The Cockroach and the Cokehead
May 2012: I quit my job and burn all my bridges so I can swim. I won't realize that was wishful thinking until a few months later. Summer starts gliding by like a sailboat. I master the Dead Man's Float. I'm not working and life is a lazy river; I'm a...
May 2012: I quit my job and burn all my bridges so I can swim.
I won't realize that was wishful thinking until a few months later.
Summer starts gliding by like a sailboat. I master the Dead Man's Float. I'm not working and life is a lazy river; I'm a pinecone that's been dropped off an adult-world bridge by some Christopher Robin-type child, drifting around downtown, downstream. Away from Jane Pratt and all that.
A month or two passes, and I am getting accolades and new jobs and money even though I am barely getting out of bed.
"Um, hold on," I say when the New York Times calls to fact-check an interview I gave three months ago. My hair's in a French twist and I'm wearing a vintage full-length beaded gown and full prostitute makeup and a goofy fox fur. I've been smoking weed and watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians and sipping orange Nyquil with a straw and looking at myself in the mirror for eight hours. "I need to turn down the TV."
A two-page essay about me runs that weekend.
"In the fucking magazine!" I text my sister.
"Are you OK?" she texts back, even though she hasn't seen the story yet.
Reza Nader (The Arab Parrot)
Everything's working out. My dust dealer Doria gets out of jail and delivers right to my doorstep like the Easter Bunny in her SUV. My favorite rock star's blonde daughter comes over high on ecstasy and fucks my friend on my rooftop 15 feet away from where we're in a circle of deck chairs smoking dust and politely trying not to see a thing. I hear a single firework launch and hiss just above my building. It bursts bright orange and glittery over Avenue C and Rock Star Daughter and I both scream. I'm braless in a mesh white tank top by Dior Homme and wearing Kiehl's Musk Oil and there's stuff written in marker all over my arms. My friends are arguing about a cat that possibly looks like an owl. A guy keeps texting me telling me he's in love with me, which is nice to know even though I don't and will never care.
And the media requests keep coming. I am not so dumb that I think these writers want to write nice things about me, but I am secretly very confused about what people—their editors, their audience—want.
So I try to play it safe. I decide I absolutely can't be on stimulants or anything for my Wall Street Journal interview, but it winds up not even mattering. I go to the wrong Café Gitane and finally get there 45 minutes late. I guzzle iced coffee and announce that I have very low self-esteem.
"I hate myself!" I say to the reporter.
"You need a publicist," says my friend the publicist when I tell her this.
"I have to get the fuck out of this mess," I say.
The Wall Street Journal writer describes my tone as "bleak and bubbly," and I imagine a glass of sad champagne. Two days later I weep to a British girl from the Guardian newspaper’s weekend magazine when she asks if I feel lonely all the time. She takes my hand; I blame my low blood sugar. Then I order a salad, and remind her that I don't have any money. "But isn't it good that I want to eat?" I say, lamely playing up my own storyline.
"OK, so, in conclusion? I just want to say to the UK that Pete Doherty is not a villain," I tell the Guardian. "And I was diagnosed by an IDIOT as a sex addict. I'm not a nympho like it says in the journal. Put that in!"
I have no fucking clue what I'm doing.
Here's what I know I'm NOT doing: writing the book proposal that I know is anticipated from me. Writing the book. Writing my VICE column on time/impressing Rocco Castoro. Answering emails. Opening my mailbox. Sleeping. Eating. Reading text messages. Making outgoing calls. Drinking water. Feeling much. Going anywhere.
I can't tell you exactly what changed, but for me, things constantly change, and change that fast.
Instead, I'm in my apartment on the most gorgeous beach day of the year patting on Ligne St. Barth Roucou sunblock cream and thumbtacking Thomas Ruff nudes I've clipped out of post-contemporary Sotheby's catalogs to my walls. I'm writing notes on the inside cover of How To Instantly Connect With Anyone—like that razor blade in Italian is lametta—and I stop eating. When the sun starts to set I hit the streets. Then I stand around in Soho alone and numb out the bad feelings that sometimes sneak up on me during dinner hours—why doesn't anybody ever invite ME?—and I chew gum and tug on my leotard and text my former assistant, Julie, things like, “Where can I go at 8:30 PM for false eyelashes honeeeeey?”
Julie's on a date. I write in a notebook that I keep in my purse that I felt like there were a thousand sharp blades poking around inside of me. Guilty, worried pangs: I'm fucking up.
Suffering is optional, Amphetamine Logic sing-songs. You know how to dull those knives.
Reza Nader (The Arab Parrot)
The next day (not like I slept) I am gnawing on a rosary listening to "Call Me Maybe" on my headphones in my psychiatrist's waiting room uptown, just off Fifth Avenue. I am cranked and recklessly liking every photo on Instagram—my best friends are in Aspen and LA and the Hamptons.
When Dr. F gives me a once-over I beam like a Noxema commercial.
"How've you been since I last saw you?" my doctor asks. "Which was, what, almost three weeks ago? How's your August?" He's already got his prescription pad and my file out. He is 79 years old.
"Peaceful!" I declare. "And LAZY!" I float out the door with my five scripts. A strange current is carrying me.
This summer I have starved myself into a fawn. I'm shaky all the time. I fall down some stairs. My agent forwards me an email from Narconon, the sauna-centric Scientology rehab I'm obsessed with trying: they want to help. I decide I'll do it when I'm stronger.
Reza Nader (The Arab Parrot)
More press. Page Six magazine reporters sit in my apartment and watch me put on my makeup and fill a big bottle of red Gatorade with half vodka. I am drunk all night, and they trail me and my friends around the Jane Hotel ballroom and the Box. I am wasted and burned out but pretending to be electric. I mill around for the photographer acting nonchalantly sexy.
"Is my clavicle self-tanned as much as the rest of my body?" I ask the photographer. "Is it gleaming?"
About once an hour I shudder, stop, and whirl around on my heel to face the Page Six girls. I whine to them about how I am scared of the story and that I am a drug addict not a party girl and I am a mess and why am I doing this what are we doing? The photographer looks at me a little sadly. The writer promises I have no need to worry.
"Ten years ago I was dancing on booths to Justin Timberlake!" are the kind of dumb things I keep saying, apropos of nothing. "I used to be normal!"
More days pass. I give up on rest, sweetness, and light. I give in to going to Lit for vodka grapefruits whenever I feel. I give in to literally anything at night, and thus believe I can't write. I smoke opium hash off a can after-hours in the back of the club. I am wobbling around my apartment in gold and cream Givenchy go-go boots and smearing my mouth with NARS Heatwave lipstick. I smoke Ultra-Light cigarettes grandly, standing up; I am looking out my window as a summer shower starts. Sleep deprivation is disorganizing me emotionally. I keep falling out of my own fucking canoe. I am crying and listening to Motley Crue: "Girls, girls, girls!"
(I read in DON DIVA that there is an entire stripper-song radio station in Colorado: THE POLE 104.2 or something.)
Now I'm walking home on Avenue B wearing silver Lanvin slippers and carrying high heels in my hand. It's dawn. There is a cockroach running alongside me on the asphalt. Bitch can really move. It's going as fast as a car! I'm wearing a neon green Newport cigarettes snapback. I am so tired of having something to prove.
I got wasted at the bar and the sky is gray as a donkey. The Wall Street Journal called me a junky. I am turning into my little recherché press clip biography. Rodney King died at dawn in LA this year in the deep end of his swimming pool. A body can capsize like a boat. A mind can crash off coke and speed like an airplane. Can you tell I have a drug brain? It's a confusing place, I know.
The rain starts and quickly turns into a downpour I can't escape from, which is fine. A blonde who's soaking wet and crashing down looks chic and trés Carolyn Bessette. These are things that people who walk alone in cities every night must learn the most. I know to keep going. I'm so thin I can slip through a storm like a model ship into a bottle. The cockroach follows me home like a ghost.
Also by Cat Marnell: