the hell am I?





Lilith

12 05 2011

LILITH

My friend in Vienna lost her daughter to cancer today. She was only 27 and I cannot, or no, unfortunately, I do have an idea, imagine how her parents feel now.

Two years ago, my friend Debbie lost her daughter to a crazed murder, a fucked up and hopeless 50 year old drug addict who resided in a facility for “Non Violent Drug Offenders”, a place I happened to do an internship last year.

That was when I still believed that I wanted to be a drug counselor, but as soon as I graduated on December 16th, I forgot my education and my degree as if it never happened.

I am so glad that I recovered from the bulimia – it was four years on May 1st – because when my two friends lost their daughters, I was able to feel and to show up, however useless and pointless this was, considering the enormity of what had happened.

I don’t think that I was of any help, I mean, what help is there, except love and rallying around the bereaved parents to let them know that I cared? That we all cared?

In light of this death today, I am grateful to be inside life now, even if it means crying for the parents, for the girls, feeling totally powerless and helpless. The sadness feels like a hundred pound backpack strapped to my body, it clouds the gorgeous Los Angeles Spring days we are so lucky to enjoy. It sucks. It isn’t fair.

Lilith was a beautiful angel with a mass of bright red hair that she inherited from her hopelessly alcoholic father, Renee. I don’t know anybody who wanted to be alive as strongly as her. She spent most of her time in Japan, working on fashion blogs that were so creative and innovative, only a young and fearless girl like her could produce. She was loved and her boyfriend in Japan worshipped the ground she walked on (Cliché, I know. Forgive me) She was so full of live, her ideas so original and vivid, she was on to something.

When she was born, one year before Chernobyl wasted Europe, I was in a place where I did not understand why a women like Hermi would decide to have a child instead of getting an abortion, like I did numerous times. She had the courage to keep her baby and she became my hero, so much so, that I named my own daughter the same name that Hermi choose: Lilith. The goddess who kicked the butts of Adam and all the other male angels who would have liked her to shut up and disappear. A fearless fighter who took them all on. According to bible-history, all the male angels (and Adam included) cowered and ran from her.

I named my daughter Lilith, but she chooses to be Lilly. This is America after all. Can’t blame her for that.

I made Hermi’s wedding dress when she married the kindest and most intelligent man in Vienna, Alex, a guy you can’t find twice. He became Lilith’s dad while her semen-donor continued to drink himself into homelessness (not an easy feat in Vienna, where people are taken care off, no matter how they got themselves into desperate situations like him) and loved her with all the love a father can experience.

They were a happy family. Lilith was one of those girls without a self-destructive bone in her. I visited them with my daughter and spent the night there. Lilith and Lilly became friends while her mom and me were out, sampling Vienna’s impressive nightlife.

I hate to admit that I was a lousy guest. By then, my bulimia was so out of control, that I was not able to enjoy anything, any place that Hermi took me to. I was sourly and anxious, impatiently scoring my next food-fix. I did not connect with anybody during this night, including Hermi and Alex. I mean, I pretended to be present and I was polite and gracious, but my heart was not there at all.

By the time, Hermi and me returned to her apartment, Lilly and Lilith were still up, talking and drawing. Lilith was so kind to my daughter who, a few years younger must have bored and annoyed her. But her interest was genuine and she made Lilly feel like she mattered as a person and a budding artist.

When I learned about Lilith’s cancer a few years later, I called my mother who is a doctor and asked her about the survival chances of Angio Sarcoma. My mother, the unemotional and scientific harborer of facts said: “She’ll die. There is nothing that can be done” and I hated her for it.

Lilith fought a legendary fight: seven years and 32 operations, all the while going back to Japan and researching fashion and trends until she became too weak at the beginning of the year. By medical standards, she should have been dead years ago.

Her fight and my stubborn believe that will and want can change the outcome of seemingly hopeless situations provided me with certainty and a kind of arrogant ignorance that was fueled by my Kabbalah teachings. I wanted her to live and prove that immortality exists if we just believe in it enough.

Then my marriage crumbled and I got a glimpse of that wanting and willing certain outcomes did not guarantee them. I know I wanted my marriage to survive, blossom and heal as much as Lilith wanted to get this shitty and untimely cancer cured and annihilated. Sheer will power and putting up a fight was going to save us.

I feel embarrassed now that I had this idea to compare the death of my ridiculous and impossible marriage to the seriousness of Lilith’s cancer, but I than I did.

When I finally succumbed to the divorce, I let a lot of believes behind me, specially the one that the willingness, love and need for healing and miracles is useless. Life and death are stronger than what we want and wish for.

Forces like pregnancy and death are beyond my will and that’s a fucking painful reality to swallow.

I am so sad for those girls that died, Lilith and Lily and sadness is he only feeling that includes acceptance. If I were God, they would both be alive and enrich our world with their spark and unique views of life.

But I am not God. A bitter and nasty pill to swallow and digest. One I haven’t been able to get down, no matter how much I drink.

Oh, I know we all must die. I know because life is quick and fleeting and I am at an age where my own death wouldn’t even be “dying young”. But at least, I am not dying bent over a toilet bowl and that alone is worthy of gratitude and the awareness that I have so much, so very much to live for. Until it is my turn.

Lilith, I love you. Hermi and Alex, my heart and my love are with you. Good bye, Lilith.





“Showroom of Perfections” Whole Foods

10 05 2011

WHOLE FOODS

Christmas Holidays 2004. Payne is grumpy and I ice-skate and tiptoe in wide circles around his moodiness, careful not to become the object and the cause of his anger – about what? I don’t really know. But I have mastered the art of slithering away from him and to let his bitching glide off me.

“If it doesn’t have your name on it, it’s not personal”- is my new mantra. But when I don’t engage and fight back, he gets even madder. He needs to unload on somebody and today, just for today, I’m not going to be his lightening rod.

Or so I wishfully think.

It’s my job to provide dinner for New Years Eve, so I go off to Whole Foods. At first, everything goes as planned: I load my cart with fish and veggies, brown rice and hummus. A few cartons with rice milk and supplements he requested.

I’m going to make this New Years Eve dinner delicious, healthy and I will be agreeable and only engage in light conversation. Right. This is 12-step speak and it never works. I mean, it works as long as I’m by myself, but as soon as we get together, I am a miserable bitch who takes everything personally.

As I prepare myself mentally for this night, my heart knows better. I hurt inside, I’m nervous and shaky and I know that my dinner will end up where it usually ends up: barely touched on his plate.

“No, no, it’s really great, I just don’t feel like eating much this days” he’ll sigh and push the plate away. I always want to stick his miserable face inside the food I prepared and force him to eat, but of course, I never do. He weighs twice as much as me and I’m not that stupid.

With this recent memory locked in my mind, I scoot over to the bakery department. Oh yeah. I wasn’t planning to, but here I am. This is what I need.

Without even bothering to use the tissue paper they provide for hygiene, I grab a few muffins. Chocolate chips, oatmeal, banana, raisin and walnut muffins, two of each. I stick them in paper bags and bite into a fluffy bran muffin. The taste and the sugar work immediately – I feel encouraged and much less worried about the night in front of me. Whole Foods bakery items are heaven. I load up on flan; organic cream pie and then I notice the “health food” cookies. They are huge and look freshly made. They are expensive and normally, that would make me at least think twice. But I have just refinanced my house – the third time in a year – and what the hell, I can afford this, no?

By the time I reach the register, I have eaten eight or maybe nine of those cookies and have about 20 more of them in my cart.

I pay for our food with Payne’s Credit Card, but I have enough morale and fear left to use my own cash for the binge food he will never see.

All the way home, I stuff myself and revel in the exquisite taste of Whole Foods bakery recipes. By the time I reach my house, I have one measly cookie left and I feel much less excited. I’m stuffed and fat. I manage to store the “normal” food for our dinner in the fridge and use one of he empty bags to vomit into it.

My plumbing has showed some signs of trouble, no doubt from overload. I can’t afford to fuck it up, not during the Holidays where its costs twice to call a plumber. But I’m creative. I can get around this issue; I’m an excellent solver of unforeseen problems – always ready to do what needs to be done.

I tie the bag in a tight knot and set it down by my door in the hallway. By then I’m hungry again, empty and a little dizzy. And I don’t want to have a bag of vomit in my trashcan, so it’s only logical to get back into my car to drive back to Whole Foods.

I plan to deposit the shame-bag outside in a trashcan and get a few crackers to calm down my upset and I imagine, horrified stomach.

The bag plops into the huge can and I wander back into the store. I get the crackers. But then – you guessed it – I’m back in the cookie-and muffins section.

“What the fuck, its New Years Eve. I deserve to eat. I’m underweight anyway. I’ll just get one more of those muffins and this time I’ll keep it inside” I think and off I am.

One muffin. Only one.

“But it’s gonna be like eight hours until I cook for Payne. I’ll be starving by then,” I argue with myself.

“Fuck it. Get what you want. The only think you’ll regret when you’re on your deathbed are the things you didn’t do”.

Yes, exactly, that’s so true. And who cares? I’m the only one who’ll know.

I load up on everything that looks good and this time I pay with Payne’s card. After all, it’s his fault that I’m so nervous.

I make it home without eating everything and settle on my comfy couch. I read the New Yorker, Harpers Bazaar and Vogue while I eat my delicious Whole Foods loot. I pace myself this time – I want to at least get to the last page of Vogue before I have to use another bag.

But then I get to an article about those bitches from Juicy Couture and my blood starts to pump. “Why them? Why do those untalented knock-off chicks with their fake hair extensions and fake lashes get Vogue attention? Why them and not me?”

I eat faster. With my sticky fingers I roam around inside the bags on my couch and – fucking fuck, they are empty!

I get rid of the contents of my bloated stomach into two bags and off I am again. Back to Whole Foods.

By now, I’m quite shaky from so much sugar, but I need more. I’m in the food trance and there is no reason and rhyme to that. Just enough to stay away from the bakery. I fill my cart with oily clams, sushi, soup and bread, cheese and a huge container with salad and make sure to get in line at another cash register. The guy is cute and flirty and even though I’m not in the mood to engage in checkout banter, I laugh when he chats with me.

“Wow. What a healthy eater you are” he looks me over “No wonder you have a body like this. I wish I could eat like you, but I just can’t, no matter how hard I try. The seductions in here – I can’t resist. Have you tried the muffins? Never mind” he laughs as he tallies up my health food fare. “Good thing you stay away from this”

I think about the three bags of vomit outside in the trashcan and blush. He is so cute; of course he thinks that he causes my red cheeks.

“Any plans for tonight?” he winks.

“Oh ya. I’m cooking for my husband” I say and give him my charming “Sorry, but I’m taken smile”

“Lucky guy” he says “Lucky guy”

“Yeah, but he’s pretty cool too” I manage to lie.

“Some guys have all the luck” he smiles with a sigh while he swipes Payne’s card.

“Happy New Year” I mumble while he stacks my purchases into another bag.

This time I don’t make it home. I shuffle the greasy oysters and the sushi into my mouth before I even get to my house.

Again, all of it ends up in the sturdy plastic Whole Foods bag, by this time; I don’t have the energy to deposit my sinful garbage anywhere else but in my neighbor’s trashcan.

I’m so tired. Exhausted and sick and so full of shame I can’t stand my own company. It is only three pm – enough time to take a nap and recover from my abuse before I have to show up at Payne’s house.

I lie down and crawl under my covers. I am shaking now. My heart beats so loudly and my brain pulses with the beginnings of a headache I know all too well.

“God. God if you are there, if you exist: I want a different life. Let me live this time without a stroke or a heart attack and I promise I’ll never do this again. I want another life than this. I really do.”

I fall asleep and when I wake up, I have just enough time to get dressed, grab the food from the fridge and drive up to Payne’s house. Happy New Year.





“Showroom of Perfections” – What Now?

8 05 2011

NOW WHAT?

A day without bulimia is so much longer. It stretches out and never seems to end.

I have hours, hours I don’t know what to do with myself. I used to fill every minute with food – acquiring it, eating it and barfing it – and of course lying about it and covering up – a full-time job that kept me very busy.

The day after I come home from India, I quit my job with the crazy Moroccans, but now I am franticly trying to find work. Something, anything, that will get me out of the house and make me feel needed. Being at home has meant food for so many years.

I don’t know what to do with myself.

I can’t read magazines anymore. Not only fashion magazines, that trigger me with competition, comparing and skinny models, but even the New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, the NY Times and the LA Weekly – I cannot focus on the words and the pictures. The worst is books – books were my friends and companions. But I used to read while I binged and now I can’t sit down and be calm enough to just sit there.

I know this must sound totally crazy, but the amounts of food I put away used to give me a feeling of accomplishment – I produced something (vomit and empty containers) that made the guilt about reading instead of working, working out or socializing, acceptable. I’m so puritan in my work ethic that I have to produce something to have the right to read.

I loved books all me life since age seven and was always able to lose myself in them. But now, I can’t even watch movies with my daughter. I can’t do anything that’s passive. I can’t sit still. I can’t read anymore, I can’t watch movies; I have to be useful, no matter how.

I’ve been reading all my life – growing up without a TV. But those 19 years of reading and gathering information from books and magazines is now irreversibly connected to food. It’s a link that is so strong that I cannot imagine how I will ever be able to break it. Books and magazines were such a huge part of my life and the reason that I know so much about so many things and why I’m smart and informed about culture and politics, literature, art and fashion.

What now? Am I going to be a typical American without a clue?

I’ve never watched a movie without binging, I never read a magazine without a bowl of pasta with butter and cheese and sugar on top. Every book I read over the past 19 years – and I read hundreds of them – is tainted by ungodly amount of foods.

This has been my life. And now it isn’t anymore.

I don’t know where this tremendous change comes from. But I do know that my old life is over. Over like a dead friend. Over like a faded picture of my daughter as a toddler. It’s in the past. And they say, that not even God can change the past.

I’m a totally different person, but with the same fears and insecurities, aware and in my face like a burning magnifying class. It is hell, but hell with hope.

Now when I go shopping for food – I have to, since my daughter still needs to eat and wants to live, and to my surprise, so do I- is a pain in the ass, a useless chore I perform with resentment and fear of fucking up.

I wander through the isles of Trader Joe, listless, irritated and bored. What in the world can I buy that is just food and not the drug it has been? I have absolutely no interest. I know I have to eat, but I don’t care what.

And there is always this panic that I might get triggered. I’ve binged on everything from broccoli to oatmeal cookies, from pasta to salads that I turned into a soup of forbidden ingredients, like mayonnaise and cans of beans and corn with slivered almonds and dried fruit and cheese. Nothing, organic, healthy or expensive was safe from abuse.

Now I’m buying lettuce leaves, tomatoes and chicken, no dressing and it fills me with dread to look forward to eat not to knock me out, but to live and have energy to do – what? But what I hate most of all, is that I have joined the masses of people who actually care what they eat, how much they weigh and think about diets. Because it is good for me and provides nourishment. Bah!!! Nourishment. Who the fuck cares?

Well, I do. I care about those things now.

I buy safe foods, but let me tell you, since I abused every food there is, there isn’t anything safe now. I’ve managed to make a binge-fest out of olive oil drenched vegetables. I’ve loaded my shopping cart up with innocent bagels and then turned them into bullets directed at my health by drenching them with butter, finishing a whole pack of bagels with a quarter pound of butter in one evening.

Nothing is safe, goddamn it.

I buy watermelons, apples and protein drinks, but when my daughter raids the fridge, she screams: “What the hell? I’m hungry. Where is the real food, mom?”

She’s in the water polo team in South Pas and she comes home starved and in need of calories to make up for the hours she’s spent in the pool fighting and kicking, swimming and treading water. She needs food that supplies her with calories and substance. She needs it and deserves it and I’m terrified of buying it.

I don’t trust myself yet. And I wonder if I ever will. But I also know that avoidance is not working out. I want to be a good mother. I want to eat like a normal person, but I’m not normal at all.

This anxiety drives me deeper into my fear of relapse. But the power that kept me in my seat when I wanted to barf that innocent sandwich on the plane is inside me now. I wish I could go back to using Trader Joes as my drug dealer, but I can’t.

I am changed and no matter how painful this is; I want this recovery more than I want to die, more than I want Payne, more than I want comfort and ease. More than everything I ever wanted.

I buy what my daughter needs and what I need too. I just do it. I cook meals for us and, almost magically, I can stop eating before I get too full to justify a purge. I don’t know where this power comes from but it is there, guiding me when I shop and cook.

I volunteer at the Kabbalah Center – anything to keep me away from my house and the kitchen table. They ask me to do ridiculous and totally useless tasks, like rearranging their supply closets and folding hundreds of napkins. No person in his or her right mind would do this. But I’m not in my mind at all, right or wrong, so I don’t care. All I want is to add another day of luminous and spiritual recovery.

And then the magic really starts: I go for my swim in the morning and look in the mirror – I’ve thrown my scale in the trash and don’t measure my waist and thighs anymore – I’m slim. I haven’t gained any weight. Actually, I’ve lost some. That’s just so unbelievable and so unexpected, I’m delirious with joy, hope and gratidude.

But then I start to stutter. It’s an old nightmare from my childhood, from second grade. It was so bad then, that they put me in the school for retarded kids. I spent second grade in “Special Ed”, surrounded by violent and retarded kids and all I did for one year, was cutting out hearts and flowers from construction paper making sure to be  invisible.

Finally, they tested my IQ and placed me right back into the “Normal Kids School”. I got speech therapy and the stutter, the lisp and the other so embarrassing speech impediments I was so ashamed of to the point of almost going mute, slowly disappeared. After this I soared. I had my own TV-Show for a few years and nothing but excellent grades.

This stuttering freaks me out. I start a conversation with somebody and suddenly, I can’t get the words out. I feel retarded and ashamed and of course the fear of it makes me stutter even more. It doesn’t occur to me that this is totally normal for a person undergoing such an immense change and the stress this involves. I should be in rehab. I should be in therapy. I should be on meds.

Bulimia is such a shameful illness that asking for help feels like begging to be removed from death row. I did this to myself and now I have to handle this on my own, no matter how difficult it is.

I don’t tell anybody. This has been my secret for so long and I’m not about to reveal it now.

I’m irritated and inpatient with Payne. When he runs his ideas by me for his next book or movie, resentment and anger creep up inside me and fill me until I’m ready to explode. I’m so over being the audience to his brilliance. I have ideas that come from inside of me, now that I’m not always either eating or dizzy and high from vomiting. But he will have none of it. When I try to talk he interrupts me and then I start to stutter and shut up.

Arianna Huffington calls me and asks if I want to write a column on style. I get on it immediately, but my contributions feel hollow and fake, because what I really want to write about is this. The agony and the overwhelming joy of recovery. I resent that I can’t write about drinking or shooting drugs like everybody else, that what I have to say is so uncool and so not in style. So I write halfhearted blogs about clothes and style and age and rock star weddings, while my real voice inside me screams to be heard.

The only release I have, is my correspondence with my Kabbalah coach. I write pages and pages of how I feel, how happy and confused and frustrated I am and how this affects my relationships with my daughter and with Payne. I am honest because I pay her to read this and to respond. I pour my heart out in those pages and don’t hold back.

Everywhere else, I’m confused, insecure and terrified.

Because of my volunteer work at the Kabbalah Center, I get a few classes for free. I learn how to meditate and to connect to the light inside me. One night, after one of those classes, I pet my cat and all of a sudden, I know how he feels inside his own body. I can taste the inside of my cat’s mouth and how he experiences his own body and being. My world is infused with magic. My horizon widens. Instead of being constricted by food and the toilet bowl, my mind moves around and experiences trees and plants and people. I feel what they feel and I experience compassion and forgiveness. My bitterness and jealousy fades into a silent understanding of their own pain and suffering. I’m no different from anybody else. I’m human.





TOO MUCH SNOW IN VIENNA from “Showroom of Perfections”

5 05 2011

SNOW IN VIENNA

Payne is on a deadline, like usually. A Playboy interview with an American Movie Star – the darling of all my daughter’s moms – has to be turned in by the end of the week.

This means I’m on my own. I meet friends I haven’t seen in years, but after a long negotiation that involved sexual favors, I manage to drag Payne to meet my ex-boyfriend, the big love of my life before I went to America. He has become one of Austria’s most famous painters and he still looks as hot and sexy as he did ten years ago. He and Payne immediately size each other up. Underneath their charmful conversation and stilted friendliness, the jealousy is obvious. They both stake out their territory and this amuses me. Usually, it’s me who has to let other chicks know who Payne’s women is – me, of course – but Vienna is different. I’m in my element and besides, nobody knows Payne here, so there is none of the fan annoyance going on.

Christian invites us both to his studio, but Payne declines. I’m surprised. Is this another test he conducts on my faithfulness?

He cuts it short and returns to the hotel. “Work”, he sighs. But I know better. He doesn’t like to waste his time on people who are nothing more than my friends. If it’s not about his business, or an event about him, his patience and ability to communicate with people who are not stars or agents, is very limited.  He gets antsy and eventually nasty. So I don’t protest when he excuses himself.

“Baby, just go without me. I’m sure you have a lot to catch up on”, he smiles benevolently and I know this means “Come back to the hotel with me if you know what’s good for me”

I pretend not to understand and slip into my coat to go with Christian. His studio is just a few blocks away. We immediately fall into our comfortable and delightful banter. Over the years, we have developed an easy friendship.

Even though, a year ago, when Payne and me were broken up once more, I got myself and my broken heart to Vienna and spent a few nights of uncomplicated sex and fun with Christian. Our connection has weathered years of distance and countless relationships, even my marriage to Lilly’s dad and as soon as we see each other, we are back to a time when we were young lovers, living in a commune, sharing girls and boys, art school, drunken escapades and philosophical discussions long into the morning hours. He makes me laugh. He likes who I am. No doubt, we still love each other. This is my other secret (besides the bulimia) that I keep from Payne. I need something that’s mine and mine alone.

I always loved Christian’s art. He has grown as an artist and even though I liked his paintings better, the ones he did when we were so crazily in love, the very conceptual paint cubes that he has worked on over the last years and have made him a star – the youngest Austrian artist under 40 with shows and collectors all over the world – are admittedly genius. I admire his studio, filled with hundreds of sculptures and paintings. He pours himself a quite large glass with Whiskey and we crack up when we discover his cat that got her paws stuck on a drying painting. It takes forever to free her, mostly because we laugh so much that out efforts are not very effective.

We broke each other’s heart a long time ago and there is still a part inside us that regrets this. We were so young and ambitious. We decided that we had to be on our own to develop into serious artists.

Our love got in the way. It made life too sweet and all of us believed that only unhappiness could create serious art. We decided to split. Real artists can’t be side tracked by romantic love. That was the mantra we and all our other art school friends stated as a rock-hard rule and most of us adhered to it. So we broke up. It was the most heart wrenching decision and of course, we went underground and secretive with our love. Even though we both dated and slutted around with countless partners, we always ended up in my bed somehow.

Eventually, we managed to develop a deep friendship. But whenever we visited each other in LA or Vienna, we slipped into our passionate love affair. Every time I took him to the airport or left Vienna, I would cry for days.

But now I am so into Payne, so totally taken and pre-occupied by our vertigo inducing on-and off drama, that Christian can’t get to me anymore, regardless of his handsome charm, impressive art and fame.

I’m Payne’s women. I’m intimidated by his constant jealous accusations and way too scared to rock the boat.

Christian lights a fire in his fireplace and pulls me down next to it. I scoot away from him.

“Sorry, baby. I can’t do this anymore. Payne is here to meet my dad and the rest of my family. I can’t fuck this up.” I say with fake strength in my voice.

“I don’t like him. He’s fake and vain. Honestly, he’s an asshole. A Hollywood climber who loves only himself” Christian puts his arm around me.

“You don’t understand, Christian. He’s had a really hard life and managed to climb out of it. People look up to him. He saves lives. He has a god heart, he really does” I remove his arm from my shoulder.
“Come on, you know he cheats. A guy like him! Baby, I know. It takes one to know one and he! He’s a cheater. Believe me.” He teases me, but his face is serious while he hangs up my coat.

“No, no, he’s not. We have our problems, but he loves me and besides, we have sex all the time, so often, every time we see each other. No way that a man in his 50ies could be able to fuck around after what we do. I’m not leaving him with enough energy, believe me”, I laugh.

I see the hurt on his face. I would not want to hear about his extremely satisfying sex-life with another women either.

He holds my hand and catches my eyes “Are you happy with him?”

“Yes, of course” I say way too fast.

“You don’t look like you are. You’re tense and nervous. You don’t trust him and even if you can’t admit it, it shows. This is not a happy relationship” he plays with my hair and kisses my neck. I brush him off and after a long look into his way too smart eyes I admit it.

“You’re right. I’m not happy. We fight all the time and we break up every view weeks and I really wish I could change this. I don’t know how to go on like this. There are so many times I wish I could off myself, but there is Lilly and she doesn’t deserve a suicide mom”

I don’t want to cry. Here in this safe place with a man who has known me for 20 years, I could easily break down. What if the truth of my sad life overwhelms me to the point of making a change? Like staying here in Vienna? Lilly has the right to have a mom and a dad. My overwhelming obsession with Payne makes me hate and judge myself as worthless and stupid.

“You know you can’t change a man like this. Or any man. If you’re not happy after – how long has it been, ten years? – You’re not going to be. Ever. You hear me, Monah? Ever. Sorry to pop your bubble, but I’m telling you nothing you don’t already know.”

We embrace, but when he starts to kiss me, I turn away.

“I’m sorry, I can’t do it. He’d know. I can’t hurt him like this” I mumble as I reach for my coat.

“Hurt him? Are you kidding? This guy hurts you and you protect him? Stay here. Stay. We can have a really good life here. I still love you. Vienna is a big city now. There is room for brilliant fashion designers like you. Lilly would love it too.”

Christian downs his drink and throws another log into the fire.

“Let’s get married,” he says, “ I mean it.”

“That’s the whiskey speaking”, I laugh, brushing his sincerity away.

I leave Christian’s studio after just one passionate kiss and flee from what I know is the truth. I’m not willing or ready to make a change. I’m caught up in the most addictive circle of domestic violence. Hardly any woman has the strength to leave once the pattern of heaven and hell has become a reality that cannot be escaped. By now, I’m also financially dependant on Payne – another shameful and soul-destroying secret that eats me alive.

By now the snow is falling so heavily, it silently covers the sidewalks, the buildings and street signs. The tears on my cheek freeze faster than I can wipe them away. I love Christian. There will never be a man like him. Payne has a hold on me that isn’t about love. But I run back to him.

Hotel Trieste is like five minutes from Christian’s studio. My coat keeps me warm, but as I drag my boots in knee deep fresh snow, I realize with growing panic that I don’t remember how to get back. I try this street and that street and I vaguely remember where I should be. But it has been almost 20 years and after an hour of walking in circles, I have to admit that I’m hopelessly lost.

I turn into a tavern and feel the looks of the drinking patrons in my back. I sit down and order hot chicken soup. I’m hungry.

It’s the kind of place a women who wants to be let alone doesn’t enter. The waitress, a huge whale of a woman slides the bowl towards me and eyes me with ever so slight contempt and curious interest.

“What’s a women like you doing in here?”

“Where is the hotel Triest? I seem to be lost” I ask in English because I don’t want her to think I’m a floozy slut or worse, a prostitute, trying to rake up business in this questionable establishment.

She understands enough English to answer me.

“You are way away from it. I can call you a taxi?”

“I am? I thought I’m so close” I wonder “But please call me a cab, right now!”

I call Payne from my mobile and to my surprise the switch to international connection on my blackberry has finally kicked in. Even more surprising, is that he picks up.

“I’m lost, Payne. I don’t know what happened. The snow makes everything look strange and unfamiliar. But they are calling a cab for me. No reason to worry, I’ll be there soon.”

“Lost? You’re lost in the city you grew up in? That’s kind of strange. But I’m not surprised.”

“What do you mean? You’re not surprised? I’m really lost,” I almost cry with fatigue and frustration.

“Yeah. Lost with Christian. It’s ok, baby. I knew all along that you would fuck him and I don’t hold it against you. Just come home when you’re done,” he laughs with sarcastic bitterness.

“Payne. I’m really lost. I haven’t fucked Christian. It’s snowing so heavily; I can’t find me way back. I swear.” I sob.

“I see you when I see you. No need to rush” he says coldly and hangs up.

I tuck into my soup when the taxi shows up. I pay in a hurry and jump into the cab. We get to the hotel in about four minutes. I was close after all.

I step into our suite and Payne hammers away at his laptop. He doesn’t turn around when I say “Hi”.

I can’t stand the coldness and his punishment. I don’t know what to do with myself. Except what I always do when my feelings freak me out.

“I’m hungry. I guess I’ll go downstairs and have a bite. You want to come with me?”

“Naw. Not now. I’m in the flow. Gotta take advantage of when the gods of writing have mercy and give me a few minutes of ease,” he mumbles.

I grab my keys and take the elevator downstairs to the dining room.








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